Will you have to queue for Easter groceries? How new supermarket rules will work


Easter shopping hasn’t looked like this before. As coronavirus restrictions get tighter, supermarkets are adding more rules to your grocery shop.

And retailers are preparing for what’s traditionally the second busiest shopping time outside Christmas. Rather than the usual crammed aisles, stores are starting to limit shoppers and asking people to queue outside the store.

Here’s what we know about the rules so far.

Who’s asking shoppers to queue?

An all-in announcement from the major food retailers (including Coles, Woolworths and Aldi) yesterday flagged they could start to limit the number of people in stores.

And it’s not just supermarkets. Other stores were already rolling out queuing systems over the weekend — this Bunnings store in Brisbane’s south-west suburb of Oxley had a line-up by Sunday lunchtime.


It’s not just supermarkets asking customers to queue when needed. This line was outside a Brisbane Bunnings on Sunday. (Supplied: Inga Williams )

But there are no hard and fast rules on whether your local store will be asking you to queue.

How will queuing work?

At Woolworths, limiting the number of people will depend on how busy the store is. And some stores might not even need to use it at all.

The company’s supermarket managing director Claire Peters said it’ll be specific to each store and based on its size.

She said store managers will use “common sense discretion” to manage this.

“Customers will start to notice stores implementing new social distancing measures in the lead-up to the Easter weekend,” Ms Peters said.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

Security, police to help manage queues

If you have to queue, Woolworths will mark out the area with cones and operate a one-in, one-out system.

And to keep people a healthy social distance of 1.5 metres apart, the stores will work with centre managers, security and police to manage queues.

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At Aldi stores, the number of people allowed inside at one time varies from 70 to 100 customers.

Again, that depends on how big the shop is.

Security officers or staff will tell shoppers if the store has hit capacity and they need to queue (1.5 metres apart, of course) outside.

The budget supermarket chain started rolling out its queues last week if stores were busy.

At Coles, the company’s chief operating officer Matt Swindells told Triple M on Monday they’ll also roll out queuing this week.

“We’ll be asking people to queue [outside the store]. We have people counting customers in and have people counting customers out,” he said.

Just how many people are allowed in Coles and Woolworths stores (which sometimes have more floorspace than an Aldi) will depend.

For example, this Coles store in Perth’s Victoria Park has a limit of 275 people at one time, according to a social media post by centre management.

External Link:

Hawaiian's Park Centre: UPDATES TO COLES TRADING

Can I skip the queues?

If you want to try, the biggest tip is to shop earlier in the week — and avoid Thursday.

Mr Swindells said this Thursday, the day before Good Friday, was one of the busiest shopping days of the year and people should shop earlier in the week to avoid crowds.

Woolworths’ Claire Peters says Thursday is a “spike” for them as well.

Going online might be an option for regular shoppers soon, but not until after Easter.

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said in an email to customers home delivery was being reactivated by area but not until after the holidays.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

But what if I’m a vulnerable shopper and can’t queue?

In some states like New South Wales, supermarkets will be allowed to trade all day on Good Friday (as well as Easter Sunday and Anzac Day) as a one-off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So that means Coles’ community hour, which allows vulnerable people like the elderly and disabled to shop before everyone else, will run this Friday as usual in the state.


Coles’ ‘community hour’ will run on Good Friday in states where stores are operating. (AAP: Danny Casey)

And there are more online delivery options available for those who need it.

Both Woolworths and Coles have different offerings for elderly and isolated people.

The latest change, being rolled out from today, will let registered priority assistance customers at Woolworths place an order online and get someone else to pick it up for them.

But again, that’ll depend on your store — the service will be rolled out to 100 stores for drive-through and another 600 at store service desks.

Video: Norman Swan looks at the Federal Government's coronavirus modelling


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Perth Ruby Princess passenger dies from coronavirus, taking WA toll to four

Perth 6000

Western Australia has recorded its fourth coronavirus death, with a man in his 80s becoming the latest victim of COVID-19.

Key points:

  • The man was a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship
  • WA’s coronavirus total stands at 460 after seven new cases
  • A dedicated COVID clinic will open in Broome on Wednesday

Health Minister Roger Cook confirmed the man was 84 years old and died at Royal Perth Hospital, where he was being treated.

The man was formerly a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which has been responsible for hundreds of cases of the virus across the country.

“This is an insidious disease and it can take a life so easily,” Mr Cook said.

“It is important people take this seriously.”

The national COVID-19 death toll now stands at 41.


WA Health Minister Roger Cook says there are seven new WA cases of coronavirus. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

WA new cases continue to drop

WA announced seven new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 460 — with 162 people having recovered.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 495
  • Deaths: 6
  • Tested negative: 20,217

Latest information from the WA Health Department

A total of 58 cases are in hospital in WA, with 18 people in intensive care.

Mr Cook said the fact all seven new cases related to cruise ships or overseas travel meant there was “no hard evidence of community spread in WA”.

One of the cases is from the Artania cruise ship, which remains docked at Fremantle, but that person had already been taken off the vessel.

The Government said excluding the Artania patients and those who had recovered, there were 240 active WA cases.

The WA Government released a chart showing a breakdown of active WA cases, recoveries, Artania cruise ship cases and deaths.
(Facebook: Mark McGowan)

Six of the seven new positive tests are from the metropolitan area, while the remaining one was recorded in the Kimberley.

The Kimberley case is the 13th in the region and involves a healthcare worker who had returned from overseas travel and was yet to return to work. They are the sixth healthcare worker in the region to test positive.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

A dedicated COVID clinic will open at Broome Hospital on Wednesday to increase the amount of testing available in the Kimberley and detect any community transmission.

Mr Cook said anyone who had either a fever or acute respiratory illness could present at the Broome clinic for testing.

Who should present to COVID-19 clinics?

  • People who have EITHER a fever of 38 degrees Celsius OR acute respiratory infection
  • Symptoms to look out for include fever, shortness of breath, cough or sore throat
  • Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results.

Major clinics have been set up at Perth hospitals including Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner, Fiona Stanley, Joondalup, Armadale, Rockingham and St John of God Midland.
They are open from 8:00am–8:00pm daily.
In Southern WA a clinic is operating at Bunbury Health Campus from 10:00am–4:00pm daily.
In Northern WA a clinic is operating at Broome Hospital from 8:30am–4:00pm daily.
Outside these areas, people with symptoms should present to their local hospital.
For more information go to the Health Department website.

“In other areas of the Kimberley they can go to a country hospital, an Aboriginal medical service or the Royal Flying Doctor Service to undertake those tests,” he said.

He said 240 tests had been conducted in the region as of Saturday night, 170 of them in Broome.

Premier warns against COVID-19 complacency

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the low number of cases was an encouraging result, but cautioned that trend would need to continue before any social restrictions could be reduced.

“Just because we have low figures now it does not mean we always will,” Mr McGowan said.

WA begins to ‘flatten the curve’
The stream of COVID-19 cases in WA has slowed to a trickle in recent days, but there are some big risks if the state limits the outbreak too effectively.

“Look at what happened in America, in Italy and Spain.

“But if we keep doing what we are doing, hopefully we will continue to have very low rates of infection.”

With warm weather set to hit Perth for much of the week, the Premier again warned WA Police would close beaches if social distancing rules were not followed.

“It is an extreme measure but this is a time of extreme measures,” he said.

“Do the right thing or we will be forced to close beaches around the place.”

State border closure in place

Mr McGowan said WA’s new hard border closure had taken effect at midnight on Sunday and was working well.


In an unprecedented move, WA has closed its borders to restrict the spread of COVID-19. (ABC Goldfields-Esperance: Jarrod Lucas)

“I’m advised our interstate border, our temporary border, has been implemented very, very smoothly,” he said.

“There are now police at the airport ensuring the border arrangements work properly. There’s police on checkpoints on the border between Northern Territory and South Australia ensuring that our border arrangements work properly.”

How will WA’s border closures work?
WA is closing its borders to the east for the first time in its history. Here’s how you might be affected.

Police said between midnight Sunday and 3:00pm today, 124 people were allowed to enter WA by road and air as exempt persons, with 24 of them given self-quarantine directions.

Two people were refused entry at road borders.

Mr McGowan said while it was upsetting for people who had been turned around at the border, their experience should be an example to others.

“We don’t want people from the east coming here. I want that to get through the heads of the people in the eastern states. Don’t come, we don’t want you. Stay away,” he said.

“Don’t drive across because if you’re not exempt you’re going to be turned around and [have to] drive back, and it’s a three or four-day drive back to Sydney.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

The Premier said operations on intrastate borders were also going well.

“The police tell me there’s about a 98.5 per cent compliance [rate]. That means 1.5 per cent of vehicles are turned away, and obviously there’s checkpoints but there’s also spot checking as well on vehicles throughout regional WA,” he said.

WA obtains $5.5 million worth of PPE

The latest information about the WA outbreak came as the Government confirmed it had received $5.5 million in new personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies for healthcare workers.


Premier Mark McGowan (right) and Health Minister Roger Cook (left) have inspected the new PPE. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

The extra material includes:

  • 1 million face masks
  • 600,000 gloves
  • 100,000 face shields, and
  • 40,000 gowns

That material was being inspected but officials believed it was of appropriate quality to be distributed within the system.

“That will be a welcome relief for many people in our hospital system,” Mr Cook said.

“The Government has moved heaven and earth, using our own charter flight … and we will get this out to ensure everyone has all the PPE they need.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Healthy people don’t need masks: Minister

Mr Cook said there was no reason healthy members of the public should be wearing masks on the street, urging people to save hospital-grade PPE for healthcare workers.

He confirmed some of the PPE sourced by Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation was not of clinical grade, but said it could be used outside of the hospital system.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

“It is good equipment and will be a great boost for our hospital workers,” Mr Cook said.

Meanwhile, the Westin hotel has now been made available for WA healthcare workers who need to go into isolation because of contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

WA now has eight “accommodation centres” for people required to isolate, including several hotels and Rottnest Island.

Mr McGowan said many of these centres were now relatively full, but patients quarantined on Rottnest from the Vasco da Gama cruise ship would be allowed to leave “in the next four or five days” which would free up some capacity.

Artania criticised over ‘frolicking’ passengers

The Premier also strongly criticised how the Artania cruise ship, which has been responsible for dozens of cases in WA, had handled passengers on board.


The Artania remains docked at Fremantle Port after an outbreak of coronavirus on board. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

While most passengers were flown back to Germany last week, hundreds of crew remain on board and about 50 passengers are in isolation in Perth hotels or hospitals.

Mr McGowan said it was clear passengers on the vessel had not been isolated quickly enough.

“We saw those images of people circulating on deck, frolicking in the pool,” he said.

“Clearly they weren’t doing the appropriate isolation on board and there is a consequence to that.”

The comments follow the decision by New South Wales authorities to open a criminal investigation into the Ruby Princess saga.

Man charged over alleged hotel quarantine breach

Meanwhile, WA Police have charged a man with breaching quarantine requirements under the Emergency Management Act.

It is understood the 35-year-old had travelled to WA from Victoria, with police alleging he breached the requirements several times, putting the community at risk.

He arrived in WA just over a week ago and was placed in a Perth hotel for two weeks of quarantine.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Police have alleged that during that time, he wedged open a fire exit door at the hotel so he could leave and re-enter without being seen.

They said he used public transport to travel around the metropolitan area.

He was arrested and charged with two counts of failure to comply with a direction.

The man was refused bail on the basis he would likely continue to breach quarantine requirements and endanger public safety.

Video: Norman Swan looks at the Federal Government's coronavirus modelling


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘What do we have to lose’: Donald Trump stockpiles anti-malarial drug for coronavirus fight

United States

The US is stockpiling massive doses of an anti-malarial drug hoped to be used to treat coronavirus despite its efficacy remaining unproven.

Key points:

  • The US has ordered 29 million doses of the drug hydroxychloroquine
  • Donald Trump says there are “strong signs” the anti-malarial drug can treat COVID-19
  • The White House coronavirus task force warns evidence of its efficacy is only anecdotal

US President Donald Trump said Washington had bought “a tremendous amount” of hydroxychloroquine, saying there were “very strong signs” it could treat coronavirus.

At a media conference on Sunday, Mr Trump said the US was “very far down the line” on developing vaccines for COVID-19, adding “we’ll see what happens”.

But he said the US had stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

“It’s a powerful drug on malaria and there are signs that it works on this, some very strong signs,” he said.

“I would love to go to a laboratory and spend a couple of years testing something.

“We don’t have time, we don’t have two hours because people are dying.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“If it does help great. If it doesn’t help, we gave it a shot. What really do we have to lose?”

Video: Donald Trump says there are strong strong signs hydroxychloroquine can treat COVID-19.

(ABC News)

Mr Trump has previously hailed a French study suggesting hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin, a common antibiotic, might be an effective treatment for COVID-19.

But he told reporters he was not promoting hydroxychloroquine, saying: “It may work, it may not.”

He said it would be a shame “if we didn’t turn to these drugs early, if it turns out they are helpful”.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Last month, the World Health Organisation announced a mass global trial of four promising treatments, including hydroxychloroquine.

But there have been warnings that there is still much work to be done testing potential cures.

Anthony Fauci, who is part of the White House coronavirus task force, has reminded people that there is only “anecdotal” evidence of hydroxychloroquine being effective against coronavirus.

The drug has major potential side effects, especially for the heart, and large studies are underway to see if it is safe and effective for treating COVID-19.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.

White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die in the pandemic.

At the weekend, there were warnings the US faced a critical week in the coronavirus pandemic, with the US surgeon-general Jerome Adams telling Americans to brace for a Pearl Harbour or 9/11 moment.

But during the latest press briefing, the Mr Trump expressed hope the country was seeing a “levelling off” in some of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots, saying Americans were starting to see “the light at the end of the tunnel”.

New York, the hardest-hit state, reported on Sunday that for the first time in a week, deaths had fallen slightly from the day before, but there were still nearly 600 new fatalities and more than 7,300 new cases.

Research teams around the world are scrambling to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, including in Australia.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Norman Swan looks at the Federal Government's coronavirus modelling



Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Police reveal 15 reasons that will get you through WA checkpoints — and the excuses that won’t fly

Perth 6000

A proposed “script” for police officers manning road checkpoints between WA’s regions reveals the “commonsense” directions informing who should be allowed through and who should be turned back.

Key points:

  • Non-essential travel has been banned to limit the spread of COVID-19
  • Checkpoints have been set up across the state to monitor motorists
  • Hundreds of vehicles have already been stopped and turned around

At 11:59pm on Tuesday Police Commissioner Chris Dawson enacted a prohibition on non-essential travel between the state’s nine regions in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Breaches can be penalised with a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for corporations, with police conducting mobile patrols in addition to manning checkpoints.

During the first two days of the ban, 201 vehicles were stopped at checkpoints and prevented from entering another region, while 36,459 were deemed exempt and allowed to pass through.

Discretion to make ‘common-sense’ decisions

The checkpoint script advises officers to greet motorists similarly to how they would during a random breath test before asking the motorist to state the purpose of their travel.


Peel has been included in the Perth zone, while other boundaries align with those of the eight regional development commissions. (The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH))

Although that question need not be asked in cases where the purpose is blatantly obvious, such as an emergency services vehicle or a truck carrying livestock.

People have been encouraged to carry documentation, such as a letter, email or SMS from an employer explaining their need to travel.

Police are instructed to stay at least 1.5 metres away from motorists at the checkpoints and if they cannot do that then they should wear personal protective equipment.

Motorists who can prove they are legitimately exempt from the ban are to be waved through the checkpoints after having their vehicle registration number recorded.

Motorists found to have no legitimate reason to travel between regions are to be turned around after police record the registration details of their vehicle and the names of all occupants.

The officers are encouraged to take a practical approach when deciding on the validity of requests to be made exempt, and to make real-time decisions based on a “commonsense approach”.

Where an “umpire’s call is needed” the matter should be referred up the chain of command, the script advises.

Those exempt from the travel ban are:

  • People who are returning home
  • People who are going to work or carrying out the duties of their occupation
  • People meeting their primary-caring responsibilities
  • Anyone under threat of physical or psychological harm or in an emergency situation (other than COVID-19)
  • Someone needing to obtain goods or services without which they would be likely to suffer harm — if it is not reasonably available in the region they are in
  • Students attending primary, secondary or tertiary education
  • A parent or guardian enabling the education of someone they are responsible for
  • A person fulfilling the obligations of a parenting plan, court order or similar
  • Someone needing to obtain or provide veterinary or animal welfare services not reasonably available where they live
  • A person whose spouse, de facto partner, child, grandchild, sibling, parent or grandparent has died, is suffering a life-threatening illness or has been incapacitated
  • Those carrying out essential services
  • Someone who is in police custody
  • People who have written authorisation by the director-general of the Department of Education or is a member of that person’s immediate family or household
  • Someone who is required to do so by law
  • A person with Police Commissioner Chris Dawson’s approval

Going on a holiday doesn’t even come close

The document also lists the sorts of motorists the checkpoint officers might encounter, and whether or not they are likely to meet the criteria for exemption.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 481
  • Deaths: 6
  • Tested negative: 19,615

Latest information from the WA Health Department

Anyone hoping to begin or a continue a holiday should be turned around, but travellers making their way back to their primary residence can pass through.

Those who have flown into WA from interstate and are making their way home from the airport are also allowed to cross regional boundaries in order to get there — but once home they will need to begin a mandatory 14 days of self-isolation.

If they have arrived in the state from overseas they will be forced to undergo 14 days of quarantine in a Perth hotel before they can go home.


Many Perth residents would have been planning to head south for Easter. (Supplied: Tourism Western Australia)

People travelling to the airport to fly out of WA will also be waved through regional checkpoints, but they cannot have a friend drive them there as this is not an excuse to cross regional boundaries.

A person doing that would be stopped at a checkpoint unless their passenger was either a sick family member, their child, or someone else in their care, such as an aged or disabled person.

No surfing trips — well, unless you’re a pro

Travel within the region you are already in is not technically restricted as yet, but the Police Commissioner and the Premier have asked people to stay home and not take holidays.

And the Health Minister Roger Cook has also expressed concern about the dangers of people spreading COVID-19 if travelling between major towns in the same region.

