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Coronavirus pandemic ‘means no biological children for us’, say IVF patients

Melbourne 3000

Distressed women believe they have just lost their last chance at having children due to the cancellation of fertility services, as the coronavirus crisis continues in Australia.

Key points:

  • Many IVF treatments are being put on hold across Australia, causing distress for some women
  • The industry says it hopes most women will be able to resume treatment within a few months
  • Some women have told the ABC they can’t afford to wait because their fertility is declining

IVF clinics across the nation are postponing services due to social distancing rules, fears about clients contracting the virus and new restrictions by the Federal Government on elective surgery.

Perth couple Shalako and Luke Zuvich have been trying for their first child for five years using IVF.

“I’ve wanted to be a Mum since I was 10 and I’ve spent the last five years sinking everything into it. So my time, money, everything into trying IVF,” Ms Zuvich said.

She was just about to start the lengthy treatment process at Perth IVF clinic Adora of stimulating egg production and freezing any viable eggs.

But this week, she said her appointment was cancelled.

“I was heartbroken. Devastated,” Ms Zuvich said.


Shalako Zuvich has been injecting herself with fertility drugs as part of her IVF treatment.

Ms Zuvich has the chromosomal condition Turner syndrome, which means she does not produce as many viable eggs as most other 31-year-old women, and faces potential early menopause.

She fears that by the time fertility services resume in Australia, she will have no viable eggs to harvest for IVF.

“Waiting for a few months isn’t an option for us,” she said.

Ms Zuvich said she asked Adora to go ahead with an IVF cycle but that she was told it was not possible.

“Really, this [postponement] means no biological children for us,” she said.

“This was our only chance and now we don’t have that option. We need to spend a bit of time to process and grieve.”

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

‘This situation has put me under additional stress’

Ms Zuvich is not alone in her distress.

The ABC has been inundated with stories from women who have had IVF appointments cancelled this week who feel they do not have enough time to wait.

Some have been taking fertility drugs with significant side effects, only to have their egg harvesting called off.

A client of Adora’s Brisbane clinic, Gloria Quiroga, said she had been battling nausea, headaches and bone pains for several months due to the fertility medication she was taking, and has now had her IVF treatment postponed until at least May.

“I’m in limbo,” Ms Quiroga 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.

“I’m doing this treatment that is so hard for my body. It is a very strong drug with very strong side effects. I wonder if I continue? Do I not continue?

“It’s so stressful for me. And I’m 39-years-old and I just feel that this situation has put me under additional stress.

“As you get older, your chances of conceiving reduce. I’ve been trying for four years to have my second child.”

Adora’s medical director Dr Paul Atkinson said the company was finishing treatment for about 1,000 women who had already started, but it could not “ethically” start women like Ms Zuvich or Ms Quiroga on new cycles during the coronavirus epidemic.

“We made the difficult but ethically responsible decision to not start new cycles during this acute phase because the trajectory of this pandemic indicates that in two to four weeks’ time the risks to patients will be too high,” Dr Atkinson said.

“We are also protecting the health and well-being of our staff and their families, prioritising the resources for front-line health services and doing our part to help the wider community effort to get this pandemic back under control.”

‘Difficult conversations’

Adora is following the lead of the IVF industry’s peak body, The Fertility Society of Australia (FSA).

Until recently, it was advising IVF clinics to continue business as usual despite the coronavirus outbreak, however on Wednesday as the situation escalated in Australia, the FSA issued new advice that IVF treatment should be postponed where possible.

The FSA’s president, Professor Luk Rombauts, said that advice was made with the overall needs of Australia’s healthcare sector in mind during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Each day that we operate as normal, we’re possibly having an impact on resources such as gown and masks. We’re potentially exposing healthcare staff and patients to the virus,” Professor Rombauts said.

“We’ve also obviously had the decision that elective surgery needs to be postponed.

“There may be emergencies where treatment may be justified. A good and probably the only example is when a patient is diagnosed with cancer and may need to undergo chemotherapy soon and needs her eggs harvested and stored for future fertility.”

Professor Rombauts, who is also the medical director at Melbourne’s Monash IVF Group, said he has had to have many difficult conversations with clients during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I know that a lot of patients are going to be disappointed and potentially even quite distressed by the decisions we’re all being asked to make,” he said.

“The whole of society is going through a very difficult time and we all have to make sacrifices to get through this.

“Hopefully this will only be for a couple of months. I think there will be very few situations where a postponement like that would have an adverse impact on a patient.”

‘A tough pill to swallow’


Kate and Mitchell van Noordenne conceived their daughter Mika using IVF. (Supplied)

Melbourne couple Kate and Mitchell van Noordenne are one couple on IVF that is staying positive about their chances of having a second child, despite also having treatments postponed by Monash IVF Group

“We want to expand our family and basically we have to put that on hold,” Mr van Noordenne said.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow but at the end of the day, if our fertility specialist says it’s too risky or it’s not a good time, we have to put our trust in that advice.”

Ms van Noordenne is in her late 20s and said she felt positive about conceiving, but that her heart was hurting for women in different situations.

She said there needed to be more recognition by the Federal Government of the predicament families are in and more advice on what IVF services can go on as the pandemic continues.

“I feel like there’s almost very little clarity,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of confusion and a lot of stress.”

“We understand that COVID-19 is really hard for the general community and we feel the politicians are doing the best they can. But it’s so important for people to have correct and factual information, especially during such an emotional period.”

Professor Rombauts said the messaging around elective surgery by the Federal Government had been “conflicting” for the IVF industry.

A spokesperson for the Federal Department of Health said “IVF clinics offer many services, however any non-urgent surgeries that were scheduled to be performed will be delayed or cancelled, as outlined by the National Cabinet on March 25.”  

Video: Scott Morrison announces moves to reduce public gatherings to no more than two people

(ABC News)


There’s a new class of Australian business that can’t hold on during the pandemic


A new class of business is emerging in Australia: The Non-Essential Essentials.

There are hundreds of thousands across Australia, in cities and in country towns; these are the businesses that haven’t been explicitly closed down by Government edict, but neither are they essential enough to be earning any actual money.

While customers make daily and frenzied forays to supermarkets, pharmacies and — of late — bottle shops, the bookshops and jewellers and dentists and physios stand empty.

Depleted of trade, loaded up with commercial rent obligations and — usually — a full complement of staff who have mouths to feed and some reasonable questions about why they’re all at work, when everyone they know is shouting at them to stay home.

Some of them have done their best to obey Government advice, but found themselves wrong-footed.


Matt Barbetti, left, runs the homeware store D&M Traders in Ballan. (Supplied)

“We saw the press conference where Daniel Andrews said all non-essential businesses need to close by Monday,” says Matt Barbetti, who with his fiance runs D&M Traders, a homewares store in the rural Victorian town of Ballan.

“We went ahead and did that. But there are all these other shops still open in Ballan.”

Barbetti is fortunate — their landlord has been in contact to confirm she would suspend their rent — but most businesses are not so lucky.

Without a formal Government directive to shut down, most commercial leases gallop on regardless of lessees’ prevailing economic conditions.

‘We’re not really selling anything’

Chris Holdsworth’s family has operated Holdsworth Bros Jewellers — which currently operates two shops in Melbourne shopping centres — for four generations.

“Shopping centres are considered essential services, so we’ve been open through stage 2; we’re staying open, though, of course, we’re not really selling anything,” he says.


Chris Holdsworth of Holdsworth Bros Jewellery. (Supplied)

No one would argue — least of all Holdsworth — that the company’s jewellery offerings are a genuine necessity at a time of global crisis.

But in the absence of a directive to close, the Holdsworths navigate uncertain waters both in terms of their lease and their 13 employees.

“Being forced to close is preferable to choosing to close because of a downturn,” Chris Holdsworth says.

“There will be an end to the crisis. The family business has been operating for 136 years; our forebears managed to get it through world wars and the Depression. We’ll survive.”

But a Government-mandated closure would “at least bring certainty”.

“Then the Fair Work Act does allow you to stand down your staff if you want to. Now, that’s not our intention but at least having that safety net, knowing that you do have that course of action means that you’re not breaking employment law. It’s just about having certainty.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Businesses have to triage for themselves

Employment lawyer Josh Bornstein said his was a fast-moving area at present, with the Fair Work Commission ordering variations to awards and to industrial agreements to allow for the extraordinary events currently on foot.

“But if a business is shut down as a result of Government direction, then it’s pretty difficult to resist the idea that it’s appropriate to stand down its employees.”

When asked at his late-night press conference on Tuesday to define an “essential worker,” the Prime Minister’s response was extraordinarily broad: “Anyone with a job”.

His political motivation was clear: For a man whose task it is to hold people together in a crisis, this was not the time to start telling people they’re dispensable.

In the absence of a definition from on high, businesses are having to triage themselves.

Amie Redman is a self-employed physiotherapist running a mobile service in Nambucca Heads on the mid-north coast of NSW.


Amie Redman is a self-employed physiotherapist in Nambucca Heads. (Supplied)

She watched the Prime Minister’s press conference on Tuesday night and was immediately struck by the fact that her practice was deemed essential while massage services were ordered to close.

“In my private practice setting, there’s a pretty high degree of close contact,” she says. “I don’t think the virus can tell the difference.”

Redman made her own decision to move immediately to a telehealth model, out of caution for her clients.

“I am a bit surprised that there hasn’t been a clear directive from the Government and it’s up to the individual,” she says.

“It makes me a bit nervous … wherever there’s money involved, there’s potential for the right thing not to be done.”

Trusting your instincts

For the Non-Essential Essentials, the absence of Government directives has left a lot of latitude around decisions with a significant public health impact.

David Gaunt owns Gleebooks, a popular Sydney bookstore with several business premises and about 25 staff.

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.

Like many Non-Essential Essentials, Gaunt is balancing public health outcomes against his concern for staff and their livelihoods.

“Our understanding is that the COVID-19 compensation for employees commences on April 27,” he says.

“This is a major factor for me in wanting to stay open to ensure that as many as possible of our staff can have their salary through to that point.

“The smaller the business, the more likely it is that they’re not in a position to say ‘You can all draw on your entitlements’.

“I’m comfortable insofar as in small business, you’re always having to make a lot of decisions, all the time, based on your instincts.

“But I’m not happy having to justify ‘Is it safe?’ to my employees when I have absolutely no qualifications.”

Childcare centres struggling

An especially hard-hit sector is childcare — particularly the smaller providers.

The Government has asked childcare centres to remain open so that other essential workers can keep going. They are an essential service.

But the other Government message — stay home if you can — is decimating numbers at many centres, with parents pulling their children out entirely.

Natasha O’Sullivan is the owner and director of Our Place Playschool, a 25-place early childcare centre in Port Stephens in NSW.

“We’ve been instructed to stay open but we’re losing numbers and we’re losing viability,” she says.


Natasha O’Sullivan is the owner and director of Our Place Preschool in Port Stephens. (Supplied)

“If we don’t have the numbers, or I can’t get the staff to come in and work, then if I’m forced to go to our regulatory department and say we can’t stay open, then we don’t get any assistance from the Government.”

In the past week, six families have pulled their children out — the equivalent of 16 places at the centre.

Where Wednesday and Thursday last week brought 19 and 25 children respectively to the centre, Wednesday and Thursday this week brought only 8 and 9.

O’Sullivan says it’s a waiting game for smaller operators.

“They’re trying to hold on as long as they can for the Government to close us. I feel like we’ll be in that situation as well.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Nesha O’Neill, vice president of the Australian Childcare Alliance, said 87 per cent of childcare providers had either one or two centres.

“This is going to send a lot of businesses to the wall,” she says.

“And then when the economy comes out of hibernation, they’re not going to be there.”

O’Neill says the biggest difference the Government could make would be to repurpose childcare subsidies to keep workers employed for the duration of the crisis.

“Either we have 200,000 workers turning up at Centrelink tomorrow, or we can redirect that funding to flow through centres to staff who stay motivated and stay connected to the families,” she said.

Video: Scott Morrison announces moves to reduce public gatherings to no more than two people

(ABC News)


What’s a ventilator and do we have enough of them to fight coronavirus?


The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has drawn attention to a vital piece of lifesaving medical equipment: a ventilator.

You might not immediately know what it is — but you would have seen them. In hospitals, online or in television medical dramas.

So what exactly is it, and why are they needed right now more than ever?

What’s a ventilator?

The ventilator is effectively a breathing machine, or the most common component of a “life support” machine.

It’s connected to a tube that goes into the mouth, past the vocal chords and down into the windpipe (a process called intubation, for those playing at home).

Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Sydney, Greg King, said it helped a patient by doing either all of their breathing or some of it.

“If breathing fails, the patients obviously dies. So you can think of ventilation as very much a life-support system,” 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.

Is it the same as a respirator?

No, it’s not, even though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

Professor King said the term “respirator” meant different things to different people.

Sometimes it’s used to describe the face masks worn by medical staff to stop them breathing in viral particles.

But it’s also used to describe things like the underwater breathing apparatus scuba divers use.

For the sake of clarity, it’s a term best avoided.

How is a ventilator used to treat coronavirus?

It is mainly used for the very serious cases of COVID-19.

Anaesthetist Dr Simon Macklin from the Australian Medical Association (SA) said in those cases, patients were weakened to the stage where they have difficulty getting enough oxygen into their lungs and enough carbon dioxide out.

“When that happens patients often have to work extremely hard to try to maintain adequate oxygen levels,” Dr Macklin said.


Ventilators are doctors’ best tool to keep those with COVID-19 alive. (Supplied)

“Often patients become so fatigued by this process they’re unable to do it on their own.”

They are then given drugs and placed into an artificial coma, before being connected to a ventilator through the tube we mentioned earlier.

The ventilator then does the breathing for the patient.

Are there different types of ventilators?

In hospitals, there are two types of ventilators that are used.

The ones we’re talking about at the moment for patients with coronavirus are Intensive Care Unit ventilators. They’re attached to ICU beds, and are considered the “gold standard” of ventilators.

The other ventilators are used in operating theatres for major surgery. They’re like one of the original models of the iPhone. Still good — but with fewer features.

Dr Macklin said the intensive care ventilators are specifically designed to cope with “very sick patients with very sick lungs” while the operating theatre ventilators aren’t as sophisticated.

President of the Australian Society of Anaesthetists, Dr Suzi Nou, said in critical cases, ICU ventilators were used because there were a wide range of settings you could plug into the machine to minimise risk to the patient.

“When I’ve had sick patients in the operating theatre, you can have trouble ventilating them for whatever reason, the patient and the machine are not getting along so well, and then you transfer them into ICU and you put them on a nice ICU ventilator, and it becomes a lot easier.”


Personal protective equipment is fast running out in some hospitals. (Unsplash: Jafar Ahmed)

Do we have enough ICU ventilators?

At this stage — yes. But the concern is that we will not have enough as the coronavirus outbreak escalates.

“It’s the crystal ball question.” Dr Nou said.

Currently, there are about 2,000 ventilators attached to beds in ICU units around Australia.

The government is looking to double those to 4,000.

Going off global figures, about 5 per cent of coronavirus cases will become critically unwell and will need ICU care.

So based on the way the virus is tracking, doctors are concerned many more than 4,000 people will need to be hospitalised during the pandemic, and require ICU ventilators to help breathing.

But when we talk about shortages, we’re not just talking about the machines.

Ventilators are run by anaesthetic, intensive care and emergency doctors, while the day-to-day, minute-to-minute management of the ventilator is overseen by specifically trained intensive care nurses.

And there are fears that there are not enough critical care staff to use the extra machines when they come into play.

Can other machines be converted to ventilators?

You might have seen stories this week about vets being asked to sacrifice the ventilators used to keep animals breathing, if the number of coronavirus patients needing ventilation exceeds the number of machines now available.


Animal ventilators would need to be cleaned and checked before being used on humans, experts say. (Supplied)

Overseas we’ve also seen engineers make ventilators from snorkelling masks and even ventilator parts out of 3D printers.

Back home, the Government has also flagged it.

It’s currently in talks with car manufacturer Ford about the potential to make machines, while Finance Minister Mathias Corman this week told the Senate that “the states also have processes to convert existing equipment into ventilators.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Thursday said it took a “proactive stance” in terms of repurposing alternative devices – like veterinary ventilators.

But are these converted machines going to as good as the fit-for-purpose ICU ventilators?

The short answer to this is no, Professor King said.

“They’re not going to be as effective, as sophisticated as the modern ventilator,” he said.

“But whether that translates to worse outcomes, we don’t know, because a lot of this will also be dependent on the skill of the medical team around it.”

The TGA said that where possible, health care facilities should use approved, conventional ventilators when necessary to support patients with respiratory failure.

But as Professor King notes, sometimes some ventilation is better than no ventilation at all.

Dr Nou said as always, prevention was better than cure, and physical distancing measures were crucial in trying to flatten the curve and reduce the number of critical cases of coronavirus.

“If we could stop this potential tsunami of people needing ventilating support, that would be better than making bits of circuit out of 3D printers.”

Video: Scott Morrison announces moves to reduce public gatherings to no more than two people

(ABC News)


What about the sports fans? Coronavirus has thrown their season out too


Michael Shillito puts the fan into fanatic. The 49-year-old has missed only two GWS Giants home games since their inaugural season in 2012.

One because of illness eight years ago and the other last weekend when fans were locked out of all games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I hope I don’t miss another game as long as I live,” Mr Shillito laughs.

After watching his team work their way up from easybeats in the early seasons to grand finalists in 2019, Mr Shillito approached this season with great optimism.

“Of course this was going to be our year,” he said.

“You look at how the club was building, we got ourselves into a grand final last year, recruited well and had a great pre-season.”

Over in the NRL camp, 41-year-old Troy Worner loves the Parramatta Eels with such a fervour that he has a “Parra cave” in his house.


Mr Worner has mountains of Eels memorabilia in his ‘Parra cave’. (Sideliners)

He reckons after finishing fifth in 2019, Parramatta was all set this year to end its 34-year premiership drought.

“You get all hyped up in the off-season, you look at the team and think, yes, this could be the year!” Mr Worner said.

Both fans are now dealing with the crushing blow that their teams’ premiership hopes could all be over after the AFL and NRL seasons were suspended.

“It’s pretty devastating on top of everything else that’s happening because the footy, it gives joy and hope to people’s lives.”

“And we’re having that taken away from us at this time when everything else is crashing down around us [too],” Mr Shillito said.

Mr Worner added: “I was probably a little bit shocked and overwhelmed, but at the end of the day I thought it was inevitable that it was going to get suspended, it was only a matter of time.”

Inevitable toll on fans’ mental health


AFL teams Richmond and Carlton played their round one match to an empty stadium at the MCG. (AAP: Michael Dodge)

Jess Richards is a lecturer in sports management at Western Sydney University.

She said having no AFL or NRL to watch on the weekends would take a toll on the mental health of thousands of fans who didn’t know when or if competitions would resume.

“Sport’s often an escape for people, it’s something that we can count on, it happens every weekend,” Dr Richards said.

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“It might have been a really stressful week at work but we know that the weekend is the time when we can get together with our mates.

“Whether that be at the stadium or your local pub or at home, [you can] sit down and have a jovial experience watching sport.”

For many people like Mr Shillito and Mr Worner, attending games means much more than the result on the scoreboard.

“Football’s not just a game, it’s a community, it’s what brings people together, we’re a pretty diverse group [but] the one thing that brings us together is the footy,” Mr Shallito said.

Dr Richards believes clubs now need to reach out to their fans while competitions are on hold.

“For some [supporters] it’s life, it’s everything to them,” she said.

