To contain coronavirus, Australia PM urges against big gatherings
Scott Morrison, Australia PM

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday urged people not to gather in groups of more than 500 but said he would still go to a weekend rugby game, as health officials warned millions of residents will contract coronavirus within months.

Australia has recorded 156 infections and three deaths from the flu-like disease, figures that authorities expect to increase rapidly in the coming weeks.

Morrison said his government will from Monday advise against non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people, though this does not include schools, airports or public transport.

“This is an early-stage action that we are undertaking to make sure we get ahead of this,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney, adding Australians should also reconsider their need for any overseas travel.

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The virus has so far infected almost 135,000 and killed more than 4,900 worldwide.

On Friday afternoon, home affairs minister Peter Dutton said he had tested positive for the pathogen and had been hospitalized.

Media representatives for Scott Morrison did not return emails seeking comment on whether the prime minister’s plans to attend the game on the weekend had changed given he met with Dutton during the week.

Health officials warned millions of Australians will contract the coronavirus within the next six months.

“We’re anticipating 20% of the population in the first wave to be affected,” Kerry Chant, the chief medical officer for the New South Wales (NSW) state government.

Home to more than 7 million people, NSW is Australia’s most populous state, and Chant said models suggest 5% of the state’s population – some 350,000 people – will need hospital treatment as a result of coronavirus.

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