People in the Goldfields have been urged to cancel any plans to travel from Kalgoorlie to Esperance for Easter, and Perth residents were told not to flock to Mandurah.


Goldfields residents are being warned against heading to coastal Esperance for Easter. (ABC News: James Carmody)

Daytrips or short drives outside of your region for leisure or recreation are also definitely off the cards.

The checkpoint script also states a surfer driving to a beach outside their region should be turned around, unless they are a pro-surfer in which case they may be exempt.

The document notes that travelling for leisure activities may be allowed if that activity is how the person earns a living, such as a professional athlete needing to train as part of their employment.

Builders, pool cleaners, painters and baristas are all listed on the document as examples of people who may be exempt if they need to cross a regional boundary for work purposes.

At this stage all members of the public can still pass through regional checkpoints, if it is unavoidable, on their way to the office or whatever their workplace may be.

Alcohol definitely off the essentials list

If there are no “reasonable” alternatives in your area you can also pass through a checkpoint on your way to the shops to buy food and other essential groceries.

The exemption protects people who might live on the outskirts of a population centre which happens to be just over the other side of a regional boundary from their home.


Alcohol does not appear on the shopping essentials list. (ABC News: James Carmody, file)

Some people also live remotely and the nearest supermarket within their own region is several hours further away than where they might usually shop.

But the exemption only applies for essentials such as food, toilet paper, medication and household staples — with alcoholic beverages not classified as essential groceries.

Health, social services get the all clear

People will be allowed though a checkpoint if they are travelling to access medical care such as visiting a specialist or GP, a physiotherapist, dentist, acupuncturist, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Exemptions are also made for people who need to see a social worker or anyone who needs to go to a police station, be it for assistance, or if they are required to do so by law, such as someone reporting on bail.

Anyone travelling due to domestic violence issues will also be allowed to cross regional boundaries.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

They are covered by an exemption which allows people to travel if escaping the threat of physical or psychological harm, or an emergency other than COVID-19.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

A person will also be exempt if they need to enter another region to care for their children or drop them off as part of a parenting arrangement, or to comply with a court or police order.

Students travelling to access primary, secondary or tertiary education or a parent travelling to help provide education is also permitted.

Entering another region in order to care for a sick family member, child, aged or disabled person or anyone else for whom you have primary care responsibilities is also allowed.

Exemptions to keep animals healthy are also in place, with veterinarians and animal welfare services allowed through checkpoints when necessary, and people are exempt if taking pets or livestock to the vet.


Dozens of checkpoints have been set up to audit travellers in WA. (ABC News: Rhiannon Stevens)

Police also have discretion to allow someone to travel on compassionate grounds, which include the death or life-threatening illness or injury of a spouse, de facto partner, child, grandchild, sibling, parent or grandparent.

Essential services unimpeded

Anyone performing an essential service can travel through the state wherever necessary for the purpose of performing that service.

The list of essential services encompasses people within the government, emergency services, judicial staff and the military, and includes:

  • A senior government official responsible for protecting against threats such as terrorism, war, or espionage
  • Active military personnel
  • State and Commonwealth cabinet ministers and their staff
  • State and Commonwealth MPs and one member of their staff if they are travelling to their electorate
  • The WA Governor, Kim Beazley, and members of his establishment
  • A person requested by the Health Department to assist in providing health services in a region
  • People providing transport, mail, courier, freight and logistics services
  • Specialists required for industry or business continuity and maintenance of competitive operation, if the service is time-critical
  • People responsible for maintenance or repair of critical infrastructure
  • A person employed or engaged in agriculture, food production, or primary industry
  • FIFO workers
  • A person providing services in sectors including disability, aged care, family violence, child protection and housing services
  • A person providing or maintaining utility or waste management services
  • Emergency service workers, including volunteers or contractors engaged by an emergency service
  • Employees of a regulatory agency or authority
  • Judicial officers or staff of a court, tribunal or commission
  • Anyone else given written or oral approval by Police Commissioner Chris Dawson

Doctors, nurses, health workers and related industries, such as people who supply and maintain medical equipment, pharmacists, dentists and morgue workers, are permitted to travel to any region which the Health Department requests them to visit.

Farmers and other agricultural workers and people involved in food production and other primary industries are included as essential service workers.


There is an exemption for farmers and others involved in food production. (ABC News: Tom Edwards)

Many human service providers are also classified as essential, including aged care providers, child protection workers, disability services and family violence support services. Even funeral directors and grave diggers are mentioned in the planning document.

It also mentions truck drivers, taxi drivers, uber drivers, postal services and couriers as among essential freight and transport services.

Also classified as essential are people who run, maintain or repair critical infrastructure.

Specialists who keep industry and business going could be considered essential as well in circumstances where performing their service was time critical.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Cruise operator under criminal investigation after 11 Ruby Princess passengers dead from virus

Sydney 2000

Police have launched a criminal investigation into whether the operator of the Ruby Princess downplayed potential coronavirus cases before thousands of passengers disembarked in Sydney last month.

Key points:

  • A 17-minute triple-0 call was made from the vessel the day before passengers disembarked in Sydney
  • Police said Carnival Australia said COVID-19 was not an issue on the vessel
  • Nearly 200 crew who are still on board are showing symptoms of COVID-19

Eleven passengers have died from COVID-19 since the vessel docked at Circular Quay on March 19 — the latest being a 78-year-old who died in Queensland earlier this afternoon.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said there were “many unanswered questions” about the cruise, which was operated by Carnival Australia.

“There seems to be absolute discrepancies between the information provided by Carnival and what I would see as the benchmark for the laws that the Federal Government and the State Government put in place in terms of protecting Australians from cruise ships when coronavirus had started,” Commissioner Fuller said.

“The only way I can get to the bottom of whether our national biosecurity laws and our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation.”

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

Nearly 2,700 passengers were allowed to disembark despite others on board experiencing flu-like symptoms.


Commissioner Mick Fuller said the criminal investigation would get to the bottom of whether national biosecurity and state laws were broken. (ABC News)

More than 600 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been linked back to the cruise, which remains off the NSW coast with nearly 200 sick crew onboard.

The Commissioner said by law a vessel was only allowed to dock if the captain could assure authorities it was free from contagion.

Police told COVID-19 ‘not an issue’ despite 17-minute emergency call

He revealed that on the day before passengers disembarked, a worker on the cruise made a 17-minute triple-0 call about two passengers who required medical assistance.

He said an ambulance supervisor was concerned about potential infection of passengers on the cruise and escalated the call to NSW Police Marine Area Command.

Commissioner Fuller said police were told by operation managers from Carnival that COVID-19 was not an issue on the ship.

“From that perspective, there are many unanswered questions,” he said.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

He said the homicide squad’s Detective Chief Inspector Jason Dickinson would tomorrow be given materials which had been gathered during the past 48 hours.

He said the investigation would look into all agencies involved in the incident.

It is understood NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard will be interviewed.

Carnival Australia, the Commissioner said, sent a letter to police indicating it would cooperate with the investigation and hand over any information required.

That includes emails, text messages, radio transmissions and medical correspondence between the doctor and ship’s captain.

A spokesperson for Carnival Australia said it would “vigorously respond to any allegations of which there must now be full disclosure and the basis for them”.

Sick crew remain onboard, some taken to hospital


Two smaller boats sail away from Ruby Princess cruise ship on Sunday. (ABC News)

The announcement of the investigation came as emergency services staff transported crew members from the vessel to St George Hospital in south Sydney this afternoon.

Police said there were still nearly 200 crew on board the Ruby Princess with COVID-19 symptoms.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

They said there were isolation plans in place and most crew members were in good health.

“We’ve extracted another person today who needs medical assistance and we’ll continue to take people off who need medical assistance,” he said.

“No-one has been denied that and no-one will be denied.”

Video: Five cruise ships have been moved out of Sydney Harbour overnight.

(ABC News)

In dramatic scenes, boats crewed by workers in hazmat suits were seen speeding to and away from the Ruby Princess, moored off Botany Bay in Sydney’s south.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Three cruise ships left Sydney Harbour overnight following a mass police operation to send vessels affected by the virus home, but the Ruby Princess has remained moored off the NSW coast.

NSW Police described it as the largest peacetime maritime operation in Sydney’s history.

It was completed in about 30 hours to allow the ships to leave Australian waters.

Video: How does coronavirus work, and what are its weaknesses?

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘It’s so quiet here’: Coronavirus in Australia’s suburban bubble


It is the picture of suburban Australia.

The lawnmower, freshly cut grass, brick house in the background.

But Nathan Clissold wasn’t supposed to be mowing the lawn this week. In fact, he wasn’t even supposed to be at home.

He was supposed to be getting married, in Wollongong.

“I remember watching the news two weeks ago and seeing those updates come in,” he told the ABC. “I looked at my partner Alice and said: ‘I don’t think we’re going to able to do this’.”

It soon became much clearer. After months of planning they were forced to cancel their original plans.

Instead, his home — which he was sprucing up this week — is set to be the wedding venue.

And because of social-distancing measures, the wedding will look very, very different.


Nathan Clissold had to rearrange his wedding day. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

“It’ll be me and Alice, our two mothers and the celebrant,” he said.

“It is what it is. But it was bloody hard telling both our dads they couldn’t come to our wedding.”

Like millions of Australians, Nathan’s life has been turned upside down.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

The concept of going to a wedding, going on holiday, visiting friends or even just venturing outside is of a different time — a time before coronavirus.

As a nation, most of us are confined in the suburban bubbles we call home — so what is happening out there, beyond your four walls?

ABC photographer Brendan Esposito drove around a section of Sydney’s suburbia to see how some Australians are adapting to this new way of life.

And it seems some are taking the pandemic more seriously than others.

In Mount Druitt in Sydney’s west, a group of three young men — two wearing makeshift facemasks — questioned whether coronavirus was “real” and said they wouldn’t be doing social distancing.


Three men, two with facemasks, and a trolley full of alcohol. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

The shops were shuttered up.


A closed bottle shop in Mount Druitt. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

Only a few people were around


Two women on a pedestrian crossing in Mount Druitt, Sydney. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito )

But chores, like the washing, still needed to be done.


The laundromat remains busy during the coronavirus pandemic. (ABC News: Brandan Esposito)

At his home garage barbershop in a nearby suburb, 18-year-old Hadi Ghadban was hanging out with his brothers, smoking shisha.

“It’s a tough time right now,” he said.


Hadi Ghadban in his home barbershop (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

“I have to go to work [as a barber] at the Parramatta Westfield. It’s been cut back from five days to two.

“But I’m scared about it — I’m scared I’m going to bring the virus back home and give it to my mum and dad, or niece.”

Down the road, Farah Ballah was sitting on his balcony, checking his phone.


Farah sits on his balcony, waiting for the phone calls that aren’t coming. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

He’s an on-call handyman. But his phone hasn’t rung for a long time.

“I came back after visiting family in Sudan on March 11,” he said. “People are scared. They don’t want anyone in their homes.

“I have two children. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Back to basics

For Margaret Mossakowska, the scenario of social distancing is eerily familiar.

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Originally from Poland, the former statistician said in the early 1980s her country of birth banned large social gatherings during a period of martial law.

“But the communists did that,” she said. “This is different.”


Margaret Mossakowska in her kitchen with homemade bread. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

For her, the little things are the hardest.

“It’s the silence,” she said. “It’s so quiet here at the moment. I had a talk with my neighbour from across the street and my whole suburb could hear me.

“And touch, I just want to touch and to hug people.”

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

But like many reaching out across the digital world, Margaret is finding new ways for human connection.

Margaret, now a sustainability and permaculture expert, is going online to teach people in the suburbs how to grow their own produce.

“I hope people will go back to basics, and see how simple the world can be,” she said.

This week she gave an online class about keeping chickens in suburban backyards.

Margaret was joined on the stream by Bridget Kennedy.

The two became friends online after an edible garden tour they were working on was cancelled because of COVID-19, and the project went digital instead.


Bridget Kennedy in her garden with a pomegranate. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

“We’ve built a whole new community online,” she said.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Bridget runs a contemporary jewellery business in North Sydney which had to shut because of the coronavirus threat.

She said her anxieties — both financial and personal — were “skyrocketing” when she closed the doors.

But she said she had since found solace in her suburban garden.

“These are crazy times,” she said. “But I’ve been spending a lot of time in our garden — we’ve been eating the food from it.

“I’ve come to terms with it now. The universe has said you have to sit back for a while, so we’re doing that.”

Taking it day by day

For Nathan, the weirdest thing during this period — apart from having his wedding being moved to his backyard — is not being able to shake hands.

“It’s just what we do isn’t it?” he said.


Nathan Clissold said he was taking life one day at a time. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

He and his fiancee are making new plans for a big party to celebrate their wedding when the travel restrictions are over.

They’ll also be booking a new honeymoon due to their planned celebration in Fiji being cancelled.

Having had COVID-19 derail the biggest day of his life, Nathan had some sage advice.

“We’ve just got to take it day-by-day,” he said. “Just try to live our lives and be there for each other.”

Video: How does coronavirus work, and what are its weaknesses?

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The monsters under the bed: Exhibition reveals our worst nightmares are those closest to home


In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gothic tale Rappacini’s Daughter, a young scholar falls in love with the lonely, cloistered daughter of a scientist who specialises in plant-based poisons, only to discover that this young woman — Beatrice — is in fact one of her father’s experiments, and has poisoned him by proximity.

Beatrice has breath that kills, is deadly to the touch, and has a “sister” who is an equally poisonous purple-flowered plant. She is called monstrous by her erstwhile lover — but it’s clear to the reader that she is the only really good and innocent character in Hawthorne’s tale.

Visitors to Adelaide Botanic Gardens in March were able to judge for themselves: Beatrice is currently in residence there, inside the Museum of Economic Botany — where (prior to the COVID-19 shutdown of galleries and museums) she was taking visitors.

This Beatrice is plush and purple and tentacled — more creature than woman. Whether visitors found her compelling or repellent might be the subject of artist Julia Robinson’s own experiment.

The creature’s tentacles are covered in lush silk, some of it shot through with iridescence — but this “skin” is patterned with small incisions, or gashes, through which nodules of incipient life bulge.


Julia Robinson is interested in folklore and mythology as tales we tell ourselves to understand life — and death. (ABC Arts: Sia Duff)

“My vision of Beatrice is that she’s this kind of metamorphic, loud, brash, birthing, splitting and hybridised creature that’s trying to break the edges of her boundaries to sort of tease herself out of this mess,” says Robinson.

Beatrice is part of the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, one of more than 120 works by 25 artists presented in an edition themed “Monster Theatres”, curated by the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Leigh Robb. It marks the 30th anniversary of the nation’s longest-running survey of Australian art.

Robinson was reading a book on poisons when she came across a reference to Rappacini’s Daughter.

At that point, Robb had already offered the Adelaide artist a spot within the Museum of Economic Botany — and she felt like serendipity put the idea in her path.

“I was like ‘Oh my God’, because it describes Beatrice as this toxic plant-woman,” Robinson recalls.

The setting of the museum is more poignant the longer you look: monstrous and monstered Beatrice is hemmed in by glass cases full of pinned specimens — while just outside the museum, in the gardens, her botanical habitat awaits.


Ballet dancer-turned- artist Judith Wright has described In the Garden of Good and Evil as a “memorial” to a lost child. (Supplied: AGSA/Saul Steed)

The eye of the beholder

Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein before it, Rappacini’s Daughter turns the tables on the reader to reveal that the monster is in fact the man who created the “monstrous” being.

That the doctors in both stories care more for science than humankind, and are guided by arrogance rather than compassion, reveals a lot about the era that both authors were writing in.

But more timelessly, these tales reveal the secret truth of monsters: that like beauty, they are in the eye of the beholder; what to one person is monstrous, to another is wonderful.

And so this year’s Adelaide Biennial becomes a kind of litmus test of our times — for it reveals what each artist, and each audience member, most fears, loathes or rejects (in her curator’s essay, Leigh Robb points out that the Latin roots of “monster” are the words for “to warn” and “to show”).

Robb says she picked the artists before the theme: “I’d [initially] looked at 10 artists that I wanted to see together, and that I saw as representing really vital strands in Australian contemporary art practice, and ones that had either defined Australian art history or were in the process of reshaping it through pivotal new work, and shapeshifting, interdisciplinary practices.”


This room showcases Polly Borland’s Morph series, featuring a model wearing stuffed body stockings. (Supplied: AGSA/Saul Steed)

She says that the work of this core group of artists revealed common interests and trends: artists using narrative, figuration (as opposed to abstraction) and immersion to sound warnings about, or simply probe, major sources of trauma and anxiety — climate change, colonisation, patriarchy, to name a few biggies.

From there, she selected other artists and works that more explicitly fit her theme of “Monster Theatres”.

The resulting line-up takes us through from pioneering performance artist Mike Parr to young polymath provocateur Abdul Abdullah; from LA and London-based artist Polly Borland (famous for her 90s photo series Adult Babies) to local hero Karla Dickens.

This Biennial offers visitors Mike Bianco’s quixotic, intimate experience of “resting with bees” in the Botanic Gardens, on the one hand, and the spectacular robot-sculpture of veteran performance and body artist Stelarc, on the other.


Stelarc (seen here with his work Reclining Stickman) has a longstanding interest in the intersection of the human body and tech. (Supplied: Art Gallery of South Australia/Saul Steed)

Some works position themselves in opposition to particular monsters: Hobart-based artist Willoh S. Weiland says “patriarchy is the monster”, and has created a video tribute to the 300 women, most over the age of 50, who volunteer as guides at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

She presents her work inside a curtained, single-person “shrine” within the gallery, inviting visitors to pay tribute to these under-recognised (and often “invisible”) women who mediate many of our experiences with art in the gallery.


Still from Visions (2020) by Willoh S. Weiland. (© Willoh S. Weiland)

In the adjacent gallery space, Sydney artist Abdul Abdullah strikes out against the dynamics of exclusion, with Understudy: a spot-lit microphone on a small stage, with red curtains behind and seating rows in front — and one sole figure sitting expectantly, clothed in head-to-toe fake designer-wear, as if waiting for the main act.

Visitors who venture to the front of this faux theatre will see that the figure is a human-primate hybrid with large moist eyes and a snubbed skull-shaped nose — an uneasy mix of endearing and grotesque.

