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Testing reveals coronavirus spread in the US weeks earlier than first thought


United States

Coronavirus spread in California weeks earlier than first thought and early deaths were likely mistaken for the flu, according to local US health officials.

Key points:

  • California has identified a COVID-19 death from early February
  • A February 29 death was thought to be first US fatality
  • The California Governor has ordered health authorities to search for possible cases dating back to December

A 57-year-old woman died of COVID-19 on February 6, far earlier than any other reported cases in the United States, said Santa Clara County health officer Sara Cody.

It was previously thought that the first US death from the disease was in Washington state on February 29.

The details of the deaths could help public health officials better understand how the outbreak took hold in the United States.

Additional early deaths may also be discovered in California after Governor Gavin Newsom said he asked medical examiners from across the state to search for deaths that might have been caused by coronavirus as far back as December.



Photo:

California Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered testing for coronavirus as far back as December, 2019. (AP: Rich Pedroncelli)

The California woman’s death and two other early deaths — on February 17 and March 6 — were confirmed to have been COVID-19 by US health authorities.

Santa Clara County had previously identified its first case of community transmission on February 28, Dr Cody said.

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

But none of the three patients who died before February 28 had travelled.

“What these deaths tell us is that we had community transmission, probably to a significant degree, far earlier than we had known,” Dr Cody said.

Because the region was going through a bad flu season at the time, many cases may have been misclassified as influenza, she said.

Dr Cody said the cases were likely “iceberg tips”, indicating that many more people were also infected.



Photo:

The first coronavirus death in the US was weeks earlier than first thought. (Reuters: Patrick T Fallon)

The three cases were discovered because the county medical examiner’s office was not satisfied it had found the correct cause of death, Dr Cody said.

Because coronavirus tests were not available, they county saved tissue samples, which they sent to the US Centers for Disease Control.

How fast is coronavirus growing around the world?


Infographic:
Growth in known cases in key countries, on a logarithmic scale

This chart uses a logarithmic scale to highlight coronavirus growth rates. Read our explainer to understand what that means — and what we can learn from countries that have slowed the spread.

The criteria at the time by the CDC restricted testing to individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms.

Coronavirus deaths in the US topped 46,000 on Thursday, doubling in a little over a week.

The US has by far the world’s largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases at more than 830,000.

Reuters

What you need to know about coronavirus:


Video: Government's COVIDSafe tracing app explained.

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Victoria’s coronavirus crisis calls for more oversight and an end to Opposition infighting


Melbourne 3000

When Victoria’s MPs head into Parliament on Thursday they will be making some big decisions, casting votes on a huge financial package needed to help the state combat the economic carnage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Treasurer Tim Pallas’s $24.5 billion recovery war chest is significant — it will add considerably to state debt.

Modelling shows that the unemployment rate will more than double and 270,000 Victorian jobs could be lost under a worst-case scenario.

Scrutiny must be applied to this fund.

There are calls far and wide for Parliament to sit more often, not less, and there are calls for more sitting dates to be set.

The Parliament must also run the ruler over a giant omnibus bill that covers everything from councils to WorkCover, and grants unprecedented powers to the justice system.

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

The Federal Parliament and other countries have set up oversight bodies dominated by non-government parties but Victoria is not doing the same.

Instead, the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, dominated by Labor, will be put in charge.

Known as “PAEC”, it’s the equivalent of Canberra’s Senate estimates, but for years it’s been overrun by petty political point-scoring and a platform for the government of the day to spruik its performance.

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It seems a little counterproductive that this body be given the job of crisis oversight.

Retired Supreme Court judge Stephen Charles QC, who helped set up the state’s anti-corruption watchdog, says now is the time for more — not less — oversight of government decision-making.

Mr Charles, who is a member of the Accountability Roundtable think tank, says the group isn’t opposed to the measures being taken by the Government, but greater scrutiny needs to be applied by Parliament.

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 supportive of what Government is doing but we need oversight — we don’t distrust them, we just need to know what is going on,” he told the ABC.

“It’s at a difficult time when Government are being forced to act in a way that may turn out to be either wrong, or need amending, and oversight should not be dominated by Government personnel.”

He said Australia should follow other democracies, which are continuing to hold parliamentary sittings even in these tough times.

Internal bickering threatens Opposition’s focus

The challenge for the Opposition and crossbench in the Upper House is to work together to apply some level scrutiny.

But there is a major problem for the Opposition.



Photo:

Internal bickering is continuing to bog down Michael O’Brien’s leadership at a critical time. (ABC News)

Rather than focusing on the greatest challenge in a generation, it continues to be bogged down by internal bickering — even at a time like this.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien’s nearly 18-month tenure has been the subject of internal criticism for some time.

Too many people think he is not doing enough, or scoring any goals against the Government — a tough ask against an experienced Premier brimming with confidence.

There have been very public displays from frontbencher Tim Smith projecting an angry front.

Over the weekend he took to social media to lambast the Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, describing some of his rationale for social restrictions as “bullshit.”

And then there were the bats in his leafy Kew electorate.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Featuring some local party branch members, Smith managed to get a story up on Channel 9’s Sunday news about the pesky bats and the need to move them on because of coronavirus.

O’Brien hasn’t sought to rock the boat in this crisis, offering to work with the Government while questioning some of the budget decisions.

Smith’s behaviour over the weekend, and some less inflammatory comments from former leader Matthew Guy, have agitated some in the O’Brien camp — so much so that the leader promised to have a word to Smith.



Photo:

Tim Smith has been projecting an angry front, criticising the Chief Health Officer. (AAP: James Ross)

Leaked story pours ‘fuel on the fire’

On Tuesday, a story appeared on the front page of The Age stating that O’Brien had tried to soothe tensions in the party by telling Smith and company to cool their jets on their criticism of the Chief Health Officer during a Shadow Cabinet meeting.

The problem is Matthew Guy is just a backbencher, so he wasn’t at the meeting, and other members of the Opposition frontbench said no such edict was made at Shadow Cabinet.

Throughout the party, MPs and staff were ropable that this story appeared.

The leaked story did nothing but “pour fuel on the fire”, one MP said.

Others went as far as to suggest this behaviour could end O’Brien’s leadership.

It is a dire time for the Victorian Liberals.

Changing horses during a crisis would shred even more credibility from the party that is still very much licking deep wounds from the Dan Andrews belting in 2018.

As a few wiser heads inside the party this week said “we aren’t necessarily at our lowest ebb, we can get worse”.

And given the state’s economy is in freefall, things will get harder for Labor, so there may just be opportunity to gain ground for the Opposition — that is, if the team can work together.

What you need to know about coronavirus:


Video: What will happen when the Government starts easing restrictions?

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After being told not to attend his court hearing, Dwayne was later arrested for failing to show up


Melbourne 3000

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains names, images and descriptions of people who have died.

Lawyers for a vulnerable Aboriginal man who was jailed for weeks in a court bungle and slapped with a fine for sleeping on a park bench during the coronavirus state of emergency say the case reeks of “unfairness and injustice”.

Key points:

  • Dwayne Kennedy was told he did not need to appear in court on April 2 but a warrant was issued for his arrest
  • He was held in custody for two weeks and was twice denied bail before he was released following an emergency hearing in the Supreme Court
  • His lawyer says the stressful ordeal came after Mr Kennedy’s own sister died in custody in January

“I was very angry and outraged that this happened to my client,” criminal lawyer Tessa Theocharous said.

“Police came upon him and they actually issued him with a fine for being outside his house, despite him having homelessness issues.”

“It seems the police were acting with maximum prejudice against him.”

Yorta Yorta and Mutti Mutti man Dwayne Kennedy is facing numerous charges of shop theft, allegedly for stealing perfume, vitamins and alcohol from various chemists and bottle shops around Melbourne.

Under coronavirus state of emergency restrictions and court practices to implement social distancing, Mr Kennedy was not required to show up for a court hearing on April 2 at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.



Photo:

Dwayne Kennedy was granted an immediate release from jail after an emergency hearing in the Supreme Court. (Facebook)

However, when he did not show up for his hearing, prosecutors asked for a warrant for his arrest and the court granted it.

Police documents accessed by the ABC showed that the next day, police found Mr Kennedy “asleep on a bench” in Collingwood, where he allegedly told them he was “about to go home and he lived around the corner”.

Police arrested Mr Kennedy on a warrant and, the documents showed, also fined him with a $1,652 infringement “for unlawfully being outside his place of residence during the COVID-19 outbreak”.

“His lack of regard for remembering court dates, as well as flouting the current Health laws surrounding COVID-19, are deeply concerning to police,” the documents said.

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

‘Mystified’ judge releases Kennedy immediately

Mr Kennedy spent the next two weeks in a Melbourne prison on remand and was twice denied bail, before his lawyers sought an emergency hearing in the Supreme Court calling for his immediate release on Friday.

During the hearing, police prosecutor James Kibel admitted that the warrant for Mr Kennedy’s arrest on April 2 should never have been sought from the courts.

“I don’t appear in the Magistrates’ Court, but in the circumstances I do concede the warrant was issued in contrary to the practice direction,” Mr Kibel said.



Photo:

Dwayne Kennedy was freed after an emergency hearing in the Supreme Court. (ABC News: Patrick Rocca)

In granting Mr Kennedy’s immediate release on bail, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kaye described the case as “a string of errors”.

“I’m rather mystified that it has come to this. It’s most unfortunate,” Justice Kaye said.

“I’ll refrain from being critical because it’s a very difficult time for all of us involved in the legal process.

“Errors are being made because of the pressure lawyers and practitioners are under at the moment.”

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 is unclear if Mr Kennedy will still be charged with a COVID-19 infringement, as indicated in the police documents.