“I think they [the clubs] have an incredible platform to reach thousands of people and see this as an opportunity to engage with their fans in new and innovative ways, through social media and smartphone applications to keep the conversations happening.”


Mr Worner in the stands at Western Sydney Stadium. (Supplied: Troy Worner)

Mr Worner is wondering what he’ll do without his fortnightly fix of seeing the blue and golds play at their home stadium.

“It’s going to be interesting, I might have to go through the catalogue of DVDs and videos and watch some re-runs of some classic games, I guess,” he said.

“Who knows, might take up the guitar and learn that, I’ll have a bit more time on my hands.”

Mr Worner acknowledged it was not just the fans who were feeling the pinch. He won’t be asking for a refund on his Eels membership.

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“At this crisis time with unemployment going up everyone’s financial situations are different. If it keeps them [the club] surviving, it’s only a little bit but every little bit adds up,” he said.

Mr Shillito believes clubs like the GWS Giants will need every bit of help they can get in the coming months too.

“Make no mistake this is a devastating blow, I just hope it’s not fatal. With everything the game is losing, there’s gonna have to be drastic cuts and you hope that we’re not one of them.”

Dr Richards suggests hard core fans stuck at home might have to turn everyday activities into sporting contests like “competitive cooking, vacuum relays or laundry-hamper basketball”.

But for fans, nothing can replicate the feeling of being at the ground to support their teams.

“It’s a massive buzz, the experience of being there, creating the atmosphere. That of course is why you go to the games rather than watching them on tele,” Mr Shillito said.

Dr Richards said sports clubs and fans were incredibly resilient.

“They’ve taken a pretty big hit here but I know they will bounce back.

“What we do know is we’ll have sport again and maybe we’ll appreciate it a little bit more and support our clubs more than ever when we get sport back.”


As China begins coronavirus recovery, airfreight issues leave Australian seafood exporters stuck

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Australian agriculture and seafood exporters facing financial ruin are desperate to reconnect trade with the Chinese market, as green shoots appear following an easing of the coronavirus pandemic there.

Key points:

  • The cost of international airfreight has skyrocketed since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic
  • This has made it difficult for Australian seafood exporters to reconnect with the Chinese market, even as business begins to resume there
  • State governments are working with industry to plan alternative flying options which could include government subsidies or freight sharing across different industries

But one economic expert has warned China’s economic recovery is not assured.

Before the pandemic, Brad Adams’ ASX-listed export company Ocean Grown Abalone had a market value of $30 million, but that has now halved.

He is among countless Australian seafood exporters desperate to reconnect the airfreight supply chain to get his product to key export markets.

“We’re like restaurants. If we can’t sell our product, we can’t survive,” Mr Adams said.

“To have all airlines around the world grounded has ground world trade to a halt for these perishable products.”

Mr Adams said the cost to send airfreight had doubled and, in some cases, quadrupled, making it uneconomic for many producers.

On the other hand, Mr Adams said the Chinese economy was beginning to show signs of recovery and that demand for his produce still existed — he was just unable to get it to market.

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


Seafood producers want airfreight subsidies to help re-establish supply to key Asian markets. (ABC Great Southern: Tom Edwards)

Ocean Grown Abalone is the biggest employer in the regional town of Augusta, in Western Australia’s South West, and the company has had to halve production and lay off staff while the borders are closed.

“When the market was closed, it was shut up shop, stop fishing, don’t go to work,” he said.

“As China comes out the other side of the virus, we’re seeing the orders are starting to return.”

Future far from certain

Lowy Institute Senior Fellow, Richard McGregor, said the Chinese economy was showing some signs of repair, but warned the recovery was far from certain.

“It is certainly true the productive capacity of the Chinese economy is starting to get back on its feet,” 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.

“Workers are starting to get back into factories, they’re beginning to produce goods — but that’s only one side of the equation.”

The other side of the equation is demand.

Many Chinese citizens have gone two to three months with no income and Mr McGregor said there was not a great deal of pent-up demand from the Middle Kingdom.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also created some issues for China’s exports.

“Outside China, just at a time when they’d like to sell more to foreign countries, those countries’ economies are starting to go downhill rapidly,” Mr McGregor said.

“There’s still a lot of demand in China, and a collapse in demand outside China, so that makes it difficult.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Mr McGregor said many expected China’s economy to bounce back in the second and third quarters of this financial year, but the ongoing public health crisis remains a big market variable.

“It is certainly true the brutal quarantine measures implemented in China in the early months of this year have worked up to a point,” Mr McGregor said.

“Most people would expect a second wave of infections at some stage, and China is on alert for that.

“We don’t know how big that will be.”

Keeping a foot in the door

But despite the challenges, private enterprise and state governments are hedging their bets, and trying to keep a foot in the door of the Chinese market.

Mr Adams, who is also the president of the Australasian Abalone Association, said the Australian seafood industry was working together to try to charter weekly airfreight to key export markets.


WA Agriculture Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, has confirmed plans to establish a national freight milk-run from Hobart to Perth to export fresh produce to Asian markets. (ABC News: Rob Koenig-Luck)

Western Australia’s Agriculture Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, said the states were working alongside industry to develop a national approach to keep the fresh food trade open.

“The proposition is to have that as a national program where [the plane would leave] … Hobart, go to Melbourne then to Perth and up to Asia,” she said

Ms MacTiernan said there was also potential to incorporate lamb, beef and pork into the shipments in partnership with other states, and she earmarked a possible collaboration with mining companies.

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“Some of the companies are bringing in spare parts … and we know that companies like Rio [Tinto] are bringing in lots of protective equipment [to Australian mine sites],” she said.

“We’re looking to see if we could get them to use some of these plane charters [on the way back] to try and defray some of the costs.”

Former Agriculture Minister, Terry Redman, is calling on his federal counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, to step up and back the proposal financially.

“The state and federal governments have a role to play, I think that may be a subsidy in the short-term,” Mr Redman said.

“I’ve never like the term subsidy, but we’re operating in a very extraordinary space now.

“It’s very real … and there’s never been anything like this in WA’s 100-year history, therefore we have to look at all the options and it may well be that we take those options that we haven’t supported in the past.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

‘Don’t wait’ for help: Export Council

However Export Council of Australia chair, Dianne Tipping, has questioned whether the government should be expected to subsidise flights for industry.

She said the state and federal governments were already working hard to keep freight networks open within Australia and keep product flowing to the borders.


Abalone is among the commodities who is in high demand in Asian markets. (ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)

Ms Tipping believed industries and individual businesses needed to collaborate and come up with novel ways to secure supply lines into China.

Her advice to exporters was “don’t wait” for help.

“What we’ve got to do is look at ways to get more cargo available so carriers that are bringing aircraft into Australia are able to have a full belly and be able to make that cargo flight with a reasonable bottom line,” she said.

“You have to remember the only market that’s accessible for the next month will be China as they come down their curve.

“They’re going to want cargo and we’re going to be one of the only countries that can do that very quickly.”

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez tracks the major coronavirus developments

(ABC News)


How the new COVID-19 finger-prick tests work


Over 178,000 COVID-19 tests have been carried out in Australia and that number is growing rapidly by the day.

The Federal Government has consistently said this testing rate — at approximately 557 tests per 100,000 people — is among the highest in the world.

While the standard testing method is a throat and nasal swab, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Tuesday new finger-prick tests will soon be rolled out within GP clinics.

We asked the Department of Health and experts what these new “point-of-care” tests are, and how they differ from the swab tests, which are still in use.

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What has the COVID-19 testing method been so far?

The standard COVID-19 tests are called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and so far, all of the tests which have been carried out in Australia have been these types of tests.

This test is also sometimes called “molecule photocopying,” ACT Australian Medical Association president Antonio Di Dio explained.

“It’s kind of like taking a fingerprint of a piece of RNA,” he said.

“In the context of COVID-19, you get a piece of the RNA from a swab of the patient, you double it, then again and again. Until you have millions of copies.”

A few hours later — you’ve got a sample that’s big enough to see if coronavirus is present.

To collect that sample, a medical practitioner will take swabs from the back of the nose and throat, or fluid from the lungs.

Lower respiratory tract samples may also be taken, in which case you will be asked to rinse your mouth with water and then cough phlegm into a sterile, screw-top container.

These PCR tests aren’t going anywhere — Mr Hunt said they remained a “critical component” in our testing toolkit going forward.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

How does the new finger-prick test work?

Mr Hunt confirmed on Wednesday that “point-of-care” or “finger-prick” COVID-19 tests had been approved in the past several days.

Video: Australian coronavirus cases relatively mild despite increases

(ABC News)

“They will be deployed, which will then allow for greater testing of patients within the general practice setting,” he said.

They use a different technique to the PCR tests because they look for antibodies, which are a protein made in your bloodstream to fight infection.

The finger-prick test is much quicker — returning results in as little as 15 minutes.

They’re also much cheaper.

However, Dr Di Dio cautioned that they’re not as effective and sometimes a PCR test might still be required as well.

“The answer to that will depend on a few things, like will we run out of proper PCR tests?” he said.

“Or, have so many Australians got it that we can’t afford to wait?”

People with COVID-19 can experience a sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, aches and pains, or diarrhoea.
(Supplied: Department of Health)

What about other tests?

With the coronavirus outbreak escalating rapidly, many other tests are quickly coming onto the local and international markets.

In recent days, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved another test for use, called the “Cepheid GeneXpert.”

This test can deliver results in as little as 45 minutes, and Dr Di Dio described it as a really exciting development.

“It’s PCR in your back pocket, it’s so much quicker,” he said.

“If we have enough of these, then it will make an enormous, enormous difference.”

Dr Di Dio suspected both of the tests would be expensive, but the Department of Health said, at this stage, the pricing was unknown.

And despite both of them delivering fast results, it’s also still unknown how long patients themselves will have to wait to find out if they have coronavirus.

As Dr Di Dio points out, the quality of the technology is only as good as the resources you have to man the technology.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez tracks the major coronavirus developments

(ABC News)


I’m still flying during the coronavirus pandemic and it’s not easy


Almost overnight airports and planes have become some of the most risky places on earth as coronavirus spreads via international travellers.

Most of Australia’s cases were acquired overseas and brought into the country via air travel.

But as airlines around the world lay off staff and ground planes many pilots and flight attendants have no choice but to keep working — grateful to be among those who are still employed but terrified of the potential consequences of doing their job.

Jess* is a flight attendant for a US airline and says working during the outbreak has left her feeling “worthless” as passengers fail to cover their mouth when they cough or keep their hands washed.

“The [passengers who] don’t wipe anything down and don’t wear any type of face protection, we are angry with them and honestly they scare us,” she says. “I wish we could kick them off [the plane]. They are sick or not feeling well and yet they still travel.”

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

For the cabin crews and pilots who are still flying, work has become a bizarre and often scary experience.

But there isn’t much of a choice. It’s either risk the virus or face unpaid leave or even redundancy.

Many cabin crew feel uncomfortable every time they get on a plane. Flight attendant Brandon*, who works for a North American carrier, knows two colleagues who were on a flight with a passenger who tested positive for coronavirus and are now positive themselves.

For many airline staff, the potential for passengers to spread the disease is a real worry.


For flight attendants, work has become a scary experience. (AP: Michael Probst)

“We come to work every day hoping that a cough is just seasonal allergies,” Brandon says, “We hope that as more positive test results come back, we didn’t fly with that person and if we know them that they will be okay.”

At the same time the desperate need to keep their jobs mean the flight attendants themselves sometimes take risks with their health.

Brandon feels that the safety of crew members on some airlines isn’t being treated as a priority.

He is continuing to work despite having developed a cough, but he says it is not considered enough for him to be granted a test.

“We can’t seem to get tested unless we’ve been confirmed to have been exposed to someone who is positive,” he says.

Brandon says he is also unable to stay home to recover, or see how the cough develops, unless he has a doctor’s note advising him to self-isolate.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Risks are all around

Many passengers are hygiene conscious and hyper-aware of the risks around them.

On one of Jess’s flights a passenger boarded in a disposable rain poncho, thick rubber cleaning gloves and a full-face shield on top of a mask and goggles. “Nothing was left uncovered,” she says.

On another, tensions boiled over when an Asian woman was seated near to a panicked Caucasian couple:

“[They started] demanding not to sit anywhere close [to her] and yelling that she should be wearing a mask and gloves because she was going to infect us all,” she says. “We moved the woman to first class … luckily she couldn’t hear very well … I’ve never been so mad and embarrassed.”

Airlines still flying have also made changes to the way they operate to reflect concern about coronavirus.


Airlines and airports have changed the way they operate. (Reuters: Thomas Peter)

New safety measures are being taken in the airports, not only for passengers but for cabin staff as well.

European flight attendant April* says her cabin crew have their temperatures and documents checked every time they land.

“We were escorted by [security],” she says. Then their documents were checked by the police. “[The] reason is that now only Hungarian citizens are allowed to get into the country.”

Normally, they simply get into a crew car and their passports are processed by border control.

New cleaning procedures

Airports are empty and April says she often sees more staff than passengers. Things have changed onboard too.

Brandon says that on his airline cleaners spray and wipe seats with disinfectant before each flight.

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 then perform their normal cleaning,” he says. “We then confirm to the agent that the plane has been cleaned properly, the agent double checks and once we all agree, we begin boarding,” he says.

The new procedures have doubled the amount of staff required for pre-boarding preparations and tripled the amount of time it takes, Brandon says.

During flights, cabin crews are now typically given masks and other safety materials by their airlines, both to use themselves and to distribute to passengers.

April gives two antibacterial wipes to every passenger. “They can … clean the seat area, tray tables, armrests or whatever they want to around themselves, or use it for the hands,” she says. “We have masks and gloves available and a very strong sanitising spray.”

At the airline she works at, no extra cleaning, or the use of sanitising resources, is compulsory but it is available if the crew needs it. Other companies have fixed rules regarding protection against COVID-19.

Airline staff are also trained in how to react if there is a health issue during a flight.

April remembers one flight during which a passenger complained of breathing difficulties, a sore throat and fever.

“He looked super pale and felt weak,” she says. “We gave him the mask and gloves and we re-seated him in the last row. We asked the other passengers to move forwards.”

But many flight attendants believe the safety measures are not enough.

Can Qantas and Virgin withstand coronavirus?
Despite Government stimulus aimed at airlines, some industry experts want further action including relaxing foreign ownership rules.

Brandon believes all travel should be halted. “If you are going to impose travel sanctions, with crippling economic effects on the whole country… just ground all air, sea and land travel for three weeks. When there are exceptions, [coronavirus] continues to spread.”

Nothing to worry about?

But while most flight attendants feel airports have now become very dangerous places, some believe the concern is overblown.

Sarah* is a flight attendant with a US airline. She feels that passengers should minimise worry and instead focus on being very diligent about personal hygiene.

“It’s not just hygiene,” she says, “keep up the habits of being courteous, looking out for each other, take this time to grow individually for yourselves, your friends and family, and for strangers too.”

Sarah is not scared to fly. She is more concerned about what would happen to her and her colleagues if they had to leave the sky.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“I don’t have a crash pad and usually sleep in the lounge at my [airline] base,” she says. “If I contracted coronavirus, I would have no place to go.

“My family are all essential personnel in my home city and if I spread or exposed the virus to any of them … a good chunk of my city could potentially shut down.”

Surviving the uncertainty

Being out of work is not uncommon in the aviation industry at the moment.

Some CEOs have taken pay cuts to keep their companies afloat and airlines around the world have cut jobs and asked employees to take unpaid leave.

In Australia, Qantas has been widely criticised for its recent decision to stand down two-thirds of its workforce, Virgin Australia has furloughed 8,000 of their 10,000 staff members, Jetstar is grounding all but three of its 193 plane fleet.


Coronavirus has made biosecurity an important part of a flight attendant’s job. (AAP: Dean Lewins)

Charter pilot Wayne Watts knows many other pilots who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19.

“One [pilot I know] tried to get back to his wife and family as they are in Thailand with his wife’s parents and [he] got stuck [in Vietnam]… as the borders are closed everywhere,” he says.

“It’s not just the pilots of course. Cabin crew, maintenance personnel, ticketing agents are all affected.”

Because he lives and works overseas, Wayne’s life would become very complicated if he was laid off.

“I would … lose my resident card, visa and essentially become a tourist,” he says. “So besides the financial issue of not …having a job, I would be forced to move … back to the USA without my wife who’s a Vietnamese citizen. It would be next to impossible to find another pilot job after this pandemic is over, due to my age.”


Wayne Watts on the flight deck. (Supplied)

‘Let’s hope for the summer’

But there is hope. Some airlines continuing to pay their workers even if they are grounded and other airlines are offering reduced salaries. Others are offering unpaid leave but with continued job security.

Emirates is reducing most salaries by 25 to 50 per cent for three months. Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, Brazil’s largest domestic carrier, will be cutting workers and executives’ pay by 35 per cent and 40 per cent respectively for three months.

Air steward Reuben* hasn’t flown for almost a month now but his Central Asian airline, a national carrier, is providing a basic salary.

He’s trying to make each day as normal as possible.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

“Every morning at 9am [my crew is] having a conference call on Skype and having coffee together because we cannot [gather] in one house like we did before,” he says.

But even if they still have job security, many flight attendants and pilots are worried that the aviation industry itself may not recover. No-one knows when the pandemic will end and what will happen when it does.

Many airlines say it’s going to take significant government bailouts for the industry to survive.

But for now there is little anyone can do except wait and hope

“Let’s see. Let’s hope for the summer… let’s hope that… at least this year it will be over,” says Reuben.

“[For now] just follow every advice. Wash your hands more often, take showers more often… follow the advice of the local authorities… be safe. I know it is hard to stay home, I feel it myself, but I think it is important until everything is over.”

*All names have been changed.

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez tracks the major coronavirus developments

(ABC News)


Passengers test positive on ‘infected’ cruise off WA as Premier calls for Navy to make ship leave

Perth 6000

Seven passengers on the Artania cruise ship, currently moored off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Key points:

  • The WA Government will not let the ship’s passengers disembark
  • But it may allow the sick to be isolated in a Commonwealth facility
  • Several ships are floating off WA and not being allowed to dock

WA Premier Mark McGowan has called on the Royal Australian Navy to help get the ship, which has no Australians among its 800 passengers and 500 crew on board, to leave Australian waters.

State authorities have said only people with a life-threatening medical situation would be allowed entry into the state.

However, Health Minister Roger Cook said one man in his 70s had been transferred off the Artania on Thursday afternoon and taken to a Perth hospital.

He said the man had a life-threatening condition that was not related to COVID-19 and he was not one of the seven passengers on board the ship who tested positive.


The Artania cruise ship has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

“However, as a precaution he is being treated in a negative pressure room at Fiona Stanley Hospital to ensure we don’t take any unnecessary chances,” Mr Cook said.

WA Health officials were on board the ship yesterday testing and assessing people.

In addition to the seven who tested positive, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said a further two passengers who were German citizens had tested positive, but disembarked the ship at other Australian ports and had subsequently left the country.

“That then indicates to us that we should treat the Artania as a ship that is infected with COVID,” Commissioner Dawson said.

Meanwhile the number of coronavirus cases in Western Australia has risen by 26, bringing the state’s total diagnosed cases to 231.

This number includes one death, but Mr Cook said 23 people had now recovered.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 311
  • Deaths: 2
  • Tested negative: 12,693

Latest information from the WA Health Department

Of the new cases, 17 are male and nine are female. The youngest of the new cases was a seven-year-old child and the oldest was aged 81.

“I understand that child is self-isolating at home with their family and is comfortable,” Mr Cook said.

One of the cases is from the Pilbara in WA’s north.

