Aussies ‘underestimate’ virus, PM warns
"We don't want to end up like New York or like London."
That's what Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday night despite Australia's comparatively low death toll from coronavirus.
Speaking with Sky News' Chris Kenny, Mr Morrison said "of course" Australians are underestimating how dangerous and how serious the pandemic could be for the country.
"Australia has put itself in a good position to be able to deal with a global calamity," Mr Morrison said.
"Yes, we are in a stronger position than most but we still have to chart our way out of this.
"Of course (some Australians) are (underestimating the virus. You've gotta keep your vigilance. As we've seen overseas, we've seen this move right through the community.
"We can't become complacent. We don't want to end up like New York or like London. We have to keep our sense of realism about the risk."
As of Tuesday evening, Australia had recorded 6400 cases of coronavirus and 61 deaths. The United States had recorded 587,337 and 23,649 deaths and the United Kingdom had recorded 88,621 cases and 11,329 deaths.
Mr Morrison said the majority of Australians "have been getting the message" and that if they continue to adhere to strict social isolation rules it will "enable us down the track to have a different type of regime about how this is enforced".
"There's gotta be a reward for all the effort that's going on and there will be," Mr Morrison promised.
The conversation also touched on the debate around reopening schools. Mr Morrison reiterated a consistent message from the Government that "children are not at risk by going to school" but said "legitimate concerns from teachers" are being addressed.
His stance is clear, however. Schools should reopen as soon as possible.
"I've said it many times. This virus is going to take a lot of things from us. I don't want it to take a year of a child's education," he said.
"If online learning was better, we wouldn't have schools. Teaching face-to-face is a positive environment for kids to learn.
"Ultimately, we need to get kids back into school. It will free up opportunities in our economy.
The majority of students around the country will be learning via distance education as Term 2 starts, with schools only open to vulnerable kids and those of essential workers.
Some states have set an earlier review date of these measures than others.
Medical experts and politicians have consistently said there is no health risk to children by sending them to schools and childcare centres.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has blamed parents and teachers for effectively shutting down Australia's schools.
"Most of the state governments actually didn't want to close the schools, it was the parents and the teachers who closed the schools," he told a New Zealand parliamentary hearing on Tuesday.
Mr Morrison said leaders would discuss the topic of schools and how best to protect teachers when national cabinet meets on Thursday.
Originally published as Aussies 'underestimate' virus, PM warns