Abdullah’s work is one of several that pitch their camp at the threshold between horror and wonder, and are made by artists who are subverting mainstream ideas of what is “monstrous” or deserving of rejection.


Abdul Abdullah says the figure in Understudy represents “the other, the marginalised”.
(ABC Arts: Sia Duff)

Australian Gothic

For Perth duo Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari, the male-dominated cinema of “body horror” is ripe for an intervention: their short film Dark Water taps into tropes of the monstrous feminine, following a grieving young woman into a watery subterranean zone beneath her house, where her body is transformed or re-birthed.

The horror in Dark Water draws from a real medical syndrome: when one twin dies in the womb, sometimes the survivor absorbs their body — and carries remnants of their deceased sibling within their body for life.

Dark Water is the third film Coates and Nazzari have made together, and the result of roughly four years of work (including an army of volunteers and an elaborate hand-built backyard aquatic set — from which Coates’s lawn hasn’t recovered).

They spent months making the props, which include the fantastical aquatic lifeforms: “evolved” versions of species endemic to Western Australia’s coastal waters.


Erin Coates with Internal Interior (2019), which she and Anna Nazzari made and featured in their film.
(ABC Arts: Sia Duff)

All their work together centres around ideas of women and water — specifically, the mythologies and superstitions around the sea and sailors. They share an interest in the aesthetics of Australian gothic and “eco horror”, and describe their work as “oceanic gothic”.

For Coates, an interest in the sea stems partly from growing up in the coastal town of Albany (a former whaling town), with a dad who is a diver; Nazzari, conversely, grew up in the landlocked, bone-dry mining town of Kalgoorlie, and developed a fascination with water from the perspective of scarcity.

Their interest in horror, meanwhile, is harder to pin down — but Coates says: “I think both of us — and we’ve talked about this before — have always had this interest in really looking at things closely, and not looking away.

“I remember as a child, if I saw a dead animal I’d always want to know what happened: How did it die? What did it look like inside? It was that sort of interest in biology; in the blood and guts of what’s inside of me.”


Still from Dark Water (2019). ((c) Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari)

They see Dark Water as reclaiming the unique female potential of horror — a genre that has historically been made by and for men.

Nazzari says: “A lot of why women are interested in horror is to do with education and protecting and preserving yourself … We will happily watch the woman holding her car keys and being scared, because in some ways we’re thinking — how does that protect you?”

Coates chimes in: “I think also, when they say that horror and the abject is this unfamiliarity with the insides of our bodies, and this rejection of it — I don’t entirely agree with that. I think for women, we’re actually not unfamiliar with the insides of our bodies. We bleed every month and we give birth.”

The colonial nightmare

Bad scientists and body horror don’t just belong to fiction, of course — and one of the Biennial’s most compelling works is inspired by a real-life Australian monster.

In the Dead House, by Yhonnie Scarce (Kokatha/Nukunu peoples), responds to Adelaide Botanic Gardens’ dark history as a site where Scottish-born doctor and anthropologist William Ramsay Smith conducted experiments on the corpses of Aboriginal people and “unclaimed” bodies, in his position as Adelaide Coroner.


Yhonnie Scarce at the Dead House, a former morgue in Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
(ABC Arts: Sia Duff)

Ramsay Smith’s own writings reveal he robbed graves for his collection; he also stole remains from Aboriginal burial grounds. After his death, 182 skulls were found in his home.

“He had this macabre interest in decapitating Aboriginal bodies and sending their remains internationally — mostly to the UK,” says Scarce.

“Because he was the coroner, it’s almost like he had free rein.”

Scarce’s installation occupies a small square brick building that was formerly a morgue attached to the Adelaide Lunatic Asylum.

Inside, 30 bulbous forms in translucent, cloudy glass are arranged in careful rows. Scarce explains that these are “bush bananas”, endemic to central and western Australia.

Each bulb has been cut open, with the glass curling outwards from each wound, like skin.

“They’ve been cut open to represent that old way of dissecting bodies. It was really important to show that disrespect [with which Ramsay Smith treated the bodies] — the flaying of the bananas was done very roughly.”


Yhonnie Scarce has a longstanding practice working with glass. (Supplied: Art Gallery of South Australia/Saul Steed)

The installation has the feeling of a memorial, and like a lot of Scarce’s previous works, it deals with “unnamed” victims of historical violence.

Scarce was born in Woomera, South Australia, and has made work about the effects of 20th-century nuclear testing on the Kokatha people and members of her family.

“For me, it’s really important that I make work that is about these types of stories,” she says.

A dark circus

The monsters in Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens’ work are more abstract but no less real than William Ramsay Smith.

Her Dickensian Country Show takes over an entire gallery space and turns it into a “fun fair” with a dark twist: there’s a “Colonial Roundabout”, and rides titled “Live Stock” and “Warn a Brother” — each of these repurposing vintage carnival rides to create sinister allusions.


Colonial Roundabout was the final piece Dickens made, and includes many of her own objects — including “Kenny the Koala”. (Supplied: AGSA/Saul Steed)

Around the perimeter of the room, dense collage-work “posters” mash up 19th and 20th-century carnival and circus imagery with text to provocative effect: a nightmarish assemblage of monster masks sits alongside hand-written text reading “True horror is Australia’s history of massacring its first people”.

Another poster shows Pauline Hanson in a clown nose and a blood-spattered ruff.

A spoof of a “palm reading” poster reads: “You don’t need a third eye to see the planet’s f*%ked.”

Koalas are everywhere — lightening the mood, but also avatars for country and environment.

The effect of this maximalist gallery space is almost like a 3D collage.

“Why I love collage so much is that people come in here and it’s triggering stuff in their memory,” says Dickens.

“Once people’s memories are opened a little bit, then their hearts are a bit more engaged.”


“I know I’m intense,” says Dickens, laughing.
(ABC Arts: Sia Duff)

A Dickensian Country Show takes as its springboard Australia’s chequered Indigenous circus history — from 20th-century “Wizard of Wire” Con Colleano (who “passed” as Spanish during his career) to boxing tent champs like Jack Hassen and Jerry Jerome.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Indigenous Australians were kidnapped and forced to perform in circuses (including PT Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth), but over the ensuing decades, many of them adapted the form and made it their own — in some cases (like Colleano, who was world famous) turning it to their advantage.

“And the thing about circus too is that people were embraced — the misfits and the outcasts. Your colour or your disabilities were celebrated, not shunned,” says Dickens.

A Dickensian Country Show is a major work, and Dickens has created a counterpart titled A Dickensian Circus in the foyer of the Art Gallery of NSW, as part of the Biennale of Sydney.

Work of this scale was only possible thanks to a $80,000 visual arts fellowship from the Copyright Agency, and funding from Create NSW.

Death Song for country

Next door to Karla Dickens’ warped “country show” is an assemblage of rocks, rusted steel drums, wire and supersized drill bits that looks vaguely ominous — almost like an instrument of torture.

In fact it’s an instrument of sound, designed to be played by musicians using modified bows; the rocks are suspended by wires such that they produce different pitches (effectively, it’s a very unwieldy string instrument).


Megan Cope with her work Untitled (Death Song).
(ABC Arts: Sia Duff)

Quandamooka artist Megan Cope conceived this instrument as a way to recreate the distinctive, eerie cry of the yellow-eyed Bush Stone curlew, which is often likened to the wailing of a woman or baby. It’s a bird that is both native and thriving on her home of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) but endangered in New South Wales and Victoria.

For Cope, colonisation, capitalism and our ‘extraction mindset’ are the monsters.

The seed of the idea for her Biennial work, which is titled Untitled (Death Song), was sown in an earlier sound work, from 2018, in which she built an instrument using rocks from the Newcastle region (the lands of the Awabakal people) “to enable the elements of country to sing its story of change upon colonisation”.

The drill bits used in Untitled (Death Song) come from mining machinery; the rocks are from the South Australian Museum: “They’re millions of years old … [but] we overlook their knowledge,” says the artist.

When curator Leigh Robb approached Cope about being part of the Monster Theatres exhibition, the artist immediately knew she wanted to produce another sound work — “because we’re just so overstimulated, visually, these days — and we’re not really listening to the warnings”.

“And I think there’s a lot of warnings [to listen to],” she adds.

“In our culture we learn [to hear] those warnings through the process of listening — with your eyes and with your ears.”

Cope’s hope is that the musicians who play her instrument — who are asked to learn how to mimic the curlew call — are able to “connect with these deeper concepts in the work, through that process of slowing down and focusing on the call of the bird”.

Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art opened on February 28. It is currently temporarily closed due to the shutdown of museums and galleries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The writer travelled to Adelaide with the assistance of the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Businesses feel ‘moral obligation’ to shelter unemployed foreign workers

Broome 6725

Some businesses forced to lay off foreign workers unable to return home and ineligible for government assistance are feeling a “moral obligation” to help these people with few options.

Key points:

  • North west Australian businesses are providing accommodation and food for foreign workers they can no longer employ
  • Foreign workers on temporary visas ineligible for government support
  • Travel restrictions preventing unemployed people leaving small towns

In Western Australia’s far north, the managing director of the Kimberley Accommodation Group, Dannielle Hart, said the group had to lay-off around half of its employees, many on temporary work visas.

“A lot of our staff have been with us five-plus years, so it’s heartbreaking, it’s devastating,” Ms Hart said.

“We’ve had to close about 80 per cent of our businesses and lay-off about 70 staff so far.”

The Kimberley Accommodation Group owns businesses across the remote north west of Australia, including the Kununurra Hotel, the Kimberley Hotel in Halls Creek, and Matso’s Brewery in Broome.

But the coronavirus pandemic has hit hospitality and accommodation businesses hard, with restaurants and bars closed indefinitely and demand for accommodation slowing to a trickle.

‘An ethical and moral obligation’

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Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Kimberley Property Group was able to offer employees on-site accommodation.

Now they are providing accommodation and meals for former-workers who they can no longer employ, and who would otherwise be in a very difficult position.

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A former employee, who has lost his work visa after the restaurant closed, remains in the company’s accommodation.

“We continue to house him because there is an ethical and moral obligation to these people that have worked for us for years and are part of our family,” Ms Hart said.


Matso’s Broome Brewery employs many people on temporary work visas. (ABC Kimberley: Sam Tomlin)

Strict travel restrictions to and from, and even within the remote region have been brought in to protect the large Indigenous population in the Kimberley, who are regarded as particularly at risk from COVID-19.

But it brings added complications for people finding themselves unexpectedly unemployed in small towns where the busy tourist season has effectively been cancelled.

“Staff we could no longer keep on are still trying to make arrangements to move on, but travel restrictions make this difficult,” Ms Hart said.

The company is now feeding and accommodating around 20 former employees who are variously ineligible for welfare, unable to find other work, and unable to travel to other areas.

“We’ll do it for as long as possible,” Ms Hart said.

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‘It’s pretty scary’

Derby is a town of just 3,500 people, 200 kilometres east of Broome at the mouth of the Fitzroy River.

Business would normally be picking up at this time of year as tourists pack four-wheel drive vehicles with supplies before taking on one of Australia’s great adventure drives, the Gibb River Road.

Instead, the owner of the town’s only cafe remaining open has just laid off two more employees.


Mark Kraljevich is the owner of Jila Cafe in the Kimberley town of Derby, and helped a backpacker find other work, when he could no longer employ her. (Supplied: Mark Kraljevich)

Mark Kraljevich is worried about backpackers becoming stuck in remote towns, locked down and with no income.

“It’s pretty bad for backpackers because I don’t think they can get any help from the Government, and they can’t go back to China, or wherever they come from,” Mr Kraljevich said.

“It’s pretty scary for them I think.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

While he no longer had the cashflow to keep employing a young female Chinese backpacker as a waitress, Mr Kraljevich accompanied her to the local supermarket to make introductions and assist her in finding new work.

“We’ve found her a job at Woollies, I think, because they’re looking for workers now, so that’s good.”


Foreign workers on temporary work visas fill shortages in the workforce in north west towns like Karratha. (ABC Pilbara: Susan Standen)

‘Need to be looked after’

About a 1,000 kilometres further west, the city of Karratha sits as a surprising metropolis in the Pilbara mining region.

The red, rocky ranges give way to high-rise residential units, restaurants and trendy cafes serving cold-filtered coffee.

Managing director of Blanche Bar, Bart Parsons, said that overseas workers on temporary work visas had filled the jobs in remote hospitality businesses that Australians could not or would not.

But now he is being forced to cut workers who have no safety net to fall back on.

“I think they really need to be looked after because they’ve played a big part in making a place like Karratha what it is today,” Mr Parsons said.

Mr Parsons has been unable to continue employment for eight of his staff and has had to cut his workers’ hours but has taken responsibility for their welfare.

“We’ve found them other jobs straight away, and they’re still staying in our houses,” Mr Parsons said.

Mr Parsons said businesses in north west Australia and the foreign workers they had relied on for years to serve their local communities were not being properly supported by Australian governments.

“In the north west it’s much different to what it is in the cities, we just can’t, at times, get anyone to fill the roles we put out there,” he said.

“It’s disappointing that [work visa holders] who are paying tax, and already may be well on their way to getting permanent residency, haven’t been thought of, especially north of the 26th parallel.”


Karratha business owner Bart Parsons continues to house eight foreign workers he can no longer employ. (ABC North West: Kendall O’Connor )

Kindness in difficult times

Dannielle Hart has not only had to balance the survival of her company with a massively reduced cashflow, but also the reality that workers she lays off may have no options to make a living or leave the Kimberley.

“My understanding is that the visa-holders, the particular type that we hold, wouldn’t be eligible for any kind of benefits under Centrelink or Newstart,” Ms Hart said

“And virtually we’d be kicking them out on to the street with no income.”

As she watches the family business built up by her parents, buckle under the increasing strain each day brings, Ms Hart can also see the human kindness emerging from the difficulties.

“The positivity is the way the staff have been pooling together,” Ms Hart said.

“Some of the staff that we’ve reduced hours for have said, ‘I’ll give my hours to this person over here, because they’ve got a kid to support.'”

Ms Hart said there has never been a more important time for the community to support their local businesses as much as they can.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘We’ve created our own blended-house cluster’: How to make co-parenting work during coronavirus


Esther Kleiner’s two children alternate between living at her home, and that of her ex-partner.

Her current partner is in the same boat — so between them they have a lot of schedules to coordinate.

“That is complicated enough without adding the coronavirus on top,” Ms Kleiner says.

She’s one of many Australians living in a blended family, or co-parenting with an ex, suddenly negotiating the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation.

It’s necessitating new, and sometimes challenging, conversations.

“People who don’t have the best relationships with their exes, the parents of their children, are almost forced to communicate,” says Ms Kleiner, who’s unsure how that’s going to play out in her family.

“I’m wondering in my head right now, is this going to be a good thing or is this going to be a bad thing?”

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Psychology lecturer Rachael Sharman, a specialist in child and adolescent development, says the coronavirus has created more potential “points of conflict” for blended families.

“I can certainly see more conflicts unfolding and difficulties in deciding what to do with the kids,” she tells ABC RN’s Life Matters.

“We all have heightened emotions, and don’t really know what’s ahead.”

She says that can prove divisive — but with the right focus, it doesn’t have to be.

Shaken-up routines escalating tensions


You can find a good way to handle tensions that arise because of coronavirus. (Getty: Charles Gullung)

Ms Kleiner says the question mark hanging over well-established arrangements is a tough one for families like hers.

“I think what makes blended families complicated is that we’re so run by routine and schedule — ‘I’ve got kids on that day and you pick them up on that day and then we do this and we do that,'” she says.

But this pandemic is forcing many of those arrangements to change.

Families are suddenly needing to negotiate, for example, what exactly isolation should entail, or whether a child should be attending school or doing remote learning instead.

The challenge is compounded in relationships where there may be little or no verbal communication, or where care arrangements are determined through court orders or by text message.

Talking to kids about coronavirus
How do you help children understand what’s going on, without completely freaking them out? Lawrence Leung spoke with the experts to find out.

Dr Sharman says unfortunately, the situation will divide blended families into two groups.

One will focus on a bigger picture, seek to pull together, and — even in the face of disagreement — find ways to move forward in the best interests of the child.

But that won’t be everyone’s experience.

Dr Sharman says, for a second group, the pandemic “will escalate tensions”.

“Now we are in this incredibly ever-changing, evolving scenario, and all of a sudden you need flexibility — and you don’t do flexibility; you haven’t done flexibility with your partner ever since you got divorced or separated,” she says.

“So that’s a really tricky one for people. These are unprecedented conditions.”

Getting on the same page

Ms Kleiner says being open about her needs with her partner and her ex-partner will be essential to getting through the next few months.

“They are not mind readers — especially at a time when we all have heightened emotions and don’t really know what’s ahead,” she says.

“Good communication is always helpful.”

Scott Kolbe, who shares custody of his 10-year-old son with his ex-partner, agrees.


Scott Kolbe and his ex are keeping their focus firmly on the wellbeing of their son. (Supplied)

But he says keeping communication channels open can be tough.

“It’s always challenging when you have had a relationship breakdown,” Mr Kolbe says.

“We didn’t have any major problems like a lot of people do, but it’s still traumatic to go through that with anyone. So it’s still hard for us to talk.

“But you have to think about the child, more than your own problems, and see if you can push through that a bit.”

Luckily, in discussing things like social distancing — conversations that include Mr Kolbe’s current partner and their two small children — everyone is “pretty much on the same page”.

Mr Kolbe’s blended family is isolating itself to the two homes, “so my son can go backwards and forwards”.

“We’ve created our own blended-house cluster,” he says.

He and his ex-partner are considering an online chat program to organise different discussions around their son’s learning, and they do a lot of text messaging.

The focus of their communication is their son’s wellbeing, and it’s working well.

“At the moment, I think it’s really just about making sure that the parents can talk to each other and be honest and open, and also making sure that we are telling each other how our child is doing or our children are doing during this time,” he says.

Keeping the focus on your kids

While Dr Sharman says coronavirus “is going to inflame some tensions”, that doesn’t mean parents can’t find good ways to handle them.

She’s encouraging people to “try and take the high ground”.

“It’s not about you. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. It is about your kids,” she says.

Dr Sharman advises parents to think ahead about “the ifs and buts”, and have a plan ready for a range of scenarios.

