June 26, 2020 / 12:23 AM / 11 days ago

Australian leaders meet to discuss coronavirus plans amid new outbreak

SYDNEY, June 26 (Reuters) - Australian federal and state leaders met on Friday to discuss the country’s next steps in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a day after the country reported its biggest one-day rise in new infections in more than two months.

The national cabinet has committed to removing the bulk of Australia’s social distancing restrictions by the end of July, although each state and territory was left to determine their own pace.

However, a renewed COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, the country’s second most populous state, has led some health experts to question that timing.

Victoria reported its ninth consecutive day of double digit new cases on Thursday and is responsible for around 200 of Australia’s 270 active cases. In a bid to curtail more infections, ambulances and mobile test centres were deployed across the state to carry out a testing blitz.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has struck a bullish tone on reopening the economy as Australia heads into its first recession in nearly 30 years, insisting the country’s health system can cope with a rise in new cases.

Morrison on Thursday unveiled a A$250 million ($170 million)recovery package of grants and loans for the arts sector and said he would discuss the reopening of venues at Friday’s meeting.

Australia has recorded a total of around 7,500 infections, including 104 deaths, well below many other nations.

$1 = 1.4537 Australian dollars Reporting by Colin Packham; editing by Jane Wardell

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