Victoria Police would not confirm the infringement.

However, a spokesperson said that since early April, Victoria Police had put in place a new policy “to proactively review every infringement that has been issued to determine whether it was appropriately issued or whether a warning would have been more appropriate”.

“We are still reviewing all of the fines issued to date, however, those that were not properly issued or do not pass the common sense approach will be withdrawn,” the spokesperson said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Family ‘reeling’ from sister’s death in custody

Ms Theocharous said the case was especially troubling due to Mr Kennedy’s status as a vulnerable Aboriginal man with an acquired brain injury.

The court heard that Mr Kennedy had been put on remand, just three months after his sister, Veronica Nelson, died in custody in Victoria’s maximum security women’s prison.

Ms Nelson died on January 2, also while on remand on shop theft charges.



Photo:

Mr Kennedy’s sister Veronica Nelson died in custody on January 2. (Supplied)

“My client’s sister unnecessarily passed away in custody. He was then unfairly imprisoned for two weeks before the Supreme Court granted him bail,” Ms Theocharous said.

“The family is still reeling from the shock and grief about having a loved one unnecessarily pass away while in custody.

“The stress and anxiety around having another family member go into custody when they’ve had another family member just die in custody can’t be over explained. It’s caused a great deal of harm and upset.”

The court bungle comes just weeks after the Victorian coroner handed down its findings into the death in custody of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day.

“It’s very disappointing to see that the system doesn’t learn from these terrible tragedies that can be avoided,” Ms Theocharous said.

“We need to start doing much better for our First Nations people than we currently are in the justice system.

“There is absolutely a pattern.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

The vice president of Liberty Victoria, Julia Kretzenbacher, said Mr Kennedy’s case highlighted the potential for problems with the justice system during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“[Mr Kennedy’s] case concerned me because our systems should be careful and look after people like him who are vulnerable, especially in the current circumstances,” Ms Kretzenbacher said.

“It’s concerning that at present Victoria Police isn’t releasing any data about where most of the fines are issued and the backgrounds of the people who are having the fines issued.”

The Victorian Attorney-General has been contacted for comment.

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It was meant to be a serious meeting, but Lizet couldn’t remove her potato-head filter


Melbourne 3000

Lizet Ocampo was having some trouble explaining to her colleagues why, instead of her face on the videoconference call, all her colleagues could see was a potato with her eyes and lips.

She wasn’t really sure what had gone wrong herself.

“I didn’t understand why I had a filter and why, of all things, I was a potato,” she told the ABC.

As millions of people around the world are studying and working online for the first time thanks to the coronavirus crisis, the transition has not gone smoothly for everyone.

And, much to the amusement of the rest of us, many of those who have experienced hiccups have been happy to share their embarrassing moments.

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

Earlier in that day, Ms Ocampo — the political director of an organisation that promotes progressive politics in the United States — had been trying to download some filters for a “virtual happy hour” but kept getting an error message and gave up on the idea.

The problem only became obvious later during the online meeting to discuss candidates the organisation was supporting in upcoming elections, Ms Ocampo explained.

“I tried to fix the settings for some time, turned off the camera a couple of times.

“It wasn’t working so I decided just to remain as a potato.”

External Link:

Potato head tweet

‘There are no rules’ when children and work collide

Ms Ocampo’s working from home fail became a viral sensation, but as thousands more people have moved away from boardrooms and into video chatrooms, she isn’t alone.

In Melbourne, disability sector worker Jodie Henry has been working full-time from home, with her two children and mother also in the house.

She said her family had made several accidental cameos in her work videoconference calls.

Those who saw “BBC Dad” Robert Kelly’s young children being dragged out of his office by their mother while he was being interviewed in 2017 know a closed door does not always stop family members.

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Children interrupt a BBC interview

On one occasion, Ms Henry was on a conference call and her daughter decided it was an appropriate time to show her all her recent purchases.

Another day, her mother came in with her walking frame “yakking” with the dog at the top of her voice.

“There are no rules,” she said.

“They will just come in and start talking to you and you try and tell them you are busy and they will keep talking.”

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.

However, she said she had noticed workplaces were becoming more understanding of the challenges people faced working from home.

“I ran my own business years ago from home when my kids were a lot younger and I used to be really paranoid about not being professional,” she said.

“I think it has flipped everything now and people are realising you can work from home and you can have your kids and your mum and your dog around and you can still be really productive and professional.”

Accidentally topless at university

For some, the convenience of working from home has become something of a trap.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Law student David Lewis had a regrettable moment when he logged on to a live criminal law video tutorial one night half-naked.

“Because I have been stuck at home for many weeks now, I have kind of let my appearance standards slip a lot,” he said.

“I logged on barely dressed. I had no shirt on. I had not shaven in a few days. I hadn’t showered that day and the camera just came on unbeknownst to me, because it was automatically enabled.

“I was trying to find my notes for the tutorial which I keep online, so I am browsing the internet and I have no idea my camera is on and my fellow students and tutor can see me not looking my best.”

When Mr Lewis did eventually return to the Zoom screen, he was shocked to realise he was the only person with their camera on.

“My eyes widened, I must have looked startled and I could not switch that camera off fast enough.”

External Link:

This video of a man in his underwear during a video meeting has been popular online

He decided not to discuss his topless moment during the tutorial.

“I tried to overcompensate by participating more than I ever had,” he said.

“I tried to answer every question and distract people by dazzling them with my grasp of whatever it was we were learning.”

A different side of colleagues and classmates

Another student later messaged Mr Lewis to say it was OK, and that she too had experienced a videoconference failure.

She had done job interview via Zoom not realising her camera would automatically come on and show the poster of hip hop diva Nicki Minaj in a G-string on the wall behind her.

“It was nice of another student to relate to me and give me a similar story,” Mr Lewis said.

“No-one else said anything but they can’t have missed it, they were all online.”

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While he would be the first to admit videoconferencing has its pitfalls, Mr Lewis — who also works as a media adviser — said remote working had at times helped him get to know his colleagues better.

“One of my favourite things about this whole process has been taking a peek at people’s bookshelves and see what they have been reading and how that reflects their personality and interests,” he said.

In a strange way, he said, people were getting to know their workmates better, now that they are physically distanced from one another.

“We are all in lockdown. We are prevented from seeing each other but we are learning more about each other at the same time,” he said.

‘Check if you are a vegetable first’

Back in the United States, unwitting viral star Ms Ocampo said what had originally been planned to make a few people giggle at a happy hour catch-up, it ended up making many, many more people laugh.

“The public loved it,” Ms Ocampo said.

“It made so many people in the country and around the world laugh at a time where many people need laughs.”

She had some valuable advice for everyone else working from home.

“Maybe check if you are a vegetable first before joining work meetings,” she said.

“But generally, stay planted and safe.”

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Still waiting for your $750 coronavirus payment? This is when you’ll receive it


Australia

It might feel like a long time ago now but one of the first measures the Federal Government announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic was $750 cash payments for people on a range of welfare benefits.

The money was due to get to most eligible people by now.

So where is that up to and what happens next?

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

When will I receive my $750 payment?

The first $750 Economic Support Payment is being made to people who were receiving an eligible payment.

That includes anyone who was already on JobSeeker, the Age Pension or Disability Support Pension between March 12 and April 13 this year.

Most were due to receive their $750 by April 17 and Services Australia says that has happened, with more than $4.5 billion hitting the bank accounts of more than 6 million Australians so far.

If you made a claim to receive one of those eligible payments before April 13 and it’s approved, you’ll also get the $750.

It could take a bit more time though because it can’t be paid until your claim is processed.

“Payments have already been made to most people and payments will continue to be made, including to those whose claims are currently being finalised, in the coming weeks,” Services Australia’s General Manager Hank Jongen said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

What about the second $750?

If you’re receiving an eligible payment on July 10, you’ll automatically get the second Economic Support Payment from July 13.

But not everyone who receives the first $750 payment is entitled to the second.

Instead, people on the JobSeeker Payment, as well as Austudy and Youth Allowance among others, will receive the coronavirus supplement of $550 per fortnight instead.

That payment is due to start on April 27.

It’ll be automatically be added to your regular payments for six months.



Photo:

Services Australia says more than 6 million people have received the first $750 payment. (ABC News)

I thought the JobSeeker partner income test was being raised but I’m still not eligible?

The government is increasing the amount of money your partner can earn before you’re unable to access the JobSeeker payment, from $1,858.50 to $3,068.80 per fortnight.

But the change doesn’t come into effect until April 27 so, if you’ve already registered your intention to claim or you’ve submitted one, it might be rejected.

If that’s the case, Services Australia says you don’t need to do anything — your claim will automatically be reassessed after April 27.

If you haven’t made a claim yet, it says you should hold off and wait for the threshold to change at the end of the month.

And remember: the personal income test still applies.



Photo:

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert says you can now get Customer Reference Numbers online. (AAP: James Gourley)

I’m still having trouble getting through to Centrelink — what can I do?

You’re not alone, many people say they’re struggling with online systems or spending hours on the phone on hold.

Or they’re receiving a much-anticipated call, only to have it drop out.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said as of Friday, April 17, people could now get their Customer Reference Number (CRN) online without having to call or go into a Centrelink office.

“You can go to MyGov right now and get a CRN, so your Customer Reference Number, to get access to a payment, right now, online, with a 100-point check,” he said.

“There’s an enormous amount of tech going in, an enormous amount of resources going in.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Mr Robert said staff were working as hard as possible to respond to an “unprecedented crisis with unprecedented demand”.

“To give you an understanding, we normally process 10,000 claims a week for JobSeeker.

“This week we’ll process 210,000 claims, 21 times [more than usual].”