What will you do if a parent or child develops virus symptoms? If the government announces school and childcare centre closures, where will your child spend their days? What if one parent can work from home, but the other can’t?

“Get on the front foot about this. Don’t react and wait for things to happen,” Dr Sharman says.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

Expect to have to be flexible.

“Think about this: if you’ve got your kid week-on, week-off with the other parent, but someone in the house becomes sick … those parenting arrangements are going to suddenly have to become much more fluid and flexible and responsive,” Dr Sharman says.

And keep your eyes on the prize.

“Try and take a step back and take the focus off yourself, and focus on the child and what’s best for them,” Dr Sharman says.

“What can you do to try and make the situation as healthy and safe as possible for the children?”

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Meet the home hobbyists making scrubs for doctors and nurses fighting COVID-19


Around Australia, medical scrubs are in short supply, and hobbyists are stepping up to lend a hand.

Key points:

  • Nearly 900 people have joined a Facebook sewing group that makes scrubs for health workers
  • Health workers need scrubs because of the coronavirus, and shortages have made them hard to find
  • A non-for-profit fashion school in Melbourne says it has been flooded with orders for scrubs

Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff wear scrubs under their personal protective equipment (PPE), but the garments have been difficult to buy lately.

Louise Parry, a doctor who treats patients with coronavirus at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital, was shocked when she tried to order new scrubs and discovered they would take six weeks to arrive.

“We don’t normally wear scrubs and we’re all looking to buy them for the COVID ward,” Dr Parry said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

She created The Scrubs Co-op, a Facebook group linking people with idle sewing machines to medical workers needing something to wear.

In its first week, the page attracted nearly 900 members.

“The makers are from hobby sewers and people trying it for the first time, to people who are professional dressmakers and are currently out of work,” Dr Parry said.

“We are very fortunate to still be in a position where we’re hotly in demand and being paid, [so] we’re all quite happy to pay.

“Sometimes you have to be forceful in making the makers accept payment, or we’ll donate to a charity.”

Volunteers happy to help health workers going ‘over and above’

Beginner Olivia Crowley, from New South Wales, is among the hundreds of people behind sewing machines turning out custom scrubs.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

“We have a sewing machine, so I went to a little fabric shop that is struggling to buy fabric,” Ms Crowley said.

“We are willing to try our hand at making some tops, pants or caps, to support the doctors, nurses and other frontline staff.

“It allows people to contribute directly to people who we know are going over and above in the healthcare system. They’re risking their own health.

“If it’s an extra pair of scrubs that helps and takes the pressure off, then I think it’s a really good thing for people to be able to do.”

Sewing tips and patterns are shared on The Scrubs Co-op page, creating a community for those isolated at home, or working hard in the country’s hospitals.

Many health workers ask for special requests, like an extra pocket in their scrubs.

One emergency room doctor even asked for some scrubs featuring unicorns.


One doctor requested unicorns on his scrubs — and the group delivered. (Facebook: The Scrubs Co-op)

“I’m really looking forward to him getting them and posting the pictures up on there,” Dr Parry said.

Dr Parry’s homemade scrubs, meanwhile, are in the post from Queensland.

“She’s making me surprise ones,” Dr Parry said.

“I said some printed ones, and I don’t actually know what the fabric is. We’ll see what I get.”

Not-for-profit fashion school ‘flooded’ with scrubs orders

The group is one of dozens of creative solutions being developed to solve to the scrubs shortage.

The Social Studio, a not-for-profit fashion school and clothing manufacturer for people of migrant and refugee backgrounds, has also answered the call.


The Social Studio, a not-for profit fashion school in Collingwood, has been flooded with orders for scrubs. (Facebook: Social Studio)

“We responded to that call by last Friday morning, ordering fabrics, making some patterns and leaping straight into it,” chief operating officer Aleksandra Nedeljkovic said.

“We have dedicated all of our production resourcing towards this project.

“We’re trying to produce as many as we can. At the moment the orders are flooding in.”

The group’s first orders have been shipped out yesterday.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Ms Nedeljkovic said the organisation was investigating whether it could also start producing medical grade PPE.

“We’ve registered to create PPE equipment as well with the Government. We’re still kind of exploring those avenues,” she said.

“We’re just looking at different ways to support our clients through this time and still keep our workers busy.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: "The only thing that will really allow life as we once knew it to resume is a vaccine," says Dr Norman Swan


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Food delivery riders say employers not doing enough to protect them from coronavirus

Sydney 2000

Food delivery riders say their employers aren’t doing enough to protect customers and workers from spreading coronavirus.

Companies like Deliveroo and UberEats have introduced contactless delivery where workers can leave orders at the door, but it depends on customers and workers honouring the agreement.

Steve Khouw has been delivering food to quarantine hotels for returning travellers forced into self-isolation.

He wished his employers provided him with more personal protective equipment (PPE).

“It’s pure tokenism when it comes to health and safety, they’re doing the bare minimum that they have to do,” he said.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

“Deliveroo gave us a $10 refund for buying hand sanitiser, it’s a one-off.

“I used it up within five days as I’m handwashing every hour with my deliveries.”

Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaw said food delivery was a safe option for people in quarantine.

“In terms of the packaging, while the coronavirus has been identified to live on surfaces like plastic and cardboard, if you’re worried, you can wipe it down with alcohol wipes then practice hand hygiene to be safe,” she said.

Healthcare workers like Mel Quinn have become dependent on food delivery as they continue to battle the pandemic.


Mel Quinn depends on delivery because she can’t rely on others to keep distance. (ABC News: Mridula Amin)

“At this stage, my shifts run around the clock, so I find it hard to get down to the supermarket.”

Even if she did have the time, she still preferred using the contactless delivery feature offered by delivery companies.

Ms Quinn said she couldn’t rely on people following social distancing rules at supermarkets.

“This is a better option for me while I’m taking care of vulnerable people,” she said.

But the contactless system still isn’t perfect for everyone.

Several times in the past few weeks, food delivery rider Miguel* has been taken by surprise by customers greeting him at the door.

“I wish they wouldn’t open the door, but some customers don’t care,” he said.

Miguel uses the mask he got when Sydney’s bushfire smoke was at hazardous levels.

He knows it’s not medical grade, but thinks it’s better than nothing — he can’t afford to contract COVID-19.


Miguel worries if he contracts the virus he won’t be able to support himself while he is out of work. (ABC News: Mridula Amin)

As an Italian migrant worker on a bridging visa, he’s not eligible for any government benefits or stimulus packages despite paying taxes every year.

He’s one of 1.1 million temporary visa holders who were excluded in government assistance announcements.

The group also includes international students and those on working holiday visas.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“I don’t think the government or most Australians would care about us,” he said.

“We’re just seen as immigrants. Food delivery is seen as a luxury not essential work.”

Deliveroo and UberEats offered temporary support to riders who could prove they had contracted the virus, but Miguel said he worried about how he’d survive waiting to get tested.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

UberEats promised 25,000 meals to healthcare workers during the pandemic, but they have being criticised for not doing enough to reduce risks of transmission.

The Transport Workers’ Union of Australia has sent letters demanding food delivery companies provide full safety equipment to their employees.

“At a minimum, this includes disposable gloves, hand sanitisers and facemasks,” it said.

It also demanded companies cover medical cost and sick leave for workers who contract the virus.

A Deliveroo spokesperson said it had set up hand sanitiser stations in “restaurant” and supplied thousands of free N95 masks earlier this year.

UberEats said it was reimbursing its riders $10 for the purchase of hand sanitiser and it was continuing to advise workers of steps to take to help prevent the virus spread.


Mr Khouw said food delivery riders were an “essential service” who needed more support. (ABC News: Mridula Amin)

Miguel said it would be an “ethical dilemma” for workers who got sick.

“Do I stop so I don’t infect other people or do I stop work and not earn one cent?” he said.

Mr Khouw hoped the pressure improved the situation for delivery workers, who are left to fend for themselves while providing a lifeline for many.

“With this crisis we are an essential service, people have no choice,” he said.

“They should care about us. It’s time for these companies to support us like we’ve supported them”.

*not his real name

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: "The only thing that will really allow life as we once knew it to resume is a vaccine," says Dr Norman Swan


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Coronavirus WA border closure prompts scramble to return before Sunday deadline

Perth 6000

As Western Australia prepares for its first hard border closure in history, many people are scrambling to return before the doors shut.

Key points:

  • WA will shut its borders to stop COVID-19 cases coming from other states
  • The number of cases in WA has been growing slowly this week
  • Mark McGowan says the closure could be in place for six months

The closure officially begins at 11:59pm on Sunday night with restrictions to apply to everyone entering the state — including West Australians — to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Access will be only granted for handful of reasons, including compassionate grounds and essential work.

Blaire Herbert and her husband live in Sydney and had planned to move over to WA in the next couple of weeks.

Ms Herbert told ABC Radio Perth she had a contract for a new job and was looking forward to coming back to her home state to be with family.

How will WA’s border closures work?
WA is closing its borders to the east for the first time in its history. Here’s how you might be affected.

“We’re hoping [the job] will get us through the gate. We’re not coming over visiting, we’re coming for a reason,” she said.

“With corona it’s all falling into a heap.

“Even though we brought our move forward, we’re not sure if we’ll be able to get into the state.”

Ms Herbert said the constant changes in information about isolation and borders were already a strain for the couple, and she did not think it would be possible for them get flights before Sunday.

“Not that I wouldn’t be able to trust family and friends here to pack up everything, but we wouldn’t be able to cope. Mentally, it wouldn’t do us well,” she said.

“We just need some clear responses, then people would be a bit more comfortable and know what they need to do and how they need to do it. Everyone’s in limbo at the moment.”

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

Canada holiday ends in isolation

For West Australians in quarantine in the eastern states, it has been a nerve-wracking wait to see if they would be allowed home after their compulsory isolation.

Premier Mark McGowan confirmed today a specific exemption had been created for people in this situation, who would then need to undergo another 14 days of self-isolation back in WA.

It was welcome news for West Australian Gemma Stuart, who is in compulsory isolation in a Melbourne hotel after returning from a working holiday in Canada.


West Australian Gemma Stuart had been on a working holiday in Canada when coronavirus shut everything down. (Supplied: Gemma Stuart)

“At first someone tagged me in [a post about the hard border closure] on Facebook — straight away I screenshotted it and sent it to my mum,” she said.

“It’s quite nerve-wracking, I’ve just got back from overseas, there’s not that many friends I’ve made from Melbourne, I don’t have many connections here.

“Once I get out of here, if I can’t get home, I just have to get into another hotel, which is a bit daunting.

“I speak to everyone every day, everyone calls and checks in. Everyone’s keeping their fingers crossed and hoping I’m home on the 13th.”

Escape from Peru coronavirus shutdown

The exemptions were also a relief for Shendelle Mullane and Tim Jones, two West Australians who had travelled to Peru for volunteer work in January.

The pair spent nearly three weeks trying to get home after the Federal Government issued advice to return, finally spending $5,160 each for seats on a charter flight to Sydney.

WA begins to ‘flatten the curve’
The stream of COVID-19 cases in WA has slowed to a trickle in recent days, but there are some big risks if the state limits the outbreak too effectively.

They are now on day four of their compulsory isolation in a Sydney hotel.

“The hard border closures really alarmed us initially until several hours later it was confirmed we’d have a special exemption to return,” Ms Mullane said.

By the time they return home and finish 14 days of isolation in WA, the pair will have spent six weeks in some form of isolation.

“It’s been a very long journey,” Ms Mullane said.

“Fortunately we get along very well,” Mr Jones added.

McGowan’s blunt message: ‘Come home now’

Premier Mark McGowan said the unprecedented hard border closures meant WA was essentially being turned into an island.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 470
  • Deaths: 6
  • Tested negative: 18,731

Latest information from the WA Health Department

“I want the message to be absolutely clear to any Western Australian over east who is thinking of coming to WA — if you need to get home to WA, come home now,” he said.

“If you are an eastern-stater and thinking about visiting WA, forget about it.

“The quicker we can get through this, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

It’s not clear when the borders will reopen, but the Premier has indicated it could take up to six months.

Video: "The only thing that will really allow life as we once knew it to resume is a vaccine," says Dr Norman Swan


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

World-renowned koala bushfire victims released back into the wild

Port Macquarie 2444

Several world-renowned koalas rescued from a New South Wales fireground have now returned home having recovered in the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

Key points:

  • Several koalas rescued from a New South Wales fireground have returned home
  • Following a full recovery, the koalas have been released back to the Lake Innes Nature Reserve
  • The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus

It has been more than five months since a bushfire razed a large area of Lake Innes Nature Reserve, a known koala hotspot on the NSW mid-north coast.

One of the first koalas to be rescued and treated at the hospital was Anwen.

“Pictures of her had gone around the world. She was quite severely burnt,” said the hospital’s clinical director Cheyne Flanagan.

The koala became part of many homes around the world through the hospital’s online adoption page and her recovery was closely watched.

“She’s recovered really well, gained weight [and is] looking really good,” Ms Flanagan said.

“Her burns have healed, she’s good claw-return, so it’s all about letting them be koalas again.”

Home at last

Anwen was one of several koalas released back into their habitat.


The hospital’s goal is to get animals returned to where they came from. (ABC Mid North Coast: Kirstie Wellauer)

Whilst the bushland is looking quite different to what they knew, Ms Flanagan is confident they will settle in nicely.

“There’s good vegetation here and there’s plenty to sustain them so we’re really happy,” she said.

“This is our goal, to get animals returned to where they came from, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

A mother and a joey, a young male, and another female koala were released in neighbouring trees.

There is a method to the release program, aimed at encouraging breeding.

“We’re putting a ratio of males to females to mimic what happens in the wild,” Ms Flanagan said.

“So this young male here, oh boy, he’s in for a surprise in the next few months.

“Hopefully there will be heaps of young koalas in the near future.”


Laundry baskets are used to transport the koalas from the koala hospital to their natural environments. (ABC Mid North Coast: Kirstie Wellauer)

Koala Hospital volunteer Jeremy Bear said it had been a great achievement to be able to bring them back.

“It’s great to see that we are doing such a good job that we can get these koalas back out there,” Mr Bear said.

“Some of them we obviously lost along the way. But [there are] the amazing stories of the ones that have survived and hung in there and bounced back very well.

“Seeing them up in a tree in their native environment is wonderful.”

COVID-19 closes hospital

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has temporarily closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But hospital president Sue Ashton said it may give volunteers some much-needed respite.

“Because of the bushfires we all worked, our volunteers worked, almost around the clock to keep the koalas in good health, to treat them, to keep the facility open,” she said.

“This is a forced break and I think some of our volunteers are probably well overdue for a bit of a break.”


Final checks before Anwen’s release. (ABC Mid North Coast: Kirstie Wellauer)

Mr Bear agreed, saying it “does just take the pressure off”.

“If someone’s not feeling well they don’t have to feel guilty for not coming in. They can do the right thing and stay home,” he said.

“Most of the volunteers have said they still want to come in, they still want to be there, they still want to help.

“If we’ve got less koalas it’s easier to spread the load between us and it also means we can get in, get the job done, and leave the hospital so we are not having too much contact with other people.”

The outlook for the koalas is “really questionable”, Ms Flanagan said, with potentially up to an 85 per cent decline in NSW with the changing climate.

“It’s a long road ahead. Whether they’ll ever recover good numbers we don’t know,” she said.

“But we certainly are going to do our best to try and achieve that goals with buying land and conserving habitat and trying to breed as many as we can.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Third male charged over AFL grand final day stabbing murder of Melbourne teen

Melbourne 3000

A third person has been charged over the stabbing murder of teenager Maaka Hakiwai in Melbourne on AFL grand final day last year.

Key points:

  • A man has faced a Melbourne court after being extradited from NSW over the murder of Maaka Hakiwai
  • The 17-year-old was stabbed and died in hospital on AFL grand final day in September last year
  • Three males have now been charged over the stabbing murder

Chol Kur, 20, was extradited from New South Wales and today appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.

Mr Kur is accused of murdering the 17-year-old and is also facing charges of armed robbery and intentionally causing serious injury against the boy’s brother.

Maaka Hakiwai died in hospital after he and his brother, Nathaniel Hakiwai, 18, were stabbed during a fight with a group of men at Kings Park, in Melbourne’s north-west, in September last year.

Joshua Horton, 18, and another 17-year-old boy have also each been charged with murder, armed robbery and intentionally causing serious injury over the incident.

Mr Horton appeared in court earlier this week facing an additional murder charge under Section 3A of the Crimes Act, which is unintentional killing in the course or furtherance of a crime of violence.

Mr Kur faces the same charge.

Police allege Mr Horton and Mr Kur were armed with a knife when they stole a Los Angeles Kings cap and a Philadelphia 76ers cap from Nathaniel Hakiwai, worth a total of $100.

Mr Horton and Mr Kur will return to court later this month.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Why all Tasmanian devils are born this month

Hobart 7000

The first week of April is a special time for Tasmanian devils, the unique meat-eating marsupials found on Australia’s island state. It’s when life begins for them all and instantly becomes a fight to the death.

Key points:

  • Devils mate at the same time in a “full on” biting, fighting ritual and give birth in the first week of April
  • A mother gives birth to between 30 and 40 joeys but she only has four teats. The first there survive
  • Devils are breeding younger as facial tumour disease changes behaviours in some populations

Due to a regimented and extremely aggressive breeding season in the wild, almost all Tasmanian devils are born in early April.


Devil researcher David Hamilton with a young devil. (Supplied: David Hamilton)

University of Tasmania devil researcher David Hamilton said all devils mated in mid-February and March, ready for an April birth.

“That’s the best season to give birth in terms of resources,” Mr Hamilton said.

The devils will stay in the pouch until the end of winter.

“That’s a good time to emerge, so it’s not too cold over winter and it’s not the worst time of year to be starting to fend for yourself and be away from mum,” he said.

A ‘full on’ mating ritual

As for the mating process, Mr Hamilton says it involves a lot of biting and fighting, and some unholy noises.

“The males and the females have pretty ridiculous battles during the mating season,” Mr Hamilton said.

“It’s extremely aggressive.


Tasmanian devils have an aggressive mating season, involving long, drawn-out fights. (ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe)

“They’ll bite and claw at one another the whole time and this can last for a few days with the male trying to stop the female leaving dens and things. It can get pretty full on.”

