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Scott Morrison says Australia won’t go back into lockdowns on his watch

The prime minister has defended his handling of the pandemic, saying rising COVID-19 case numbers and deaths were “always going to happen”.

Scott Morrison acknowledged there had been 7853 COVID-19 linked deaths in Australia during the pandemic – including 65 in the previous 24 hours.

“As the number of case numbers has risen, and that’s what was always going to happen, as part of the national plan that we put together with the states and territories, the case numbers would rise,” he told reporters in Geelong on Wednesday.

More than 6.45 million Australians have contracted the virus, with more than five million of them becoming infected this year alone, according to InSight, the weekly online news magazine of the Medical Journal of Australia.

“And what you see when you have case numbers of that level is that … (people) will die with COVID and their deaths are recorded as COVID deaths but that doesn’t necessarily mean … that they passed away because of COVID,” Mr Morrison said.

Australia’s states and territories reported almost 60,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 53 deaths on Wednesday.

The prime minister said his position was shared by the Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and other health authorities.

“We are living with COVID, and 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 said.

“I will not drag Australia back to those times again.”

He pointed out Australia has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates.

“Australia has been one of the standout performers in managing COVID anywhere in the world,” he said.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said on Wednesday the state government would assess whether it needed to continue supplying free rapid antigen tests to schools in term three.

He said the government would supply schools with free tests through to the end of term two, although the recommendation for students to undergo surveillance testing twice weekly would be lifted after May 27. 

LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA:

ACT: 1098 cases, no deaths, 74 in hospital with four in ICU 

NSW: 12,297 cases, 14 deaths, 1395 in hospital with 59 in ICU

Victoria: 14,220 cases, 22 deaths, 510 in hospital, with 31 in ICU

Tasmania: 1179 cases, one death, 45 in hospital with one in ICU

QLD: 10,198 cases, seven deaths, 511 in hospital with 16 in ICU

WA: 16,253 cases, three deaths, 327 in hospital with 12 in ICU

SA: 4072 cases, six deaths, 247 in hospital with 10 in ICU

NT: 349 cases, no deaths, 25 in hospital with two in ICU.

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