Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been photographed going for a handshake with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at a meeting centred on Australia’s escalating response to the coronavirus outbreak.
That wouldn’t usually be news. But, given competing advice from Australian health authorities on whether it’s currently good practice to shake hands, this particular handshake kinda is news.
While pictures only tell part of the story, Berejiklian, who this morning joined other state premiers and Morrison to discuss a coordinated national response to the outbreak, appears to have had quite the response to his attempted greeting.
Despite the moment captured in that dramatic shot, it appears the leaders did eventually clasp mitts.
Earlier this month, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it was time for Australians to temporarily retire the handshake, which medical authorities believe could allow the virus to spread between individuals. He even suggested we give each other friendly pats on the back instead.
But Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, used a later press conference to say federal authorities are “not suggesting” a ban on handshakes “by the broader general community.”
That kind of disparity in official advice is exactly the kind of thing today’s meeting of the Council of Australian Governments is intended to address.
Sky News reports the meeting, held today at Sydney’s Parramatta Stadium, will hopefully get states and the Federal Government on the same page about responses the virus.
After today’s cancellation of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, and following news that Download Festival will not go ahead, the meeting will see Australia’s leaders determine if state and federal authorities should suspend large public events in the weeks to come.
Any decision to temporarily ban large-scale gatherings would bring Australia into line with a growing list of nations who have moved to encourage social distancing among the general public.
Also on the agenda: how the states will react to yesterday’s announcement that the Federal Government will pump some $17.6 billion dollars into the economy to stave off the worst economic impacts of the virus, and if Australia should ramp up its coronavirus testing protocols.
As of yesterday morning, 126 people have been infected with the virus in Australia. Sadly, three people have died as a result of their illness.
There’s a lot going on, and we’ll keep you posted on the outcomes of the meeting.
Finally, let’s be real clear: There’s no suggestion Morrison has coronavirus, and we are certain the nation’s leader wouldn’t be glad-handing with colleagues if he did. But it is a funny photo, and at times like this, sometimes that’s all you can hope for.
Of course, if you have come into contact with someone who has the virus, you should also self-isolate for 14 days. If symptoms develop you should call your doc or healthdirect on 1800 022 222.Image: David Gray / AAP Image