“There’s always more to do but we’ll ask people to be patient.”

What you need to know about coronavirus:


Video: Four Corners looks at how coronavirus unleashed a financial wrecking ball right through the Australian economy.

(Four Corners)

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Learner drivers may face up to six-month wait as coronavirus stalls tests


Perth 6000

Driving instructors have been told to keep giving lessons despite licence tests being cancelled across most of the country, sparking concerns around coronavirus transmission and warnings of a backlog of applicants once the testing ban is lifted.

Key points:

  • Instructors can still give lessons even though driving tests are banned
  • They are worried about the risk of transmission of COVID-19
  • A backlog of learner drivers could take six months to clear once tests resume

Driving tests are cancelled across every state and territory except the NT, in a bid to protect public servants from the risk of being unable to maintain social distancing rules — such as staying far enough apart from someone in an enclosed space.

Instructors say many students have cancelled their classes, resulting in income drying up.

They are also predicting nightmarish backlogs for learner drivers looking to trade their L-plates in for P-plates when this is all over, given the already long queues in many jurisdictions.

Year 12 student Amy Carter was just hours away from being eligible to get her provisional licence, but like thousands of West Australian teens that milestone is on hold because of a State Government ban on non-essential driving tests.



Photo:

Amy Carter says the delays are upsetting after all the hard work she had put into learning to drive. (ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

The 16-year-old had 10 hours of supervised driving remaining, but expected it would now be months before she was able to sit her examination.

“It’s a bit upsetting, all the hard work that’s gone into it, like stressing to get it done on time and being told that I might have a couple more months until I can actually sit it,” she said.

Wait times likely to top six months, instructor warns

As of April 15, the decision has resulted in 5,185 C-class driving tests in Perth’s metropolitan area being deferred, and there are fears once tests reopen, the wait for drivers hoping to earn their provisional licence will be lengthy.



Photo:

Sean Conroy says the backlog of drivers wanting their provisional licence will be “insane”. (Supplied)

Positive Driving School owner and instructor Sean Conroy said the backlog of drivers would be “insane” and could take up to six months to clear.

“The wait times are going to be forever. I mean, you can imagine as soon as they go ‘you’re allowed to do a test’, every single student is going to jump online looking for a test,” he said.

Mr Conroy said even before coronavirus restrictions, some testing centres around the state had waitlists that stretched for months.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

The WA Department of Transport could not provide figures on how many people would be waiting to for a test once they reopened, but conceded it was likely to be thousands.

On average, more than 95,000 C-class driving assessments take place each year in the Perth metropolitan area.

The Department of Transport said currently there were about 74,000 C-class learner drivers in Western Australia.

The department said when current restrictions were lifted it would prioritise testing drivers whose assessments were cancelled, before opening bookings for new candidates.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said she hoped to have extra assessors working to clear the backlog, but had no plans to privatise tests.

‘You’re as close as you can get’

While all states and territories except the NT, where it is up to the instructor to decide whether they continue running tests, banned non-essential Practical Driving Assessments (PDA), driving lessons with an instructor in some jurisdictions are still allowed.

It is a move that has perplexed First Choice Driving School owner, Rosemarie Husband.

“If they [assessors] won’t sit in a car for 35 minutes with a student, we shouldn’t be giving an hour’s lesson,” she said.

“You’re side-by-side, you’re as close as you can get,” Ms Husband said.

She was teaching up to nine students a day, and said the risk of spreading the virus among her students was not worth taking.

“I would hate to get in touch with a parent and say ‘I’m sorry, unfortunately one of the students I had today has been in contact with somebody with COVID-19 so get yourself tested’,” she said.



Photo:

Rosemarie Husband was teaching up to nine students a day before the coronavirus pandemic. (ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

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

Mr Conroy has also cancelled his lessons because of virus concerns.

“I just think it’s crazy. We’re supposed to isolate and stay a metre and a half away. It’s kind of impossible to do that in a car,” Mr Conroy said.

Ultimately, he said he felt he made the best decision but it was a struggle.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

“It’s pretty hard when you’ve gone three weeks without pay, you’ve got a mortgage, bills, four kids. It all adds up,” he said.

Ms Husband said the decision had strained her financially too.

“It has had a massive financial impact on us, but I’d rather be poor and safe than rich and not,” she said.

But Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said professional driving lessons were similar to on-demand transport, which could continue, provided hygiene precautions were practiced.

The Department of Transport was allowing essential tests to be taken, primarily for those who need a licence for work, but said obtaining a licence to travel to and from work was not considered critical.

Exceptional circumstances includes:

  • Freight work and mining
  • Medical reasons
  • Primary care
  • Emergency services
  • Court-ordered
  • Permanent Residency Conversion Requirement

What you need to know about coronavirus:


Video: What can the Government learn from other countries scaling back their lockdown restrictions?

(ABC News)

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Australia’s top doctor says coronavirus will change human race for good


Australia

From the security of his office in Canberra, the nation’s top doctor fielded questions from politicians across the ditch on Australia’s response to COVID-19.

Key points:

  • Nightclubs and music festivals to remain closed for foreseeable future
  • Industries like construction could close if virus rates worsen
  • Australia and New Zealand’s “hard and fast” approach to virus is working

Brendan Murphy claimed an “illegal dinner party” attended by medics in Tasmania may have caused the latest coronavirus cluster. He later withdrew the remark.

Here’s what else we learned.

The human race will change for good

By closing the borders, quarantining travellers and clamping down on group gatherings, Australia has so far managed to “flatten the curve” and limit community transmission.

So, many people are daring to dream of a post COVID-19 world where life can return to normal.

But Professor Murphy said, in some ways, this crisis will change human behaviour for good.

“We’ll all be doing better hand hygiene from now on,” he said.

“There are some things we’ll do differently, always.”

Professor Murphy and other health experts have said fewer cases of colds and flus had been reported in Australia because people were keeping their distance from other people and practicing better hygiene.

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



Photo:

Brendan Murphy says he does not see music festivals being allowed anytime soon. (ABC Central Victoria: Corey Hague)

The day the music festival (kind of) died

For ravers and music lovers, the news is not so good.

While the Prime Minister has consistently said the coronavirus restrictions would remain in place for six months, behind the scenes National Cabinet is beginning to chart a path out of the crisis.

That includes what a gradual easing of restrictions might look like.

Professor Murphy said until a vaccine or treatment was found, he does not believe the social distancing measures can be relaxed entirely.

“Unless you’re absolutely, completely confident about your borders, your testing, your surveillance, you can’t relax a measure of distancing,” he said.

“It’s hard for me to envisage reopening of nightclubs and big music festivals in the foreseeable future.”

How fast is coronavirus growing around the world?


Infographic:
Growth in known cases in key countries, on a logarithmic scale

This chart uses a logarithmic scale to highlight coronavirus growth rates. Read our explainer to understand what that means — and what we can learn from countries that have slowed the spread.

Construction, manufacturing to close if things get worse

Australia has banned indoor and outdoor gatherings, closed pubs, clubs, cinemas, gyms and casinos and limited cafes and restaurants to takeaway service only.

In New Zealand, which shut down all commercial activity, its politicians probed Professor Murphy about why Australia had not gone harder.

Any measures had to be sustainable for the long haul, he said, so the advice was to close businesses that were not “absolutely essential to the economy”.

“Clearly if things get worse we will go harder,” he said.

“[In that case] we would be keen to close construction, manufacturing and retail more broadly.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Elimination versus suppression

Much has been made of New Zealand’s “elimination” strategy compared to Australia’s “suppression and control” approach.

But Professor Murphy said the aim was not that different.

“Our goals are very much the same; to get transmission down to as low as possible,” he said.

“And if we get rid of it, that would be great.”

Coronavirus questions answered
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Professor Murphy said Australia would “love” to eliminate the virus entirely but likened it to a “nirvana” that could not necessarily be achieved.

But he said both Australia and New Zealand were in a strong position because they had gone “hard and fast” in their response to the virus.

“If you go hard late, as the UK has done, you see what carnage you suffer on the way through,” he said.

“It’s very, very hard to bring a large outbreak under control.”

The United Kingdom has recorded more than 88,000 cases and 11,300 deaths.

Conversely, in New Zealand, a country of five million people, the death toll has not yet topped 10.

As of Tuesday morning, Australia had 6,366 confirmed cases and 61 deaths.

What you need to know about coronavirus:


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Massive drop in NSW coronavirus infections continues


Sydney 2000

New South Wales has recorded two more coronavirus deaths, bringing the state’s total to 26, as the number of new cases continues to decline.

Key points:

  • Two more passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise have died
  • Sixty-six crew members have now tested positive
  • Only nine new COVID-19 infections were recorded in NSW in the past 24 hours

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said a 74-year-old woman died in John Hunter Hospital, while a 79-year-old man died in the Northern Beaches Hospital.

Both were passengers on the infamous Ruby Princess cruise ship and contracted the virus while on board.

In the 24 hours to 8:00pm on Sunday, the state recorded only nine new COVID-19 cases, despite more than 2,600 people being tested.

The total number of confirmed infections in NSW is now 2,863.

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

The single-figure increase came after seven new infections were recorded the previous day, although only about 800 people were tested then.

“The fact that we had nine new cases clearly indicates that we are moving in the right direction, but we still have a lot more to do,” Mr Hazzard said.

“No one should think that we can slacken off in the efforts that we’re trying to undertake at the moment.”

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 has also been revealed 66 Ruby Princess crew members have now tested positive to the virus.

Dr Christine Selvey, NSW Health Acting Director of Communicable Diseases, said some of those employees were close to recovery, though, as infections were spread across several weeks.

She rejected calls for all crew members to be tested as test kits only returned a positive result when someone had symptoms, not during the incubation period.