It means there are now two cases in the Mid West, one in the Goldfields, six in the South West, three in the Kimberley, two in the Wheatbelt, two in the Great Southern and two in the Pilbara.

Mr Cook said 11 patients remained in Perth hospitals, three of them were in a critical condition.

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

WA in ‘strong’ position: Minister

Four of the cases diagnosed today are from cruise ships, taking the total number of cruise ship passengers with COVID-19 in WA to 51.

Mr Cook said every case confirmed in the state up until Wednesday night had been connected in some way to overseas travel.

“Fifty per cent of those people were people who have returned to Western Australia on flights,” Mr Cook said.

“Twenty five are cruise ship passengers and 25 are close contacts with either those cruise ship passengers or people who have returned from flights.

“That is a really strong situation for Western Australia to be in.”


WA Health Minister Roger Cook says the vast majority of coronavirus cases in WA so far have come from overseas. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Mr Cook said two of Thursday’s new cases had been listed as an “unknown source”, but that did not necessarily mean they contracted the virus via community spread.

“The vast majority of our cases have come from overseas, with a small percentage acquired through contact with confirmed cases,” he said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Defence bases to treat ill foreign cruise passengers

The WA Government has requested Commonwealth help to deal with the cruise ship situation and said if any foreign cruise passengers required medical attention on shore, that should take place in a defence facility away from the public.

“We’d like the Commonwealth to assist with that, we’d like those passengers … if they have to, to go into a Commonwealth facility,” Mr McGowan 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.

He said the Government needed to work out a way to refuel the Artania and called on the Commonwealth to use its assets, including the Royal Australian Navy, to assist.

“The Commonwealth has assets here, it has defence assets, it has the navy — we’d like their assistance to try to get the Artania to leave as soon as possible,” he said.

“There’s no Australians on board, it needs to be fuelled, but it needs to leave and go to its home port.

“Its home port is actually Germany, so what we’re saying to the ship is ‘you need to leave’, and we’re saying to the Commonwealth ‘you need to help us get that ship to leave’.

Commissioner Dawson said the Artania’s next scheduled port of call was in South Africa.

Mr McGowan said he and Commissioner Dawson had been in contact with Australia’s Border Force to work out an arrangement to deal with the ship.

The Australian Defence Force has a maritime facility at Garden Island, just south of Perth.

No repeat of Ruby Princess episode

Mr McGowan said he did not want a repeat of the Ruby Princess fiasco in Sydney, where some of the thousands of passengers allowed to disembark later tested positive to COVID-19.

“[The Ruby Princess] in Sydney has obviously distressed and caused a lot of concern about the safety of these cruise ships,” Mr McGowan told Channel 7’s Sunrise.

“So we’re taking a precautionary approach to ensure that we protect our citizens.”

There are two ships currently off the coast of WA — the Artania and the Magnifica, while another, the Vasco da Gama, is due to dock on Friday.


Australians on the Vasco da Gama cruise ship will be placed in quarantine on Rottnest Island after disembarking. (ABC News: Tom Fedorowytsch)

The Magnifica and the Artania do not have any Australian passengers on board.

But the Vasco da Gama has 800 — including 200 West Australians. Its home port is Fremantle.

Rottnest option put in place for WA residents

The WA Government said it had asked the Vasco da Gama, which is due to dock on Friday, to delay berthing until Monday.

The plan is to ferry the West Australians on board to the former holiday destination of Rottnest Island — which has been repurposed by the State Government as a COVID-19 quarantine camp — where they will self isolate for 14 days.

Mr McGowan said the delay would allow more time to prepare the island for the new arrivals.

Video: WA Premier Mark McGowan announced arrangements for Rottnest Island yesterday.

(ABC News)

International passengers and crew would need to remain on board unless they required urgent medical care or were being securely transferred to an airport.

Dean Brazier, managing director of CMV Australia which operates the Vasco da Gama, said all passengers on board, regardless of nationality, were either Australian or New Zealand residents with valid visas.

He said he was working with the Premier’s office to clarify what the arrangements would be for these people.

Mr McGowan said the procedure for the 600 interstate Australian passengers on board would depend on their home state.

He said he did not have a breakdown of the passengers’ home states apart from the 200 West Australians.

“Interstate passengers will have an option, if agreed by their home state, to fly home directly, or remain on the ship self-isolating until travel arrangements are made,” he said.

“Rottnest Island will be used as a last resort for them.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Island quarantine station ready to receive passengers

WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia earlier told ABC Radio Perth he was ensuring people disembarking from the Vasco da Gama would be put directly into quarantine.

“No-one is getting off any cruise ship unless they’ve done 14 days’ isolation,” Mr Papalia said.

Mr Papalia said Rottnest Island was fully equipped to accommodate hundreds of people.

“We’ve got a plan, we can do it, there’s sufficient accommodation, we’ve cleared the island, we’ve got the island authority fully capable of supporting this task,” he said.

“We’ve got the capacity to medevac people via aircraft if we need to from the Island straight to a hospital.

“At the moment, there are a couple of nurses, but if this goes ahead and all of the people are on the island then obviously the Health Department will respond accordingly.”

Other states are grappling with the same problem, as thousands of passengers aboard cruise ships remain stranded at sea.

The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said today she was in conversation with the Commonwealth to develop guidelines on how to deal with these ships.

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez tracks the major coronavirus developments

(ABC News)

Pharmacists given special authority

Mr Cook said new measures had also been put in place to make it easier to access some prescription medicines during the pandemic.

The measures give WA pharmacists special authority to supply ongoing prescription medicines during the state of emergency, to make it easier for those who rely on medication.

“It applies to patients already under treatment with a medicine, where their prescriptions have run out and it is not possible for them to get to a doctor to obtain a new prescription,” Mr Cook said.

“Under these circumstances if a pharmacist is satisfied that treatment is urgently needed, they may dispense a standard one-month quantity of the medicines.”

The State Government is also providing a $3 million fund for COVID-19 related research and is urging all WA-based researchers to apply before April 8.


This prepper has faced stigma, but he’s got enough supplies to keep his family going for weeks

Port Kembla 2505

With supermarket shelves stripped of staple goods, being prepared for emergency events like the COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t sound like such a crazy idea anymore.

Key points:

  • Sam Steele says “prepping” is still stigmatised despite widespread panic buying
  • The Steele family has at least a month’s worth of food in the house at any time
  • The IT consultant is helping businesses impacted by COVID-19 migrate online

Sam Steele started “prepping” when he lived at Eden, on the New South Wales Far South Coast, and continued the way of life after he moved to the Wollongong area with his young family.

Emergency scenarios were not what initially drove the father-of-two to begin stockpiling supplies, but self-sufficiency quickly became a habit — even if it did raise a few eyebrows.

“It was never ingrained in society and if you admitted to bulk-buying, or you were a prepper, you were stigmatised,” he said.

The 38-year-old insists he’s not a paranoid “doomsday prepper” — just a man who likes to be prepared.

“To begin with it was more about convenience, because we moved to the country and we didn’t have access to the food that we liked, so we just started buying in bulk.

“We never had a specific doomsday scenario in mind, but we like to keep enough food on hand to last us at least a few weeks.”


Prepper Sam Steele says consumer behaviour will change in the wake of COVID-19. (ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Sustainable stockpile

The Steeles live in an unassuming brick house in Port Kembla, an industrial village not far of south of Wollongong.

Within the home’s four walls are enough supplies to keep the family of four going for at least a month.

The stockpile includes products with long shelf-lives — canned goods, UHT milk, noodles and pasta, as well as a year’s supply of butter.

A significant portion of their supplies are sustainably sourced, including fruit and vegetables grown in their backyard garden, eggs from a growing flock of quails and honey from a hive of bees.


The Steele family’s supplies include sustainably produced products from their garden, including honey from their hive. (ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

An industrial freezer out the back also contains vacuum-sealed goat, deer and kangaroo meat.

Mr Steele believes the COVID-19 crisis has exposed unsustainable consumer behaviour, but he says his approach to shopping remains the exception rather than the rule.

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“We as a society have grown up with convenience in mind,” he said.

“You buy enough for tonight and maybe tomorrow night and then you go back to the shops when you run out.”


Sam Steele believes people should always have enough food to last them a couple of weeks at least. (ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Moving online to survive the lockdown

As tougher restrictions are imposed across the country, many businesses are being forced to pivot to survive.

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.

“There’s massive adjustment happening across the economy in response to COVID-19 and there are clever businesses making quick adjustments to their business models,” Illawarra Business Chambers executive director Adam Zarth said.

“I think it’s fair to say on the other side of this crisis there will be massive changes to the way we do business and the way individuals go about their work.”

Mr Steele has been working from home for the last four years and believes the changes to working life introduced during the lockdown will prove that remote work is the way of the future.

“Now there’s going to be no reason not to work from home — we’re going to prove we can work remotely,” he said.

“Remote systems are cheap and easy to implement.”


Sam Steele is helping businesses prepare for life during the coronavirus lockdown. (ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

‘Society is going to change’

Now the IT consultant has begun volunteering his time to help small businesses learn web tools to help them navigate the transition.

“During this time businesses are just trying to survive,” he said.

“It’s about getting them online, so they can survive as cheaply as possible.

“I’m offering some free webinars to do what I can to help out struggling businesses.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

But business is far from the only part of daily life that will fundamentally change in the wake of the pandemic.

“Society is going to change after the coronavirus,” Mr Steele said.

“People will say, ‘We’re not going to go through this again, we’re not going to go to the shops to face empty shelves.’

“People will start stocking up on at least two weeks of food to prevent panic buying if something like this happens again.”

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez tracks the major coronavirus developments

(ABC News)


Australian charged over Christchurch mosque attacks changes plea to guilty


The Australian man accused of murdering 51 people in the terror attacks on two Christchurch mosques last year has admitted he carried out the killings.

Key points:

  • Tarrant will be sentenced at a later date
  • He carried out the worst terrorist attack ever committed by an Australian
  • Jacinda Ardern said she was glad bereaved families had been spared the “ordeal” of a trial

Brenton Tarrant, 29, changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on all charges in an appearance by video link in the High Court at Christchurch this morning.

As well as the 51 murder charges, he also pleaded guilty to 40 charges of attempted murder, and a terrorism charge.

Tarrant’s trial, which had been set down for June, will now not take place.

The date for his sentencing is yet to be set. New Zealand police say it will only take place when it is possible for all victims who want to attend to do so.

Thursday’s small hearing was held at short notice, on Tarrant’s request.

The imams of the two mosques attacked were present, but because of coronavirus restrictions, they were among only 17 people allowed in the courtroom.


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with members of the Muslim community after the mosque attacks. (Supplied: Christchurch City Council)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a few brief comments following Tarrant’s admissions.

“The guilty plea today will provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered by what happened on March 15 [2019],” she said.

“These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial.

“I can’t make any further comment given that sentencing is yet to happen.”

Tarrant has been in custody since was he arrested on the day of the attack.

He stormed the mosques during Friday prayers, armed with several high-powered weapons, and live-streamed the attack online in what is the single-worst terrorist attack carried out by an Australian.

‘I saw dead people everywhere’
Mosque shooting survivors describe screaming and terror, ‘dead people everywhere’ as gunman opened fire.

The video showed Tarrant entering a mosque and opening fire on dozens of people, before fleeing in a vehicle.

He continued to fire his automatic weapon out of the car’s window.

At the time, authorities urged people not to share or watch the video, and undertook extensive efforts to remove it from the internet.

It was initially viewed 4,000 times before being taken off Facebook.

New Zealand’s gun laws were changed following the attacks, after it was revealed Tarrant had a gun licence that allowed him to legally obtain weapons.

The country’s national security threat level was also raised to high, for the first time.

During earlier hearings, many of which were procedural, family and friends of the victims had packed the courtroom.

The court was only notified this week of the defendant’s intention to change his plea.

A hearing was hastily arranged despite the curbs in place because of coronavirus.

In a minute, Justice Cameron Mander said he weighed up the public health situation and “considered the need to take the opportunity to progress the matter was particularly acute coming, as it has, at a time when the risk of further delay as a result of COVID-19 was looming as a realistic possibility”.

Most victims were not able to attend because of the lockdown.


Janna and Hazim Ezat lost their son Hussein in the Christchurch shootings nearly one year ago. (ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)

For legal reasons, the nature of the matter could also not be made public in advance.

Families of victims welcome news of changed plea

When someone called Janna Ezat to give her the news, she said she thought she was dreaming.

“I said, ‘What?'” she told the ABC.

“And then I jumped from my bed. Yeah, I jumped.”

Ms Ezat lost her 35-year-old son Hussein Al-Umari in the attack on the Al-Noor mosque.

She has been struggling to get a hold on her grief, but today she laughed and danced for the first time since the attacks.

“I’ve been waiting to hear my laugh,” she said.

“I missed laughing.

“I just danced to my favourite music with my son’s photo in my hand.”

Ahmed Jahangir said he also jumped out of bed when he saw the news on a WhatsApp group.

“It was quite surprising and quite shocking for me this morning,” he said.

Mr Jahangir was at the Linwood mosque when the gunman struck. He was hit by a bullet in the shoulder and still wears a sling and suffers severe nerve pain from his injury.


Mr Jahangir is a survivor of the shooting. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

The father-of-two said initially he felt disappointed to realise there would be no trial in the case, which he said would have been a chance for the accused to “realise what he has done to the community” but he has since come around.

“Being a Muslim we do believe whatever happens it’s from Allah,” he said.

The victims have been assured that the sentencing hearing will not take place until the coronavirus restrictions are lifted so that they can attend.

Both Ms Ezat and Mr Jahangir hoped to read out their victim impact statements.

Ms Ezat said she had only one message for the killer: “Forgiveness.”

But she wants to see him behind bars for the rest of his life.


Hussein Al-Umari’s was killed in the attack on the Al Noor mosque. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

“For sure, and I might be dancing if the sentence will be life for good,” she said.

“I will dance in front of the judge!”

Royal commission investigating attack

In one of his recent appearances, Tarrant had withdrawn his application to move his trial away from Christchurch to Auckland.

His lawyer declined to answer questions on why his client decided to withdraw the application.

A royal commission was also established to examine what government agencies knew about Tarrant in the lead-up to the attacks, what actions were taken, what could have been done to prevent the atrocity and what could be done to prevent future attacks.

As the commission was going to dig deeply into some highly classified, national security information, it was held almost exclusively behind closed doors.

Video: Janna Ezat remembers her son Hussein Al-Umari who died saving others during the Christchurch shootings

(ABC News)


As his countrymen and women die, Boris Johnson has been mugged by the coronavirus reality

United Kingdom

Even as COVID-19 was revealing itself to be not a crisis, but a cataclysm, Boris Johnson was loath to do more than nudge Britain in the right direction.

By March 3, China had sealed off a city of 11 million people, the World Health Organisation had declared a global health emergency and the pathogen had claimed its first British victim.

But even then, even as he unveiled an official action plan, a Union Jack at each shoulder, the Prime Minister talked of “going about business as usual”.

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

“I’m shaking hands continuously,” he said, his mouth in a simper.

“I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were actually a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you’ll be pleased to know.”

Many wondered: where’s the pleasure in that?

Mussed hair, tie askew, Boris Johnson’s career has been built on cheap tricks: bringing a tea tray to cameramen staking out his house, reciting the Iliad in schoolboy Greek, waving a smoked kipper at a stump speech.

Italy was scrambling to isolate 50,000 people, and Heathrow heaved with unchecked arrivals from Europe, but the man wanted only to cajole the nation.

He brushed his hand to the side of the lectern: “People obviously can make up their own minds.”

There’s been a fair volume of hand-wringing about Johnson’s dithering, but there’s little mystery to it. Because how could a man with an FM-station public persona persuade a scared nation he ever had any more gravitas?

While Brexit might have offered a ready supply of gags, the coronavirus crisis simply does not. And inevitably, with hundreds of his countrymen and women dead and dying, Johnson has since been mugged by reality.

Of course, circumstances change. Politicians change course with them.

External Link:

@joncstone French press reporting that Emmanuel Macron phoned Boris Johnson on Friday

But the pattern of decision-making from No 10 has been plain: the man is reluctant to risk unpopularity.

On Sunday, after days of trying to coax the country into isolation, still Johnson couldn’t help himself: “I want, of course I do, people to be able to go to the parks, open spaces and enjoy themselves.”

Asked by a reporter when police would begin enforcement of social distancing, Johnson spluttered in faux outrage: “The police?”

Twenty-four hours later, the national toll having climbed up the same slope as Italy’s to 335 dead, he brought in the lockdown he’d previously laughed off: “If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them.”

External Link:

Tweet: Boris on the police

Presumably, he had to prerecord the announcement — no live press conference, no reporters — for fear he’d drift into comedy again.

Video: UK to see tough new lockdown measures as Boris Johnson addresses nation

(ABC News)

The British Prime Minister appears to have had to be dragged to action which, for many experts, had for some time been self-evidently necessary.

Some have ascribed to Johnson an ideological reluctance: a libertarian disinclined to inhibit personal freedom. I’m sure it’s much less la-di-da than that.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Johnson hates public disapproval, but he hates it even more when it’s from those who elevated him into the seat of power: the arch-right wing of the Conservative Party, and the barons of industry that serenade it.

What is herd immunity and could it stop coronavirus?
Some European governments, including the UK, have discussed letting coronavirus spread to build up herd immunity. Here’s how that would work and why it’s so controversial.

Johnson famously switched his position on Brexit to secure the political wattage needed for a strike.

From the backbench he crippled then-prime minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal — denouncing it a betrayal of the Brexit referendum — only to sign into law an even less favourable version as her replacement.

Now, this same dynamic is at play with the deadly coronavirus sweeping the country, and the world.

It’s neatly captured by the absurd cheerleading for Johnson from the once-establishment broadsheet The Daily Telegraph, owned by the billionaire Brexiteers, the Barclay brothers.


With Britain in lockdown, tourist hotspots are suddenly nearly empty. (AP: Matt Dunham)

Up and down Whitehall, the paper has become known as “The Daily Boris”, not least after it paid the man 275,000 pounds a year ($545,000) for a weekly column that was often splashed on page one.

As the health crisis has rolled on, and community restrictions have been gradually unveiled, the paper has been calling for Downing Street to make haste slowly.

Before the Monday night shutdown, The Telegraph thundered: “There is talk of this effective lockdown going on for three months but that is too long.”

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.

“Above all,” it declaimed, “we need a plan to get out of this sooner rather than later. The country needs to see light at the end of the tunnel — preferably a very short one”.

On Tuesday, after Johnson announced the closure of all non-essential businesses, the banner headline read: “End of freedom”. Inside, its editor warned “people need to have an idea when this will end”.

The paper also expressed its gratitude that Johnson “exhibited a welcome and characteristic optimism about seeing a way through amid the gloom”.

But when I went to the supermarket on Tuesday morning, there was little in the way of optimism. Rather, there was a stampede.


Boris Johnson says Britain is facing a “moment of national emergency” and must stay home for at least three weeks. (Reuters: Simon Dawson)

After Monday night’s volte-face, the local Sainsbury’s was nothing short of feral. When the door opened, I was almost knocked to the ground. Men and women, all adults, had broken into an open sprint.

Some have been bewildered by Johnson’s leadership. Others have been dismayed. But what seems clear is that for many, his attempts to quell panic by minimising the severity of the virus have only exacerbated it.

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

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Ask us your coronavirus questions


Hundreds of Australians are on a cruise ship about to dock in the virus epicentre, Italy


More than 200 Australians off the coast of Italy have been given the choice of staying on a potentially virus-laden cruise ship or walking ashore into what is now the world’s most deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Key points:

  • The Costa Victoria cruise ship will dock at Civitavecchia, west of Rome
  • There are also 70 Australians onboard the Azamara Pursuit cruise ship heading for Miami
  • An investigation on the Diamond Princess cruise ship found traces of coronavirus lasted on cabin surfaces for 17 days after passengers left

The Costa Victoria will dock at a port west of Rome after searching for a place that would accept them.

