Australia’s parliament was suspended for two weeks over fears that politicians could bring coronavirus infections from outbreak hotspots to the country’s capital, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday.
The postponement came a day after the nation’s second-biggest city reported a record rise in COVID-19 infections.
Citing medical advice, Morrison said that the government could not ignore the risk that legislators might spread the disease to Canberra.
“The risks posed by a parliamentary sitting are significantly higher and unlikely to be resolved in the next month,” he said.
Canberra and its surrounding Australian Capital Territory continue like much of the country to control the coronavirus, but cases have been on the rise in Sydney and Melbourne.
The announcement means parliament will not reconvene until at least Aug. 24, having resumed on June 8.
The main opposition party accepted the decision, but described the loss of political oversight ahead of a government update on the economy on Thursday as “problematic.”
“We expect to be consulted much further in advance from any decision being made than what’s occurred with these circumstances,” Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese told media in Sydney.
Officials in the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, said that the region had recorded more than 200 new COVID-19 cases in the prior 24 hours following a rise on Friday of 438.
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said that “217 is much better than a number above 400, but it’s a number that would have shocked us all a month ago.”
“We need to remember it’s still a high number,” Sutton said.
Melbourne is battling a recent surge that has seen more than 5 million residents placed on lockdown.
The outbreak has also spread to Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, where there have been growing numbers of locally transmitted cases after an initial cluster erupted from an infected Melbournian who visited a popular pub.
Nationwide, Australia has reported more than 11,400 cases of COVID-19 so far in a population of about 25 million, with 118 deaths from the illness.
The vast majority have been in Victoria and New South Wales, the country’s most populous state and home to Sydney.
Other regions have not reported any new local infections in weeks.
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