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Border closures to dominate virus meeting

Coronavirus-sparked border closures, an agriculture code and forthcoming extreme weather risks will be top of mind for Australia’s leaders at a meeting on Friday.

National cabinet – chaired by Prime Minister Scott Morrison with premiers and chief ministers – is set to meet virtually for its latest pandemic decision-making session.

There will be further discussion on a definition for hotspots, which Mr Morrison wants clarity on so there’s an understanding on when states can close their borders.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham wants states to rethink their current approach, saying border closures could cost tourism operators $55 billion this year.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described Queensland’s benchmark of 28 days of no community transmission in NSW before removing its border controls as “a pretty tall order”.

“We’ve demonstrated for two months nearly that you can actually maintain a good control of the virus and keep your economy going,” she said.

“I hope other states have the confidence to take their borders down and do the same.”

But Queensland says it’s important for states to have control of their own outbreaks.

Victoria will on Sunday unveil its roadmap out of its current strict restrictions, which Premier Dan Andrews says is based on state health advice.

States have also been urged to back a national agricultural code to ensure Australia’s food production isn’t hurt by border closures.

The code’s chances of being agreed to are in serious doubt after the expert medical panel of state and federal health officers rejected it earlier in the week.

National cabinet will also receive an economic update, after Australia’s first recession in 30 years was confirmed this week.

The economy has shrunk two quarters in a row, amounting to a technical recession.

The June quarter contraction of seven per cent is the worst figure since records began.

National cabinet will get the latest figures on international arrivals as well as the limit on Australians able to return home each week.

The figure is not expected to change, with states saying the limits ensure their mandatory hotel quarantine systems are sustainable.

There are now more than 23,000 Australians abroad who want to return, a third of whom are in India.

Australia’s death toll rose to 678 on Thursday after 15 more deaths in Victoria.

There were also 113 new cases in Victoria, the first time since Sunday that the state’s daily tally has been above 100.

National cabinet will also be briefed by the Bureau of Meteorology on the forthcoming high risk weather season, namely bushfires and cyclones.

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