Around the world, 3,000 Australians are stranded on 25 cruise ships because countries have shut their borders due to coronavirus.

Retired teachers Julie Turnbull and Maria Manera are among the 1,500 passengers and crew on board the Costa Victoria, which has recorded one case of coronavirus.

“All the Australians I’ve spoken to on board have expressed their concern about landing in Italy because of the high rate of infections and deaths in Italy,” Ms Manera told 7.30.

Ms Turnbull and Ms Manera told 7.30 they have no idea what will happen when they arrive in Italy and said the cruise ship still had their passports.


Julie Turnbull is concerned about landing in Italy. (Supplied: Julie Turnbull)

They fear becoming sick on the ship or in Italy.

A few days after boarding the Costa Victoria, they became aware that the ship was unable to dock at various ports.


A lifebuoy on the cruise ship Costa Victoria. (Supplied: Julie Turnbull)

“It became clear that there was going to be problems because they cancelled the first stop in the Maldives. That happened because the Maldivian Government just wouldn’t let the ship in, so we started to worry a lot about what was going to happen after that,” Ms Turnbull said.

Earlier this week, the cruise ship company Costa Cruises revealed that an Argentinian passenger who left the ship in Crete on March 22 had tested positive to COVID-19.

Passengers were then isolated to their rooms.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is monitoring the ship’s plan to disembark passengers at Civitavecchia.

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

Virus survives on cabin surfaces for 17 days


The Diamond Princess cruise ship when it was quarantined in Japan. (Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha)

Australians on board eight cruise ships have told 7.30 they are nervous and scared about being trapped and feeling uncertain about how they will return to Australia if they disembark.

Those ships include the Costa Victoria, MSC Fantasia, Ocean Atlantic, Norwegian Princess, Norwegian Jewel, Maasdam, Azamara Pursuit, and MS Roald Amundsen.

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 closed cruise ship environment combined with large numbers of international travellers allows viruses to flourish.

In the case of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan last month, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that traces of coronavirus lasted on cabin surfaces for 17 days after all 3,700 passengers were evacuated.

While it was not clear if transmission occurred through surfaces, the investigation showed the virus was stubborn.

Many of the passengers would have also been unaware they were infected or aware that others on the ship were sick.

Of the 712 positive cases on board the Diamond Princess, nearly half showed no symptoms at the time they were tested.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Families worried about elderly Australians


Helen and Eddie Pawlowitsch on the Azamara Pursuit cruise ship. (Supplied)

Another ship, the Azamara Pursuit, is currently off the west coast of South America.

Seventy Australians are on board including Helen Pawlowitsch, 75, and her husband Eddie, 78, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on the ship.

The ship was unable to dock in Chile.

“When we left Perth on the 29th of February, there was no indication at all that there were any problems in South America,” Ms Pawlowitsch said.

The ship has been diverted to the US city of Miami, but the couple was worried about what awaits them.

It is feared the US may surpass Italy in becoming the world’s worst coronavirus hotspot.

“Flights are starting to cancel. We want to get back to Australia and see our loved ones, and at the moment it seems like a bit of a nightmare,” she said.

Their son, Peter Pawlowitsch, said he would pay any amount to get his parents home.

“When you’re in bed at night your mind does start to wander to the what-if scenarios — what if you can’t bring them home? What could happen? What if they get stuck in America? We’re seeing the numbers in America with this virus are just astronomical,” he said.

“You know Mum and Dad are elderly, they’ve had some [health] conditions, they are seriously at risk.”


‘Protecting our citizens’: Cruise ship passengers blocked from disembarking in NSW

Sydney 2000

The State Government will block anybody from disembarking cruise ships in New South Wales until new border protections are in place.

Key points:

  • NSW strengthened its rules for cruise ships after being criticised over Ruby Princess passengers disembarking in Sydney
  • The Federal Government last week restricted all cruise ships from entering Australia
  • About a dozen cruise ships waiting to dock are now in limbo

The move will leave thousands of people who have been trying to get back to port stranded.

The Federal Government last week restricted all cruise ships from entering Australia for 30 days.

The ABC understands there are close to a dozen cruise ships wanting to dock because they were at sea when the restriction was put in place.

But they are now in limbo.

“No-one will be allowed to leave any of these cruise ships until we have settled on the agreed new measures,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

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

The State and Federal Government are working on new guidelines, but what they will include and when they will be decided upon is unclear.

“Today I have personally spoken to the Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram and Minister Peter Dutton and we agree we stand shoulder to shoulder on protecting our citizens,” Ms Berejiklian said.


The Ruby Princess was docked in Sydney while several passengers had COVID-19. (Instagram: Supplied)

The move came after a war of words broke out between federal and state authorities over who was to blame for allowing 2,700 passengers to disembark from the Ruby Princess cruise ship last week.

More than 130 passengers from the vessel have tested positive for coronavirus, including a 77-year-old woman who died earlier this week.

When the ship docked in Sydney 13 people were suffering from respiratory problems and were tested, but passengers were allowed to leave before the results came back.

Earlier on Wednesday Ms Berejiklian said “all of us have to take responsibility” for the Ruby Princess being allowed to dock.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) said it was NSW Health that allowed the passengers to disembark.

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 Department of Agriculture officials advised my officers that New South Wales Health had conducted a risk assessment, had rated the risk as low and that health officials would not be attending the vessel,” Mr Outram said.

“As a result of that information, all of the passengers were given a green light to disembark.”

But NSW Health has defended itself, saying it followed national protocols and even exceeded them.

The state has already strengthened its rules for cruise ships after being criticised for its handling of the Ruby Princess.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

If there is any suspicion of coronavirus, tests must be carried out and results returned before passengers can disembark.

A report will be released in the coming days on the decisions the Berejiklian Government made about the Ruby Princess.

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez tracks the major coronavirus developments

(ABC News)


‘We have a deal’: US Congress reaches agreement on $US2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package

United States

US senators and the Trump administration have struck an agreement on a sweeping $US2 trillion ($3.3 trillion) package to aid workers, businesses and a healthcare system strained by the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • The package was expected to include funding for hard-hit industries and direct payments for families
  • Donald Trump has said he would like the country to reopen by Easter
  • The US has recorded more than 660 COVID-19 deaths

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight (local time).

The agreement came after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” Mr Ueland said.

The package is expected to include a $US500 billion fund to help hard-hit industries and a comparable amount for direct payments of up to $US3,000 to millions of US families.

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.

It will also include $US350 billion for small-business loans, $US250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and $US75 billion for hospitals.

It aims to combat what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called “the most serious threat to Americans’ health in over a century and quite likely the greatest risk to America’s jobs and prosperity that we’ve seen since the Great Depression”.

COVID-19 has killed more than 660 people in the US and infected more than 55,000.

The pandemic has shuttered thousands of businesses, left millions out of work and led states to order 100 million people — nearly a third of the population — to stay at home.

The money in the stimulus legislation exceeds what the US Government spends on national defence, scientific research, highway construction and other discretionary programs.


COVID-19 has killed more than 660 people in the US and infected more than 55,000. (Reuters: Andrew Kelly)

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

Trump wants to reopen US by Easter

Yet even as the public-health crisis deepened, US President Donald Trump expressed eagerness to nudge many people back to work in the coming weeks, suggested the country could be returning to normal in less than a month.

“We have to go back to work much sooner than people thought,” Mr Trump told a Fox News town hall.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

He said he would like to have the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter on April 12.

But in a White House briefing later, Mr Trump said “our decision will be based on hard facts and data”.


Donald Trump said he would like to see the US reopen by Easter. (Reuters: Carlos Barria)

Medical professionals say physical distancing needs to be stepped up, not relaxed, to slow the spread of infections.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

At the White House briefing, public health authorities said it was particularly important for people in the hard-hit New York City metropolitan area to quarantine themselves for 14 days, and for those who had recently left the city to do the same.

Anthony Fauci, the Government’s top infectious disease expert: “No-one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.”

‘Approve the deal without all the nonsense’

Ravaged in recent days, US stocks rocketed as negotiators signalled a resolution was in sight.

External Link:

@realDonaldTrump Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today. The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy. Our workers will be hurt!

Opening the Senate on Tuesday, Mr McConnell combined optimism about the chances for a deal with frustration at the delays — and a sober view of the crisis at hand.

“The urgency and the gravity of this moment cannot be lost on anyone,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Trump urged swift action.

“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today,” he tweeted.

“The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy.”

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)



There’s a simple reason we get mixed messages from Morrison and the premiers


As the latest round of social directives sinks in and Australians tussle with the (in most cases rhetorical) question of why they can only invite three people to their wedding but nine to their squat challenge in the park, the better question to ask is a broader one.

Why does public advice seem to disagree with itself? Why are federal and state governments saying different things?

The messages are confusing. But the reasons for the differences are pretty simple.

In politics, it’s always important to remember who’s talking, and what skin they have in the game. What are their responsibilities and their risks?

In last night’s National Cabinet meeting, as has been happening for some time now, the Victorian Premier pushed for a full lockdown like Britain’s. This is an approach that is resisted by the Federal Government.

Here’s why. State governments run hospitals. State health ministers and premiers are the political figures with the most scar tissue from hospital disasters. So anything a state leader can do to “flatten the curve” is not only in the interest of public health, it’s also in the interest of their own personal political health.

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

What about schools?

State leaders are also much less likely to achieve social distancing from teachers’ unions; it’s why they are much more sympathetic to the idea of closing schools. Oh yeah — they run schools, too. They want to reduce numbers of kids at school to safeguard teachers, which is why NSW and Victoria have gone further than the Federal Government on this front.

Why is the Prime Minister continuing to advise that schools should stay open?

First, because the Chief Medical Officer is advising him that there is not compelling evidence that kids get infected with this virus. Second, because sending kids to school makes parents more able to do their day jobs.

Video: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said people should stay home if possible.

(ABC News)

And Centrelink?

Which brings us neatly to the third point: While hospitals are the states’ responsibility, Centrelink is the Commonwealth’s.

The welfare of the economy more broadly is a Commonwealth concern.

Which is why the PM is parsing all these announcements as finely as he can.

It creates confusion, but the PM’s objective is to keep every single person in work who can feasibly be kept in work. Every person who stays in work is one fewer person lining up outside a Centrelink office.

Video: Queues form outside Centrelink offices for the second day.

(ABC News)

The wedding problem

Let’s go to the wedding/boot camp comparison (first taking a moment silently to reflect that we have now lived long enough to see an Australian Prime Minister, late at night, getting deep into the weeds on why a marriage is different from boot camp, as well as mentioning “waxing” to an upsettingly unprecedented degree).

Why do weddings have different rules from personal training sessions?

Well, a wedding is indoors, under the PM’s broad presumption (this is not always the case, of course). The celebrant (one of the five permitted participants) is getting paid. They get paid the same whomever is there. The social purpose of the wedding (two people being joined for life so they can go home and quickly go off each other on Day One of working from home together) is fulfilled no matter how many guests are there.

“Now, what we’re talking about of people up to 10 for a training, that is a business, that is someone’s livelihood,” explained the Prime Minister last night.

“And you’re saying that I should turn their livelihood off and I’m not going to do that lightly. And if it’s not believed to be necessary based on the medical expert advice, I’m not going to be cavalier about people’s jobs and their businesses.”

Video: Mr Morrison said private gatherings in homes should be kept to "very small numbers of guests".

(ABC News)

Two images shows the conflict

It seemed odd, in the middle of the nation’s greatest crisis in living memory, to hear our leader discussing “boot camps” in such detail. (Earlier, Mr Morrison had tried to pronounce the word “barre” and failed, leaving an anxious nation gripped temporarily by fear that French headwear was also to be denied us for the immediate future.)

But as an example, it’s a pretty good illustration of the conflicting interests the PM is trying to juggle here. Is he making the right call? We are a democracy. The nation will cast its judgment in due course.

“Understand this,” the PM continued. “This country is not dealing with one crisis. We’re dealing with two crises. We’re dealing with a health crisis that has caused an economic crisis.

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.

“And I am very concerned about the economic crisis that could also take a great toll on people’s lives, not just their livelihoods, the stresses that that will put on families. The things that can happen when families are under stress. I’m as concerned about those outcomes as I am about the health outcomes of managing the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“And it is a delicate task for the National Cabinet to balance those two. Lives are at risk in both cases. And so the National Cabinet won’t just rush on the sense of an opinion of inevitability. We will calmly consider the medical advice that is put to us and weigh those things up and make sensible decisions as leaders. I will not be cavalier about it, and neither will other premiers and chief ministers.”

If you want two images that express the extremes of the potential disasters that face our nation right now, one is every Australian queued up at Centrelink and the other is every Australian gasping in a hospital corridor.

That’s the reason for the differing advice; different leaders are placing themselves at different points along that continuum, depending on what it is for which they’re each responsible, and depending also — as usual — on what they value most, which varies according to ideology.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Two movements are emerging

The “Save the economy, and let the health consequences rip” argument doesn’t seem to have much mainstream traction here. It’s bigger in the United States, where Donald Trump has repeatedly mused that he would like to see social distancing ease off soon, and Texan senator Dan Patrick called on seniors to sacrifice themselves for the economy.

The “Shut everything down, and hang the economy” movement is more established in Australia. And it’s true that if everyone in Australia retired to a 2x2m space and had no contact with anyone for a fortnight, the virus would be stopped in its tracks.

But a lot of people would die that way too.

What the second stimulus package will mean for you
A suite of new measures have been unveiled to soften the economic blow dealt by coronavirus. But what do they mean for your wallet?

In the absence of either pure approach, we have what we usually have in the world of democracy: An imperfect and messy compromise, in which we are asked to trust our elected representatives to make the right call.

The fact that trust in our political system is at an abysmal low right now is an almost cartoonishly cruel coefficient, given that for any Government directives to work as intended, they need to be complied with widely.

In these circumstances, responsibility for one’s own behaviour becomes hugely important. As does awareness of others’ circumstances.

Not everyone has the capacity to stay home. Not everyone can afford to shut down. And our essential workers (in health, education, transport, logistics, food supply) are in some cases being asked to take on monumental burdens and risks, for which the rest of us should be devoutly grateful.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)


‘This is a no-brainer’: Sarah is a qualified nurse, but she’s not allowed to help the COVID-19 fight

Perth 6000

Sarah Parekh completed her nursing degree in Perth, is registered and wants to join the frontline fight against the coronavirus outbreak, treating patients in a public hospital.

Key points:

  • The nurses’ union is calling for visa restrictions to be eased
  • Australia is allowing 20,000 nursing students to work in the health system
  • WA Health minister Roger Cook said he would appeal to lift the visa rules

But she is not allowed to because she is from Germany and not a permanent resident or citizen.

“I’m a registered nurse, I’m registered with our AHPRA [the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency],” she said.

“I’m a fully qualified nurse, so yeah I’ve got all the skills that a nurse needs to help out at the moment.

“I definitely would like to support Western Australia in this big coronavirus crisis.”

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

Restrictions lifted on nursing students

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced restrictions were being lifted on some 20,000 international nursing students working in the health system.

It means they can work more than 40 hours per fortnight, doing simple tasks and freeing up experienced nurses.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 278
  • Deaths: 2
  • Tested negative: 12,693

Latest information from the WA Health Department

“They’re going to be available to support the health effort right across the country, as directed by our health officials,” the Prime Minister explained at a media conference on March 18.

But when Ms Parekh tried to apply for a job with WA Health, there was a check box requiring candidates to be permanent residents or citizens.

“Why is Australia letting their 20,000 international nursing students work full time, but don’t make it possible for their already qualified and graduated international nurses to help?” she asked.

“If there are 20,000 international student nurses, there must be an equivalent of 20,000 international graduates with full qualification here as well.”

‘This is a no-brainer’

She called for the criteria to be eased and in a letter to WA Premier Mark McGowan requested nurses be added to the graduate state sponsorship list, under which the WA Government can nominate them for a skills visa.

“May I please ask you to review the graduate state sponsorship list, so that registered graduate nurses like me, who have been a part of this community for years and would like to support and strengthen this state with our skills, can join the WA health workforce now that we are so strongly needed,” she wrote.

Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Mark Olsen said international graduates like Ms Parekh would be a “wonderful asset” at the moment and there was no question they should be allowed to work.


Mark Olsen says it is clear that qualified health workers should be allowed to work. (ABC News: Glyn Jones)

“This is a no-brainer,” he said.

“If we’ve got those who have done their education in nursing education in this country, they’ve recently qualified, then the Government should be putting the call out and saying, ‘Listen, call our office and we’ll arrange to make sure that you find you’re able to work as a part-time or full-time employee’.”

Health Minister says it’s ‘all hands on deck’

Nurses were recently taken off the state sponsorship list because local graduates were struggling to find work.

But Mr Olsen said that was not the case anymore.

WA’s travel restrictions explained
West Australians are told to cancel holiday plans and stay home to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. So you can wave goodbye to that Easter break down south.

“We have to be able to respond if we’re going to meet the challenges of this crisis, we’ve got to be flexible,” he said.

Health Minister Roger Cook said it was “all hands on deck” when it came to fighting COVID-19.

“We’ll take anyone that’s got the qualifications and is ready to give it a go,” Mr Cook said.

“If there are nurses or doctors that don’t fit exactly inside the [visa] arrangements, we’ll certainly be making representations to the Commonwealth to make sure we can help them join our forces.”

The Prime Minister’s office and the Home Affairs Department have been contacted for comment.

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

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‘We’re stranded’: Thousands of travellers stuck in caravan parks as coronavirus closes borders

Halls Gap 3381

The Schoon family are used to travelling the world, but not like this.

Key points:

  • The caravan industry estimates there could be 75,000 travellers stuck in caravan parks across the country
  • With many states and territories closing their borders, travellers are stuck amid reports supermarkets will only sell to locals
  • The Prime Minister has made it clear that people who are stuck are essential travellers and should be welcome in caravan parks

During their fourth visit to Australia from Belgium, they find themselves stranded in one of the country’s many caravan parks with nowhere else to go.

They’ve booked flights out of the country only to see them cancelled.

“Nobody knows exactly how long we will be stuck here and that’s a strange feeling,” Koen Schoon said.

Tens of thousands of travellers could be stuck in Australia’s caravan parks, as Australia’s states and territories tighten their borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have all introduced tough new border restrictions, as Australia’s coronavirus cases pass 2,000.

The Caravan Industry Association of Australia estimates there could be 75,000 people in the country’s caravan parks at the moment.

“There’s a lot who can’t get home and they need to bunker down and get a safe place to ride this out,” the association’s general manager Chris Johnson said.

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

International travellers can’t get flights out

Mr Schoon and his wife are travelling around Australia in a small van with their three young children.


The Schoon family from Belgium is stuck in the Grampians National Park, unable to get a flight back home. (Supplied: Koen Schoon)

They are stuck in the Grampians National Park in western Victoria, at the Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park.

“Some people are saying it could be one month and others talk about six months,” he said.

“I’ve called the embassy in Canberra, but it’s the first time everyone is dealing with this.”

The Schoons were six weeks into their Australian adventure and were due to fly home at the end of April.

“For the kids it’s a long holiday and they like the weather, and the animals, and at the moment they can play outside,” Mr Schoon said.

“I’m worried about the financial side. My work will pay for one more month and then it will stop.”

But he was remaining positive.

“It is stressful, but if there is one place I would want to be right now it’s in Australia,” he said.