Mr Hazzard said it was still unclear who “patient zero” on the ship was almost a month after it docked at Circular Quay in Sydney.

“I think the jury is well and truly out on that, in the sense of who brought it onto the ship,” he said.

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Meanwhile, Mr Hazzard warned aged-care workers to stay home if they were unwell after a nurse at a facility in Western Sydney went in for six days despite having coronavirus symptoms.

Mr Hazzard said the woman, who worked at the Anglicare Newmarch House in Caddens and eventually tested positive, put vulnerable people at risk.

One resident has since tested positive and another is waiting for test results.

“We have talked about this numerous times but now it appears that some staff are still going to work, even when they have symptoms,” he said.

“Please don’t go to work if you’re feeling sick. Just don’t go.”

In a statement, Anglicare said all residents were now self-isolating in their rooms and any staff who had close contact with the infected people were self-isolating at home.

Anglicare said it had deployed staff specially trained in working with COVID-19 to work with the resident who tested positive.

It said all other staff had been directed to wear full personal protective equipment when caring for residents.

NSW Health has also identified several new areas where more testing should be conducted due to community transmission, including Penrith, Liverpool, Westmead, Blacktown, Cumberland, Randwick and Ryde.


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Easter was not the same this year — but this might help if you’re feeling lonely


WA

It’s no exaggeration to say Easter has been very different this year.

Traditionally it’s a time for catching up with family and friends, going to church, enjoying lavish meals based on seafood and lamb, and perhaps an Easter egg hunt in the park with the littlies.

But with social distancing rules putting paid to almost all of that, it’s been a pared-down Easter for most.

If you’re missing catching up with loved ones and feeling particularly alone at the moment, you’re not the only one.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Experts say loneliness is on the increase as COVID-19 precautions take their toll on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The good news is there are many things you can do to stay connected.



Photo:

Large family gatherings may be off the Easter agenda this year, but there are ways to stay connected. (Unsplash: Gor Davlyan)

Michelle Lim, a senior lecturer in clinical psychology at Swinburne University, is helping conduct a global study on the impact of loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Lim is an expert in loneliness — she’s also head of the university’s Social Health and Wellbeing Laboratory, which was set up to understand how loneliness and lack of social connections influence health, and she’s the chair of the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness scientific advisory committee.

Is loneliness worse for young people?

The current situation with coronavirus is beyond our control, and Dr Lim says that could be making things worse.

“Previously, people could say, ‘I’d rather be alone,’ and be happy in making that choice — but this is different, we’re kind of forced into it,” she said.

Loneliness can be particularly acute for young people, who need more social connections than older people, who typically have a smaller social circle as they age.

“Loneliness is a result of feeling your relationships are not what they should be,” Dr Lim said.

“Young people have high expectations and very different social needs.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Technology doesn’t necessarily help

And just because young people are more tech-savvy and connecting more online, it doesn’t mean they’re meeting their need for deep connection.

“They are definitely more comfortable with online social interactions, but what we don’t know is whether social media platforms actually enhance our relationships or simply help us stay connected,” Dr Lim said.



Photo:

Dr Lim says loneliness is a perception your relationships are not what they should be. (Supplied: Michelle Lim)

“You can be gaming or using Zoom — but you’re not necessarily saying anything of value. You can have 1,000 Facebook friends and still be lonely.

“So you can use tech to reduce social isolation, but do you really reduce loneliness?”

But everyone’s different, Dr Lim says. While some people may get a buzz out of a friendly hello and a chat with neighbours, for others “it’s just small talk and not relevant to their feelings of isolation and loneliness”.

What about people who live alone?

Dr Lim says research shows people who live alone make more of an effort to stay connected with others.

“Often their lives are richer because they are more resourceful, and they have much more extensive networks of friends,” she said.

This may mean that they are better equipped to handle the social isolation imposed by the new pandemic reality than others.

Dr Lim’s tips to combat loneliness:

  • Remember that these are unusual circumstances. And if you never felt lonely before and you do now, that is normal. You will have to make an effort to connect. This means making the time and being flexible with what you can do in your current circumstance.
  • Focus on meaningful social interactions as opposed to interacting for the sake of doing so. Making it count by building on people’s conversations. And even if you are feeling lonely, you can still support others who are struggling.
  • Identify your resources and think about how and when you can use them. Resources can include people who you can call on to help, or using technology to connect.

Lesley Brookes has lived on her own for the past 10 years and has been self-isolating for nearly a month in her Sydney home because her chronic heart condition and age put her in a high-risk category for coronavirus.

Developing strategies to combat loneliness has been particularly important for her.

These include having professional psychological support available when she needs it, and maintaining her connection to her friends and neighbours, even those to whom she has not been especially close.

Taking pleasure in simple things

Being unable to leave her home, Ms Brookes has been taking pleasure from looking out from her balcony and watching familiar faces from her neighbourhood pass by on the street or in the park opposite.



Photo:

Lesley Brookes has been self-isolating alone in her Sydney apartment for nearly a month, but she has developed strategies to cope. (Supplied: Lesley Brookes)

Neighbours have been dropping off groceries and other essentials, and she has weekly contact with her personal trainer online. Her fitness routine currently includes running up and down her hallway, and doing push-ups against the window.

Other things that have helped her are having online drinks with a neighbour on a Friday night, joining an online book club, and talking to people on the phone.

“People are really consciously reaching out — I’ve heard from probably 10 people in the last week or so that I haven’t heard from in three months,” she said.

She recommends making it easy to do the things you enjoy by writing a list of them: “So when you’re low on emotional energy, you don’t have to do the hard work of coming up with something.”

What you need to know about coronavirus:

Flexibility can be key

Loneliness can be particularly acute at times like Easter, when you may not be able to be with those you traditionally spend time with.

Dr Lim says the key lies in being flexible.

“Use the phone if you don’t want to use technology — no-one says you have to use Zoom or Facetime if you’re not comfortable with it.”



Photo:

There are other ways to connect if you don’t want to or are unable to use technology. (ABC News: Natasha Johnson)

If it is allowed under your state or territory’s rules, drop off some food to family, friends or neighbours, and use it as an opportunity for a 5 or 10-minute, appropriately socially-distanced chat.

“It’s important to adhere to public health recommendations, but think of ways to maintain the quality of your relationships through safe means,” Dr Lim said.

She is hoping the Global Survey of Health and Wellbeing will help identify how prolonged self-isolation affects people in the long term, and offer evidence-based recommendations to help people who are feeling lonely.

Black Dog Institute tips to stay connected:

  • Be creative about trying new ways to connect
  • If socialising helps your mood, schedule a virtual coffee with a friend each day
  • If going to the gym or yoga helps you reduce stress, try an online class
  • If you love to sing and dance, join a virtual choir or dance group
  • If you don’t want to use virtual connection, try calling a friend or sending letters


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What are stage 4 restrictions and will we see them soon?


Australia

Government officials have warned Australians not to get complacent about coronavirus just because it’s Easter.

Amidst concerns that people may not be able to resist bending the rules to catch up with family and friends, leaders have said measures could be further tightened if infections spike or too many people flout the rules.

In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews has suggested this may see the state move into “stage 4” restrictions.

So what does ‘stage 4’ actually mean?

Well, the Federal Government hasn’t publicly issued a breakdown of what happens in each stage of restrictions.

It does have an emergency response plan for the coronavirus that broadly outlines which bodies are responsible for issuing public health measures and what needs to happen before Australia moves to “targeted action” and “standdown” stages.

But there are no specifics that set out who has to self-isolate, for how long, what people are allowed outside for, or how long quarantine should last.

This would be difficult for the Federal Government to do because, according to the emergency plan, state governments are at liberty to enforce rules at different times depending on how COVID-19 is spreading in their state.

But talking about “stages” is the language many Australian government officials (both state and federal) have been using to describe what’s happening as restrictions are scaled up in response to the virus.

It’s also the way some international governments are talking about their response to the pandemic, and is a handy way to compare what’s happening in Australia to how things work overseas.

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

So where are we at now?

As of Easter Saturday, April 11, the rules in place at a federal level are:

  • No indoor or outdoor gatherings of more than two people unless you’re all part of the same household
  • People should not leave their house except for essential reasons: to shop for food or other essentials, attend work or education (if you can’t do this from home), exercise, or for medical care or compassionate needs
  • Some state borders are closed except for people with exemptions for essential travel
  • There can be a maximum of one visitor (not a member of your household) to your home — but some states are taking a less strict approach to this rule
  • People must maintain a 1.5-metre distance from each other if they are in contact with members outside their household (ie. going to the shops, the workplace, out for exercise)
  • Many non-essential venues are now closed to the public. Restaurants and cafes are only allowed to offer take away or home delivery, while pubs, gyms, cinemas, casinos and places of worship are closed. Some non-essential retailers are still allowed to be open as long as they comply with social distancing measures
  • All travellers arriving in Australia must go into 14 days of self-isolation at a designated quarantine facility

These rules were updated at a national level on March 30, the third time the Prime Minister introduced new measures to deal with the spread of coronavirus. That’s why many are calling this “stage three”.

Since Australia introduced the latest round of restrictions, which in some states include fines for people leaving their house for non-essential reasons, the rate of new COVID-19 infections has declined.

But the Victorian Premier, among others, warned on Tuesday that these early successes were not a reason to get complacent.

“If people go about their business, and have a normal Easter, then all of our hard-won gains will just be frittered away,” he said.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Mr Andrews would not rule out pushing for a new stage of measures for Victoria, if the rate of infection begins to rise again.

Elsewhere, Premier Peter Gutwein has already put the north-west of Tasmania into an “effective lockdown”, to deal with a rash of cases linked to three hospitals in the region.