‘Brutal’ selection process


Devils shouldn’t mate until they are two years old, but facial tumour disease is changing that behaviour. (Supplied: Department of Environment)

The mother devil has four teats in her pouch, so only four joeys can survive.

“But they give birth to between 30 and 40, and it’s the first four that get to the pouch that make it,” Mr Hamilton said.

“So it’s an early natural selection, which is a bit brutal.”

Most of the surplus devils die after birth, about the size of a grain of rice.

The surviving devils will spend about five months in the pouch, then the mother starts to leave them alone in the den about August.

“She will run back and forth from the den, still feeding them and lactating for them,” he said.

The young devils will spend four or five months in the den, until, weighing a couple of kilos, they are kicked out of home in December and January and become independent.


It’s the hunger games from day one as baby devils fight for access to mother’s milk. (Supplied: Caitlin Furlong)

Devil disease changes habits

Mr Hamilton said devils usually don’t breed until their second year, but the facial tumour disease has changed that in some populations.

He said generally the adults would mate, and the young ones forego a season and wait to breed when they are two years old.

“In populations where devil facial tumour disease has been in for a number of years and the adult population has been wiped out, you see a lot of breeding happening in younger animals,” he said.

“They can breed at one [year] in those populations because there’s less competition higher up the chain.”

He said young devils can get bigger quicker because there are more resources.


Devil facial tumour disease has wiped out 83 per cent of the population. (Supplied: Rodrigo Hamede )

A new hope

As part of his PhD, Mr Hamilton has been studying wild populations of devils across Tasmania.

The facial tumour disease has wiped out 83 per cent of the wild population.

He said there hasn’t been any evidence of total extinction of populations around the state.

“If you go to areas where the disease has been for 20 years now there’s still devils there, but very low numbers,” he said.

“And we’ve started to see some animals are able to regress facial tumours as well, so they’ll start to develop a little tumour and we come back a few months later and it’s completely gone.

“That’s started to happen in the last few years, but we haven’t seen any signs of population-wide recovery, yet.”


Devils leave their mother and become independent at the start of summer. (Supplied: Christo Baars)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

BOM gives a positive rain outlook, but first there’s a wintry blast on the way


It is raining over large parts of the south-east, there is finally a good rainfall outlook after years of drought, and there is a flood of water heading down the Darling River.

So good news generally, but batten down the hatches if you are in the south-east this weekend.

Key points:

  • Cold, wet conditions are expected to continue over the south-east, bringing welcome follow-up rain for inland areas
  • The Darling River is flowing thanks to heavy rain earlier in the year and is expected to reach the Murray by the end of the month
  • BOM’s three-month outlook suggests most of the country has an above 80 per cent chance of above-average rainfall

Rain is still falling after days of widespread falls and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has issued several severe weather warnings.

Blair Trewin, senior climatologist for the BOM, said the days of widespread rain were the result of a trough that initially formed over eastern Australia and developed into a weak low over Victoria.

The trough dragged moist air from the Indian Ocean, which is abnormally warm and therefore providing ample moisture at the moment.

External Link:

BOM severe weather update.

“It brought rain initially over outback South Australia, and over the last day or so quite widely through south-east Australia, particularly inland New South Wales, much of Victoria and eastern Tasmania,” Dr Trewin said.

The low itself is expected to move to the south-east, leading to a south-westerly-to-southerly air stream over south-east Australia with several fronts on the way.

“The south-southerlies and south-westerlies will bring continued showers and quite cold weather, particularly to Victoria and Tasmania over the weekend,” Dr Trewin said.

There shouldn’t be any problems with overcrowding at south-eastern beaches this weekend, with temperatures well below normal.

External Link:


“For example, the forecast for Melbourne this weekend is 16C for Saturday and 16C for Sunday; that’s at the bottom end of the range you would expect at this time of year,” he said.

“With that, we will probably see some snow on the higher parts of the mountains in Tasmania, Victoria and southern New South Wales.”

Snow at this time of year is unusual but not unheard of.

Wet start to the year for some

The rain is a welcome follow-up to what has been a better start to the year than we have been used to of late.

Eastern New South Wales was particularly wet, with the first quarter in the top 10 wettest years.

According to Dr Trewin, most of the rest of the country has been average to above average without being too extreme.

External Link:

Monthly rainfall decile

“Really, the only significant areas which have been below average have been parts of the northern tropics, particularly the Northern Territory, Top End and parts of Cape York Peninsula.

“Darwin, for example, looks on track to have its second successive wet season with rainfall well below average.”

The cropping regions of South Australia have also been relatively dry to date, but that is the norm for this time of year and still better than this time last year.

Outback South Australia is tracking above average this year to date, thanks to a few systems getting through, including the one at the moment.

Oodnadatta got more rain in two hours on Thursday morning than it did for the whole of last year.

The best flows for years
External Link:

Menindee Lakes

The Darling River is flowing, and Tony Webber from WaterNSW is excited.

“It’s a wonderful good-news story that’s been a long time coming,” he said.

“What we hear from communities is that there’s just a degree of jubilation, not just at Menindee, but all those communities upstream that have had their town water supply replenished, their town weir is full again.

“The recreational opportunities and the cultural significance of the river has been replenished with this flow.”

It is relief for communities which have experienced arguably the longest and most severe of the drought conditions in the state, according to Mr Webber.

External Link:

Tolarno Station flow

The upper Darling is flowing thanks to repeated heavy rain events in the Namoi and Gwydir valleys this year, and more flows coming from southern Queensland, especially down the Calgoa.

“So that has generated the best flows for a long time in some years and resulted in something like 200 gigalitres arriving in Menindee Lakes already, with anything up to another 190 gigalitres still to come.”

The flow was initially held in Menindee, but since Thursday last week water has been released to flow down the Lower Darling.

Inflows in the Upper Darling are making their way towards Broken Hill.
(Supplied: Murray-Darling Basin Authority)

The first release was at high volume in an attempt to mitigate any adverse impacts of the lower-quality water typically seen in a first flush.

“So once we feel as though we’re confident that lower-quality water has been pushed through, we’ll reduce those flows back to something of the order of 300 megalitres a day, about a tenth of what they currently are.

“But even on conservative estimates, our modelling indicates that’s 12 to 18 months of constant flow in the Lower Darling for the first time in years.”

But there will still be some water left in the lakes.

Mr Webber said even if there was not another flow event, even with the releases into the Lower Darling, it was likely the lakes would go from almost functionally dry to well beyond 20-per-cent full in a matter of weeks.

He said it was reasonable to say the water would meet the Murray at Wentworth towards the end of April, if not before.

The drought isn’t over

This is all certainly good news, but it doesn’t mean we are out of the woods with the drought.

“There has been widespread, welcome rain across most of the drought-hit areas and follow-up rains are forecast in the next 48 to 72 hours, but the corresponding benefit to the large supply dams hasn’t been quite as good,” Mr Webber said.

External Link:

Karoola Station Flow

With the exception of Keepit Dam on the Namoi River, which has shown significant increases in the past few months, but the rest of the inland is not looking so good.

“Inflows into the Macquarie had been well below the previous worst case ever experienced,” Mr Webber said.

“We are hoping that rainfall in the coming days, the next 48 hours, will bring some inflows for those central west dams, so Burrendong Dam on the Macquarie, Wyangala Dam on the Lachlan, but they remain quite low.

“If there’s going to be any prospect in those hardest-hit areas of irrigators getting better access to water allocations, we certainly need a lot more rainfall in those catchment areas that generate significant inflows into those dams.”

Wonderfully blue outlook

Hope of those significant flows are looking like significantly less of a pipedream given the BOM’s latest outlook, which is blue. Lots of it. More than there has been in years.

This outlook doesn’t guarantee rain but it is good to see the odds tipping towards wetter conditions.
(Supplied: BOM)

Dr Trewin said there was a high chance of above-average rainfall over the majority of the country.

“Getting up to 70 to 80 per cent chance of above-average rainfall for the three months for a lot of the Murray-Darling Basin and the agricultural areas of southern Victoria, South Australia and also south-west Western Australia.”

It’s thanks to that warm Indian Ocean again, which is pretty favourable for north-west cloud bands, which are a big influence on rainfall at this time of year, according to Dr Trewin.

External Link:

Rain in Parkes

For the real weather buffs, it is too early in the year to be seeing an influence from a potential negative IOD, so at the moment we will just have to be happy with the above-average Indian Ocean temperatures and keep our fingers crossed for favourable drivers in the months ahead.

“The only parts of the country where the outlook is leaning dry are parts of the east coast and some parts of the northern tropics, which are just starting to run into their dry season anyway,” Dr Trewin said.

The outlook doesn’t guarantee good rain, but there is definitely reason to be hopeful.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Doing video calls? You probably need to read this — or know someone who does


For many of us lucky enough to still have a job, video calls are suddenly a huge part of work.

It’s not new technology. And it’s not new to most workplaces.

But with us all having to keep our distance, the likes of Zoom, Skype and Hangouts have brought an added layer of awkward delays and pixelated faces to our meetings, staff briefings and catch-ups. And there’s also the problem of ‘Zoombombing’.

There are ways to make the experience less painful and more productive.

So mute your mic and read on.

No really, turn off your mic

It doesn’t matter how quiet you’re trying to be — a headphone microphone will pick up your heavy breathing, or the scratching of your clothes brushing against it.


Find the mute button, your colleagues will thank you. (ABC RN: Nick Wiggins)

Your laptop mic will capture your dog, and the kids in the next room, and the kettle boiling.

Every app’s a little different, but every app has a mute button. Find it. It’s your friend.

Look at the camera

It’s only natural. Your face is right there on the screen. You’re going to look at it, check your hair. Are those bags under your eyes?

But business coach Colin James says you should try to avoid checking out your own video.

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“Imagine if we were all sitting in a meeting in a real space and everyone had a mirror in front of them and they just looked at themselves in the mirror,” he tells ABC RN’s This Working Life.

“That’s what it looks like on these video conferences — people are just gazing wistfully at their faces.”

Mr James says you should look at the camera, imagining you’re looking into the eyes of the person speaking.

He admits it can take practice, but says it pays off.

“The moment your eyes are distracted, the quality of the connection is compromised. But when people feel seen, then the quality of communication is enhanced,” he says.

Silence can mean yes


Busy video calls can get out of control without someone to direct traffic. (ABC RN: Nick Wiggins)

It’s the worst. The person running a meeting explains something and asks: “So does that all make sense to everyone?”

“Ye- … yes … wait … after you … should I go? … sure … yes … OK,” come the time-delayed responses, distorted as people speak over each other.

The only thing worse is a follow up — “so was that everyone?” — which can kick it all off again.

Mr James says it’s easier to take a silence as an agreement, with people speaking up if they have a comment or issue.

Get to the point
External Link:

Download this Show – Is Zoom the best video conferencing app?

When it comes to virtual meetings, sometimes less is more.

Mr James says some people on calls can tend to ramble and “think with their mouths”. He suggests taking some notes of what you want to say first.

“When you are contributing, contribute consciously. Bring focused intent behind your message,” he says.

“This makes the experience much more beneficial for everyone.”

Have someone direct traffic

To prevent the chaos of people speaking over each other or all waiting, worried they’ll cut someone else off, put someone in charge.

Coronavirus is keeping her from loved ones, but on Elyce’s island life is peachy

Coronavirus has made meeting up with friends impossible — in the real world, at least. Online, it’s a totally different story.

Mr James says it works much better than just asking the group for a general response.

“It’s as simple as, ‘OK, I’m just going to get some points of view on this last conversation. Steve, we’ll start with you. And then I’ll go to Jennifer. Steve, what do you have to say?'”

“‘All right, Jennifer, and the next person I’ll be talking to is Bruce. So Jennifer, what do you have to say?’

“That gives the following person a little have time to prepare. And calling people by name manages the traffic far more effectively.”

He says it can also help to intervene when people have gone off track.

“Particularly when it comes to time. When you don’t have that visual cue around you, you can get lost in your own head. And you may not be aware of how much time you’re taking up.”

Stop intruders crashing your meeting

For conferencing software like Zoom, the ease with which people can hop on a video call has presented a downside: all people need to gatecrash is the meeting link.

Meetings have been crashed by people, and while some of it is funny, there have also been reports of crashers sharing graphic content.

To stop that, don’t share meeting links on Twitter or other places where people you don’t want joining can find them.

Also take a look at the meeting security settings — there are ways to restrict who can join and to stop people who aren’t the host from screen-sharing.

It’s the not same — and that’s OK

Whatever software you’re using, the University of Melbourne’s Frank Vetere wants you to temper your expectations a bit.

“There’s an expectation that they be as good as face-to-face,” he says.

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“There’s a risk that we have undue expectations of the technology, that somehow it’s a replacement for that more intimate connection.”

Professor Vetere studies human and computer interaction and how to better design user experiences.

He says a video conference is always going to be different to an in-person meeting or chat, but urges people to make the most of the advantages the tech has.

“We don’t complain that telephones are not the same as face-to-face. We just accept them for what they are,” he says.

Get creative

For all the annoying quirks, and the things people get wrong with video calls, Professor Vetere is still excited.

He wants more people to break out of their little boxes on a Zoom meeting, explore the technology, and get creative. During, and after work.

External Link:

Boris Johnson's Zoom cabinet

“People who’ve been remote from their partners or their families have been using this video technology for cooking together, eating together, for playing games,” he says.

“That sort of stuff has been going on for a long, long time, we’re just seeing much more overtly now.

“People are singing together, they play music together. So the idea is not necessarily new, but it’s taking off a lot more.”

He urges people to change things up: call on your phone instead of a laptop, switch to your phone’s other camera to show the scenery around you.

“Try cooking with someone on a mobile on a video conference. It might seem a bit weird, but the actual process of trying to do that can be a lot of fun,” he says.

“It’s only through that creativity that we’ll start to see what’s possible and what’s not. So it’s a really exciting time.”

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Expats wanting to leave Cambodia hit ‘brick wall’ in bid for government help


A group of 85 Australian expats in Cambodia fear time is fast running out to leave before a state of emergency is declared in the country, saying their pleas for help from the Australian Government have gone unheeded.

Key points:

  • Nearly 100 Australian expats have been unable to leave Cambodia on commercial flights
  • They are concerned the local healthcare system will be unable to cope with the pandemic
  • The Smart Traveller website warns it may not be possible to help every Australian get home from many parts of the world

Commercial flights from Cambodia bought at exorbitant rates are repeatedly being cancelled — one large family reported losing $10,000 on a cancelled flight before being quoted $63,000 for another.

Flights back to Australia are directed via other countries, but many of them are closing their borders in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everyone’s quite happy to pay a reasonable price, or a touch above, for the Australian Government to take the initiative and get people out,” said Peter Brady, a former editor of South Australia’s Stock Journal newspaper.

“But the Australian Government is sitting on its hands.”


Peter and Sue Brady say a lot of their fellow expats are scared. (Supplied: Peter Brady)

Mr Brady and his wife, Sue, moved five years ago to Siem Reap, where Ms Brady worked as a teacher and Mr Brady volunteered with a not-for-profit group building a new school.

He said the Aussies Attempting To Leave Cambodia (COVID-19) Facebook group was in contact with the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh but had become increasingly frustrated by the lack of commitment from the Australian Government.

“The Americans, the French, the Germans and Swedes, they’re all getting their people out, and the Brits did a charter flight,” Mr Brady said.

“We’re not all tourists. These are testing times and a lot of expats are getting scared.”

Embassy ‘working with airlines’

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the embassy was providing regular updates to the local Australian community, including through social media.

“The embassy is working with airlines and government authorities to help secure commercial flight options for Australians in Cambodia and other nearby countries to return to Australia.”

External Link:

Tweet from Australian Ambassador to Cambodia

The Government is prepared to consider supporting Australian airlines on a case-by-case basis to operate non-scheduled commercial services to less central locations to bring citizens home.

However, it has said it would only be done where feasible, where all other commercial options were exhausted and if local authorities permitted it.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has pledged to donate seven months of his salary to the National Committee for Combating COVID-19, and there are rumours he will declare a state of emergency in the country as soon as Friday.

This would close provincial borders, making it harder for expats to travel to international airports.

Facing a ‘brick wall’

Jamie Christopherson runs a volunteer tourism company and an education charity from Cambodia, where he also owns and manages a retreat outside Kampot.

He said he helped establish the Facebook page to find out how many people were trying to leave the country.


Ting Moung (scarecrows) to ward off evil spirits have been erected across Siem Reap in response to COVID-19. (Supplied: Peter Brady)

Within days, 85 Australians had verified they wanted to leave but had not been able to.

“The major concern that exists here is that the healthcare system is not able to cope with this situation,” Mr Christopherson said.

“We have a family of nine in our group — five of which have pre-existing conditions that are dangerous — and a number in their 70s, whose families have contacted me to express their concern.

“We have heard from our embassy, who I believe are doing all they can, but there is a brick wall between them and the Federal Government to actually action anything.”

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Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson Senator Penny Wong said the health and security situation was deteriorating in many overseas locations and delays were “putting Australians at risk”.

“Other countries have recognised this is the situation faced by their citizens, which is why other countries have acted with urgency to get their citizens to safety,” she said.

“Australia has two airlines with capacity to help, and we should be enlisting them in the national effort to keep Australians safe at home and overseas.

“I again urge the Australian Government to follow the lead of other countries in providing direct support to help bring stranded Australians home, including through subsidised and assisted departures.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Cambodia slow to act

Reports from several South-East Asian newspapers have suggested Cambodian leaders were slow to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously.

Mr Hun refused to restrict transport to and from neighbouring China after Wuhan was locked down by authorities in mid-January; even by that stage, thousands of people had reportedly fled the stricken city for Cambodia.

The Prime Minister visited Beijing in a mark of solidarity at the height of the outbreak in early February, and later allowed the stricken Westerdam cruise ship into the port of Sihanoukville after it was turned away by a growing list of countries.

Tests revealed no COVID-19 infections among the ship’s crew or passengers.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:


Hun Sen initially seemed relaxed about the threat of coronavirus. (Supplied: The Phnom Penh Post)

At the end of March, Cambodian authorities announced it had recorded 107 cases of COVID-19, but with limited testing there were fears the actual total was higher.

