SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15: Australian Prime Min
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo by James Gourley/Getty Images
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that the country would remain under strict coronavirus restrictions for at least four more weeks.
  • The extension came after Morrison had encouraged schools to reopen so the economy could get back on pace.
  • Australia has had fewer coronavirus deaths than many other countries, and it could be because of a strict social distancing order, border closures, and its testing procedures.
  • For mores stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that the country would keep its coronavirus restrictions in place for another four weeks, even as the country faces slow growth in Covid-19 case counts.

Overall, Australia had fewer coronavirus deaths than other countries - just 63 - and it's likely because of its strict social distancing orders, border closures, and targeted testing, according to Reuters.

Morrison announced his plan to continue coronavirus restrictions just days after urging state and territory leaders to open schools, saying it could boost the economy and that children carry a low risk of spreading the virus.

Australia's Prime Minister says testing has to be increased before he considers re-opening the country

Now Morrison says the country will likely stagger re-opening the country, and wouldn't do so until there was an increase in national Covid-19 testing. He said testing might expand to include random testing, like Iceland.

"We want to be very clear with Australians, baseline restrictions we have in place at the moment, there are no plans to change those for the next four weeks," Morrison told reporters, according to Reuters.

Australia, which has a population of nearly 25 million people, has had 6,468 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and just 63 deaths. At least 380,000 people - 1.5% of the population - have been tested for the virus.

For comparison, the United States, which has a population of 328.2 million people, has seen 657,720 cases and 33,460 deaths. According to data from covidtracking.com, 3,262,921 people - 1% of the US population - have been tested for the virus.

Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital, told Reuters in March that Australia's low case count could be credited to the country's early actions against the virus.

"We acted much earlier than the likes of Italy and the United States," Collignon said. "We had much less community transmission and we still shut our borders and implemented social distancing policies such as shutting down bars and pubs, and did much more testing."

Australia closed all non-essential businesses and public gatherings of more than two people as part of its social distancing order. Anyone who violates the order faces fines or even jail time.

One expert suggested increasing testing on healthcare workers and in Covid-19 hotspot regions

Experts told The Guardian that the growth in new Covid-19 cases in Australia is slowing down, and credited the slowing pace to fewer people traveling overseas.

Jodie McVernon, the director of epidemiology at Melbourne's Doherty Institute, told Australia's ABC News that authorities need to find strategies to maximise the chances of finding people who are likely to be positive.

She said testing first focused on people returning from abroad and arriving home from cruises, but now testing should focus on Covid-19 hotspots and healthcare workers to help identify people who might not be showing symptoms.

"Healthcare workers come into contact with people all the time and lots of those people are likely to be sick," she told ABC News.

Australia is also considering implementing an app that could trace the source of a Covid-19 outbreak

The federal government is also considering rolling out an app that can trace the sources of Covid-19 infections, though the program has faced criticism over privacy concerns.

The app would be optional, according to The Guardian, and Morrison said 40% of the country would need to use the app for it to be helpful.

Morrison told reporters that tracking Covid-19 cases could help identify and respond to outbreaks.

"We need to do that using technology and we need to do that as soon as we possibly can," he said in a press conference, according to CNBC.

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