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Australia former PM Malcolm Turnbull and treasurer Josh Frydenberg test positive for COVID-19

Australia former PM Malcolm Turnbull and treasurer Josh Frydenberg test positive for COVID-19

File photo. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit on Mar 17, 2018. (Photo:AFP/ Dan Himbrechts)

SYDNEY: Australia's former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday (Jan 8), as case numbers hit new highs across the country and health officials warned that the real number of cases was likely much higher than testing shows.

Turnbull, who was prime minister from 2015 to 2018, confirmed on Twitter he was isolating at home after a positive test.

“Like hundreds of thousands of other Australians I have tested positive for COVID. Symptoms moderate so far. Isolating as required,” Turnbull wrote. “This pandemic and especially this latest wave has put our health professionals under enormous pressure."

“Please be polite and considerate when dealing with the frontline health workers," he added. "They have had two years of relentless pressure and it’s now at its most intense. So give them the love and respect they deserve, please.”

Turnbull's announcement comes a day after Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had tested positive for COVID-19, joining other senior government officials to have contracted the disease.

"Like thousands of Australians, I tested positive today to COVID-19," Frydenberg wrote in a short message which he posted to Twitter and Facebook late on Friday.

"I have the common symptoms and am isolating with my family," he added, without elaborating or disclosing which variant he had.

Other high-ranked Australian lawmakers including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Defence Minister Peter Dutton have contracted and overcome the illness.

Under current Australian COVID-19 guidelines, people who return a positive test and those deemed "close contacts" must isolate for seven days.

Australia has been posting successive record numbers of new daily infections, with surges in cases in the two most populous states again reported on Saturday.

New South Wales reported 45,098 new cases, from the previous day's record 38,625, while Victoria, home to the upcoming Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, saw daily cases more than double to 51,356. The states reported a total 18 COVID-19 deaths the same day.

Even with the country's other six states and territories yet to report numbers, the total of just New South Wales and Victoria, 96,454, smashed the previous day's national record of just over 78,000.

The Victorian total included rapid antigen test results from previous days, which could only be entered through a website from Friday, authorities added.

Australian leaders, including Frydenberg, have been urging the country to move on from a strategy of stop-start lockdowns now that more than 90 per cent of the population aged over 16 fully vaccinated.

But state leaders have been reintroducing restrictions amid exploding case numbers, mostly of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. A day earlier, New South Wales cancelled non-urgent surgery to clear hospital space for COVID-19 patents and resumed a ban on dancing and drinking while standing up in bars, measures to slow the spread.

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Source: Agencies/aj

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