On its Smart Traveller website, the Australian Government said the scale and complexity of the crisis was greater than anything it had faced before, and it “won’t be possible to help everyone get home from many parts of the world”.

“You may have to wait it out in that country until the border closures are lifted or departure arrangements are made,” it stated.

“Our focus will be on those places where Australians are most vulnerable.”

Video: David Speers and the panellists discuss the Government's response to the coronavirus pandemic

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Amid isolation, new mums are struggling to celebrate births during pandemic

Maroochydore 4558

A new mum in a new home with no family or friends nearby — that is Sarah Jack’s lot, facing an undefined period of social isolation with a newborn baby and toddler.

Key points:

  • Some new mums and pregnant women are experiencing raised levels of anxiety giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic
  • Many are cut off from their family members and parents, and are worried about going to hospitals dealing with COVD-19
  • Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia reports a dramatic increase in calls for help from new or soon-to-be parents

The Sunshine Coast mother brought her son Charlie into the world just seven days ago amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The experience was poles apart from the birth of her daughter, Sophie, three years earlier.

“Just the anxiety levels about being in that hospital scenario, not wanting to be near sick people, was pretty stressful, so we were trying to get out of there as fast as we could,” Ms Jack said.

The nerve-wracking experience was made worse after doctors indicated that access to pain relief might have been compromised at the hospital.

“They asked me ‘what are you thinking for pain management?'” Ms Jack said.

“They said ‘we are trying to encourage people not to use the gas because it’s in an internal plumbing system and we’re just not sure about the safety of it right now’.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Planned help stopped at airport

Ms Jack’s husband has been deemed an essential worker and is due to return to the office in just over a week.

Originally she had planned to fly her mother from Canada to help her manage at home, but now — like many women who have become mothers during the pandemic — she is doing it alone.

Ms Jack and her husband have few friends to help, having only moved to Queensland from Melbourne at the beginning of February.


Sophie meets her baby brother Charlie while the family remain in isolation at Queensland’s Coolum Beach. (Supplied: Sarah Jack)

“I wasn’t [initially] fazed because my mum was coming from Canada,” Ms Jack said.

“So I was like ‘even though I don’t have the friend support I’ll have my mum here for a month’, and I knew that was my safety net.”

While her in-laws live just a few hours away in Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast, they are both immunocompromised, so visits are out of the question.

“It’s just been this perfect storm,” Ms Jack said.

“We’ve had to cut any resources that we could have to support us just to be safe, for them and for us.”

No visits while breastfeeding

One bayside Brisbane couple have found they are unable to visit their newborn together in hospital because of COVID-19 rules.

Matthew Porch said his daughter, born prematurely at 28 weeks in early February, was transferred this week to Redlands Hospital, where parents can only be in the special care nursery “one at a time”.

Mr Porch said he and his wife had been able to care for their baby together at the Mater Mothers’ Hospital in inner Brisbane, but were at a loss after transferring to Redlands to bring her closer to home.


Matthew Porch and his wife have been unable to visit their newborn together. (Supplied)

“My wife is obviously sleep-deprived. She pumps every three or four hours, and for us to be denied working together, looking after our baby in a large room — it’s not a small room — I just don’t understand.

“I can go back and forth 10 times if I want to in this room … but I can’t be there sitting next to my wife while she breastfeeds.”

He has appealed for an urgent exemption, telling Queensland Health in an email: “Having a 28-week premature baby has been difficult enough and this policy has caused isolation to our family, and should this not be resolved as soon as possible, I foresee ours and many other families being significantly impacted.”

The visitor restrictions apply across all five hospitals in Metro South Health and go further than the Chief Health Officer (CHO) directive that “no more than two visitors may visit a patient at one time”.

A Metro South spokeswoman said: “We understand having a baby, especially one born prematurely, during an unprecedented global public health situation can be a stressful and difficult time for new parents.”

The spokeswoman did not say why Metro South went further than the CHO, saying it, “like all public hospitals, is following the public health directions of the [CHO] to ensure all patients, visitors, carers and staff members are as safe as possible while in our care”.

“Metro South Health wishes the patient and their parents all the best during this time.”

Rise in new parents seeking emotional support

While many Australians struggle with social isolation, it has been particularly traumatic for new parents.

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While Ms Jack is adjusting well, national mothers support group Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) said others have not been as lucky.

The service has seen a dramatic increase in calls for help from soon-to-be-parents and new mothers and fathers seeking support.

“We know that people have looked forward to celebrating the birth of their child, and when you can’t do that because you can’t have your extended family in the birth suite or coming to visit you after you’ve given birth, that’s really confronting,” chief executive Julie Borninkhof said.

“There is that sense of loss and grief for the fact that they’re not getting the birth that so many people have had, historically.”


Charlie doesn’t know life before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Supplied: Sarah Jack)

Ms Borninkhof said its phone counselling service has noted a 30 per cent increase in calls for assistance, and that figure is growing by the day.

“We know generally one in five mums and one in 10 dads experience perinatal vulnerability as a result of anxiety and depression,” she said.

“The calls we’ve received have significantly escalated over the last couple of weeks, and generally the people that we know would be travelling okay at this stage are the ones that are reaching out more and more so now.”

Ms Borninkhof said PANDA was also concerned about new mums being rushed out of hospitals before they were ready.

“We all know babies don’t come with rule books, so we do rely — as mums and dads — on the information we gather while we are in the hospital,” she said.

Building online communities

The organisation is scaling up its service with many retired volunteers returning to man the phones.

And like many services, PANDA is using technology to connect with vulnerable people, developing a number of online resources specifically relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Services which are traditionally part of the pregnancy journey have also made the shift online.

Birth HQ is an organisation focused on providing antenatal and postnatal classes to families on the Sunshine Coast.

Founder and midwife Gillian Hacking said the pandemic was certainly having an impact on the emotional wellbeing of their clients.

“With COVID-19 and not being able to have access to resources that they would normally have access to — [resources] to help educate these parents — the anxiety levels are definitely increasing,” she said.

Ms Hacking said they moved to an online model to help provide support.

“We just feel that education is very empowering in a time which we all know can be very anxious and nerve-wracking,” she said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Video: David Speers and the panellists discuss the Government's response to the coronavirus pandemic

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

‘Grave concerns’ for Kimberley as coronavirus case spike sees tough travel restrictions imposed

Broome 6725

Premier Mark McGowan has expressed “grave concerns” for the spread of coronavirus in WA’s remote Kimberley region as he imposed new travel restrictions within the region that go beyond tough measures already imposed across the rest of the state.

Key points:

  • Shire borders in the Kimberley will close at midnight
  • The tough travel restrictions are aimed at protecting Aboriginal communities
  • Six local COVID-19 cases emerged overnight, including five health workers

A spike in COVID-19 cases saw six new positive test results confirmed locally overnight, including a Halls Creek doctor and a border checkpoint worker.

These cases made up 75 per cent of the total cases confirmed across the whole of Western Australia in the past 24 hours.

Non-essential travel to the Kimberley has already been prohibited and Aboriginal communities have been closed to the public.

The new measures announced ton Thursday will come into effect from midnight, restricting movement between the region’s four local government areas.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

Mr McGowan said shire borders would close to minimise the risk of the virus spreading.

“We know just how vulnerable the Kimberley and Aboriginal people are to viruses like coronavirus,” he said.

“I hold very serious concerns about the situation in the Kimberley. We must act fast.”

One of the 11 COVID-19 cases confirmed in the Kimberley was an employee checking vehicles passing through the WA border with the Northern Territory over the weekend.

That person had no recent overseas travel history.


Halls Creek is one of the several towns cut off to non-essential travellers following a spike in Kimberley COVID-19 cases. (Flickr: Yaruman5)

The Health Department is now working to identify any motorists who passed through the Kununurra checkpoint between Wednesday and Sunday who may have come into contact with the employee.

Another six of the person’s co-workers have been ordered to self-isolate and one is awaiting COVID-19 test results after they too started showing flu-like symptoms.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Serious risks for healthcare workers

Five of Thursday’s cases in the Kimberley were hospital staff, with three from Broome, one in Kununurra and one in Halls Creek.

Among them is a healthcare worker from Broome Hospital, with a recent history of intrastate travel, who tested positive for the virus on Monday.

That staff member had no unprotected face-to-face contact with patients, but did come into close contact with several colleagues who have since been isolated.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 460
  • Deaths: 4
  • Tested negative: 18,266

Latest information from the WA Health Department

Australian Medical Association WA President Andrew Miller said the Kimberley was proving a difficult area in which to stem the spread of coronavirus.

“We know that these communities are small, they are close … these areas don’t have back-up staff, so once these get quarantined you have to bring people in from elsewhere,” he said.

“We’re terrified for the Kimberley, as we are for the other regions.”

Dr Miller said the risks posed to remote health workers reflected the need for more widespread testing.

“It’s not surprising that a lot of healthcare workers have tested positive, because they tend to socialise together,” he said.

“These healthcare workers need to be treated as a rare and precious commodity, they’re going to be harder to find than gold.

“If they’re underequipped, they don’t have the right gear and they don’t have the right information, the whole thing could spiral down very quickly.”

Fears doctor may have spread virus


Health Minister Roger Cook said he has concerns for people who may have come into close contact with the Halls Creek doctor. (ABC News: James Carmody)

WA Health Minister Roger Cook said a nursing team had been sent to Broome to support the hospital there and another medical team would be sent from Perth in the next 24 hours.

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He said there was some concern for patients from Broome Hospital but it appeared most exposure there was limited to other health workers.

“There would have been some contact with patients, we’re still waiting to understand the extent of that, but at this stage it doesn’t look like there was any close contact with patients,” he said.

Mr Cook said his biggest concern was for people who came into contact with a doctor at Halls Creek who tested positive to COVID-19.

“That particular doctor would have been seeing patients that were coming from a wide area of the Kimberley and then themselves transitioning back out into remote communities,” he said.

“That’s our focus at the moment to understand the extent of the exposure there, but the contact tracing teams are on the ground and they are making good progress.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Police, Defence Force sent to Kimberley

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said additional resources were being deployed to the Kimberley to enforce the new restrictions.

“[That’s] to ensure that people who are not exempt will be able to be restrained, if I can put it that way, within those districts,” he said.


Police and ADF officers are being sent to the Kimberley to enforce the new travel restrictions. (Supplied: Kununurra Police)

Commissioner Dawson said State Emergency Service and Australian Defence Force personnel would also help at the local government borders.

He said police resources were also needed as several Kimberley officers had potentially been exposed to COVID-19.

“A number of police have been working closely with the quarantine officer at the Northern Territory — Western Australian border,” he said.

“We are working closely with Health to do contact tracing for at least four police officers from Kununurra, some possibly from Wyndham Police Station.

“I expect we’ll have to put a number of police into 14-day isolation.”

Information slow to reach remote regions

Halls Creek Shire President Malcolm Edwards said community leaders across the region were learning about key developments from the media, not the Government.

“It’s very upsetting really,” Mr Edwards said.

“Obviously they’re insisting that this changes and that we receive information as soon as possible, so hopefully that’s being addressed.”

Residents said the flow of information to the community had been haphazard and confusing.

Long-time resident Bonnie Edwards said people were anxious and she wanted a better idea of how the pandemic was spreading within the Kimberley.


Halls Creek resident Bonnie Edwards said government messaging about the pandemic was not cutting through to the community. (ABC News)

“People don’t know what happened at the hospital, they don’t know what’s going on,” she said.

“It should be told to the people so we can avoid this being spread around the community.”

She said messaging from the Government was not cutting through and it had been left up to police and local health workers to alert people face to face.

Local authorities have emptied out the Wunan Foundation’s workers hostel, about seven kilometres from Halls Creek, to make it available as an isolation facility.

It can kill even the healthiest of us
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The building has four self-contained units and another 12 rooms with shared facilities.

The shire has been working to issue public notices, while police and the Yura Yungi medical service have been working face to face with people to raise awareness about the need for physical and social distancing.

With Halls Creek a key healthcare centre for the region’s remote community residents, Yura Yungi chief executive Brenda Garstone said it was a serious problem.

“[Particularly] In terms of their living situation around overcrowding,” she said.

“If they’re one of the people that’s been contract traced and they now need to go into isolation, what do they do? There’s nothing in place for them to go into isolation.

“We are in dire straits and we do need a rapid response. Basically it should have been done yesterday.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: David Speers and the panellists discuss the Government's response to the coronavirus pandemic

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

NRL players lose five months’ pay as part of new deal during coronavirus pandemic

Sydney 2000

NRL players will forego five months’ of pay if the competition does not resume in 2020, as the game grapples with how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • A total of $24.6 million in player payments are guaranteed as part of the agreement between the NRL and the players
  • Players will take a cut of around 71 per cent for the rest of 2020
  • NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has agreed to the same pay cut as the players

The NRL and Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) finally reached a deal on Thursday evening, meaning players will take a cut of about 71 per cent for the rest of the year.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg will also face the same pay cut under an agreement reached earlier this week.

Under the deal, the players will receive a combined $24.6 million to last until the end of the normal contract cycle in November, with just over three quarters of it coming from club grants.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

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Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast.

The rest will come from the liquidation of the injury hardship fund, while players will also have early access to the retirement account if they hit financial troubles.

The deal comes after the NRL and the 16 clubs agreed to a combined $40 million package on Monday, which would help keep sides viable while matches are not being played.

“This is a difficult time for our game and the wider community and the challenges we face are immense, and unprecedented,” Mr Greenberg said in a statement.

“The players understand the severity of the circumstances we face and have demonstrated their willingness to work with us to secure the best possible outcome to protect the long-term future of our game.

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“I know it hasn’t been easy and I thank the RLPA and the playing group for their maturity, professionalism and diligence in helping us reach this solution.”


NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg will take the same pay cut as the players. (AAP: Joel Carrett)

As part of the deal, the NRL will also resource the wellbeing and education space at each club to ensure players have any support required.

The RLPA will also have a seat at the table in any future salary cap decisions for when the game returns into next year and beyond, as well as in discussions on competition structure and scheduling.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

The union will also be able to conduct a special purpose audit of the game’s current and future financial status.

“The coronavirus pandemic has placed the game and its people under huge pressure and players have assumed the responsibility, like many others, to ensure the future of our clubs and the NRL is protected,” RLPA chief executive Clint Newtown said.

“Players will share in this pain while games are suspended and have done what was required to ensure the game’s short and longer-term future.

“However, we want to be clear that this arrangement is based on the worst-case scenario, should we not get back on the field in 2020.”

Video: David Speers and the panellists discuss the Government's response to the coronavirus pandemic

(ABC News)


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Who is eligible to receive free child care?


The childcare sector has been plunged into uncertainty as the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop.

On Thursday, the PM made a pretty big announcement to try and save the sector — that child care will be free.

But what does that actually mean in practice, who is eligible and how’s it going to work?

Here’s what we know so far.

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What was announced?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced at a press conference that for parents who still need child care right now, it will be free.

To make that happen, Australia’s childcare sector will receive a $1.6 billion boost over the next three months, with the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package to officially start from April 6.

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“Child care and early childhood education is critical,” Mr Morrison said.

“Particularly for those Australians who rely on it so they can go to work every day, particularly those who are working in the such critical areas.”

As part of the latest announcement, support will be provided to Australia’s 13,000 childcare centres to ensure they remain open.

Mr Morrison said the arrangements were to protect more livelihoods during the pandemic.


The Federal Government maintains that it’s safe for kids to go to childcare during the pandemic. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“I don’t want a parent to have to choose between feeding their kids and having their kids looked after, or having their education being provided,” he said.

“This virus is going to take enough from Australians without putting Australian parents in that position of having to choose between the economic wellbeing of their family or the care and support and education of their children.

“I won’t cop a situation where a parent is put in that place with their kids.”

The scheme was developed to complement JobKeeper, helping centres pay the wages of early childhood educators even though enrolments have dropped off, and the funding will go straight to the centres from next week.

External Link:

Tweet @ChildcareAus Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that child care will be free for parents who still need it

Who is eligible to receive free child care?

Education Minister Dan Tehan clarified that parents who are currently sending their kids to child care will be able to do so for free.

“We want as many people being able to work as we possibly can, and we want them to be able to access child care as they need to make sure that their children are being looked after while they’re working” he said on Afternoon Briefing on Thursday.

“We need all our nation’s workers there, helping us deal with this global pandemic.

“What we want to be able to make sure is that their children are being looked after while they help us flatten the curve.”

Video: Dan Tehan outlines changes to childcare arrangements

(ABC News)

Mr Tehan explained that centres should prioritise enrolments for the parents who need it most — parents still working, parents who are struggling to provide safe care for their kids at home, vulnerable children, and then parents who have already taken their kids out of childcare.

“There is a clear priority list that we want centres to take into account,” he said.

“The most important of those are those essential workers and the vulnerable children.”

Can families who unenrolled their kids hold their spot or re-enrol?

As part of the deal, childcare centres who receive the payments must try to re-enrol children who have recently been taken out of child care.

Mr Tehan said to help with that, the Government will waive the gap fee for returning parents, backdated to March 23.

“The hope is that now all parents who need will get the care they want, and those who have sought to disengage from the childcare sector will re-engage with the sector,” he said.

This also depends on spaces available and what your family’s current work situation is.

“We want people to understand that the priority will be given to those who need to be working,” Mr Tehan said.

“The priority will be given to those who can’t care for their children.”

External Link:


If families have coped without care so far, do they still have to pay?

Mr Tehan clarified that if a centre has spaces open, parents who hadn’t previously had their kids in child care can enrol them for free.

“We will be putting in place a childcare finder apparatus to make sure you can contact the Department of Education and we will try and assist and help you, but of course there has to be room available at a centre for you to be able to access it,” he said.

“Obviously preference has been given to those who are currently working and using childcare for those children who are vulnerable and those who already have enrolments.

“But where we can help and assist, others who now need child care to help us fight the pandemic, then we’ll be doing what we can to try and find places for those families.”

External Link:

Tweet @AnnastaciaMP I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that childcare will be free for children of essential workers

Why is Goodstart Early Learning different?

The free child care plan is linked with the JobKeeper scheme — which applies differently to businesses who have over $1 billion revenue.

Goodstart Early Learning employees were not previously eligible for JobKeeper payments for that reason.

Mr Tehan said discussions are continuing with the company, but it’s not clear at this stage whether they will or won’t be able to access the latest rounds of assistance.

