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Australia treasurer tested for coronavirus after coughing bout in parliament

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s treasurer was tested for the coronavirus on Tuesday after he broke into a sustained coughing bout while giving a speech to parliament about plans for an economic recovery from the pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: The city skyline is seen as a tram crosses the Princes Bridge at dusk in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Josh Frydenberg’s voice was hoarse as he spoke in front of the chamber, and he was repeatedly forced to interrupt his speech, coughing into his fist and elbow and drinking water.

In an emailed statement he said he was advised to be tested by Australia’s deputy chief medical officer as soon as the speech was finished: “I immediately left Parliament House to be tested and will await the result in isolation.”

Australia’s parliament has resumed with social distancing measures to reduce infection. A smaller number of lawmakers than usual attend in person, seated further apart.

In his address, Frydenberg predicted a rapid economic recovery once Australia eases a lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the virus.

“As a result of easing the restrictions in line with stages 1, 2 and 3, GDP will increase by A$9.4 billion ($6.10 billion) each month,” Frydenberg said.

Australia hopes to remove most of the restrictions imposed in March within three months in an attempt to get nearly 1 million people back to work amid a decline in coronavirus cases.

Australia has recorded about 7,000 cases of COVID-19 and 97 deaths from the virus.

The flattening of cases has seen states move to reopen schools. The last state to announce a reopening, Victoria, will resume face-to-face teaching from May 27, weeks earlier than expected, state Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday.

The state including the city of Melbourne would take a staggered approach with teenagers in classrooms first, followed by younger pupils from June 9, Andrew said.

Schools in Australia’s biggest state, New South Wales, reopened on Monday, allowing students to attend one day a week on a staggered basis.

The state reported its first 24-hour hour period without a single new positive case after conducting 6,000 tests.

Reporting by Paulina Duran and Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates and Peter Graff

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