Authorities 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 “very cautious and safe” approach will be taken to easing the restriction, focused 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.

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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.

Tuesday’s 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.

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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 who they had been in contact with.

AAP. 

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