Australian leaders will soon weigh up whether certain elective surgeries, such as IVF, should resume but have stressed it is too soon to relax other coronavirus measures.
Elective surgery is likely to be on the agenda when federal, state and territory leaders meet to discuss COVID-19 on Tuesday or Thursday, Health Minister Greg Hunt confirms.
Such surgeries could resume at an earlier date than had previously been thought possible because the federal government has secured more personal protection equipment for healthcare workers, he said.
That includes an extra 100 million masks set to be distributed over the next six weeks.
He says he is hopeful the nation’s medical expert panel and the national cabinet can make decisions on elective surgery within the week.
“In particular I know that the prime minister and myself have been very focused on IVF as an important and indispensable treatment,” Mr Hunt said on Sunday.
“So we are hopeful that over the course of this week, there will be some positive news.”
Health workers have also been reminded again to stay at home if they are sick after recent COVID-19 breakouts in North West Tasmania and a residential aged care facility in NSW were linked to ill staff.
The nation’s virus death toll rose to 72 on Sunday after a 94-year man died at the Newmarch House facility in Kingswood NSW on Sunday following the death of a 93-year old resident on Saturday.
Three other men, in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, also died on the weekend.
The rate of new infections in Australia has fallen below one per cent for seven consecutive days, a development Mr Hunt called an “important national achievement”.
“What it means is we now have a sustained and genuine flattening of the curve,” he said.
But he warned there was more work to be done to maintain that position and that authorities were focused on beating the virus.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said it was too soon to relax restrictions, such as self-isolation and social distancing.
“When you are as successful in suppression as we are, then the notion of being able to eliminate the coronavirus becomes within reach,” he told Sky News.
“But I think the most important thing, the national cabinet has agreed, the suppression strategy is working and we need to stay the course on this.”
Prime Scott Morrison has also clarified the app to help trace people who have been in contact with a coronavirus case won’t be mandatory.
He said the government will be seeking the co-operation and support of Australians to download the app to help health workers, protect the community and help get the economy going again.
However, a number of coalition politicians have said they won’t download the mobile phone app when it is introduced in the next couple of weeks, citing privacy concerns.
But Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said he is not sure everyone fully understands the app.