Coronavirus update: Major grocery chains place limits on household items including rice, pasta, and flour
The two major supermarket chains announce new buying limits, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton tests positive for coronavirus and so does the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
This story was updated throughout Friday. You can stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
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Friday’s key moments
- Home Affairs Minister tests positive
- PM wants to cancel mass gatherings
- Coles and Woolworths place limits on pasta, rice, and paper towels
- Justin Trudeau in self-quarantine after wife gets sick
- ASX opens down almost 7 per cent, but rallies to end the day up 4.4pc
- Australian Grand Prix cancelled after much confusion
- Virgin staff member tests positive for coronavirus
- Donald Trump dined with Brazilian official who has tested positive
In separate messages to customers, Australia’s two major supermarket chains have both announced they are limiting the purchase of several household items to discourage panic buying.
Both Coles and Woolworths are lowering the limit on sales of basic food items such as rice, pasta, and flour — while paper towels and paper tissues have also been restricted.
Customers will be able to purchase between one and two packs of each item depending on the outlet and the item.
It follows both chains imposing a one-pack limit on toilet paper earlier this week after panic buying led to customers clearing shelves.
Coles is also temporarily suspending a refund policy — meaning if you have purchased additional items you no longer want, you can’t get them refunded.
English Premier League suspended
The English Premier League has been suspended after three clubs put their entire playing squads in self-isolation because of coronavirus.
The league had expected to continue with a full schedule this weekend, but later decided to suspend all matches until April 3 “at the earliest.”
The same suspension applies for the three lower divisions overseen by the English Football League and to England’s top two women’s divisions, as well as the FA Cup.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, leading to the cancellation of the team’s match against Brighton.
Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi also had a positive test on Thursday, while on Friday Everton said a player had reported symptoms consistent with coronavirus and said its squad was self-isolating.
Two more clubs said some players or staff would isolate. Bournemouth said reserve goalkeeper Artur Boruc and four members of staff had symptoms consistent with the virus. Leicester said three players had “extremely mild illness” and would self-isolate as a precaution.
More recoveries than new infections in South Korea
South Korea has reported more recoveries from the coronavirus than new infections for the first time since its outbreak emerged in January.
South Korea recorded 110 new coronavirus cases on Friday compared with 114 a day earlier, taking the national tally to 7,979.
The death toll rose by three to 70.
In contrast, 177 patients were released from hospitals where they had been isolated for treatment.
The downward trend in daily cases is raising hopes Asia’s biggest epidemic outside China may be slowing.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed he has coronavirus.
The Federal Government frontbencher said he felt fine but woke up with a temperature and sore throat.
“I immediately contacted the Queensland Department of Health and was subsequently tested for COVID-19,” Mr Dutton said in a statement.
“I was advised by Queensland Health this afternoon that the test had returned positive.
“It is the policy of Queensland Health that anyone who tests positive is to be admitted into hospital and I have complied with their advice.
“I feel fine and will provide an update in due course.”
Scott Morrison’s spokesperson said the PM had been told he did not need to self-isolate, as only people who had close contact with Mr Dutton in the 24 hours before he became symptomatic would need to do so.
Spanish death toll rises
Spain is grappling with a sharp increase in its coronavirus death toll.
As of Thursday (local time) there were more than 3,800 cases in Spain and the death toll was at 84, up from 47 on Wednesday.
Nearly 2,000 cases have been around the capital of Madrid.
The Government has closed museums and sports centres, sent home nearly 10 million students and asked people to work remotely, while limiting crowds at public events in high-risk areas.
After a meeting with state and territory leaders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said mass gatherings should not go ahead from Monday.
His exact wording was: “We will be advising against organised non-essential gatherings of persons of 500 people or greater”.
He said the plan did not include attending school or university lectures, or things like using public transport or going to airports.
Mr Morrison said there were “many issues to work through” before Monday, and that there would be another meeting on Sunday to consider the implementation of the plan.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the advice would apply to “static [gatherings] where people are together for a period of perhaps up to two hours”.
He said this type of exposure was considered “high risk”, as opposed to the casual exposure of walking through an airport.
Soon after the PM’s announcement, organisers of the Royal Sydney Show confirmed the event had been cancelled due to the pandemic.
Australians warned to reconsider overseas travel
In the same press conference where Scott Morrison said mass gatherings should be cancelled, he also advised Australians against unnecessary international travel.