“It’s a good place to be and it’s a safe place. It’s worse in Belgium. People have to stay inside and everything is closed. Social lives have gone.

“If everybody here stays at home, maybe in two weeks the virus might be gone.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak


Julie and Rene Thalmann say they are due back home on the Gold Coast in June. (Supplied: Rene Thalmann)

Towns not so caravan-friendly as they once were

Coronavirus questions answered
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For many Australians, jumping in the caravan and travelling around the country for months at a time is a tradition.

This year, though, it is posing a few extra challenges.

Rene and Julie Thalmann have rented out their Gold Coast home until June and have been travelling for months in their caravan.

“We are virtually stranded and if everywhere closes, it would be challenging,” Mr Thalmann said.

“My stress levels will rise when we have to figure out how to get across two state borders once our home is available again.”

Some regional towns have called on caravaners to stay away, worried they might bring the virus in.

Some supermarkets grappling with a massive increase in demand are also only selling to locals.

“We are now seeing a lot of towns that would have been caravan-friendly and now they aren’t,” Mr Thalmann said.

“We can only try to explain our situation. Most of the caravaners — we are 65 and 60 — it’s in their interest to practise social distancing anyway, and we have been doing that for a month.

“I feel that, deep down, we are all still humans and eventually it will become clear that we need to find solutions.”

Confusion clears for caravan park owners

On Tuesday night, the Federal Government made it clear that caravan parks should not take in non-essential travellers.

The Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s Chris Johnson said that cleared up a lot of confusion.

“There was a lot of confusion as to what was essential travel and what was not,” he said.

“The Government has seen that workers, people who live within caravan parks, and also people who are travelling around Australia and cannot get back to their place of residence, are classed as essential travellers and are welcome at caravan parks.”


Josephina and Rohan McDonald have opened the Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park to people who have nowhere else to go. (Supplied: Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park)

Josephina and Rohan McDonald own and operate the Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park where the Thalmanns and Schoons have been staying.

Earlier in the week, they decided to stop taking bookings, despite there being no clear direction from governments if that was the course of action needed to be taken.

“My core business is non-essential travel, so I used my common sense and knowledge and thought we couldn’t continue to operate,” Josephina McDonald said.

“We tried to make a plan A, B and C, but we didn’t get much further than A.”

The park is only taking people who have nowhere to go, and they have set up an online form for people to fill out.

“We have to differentiate between essential and non-essential, and we are being very careful and dealing with it case by case,” Ms McDonald said.

“I will ring them up afterwards and chat to them about their situation.

“We are still charging $20 for a site, but we also have a few cabins where people can self-isolate if they need to.”

Business is suffering

Ms McDonald said she had cancelled $500,000 in forward bookings.

The Easter school holidays are typically a busy time, and the Grampians is one of Victoria’s biggest drawcards.

“We have had to lay off staff so they can go to Centrelink and work out their situations,” Ms McDonald said.

“The honest truth is you wake up extremely positive and the next day you’re flat and aware of the fact you might not be standing by the end of it. It’s just horrible.”

Ms McDonald said, while her business was suffering, she felt happy she could at least provide a roof for those with nowhere to turn.

“There are people who are desperate and are stuck,” she said.

“I have a strong feeling we will go into a lockdown — there are a lot of people out there who don’t have a house or a roof over their heads.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)


Victoria retracts coronavirus cases confirmed in regional areas by mistake

Shepparton East 3631

The Victorian Health Department has apologised for confirming a number of COVID-19 cases in regional areas of the state that later proved to be incorrect.

Key points:

  • As of Wednesday’s update, the total number of cases in Victoria is 466, including 47 in regional areas
  • Incorrect reports have created confusion in some communities, with people airing their frustration on social media
  • The Opposition says it is crucial that the Government passes on accurate information to the public

The department initially reported cases for Greater Shepparton and East Gippsland but retracted the data “after further investigation”.

The incorrect information had been sent to media outlets and posted on the department’s website as part of a daily update detailing the number of new coronavirus cases.

On Monday, the department reported one case for East Gippsland but made a retraction today.

Also on Monday, it said two earlier cases had been removed after further investigation.

And in an alert issued yesterday, the department confirmed a third coronavirus case for Greater Shepparton, however a spokesperson this morning told the ABC a correction would be issued.

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

Miscommunication around case messaging

Goulburn Valley Health chief executive Matt Sharp told his hundreds of followers in a Facebook post on Tuesday evening that incorrect reports were circulating of a third case in Shepparton.

“I can advise at this time, the third reported case appears to be an error,” he wrote.

“I can confirm there are two confirmed cases of COVID-19 at this time, as detailed in my previous posts.”

The post sparked confusion within the community, with some taking to Facebook to air their frustration.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak


Matt Sharp used Facebook to reject reports of a third case in Greater Shepparton. (Supplied)

A spokesperson for the department said the error for Greater Shepparton was due to one case being counted twice, while testing of a suspected case in East Gippsland proved negative.

They apologised for the confusion and said information was constantly being reviewed and followed up as part of contact tracing.

According to today’s update, the total number of cases in Victoria is 466, including 47 in regional areas.

The department’s data confirmed a fresh case for East Gippsland.

There are eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Victoria that may have been acquired through community transmission.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

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.

‘It’s truly testing all of us’

Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said it was crucial the Government passed on accurate information to the public.

“I think everyone understands that this is a very difficult time for everybody, it’s truly testing all of us,” Ms Crozier said.

“We need to all be saying the same thing so that people don’t get confused, that they understand what’s going on and have trust in the authorities that are dealing with this very serious issue.

“Our doctors and nurses, our paramedics, all of those people who work in our hospitals, all of those people who are trying to assist the general community during this really difficult time, are doing a tremendous job and they need to be supported too.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Following this morning’s updated figures, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton reinforced the need for people to take social distancing seriously.

“Social distancing will save lives,” Professor Sutton said.

“Everyone needs to comply with restrictions in place to keep yourself, your loved ones and the whole community safe.

“We urge everyone to stay 1.5 metres away from everyone else, wash your hands often with soap and water, and cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.”

A spokesperson for the department said it was “working around the clock to get accurate and timely information on reporting of cases to the public on a daily basis”. 

“The data coming into the department is dynamic and subject to change, as it is collected from a range of sources and is reviewed hour by hour.”

Video: The Virus: Jeremy Fernandez tracks the major coronavirus developments

(ABC News)


Booze takes back seat as rum, gin distillers turn hands to sanitiser production

Bundaberg 4670

They may be more accustomed to making rum and gin, but as coronavirus spreads some distillers have turned to another type of alcohol product — hand sanitiser.

Key points:

  • Distilleries around the country are donating ethanol or producing hand sanitiser amid unprecedented demand
  • Some have ceased making consumable alcohol, while others will continue to supply both products
  • One distiller that has had to lay off staff said sanitiser production would allow it to keep some workers

Bundaberg Rum and Beenleigh Rum distillery in Queensland, Illegal Tender Rum in Western Australia and Newcastle’s Earp Distilling have begun either supplying ethanol for hand sanitiser or making it themselves.

Effective hand sanitisers have an ethanol content of at least 60 per cent and with demand surging alcoholic beverage manufacturers are stepping in to help.

External Link:

Newcastle distillery pivots to making hand sanitiser, as bar turns to bottle shop

“Given the unprecedented situation we are working through at the moment we felt we had a duty to step up and help Australians,” said Bundaberg Rum marketing manager Duncan Littler.

“We are incredibly proud of the team that are working through the night and day to be able to make the donation.

“We want to make sure we have plans in place and I can assure you that this ethanol donation will not impact the supply of rum to bottle shops around Australia.”

Bundaberg Rum says it will donate 100,000 litres of ethanol to the Queensland Government to distribute to other manufacturers to make half a million bottles of sanitiser.

The Beenleigh Rum Distillery in south-east Queensland has also started producing hand sanitiser for schools and front line workers, including Queensland Police.

Hundreds of litres a day

It is a similar story in Western Australia, where Dongara-based distiller Illegal Tender Rum has halted its usual operation to produce alcohol to make hand sanitiser for hospitals and the public.


Codie Palmer from Illegal Tender Rum in Dongara is about to begin producing hand sanitiser after ceasing rum production. (ABC Mid West WA: Joanna Prendergast)

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

Distillers Codie Palmer and Hayley Wells said they will soon be able to produce about 4,000 litres of sanitiser a week.

“We were just trying to work out how we could help as opposed to just sitting back and closing,” Ms Wells said.

“We had to set up a separate email address because [the requests] just started coming in.

“We had [300 emails from] people asking to buy alcohol, but obviously we can’t sell alcohol at [the required] percentage.

“We’re looking to supply the front line medical teams.

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“From there it will go out to family members with low immune systems.”

Ms Wells said the sanitiser would be 80 per cent alcohol, and she expected final approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration within days.

The business had to lay off casual workers when the restaurant attached to the distillery closed, Ms Wells said, but the sanitiser business would allow it to keep some staff.


Operations manager and head distiller of Earp Distilling Co. Cameron Burns discusses bottling with marketing manager Josh Earp. (ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)

‘Lines around the corner’

Newcastle’s Earp Distilling Co. has also switched to making hand sanitiser, but marketing manager Josh Earp said the distillery would also continue to produce gin.

“Actually producing the hand sanitiser relies mainly on having the ingredients to do so,” he said.

“As a distillery, we have significant quantities of the main ingredient, ethanol.

“We want to ensure that we can supply sanitiser for as long as possible, and that means being able to trade as a bottle shop in some form.

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 are able to produce ethanol from sugar as a base onsite, which means that unless there is a significant demand for sugar anytime soon, and we were restricted, we foresee there being no issues to continuing production of ethanol.

“Over the last three days we’ve seen a huge demand for the sanitiser.

“We’ve had lines around the corner each day with the general public trying to get their their hands on bottles to look after their family, their friends and themselves.”

Push to shore up supply chain

Transforming distilleries into hand sanitiser producers has been flagged as the first in a series of measures to boost local production.


Ethanol from the Bundaberg Rum distillery will go into hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand sanitiser. (ABC Wide Bay: Ross Kay)

Queensland Manufacturing Minister Cameron Dick said he had asked companies to identify ways they could help with in-demand supplies.

“One of the sectors of our economy that’s so important to keep going is manufacturing,” he said.

“I’m working to ask companies to look at what they’re producing to see if they can change their production system so other supplies can now be produced in Queensland factories.

“We’re putting all these pieces in place and over the next little while we’ll get production going out into the Queensland community.

“Many companies … are responding to our call to arms for manufacturers to help produce the products our frontline health workers, in particular, and other Queenslanders need at this difficult time.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)


Border Force boss slaps down NSW Government over handling of coronavirus cruise ship

Sydney 2000

The Australian Border Force (ABF) commissioner has tipped a bucket on the NSW Government over its handling of the arrival of a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Sydney last week.

Key points:

  • The total number of coronavirus cases in NSW has jumped to over 1,000
  • In the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday, 211 people returned positive results
  • Many of the new cases are linked to passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship

As the cases of COVID-19 passed 1,000 in NSW today, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “all of us have to take responsibility” about why the Ruby Princess was allowed to dock.

Later in the morning, Australian Border Force (ABF) commissioner Michael Outram pointed the finger squarely at the NSW Government, saying its health department had given the green light for passengers to disembark, despite several people onboard being tested for coronavirus.

About 2,700 passengers got off at Circular Quay last week and more than 100 have since tested positive for COVID-19.


Passengers disembarked from the Ruby Princess at Circular Quay on March 19. (AAP: Dean Lewins )

“The Department of Agriculture officials advised my officers that New South Wales Health had conducted a risk assessment, had rated the risk as low and that health officials would not be attending the vessel,” he said.

“As a result of that information, all of the passengers were given a green light to disembark.”

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

In the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday, 212 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in NSW, taking the state’s total number of infections to 1,029.

NSW’s Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said many of the new COVID-19 cases were linked to the Ruby Princess.

Yesterday a woman in her 70s who contracted the virus on the ship became the seventh coronavirus-related death in NSW.

NSW Premier grilled on COVID-19 cruise
The Government comes under fire for multiple COVID-19 cases on the Ruby Princess cruise ship. Watch the full press conference here.

Mr Outram said the ABF was responsible for customs and migration controls at the border, but not health screening.

“People can make their own minds up about what went wrong and no doubt further down the track there will be lots of inquiries about what happened,” he said.

Mr Outram said having seen the criticism directed against his organisation and officers he felt it was important “to clarify some actual facts.”

A report will be released in coming days on decisions the Berejiklian Government made around the Ruby Princess.

Dr Chant stressed there was nothing NSW Health could have done with the information they had at the time.

She said most passengers displayed symptoms of the virus only after disembarking but confirmed that one passenger was taken straight to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital after the ship docked.

Video: NSW authorities confirm first infections in children under 10.

(ABC News)

Despite the record rise in new cases, the Premier insisted “some” degree of control is being maintained over the virus.

Ms Berejiklian said most people in NSW with coronavirus had been infected overseas or after direct contact with someone who had been overseas.

“That tells us to an extent that we are maintaining some control over the virus,” Ms Berejiklain 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 state has recorded its first two cases of coronavirus in children under 10, after a two-month-old boy and seven-year-old girl tested positive yesterday.

Dr Chant said the cases were not linked, and that both had contact with confirmed adult cases.

She said they were now at home with minimal symptoms.

Last night Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new crackdown on social gatherings, which Ms Berejiklian said she supported.

She acknowledged the tighter measures would likely mean more people would be sacked.

But as a result of added pressure on Service NSW, the Premier announced 1,000 extra staff would be hired to work for the State Government agency.

Video: Dr Norman Swan explains how Australia could beat COVID-19

(ABC News)


By delaying Tokyo Games, the International Olympic Committee finally admits it’s not the main game in town


The International Olympic Committee has announced the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is now officially Tokyo 2021.

Key Points:

  • The Tokyo 2020 Olympic games have been postponed until 2021
  • Australia had already said it would not attend the games if held in July 2020
  • The Olympic Flame will remain in Japan until the games are held

On Tuesday evening Tokyo time, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined IOC president Thomas Bach and other Olympic officials — including Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates — in a conference call where it was agreed the Games be postponed due to the global impact of coronavirus.

It’s the only decision that could be made after they’d seemingly been backed into a corner with nowhere to go.

As with most things Olympic there are layers of protocol, mystery and ceremony, sometimes rendering the organisation tone-deaf.

Tuesday night’s statement from the IOC sounded like a diary note from a human resources bonding exercise.

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

“In a very friendly and constructive meeting, the two leaders praised the work of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee and noted the great progress being made in Japan to fight against COVID-19.”

The Games will be rescheduled “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021”.

Decisions in non-record time

When people look back on this episode it won’t be Thomas Bach they remember; it will be the IOC’s longest-serving member, Canada’s Dick Pound.


IOC member Dick Pound was quick to question whether the Olympics should go ahead in 2020. (Reuters: Christinne Muschi)

A month ago he kickstarted the conversation with a string of media interviews suggesting it was time to make a call on Tokyo 2020 amid the coronavirus crisis.

To be fair, the IOC said it wouldn’t be rushed into making a decision with time on its side — the Games were still four months away.

But they weren’t even convincing the true believers — the athletes.

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.

Voices from around the world were growing, anxious for an explanation as to why it was expected athletes should continue training while much of humanity had been ordered into self-isolation.

Canada’s Olympic Committee looked as though it forced the IOC’s hand when, on Monday Australian time, it suggested there would be no Team Canada if the Games began on July 24, 2020 as scheduled.

It was unethical, it said, for athletes to be burdened with the pressure of training for the Games when something much bigger was at stake.

“This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health,” the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees jointly wrote in a letter to Thomas Bach.

“The two committees are calling on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games for a year, citing the safety of athletes and the general public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Almost immediately after the Canadians’ letter was made public, Australia’s Olympic Committee issued a similar statement saying it had instructed its athletes to “prepare for the Games being delayed by a year”.

Team GB joined in. NZ followed. The Americans added their weight.


The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are being postponed until 2021 (Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha)

Twenty-four hours later, the IOC finally confirmed what Pound had already told USA Today — the Games would be postponed.

A year of tough adjustments

In a year’s time this decision will be viewed as an easy one when compared to a host of others that must now be made.

Organisers face unpacking years of detail, only to have to repackage it all in 12 months.

The Olympic Village, home to 11,500 athletes, was to be handed over to new owners once the Olympic and Paralympic games finished this year. How do they re-negotiate that?

Scheduling an Olympics in a crowded global sports market means world championships in sports like athletics and swimming must now make way for an Olympics in a non-Olympic year.

What of the athletes who’ve already qualified? Do those qualifications stand for an extra 12 months when others may be performing better by then?

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Merchandise will need to be mothballed and warehoused; tickets will need to be withdrawn, reprinted, and re-issued.

Will advertisers want their money back? As a global recession hits, will the sponsors come back in a year from now? Will some of them have disappeared from the landscape all together?

An historic decision

For the first time, something other than a world war has forced the Games to be postponed.

Tokyo had been awarded the 1940 Olympics and London was to be the host four years later, however both Games were cancelled because of World War II.


The last Olympic Games to be called off, in 1940, were also hosted by Tokyo. (AP: Jae C. Hong)

The Games have survived a terrorist attack and massacre, in Munich 1972, and Cold War boycotts in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984.

But the record books will tell how in 2020 the show could not go on as it had in the past because of an illness sweeping around the globe.

A costly decision

The Olympic flame had already arrived in Japan, with the torch relay, dubbed a “recovery relay”, due to begin in Fukushima on Thursday.

Ten thousand runners were to take a message of hope through more than 800 towns in all 47 prefectures, arriving at the main stadium on July 24 for the Games opening ceremony.

Earlier this week the Japan Times wrote: “Like ‘a canary in a coal mine’: Olympic torch relay could foreshadow postponement of Tokyo Games.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

The 12-month delay is expected to cost Japan about $US6 billion ($10 billion), according to one Japanese economics professor, the only upside being it would cost more to cancel the Games altogether.

Tokyo organisers have already spent between $US12 billion ($20 billion) and $US26 billion ($44 billion), depending on which report you believe.

The price just went up at a time when stock markets have been going down.

Much of the IOC’s income comes from one source — US broadcaster, NBC.

In 2014, the network paid nearly $US8 billion ($13 billion) for the rights to six Olympics through to 2032.

It’s a fair bet Japan’s leader, Shinzo Abe, wasn’t the only caller for Thomas Bach in the past few days.

The president of operations and strategy for the NBC Sports Group, Gary Zenkel, was likely another.

He who pays the piper calls the tune, they say.

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

The decision to postpone is also an admission, of sorts

The Olympic movement has recognised it is not the main game right now.

It’s a position the IOC is becoming more familiar with.

As its supporter base ages it has tried to win over a younger audience, with the addition of a Youth Olympic Games and the inclusion of sports such as surfing, skateboarding, 3×3 basketball and sport climbing.

The younger audience will be another year older before the new sports make their Olympic debut.

Host cities no longer line up to outbid each other as they once did.

The youth of the world care more for social media than world records.

The world is changing; so too the Olympics’ place in it.

And now, much of the planet is in lockdown for a disease nobody had heard of before this year.

COVID-19 has hit Japan twice — first with the docking of the Diamond Princess, and now with the postponement of the Olympic Games.

For Tokyo, like many, 2021 cannot come fast enough.


Understanding personality may explain why some of us are more prone to toilet paper panic


To some people, fighting in the aisles over toilet paper makes sense. Driven by the social proof of empty shelves and in fear of losing out, they fight.

To others, such behaviour would be unthinkable. Clearly some cope differently to others when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. The question is, why?

