Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the coronavirus deaths in Australia have been comparatively lower than those of other countries, but warned that we should not be complacent.

“One number that is never good is the fact that 75 Australians have passed away. As sad as that is for those families, let’s not forget that in countries that are smaller than Australia, like Belgium, 6,262 people have died.” he said.

“In Sweden 1,937 people have died. If you look at the fatality rates as a proportion of population, in the United States it is almost 50 times higher than Australia.

“In France it is over 100 times higher than Australia. In the United Kingdom also, just under 100 times higher. In Germany it is over 20 times higher. In Switzerland it is over 60 times higher. Denmark over 20.

“These are all sophisticated, developed economies with good health systems. This can happen in Australia if we are not careful and that is why Australians and our governments have been so careful to balance the needs to get our economy back to a COVID-safe level so it can support people’s incomes and with can return to higher rates of growth into the future.

Speaking about the economy, Mr Morrison said that 587,686 jobseeker applications have been processed which is more than Centrelink, now known as Services Australia, do in a year.

Regarding economic reforms set to be enforced, Mr Morrison said that the government was looking at the situation with “very fresh eyes, with a view to what the post COVID economy was going to look like globally and domestically to help them get back on their feet and grow the businesses and have a business-led recovery to put Australia in a stronger position in the future.”

READ MORE: Scott Morrison tells visitors they are “lovely” but perhaps “it is time to make your way home”

Mr Morrison said that the government is guided by “outstanding expert advice”.

“There are so many people that have been guiding us with good expert advice, and this is a model that I think has always underlined how our government has operated and we’ll continue to do that,” he said. “We’ll continue to be driven by the principles that we hold very dearly, the data and the evidence to inform our views and the solid and respected expert advice that can input into that process.”

Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had a telephone hook-up with four bank CEO’s and Australia’s Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan. “It was a very productive discussion. And we emphasised the need for the banks to provide the support to those businesses,” he said.

“They have agreed to set up each of these four major banks, a dedicated hotline for their customers to call to receive the bridging finance necessary to pay their staff ahead of receiving that money under the jobkeeper program.

“Importantly, they have also agreed to expedite the processing of all those applications to the front of the queue. So our message today is if you are a business or a not for profit operation that is eligible for the jobkeeper payment, as required, you need to pay your staff ahead of receiving the money from the Tax Office. Go to your bank, ring their hotline, ask for that support.”

Mr Frydenberg said that the Australian Tax Office has approved 456,000 applications for early access to superannuation, totalling $3.8 billion.
Mr Morrison was asked about aged care, and whether the federal government should take responsibility for aged care outbreaks, such as those in western Sydney’s Newmarch house facility. He said that aged care facilities have always been an area of great concern.

“Yes, the Federal Government does provide funding support to aged care facilities but regulatory responsibilities are held at a state level,” he said.

READ MORE: Is the government’s coronavirus app a risk to privacy?

“We work closely together. One of the important things we did early on in the COVID response was to ensure we were providing additional funding to support the efforts of surging additional medical staff and others into aged care areas.”

Mr Morrison also paid tribute to the four Victorian police officers killed yesterday during a traffic stop. “A terribly dark day for that police force and our thoughts, our prayers, our sympathies are there for all of them, but also our thanks to police officers serving all over the country. It is a dreadful and terrible reminder of the dangers that you face every single day,” he said.