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  18 May 2022, 13:28

Australia PM bats away mounting Covid worries

SYDNEY, May 18, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison
batted away Covid-19 worries three days ahead of federal elections, claiming
many reported deaths are not caused by the virus and vowing not to interfere
in people's lives.

Australia detected 66 Covid-related deaths and more than 53,000 infections in
the previous 24 hours -- far more than six months ago when daily numbers
generally showed fewer than 20 deaths and 2,000 infections.

Infection numbers have surged since the arrival of Omicron and the relaxation
of pandemic-related restrictions. Very few Australians still wear a mask or
maintain a social distance.

"What you see when you have case numbers at that level is that people, when
they pass away for many other causes, that they will die with Covid,"
Morrison said.

"And the deaths are recorded as Covid deaths. But that does not necessarily
mean... that they passed away because of Covid. That's a very different
proposition," he told reporters.

Australia reports a Covid-19 death for anyone who has a confirmed or probable
infection with the virus when they die, unless there is a "clear alternative"
cause of death.

"We're living with Covid," Morrison said.

"We're not going back to those daily press conferences of people talking
about Covid every day and putting the threat of shutdowns and lockdowns and
interfering in people's lives again," he added.

"That's not what I am going to do if I am re-elected on Saturday. I am not
going to drag Australia back into those times again," Morrison told
reporters.

Opposition Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese, whose party is slightly ahead
in the opinion polls despite a recent tightening in the race, said the
pandemic remained a risk.

"We need to step up the national strategy. We need look at not just the
number of deaths but also the number of people who are in hospital, and the
number of infections," Albanese said.

More than 95 percent of people over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated in
Australia, which the opposition leader said had helped to reduce the impact
of the disease.

"But it's still a major issue," Albanese told the National Press Club in
Canberra.

Morrison is widely credited with spending huge sums to protect jobs and the
economy during the pandemic.

But the prime minister has been criticised by the opposition for a sluggish
rollout of vaccines and self-administered rapid antigen tests.

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