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Virus death toll rises, Victorian cases up

National

Australia’s coronavirus death toll has climbed to 375 as authorities are cautiously optimistic about Victoria’s infection numbers flattening.

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Senior cabinet ministers are reapplying pressure on states to reopen their borders, citing issues with access to healthcare and food supplies.

Authorities are also bracing for the findings of a report into the ill-fated disembarkation of the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney, which has spurred another round of political finger pointing.

Victoria recorded another 14 deaths on Friday and 372 more cases of coronavirus.

The new infections are up from 278 cases recorded on Thursday, but well down on the 451 cases at the same time last week.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said those figures showed a real cause for hope that Victoria was flattening its rate of coronavirus infections.

Hunt said the lockdowns in Victoria were beginning to play a role, along with strengthening contact tracing.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says state border closures have had serious unintended consequences on agricultural supply chains and the wellbeing of regional Australians.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham is urging Australians to travel if they can to help the domestic tourism industry, which has taken a $12 billion hit.

He says travel restrictions should be proportionate to the risks of coronavirus across different states, arguing states with low cases should open to others in a similar situation.

The political blame game has also reignited over the Ruby Princess, which is linked to more than 20 coronavirus deaths and hundreds of cases.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton insists NSW Health was responsible for passengers getting off the ship, rather than his department.

“There were lessons learnt in relation to the Ruby Princess,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.

“If there are changes that need to be made in the future well, the NSW government, commonwealth government, whoever it is will make those decisions.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews insists his relationship with Prime Minister Scott Morrison is intact after days of tensions over defence force support.

While the state Labor government is under pressure over its bungled hotel quarantine system, the federal coalition is facing serious questions over aged care.

A royal commission has heard a scathing assessment of the lack of preparation throughout the federally regulated aged care system.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and his predecessor, Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy, will front the Senate’s coronavirus inquiry on Friday.

-AAP

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