Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese tests positive for COVID-19


Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has tested positive for COVID-19.

The top brass from the Labor campaign will meet tonight to review its options for having Mr Albanese remotely join media interviews and campaign events as frontbenchers make up for the Opposition Leader on the ground.

The party’s national secretary, Paul Erickson, will convene.

“The real risk is to momentum,” a senior Labor source said.

“We were back after everything and the risk here is that this could be a momentum stopper.”

It was only one week ago that journalists were asking Mr Albanese if his leadership had been undone by his inability to name the unemployment rate on day one of the campaign.

With the Coalition’s focus switching to issues such as criticism of its response to China in the Pacific and internal battles over a preselection candidate, Mr Albanese’s advisors had hoped this week would be a chance to cement his leave.

One senior ALP figure said that the party would follow roughly the same script taken by Prime Minister Scott Morrison after he got Covid: conducting press conferences, television crosses and remote appearances from home.

But Mr Albanese had shown no symptoms of the virus, the source said, and took a PCR test only for travel to Western Australia meaning he would be match fit and ready to campaign from anywhere.

Labor advisers have developed a number of alternative campaign plans in case Mr Albanese entered isolation. Options being canvassed by the party tonight include having Mr Albanese’s role filled by a rotating cast and a less likely elevation of a frontbencher to become his surrogate for the entire period he is out of action.

Mr Albanese tested positive on Thursday following a routine PCR test before a planned visit to Perth on the campaign trail.

The diagnosis comes on the 11th day of the campaign before the May 21 federal election and represents a major disruption to Labor’s campaign plans.

Top ALP campaigners have assessed what Mr Albanese contracting the virus will mean for their campaign and prepared a back-up script and employed harsh restrictions to minimise the chance that he would.

Press gallery reporters aboard the Labor campaign bus had to prove they had been triple-vaccinated and commit to wearing masks onboard and to receive regular testing.

COVID-19 became a preoccupation for Mr Albanese’s advisers precisely because of a scenario in which he was struck midway through the campaign trail.

Mr Morrison contracted the virus in early March.

He sought to govern remotely and take calls via Zoom but became frustrated being a housebound Prime Minister.

Only shortly after his release he made the case for easing restrictions on the “close contacts” of people who get the virus.

But by falling ill when he did, Mr Morrison secured himself a not insignificant political advantage on the campaign trail where the other team’s movements are monitored constantly.

Mr Morrison bought himself eight weeks of freedom by testing positive for COVID-19.

For Mr Albanese to contract the virus in this time hands the Coalition a major advantage of being unable to make pubic appearances for nearly one-quarter of the 30 days remaining on the road.

Campaigns are fought as games of inches. Relinquishing an advantage of this size will hurt.

Unlike the Labor leader, Mr Morrison’s campaign team did not impose any extra restrictions for travelling on its official bus.

The ALP campaign went over and above state laws and did not entertain objections from journalists.

Mr Albanese will isolate at his home in Sydney for the next seven days, and says he is feeling fine.

“While at home I will continue my responsibilities as alternative prime minister and will be fighting for a better future for all Australians,” he said in a statement.

Mr Albanese tweeted he had been ‘‘testing regularly as part of my election campaign duties’’.

“I am grateful to know that I will have access to the world’s best health care if I need it, because of Medicare,” he said on Twitter.

“I am feeling fine so far – and thank everyone for their well wishes.”

-with AAP

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