Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his decision to travel to Sydney despite current COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns in major cities.
It was revealed on Tuesday that Morrison flew from Canberra to Sydney on September 3 on a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) jet to spend time with his family in his home city before returning to the capital, reports said.
Under current COVID-19 restrictions, anyone who travels from Sydney to Canberra must quarantine for 14 days.
However, Morrison was granted an exemption on the condition that he restricts his movement while in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and undergoes frequent coronavirus tests.
The exemption prompted criticism of the Prime Minister, with senior Opposition Labor Party member Bill Shorten accusing Morrison of “appalling judgement” at a time when more than half of the population is in lockdown and barred from travelling interstate.
In response, Morrison said there had been a “lot of misinformation” about the trip.
“I can understand people’s frustration,” he told Sky News Australia.
“I live in Sydney. I often have to be here for work. There was no requirement to get an exemption to go to Sydney.
“The exemption I require is to come back here to the ACT and, as prime minister, of course I need to come back to the ACT,” he added.
It came as Australia reported 1,485 new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday morning, increasing the overall infection tally to 63,154, while the death toll stood at 1,044.
Of the new cases, 1,220 were from New South Wales (NSW), the epicentre of the current outbreak, where the state health department also recorded eight deaths on Tuesday morning.
“There have been 139 COVID-19 related deaths in NSW since June 16, 2021,” said the statement from the NSW Health.
Victoria, the second-most populous state, reported a further 246 new local cases.
The ACT recorded 19 new cases, 13 of which had been linked to previously known infections or exposure sites, taking the number of active cases in the nation’s capital to 230.
Andrew Barr, the Chief Minister of the ACT, said he could understand the community’s frustration about Morrison’s exemption but that he was an essential worker, adding that Canberra “faces a challenging set of circumstances as the seat of government and the national capital”.