MARCH 13, 2020
The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, has confirmed he has tested positive for coronavirus and has been admitted to hospital in Queensland, but a spokesman for Scott Morrison says the prime minister isn’t intending to be tested and no one in the cabinet will be required to self-isolate.
Dutton has recently returned to Australia after meetings with senior Trump administration officials about data encryption policy, and measures to combat child exploitation. During the trip he was photographed with senior officials including the US attorney general William Barr and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.
The home affairs minister also attended a cabinet meeting on Tuesday with colleagues to sign off on the government’s stimulus package, and was part of a discussion of the national security committee of cabinet on Thursday via a video link.
The government’s current health advice says people in close contact with a proven case of coronavirus must self-isolate for 14 days.
But a spokesman for the prime minister says the advice from the deputy chief medical officer is only colleagues who had close contact with Dutton in the 24 hours before he became symptomatic need to self-isolate. “That does not include the prime minister or any other members of the cabinet,” Morrison’s spokesman said.
There are no plans for Morrison to be tested for the illness. But the prime minister has cancelled well-telegraphed plans to attend a rugby league game on Saturday night.
Two other senior ministers, Marise Payne and Angus Taylor, have also been in the US in recent days.
In a statement issued on Friday evening, the home affairs minister said he woke up on Friday morning with a temperature and sore throat. “I immediately contacted the Queensland department of health and was subsequently tested for Covid-19.”
“I was advised by Queensland Health this afternoon that the test had returned positive. It is the policy of Queensland Health that anyone who tests positive is to be admitted into hospital and I have complied with their advice.”
The minister said he felt fine, and would provide an update in due course.
Just before Dutton confirmed his illness publicly, the prime minister and the premiers agreed that non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people across Australia, and non-essential travel overseas, should be cancelled to halt the spread of coronavirus.
While some medical experts called for more prompt action, the plan was to implement the cancellation of large gatherings from Monday.
Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting also resolved to convene a “national cabinet” consisting of state and territory ministers to meet weekly to manage the coronavirus and receive advice from the federal, state and territory chief medical officers.
Morrison declared on Friday after the Coag talks that he intended to attend a football match in Sydney on Saturday evening.
But his office said later: “After further consideration and [because of] the potential for the prime minister’s attendance to be misrepresented, the prime minister has chosen not to attend the match this weekend.”
Morrison’s departmental head Phil Gaetjens also, late on Friday, pulled out of a scheduled appearance before a Senate inquiry into the sports grants imbroglio.
Gaetjens had been due to appear on Monday to answer questions about advice he gave to the prime minister about whether there had been any breach of ministerial standards by Bridget McKenzie, but asked for a postponement in order to manage the continuing fallout of the pandemic.
Courtesy/Source: The Guardian