He also said Australia was at “level-three travel advice”.
There are only four levels of travel advice; at level three there are “serious and potentially life-threatening risks”, level four is “do not travel”.
You’re not going to be stopped if you go to an airport, but the risk is that your travel will be disrupted.
AFL, AFLW, NRL fans to be locked out of games
AFL and AFLW fans will be locked out of matches for the foreseeable future.
AFL chief executive Gillion McLachlan confirmed the news on Friday.
It follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that he had agreed with state and territory leaders that mass gatherings of more than 500 people should not go ahead from Monday.
On Friday evening Mr Morrison confirmed he would not attend round one of the NRL, after earlier saying he planned to attend a Cronulla Sharks game.
Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has tested positive for coronavirus.
The pair have been in self-isolation since Mrs Trudeau came down with flu-like symptoms and was tested.
“The Prime Minister is in good health with no symptoms. As a precautionary measure and following the advice of doctors, he will be in isolation for a planned period of 14 days,” a statement said.
Supply issue affecting coronavirus testing materials
Australia is facing medical supply chain issues as demand for coronavirus tests increases, chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says.
He did not specify exactly which items were affected, but said they were “consumables … to do with the COVID-19 testing”.
Professor Murphy said part of the issue was that many Australians were being checked when they didn’t need to be.
“They were worried people who had not been returned travellers,” he said.
“So we are working through … new testing paradigms so that we can make sure doctors only refer people who have a decent prospect of a positive test.”
Mount Everest closed to climbers
Nepal has closed all of its Himalayan peaks including Mount Everest this climbing season because of fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains including Mount Everest, gets more than $4 million in permit fees every year.
The country has confirmed just one case of the coronavirus — a student who was studying in China and was on a trip home — out of 450 people tested.
Flight Centre will close 100 stores across Australia in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, the travel company said the “virus’s spread and increased travel restrictions mean demand is softening significantly and [the] timeframe for recovery is unclear”.
But the company said it was implementing other short-term strategies, including introducing flexible work arrangements, to allow staff to switch from full time to part time, and cancelling performance bonuses for executives.
One person in Kingaroy and another in Rockhampton have tested positive to COVID-19 — the first cases detected in Queensland outside the state’s heavily populated south-east corner.
Eight new cases of the disease have been confirmed in the state, the biggest daily jump so far.
Three people in Central West New South Wales have also tested positive.
The Western Local Health District says the patients, in Orange, have been self-isolating and have not been to the city’s hospital.
On Friday morning, the Australian stock market plunged following the worst losses on Wall Street since the Black Monday crash of 1987.
At 10:10am AEDT, 10 minutes after trading opened, the ASX 200 had fallen 6.88 per cent.
But at 2:25pm AEDT, the market started to rebound, finally turning positive within the hour.
The ASX surged to end the day up 4.4pc at 5,539 points.
Race officials made the decision to cancel the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix following updated medical advice from Victoria’s chief health officer.
In a statement, organisers said all ticket holders would receive a full refund.
“Our first priority is the safety of everyone including attendees, our personnel, all event partners and members of the local community,” the Australian Grand Prix Corporation said.
Earlier, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said if the event had gone ahead, no spectators would have been allowed due to public health concerns.
Patrons had been lining up at the gates, which were due to open at 8:45am AEDT.
Last night, McLaren Racing withdrew from the event after one of its team members tested positive to the virus.
Organisers had expected about 300,000 people to attend the event at Albert Park over the four days.
Virgin Australia has confirmed a cabin crew member is in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.
“She recently came back from overseas and was feeling unwell and decided to self-report,” Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah said.
It comes a day after Hollywood actor Tom Hanks revealed he and his wife Rita Wilson are in isolation in Gold Coast University Hospital after testing positive to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, a fourth case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Tasmania, with a woman in her 40s being isolated in University of Tasmania accommodation in Launceston.
In New South Wales, Katoomba High School in the Blue Mountains has been closed for the day after a confirmed case — the fourth school in the state to lock down over the virus.
In South Australia, submarine maintenance facility ASC has closed part of its operations after one of its workers tested positive for coronavirus.
And in Western Australia, last night five more people tested positive.
Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says Parliament should return next Tuesday so that it can address the coronavirus crisis, as well as the economic stimulus package revealed yesterday:
“It remains to be seen whether it [the stimulus] is large enough and timely enough to see us through these issues.
“But it is important that it be done quickly. And that’s why this morning I have written to the Prime Minister asking him to recall Parliament next week, rather than wait for the week after.
“Parliament should resume next Tuesday, after the party rooms have a chance to consider any legislation next Monday.”
US President Donald Trump says he is not concerned about the possibility of being exposed to coronavirus after dining last week with a Brazilian government official who has since tested positive for the disease.
The day after announcing curbs on travel to the United States by European Union residents, Mr Trump brushed off concerns about his possible exposure to the virus, which has sickened more than 126,000 people in a worldwide pandemic.
“Let’s put it this way, I’m not concerned,” he told reporters while meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who had been at the dinner with Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, has been tested for coronavirus and is awaiting the result, his son Eduardo wrote on Twitter, adding that the president was not showing any symptoms.
Brazilian officials on Thursday confirmed that Brazil’s communications secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, has the coronavirus and is now under quarantine at home.
For just the fourth time in its 65-year history, the Disneyland resort in Anaheim, California, has had an unscheduled closure — the first since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
After Sunday, Florida’s Disney World will also close to guests until the end of March.
Tokyo Disneyland had already closed its doors in late February in response to the coronavirus crisis.
In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is temporarily closing its doors and Broadway theatres are shutting down. In Washington, the US Congress will be off limits to visitors until April.
Yesterday, the NBA suspended its season after a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. Major League Baseball has pushed back its opening day at least two weeks, while the National Hockey League has put its season on hold.
US President Donald Trump, who has been criticised for not acting quickly enough, says he could restrict domestic travel within the US and has cancelled some political rallies.
Live Nation postpones all ‘large-scale’ events, but Tokyo 2020 still plans to go ahead
Live Nation, one of the world’s biggest live entertainment companies, has postponed all “large-scale” events worldwide.
But Tokyo 2020 organisers say they are moving ahead with preparations to hold “safe and secure” Olympic Games on schedule in July and August.
That’s despite sporting events being cancelled and postponed — and in some cases, held in empty stadiums — around the world.
The three main world tennis federations have moved to cancel events for up to six weeks, while baseball, soccer, ice hockey and college basketball competitions have been suspended.
In Australia, as well as the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix being cancelled, the Australian men’s cricket team’s ODI series against New Zealand, starting on Friday, will now take place behind closed doors.
US President Donald Trump said Tokyo 2020 officials should consider delaying the event for one year.
Catholic churches in Rome have been ordered to close because of the coronavirus pandemic, in a move believed to be unprecedented in modern times.
There are more than 900 parochial and historic churches in the Italian capital.
The decree will remain in effect until at least April 3, and follows a decision by the Italian Government to close virtually every commercial activity in Italy apart from pharmacies, food shops and other stores selling essential goods.
Meanwhile, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suspending all of its worship services globally.
The decision was made hours after Utah’s governor recommended limiting group gatherings in the state to no more than 100 people for at least two weeks.
China says pandemic ‘could be over by June’
The global coronavirus pandemic could be over by June if countries mobilise to fight it, a senior Chinese medical adviser said, as China declared the peak had passed there and new cases in Hubei fell to single digits for the first time.
Around two-thirds of global cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in China’s central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December.
But in recent weeks the vast majority of new cases have been outside China.
Chinese authorities credit strict measures they have taken, including placing Hubei under near total lockdown and preventing big outbreaks in other cities, and say other countries should learn from their efforts.
“Broadly speaking, the peak of the epidemic has passed for China,” said Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission.
“The increase of new cases is falling.”
Bahrain accuses Iran of ‘biological aggression’
Bahrain has accused Iran of “biological aggression” by covering up the spread of the coronavirus and failing to stamp the passports of Bahraini travellers.
As the death toll continued to rise in Iran, Gulf Arab states took new steps to contain the virus, with Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority saying anyone diagnosed with coronavirus was forbidden from attending Friday prayers.
Many of the recorded infections throughout the Gulf region are linked to travel to Iran, which hosts several important shrines and pilgrimage sites for Shi’ite Muslims.
Iran asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency funding to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak that has hit the Islamic Republic hard, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
Iran reported 75 new deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours bringing the death toll to 429 in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
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