Our behaviour is not that rational. And it’s influenced by many factors, including change of context, habit and the focus of this piece — personality.

Personality is thought to be fairly stable across time and context, and difficult to change. So why bother to understand 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.

Exposing the cues your personality is sending will give you some choice over how to cope with the scarcity, threat of disease or social isolation the COVID-19 pandemic has brought.

And if you’re lucky, you might just catch those personality cues in time and make better behavioural choices.

The big 5 traits

To understand personality let’s use the Big Five Aspect Scale.

The big five traits are commonly known by the acronym OCEAN. It stands for: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

Each of those traits is a continuum. For example, on the extraversion trait scale extraversion is at one extreme and introversion at the other.

And each trait is comprised of two aspects:

  • openness is comprised of openness to experience, and intelligence or preference for abstract thinking
  • conscientiousness is made up of the aspects industriousness, or work drive, and orderliness
  • extraversion is comprised of enthusiasm and assertiveness
  • agreeableness is comprised of compassion and politeness
  • neuroticism or susceptibility to negative emotion is comprised of the aspects, withdrawal and volatility, the latter a kind of defensive aggression.

What does this mean for how we respond?

So, what kinds of behavioural cues are those aspects of your personality likely to send you about coping with the coronavirus?

While it’s still early days, the behavioural impact of this pandemic appears to be gathering around three themes — anxiety, social distancing and micro public disorder.

At a time like this anxiety is likely to loom large, particularly if you are high in neuroticism.


If volatility is a large part of your personality, empty shelves could trigger a strong behavioural response. (Supplied: Matthew Guthrie)

While the withdrawal aspect of neuroticism describes psychological rather than physical withdrawal, the new behavioural norms of social distancing being broadcast will feel very natural if withdrawal is an important aspect of your personality.

But if volatility is a large part of your make-up, empty shelves could trigger a strong desire for you to defend your right to your share.

Negative or defensive aggression cues like those, if strong enough, could overwhelm the more considered part of your thinking.

If unchecked or, worse, provoked by jostling crowds, for instance, you could find yourself arguing over toilet paper, despite being mild-mannered most other times.

Another big change we are facing is social distancing.

Being low on extraversion, enforced social distancing could be an absolute boon — your guilty little secret. At last you have a socially sanctioned excuse to keep those noisy extraverts at bay and be left alone to your rich inner world.

Self-awareness will help

If you’re conscientious too, and high in aspect orderliness, you get the chance to have everything at home just so.

You can colour-coordinate your wardrobe and have all the hangers pointing the same way. Or better still you can put the tins in your pantry in alphabetical order, with the smallest packages to the front, labels facing outward, of course.

If you’re high in trait extraversion, something scarce is likely to be very attractive. Seeking out excitement and opportunity, you’re likely drawn to the very thing you can’t have, those elusive toilet rolls.


If you’re conscientious and high in aspect orderliness, you may find the chance to make everything at home just so. (Pixabay)

And then there are the outbreaks of micro public disorder, cracks in the façade of acceptable behaviour that expose glimpses of something ugly below.

If you’re highly conscientious, it’s probably not so much that you enjoy working hard or being organised, but that you really can’t stand being idle or in a mess.

Faced with shortages, you’re likely to want to be ready for the worst. The urge to hoard, and the temptation to work hard at it, could be difficult to resist.

Disagreeable people want to compete and dominate. So, if you’re low in agreeableness, the cues you’ll be getting will not be so much about getting toilet paper, as making sure you get more of the toilet paper than the next guy.

If you’re also low in openness, you are more likely to be high in disgust sensitivity. Which might be why we see people fighting over toilet rolls of all things.

The really difficult challenge is to spot the wave of behavioural cues as it crashes towards you and step back before you’re washed into a sea of unthinking action.

While personality change is really difficult, you can at least be aware of the behavioural cues your personality is sending you and try to make better choices.

Conor Wynn is a PhD Candidate at BehaviourWorks at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute at Monash University. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.


Coronavirus update: New Zealand declares state of emergency as it goes into national lockdown


Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID-19, a 68-year-old Queensland man has become the ninth Australian to die from the virus, and New Zealand has gone into lockdown.

Most elective surgeries will be suspended in Australia, while mass text messages from the Federal Government have started rolling out.

This story is no longer being updated. For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow this story.

Wednesday’s key moments

Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus


The Prince of Wales has continued to work from home following the diagnosis. (Reuters, pool)

The Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, has tested positive for COVID-19.

The 71-year-old heir apparent has been displaying “mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health”, according to a statement from Clarence House.

He has been working from home “throughout the last few days as usual”.

His wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, tested negative.

The Royal couple are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the Prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during the recent weeks,” the statement added.

Buckingham Palace later confirmed that the Queen “remains in good health” at Windsor Castle.

Queensland man dies from COVID-19

A Queensland man has died from coronavirus, bringing the national virus-related death toll to nine.

The 68-year-old from Toowoomba contracted COVID-19 on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that docked in Sydney last week.

Garry Kirstenfield was in the intensive care unit at Toowoomba Hospital.

His wife has been in self-isolation along with all his immediate family.

His family have described him as “kind and adorable”.

NSW to ban cruise ship passengers from disembarking

The NSW Government will block anybody from disembarking cruise ships in the state until new border protections are in place.

The move will leave stranded thousands of people who have been trying to get back to port.

The Federal Government last week restricted all cruise ships from entering Australia for 30 days.

The ABC understands there are close to a dozen cruise ships wanting to dock because they were at sea when the restriction was put in place. But they are now in limbo.

“No-one will be allowed to leave any of these cruise ships until we have settled on the agreed new measures,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

The move came after a war of words broke out between federal and state authorities over who was to blame for allowing 2,700 passengers to disembark from the Ruby Princess cruise ship last week.


The Ruby Princess was docked in Sydney while several passengers had COVID-19. (Instagram: Supplied)

More than 130 passengers from the vessel have tested positive for coronavirus, including a 77-year-old woman who died earlier this week.

Government urged to ‘go hard, go now’ on lockdown


Infectious disease researcher Raina MacIntrye warned a staggered approach would lead to more cases and potentially more deaths. ( Natanael Melchor, CC-0)

A key member of an expert panel advising the Government on its response to COVID-19 has voiced her frustration at Australia’s staged shutdown approach, warning the death toll could rise if the Government does not take a “go hard, go now approach”.

Raina MacIntyre from the UNSW’s Biosecurity Program is part of an expert panel from Australia’s leading universities, which has recommended an immediate but short lockdown in order to curb infections, an approach the Government has not adopted.

“I was hoping we’d see a more comprehensive lockdown for a short period of time, but that is not the approach we’re taking,” Professor McIntyre said.

“It’s more a trickle sort of approach, a little bit by bit, which won’t be as effective at stopping the transmission in the community.”

Professor MacIntyre said the majority of panellists — including specialists from the fields of epidemiology, bio-ethics and medicine — urged the Government to act within a short and vital window.

According to Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy, the group of university experts is one of several expert panels the Government has been consulting, including the Communicable Disease Network of Australia and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

NZ declares state of emergency, begins national lockdown

New Zealand has now gone into a complete lockdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

All non-essential businesses has been ordered to close and people must stay home for at least four weeks.

“It’s a state of emergency to preserve our way of life,” Ms Ardern said in a speech in Parliament earlier today.

Earlier today, residents received a text message saying “we are depending on you”.

External Link:

New Zealand tweet

“Where you stay tonight is where YOU MUST stay from now on,” the message reads.

“You must only be in physical contact with those you are living with.”

The number of COVID-19 cases in New Zealand has risen to 205, authorities announced earlier today.

Most elective surgeries to be suspended in Australia


Only urgent elective surgeries will take place after midnight tonight. (Unsplash)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the National Cabinet has decided to suspend all elective surgery other than Category 1 and urgent Category 2 cases.

“This will apply in both the public and the private hospital system,” he said.

The measure will be in place from midnight Thursday March 26 “until further notice”.

“Cancellation of elective surgery will allow the preservation of resources like personal protective equipment and allow health services to prepare for their role in the COVID-19 outbreak,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison also announced the creation of a National COVID-19 Coordination Commission which he says will “solve problems” in both the public and private sectors related to the crisis.

It will be led by Neville Power, the former head of mining company Fortescue Metals Group.

Qantas shares surge as markets close on a high

The best day on Wall Street since the Great Depression has boosted the local share market, as well as markets in Asia and New Zealand.

The benchmark ASX 200 index closed 5.5 per cent higher, with a surge in late trade adding nearly 2 per cent.

Shares in Qantas jumped by 26.3 per cent to $3.27, after it secured more finance amid the economic damage from coronavirus.


Qantas and Virgin have slashed flights and laid off staff. (Supplied: Australian Transport Safety Bureau)

Meanwhile, Virgin shares were up 14.5 per cent as it slashed domestic capacity and stood down staff.

The healthcare sector ended slightly in the red following news non-urgent elective surgeries would be cancelled to free up hospital capacity.

News that a $US2 trillion ($3.4 trillion) economic rescue package was close to passing the US Senate saw Wall Street rebound from the lowest level in three years in a bear-market bounce.

The US coronavirus stimulus bill will provide financial aid to people who have lost their jobs, and help distressed industries.

Police to issue fines if people break social distancing rules


NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and NSW Police Minister David Elliott address media. (AAP Image: )

People breaking social distancing guidelines will be given fines and possibly jail time, the NSW Police announced amid tough new coronavirus restrictions.

The NSW Police Minister David Elliott said individuals would be given fines of $1,000 and corporations would be hit with fines of $5,000 for breaches.

The new penalties would also extend to people found to be not following self-isolation rules.

Police also said people could also be jailed for up to six months under existing enforcement powers.

US ready to roll out largest stimulus package in its history

US senators and Trump administration officials have reached an agreement on a massive $US2 trillion ($AU3.4 trillion) economic stimulus bill to alleviate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Senate is expected vote on the package soon and the House of Representatives will follow suit shortly after.

“This is a wartime level of investment into our nation,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

The text of the pact was not due to be available until later on Wednesday (local time), but is expected to include:

  • $US500 billion to help hard-hit industries with loans
  • Direct payments of up to $US3,000 to millions of families
  • $US350 billion for small-business loans
  • $US250 billion for expanded unemployment aid
  • $US100 billion for hospitals and health systems, along with additional money for other health care needs
  • $US150 billion to help state and local governments fight the outbreak

AMA backs call to close all schools

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has declared it will support the closure of schools and further shutdown measures, as part of stronger physical-distancing measures to protect the health of Australians.

Adopting a stronger position on the topic than in previous weeks, AMA president Tony Bartone said the group would support governments to suspend schools and non-essential workplaces and increase home isolation to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Dr Bartone said while it would be a big call for governments to take those extra steps, doctors would support the move.

China lifts restrictions in COVID-19 epicentre


Wuhan, which has been in total lockdown since January 23, will see its travel restrictions lifted on April 8. (AP: Arek Rataj)

Authorities in China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, have lifted two months of counter-epidemic restrictions that locked down the region and its capital Wuhan.

Mainland China also reported a drop in new confirmed coronavirus cases as imported infections fell and no locally transmitted infections were reported.

Traffic controls were eased at midnight in Hubei, while the lockdown of Wuhan will be lifted on April 8.

The Hubei local government told workers who had been quarantined at home to go back to work as soon as possible.

People were also able to leave Hubei by train and bus.

Rottnest Island to be used as quarantine zone

Video: Australians on cruise ship to be quarantined on Rottnest Island

(ABC News)

Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth will be used as a quarantine zone for 800 Australians currently on board a cruise ship.

There are 1,500 passengers and crew on board the Vasco da Gama, which is due to dock in Fremantle on Friday.

International crew and passengers will remain on board unless they require desperate medical attention or are being securely transferred to an airport to return home.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said the Australians on board would be immediately transferred to Rottnest Island for 14 days of self-isolation.

Plan in works to bring Aussies home

The Federal Government is considering helping Qantas and Virgin operate specific services to bring Australians stuck overseas home.

The Government is urging all Australians to return home as soon as possible

But with many flights cancelled, the Government says it is in talks with Australian airlines to put on new flights to bring people home.

It says this will only be done on a case-by-case basis, where all other commercial options have been exhausted, where local authorities permit flights, and only to those outside the epicentre of the outbreak.

WHO warns US could become epicentre, but Trump wants country back to normal by Easter

Video: Trump says he hopes social distancing is done by Easter

(ABC News)

The World Health Organisation says the United States could become the global epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

But during a Fox News virtual town hall, US President Donald Trump said the country “wants to be back at work”.

“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said.

Easter Sunday is just over two weeks away, April 12.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full,” Mr Trump said in a subsequent interview. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country.”

Infections in the US have reached nearly 50,000, with more than 600 deaths — more than 100 of them on Monday.

Public health experts have warned Mr Trump’s plan would be a mistake.

Government guidelines currently say Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10, and should avoid dining out in restaurants or bars.

But hard-hit states including New York and California have gone further and enacted their own home-lockdown orders.

Union demands wage subsidy

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has strengthened its pleas for the Federal Government to consider a nationwide wage subsidy.

External Link:

Sally McManus tweet on wages

The unemployment queues have become the clearest illustration of how hard the coronavirus measures are hitting the Australian economy.

In the UK, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has implemented a taxpayer wage subsidy of up to 80 per cent so hard-hit employers don’t need to sack staff or make them redundant.

The ACTU said this could be quickly put into place in Australia through the existing tax office arrangements.

“This Government has a choice,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.

“It can be decisive like Boris Johnson has been in the UK, or it can condemn Australian workers to the misery of job queues and the threat of inter-generational poverty not seen since the great depression.”

Soon after, the Prime Minister rejected this outright.

He says that it would require the set-up of a new payments system and that will take too long.

Cluster of cases at Noosa restaurant prompts health alert


Queensland Health says four members of the Sails staff have COVID-19. (Instagram)

Queensland Health has issued a public health alert for people who have eaten at Sails Restaurant in Noosa after four staff members tested positive to COVID-19 and at least 13 people who attended a function at the restaurant also tested positive.

Queensland Health confirmed the four staff members continued to work at the site while infectious.

Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington said four guests at a 50th birthday celebration held at the restaurant on March 14 were from the Sunshine Coast and the other cases were from the broader South East Queensland region.

“Health authorities are tracing all those participants and say there is a low risk generally to people as a result of that event,” he said.

Queensland Health said the four staff members had worked at the restaurant on Wednesday, March 18 from 4:00pm until 11:15pm, and on Thursday, March 19 from 3:00pm to 10:00pm while unknowingly infectious.

Health authorities have called on people who attended the restaurant during those times to monitor their health for 14 days from those dates.

‘If you can stay at home, you must stay at home’


Coronavirus measures have left Melbourne looking eerily quiet. (ABC News: Kyle Harley)

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned further shutdown measures are imminent.

He said the list of restrictions announced last night was “stage two” of the coronavirus response, but warned “there will be a stage three” in the state.

Mr Andrews also outlined Victorians’ current responsibilities, saying, “If you can stay at home, you must stay at home.”

“You should not be having friends over for a dinner party, you should not be out shopping if you don’t need it,” he said.

He said lives were at stake.

“People won’t just be queuing for Centrelink payments, they will be queuing for heart and lung machines and ventilators and intensive care beds. You cannot queue for intensive care,” he said.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said four healthcare workers from Werribee Mercy Hospital, which is a private hospital, had contracted coronavirus.

“This really speaks to the risk that’s involved here,” she said.

Another 743 people die in Italy, country accounts for a third of all deaths worldwide


More than 6,800 people have died in Italy in barely a month. (Reuters: Daniele Mascolo)

Italy has recorded its second-worst daily coronavirus death toll, with another 743 people dying from COVID-19.

Hopes that the epidemic in the world’s worst-hit country was easing after lower numbers in the previous two days have been dashed.

The latest figures show that 6,820 people have died from the infection in barely a month, meaning Italy accounts for a third of all deaths worldwide.

The total number of confirmed cases hit 69,176 on Tuesday, but Italy is only testing people with severe symptoms.

The head of the Civil Protection Agency said the true number of infected people was probably 10 times higher.

More than 1,000 cases now recorded in NSW

Health authorities in NSW have confirmed 211 new coronavirus infections, taking the state’s total to 1,029.

It’s the largest number of new COVID-19 infections over a 24-hour period recorded in the state to date.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said most of the people in NSW with coronavirus had been infected overseas.

“That tells us to an extent that we are maintaining some control over the virus,” she said, adding that she strongly backed the additional measures announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday night.

On March 24, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia topped 2,000, including eight deaths — seven in NSW and one in WA.

The first Federal Government text message has landed on phones

The Federal Government has begun rolling out mass text messages to get information about coronavirus directly to Australians.

The first message was sent this morning:

External Link:

Isobel Roe tweet: "I hope everyone got this!! #covid19au"

Tapping the link takes people to updated “essential information” about the new restrictions, border closures and how to apply for the JobSeeker (NewStart) payment.

Man allegedly coughed on police employee while claiming to have COVID-19

A man has been charged after allegedly coughing on a police employee at Coffs Harbour police station while pretending to be infected with COVID-19.

Police will allege in court that William West, 21, entered the police station about 2:30pm yesterday and deliberately coughed on a 71-year-old woman.

A friend allegedly filmed the incident.

Police said Mr West, who was arrested at the station, did not have COVID-19.

Australian public life more restricted

Video: Scott Morrison unveils latest physical distancing measures

(ABC News)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced further restrictions on businesses, public gatherings and overseas travel in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus late on Tuesday.

From midnight Wednesday, these activities and businesses will no longer be allowed to continue operating:

  • Amusement parks and arcades
  • Indoor and outdoor play centres
  • Community and recreation centres, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre, spin facilities, saunas, wellness centres
  • Swimming pools
  • Galleries, museums, national institutions, historic sites, libraries, community centres
  • Auction houses
  • Real estate auctions and open house inspections
  • In-store beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons and tattoo parlours, spa and massage parlours (excluding health-related services, like physiotherapy)
  • Food courts within shopping centres will only be able to sell takeaway. Shopping centres themselves will remain open

Mr Morrison also addressed limitations on other activities:

  • Hairdressers and barber shops can continue, but they must limit the time a customer is in the premise to no more than 30 minutes
  • Personal training and boot camps are limited to a maximum of 10 people
  • Weddings can continue, but only with the couple, the celebrant, and witnesses — totalling a maximum of five people
  • Funerals are limited to a maximum of 10 people
  • Outdoor and indoor food markets will be addressed by individual states and territories

The Prime Minister also said Australians would be banned from travelling overseas, with some exceptions made for aid workers and for compassionate, employment and other essential travel.

He also said the advice on schools had not changed and it was safe to send children to school.

On a broader note, Mr Morrison said people should not go out and “participate more broadly in the community, unless you’re shopping for basics or there are medical needs or you’re providing care and support to an individual at another place”.

New York Governor: ‘We’re now looking at a bullet train’


There have been 25,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York state. (AP: Mark Lennihan)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be just two weeks away from a crisis that sees 40,000 people in intensive care.

Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which currently have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.

So far, there have been 25,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York state, and at least 210 deaths.

While officials once projected the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.

“One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train,” Mr Cuomo said.

The woman in charge of the US response to coronavirus, Deborah Birx, says about 56 per cent of the cases in the United States are coming out of the New York metro area.

She says everyone leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Road blocks to be set up on Queensland border, Tasmania promises harsher policy

Our reporter Cathy Border, speaking from Coolangatta, where the Gold Coast suburb meets Tweed Heads in New South Wales, spoke to ABC News channel about how the closure would work from midnight Thursday:

“I imagine not far from me, there will be police road blocks set up from here, as well as on the M1. They will operate it RBT style, randomly pulling people over.”

