Lawmaker tested for Covid-19 after coughing fit in parliament

An Australian lawmaker has been tested for Covid-19 after a coughing fit in parliament on Tuesday made it difficult for him to finish his speech.

Video footage shows Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg having to pause several times to get his breath back, taking sips of water in a bid to reclaim his voice. “I’m lucky I have some water,” he said, coughing.

“Too long of a speech.”

Frydenberg later revealed that he had entered self-isolation and was tested for coronavirus, according to CNN affiliate 9News.

“Today while delivering my ministerial statement I had a dry mouth and a cough,” said Frydenberg in a statement seen by 9News.

“After question time I sought the advice of Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO). The DCMO advised me that out of an abundance of caution it was prudent I be tested for Covid-19.” Frydenberg said he expects to have the results back Wednesday.

During the economic update, Frydenberg struck an optimistic note on the government’s coronavirus response.

“Our measures are working, protecting lives and livelihoods,” he said in a clip posted on Twitter. “We can be confident about our future.”

However, he also pointed out the severe economic impact of the virus, saying the nation’s treasury was forecasting the gross domestic product (GDP) to fall by more than 10% in the June quarter, “which would represent our biggest fall on record,” he said.

Frydenberg said it would take years for Australia to pay back the money it has borrowed in order to respond to the virus.

“Australians know there is no money tree,” he said. “What we borrow today, we must repay in the future.”

Last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a three-step plan to reopen the country’s economy by July, as the government begins winding down social distancing measures.

Australia banned public gatherings and non-essential travel as part of a series of restrictions in late March. Local transmission has since been curbed, however, with the outbreak now considered broadly under control.

The country has recorded less than 7,000 cases and 97 deaths, according to figures collected by Johns Hopkins University.