And their Commonwealth counterparts have similarly warned that federal restrictions will be stepped up if people don’t take things seriously.

So what would new restrictions, or “stage 4”, look like?

Let’s look at New Zealand’s stage 4

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined a four-stage system, including the measures to be taken at each stage and what circumstances would trigger an escalation.

New Zealand went into stage four of these restrictions two weeks ago.

External Link:

@NZcivildefence: The Prime Minister has announced New Zealand Covid-19 Alert Levels. Here is a table that explains what they mean. This information will be available on the http://covid19.govt.nz website shortly.

Stage 4 is activated when it is determined likely that COVID-19 is not contained. Measures include instructing people to stay at home, closing educational facilities and all non-essential businesses, rationing supplies and requisitioning facilities, limiting travel, and a major reprioritisation of healthcare services.

Announcing the move to stage 4, Ms Ardern warned:

“If in doubt, don’t go out. These measures will be in place for four weeks at this point.”



Photo:

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds up a card showing the series of stages on the country’s alert system. (AP: Nick Perry)

There is no universal playbook for governments during the pandemic. An Australian stage 4 could look very different to the policies New Zealand has introduced.

But the country’s response offers the clearest example of what new restrictions could look like.

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.

New Zealand has described stage 4 as an attempt to “eliminate” the virus in the community after the outbreak was deemed unlikely to be contained and widespread community transmission was detected.

On March 25, New Zealanders received a text message telling them they would have to stay wherever they spent that night for the duration of stage 4 measures and to only have physical contact with those they were living with.

Schools have been completely shut down, even for children of essential workers, whereas those in all states and territories in Australia remain open to at least these families.

All non-essential places of business have also been closed, including non-essential retailers.

New Zealand is over halfway through its stage 4 lockdown, although the Government has warned the period could be extended.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

What stage 4 could mean for vulnerable people

The UK declared a lockdown on March 24, with Britons only allowed to leave their homes once a day for exercise, to shop for essential items like food, for any medical needs or to help a vulnerable person.

However, over 70s and vulnerable people have been asked to remain indoors for a full 12 weeks while the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.



Photo:

In the UK, there have been instructions for vulnerable people to not leave their houses for at least 12 weeks. (Reuters: Andrew Couldridge)

Vulnerable Britons, including those going through cancer treatment or who live with medical conditions that can supress the immune system, have been told they shouldn’t even leave the house to get groceries or to exercise.

Australia could introduce similar measures to protect people who are more likely to die from COVID-19.

The groups already identified by the Australian Government as being at risk during the pandemic include:

  • People aged over 70 and people over 65 who have pre-existing medical conditions
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People with diagnosed chronic medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart and lung conditions, kidney disease and diabetes)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have higher rates of chronic illness

These people have already been strongly advised not to leave the home “unless absolutely necessary” but a stage 4 lockdown could see firmer measures taken to protect the most vulnerable Australians.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

So how likely is it Australia will go to stage 4?

Without a crystal ball, it’s hard to say.

But Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Good Friday that we could be “on the cusp” of slowing the infections to the point that the epidemic “dies out” here.

This projection is based on a magic number called the reproductive rate (also called “R0” or “R nought”), which refers to how many people are infected by one person with COVID-19.

The WHO initially estimated the R0 for COVID-19 to be between 1.4 and 2.5, but it varies from place to place depending on public health measures.

Professor Kelly said as measures like social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine come into play, we start to look at the effective R rate, based on Australia’s cases.

“Ideally, where you want to be is below one, so less than one other person being infected after a person themselves had the infection,” he said.

“And once you get to that point, the virus dies out, or the epidemic dies out. And so at the moment we’re probably on the cusp of that in Australia.”

Professor Kelly said that number has been quite high at different points during the outbreak, and has been as low as between one and two.

He also says we’re in a much better place than we were a few weeks ago in terms of the daily numbers of new cases, referred to as the growth factor.

How fast is coronavirus growing around the world?


Infographic:
Growth in known cases in key countries, on a logarithmic scale

This chart uses a logarithmic scale to highlight coronavirus growth rates. Read our explainer to understand what that means — and what we can learn from countries that have slowed the spread.

Those sound like good signs. So will restrictions be relaxed?

These are good signs, but even once those numbers go all the way down, we still don’t know if people can develop an immunity or whether a vaccine will be developed. That’s important to work out before we start easing restrictions.

“In terms of the virus dying out, as it were, in certain parts of Australia, that would be a great achievement,” Professor Kelly said.

“It does bring with it a challenge. It would mean most of us would not have been exposed yet, and so we would remain susceptible to the virus if it was to be reintroduced to that area.”

According to the emergency response plan, the Australian Government will “coordinate the stand down of enhanced measures” and work with state and territory governments to “determine when to cease or reduce measures”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated that some of these measures are likely to be in place for six months (from the end of March), at least in some form, and Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Thursday this was still the expectation.

Though he did say if things improve, the Government would look to take some safe early steps to ease the restrictions.

The key message here: stay home

The moral of the story is we don’t really know if Australia will reach another stage of restrictions that force us all to stay inside, but our health chiefs and government officials are all saying the same thing.

Even though we are flattening the curve, Australians have been urged to take heed of the current advice in order to keep the number of new infections each day trending downwards.

Otherwise, governments may be pushed to ramp up their enforcement.

What you need to know about coronavirus:


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Coronavirus to cause ‘worst economic fallout since the Great Depression’: IMF


Australia

The coronavirus pandemic will push the global economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says.

Key points:

  • IMF boss Kristalina Georgieva says there is no question 2020 will be an “exceptionally difficult” year
  • Emerging markets and low-income nations across Africa, Latin America and much of Asia are most at risk, she says
  • The 189-nation IMF and its sister lending organisation, the World Bank, will hold virtual meetings next week

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said the world’s poorest countries would suffer the most if the COVID-19 fallout drove markets to their lowest levels since the 1930s.

“We anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression,” Ms Georgieva said, speaking ahead of next week’s virtual meetings of the 189-nation IMF and its sister lending organisation, the World Bank.

She said the IMF would release an updated world economic forecast on Tuesday that would show just how quickly the coronavirus outbreak had turned what had been expected to be a solid year of growth into a deep downturn.

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

Just three months ago, the IMF was forecasting 160 nations would enjoy positive income growth on a per capita basis.

Now the expectation is more than 170 nations will have negative per capita income growth this year.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Emerging markets and low-income nations across Africa, Latin America and much of Asia were at high risk, she 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.

“With weak health systems to begin with, many face the dreadful challenge of fighting the virus in densely populated cities and poverty-stricken slums, where social distancing is hardly an option,” Ms Georgieva said.

Investors have grown fearful of leaving their money in emerging economies that could be hit hard by a global recession.

As a result, capital outflows from emerging-market countries has totalled more than $US100 billion ($158 billion) over the past two months, more than three times larger than the same period at the start of the global financial crisis, Ms Georgieva noted.

In addition, countries that depend on exporting commodities have taken a double blow because of the steep fall in commodity prices.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

Another 6.6 million file for unemployment

Numbers released on Thursday by the US Government showed 6.6 million American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, on top of more than 10 million in the two weeks before that.

That amounts to about one in 10 American workers — the biggest, fastest pile-up of job losses since the world’s largest economy began keeping records in 1948.

And still more job cuts are expected.

The US unemployment rate in April could hit 15 per cent, a number not seen since the tail end of the Great Depression.

Ms Georgieva said there was no question 2020 would be an “exceptionally difficult” year.

She said if the pandemic faded in the second half of the year, allowing the gradual lifting of containment measures and the reopening of the global economy, the IMF was forecasting a partial recovery in 2021.

“I stress there is tremendous uncertainty around the outlook,” she said.

“It could get worse depending on many variable factors, including the duration of the pandemic.”

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

She said she and World Bank president David Malpass would pursue at next week’s virtual meetings an agreement to adopt a standstill on debt payments over the next year by the world’s poorest nations, freeing up money they could use for critical health needs.

She also said the IMF was prepared to commit its $US1 trillion in lending capacity to providing support to nations that needed help dealing with the pandemic.

“We are responding to an unprecedented number of calls for emergency financing from over 90 countries so far,” she said.

The IMF’s executive board agreed to double the loan levels it would provide from its emergency facilities that she said should allow the IMF to provide about $US100 billion in financing to low-income countries.

What you need to know about coronavirus:


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‘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.



Photo:

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.


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Parliament passes most significant stimulus ‘since the war’, then closes for five months


Australia

The Federal Parliament has rushed through $84 billion in financial support for workers, students and businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak, before wrapping up for a five-month-long break.

Key points:

  • The bills were passed late on Monday night without objection in the House
  • The first direct payments won’t be made until April 27
  • Parliament won’t resume until August, while the Finance Minister has been given extra powers

A bare minimum of MPs and Senators came to Canberra for a single day to vote on legislation for the Government’s two rounds of stimulus measures.

The bills were passed late Monday night without objection in both the House of Representatives and the Senate after some amendments were made.

“The measures that have been passed by the Parliament today represent the most significant support for the Australian economy and community since the war,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“There is much to do for this country in the weeks and months ahead, but working together, we can support the Australian community at their moment of need.”

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said the Parliament’s co-operation “has been a good example today of the Parliament at its best, working at a time when the nation is facing some of its worst”.

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

236,000 students to benefit, Government says



Photo:

The coronavirus economic downturn has fuelled more Centrelink claims. (ABC News: Chris Taylor)

The legislation supports both the first coronavirus economic stimulus package, worth $17.6 billion, and the $66 billion in direct financial support announced in the second package on the weekend.