She said there was still a lack of clarity about the “permit system”:

“It’s still not clear exactly how you’ll be able to get it. It will be via the internet somehow. But if, for example, if you are commuting over the border every day for work, you’ll be able to get one of these permits, put it on your car so police will be able to see that you are someone who can cross, and they’ll just wave you through. Of course, medical people, truckies doing the freight, these are among the exemptions.”

Fines of up to $13,000 will apply for those who don’t follow the regulations.

At a press conference, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein promised harsher policing of borders.

From Wednesday, additional police officers will help biosecurity staff manage non-essential travellers arriving in the state.

Those with nowhere to stay will be charged a fee to self-isolate in Government-provided accommodation.

Border Force says Ruby Princess decision was made by NSW Health


The Ruby Princess docked in Sydney on March 19. (AAP: Dean Lewins )

Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram has pointed the finger at the NSW Government over its handling of the arrival of a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Sydney last week.

About 2,700 passengers got off at Circular Quay last week, and more than 100 have since tested positive for COVID-19.

Mr Outram said the ABF was responsible for customs and migration controls at the border, but not health screening.

He said NSW Heath had given the green light for passengers to disembark, despite several people onboard being tested for coronavirus.

“Department of Agriculture officials advised my officers that New South Wales Health had conducted a risk assessment, had rated the risk as low, and that health officials would not be attending the vessel,” he said.

The NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said many new COVID-19 cases were linked to the Ruby Princess.

Most Virgin and all Tigerair flights suspended immediately

Virgin Airways is reducing its domestic capacity by 90 per cent and suspending all Tigerair flights immediately, according to a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

The company will stand down 8,000 of its 10,000 staff until at least the end of May.

“There has never been a travel environment in Australia as restricted as the one we see today, and the extraordinary steps we’ve taken have been in response to the federal and state government’s latest travel advice,” CEO Paul Scurrah said.

Virgin had already grounded its entire international fleet.

The cuts to domestic flights come as states move to shut their borders to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Tokyo 2020’ to be held in 2021


Mr Abe previously insisted that the Tokyo 2020 games would proceed as originally planned. (AP: Charly Triballeau, pool)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has put an end to mounting speculation over the fate of this year’s Tokyo Olympics by asking officials to postpone it by a year.

He said the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Thomas Bach agreed with him 100 per cent.

“The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held at the latest by the Summer of 2021 — and [Mr Bach] agreed with that,” Mr Abe said.

“As a symbol of mankind’s victory over coronavirus, we will host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in their complete form.”

Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike said the Games would still be branded the 2020 Olympics, even though they would be held in 2021.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

India goes into total lockdown for 21 days


Indians won’t be allowed out of their homes for 21 days from midnight on Tuesday (local time). (AP: Anupam Nath)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered a 21-day lockdown of the world’s second most populous country of more than 1.3 billion people.

External Link:

Modi tweet

Health researchers have warned that more than a million people in India could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May, prompting the Government to shut down all air and train travel, businesses and schools.

As part of the measures, nobody will be allowed to leave their homes for the next three weeks beginning midnight Tuesday.

“The only way to save ourselves from coronavirus is if we don’t leave our homes, whatever happens, we stay at home,” Mr Modi said.

He called the order a “total lockdown” and did not address whether any service providers would be exempt, but said that “all steps have been taken by central and state government to ensure supply of essential items.”

It was not clear what this would mean for about 300 million Indians who, according to official data, live below the poverty line.

India has reported 482 cases of the coronavirus, while nine people have died from the COVID-19 disease it causes.

There have been 40 recoveries, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Madrid’s hospitals on the ‘verge of collapse’


Spain has recorded 2,696 deaths from coronavirus. (AP: Alvaro Barrientos)

The Spanish Health Ministry reported around 6,600 new cases and 500 deaths overnight in Europe’s worst-hit country after Italy.

Health emergency chief Fernando Simon attributed the nearly 14 per cent infection rate among medical staff to limited availability of protective equipment and several early clusters of the virus occurring in hospitals.

A nursing union said Madrid’s hospitals were on “the verge of collapse” and needed urgent support, while a doctors’ union said it had filed a lawsuit demanding protective equipment within 24 hours.

Prosecutors in Catalonia have opened an investigation into two nursing homes, the prosecutor general’s office said, after at least 13 residents died of the virus at a home in Capellades and nine more at a home in Olesa de Montserrat.

Military units dispatched to help care homes comply with sanitary regulations disinfected 179 facilities on Monday and planned to clean another 96 on Tuesday.

The state prosecutor launched a separate investigation after the army found unattended bodies at some homes.

London turns exhibition centre into huge sick bay

London’s huge ExCel exhibition centre will be converted into a 4,000-bed temporary hospital to try and combat the expected flood of coronavirus patients in the UK.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new Nightingale hospital would open next week and consist of two wards housing up to 2,000 people each, and be staffed by National Health Service (NHS) staff and military medical personnel.

He said the country was also looking for up to 250,000 volunteers to help out the NHS and vulnerable people during the crisis.

Volunteers in good health will be asked to help with shopping for groceries, delivering medicines from pharmacies, and phoning vulnerable people isolating at home to check on them.

“If you are well and able to do so safely, I would urge you to sign up today to help the most vulnerable people in our communities as an NHS Volunteer Responder,” Mr Hancock said.

The UK’s death toll from coronavirus stands at 422, with over 8,000 people infected by the virus from the 90,000 people tested.

Texas, Ohio postpone ‘unnecessary’ abortions

The US states of Texas and Ohio have ordered abortions be postponed as non-essential procedures to free up resources to fight coronavirus.

Officials in the two states, which already have severe restrictions on abortions, said postponing elective procedures would allow beds and staff to be focused on coronavirus cases.

Vice-President Mike Pence, who heads the nation’s coronavirus task force, asked the nation’s hospitals last week to cease elective surgeries to free up capacity and staff, amid dire shortages of masks and gloves.

Texas officials said the measure would apply to abortions that were not necessary to save the mother’s life or health.

No-one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement.

Ohio’s Attorney General told facilities to stop performing abortions that require personal protective equipment, such as gowns and masks, according to documents obtained by local media.

State-by-state numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases

There have been 2,430 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia. The latest update was at 6:49pm AEDT on Wednesday, March 25.

  • NSW: 1,029
  • Victoria: 466
  • Queensland: 443
  • Western Australia: 205
  • South Australia: 197
  • ACT: 44
  • Tasmania: 41
  • NT: 5


Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

Your questions on coronavirus answered:


We’ve learnt a lot of lessons in a week but MPs haven’t got the memo


We live in a time of rapid escalation. Infection. Horror. Dawning awareness of how quickly the earth can move under our feet.

But we are also learning at a furious pace; all sorts of things.

How incredibly filthy our hands have been this whole time; that’s more or less universal.

Awareness of how frustrating it is to apply for unemployment benefits is also spreading fast.

“My bad,” said Government Services Minister Stuart Robert on Tuesday, explaining he hadn’t quite registered in advance how busy Centrelink’s website might immediately become when the economy was placed under sedation at the weekend (the site has been crashing all week, prompting a rethink of the decision to run it off Mr Robert’s historically overworked home internet server. Jokes.)

Video: Queues form outside Centrelink offices for the second day.

(ABC News)

Workers lucky enough still to have a job and be able to work from home have found themselves on an exponential learning curve, picking up everything from alarming new insights into their workmates’ home decor to top-range proficiency in completing a crucial teleconference while a 10-year-old burps the alphabet at the other end of the kitchen table.

How hard is it to be a teacher? Lots of people are finding out the answer to that one pretty fast.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Whole organisations are learning at the speed of light, and despite the desperate fear and horror that drives this innovation, the feats of ingenuity on display send exhilarating pulses of light out to other humans in lockdown.

The Rotterdam Philharmonic playing the finale to Beethoven’s Ninth together from their disparate loungerooms.

External Link:

Rotterbam Philharmonic

A “Couch Choir” of 1,000 humans singing Close To You together from 1,000 locations.

Large employers have found ways of moving their workforces online. The Sydney Morning Herald, for the first time, produced a newspaper from an empty office.

As a journalist myself, I am permitted to observe that there is no professional grouping more grumpily resistant to technological change or more averse to computer training of any kind.

And so I ask: if vast chunks of the Australian workforce can evolve and rapidly learn new ways of doing our jobs, why the hell can’t our federal Parliament?

If we are obliged to view each other’s nose hairs and download Zoom, why can’t they?

Morrison’s socialist acid dream

The House of Representatives rose on Monday night at 11:11pm after a sombre day legislating a costly rescue program that would have seemed like a socialist acid dream to Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg a couple of months back.

MPs are not scheduled now to sit again for nearly five months. The Budget’s been postponed, and the Parliament’s great chambers will sit quiet until August 11.

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 general uncontroversiality of the proposition that we can simply do without our principal decision-making body for five months during the biggest disaster most of us will ever see is informative in itself.

In fact, it’s kind of frightening that the closure of pubs is getting more comment than the shutdown of the Parliament.

Labor and the Greens opposed the new schedule as the shadows lengthened on Monday.

“Of all the decisions that have been made procedurally, this is the only one where we have disagreement,” said the manager of Opposition business, Tony Burke.

“Let’s not forget, in terms of legislation, some of what we dealt with in legislation today was only announced and determined by the Australian Government yesterday. It is unthinkable that we will make it through to 11 August without the nation needing us to convene.”

“If further urgent decisions need to be made then surely we should be able to work out how to make them if Parliament has to be cancelled,” added Greens leader Adam Bandt.

“But the starting point in an emergency is to have more democracy, not less. The presumption that simply because there is a crisis we should cancel Parliament is a worrying one.”

Video: Scott Morrison foreshadows stronger social distancing measures.

(ABC News)

Baby steps to a new regime

The House of Representatives made a number of concessions to COVID-19 on Monday.

One was cutting the numbers of MPs present. Another was having MPs fetch their own glasses of water (baby steps).

Another was changing the way they voted to minimise the number of times MPs trooped back and forth.

There was no overt discussion of moving to a virtual Parliament, and it’s understood this is not an option under active discussion.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

But the House did agree on another variation of standing order, providing that: “the House may meet in a manner and form not otherwise provided in the standing orders with the agreement of the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business, with the manner in which Members may be present (including for the purposes of achieving a quorum) to be determined by the Speaker”.

If this country is in lockdown for many months, the prospect of Zooming the House of Representatives without taking the risk of shipping 151 MPs and their staff around the continent becomes — you’d think — a decreasingly silly proposition.

For representatives to speak from the heart of their suffering communities — rather than the hermetically sealed suites of Parliament House where whips and factional heavies can easily find them — might actually lead to a different kind of advocacy.

Certainly, adopting a model for a virtual Parliament long term would address some of the most stubborn barriers that currently keep women out of the joint.

This crisis is changing our country already. Our Parliament should lead, not follow.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)


Moveable silo art? It’s happening in this small Victorian town

Dookie 3646

The small Victorian town of Dookie is adding its name to the silo art trail, but in doing so has put a unique twist on the popular art trend.

Local arts organisation Dookie Arts, which is behind the Nomadic Silos project, asked local farmers to donate or loan mobile grain silos and then commissioned artists to create a design on them.

Dookie Arts committee member Andrew Sands, the director of the project, said they wanted to have their own unique take on silo art.

“It’s been an old idea that I’ve been mulling over for a while actually. Just to try something a bit different,” Mr Sands said.

“We’ve always tried to do little, artistic sorts of projects.”

The Wanderers: Guido Van Helten
See the spray can artist create an iconic silo artwork in Manildra.

There are five grain silos in the collection, each with their own individual design and story behind them.

The silos can be relocated to different areas around the township to encourage visitors to explore the area and see each design.

The town has two larger grain silos that sit off the main road in town, but Mr Sands says while the idea of painting them has been thrown around, the nomadic silos are a point of difference.

“It’s a smaller project that’s affordable and doable, without too much of angst in the town,” he said

“Trying to come up with the right object to be placed on the silo is a big job.”


John Petschack donated two grain silos for the project. This silo was painted by artist Tom Day. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Courtney Howe )

‘It’s going be quite the talking point’

Grain grower John Petschack, whose family has been farming in Dookie for many years, donated two of his old grain bins after being approached by Dookie Arts.

“It’s making Dookie a much more interesting place. It’s making Dookie a more vibrant place,” he said.

“For people driving through Dookie they think ‘wow, there’s something happening in this town’.”

Mr Petschack said many of the older grain bins no longer suited the more modern farm machinery.

“We’d really only use it for emergency storage during harvest these days and we haven’t needed it for that for four years,” he said.

Artists Tom Day and Domenico de Clario were commissioned to paint the silos donated by Mr Petschack.

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Mr de Clairo’s piece is inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson and he says he has been warmly welcomed by the community.

“They’re so embracing and so welcoming, and so open minded about the possibilities of what the silos might be,” he said.

Mr de Clairo said this project was a unique take on the silo art trend which had become very popular.

“It’s more approachable, It’s more within our human scale,” he said.


Victorian artist Domenico de Clario says his design is inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Courtney Howe )

North-East silo trail grows

The North East Victoria Silo Art Trail maps out silo and mural art across several small Victoria towns, beginning in Benalla and including the Goorambat and Tungamah silos.

The Dookie Nomadic Silos projects hopes to be added to the list.

In the future they would like to create a map of the Dookie moveable silos that visitors can trace the silos’ movement through GPS coordinates.

There are already plans to expand the collection of nomadic silos and Dookie Arts is welcoming more donations of grain bins.

“It’d be nice to get a few farmers on board that would be able to lend their silos, allow us to paint them, and they could keep using them,” Mr Sands said.


The small Victorian town of Dookie has put a twist on the silo art trend. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Courtney Howe )

Mr Petschack said he had heard a few rumours that there might be more grain bins that would be receiving a makeover.

“I think there might be a little bit of a competition starting between people to see who’s got the best mobile nomadic field bin,” he said.


How to help keep your home free from coronavirus

Canberra 2600

As households prepare to bunker down across Australia, attention has turned to the best ways of protecting homes from coronavirus.

Key points:

  • Households are a new frontier in the fight against coronavirus
  • Experts advise detergent and disinfectant are needed to clean surfaces
  • They say to target high traffic areas like doorknobs, handles and benches

Health experts have recommended a series of practical steps for maintaining good hygiene at home.

UNSW virologist Dr Sacha Stelzer-Braid is confident households can minimise their exposure if the right procedures are followed.

How do I stop COVID-19 spreading to my home?

  • Take off your shoes at the front door.

“We just need to be really quite vigilant and strict,” she said.

“It’s not a bad idea to take your shoes off before you enter the house, especially for children who like to jump on beds,” she said.


Hand washing is one of the key ways to prevent bringing coronavirus home. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)

“Definitely don’t put your shoes anywhere you would touch with your hands like your coffee table.”

  • Wipe down items brought into the house.

Non-porous items like takeaway containers can be wiped down with detergent or soapy water and fresh produce should be washed.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands, thoroughly.

Once inside, a thorough hand wash with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds is essential.

“While the risk of transmission from anything you buy at the shops is low it’s still a good idea. We can’t hand-wash enough right now,” Dr Stelzer-Braid said.

What cleaning products work best?

  • Hand sanitisers and disinfectants are not enough.

Scientists have shown that COVID-19 can survive outside the body on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 72 hours.

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.

Professor Brett Mitchell told ABC Radio Sydney that highly sought after products like hand sanitiser and disinfectant sprays were not enough to kill the virus on their own.

“Disinfectants don’t work by just splashing them about,” Professor Mitchell said.

“They can’t break through dirt and organic material that’s left on surfaces, so you need to clean that first and then use the disinfectant.”

Detergents are the key to breaking down the layers of dirt and dust to allow disinfectants to work.

Target ‘high-touch’ surfaces


High traffic surfaces should be wiped down with disinfectant and detergent. (ABC Radio Sydney: Matt Bamford)

  • Wipe down doorknobs, switches, and mobile phones twice a day with detergent.

As the virus is commonly transferred by hand-to-face touching, experts recommend wiping down all surfaces that are regularly handled.

Cleaning house

  • If you just want to clean, then hot, soapy water is generally enough
  • If you want to disinfect, clean first, then disinfect with the least toxic, most biodegradable product that does the job
  • Make sure that whichever product you use, you don’t damage the surface you’re working on
  • Different advice might apply if there’s someone at home with an open wound or a poor immune system

Source: Does vinegar really kill household germs?

Dr Stelzer-Braid said those in a healthy household should be wiping down high-touch surfaces at least twice a day.

Diluted bleach and products with an alcohol content above 70 per cent are also effective products.

What if someone falls ill?

  • Quarantine sick house members for 14 days, increase cleaning.

If a member of the house is feeling unwell, Professor Mitchell said cleaning around areas they frequented needed to be more thorough.

“Think about cleaning the area within their room a little more often, using disinfectant after washing hands, and giving the taps a clean,” he said.

Should a member of the household show symptoms of COVID-19, Dr Stelzer-Braid said they should be quarantined to one room, preferably with their own bathroom.

Contact with others should be at a minimum for a fortnight and cleaning should increase to several times a day.

If possible, clothes and bed sheets — handled with gloves and surgical masks — should be washed more frequently to minimise the risk of transmission.

“It’s also always a good idea to try to flush clean air through the house so open the windows and doors,” Dr Stelzer-Braid said.

  • Keep clothing, cutlery separate

The clothing and cutlery used by an infected person can also spread the virus so they should be kept separate.

“A dishwasher is great, it will kill the virus. But if you don’t have one use hot water — as hot as you can handle it,” she said.


Disinfectants like hand sanitiser have been in high demand but can be less effective on dirty surfaces. (ABC Radio Adelaide: Spence Denny)

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

Technique matters

  • Wiping in an ‘S’ shaped pattern prevents re-contamination and will ensure the surface area is well-covered.

Cleaning techniques can also make a difference to the risk of infection.

Disposable gloves should also be worn.

Dr Stelzer-Braid said the key was not waiting until it was too late to implement good habits.

“Getting on top of it early and having a good routine is really important,” she said.

“If [infection] does happen, and it probably will happen to someone in the household, then it’s an easier transition.”

While these measures might not guarantee freedom from infection, Dr Stelzer-Braid said they help ensure the chances of the virus entering a home are minimised.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)


Mask shortages sees GPs turn to carpark consults, telehealth in face of coronavirus crisis

Perth 6000

A small clear plastic bag holds all of the personal protective equipment 64-year-old Geraldton GP Ian Taylor has to protect himself against COVID-19, and he’s worried.

Key points:

  • GPs are moving consultations to phones and cars where possible
  • Clinics markedly busier since the coronavirus crisis began
  • Regional GPs are doing extra training on using ventilators in preparation

“What I have here is for myself — a basic gown and some ordinary masks, not of a P2 standard,” Dr Taylor.

“Obviously if we find ourselves in the practice with COVID-19 and coughing we are not properly prepared for it.”

Dr Taylor was so conscious of protecting the meagre equipment he has left he would not open the bag so the ABC could photograph its contents.

“I myself am developing a bit of anxiety about this,” he said.

“Some of the GPs are of an older age such as me and we are obviously at higher risk if we contract COVID-19.”

“So I am feeling very much like I am at the frontline, right in the trenches and I don’t feel adequately equipped to deal with it.”

The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) has led Dr Taylor’s surgery to begin triaging patients at the door and conducting some consultations by phone.

Moving appointment to phones and cars

Busselton GP Sarah Moore said she would prefer to do all general consults via telehealth.

