Have you ever had that dream where you’re the nation’s treasurer, delivering a critical update in parliament on an economy that’s been upended by a pandemic, and you have a coughing fit and you just can’t keep talking?
That’s what happened to Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday.
In fact, Frydenberg coughed so much that he has now entered self-isolation and is being tested for COVID-19.
“Today while delivering my ministerial statement I had a dry mouth and a cough,” Frydenberg said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. After question time, he asked the deputy chief medical officer for advice, the statement said.
“The [deputy chief medical officer] advised me that out of an abundance of caution it was prudent I be tested for COVID-19. Following the receipt of his advice I immediately left Parliament House to be tested and will await the result in isolation.”
Frydenberg said he expects the test result on Wednesday.
When the coughing fit came on, Frydenberg had been updating the country on the state of the government’s finances as it spends historically large amounts on support for people and businesses affected by COVID-19.
As he spoke about the JobKeeper scheme — under which the government pays struggling employers $1,500 per fortnight for each employee they keep on the books — Frydenberg stopped to cough, alternating between coughing into his hand and his elbow.
Sipping on water did not seem to assist. He joked that it was “too long a speech” before coughing again. His voice was raspy as he continued to speak.
Frydenberg described the coronavirus as “a faceless and flagless enemy” that created a “health and economic shock the likes of which the world has never seen”.
He urged Australians to be confident about their future and to “stay strong” and “stay together”.