It also includes a raft of other measures to support the economy more broadly, as well as giving the Government flexibility to respond to changing circumstances without needing further legislation.

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Under pressure from Labor and the Greens, the Coalition amended its own legislation to give the social services minister the power to make changes to the stimulus payments, including rates, means testing, eligibility and residency requirements.

The Government will immediately use those powers to extend the $550 coronavirus supplement to students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy payments.

Other than the income test, “there are really very few other requirements” students will have to meet to get support, said Social Services Minister Anne Ruston.

The Government estimates up to 236,000 students could benefit from the change.

Labor demanded an end date to the extra powers for the social services minister be included in the legislation.

“I think giving broad powers like this would, in any normal situation, never be provided to the executive,” said Labor’s finance spokeswoman Katy Gallagher.

“But this is a very unusual world that we are living in now and we acknowledge that the Government will have to respond, and will have to respond at different times and in different ways, over the next few months.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

First direct payments won’t happen until April 27



Photo:

Coronavirus prevention measures has sent many small businesses into economic freefall. (ABC News: Nicole Asher)

Labor had wanted stimulus payments to reach workers earlier, given the first direct payments won’t reach wallets until April 27.

“There is a lack of urgency in this support,” Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said.

“We are concerned that payments to households, including pensioners, will arrive too late. And we are deeply concerned that cashflow assistance to businesses will arrive too late.”

“For sole traders and the self-employed, this support is just not enough.”

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Labor also raised concerns about letting people access their superannuation early, but passed the bills nonetheless.

“Now is not the time to stand in the way of this package of measures because Australians need support now,” said Senator Keneally.

The Greens failed to win support for a series of amendments, but ultimately backed the bills, too.

They wanted financial support to be extended to people on temporary visas and those receiving disability support and carers’ payments.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Parliament won’t resume until August 11



Photo:

The Finance Minster has been given unprecedented powers to spend without parliamentary approval. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Parliament is now not due to sit again until August 11, with the May budget postponed and other parliamentary sitting days cancelled.

Parliament has approved an ‘advance’ of $40 billion for the finance minister to spend on unforeseen events from July 1 without needing parliamentary approval.

By comparison, the ‘advance’ for the current financial year was $1.2 billion.

The Government will have to publicly announce every use of the funds and consult the Opposition when spending more than $1 billion.

Labor’s Senator Gallagher said the extraordinary increase in the ‘advance’ represented the “unprecedented times” the nation was facing.

This story is no longer being updated. For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow this story.


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Lockdowns as Africa starts to tackle ‘one of the biggest health challenges in a generation’


Congo, The Democratic Republic Of The

Countries across Africa have begun to initiate lockdowns as cases of COVID-19 rise above 1,000, with Nigeria announcing it is closing airports to all incoming international flights for a month in the continent’s most populous country.

Key points:

  • Nigeria recorded the first case in sub-Saharan Africa only three weeks ago
  • South Africa has cancelled visas for 10,000 Chinese and Iranian citizens
  • Virunga National Park has closed to protect its mountain gorilla population

Experts are concerned the continent will not be able to handle a surge in cases without the depth of medical facilities available in more developed economies.

“This is one of the biggest health challenges Africa has faced in a generation,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa, said.

“Adopting approaches which are adaptable to the African context is key to containing the spread,” she said.

Africa now has more than 1,100 cases of the coronavirus, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Many African countries have already shut their borders, closed schools and universities and barred large public gatherings.



Photo:

Africa’s fragile healthcare systems face grave challenges with COVID-19. (Reuters: Feisal Omar)

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

South Africa bars foreigners

Nigeria announced the first coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa just three weeks ago.

Authorities said the country’s first patient, a man who had travelled from Italy, was now fit to go home.

It has banned all religious activities for at least a month.

Nigeria’s international flight ban came a day after Africa’s busiest airport, in Johannesburg, blocked foreigners from disembarking and two major airlines — Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways — announced sweeping cancellations of international flights.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

In South Africa, which has the most cases in sub-Saharan Africa, more citizens have taken to wearing masks and gloves in public.

The number of confirmed cases in the country rose by 38 to 240 on Saturday.

The South African Government announced this week it would revoke nearly 10,000 visas issued this year to people from China and Iran, and visas would now be required for other high-risk countries that had been visa-free, including Italy and the United States.



Photo:

There is major concern over what will happen when coronavirus takes hold in Africa. (AP: Themba Hadebe)

Burkina Faso now has the most virus deaths of any country in sub-Saharan Africa, along with the most total cases in West Africa at 64.

It is one of Africa’s most fragile states with a growing humanitarian crisis caused by attacks linked to Islamic extremists.

More than 130 health centres have closed, Burkina Faso’s Government and aid groups say.

Jerry-Jonas Mbasha, cluster coordinator for WHO in Burkina Faso, said he was “much worried about what might happen in the next one week, two weeks from now.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

Efforts to protect gorillas

Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to about a third of the world’s mountain gorillas, has shut its gates due to the crisis.

“The park’s temporary closure of mountain gorilla tourism is being undertaken as a precautionary measure and it’s in line with the World Health Organisation’s recommendation to restrict movement and limit social contact,” it said in a statement.



Photo:

A park ranger walks past a mountain gorilla in the Virunga National Park in eastern Congo. (AP: Jerome Delay)

“It has been taken following advice from scientific experts indicating that primates, including mountain gorillas, are likely susceptible to complications arising from the COVID-19 virus.”

More than 275,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed globally, including over 11,000 deaths, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

At least 88,000 people have recovered.

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‘We’ve got to throw everything we’ve got at it’: Coronavirus vaccine to be fast-tracked in Queensland


Brisbane 4000

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a $17 million package to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine developed in the state.

Key points:

  • The number of Queensland COVID-19 cases has risen to 259 after 38 more people tested positive
  • The state government has announced $17 million in funding to fast-track the development of a vaccine
  • The money is expected to cut the time a vaccine would be available for use by about six months

She said the funding would support the University of Queensland (UQ) as the only Australian organisation and one of six worldwide to be tasked to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

It included:

  • $10 million from the Queensland Government
  • $3 million from the Federal Government
  • $3.5 million from the Paul Ramsay Foundation

“This is now becoming a serious issue here in Queensland and a serious issue here in Australia and we’ve gotta throw everything we’ve got at it, so $10 million today is a great step forward out of a $17 million package,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Queensland is a world leader when it comes to research and the progress that is being made here is very encouraging.”

The money would allow researchers to bring a large-scale manufacture of the coronavirus vaccine forward to run parallel with clinical trials.

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

Professor Paul Young, head of UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, described the work as a “radical approach”.

“We are living through remarkable times and remarkable times sometimes need radical ideas, and that is what the funding announced today is about.”



Photo:

Annastacia Palaszczuk warned the media to practise social distancing at Sunday’s press conference on coronavirus. (ABC News)

“The typical timeline for vaccine development has been thrown out the window, with many referring to the possibility of a vaccine in 18 months.

“A vaccine is required even sooner than this.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

“We’re not cutting any corners in ensuring this vaccine is going to be safe and efficacious in humans, we will go through those clinical studies, but we should be ready to deploy as soon as that is done.”

“With this approach we should carve about six months off our timeline.”

Coronavirus questions answered
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Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones said if successful, there could be a coronavirus vaccine available for emergency use among healthcare workers and vulnerable populations in early 2021.

Biotechnology researcher Professor Trent Munro is a team leader on the vaccine project and welcomed the funding.

“We have to be careful in saying there are no guarantees of success. This is going to be technically very, very challenging but this funding lets us push forward in a way that we wouldn’t have dreamed possible just a few weeks ago.”

‘Stay in your village’

The funding announcement came as 38 more people tested positive to coronavirus in the state, bringing the total number of Queensland’s COVID-19 cases to 259.

“We want to contain this virus as long as we can so we can develop a vaccine and ultimately save lives,” Health Minister Steven Miles said.

He said the cases were concentrated in south-east Queensland among those returning from overseas where coronavirus had already spread.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

The Premier is urging people not to travel outside their immediate community except for work.

“In the coming weeks and months, I need everyone to stay near your village,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“That means you can support things in your local village, you can shop in your local neighbourhoods, but as much as possible you need to restrict your non-essential travel and stick close to home.

“That’s what we do during cyclones, that’s what we do during floods.

“We all pitch in and help together.”

Library queues in last-minute borrowing rush

Keen readers at Indooroopilly were met with long queues and a 40-minute wait to get into the library.

“I was a bit surprised, I wasn’t expecting to see so many people here,” one woman told the ABC.

“You never see a line at a library.”



Photo:

One borrower described the queues as “panic-borrowing”. (ABC News: Jess Rendall)

On Saturday, the Brisbane City Council announced it would be closing all 33 of its libraries to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“It’s closed until the end of June, that’s a long time to not be able to come to the library.”

Some locals are making the comparison to panic-buying, which saw Australia’s supermarkets stripped bare of toilet paper and other necessities.

“I think it’s better for books… at least people are looking for knowledge, I’m happy with that.”

“Everyone just wants to read, to do something if Australia goes into lockdown.”

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‘The problem is just over the horizon’: Rise in NSW coronavirus infections, state’s total passes 400


Sydney 2000

Health authorities in NSW have confirmed 83 new coronavirus infections in the 24 hours to 8:00pm on Friday.

Key points:

  • NSW Health has banned travel to Lord Howe Island
  • Four cruise ships have experienced cases of COVID-19 in relation to travel out of Sydney
  • A religious service attended by 300 people on March 8 in Ryde has resulted in seven cases

The new cases take the state’s total number of COVID-19 infections to 436 and represent NSW’s largest increase over a 24-hour period.

A total of 46,456 people have been tested and cleared in NSW.