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Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

“Obviously, they will benefit from what we have announced today, which puts a baseline into their funding,” Mr Tehan said during the announcement.

“I am not saying that exemptions will be made, I am saying that we will continue to liaise and discuss these issues through with them.”

Goodstart Early Learning Advocacy Manager John Cherry also spoke on Afternoon Briefing soon after the announcement, and said discussions with the Government had been positive so far.

“The frustration for us is we suspect we’re going to miss out on qualifying for JobKeeper because we’re a slightly larger organisation and just tipped over the threshold that requires us to show a 50 per cent reduction in turnover,” he said.

“We had to let 3,000 casual workers go last week because we had no certainty about funding.

“Today we still have no certainty … I really wish we had. I really would have liked to have been in a better position to provide certainty for our 60,000 families and 16,000 staff.”

Goodstart Early Learning confirmed on their Facebook page on Thursday evening that children enrolled at any of their centres were eligible for free care if parents were working, searching for work or studying.


It’s not known at this stage exactly how parents will transition back to paying for child care after the pandemic. ( AAP/Paul Braven, file)

What happens when the pandemic ends?

It’s the question all of Australia and most of the world is asking (and not just about child care).

Mr Tehan said the arrangements will be in place up until June 30 with a review after one month, with plans for a further three months after the end of the financial year.

It’s unclear at this stage exactly how the system will revert back after the pandemic ends, but Mr Tehan indicated that it’s unlikely the free child care arrangement would be permanent.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

“Our desire, our want, is to get us through this pandemic and then we would like things to go back to normal,” he said.

“That would be when we would look at reintroducing the system that we currently have in place.

“Obviously for the next six months, while we’re dealing with the pandemic, we want those workers who are out there helping us get through the pandemic to be able to get the support they need through free child care.”

External Link:

Tweet @samanthamaiden PM stresses this free childcare deal is temporary

Money aside, is it safe for my kids to be in childcare right now?

The Government’s current advice remains that childcare centres should remain open, as made clear by Thursday’s announcement, and that it’s safe for kids to be there.

“There is no health risk to children going to school or going to child care,” Mr Morrison said.

“That has been the clear and consistent advice that the government has received.”

While most states are now on school holidays or have gone pupil-free this week, schools are expected to remain open next term (subject to medical advice).

Many schools are transitioning to online learning, but the Prime Minister has previously said that no students will be turned away when school resumes after Easter.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Video: David Speers and the panellists discuss the Government's response to the coronavirus pandemic

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Montaigne named as Australia’s Eurovision entrant for 2021


She may have missed out on performing at the Eurovision Song Contest this year, but Montaigne will get her chance after being named as Australia’s entrant for the 2021 edition.

Key points:

  • Australia has competed at the Eurovision Song Contest since 2015
  • The contest was cancelled for 2020 because of concerns about coronavirus
  • Montaigne will work on a new song for 2021

In February, the singer-songwriter won Australia Decides, outscoring Casey Donovan, Vanessa Amorosi and seven other acts to clinch a spot at Eurovision.

However, last month growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus led the European Broadcasting Union and this year’s scheduled hosts, the Netherlands, to announce the cancellation of 2020’s event.

The art-pop performer had delivered the winning song, Don’t Break Me, with a dramatic staging at the live Gold Coast final.

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External Link:

SBS Eurovision tweet: It's confirmed, @actualmontaigne will represent Australia in the Eurovision song contest 2021 #Eurovision #Eurovision2021

While appearing at this year’s Australia Decides, Dami Im — who produced Australia’s best performance at Eurovision when she came second with Sounds of Silence in 2016 — drew a big reaction when she announced that she was going to throw her hat in the ring for 2021.

But SBS has now followed the lead of a number of countries involved in the contest by confirming Montaigne’s place as Australia’s representative next year.

“I’m so happy to receive this good news during such times,” Montaigne said in a statement.

“At home, we’ve started this ritual of cracking open a fortune cookie daily and reading our fortunes to each other and I got one that read, ‘You will be sharing great news with all the people you love’. I’m so glad it came true!”


Montaigne takes over from Kate Miller-Heidke as Australia’s Eurovision entrant. (AAP: Regi Varghese)

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Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

Montaigne, whose musical talents were discovered in triple j’s Unearthed project in 2012, is an ARIA-winning artist who has collaborated with the likes of the Hilltop Hoods.

With the contest to decide Australia’s entrant for next year now not needed, SBS said the focus would turn to developing new music.

“Although SBS and fans alike will miss Eurovision — Australia Decides 2021, this will honour Australia’s decision and give Montaigne the chance to show the world what we already know — that she is an incredibly talented, exciting and original artist,” SBS commissioning editor and Australia’s Eurovision head of delegation Josh Martin said.

“Our focus will now shift to a new song for 2021 and Montaigne is not wasting a moment of this period of isolation with many new ideas already on the table!”

External Link:

Montaigne – Don't Break Me

Eurovision rules do not allow the 2020 songs to be chosen for next year.

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Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez updates you on the latest developments on COVID-19 as of April 3

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

David has cut off all contact with the outside world to protect his wife from coronavirus


David Morrell is legally blind and is the sole carer for his wife Carol who is in a wheelchair after having a stroke, followed by a heart attack.

Key points:

  • David Morrell has decided to cancel support services to limit contact with others and protect his wife from COVID-19
  • Advocates say carers have decided to distance themselves and their loved ones out of fear
  • The Government has injected $50 million into a home support program for older Australians

The Tasmanian man has decided to cut all interaction with the outside world to protect his wife from the coronavirus pandemic.

But cancelling their paid aide has further increased his workload.

“[Carol is] not able to do very much at all to look after herself. She needs help with showering, dressing, getting food,” he said.

“I do the best I can with my low vision, which is not very [much] but we can live with it.”

The couple in their 60s was adhering to the social distancing rules weeks before the Federal Government requested it.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

They subsequently cancelled cleaning services and ordered food supplies and medications at the doorstep.

“The thing that I think might bring us undone — if anything will — is if Carol has a health crisis, which is highly likely to occur sometime in the next six months,” Mr Morrell said.

“If she were to get the virus, it’ll be likely to hit her very hard. And because of her age and her illnesses, she’d be likely to need intensive care unit.”

Mr Morrell has gone above and beyond to limit interaction with others and going outside to avoid having to make “some fairly harsh decisions”.

His primary concerns are his wife not making it in the hospital and health services becoming too overwhelmed during the pandemic to respond to her needs.

“About a week ago, when Carol had a fall. I wasn’t able to help get her up,” he said.

“Already the ambulance was overwhelmed. They said they couldn’t get there, and indeed they didn’t get there for over an hour.

“Eventually the only way I could get her up was to go doorknocking the neighbourhood.”


David Morrell has more work looking after wife Carol in the coronavirus crisis. (ABC News: Craig Heerey)

Mr Morrell anticipates there will be “other events of that nature” during the pandemic — and no-one would help them.

“I would be unlikely to find a friendly neighbour to come in and help her up again,” he said.

“The social distancing would make it challenging. I think everyone would have to be pretty desperate and eager to help.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

‘Acting out of love’ compromises carers’ health

Carers Australia has estimated that one-in-eight people in Australia is an unpaid carer — most commonly for their family member.

In Tasmania, the ratio is higher, with every sixth person committing to the role “as an act of love”.

Carers Tasmania chief executive David Brennan said many carers were of poor health themselves — 22 per cent are over 65 years old, and 32 per cent have a disability.


The Government has injected $50 million into a support program, which will fund the delivery of over 3.5 million additional meals. (ABC News: Nance Haxton)

He said some had stopped accessing services for cleaning, personal hygiene and food preparation for fear visitors could bring COVID-19 into their home.

“They’ve stopped that support and when they’ve done that, it’s increased the load and stress and anxiety and burden on those carers,” he said.

He said carers sometimes even put their own health at risk.

“That has resulted for particularly vulnerable carers in not going to medical appointments or not going out just to even get groceries,” he said.

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Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck said senior Australians requiring help at home during the COVID-19 pandemic can contact My Aged Care to access support Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).

“Services available through the CHSP include assistance with shopping, meals delivery and cleaning, respite care, social support (over the phone or internet), and clinical services such as physiotherapy and nursing,” he said in a statement.

“On 31 March 2020, the Government announced an additional investment of $50 million over the next six months to boost the capacity of CHSP meals providers to deliver cooked meals to older Australians.”

The Government said this would fund the delivery of over 3.5 million additional meals.

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez updates you on the latest developments on COVID-19 as of April 3

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Australian shares fall as IMF warns wartime measures are needed to protect global economy


The Australian share market has fallen, led by the major banks, after the International Monetary Fund told governments to enact wartime measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • The ASX 200 lost 2 per cent and the All Ordinaries index fell by 1.9 per cent
  • Bank stocks are under pressure as New Zealand stops banks paying dividends in order to preserve capital
  • The IMF has warned the “war” phase of coronavirus will last at least one to two quarters

Australian shares slumped nearly 4 per cent in early trade, as the coronavirus death toll rose in the United States and New Zealand told banks to freeze dividend payouts.

The benchmark ASX 200 index came off those early lows to be down 2.3 per cent to 5,135 points by 1:25pm (AEDT).

Bank stocks led the falls following an announcement by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand that local banks cannot redeem short-term corporate bonds or pay dividends on ordinary shares to investors, in order to preserve capital.

ANZ said the measure would prevent it from repaying its $NZ500 million ($487 million) capital notes due in late May, although it can make interest payments on the bonds.

ANZ shares fell 5.3 per cent or 91 cents to $16.14.

National Australia Bank said the measures would not have a material impact on its capital buffers — its shares fell 5.4 per cent, while CBA and Westpac shares fell more than 4 per cent.

Westpac has appointed former chief financial officer and acting boss Peter King as its new chief executive, following the resignation of Brian Hartzer late last year, as the bank was accused of breaking money-laundering laws more than 23 million times.

Chairman John McFarlane said Mr King and other top executives would not be paid a short-term bonus in 2020 to take “collective accountability for the financial crime outcomes in Westpac’s business which led to the action brought by AUSTRAC”.

Ratings agency Moody’s downgraded its outlook for the Australian banking system to negative, from stable, citing the “broad and growing scope of economic and market disruption”, with increased loan losses and record low interest rates expected to decrease profitability.

Westpac’s newly confirmed boss told The World Today the banks will need to allow for people not being able to repay their loans.

“Our focus at the moment is to help people and get them through this period … if people have jobs, for those who have debt they can repay that debt, and the best thing for the bank, for the economy and for customers is to get employment back and the JobKeeper program from the Government is doing a very good job I think,” Mr King said.

Airline stocks were weaker, with shares in Virgin Australia down 8.9 per cent following reports the Government will not grant the airline’s request for $1.4 billion in financial support.

Shares in Qantas were down 5.2 per cent after SafeWork NSW notified the company of an investigation into its suspension of an aircraft cleaner who raised concerns about workers being exposed to coronavirus.

The Australian dollar has come off its overnight low to around 60.85 US cents.

A quarterly survey from economists at NAB showed business confidence and conditions declining sharply over the first three months of the year, due to the early impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Forward-looking indicators of employment and business spending were lower.

“While there was clearly a large amount of uncertainty at the time of the survey, it was clear that looming lockdowns and an escalation in social distancing measures would materially impact economic activity,’ NAB’s chief economist Alan Oster said.

“While the immediate impact of [the Government support] measures is unclear given the restrictions on activity, they will certainly provide support in the recovery phase.”

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

Global stocks sink as IMF predicts length of economic damage

Overnight, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted the “war” phase of the coronavirus pandemic will last at least one to two quarters.

The IMF warned governments would need to mobilise to provide supplies to the health industry, cash transfers to those who had who lost their jobs and “exceptional support” like wage subsidies to companies.

“The success of the pace of recovery will depend crucially on policies undertaken during the crisis,” IMF economists wrote in a blog post.

“If policies ensure that workers do not lose their jobs, renters and homeowners are not evicted, companies avoid bankruptcy, and business and trade networks are preserved, the recovery will occur sooner and more smoothly.”

Australia and other countries have already unveiled similar policies with a massive rollout of economic stimulus.

On the markets, US stocks plunged after US President Donald Trump said there could be up to 240,000 deaths from coronavirus in North America.

“This is going to be a rough two-week period,” he said at a White House press conference.

“When you look at night the kind of death that has been caused by this invisible enemy, it’s incredible.”

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 1,000 points at its low point, as a plunge in new orders for US-made products pushed investors away from stocks to safer assets. It lost 974 or 4.4 per cent to 20,944.

The S&P 500 fell 4.4 per cent to 2,471 and the Nasdaq lost 340 points or 4.4 per cent to 7,361.

US manufacturing activity contracted less than expected in March, but disruptions caused by the pandemic pushed new orders received by factories to an 11-year low, which has reinforced economists’ view the economy is in recession.

The outlook was further dented by other numbers showing private payrolls dropped last month for the first time in more than two years as businesses shut down because of strict measures to contain the virus.

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Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

Banks suffered on speculation they could be forced to cut dividends after European lenders including HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank halted payouts and share buybacks.

European stocks sank as well despite European Union plans to save jobs.

The FTSE 100 index slid 3.8 per cent or 217 points to 5,455.

The euro extended its drop as manufacturing data from the Eurozone painted a bleak picture, with Italy’s purchasing managers’ index posting a record fall.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez updates you on the latest developments on COVID-19 as of April 3

(ABC News)


Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Like tiny ‘colourful kittens’: Seven new species of peacock spider discovered

Albany 6330

The discovery of seven species of peacock spider — five of them in Western Australia — has shed new light on one of nature’s most colourful critters.

Key points:

  • The peacock spider is about the size of a grain of rice
  • It became known as the ‘dancing spider’ because of the male courtship ritual
  • The south-western corner of Western Australia is considered a hotspot for the spider

Peacock spiders are tiny invertebrates that rose to fame after people added music to online videos showing their elaborate courtship dances.

A research paper describing seven new species of peacock spider has been published in the journal Zootaxa by Joseph Schubert, who works for Museums Victoria as a legacy registration officer in entomology and arachnology.

External Link:

Videos of peacock spiders 'dancing' to songs like YMCA and music by the BeeGees have got millions of views on YouTube.

“I’d describe peacock spiders as tiny, little, colourful kittens,” Mr Schubert said.


Mr Schubert says a keen eye is required to spot peacock spiders in the bush because they are so small. (Supplied: Heath Warrick)

“They have their own personalities and they’re incredibly tiny — about the size of a grain of rice.”

The peacock spider’s reputation as Australia’s dancing spider comes from the courtship ritual performed by the colourful males, which raise their legs and perform a ‘dance’ to impress nearby females.

They are found throughout much of southern Australia, although the south-western corner of Western Australia is considered a hotspot.

Painstaking field work

Their size makes them tricky to find in the bush, and even more difficult to observe up close.


The maratus constellatus is so named because the striking colours on its abdomen are reminiscent of the Vincent Van Gogh painting ‘The Starry Night’. (Supplied: Heath Warrick )

“I spend a lot of time on my hands and knees in the field, with my camera and a big lens, zooming in on these tiny spiders,” he said.

Among the new species — and a favourite of Mr Schubert’s — is Maratus constellatus, which was discovered in Kalbarri, nearly 600 kilometres north of Perth.

“To me the colours and the markings on the abdomen look a lot like The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, so I named it constellatus, which means starry in Latin,” Mr Schubert said.

Like many arachnids, peacock spiders are venomous, but they are completely harmless to humans.

Their prey consists of small invertebrates such as flies and moths, but unlike other spiders they don’t use webs for hunting.


Male peacock spiders, like this marateus azureus, raise their legs and display their bold colours during their trademark courtship ‘dance’. (Supplied: Heath Warrick)

“They slowly approach their prey, trying not be detected,” Mr Schubert said.

“When within jumping distance they pounce — hence the comparison to kittens.

“They’re also incredibly accurate when they jump. I’ve even seen them catch prey in mid-air.”

Spider hunting an ‘obsession’


Maratus Noggerup was named after the place where it was discovered — Noggerup in Western Australia. (Supplied: Heath Warrick)

Given how appealing peacock spiders are, it is surprising that as recently as 2013 there were fewer than 10 recorded species in Australia.

That number now stands at 85, thanks in part to the efforts of passionate citizen scientists across Australia.

Central Coast electrician Adam Fletcher is a part-time spider hunter with volunteer non-profit group Project Maratus.

Mr Fletcher said he found it satisfying to share his passion for peacock spiders with others.

“I show people a photo and they’re amazed by how beautiful they are, and it’s a spider — something they’ve grown up to hate,” he said.

“I get a buzz from sharing that with people.

“When you find something you know no-one else has found before, there’s nothing like it. It’s very exhilarating.”

Mr Fletcher said he often drove hundreds of kilometres in search of spiders, and there was always something new to discover.

“You find one and you just get this drive — you just want to find more,” he said.

“I drive a lot for my work, and when I see different bits of bushland, all I want to do is stop and look for spiders.

“It makes working life a bit difficult.”

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Virgin wants a $1.4 billion bailout. Here’s how that could work


Coronavirus has seen a nation of travellers grounded — business travel has collapsed, a ban on overseas trips means holidaymakers are going nowhere for now and Australia’s two major carriers have stood down thousands of staff.

Key points:

  • Virgin Australia has requested $1.4 billion in financial assistance from the Federal Government
  • Airline bailouts aren’t uncommon around the world, particularly in countries with state-owned carriers
  • UTS industry professor Warren Hogan says the Government is unlikely to let Virgin fail due to its strategic importance

The Federal Government has already committed $715 million in relief for the airline industry, waiving taxes and charges and providing assistance for regional airports and carriers.

Last week, Qantas secured $1.05 billion in additional funding to boost its available cash, with an up to 10-year loan secured against seven of its Boeing aircraft.

Virgin Australia is calling for more help, in the order of $1.4 billion. And if the Government obliges, Qantas wants an even bigger piece of the pie.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

Just how big is the beef between Qantas and Virgin?

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has said Qantas is not seeking a bailout, but has warned that if Virgin gets government aid, the Federal Government needs to “level the playing field” to avoid distorting the market.

Qantas argues that given the airline’s revenue is three times higher than Virgin’s, if Virgin gets a $1.4 billion loan, it should get a $4.2 billion loan.

