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Restarting elective surgery on the cards

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Australia's political leaders are set to decide whether a halt on elective surgeries should be lifted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

State and federal leaders will discuss the hot-button issue at a national cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

To help hospitals deal with virus cases, elective surgeries other than the most urgent procedures have been put on hold.

All category three and most category two surgeries were suspended from last month.

Australia's deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth says a cautious and safe approach will be taken to easing the restriction, with a focus on patients.

"We recognise that there are Australians out there who are in pain, have disability, can't be in the workforce, need to take very potent pain medication that need their elective surgery done," Dr Coatsworth told reporters in Canberra.

A good approach is for low-risk surgeries with high benefits for patients to be considered first, he added.

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed its first major corporate scalp, with Virgin Australia placed into voluntary administration on Tuesday.

The federal government has flatly refused to buy a stake in the airline or provide it a loan to prevent the company from going under.

There are up to 15,000 jobs at risk, while a potential collapse raises the prospect of handing Qantas a lucrative monopoly in Australia's aviation market.

Meanwhile, Labor has confirmed it will team up with crossbench senators in a bid to block pandemic-inspired changes to industrial relations laws.

The government has reduced the notice period for employee votes on changes to pay and conditions from seven days to just one.

There have been 71 coronavirus deaths across the nation, with more than 6600 cases detected.

More than 4200 people have recovered. Australia's low mortality and high testing rates are among the world's best.

Meanwhile, Tuesday's national cabinet meeting will also discuss remote indigenous areas, where isolation zones may be set up to allow elders to be closer to their communities.

Although the rate of new coronavirus cases has dipped, authorities are cautioning against easing social distancing rules.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the infection rate shows how seriously Australians are taking distancing rules.

"When it comes to social distancing, quarantine, isolation measures, we'll continue to take the medical advice and that's served Australia well," he said.

The Morrison government has set a series of benchmarks for economic restrictions to be gradually eased, with state and federal leaders due to make a call in mid-May.

Among the goals is a 40 per cent take-up rate of an app that uses phone interactions to trace when people with coronavirus have come into contact with others.

Dr Coatsworth said the app was simply the icing on the cake to the existing process of tracing cases, offering back-up to people's memories of those with whom they had been in contact.

© AAP 2020

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