Out of the 436 cases, 218 were picked up overseas, 92 have been cases caught from a contact and 74 have been diagnosed as locally acquired, but with an unidentified contact.

The remainder are being investigated.

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

NSW Health has also declared a ban on travel to Lord Howe Island from 5:00am on Sunday in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus.

The ban means access to Lord Howe Island is restricted to residents, health workers and other essential service workers.

Any new arrivals within permitted categories will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard encouraged people to heed advice on social distancing, amid the rising number of infections.

“The problem is just over the horizon on the basis of the numbers that we’re now seeing,” he said.

“Particularly here in New South Wales, they are showing a substantial increase.

“We will all remember the numbers in the last few days, they’ve effectively doubled just in the last week.

“Save yourself and save your family. Listen to the messages that are coming out, not just from Government officials but from doctors.”

Coronavirus questions answered
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Elsewhere, seven people have been confirmed as COVID-19 cases after attending a church service with a congregation of more than 300 people.

The Sydney Church of Christ service took place at Ryde Civic Centre on March 8.

Close contacts of cases have been put into self-isolation and NSW Health is warning attendees of the service to be alert for symptoms.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Yesterday, Mr Hazzard revealed several people on board the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which docked in Sydney earlier in the week, had tested positive to coronavirus.

He warned the 2,700 passengers that disembarked they could have been exposed to COVID-19, and urged them to self-isolate for 14 days.

Today, NSW Health named three other cruise ships which have had confirmed COVID-19 cases onboard.

A 67-year-old passenger has been diagnosed after travelling on the Ovation of the Seas out of Sydney.

The ship is now at sea with only crew on board.

A woman in her 20s has been diagnosed with COVID-19 after travelling on the Voyager of the Seas, which returned to Sydney from New Zealand on March 7.

On a later trip on the Voyager of the Seas, a 66-year-old man was confirmed as having COVID-19.

The other case involves a passenger on the Celebrity Solstice, who travelled on the cruise ship before it docked in Sydney on March 20.

The Ruby Princess remains at sea between Sydney and Wollongong after recording four confirmed cases of COVID-19.


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Canberra records new cases of COVID-19 as prison visits suspended


Canberra 2600

The ACT Health Minister has praised the actions of three Canberrans newly diagnosed with COVID-19, saying each of them followed guidelines to minimise their transmission to others.

Key points:

  • All three new cases had recently travelled overseas
  • Canberra’s jail will suspend visits to inmates to slow the virus’s spread
  • There are now nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in the ACT

But a search is still underway for people who may have come into contact with the infected people, including on Canberra-bound flights.

The cases, a man in his 70s and two women in their 50s and 60s, all recently returned from overseas travel and went into self-imposed isolation.

The announcement of three new positive results is the largest jump in COVID-19 cases in Canberra so far, bringing the total to nine.

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

ACT Health is now working on reaching the close contacts of the three, including passengers on flights used by two of the new cases while they may have been infectious.

The third case was not believed to have been infectious while she was travelling.

Authorities are looking to contact people sitting on rows 79 to 83 on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney, which arrived on Tuesday March 17, and rows 12 to 16 on flight VA672 from Sydney to Canberra, landing at 9:30pm on the same day

They are also looking into whether passengers on flight QR906 from Doha to Canberra on Monday March 16 could have been exposed to the virus, though were yet to determine the infectious person’s seat number on the flight.

The two women remain at home in isolation, while the man has been admitted to hospital.

Prison visits halted to stop virus spread

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said all three new cases had “done the right thing” by self-isolating to limit their contact with other people.

“It’s an important reminder to those people who may have returned from overseas and are wondering whether they really do need to self-quarantine — yes you do,” she said.

The ACT Government has also cancelled visits to Canberra’s jail from Monday, in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading inside.

Coronavirus questions answered
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ACT Corrective Services Commissioner Jon Peach said one prisoner at the Alexander Maconochie Centre had been tested for coronavirus after exhibiting flu-like symptoms, but they had returned a negative result.

“We have to make sure that people put into the centre are protected … from the potential spread and we have to limit the number of people actually entering the jail,” Mr Peach said.

“We have a number of prisoners that are obviously concerned about the virus, we’ve also got a number of prisoners that really, really want to see their families.

“We are working very very hard to ensure that there are opportunities for detainees to maintain those family ties, which would [include] increased access to telephones.”

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

In the ACT, more than 2,200 people have been tested for COVID-19.

Yesterday, the ACT Government released details of a stimulus package aimed at helping the territory to weather the economic storm the coronavirus outbreak has brought.

It includes a $150 rebate on bills for every household, credit for businesses and cash payments to public housing tenants.

Farmers markets allowed to go ahead amid social distancing

While several events in Canberra have been postponed or cancelled in the wake of the pandemic, farmers markets were allowed to go ahead over the weekend, as they are classified as an essential service.

Sarah Power, the manager at the Capital Region Farmers’ Market, said staff had worked hard to accommodate for social distancing requirements.



Photo:

Shoppers were encouraged to keep their distance at the markets. (ABC News: Holly Tregenza)

“We’ve taken out all tables and chairs, removed them entirely, so that we are encouraging social distancing,” she said.

“We’ve also spread the majority of our stalls out as much as we can so that allows people to distance themselves.”

Food sampling has also been scrapped, but Ms Power said there had been no need to institute purchase limits on goods, as major supermarkets had done in response to panic buying.

“We are certainly up in terms of a lot of people but it’s calm, it’s orderly, people are forming lines and every one is really just happy to be here,” she said.

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How businesses like Qantas can stand down permanent employees and not pay them


Australia

Qantas and Jetstar’s decision to temporarily stand down two-thirds of their employees has once again sparked questions over how workplaces can respond to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Qantas has said it needs to stand down most of its 30,000 employees from late March until at least the end of May in order to preserve as many jobs as possible.

The decision, according to workplace relations law professor Anthony Forsyth from RMIT, could soon be taken by other businesses.

So we asked him what it could mean for casual, part-time and permanent employees.

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Can you be stood down by your employer?



Photo:

Professor Forsyth says other businesses may also follow Qantas’s decision to stand down. (105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon)

Yes. Usually, if you’re a full-time or part-time employee asked by your employer not to work, you would be entitled to be paid.

But under the Fair Work Act, any employee (whether full-time, part-time or casual) can be stood down without pay if they can’t do useful work because of an “equipment breakdown, industrial action or a stoppage of work for which the employer can’t reasonably be held responsible”.

And it can be for an indefinite period of time, according to Professor Forsyth, but only if the situation which has caused the stand-downs – in this case, potentially, the coronavirus pandemic – is still ongoing

How does it work?

Professor Forsyth says the Fair Work Act includes provisions on how stand-down arrangements work, but they don’t deal with every situation.

Employees can be directed, for a period of time, to not attend work while business is affected, causing a necessary stoppage of work, and that’s without pay,” he told the ABC.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

While those rules apply under the Fair Work Act, you should also check your enterprise agreement (if you have one) as it might have further rules limiting employer stand-down powers.

Most larger business will have agreements in place, in which case Professor Forsyth says there may be provisions that state your employer “will need to consult with staff or unions before standing you down”.

“Or in some cases your agreement might stipulate that you should be paid for some or all of the time you are stood down,” he said.

“In the case of Qantas, they have about 50 enterprise agreements in place for their relevant divisions, but of the two I quickly read I couldn’t see any stand-down provision in place.”

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Professor Forsyth says that in that case, the Fair Work Act rules apply.

Qantas has said employees will be able to use annual and long service leave, but has conceded that periods of leave without pay are inevitable.

Employees have been told in an email that they can seek alternative employment and still keep their jobs, and can also access unemployment benefits.

It’s unclear if this will be the case for other employees who may be stood down by other organisations.

But Fair Work says it is possible for an employee to take paid or unpaid leave (for example, annual leave) during all or part of a period in which they would otherwise be stood down.

Could other employers soon follow suit?



Photo:

Employers might be considering other ways they can continue operating during the coronavirus pandemic. (Pixabay: rawpixel)

Dr Forsyth says it’s likely Qantas is “only the beginning”.

“There’s definitely a massive concern this is just the start. Already we’ve seen many businesses impacted, just one business not being able to operate as normal can have a ripple effect on others,” he said.

“So other business will be looking at similar measures.”

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

What other measures could be considered?

If your employer wants to continue operating, they may also consider making positions redundant in response to a business downturn due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the Fair Work website, an employer must meet a series of requirements before they can terminate someone, such as providing notice, and they will likely also have to provide redundancy pay.

“The advantage of a stand-down compared to redundancies is that employers have the option of being able to return to normal pretty quickly if the conditions that shut them down begin to change,” Professor Forsyth said.

“In the event of redundancies, they will have to look at whether they can redeploy staff, engage in consultations and provide redundancy pay, which can range from four weeks to 16 weeks under the Fair Work Act.”

The Fair Work website also says that under the relevant Act, an employee is protected from being dismissed because of a temporary absence due to illness or injury, for example having coronavirus.

“The Fair Work Act also includes protections against being dismissed because of discrimination, a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable or another protected right,” the Fair Work website says.

“These protections continue to operate in relation to employees impacted by coronavirus.”

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In pictures: Sydney becomes ghost town amid coronavirus downturn


Sydney 2000

Sydney’s CBD has fallen silent as Australia’s increasing social-distancing measures and fears about coronavirus spark a mass exodus in business hubs and tourist hotspots.

With more than 200 cases of COVID-19 in NSW and an exponential increase expected, many workplaces have told staff to stay home to help curb the spread of the virus.

Martin Place, Barangaroo and Circular Quay have become ghost towns punctuated with empty restaurants and deserted shops, and there’s never been more room on the roads or train platforms.