But Mr Joyce has repeatedly warned against Federal Government assistance for Virgin Australia, saying help should not be offered to businesses that have been “badly managed”.

Mr Joyce has said airlines are facing a “survival of the fittest” scenario as the coronavirus pandemic has grounded thousands of planes and resulted in 20,000 workers being stood down at Qantas and 8,000 workers being stood down at Virgin.


Qantas planes sit idle as Australian carriers are forced to slash domestic and international flights. (ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

Comments like this prompted Virgin chief executive Paul Scurrah to recently write to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims, alleging Qantas was engaging in anti-competitive conduct designed to damage Virgin.

Mr Sims has urged restraint and cooperation, arguing, “we really need companies working together during this crisis and talking about the survival of the fittest could be seen as quite unhelpful”.

“Every airline around the world needs help, it’s not just Qantas and it’s not just Virgin, they will run out of cash eventually,” Tony Webber, the former chief economist of Qantas, told The Business, estimating the Australian airlines have about six to 12 months’ worth of cash reserves.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

What’s the historical context of bailouts?

Sydney-based aviation consultant Peter Harbison says bailouts often happen for government-owned airlines.

“Air India gets a billion to half a billion each year to keep going,” Mr Harbison said.

“Air Italia has been bailed out many times.”

However, the majority of airlines today are publicly listed companies and the last major significant bailout, apart from those of government-owned airlines, came after the September 11 terrorist attacks when the large airlines were saved by the United States government.

‘I have never seen a downturn like this’
From empty buses in the fire-hit Blue Mountains to mass cancellations of tour groups from China, the tourism sector is dealing with twin disasters this summer.

Now, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, airlines around the world are crying out for bailouts.

The UK Government has so far proven unwilling to give special assistance to the airline industry, but the US Senate has handed down a $50 billion rescue package for airlines.

This includes $25 billion in direct grants, as long as they agree not to stand down workers or discontinue service at any airports they now serve until at least the end of September.

Another $25 billion is available for loan guarantees.

Closer to home, New Zealand’s Government has committed to bail out its only major carrier, Air New Zealand, to the tune of $NZ900 million ($873 million).

The “standby loan facility” will allow Air New Zealand to draw on the funds if its cash reserves get too low.

The airline agreed to suspend its dividend for the duration of the loan and the NZ Government has the option to convert the loan to an equity stake in Air New Zealand under certain circumstances.

Back in the early 2000s, Air New Zealand gained control of Australian airline Ansett.

When Ansett faced financial collapse, the NZ government agreed to bail out Air New Zealand but not Ansett, which was placed into administration, leading to mass job losses.

The Australian government was also not prepared to bail out Ansett, which at the time was the major competitor to Qantas.

It was the collapse of Ansett that saw Virgin Blue, now Virgin Australia, emerge as the second carrier in the Australian market.

How likely is a government bailout?

The Treasurer and Finance Minister had left the door open to Virgin’s request earlier this week, but Mathias Cormann has indicated the Government isn’t considering buying a chunk of Virgin.

“We have provided $1 billion worth of support to the aviation industry. That was one of the very early decisions that we made in terms of sectoral support. Beyond that, we will continue to make judgements in relation to specific matters if and as appropriate,” he told RN Breakfast on Tuesday.

“It is not our plan to take a stake in an airline.”

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Economist Warren Hogan, an industry professor at the University of Technology Sydney, says it’s unlikely the Government will let Virgin fail.

“It is a strategically important firm, in a strategically important industry,” he said.

Senator Cormann said competition in the sector was crucial.

“We are committed to ensuring that through our policy settings and the like, that on the other side we have two competitive airlines. That we have an aviation sector with two major airlines competing with each other,” Senator Cormann said on Tuesday.

Professor Hogan argues it would be politically unpalatable for the Government to simply bail Virgin out by providing funds with nothing in return for taxpayers.

“The example where you provide money to an airline with very few conditions around it and no visibility on how that money is returned to the taxpayer is going to be quite controversial,” he said.

“What you want to avoid is a situation where … the shareholders and the senior management get all the upside when times are good but then when times are bad, the taxpayer bails them out. That’s not, I think, tolerable to the broader community.”

The Australian Financial Review has reported that Virgin won’t be bailed out and the Government would instead facilitate a new carrier entering the domestic market if the airline fails.

What could a bailout look like?

Professor Hogan says the Government should consider setting up a facility to provide funds to distressed companies in return for equity in the firms, which could be sold at a later date when business has recovered.

“It effectively means existing [shareholders] pay for some of the cost, because the value of existing equity goes down … then you use government money to take an equity stake, and that’s the way they inject money into the firm in order for it to pay the bills during the period of distress.

“The public sector, the taxpayer can get their money out in the future when things normalise, they can sell those shares back into the market.”

He likens the idea to Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) set up in the US during the global financial crisis, to purchase troubled assets from financial firms.

He says the Government’s response to the airlines will set a precedent for how it deals with other big firms during the coronavirus crisis and it should act now to get such a facility in place.

“I don’t think the Government can assume that this will be the only industry or the only example of large firms that may need public money to support them through the difficult economic times ahead,” Professor Hogan said.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

While former federal Liberal leader John Hewson agrees that a bailout of the airlines could set a precedent, he says the Government has a responsibility to help the airline industry in particular.

“In the circumstances of the virus and given that government policy has actually led to the position these airlines are in … then I think there is a case for saying we can provide some short-term debt assistance,” Dr Hewson, an honorary fellow at the Australian National University, told The Business.

He argues for something similar to an overdraft facility, allowing the airlines to draw on a certain amount of money once they’ve exhausted a portion of their own cash reserves, and repay the amount when their revenues return.

However, Dr Hewson cautions that there should be measures in place to stop any of Virgin Australia’s foreign owners, which include Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Chinese groups Nanshan and HNA and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, taking advantage of the situation and taking over the company entirely.

Where to next? And what if Virgin fails?

The Government is yet to issue a formal public response to Virgin’s request and Virgin has not updated the market since Tuesday, when it confirmed the request had been made.

“Support will be necessary for the industry if this crisis continues indefinitely, to protect jobs and ensure Australia retains a strong, competitive aviation and tourism sector once this crisis is over,” the airline said.

Why stocks have further to fall If ever you needed convincing that financial markets have become completely divorced from reality, just look at Wall Street’s wild swings, writes Ian Verrender.

In a note published in mid-March, Boston Consulting Group mulled what would happen if Virgin Australia were to collapse.

It said the likely outcomes include a government bailout resulting in a scaled-back Virgin operation with higher debt, a foreign competitor acquiring Virgin and continuing operations, or a low-cost carrier buying Virgin assets and entering the domestic market to compete with Jetstar.

Interestingly, Boston Consulting Group says the most favourable outcome for Qantas would actually be the survival of Virgin as it is, allowing it to maintain its position in the market and not facing a new foreign competitor, such as Singapore Airlines.

Airline analyst Tony Webber agrees.

“I actually don’t think Qantas wants Virgin to leave the market. I think Qantas would prefer a two-player market, but a weak second player in the market,” he said.

“Because if it resorts to a one-player market, an effective monopoly, then I think they would be worried about the regulatory scrutiny [on airfares].”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez updates you on the latest developments on COVID-19 as of April 3

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Why these chalk messages could be ‘really important’ for getting through the coronavirus pandemic

Melbourne 3000

Still dressed in their pyjamas, Dian Turner’s kids couldn’t wait to get outside.

But they didn’t go far — they stopped at the footpath outside their Melbourne home, armed with a bucket of chalk.

Max, seven, and Lenny, four, have been away from their friends since coronavirus physical-distancing restrictions came into force and the Victorian school holidays were brought forward a week.

They’re just two of the many children who have been spending their shutdown time drawing rainbows and encouraging messages like “we’re all in this together” across Australian suburbs.

“It was something for the kids to make them feel connected to other people, because obviously they’re feeling a little bit uncertain about staying at home and what this means, and not being able to go to the playground and the park,” Ms Turner said.


Seven-year-old Max and four-year-old Lenny draw messages of encouragement in Essendon, Melbourne. (Supplied: Dian Turner)

Ms Turner first saw the idea when she was added to a Facebook group called the Rainbow Trail, which documents children and their parents drawing rainbows for others to spot.

Ms Turner, a lawyer who has been spending much of her time working from home amid the shutdown measures, said it was “something positive to be able to talk about” with the family.

“You’re not breaching any of the social-distancing rules but it’s something that you can do and you can be happy and show that there’s a connection.”


A message to “keep smiling” tied to a tree in Clifton Hill in Melbourne. (ABC News: Nicole Asher)

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How writing messages of hope can help children

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, many states and territories have urged parents to keep their children home from school where possible.

University of Melbourne public health researcher Lisa Gibbs said it was important to provide children with age-appropriate ways to make them feel active and capable during the pandemic.


While Susan Philippou’s daughter was drawing love hearts, her son James wrote a message of his own: “Coronavirus sucks.” (Supplied: Susan Philippou)

“It’s easy in times of danger, which essentially this is, to be so concerned with protecting the child which obviously is of utmost importance,” Professor Gibbs said.

“But in protecting the child we can sometimes treat them as passive and vulnerable, which doesn’t make them feel safe.

“So these sorts of activities are really helpful in providing a sense of agency in children, that they can cope with what’s happening and they’re making a contribution to others as well.”


Melbourne rain washed away drawings by Lisa Batson’s family, but she said they had plans for more. (Supplied: Lisa Batson)

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Deb Sawyer and her daughter drew messages near a Melbourne primary school. (Supplied: Deb Sawyer)

Professor Gibbs said in times of disaster, two patterns were very common — community mobilisation, where people banded together, and community deterioration, where social supports fell apart.

“So what these initiatives from children are doing is really contributing to social mobilisation,” she said.

“And people respond really positively to children’s messages, because they spread joy. And we need that at a time like this.”

Why adults are joining in, too

But it’s not just children picking up the chalk during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Melbourne artist Suse Scholem has been coming up with new quotes every day to share in her area. (Supplied: Suse Scholem)

Artist Suse Scholem has been curating different quotes for the streets around her Melbourne suburb.

“It’s cathartic, joyful and empowering for me, and beautiful to feel a sense of the connection and hope that it might bring others,” she said.

“Sometimes I see people engaging [with] them, and the joy is palpable.”

Centrelink staff in Melbourne and teachers at Tasmania’s Lauderdale Primary School have also arrived to work to chalky messages of thanks.


A message left for staff at a Centrelink office in Preston, as record numbers of people lost their jobs. (Community & Public Sector Union)

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A stranger armed with chalk told Lauderdale Primary School staff thanks. (Facebook: Lauderdale Primary School)

Sharon Bailey, from Kalbeeba near South Australia’s Barossa Valley, has been trying to solve the mystery of who has been leaving chalk trivia questions along the route of her morning walk.

They first popped up a fortnight ago, with questions ranging from how many horses there were in an adjacent paddock, what to do with your dog poo (the answer: an arrow pointing to the bin), and who won the 2000 grand final.


Trivia questions have been changing almost daily along this South Australian walking track. (Supplied: Sharon Bailey)

“It’s just really good, and all positive, and cheers everybody’s walk up,” Ms Bailey said.

She said the only clue as to who wrote the messages are two initials — E and D.

“I’d like to thank whoever they are … it’s a real positive thing,” she said.


Children and adults, like Ian Bailey, have joined in on the fun. (Supplied: Sharon Bailey)

How chalk is binding together communities across Australia

Research shows if people feel part of their communities, that can be protective of their mental health outcomes during times of disaster.

“So they’re not small measures, they’re actually really important,” Professor Gibbs said.

“Anything like that can make a contribution, not only for the person who is doing it, but also for the person who encounters it.”


Kristen Pavez said her sons Cruze and Hugo had been feeling overwhelmed by the crisis. (Supplied: Kristen Pavez)

Healthy cooking teacher Kristen Pavez said it had been empowering for her two boys to add rainbow pictures and a message to “be kind” to their Perth street.

Schools are closed to most children in Western Australia, so with much more time at home on the horizon, Ms Pavez said “there’ll be a lot more driveway art”.


Melbourne children Chloe, Millie and Harry with their colourful hopscotch creation. (Supplied: Meagan Baker)

Just south of Cairns, relief teacher Maria Holt and her three-year-old Leonardo used homemade chalk to brighten up their street.

Ms Holt has been out of work as a casual relief teacher and her son stopped going to daycare more than a week ago.


Three-year-old Leo painted rainbows with homemade chalk. (Supplied: Maria Holt)

“It’s a weird season in our collective experience and a tough time for many,” Ms Holt said.

“So I just wanted to do something small that might make someone smile, whether they’re on their way to work as an essential worker or a kid out on a family walk with their parents after being cooped up inside for a week.”

She said while she hadn’t had any comments from her neighbours yet, “I did see the postie slow down to have a good look”.

Video: Some of the temporary street art, like this in Melbourne's Hoppers Crossing, is interactive.

(ABC News)


A message to smile on a shared footpath in West Footscray in Melbourne. (ABC News: Dan Harrison)

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez updates you on the latest developments on COVID-19 as of April 3

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

Not all hand sanitisers are effective against coronavirus, experts warn


Many Australians are unaware they are using hand sanitiser that is ineffective, particularly in preventing transmission of coronavirus, experts fear.

Key points:

  • Experts say hand sanitisers with 60-80 per cent alcohol content are the most effective
  • Alcohol-free or low-alcohol sanitisers are particularly ineffective for protection against viruses
  • Experts say thorough handwashing is better than hand sanitiser

Hand sanitiser has rapidly been selling out in shops for weeks, but there are concerns that variations in alcohol levels mean some are not providing adequate protection.

“It’s dangerous in that they may not work anywhere near as well as you’d expect,” Peter Collignon, professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, said.

Across Australia, there are thousands of products that are marketed as hand sanitiser, but not all are equal.

The least effective are sanitisers that contain no alcohol.

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap

These are often chosen by customers who have suffered a reaction to alcohol-based products, but buyers are warned they offer a low level of protection.

“I think it might provide them with a false sense of security,” Andrew McLachlan from Sydney University’s School of Pharmacy said.

“If you’re out and about and you need to use the bathroom and you want to reduce your risk of infection or exposing yourself to bacteria, then the alcohol-free products are probably fine for that.

“But when it comes to viruses, where we’re trying to inactivate them, that is much more effective with alcohol-based hand sanitiser.”

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Low-alcohol sanitisers ‘should be avoided’

Experts warn not to reach for just any alcohol-based sanitiser.

A nice-smelling spray with 30 per cent alcohol content can be virtually useless at killing viruses, particularly if used in the same doses as high-alcohol content sanitisers usually are.

“30 per cent might be better than nothing, but it would take longer to work and require greater volume than an appropriate-strength one,” Professor Collignon said.

Coronavirus questions answered
Breaking down the latest news and research to understand how the world is living through an epidemic, this is the ABC’s Coronacast podcast.

“The trouble with low-alcohol sanitisers is that they might not have been tested or approved with data showing they will work, so they should be avoided if they can.”

Experts say the gold standard is a sanitiser with 60–80 per cent alcohol — the level required to kill the virus if it is on your hands.

“The high-alcohol-based sanitisers are the most effective at killing not only the bacteria but the particular types of virus,” Professor McLachlan said.

“They do so by disrupting their outer membranes or envelope, and that won’t happen unless there’s at least 60 per cent alcohol content.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Too much alcohol is a problem too

What is not effective, though, is 100 per cent alcohol, because water is necessary to make sanitisers effective.

It’s a message the World Health Organisation (WHO) is hoping to get out with the release of formulas for making alcohol-based sanitiser at home.

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“100 per cent alcohol is nowhere near as effective as 70 per cent, for instance, so getting the right concentration is important,” Professor Collignon said.

Ultimately, the best way to stay safe is to stay home — and when it comes to keeping hands clean, washing them thoroughly in warm soapy water is more effective than any hand sanitiser.

“None of them are helpful unless you’re minimising your touching practices and using good hand hygiene,” Professor McLachlan said.

“So, making sure you’re avoiding high-touch surfaces like ATMs, handrails, lift buttons, using other parts of your body like elbows, knees or feet to open doors, and also not touching your eyes, face and nose.

“These are the things that are so important.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez updates you on the latest developments on COVID-19 as of April 3

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

The coronavirus symptoms to watch out for, according to the data


The coronavirus outbreak has made many Australians unsure how to deal with a sniffle or cough they would usually ignore — and perhaps with good reason.

For some patients, without specific testing for COVID-19 it can be difficult to know whether mild signs of illness indicate more than a common cold virus.

For others with coronavirus, the disease’s impact will be much more severe, and sometimes deadly.

The chart below shows the symptoms experienced by more than 55,000 patients in China who tested positive for coronavirus.

External Link:

Signs of coronavirus disease (China)

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Very few had non-cold-like symptoms, such as aches, vomiting or diarrhoea. The vast majority showed signs that can also be seen in people with a cold.

So while that sniffle is probably just the usual upper respiratory tract infection, you can’t be sure.

The main difference is the likelihood of fever: most people with COVID-19 develop a high temperature.

In contrast, while people with a cold can develop a fever, it happens only rarely, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Coronavirus symptoms have even more in common with influenza — that other, sometimes deadly virus often confused with the common cold.

Most people with either COVID-19 or the flu tend to develop a high temperature and many develop muscular aches. And almost all have cold-like symptoms, too.

The limited amount of published Australian COVID-19 data (based on just over 900 cases) shows a similar pattern to what doctors saw in China, though fewer Australian patients report fever and more say they have muscular pain.

External Link:

Signs of coronavirus disease (Australia)

However, health authorities say this may change when more patient data is analysed.

These barely perceptible differences between COVID-19 and common cold viruses are why Australian doctors now see fewer of these patients in person, and advise them over the phone instead.

Respiratory infections are usually the third most common reason people visit a GP.

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Where can I get help?

  • If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should seek medical advice.
  • If you want to speak to someone about your symptoms first, call the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline at any time on 1800 020 080.
  • You can also use the COVID-19 symptom checker on the Government’s official Health Direct site.
  • Before visiting your local GP or hospital, you need to call ahead and tell them about your symptoms.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez updates you on the latest developments on COVID-19 as of April 3

(ABC News)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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