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Omicron spells new test for Morrison ahead of Australia election

PM stresses 'personal responsibility' over lockdowns as cases set records

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has likened wearing a mask to "slapping on the hat and slapping on the sunscreen."   © Reuters

SYDNEY -- A record-setting coronavirus outbreak apparently fueled by the omicron variant is presenting Australia with a major public health -- and political -- test just ahead of a general election due by May.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shown a reluctance to resort to the tight lockdowns and near-complete border closures that had defined Australia's response to the pandemic. Instead he is urging "personal responsibility" -- a call on residents to take precautions themselves without relying on "the heavy hand of government."

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