“When a patient rings up for an appointment the reception will speak to them and ask a few screening questions to see if they’re well or unwell and every patient will actually be offered a telehealth consultation,” she said.


Doctor Sarah Moore is trying to do as many consultations by phone as possible. (ABC News: Anthony Pancia)

“Some of the patients we are asking to come to the car park and wait in their car until the doctor’s ready to speak with them and we’re using a video conferencing software so that we can talk to the patient over the phone.”

“If the patient is unwell and they require an examination there’s two options, we can don our PPE and we can come out and examine them in their car.

“Or if we consider them to be high risk for COVID-19 and they require swabbing then we will send them to the hospital, which is where they’re doing all the swabbing at the moment.”

Patients adapting well to telehealth

Dr Moore said the lack of PPE in regional clinics underlined the need for doctors to only physically examine patients if absolutely necessary.

She also said most patients had found the telehealth technology easy to use.

“It’s working best over wifi but it can be used on 4G as well and the patient feedback has been really, really positive and also from the doctors using it.”


GP Sarah Moore says patients are adapting well to using telehealth technology. (ABC News: Anthony Pancia)

Perth GP Peck Tang said her surgery had put on extra shifts to cope with the increased workload created by COVID-19.

Who should present to COVID-19 clinics?

  • Those who are experiencing flu-like symptoms — like sore throat, cough, fever — AND
  • Have returned from overseas in the past 14 days or
  • Have been in confirmed or suspected contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case

Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results.
Major clinics have been set up at Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner and Fiona Stanley Hospitals and will be open from 8:00am–8:00pm daily.
In regional WA, a clinic is operating at Bunbury Health Campus from 10:00am–4:00pm daily.
Clinics are also being set up in other regional and suburban metro areas.
For more information go to the Health Department website.

“I think when the fever clinics can’t cope then we will be certainly be under the pump even more,” she said.

Dr Tang’s Claremont practice had also begun telehealth consults and has given reception staff scripts to read to patients to help triage them.

“We also advise patients to sit in their car when they get here and just let us know, so then when we’re ready I go and grab them or if possible then we see them in the car.”


Claremont GP Peck Tang said her clinic has seen an increased workload since the coronavirus crisis. (ABC News: Armin Azad)

Dr Tang said her practice had goggles, masks, gloves and gowns but worried it would not be enough if the virus hit hard.

“Given that we have very limited personal protection equipment, it’s going to be tricky for us to manage everyone appropriately.”

Advice to older Australians: stay at home

Dr Tang said, ideally, immunocompromised people and anyone over 70, should be self-isolating now if they can.

“Because the idea really is to slow down the spread, because if everyone falls sick, we might not be able to cope in the hospital system,” she said.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 231
  • Deaths: 2
  • Tested negative: 11,288

Latest information from the WA Health Department

“Sometimes it’s not realistic [to self-isolate], so it becomes a personal choice.”

“But those who are on chemo for example, they should isolate as much as is possible.”

Dr Tang said relatives or friends could drop off food to people self-isolating at home and have a chat, but at a distance.

“You can say hello at the distance without contact, rather than just dump stuff at the door,” she said.


A warning sign outside Peck Tang’s Claremont surgery – she is urging older patients to self-isolate now. (ABC News: Armin Azad)

High-risk people need personalised advice

She said older and immunocompromised people should also avoid contact with small children.

“At this stage children don’t seem to get very sick and they can be carriers who don’t have symptoms so it’s a good idea to avoid baby-sitting or being in contact with them,” she said.

Dr Tang said anyone in a high-risk group should speak to their GP for personalised advice.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

“A lot of this probably needs to be dealt with on an individual basis for those who have chronic medical conditions or are over 70 because it’s very hard to generalise advice,” she said.

“It’s good to ring your GP because they know your underlying medical conditions so they will be best to advise you whether you need to be seen or not.”

More social distancing needed

Dr Taylor said social distancing needed to be pushed harder by health officials.

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.

“But also I really think we need to close the schools,” he said.

“I fully support the AMA President on this.”

“A lot of our teachers are older and they are at risk, some have elderly relatives.”

“I think they are feeling that they are being abandoned.”

He said he believed parents should take their children out of school and care for them at home if they can.

“Of course we appreciate that there are parents out there, look even grocery store people are now becoming essential, never mind doctors, nurses, police and so forth, so there are a groups of people that obviously need to keep at work,” he said.

“But I would strongly recommend to parents that if they are able to, they should start pulling their kids out of school now.”

“We need to be proactive and we need to get on this now because where we are now, we won’t know for 10 days and in 10 days time it will be too late.”

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

Preparing for regional ventilation

Dr Taylor said his surgery was preparing to have to treat patients on ventilators if they can’t be transferred to Perth.


Ian Taylor is nervously awaiting an influx of critically ill patients. (ABC News: Laura Meachim)

Ventilators are machines that force air in and out of the lungs, and have proved vital for critically ill coronavirus patients.

“There is a training day this week where we will be running scenarios to train and to practice on managing severely ill patients and managing ventilated patients,” he said.

“Because there is that possibility that we may be required to look after ventilated patients if Perth is unable to accept them”


‘The world has changed dramatically in just one month’: WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt decides to stay

Perth 6000

Western Australia’s Treasurer, Ben Wyatt, has reversed his decision to quit politics at next year’s state election, citing the coronavirus pandemic as his motivation.

Key points:

  • WA’s coronavirus outbreak struck after Ben Wyatt announced plans to quit
  • The Treasurer now says he wants to serve his state in its time of need
  • He says WA is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis

Mr Wyatt announced a month ago that he would not continue in State Parliament beyond 2021, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

But in a statement, he said WA was facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis because of the coronavirus outbreak.

There have been 140 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state so far, with businesses across WA closing yesterday and thousands of people left unemployed as a result of shutdown measures.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 231
  • Deaths: 2
  • Tested negative: 11,288

Latest information from the WA Health Department

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused me to reflect on my decision last month, to not stand as a candidate at the 2021 election,” Mr Wyatt said.

“The world has changed dramatically in just one month. As the Premier has warned, the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are going to be dire.

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

“I know the recovery is going to be a significant task, one of which I am determined to be a part of.

“I want to serve my state in its time of need.

“It is for this reason that I will no longer be stepping down at the next election.”

Economy set to take hit after return to surplus

Mr Wyatt steered the WA economy back into the black for the first time in five years last year, with the mid-year review later revealing the Government was eyeing off a $2.6 billion surplus for the 2019–20 financial term.

But the coronavirus crisis is sure to leave its mark on the state’s finances.

Speaking to ABC Radio Perth this morning about his decision to stay on, Mr Wyatt said did not want to leave the state during major changes to the economy.

Video: WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt announced last month he would quit politics at the next election

(ABC News)

He said the next few budgets would be “how we go about recovering out of this”.

“I think it’s important for the stability of the Government, stability of the Premier’s leadership as he goes about having this conversation with Western Australians, that I don’t leave that hole at this time,” he said.

“When you see the rapid changes to the economy and the finances and to health, I think it wouldn’t be right to leave in that environment.

“I didn’t want to hand that over to somebody else, that would be unfair.”

WA’s coronavirus stimulus package explained
The WA Government announces a $607 million economic stimulus package targeting households and small businesses, so what does it mean for you?

The Treasurer thanked Premier Mark McGowan and his Labor Party colleagues for their understanding, and also acknowledged his family for what he described as their continued sacrifices.

Mr Wyatt said while he was confident in his decision to reverse his resignation, it was a little embarrassing given the warm farewells he had received.

“It was like reading your obituary whilst still having breakfast,” he said.

“And that was flattering, but hopefully that means that people have some confidence the decision that I’ve just made.”

The first Indigenous treasurer of any Australian parliament, Mr Wyatt was a 31-year-old lawyer when he was elected as the MP for Victoria Park in 2006 in a by-election triggered by the sudden resignation of then-premier Geoff Gallop.

He made an ill-fated tilt at the leadership of the WA Labor Party in 2011, mounting an unsuccessful challenge to then-opposition leader Eric Ripper.

Hannah Beazley, the daughter of WA Governor and former federal opposition leader Kim Beazley, had been pre-selected to succeed Mr Wyatt as Labor’s candidate in Victoria Park.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)


COVID-19 testing criteria will change, health official concedes in Q+A grilling


Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly has announced on Q+A that new protocols determining who can be tested for COVID-19 will be revealed in the coming days.

Key points:

  • Testing criteria will move away from only those who have recently travelled, to others with symptoms
  • Authorities urged to consider smartphone apps and open data to track the spread of coronavirus
  • The deputy chief medical officer denies major ICUs will soon be at capacity at the current rate of spread

Monday night’s episode of Q+A was dedicated to discussing the coronavirus crisis and featured the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan, Professor Kelly and leading infectious diseases expert professor Sharon Lewin. As in recent weeks, the episode was filmed without a studio audience.

The Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak was being put under the microscope when senator Rex Patrick, the fourth Australian politician to have a confirmed case, appeared via video link.

The South Australian senator, in quarantine for the past eight days, said he had most likely been infected by Liberal senator Andrew Bragg at a Senate inquiry, where Senator Bragg was displaying flu-like symptoms.

Senator Patrick asked Professor Kelly why Senator Bragg could not have been tested sooner; the current testing regimen limits tests to those who have travelled overseas within 14 days of the onset of symptoms, or come in contact with such a person.

“He had flu-like symptoms but he did not qualify for a COVID-19 test because he hadn’t been in contact with anyone who was a known COVID-19 carrier,” Senator Patrick said.

“A week later he became aware of others that had gone to a wedding that he had been to that had contracted coronavirus, and at that point, he did qualify for a test.

“If he had been tested when he first had symptoms, I would not have spent eight days working in country South Australia.

“Why is the test criteria so strict? Can you see how 10 minutes two weeks ago could have saved so much time and significantly reduced the risk of my infecting anyone?”

External Link:

@QandA: Why are we not testing everyone who presents with flu-like symptoms? #QandA

Professor Kelly initially deflected the question, saying the wedding in question was a “super-spreading” event and the virus was more infectious than the flu.

But when host Hamish Macdonald pushed Professor Kelly to be more direct, he announced that changes to the testing protocol were imminent.

“We’ll be removing the traveller component, but we’re working on that at the moment,” he said.

“There will be announcements about that over the coming days.”

Professor Kelly indicated that authorities were investigating many measures in terms of how they responded to the current crisis.

Australia must ‘get over fear of data’

The show opened with Professor Kelly stating that health authorities in Australia “have been preparing for many years for a pandemic similar to this”.

It was a comment that soon came back to bite him.

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.

After a viewer called in to condemn what he considered to be lax control measures at Australian international airports, Singapore’s response was discussed.

There, the Government is tracking the movement of potential cases using a smartphone app with Bluetooth functionality.

Macdonald asked Professor Kelly: “Why is tracking and apps not something you already have at your disposal?”

Professor Kelly said apps were one tool at the Government’s disposal, but was cut off by Dr Swan.

“Sorry, you already have that technology available to you?” Dr Swan asked.

“Well, we all have mobile phones and location services are on mobile phones — these are difficult decisions to make in terms of people’s privacy,” Professor Kelly responded.

Dr Swan was less than satisfied.

“Paul, you haven’t introduced these technologies. Singapore has,” Dr Swan said.

“You’ve had weeks to introduce those technologies and they haven’t been done.

“We should be testing every single person that comes off one of these planes, because the asymptomatic spread is what we need to be worried about.

External Link:

@QandA: Why aren’t Australian airports testing the temperatures of people arriving home from all parts of the world?

“Then, at least, you have a baseline. You know if they get off the plane and are positive or not.

“Symptoms we’ve seen with the Diamond Princess and South Korea are not a good sign of the people who might spread the virus.

“Everybody coming off a plane or a boat should be tested regardless of whether they’ve got symptoms or not.”

Professor Kelly defended the testing measures and said they did the job, especially when Australians were returning from China, as very few had tested positive.

It was mentioned that in Taiwan they are also using smartphone apps to track data, including where people have been to, and Dr Swan suggested Australia should forget about privacy concerns and do the same.

“The big message from Taiwan is that they’re unashamed and unembarrassed about using data, linking data and actually quite personal data for the public good,” he said.

“We’re too nervous in Australia to link, we do link some data but we could now be using this opportunity to link data on a massive scale and be able to do something similar to Taiwan so that we know what’s going on and we can actually measure things.

“We need to actually get over our fear of data.”

‘We’re not Italy’

Another key issue discussed was whether schools should be closed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been against taking that step in recent days, despite closing pubs, clubs and most other places where people gather.

Professor Kelly said if schools were to close it would be for “at least the next six months, probably for the whole school year”.

Dr Swan said modelling out of London’s Imperial College showed that closing schools would help “flatten the curve”.

“The Imperial College London group found that closing schools — in their model, and they’re some of the best modellers in the world — actually had the biggest effect,” Dr Swan said.

“It’s an appalling decision to have to make, but they showed that it was the biggest thing you could do to make a difference to the curve.”

The looming stress on Australia’s public health sector was another point of disagreement.

“The prediction is, at the moment, if the hockey stick [trend line] doesn’t change that much … we’ll be out of ICU beds in New South Wales, Victoria will be behind that, by April 10,” Dr Swan said.

“And in that case, ICU physicians will be faced with some very difficult decisions.

Asked if the prediction was accurate, Professor Kelly said ICUs could potentially triple their capacity.

External Link:

@QandA: Will older people who catch the virus be denied a ventilator if there’s a shortage? #QandA

He pointed out Australia did not bear comparison with Italy, which had recorded more COVID-19 deaths than anywhere else, with nearly 5,500 fatalities.

“We have strategies also to take pressure off the hospital system more broadly, not just intensive care units,” Professor Kelly said.

“We are not Italy. I’ve seen some people say when they look at the curves of what Norman is referring to, the epidemiological curve that we’re two weeks behind Italy.

“We are not two weeks behind Italy.

“We’ve been testing and finding many more mild cases.

“Italy mainly tested the top of the pyramid, the very serious cases that came into hospital. That’s what their first 1,000 were.

“Our first 1,000 were mainly community cases. Mostly involved with travel from overseas. We’ve only had 20 people through this whole period that have been in intensive care.”

What about a vaccine?

Professor Lewin, who is a leading infectious diseases expert and involved in working on vaccines, said a vaccine for COVID-19 could arrive in “12 to 18 months”, but she was more hopeful that treatments could be developed sooner.

“We haven’t spoken a lot in the public around treatments and I think that they may play a very important role while we’re waiting for a vaccine,” Professor Lewin said.

External Link:

@QandA: Are we prepared for winter and the spikes that will come with it? #QandA

“We have no specific treatment for the virus.

“People get better on their own, or they get better because they receive supportive care in hospital.

“If we had a treatment, an antiviral drug, that blocked replication of the virus, it could potentially do two things: it could potentially improve the outcome — people don’t get so sick and don’t die — or also reduce transmission because most virus transmission is related to how much virus you have onboard.

“Just recently, we’ve become aware of one drug in particular.

“It’s an arthritis drug. A very small study but being tested quite widely, showing the drug reduced the amount of virus that we could measure in someone’s swab.

“We can actually measure the amount of it accurately, and it definitely decreased with this particular arthritis drug.

“One thing we might see in the not-so-distant future is a lot of understanding about drugs that block replication and that could have implications for both clinical outcome as well as how infectious you are.

“I’m a little optimistic about that.”

Health department clarifies comments

After the episode had finished, the Department of Health issued a statement explaining Professor Kelly’s comments around testing protocols.

“As we learn more about the virus, we have continued to review the testing criteria,” a spokesperson said.

“In light of our stronger travel restrictions, the focus logically moves to the community with COVID-19 symptoms, on top of returned travellers and close contacts of cases.

“Professor Kelly flagged that the Communicable Diseases Network Australia will change the testing guidelines for public health units in the near future.”

Video: Q+A: Coronavirus testing criteria slammed

(ABC News)

External Link:

Ask us your coronavirus questions


Lambie blasts gambling giant for demanding pokies rent during COVID-19 shutdown

Hobart 7000

Gambling giant Federal Group has demanded Tasmanian pub owners continue paying rent on leased poker machines, even while hoteliers have been forced to close due to coronavirus — a move blasted by Senator Jacqui Lambie as “trying to make a quid” during a “wartime scenario”.

Key points:

  • Federal Group holds the monopoly licence for gambling in Tasmania, meaning venue owners pay rent to lease its pokies
  • Senator Jacqui Lambie has criticised Federal Group, which announced it would stand down 1,500 employees yesterday, for continuing to take that rent from hotels
  • Federal Group says it is meeting with its bank to request relief and hopes to pass that relief onto venue owners

Federal subsidiary Network Gaming wrote to Tasmanian poker machine leaseholders on Monday to say that while Keno charges would be dropped, it would continue to charge rent on electronic gaming machines “due to [an] ongoing commitment to pay these lease agreements with banks”.

One independent hotelier, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were furious over being expected to pay out about $1,500 per week for machines they could not use in a pub they could not open.

“We’ve been propping them up for a decent amount of time now and if they don’t have the cash reserves or the relationship with their banks for loan relief … I’m not comfortable propping them up this time,” the pub owner said.

“Why should we be forced to foot the bill for loans that they’ve arranged for machines that they’ve supplied, that they have the monopoly for and that they give access only to what they choose?”

Network Gaming, which monitors and maintains Tasmanian poker machines, will close as part of Federal Group complying with government restrictions to address the coronavirus crisis.

On Monday, Federal announced it was standing down about 1,500 employees and will close its community-based pubs and casino operations, as part of the shutdown.

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


Jacqui Lambie said the country was in a “wartime scenario” and the demand was “shameful”. (ABC News: Adam Kennedy)

Independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie described Federal’s decision to keep charging rent on pokies as “shameful”.

“How appalling that hotels have just been whacked with closure because of the virus … we are in a wartime scenario,” Senator Lambie said, adding that Federal was “still trying to make a quid”.

“They don’t need that bloody money,” she added.

Hotel operators call conduct ‘disgusting’

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.

Jen Billing from the Exeter Hotel told ABC Radio Hobart she had received the letter about having to keep paying rent.

“[It’s] $1200 a week … we’re not getting any income for that … we’ve had to put everyone off … it’s disgusting,” she said.

She questioned why Federal Group was not providing any support for impacted venues.

“These are the only people who are not, and really are probably the only ones who can afford it,” she said.

Mark Cleary, owner of The Heemskirk in Zeehan, has also been asked to continue paying rent on his poker machines.


Mark Cleary said he could see how Federal needed to recoup expenses. (ABC News)

The former Federal Group employee said he was sure the company found it a tough decision.

“If you get a car under a personal loan and it blows up and you can’t afford to fix it, the banks won’t say ‘don’t worry’ — it’s a risk you take,” Mr Cleary said.

“I’m sure as soon as they can get them back up and running they will.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

In a statement, Federal Group spokesman Daniel Hanna said the machines provided to venues were leased via a bank, and that the group was meeting urgently with the bank on Tuesday to seek relief to pass on to venues.

“The Senator could’ve asked us first and we would’ve said what we were doing. Now is time for leadership,” he added.

Last week, Federal said it would adopt a similar stance to Melbourne’s Crown Casino, which was granted an exemption to Victoria’s measures to enforce social distancing — announcing it would switch off every second poker machine in its gaming lounges to assist in patrons adhering to the advice.

However, following a toughening up of the measures to address the coronavirus outbreak nationally, the exemption on casinos was withdrawn.

Documents filed with the Australian Securities Investment last year showed Federal Group enjoyed an after-tax profit of $17 million last financial year, paying its owners, the Farrell family, a $12.5 million dividend.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

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(ABC News)


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