Photo:

A smattering of people on the escalators to Wynyard Station at around 5.30pm on Tuesday. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)



Photo:

Empty tables at a restaurant in Campbells Cove in Sydney. (AAP: James Gourley)



Photo:

The host at this Barangaroo restaurant waits with stacks of menus. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)

And while deserted streets make for a much calmer city to get around, it has left many small business owners anxious about what is to come.

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

In the financial hub of Martin Place, peak hour normally means thousands of people striding to and from the train station.

But that stampede was gone this week,



Photo:

There was no evening rush at Martin Place yesterday. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)



Photo:

Sydney’s financial district is largely abandoned. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)

Lin Gia runs a news stand in the famous pedestrian mall and normally has a constant flow of corporate types.

“I can’t close as a I need to pay my rent but even if I can pay that, I may have no money left for me,” she said.

“If only I worked in an office where I could still be paid while working from home.”

She said the only thing keeping her business afloat now were lotto ticket sales.



Photo:

Lin Gia waits for her next customer. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)



Photo:

This empty street in Barangaroo tells the story. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)



Photo:

There were no lines for the ferry at Barangaroo. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)

Libby Rose, who works at a fruit stall near Wynyard station, said the business had taken a massive hit.

“We are seeing about a third of the normal foot traffic … I made around $10 between 4pm and 5pm which is normally our busiest time,” she said.

“We may only open three days a week if this keeps up.”



Photo:

Libby Rose is concerned her shifts could be cut. (ABC News: Paige Cockburn)

Ms Rose works on a casual basis and said it was nerve-wracking watching people cart their office supplies home.

With social-distancing measures, travel bans and infections all expected to increase, she doesn’t think the workers will be back any time soon.



Photo:

A woman sits alone on steps in Campbells Cove in Sydney. (AAP: James Gourley)


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‘Mince is like gold’ as panicked city shoppers descend on regional supermarkets


VIC

No flour. No rice. No milk. No meat.

Dora Kordos saw it happening in Melbourne but never thought the spread of panic buying would reach her.

She even laughed when supermarkets in the big smoke were forced to put limits on food, tissues, and toilet paper because of people hoarding stock.

But once Melbourne’s shelves were bare, city-dwellers turned their focus on regional Victoria, including her own town of Kinglake.

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

ABC Radio Melbourne was inundated with calls on Tuesday from people in Kyneton, Woodend, Ararat, Leongatha, Daylesford and Castlemaine, who were outraged that people from the city had travelled hours to clear out supermarkets in their region.



Photo:

FoodWorks at Kinglake has been inundated with people from out of town for days. (Supplied: Dora Kordos)

Ms Kordos’s family owns a FoodWorks supermarket, north-east of Melbourne, and she said the out-of-towners began arriving on Friday.

“We’ve seen people from Essendon. People we’ve never seen before. Somebody shared on the Eltham Facebook page that we were fully stocked and we’ve been inundated from all over the state,” she said.

“It started on Friday but it ramped up this week. Monday’s takings were three times what a normal Monday would do.”

At the start of the week, 10 boxes of chicken sold out in two hours.



Photo:

FoodWorks owner Dora Kordos limited customers to two packs of meat each but it was not enough to stop it almost completely selling out. (Supplied: Dora Kordos)

She has ordered 30 more boxes of meat for Wednesday but has been told she will be lucky to get five because suppliers are so stretched.

“It’s been decimated. I haven’t eaten today. Just coffee.”

There is no flour left, no rice, no potatoes, no bread. A small amount of pasta sits on the shelves because she limited customers to two packets each. Eggs are beginning to sell out. The milk has gone, the mince is “like gold”.

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Kinglake Community Foodworks is at Kinglake Community Foodworks: We ask our customers to show compassion, support and respect to our staff members and others during these tough times. We are working hard to ensure we have stock on our shelves however our deliveries have been cut back. We cannot control if a particularly product is unavailable due to the current conditions and we are doing our best to ensure we have supplies for you all. So please be kind and together we can get through this.

“We’ve pulled all our specials because people were hoarding it,” Ms Kordos said.

She said some locals had begun to panic buy after seeing the FoodWorks, which is the only supermarket for 30 kilometres, being stripped by visitors.

Your questions on coronavirus answered:

“You can’t have a swarm of locusts in your store, stripping it bare and not have anything for your regular customers.”



Photo:

Woodend Coles was also stripped bare by shoppers on Tuesday. Locals said most of the food was taken by people arriving from Melbourne, an hour away. (Supplied)

Pasta, canned food, meat, and frozen vegetables were all limited to two packets per person, which angered a few customers.

Ms Kordos said her staff had been verbally abused by customers, including one woman calling a staff member a “f**king bitch” for not letting her have more pasta.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

“We have signs and people still tried to buy more. People say I’m buying for my neighbour, my father, my brother,” she said.

People have taken to social media to ask local supermarkets to only sell to locals, but Ms Kordos said that was unrealistic.

“We’re in business to make money, let’s be honest. How do you police it? I don’t know if it’s legal to turn people away. The best we can do is limit,” she said.

But people had tried to fool her; a three-month supply of toilet paper sold in two days last weekend so a man she had never seen before asked if there was any out the back “for locals”. She turned him away.

“We’re a small community. We’re not a major city store, we didn’t expect this.”

‘No fundamental shortages’, Woolworths CEO says

Advocacy groups have warned disadvantaged people are the hardest hit by the supermarket shortages.

Many cannot afford to buy in bulk and are worried some supplies might run out.

The chief executive of Woolworths Group, Brad Banducci, said the “surge buying”, which had accelerated since the weekend, was not necessary because there were “no fundamental shortages”.

“We have enough product in Australia to feed all of our customers,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Mornings program.

“If we all buy what we need and treat our team with respect we will rapidly get back into full supply or 99 per cent of supply of most of the products our customers have come to enjoy.”


Video: Dr Norman Swan explains coronavirus terminology

(ABC News)

External Link:

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


Minister issues warning as number of coronavirus cases in NSW surges past 200


NSW

There have been 39 new confirmed coronavirus cases in NSW in the past 24 hours, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has said.

Key points:

  • Minister warns that NSW needs to be prepared for an exponential increase in cases
  • Premier says it’s too early to say whether NSW should shut down bars and restaurants
  • Sydney Opera House cancels all performances until at least March 29

It is the largest increase in a 24-hour period, overtaking yesterday’s record rise of 37 cases.

NSW now has 210 confirmed cases across the state.

There are 1,482 cases under investigation, with 28,552 cases tested and excluded, NSW Health said.

Ninety cases of the 210 were acquired overseas, 54 were likely due to contact with a confirmed case and the remainder were either under investigation or unknown.

The largest age group affected is the 30-39 group, with 52 cases.

Mr Hazzard said the state needed to be prepared for an exponential increase in infections.

“This virus has very much a mind of its own and it knows that at the moment across the world, it’s winning the battle,” he said.

“Here in NSW, I think we’re holding the line but we still need to do a lot more work.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was too early to say whether the state could follow the actions of virus-hit locations overseas by closing venues such as bars and restaurants.

“I don’t want to speculate on that as yet,” she said.

“Please know that we are in regular, daily contact with the health experts. We are motivated by the advice we have from experts.

“We are not at that stage yet [of closing venues]. But I do appreciate all of us, including myself, are taking extra precautions as we should, so there is no doubt been a downturn in what people normally do.”

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

The latest update on cases follows the announcement by the State Government today of a $2.3 billion coronavirus stimulus package, including a $700 million funding boost for NSW Health’s frontline services.

Ms Berejiklian said the package would be split between healthcare and other measures including tax exemptions aimed at keeping people in jobs.

“A huge component will go directly towards the health system, to purchase more equipment, to put on additional staff, and to take care of every patient that comes through,” she said.

“We also appreciate given the extra measures of social distancing and social isolation, the impact this is having on our community.

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.

“That’s why the package today includes a huge component to relieve small businesses and medium-sized businesses of payroll tax, but also to ensure that government does its bit in employing more people in certain areas during this difficult time.”

Elsewhere, the Sydney Opera House announced it was cancelling all public performances from today until at least March 29.

Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron said it was the venue’s responsibility to protect the public from the spread of coronavirus.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly but these are unprecedented events,” she said.

Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our artists, audiences, visitors and our valued staff.”


Video: Dr Norman Swan explains coronavirus terminology

(ABC News)

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


Thousands of home welfare checks after coronavirus cases are sent home


QLD

Health authorities have allowed some coronavirus patients, including Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, to return home for treatment instead of keeping them isolated in hospital.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said home treatment would become more common as more people were infected in a bid to free up hospital beds for critical cases.

“I am aware that a small number of the currently confirmed patients have been allowed to isolate themselves at home,” Mr Miles said.

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

“As we transition to seeing more cases, we would see more people receive their treatment at home.”

Mr Miles said health systems would be gradually moving towards home treatment for the virus.

“Most people, 80 per cent of people, would have very mild symptoms, something like a common cold,” he said.

“It’s entirely reasonable, it’s better for them, it’s better for our hospitals too, if we can treat them in their homes.”

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.

The Australian Red Cross has already made more than 8,861 welfare calls to 3,406 people who have been self-isolating.

Mr Miles said most of Queensland’s infections had been mild.

“All of these cases are relatively mild,” he said.

“None are in intensive care at this stage.

“We’ve treated the early cases in hospital because we could, because we had that capacity.

“But also because it gave us an opportunity to observe the virus and observe how people responded to it.”

Doctors conduct home checks



Photo:

Debbie Kilroy says she is being well looked after by doctors. (Supplied: Debbie Kilroy)

On Monday, prisoner advocate Debbie Kilroy and activist Boneta-Marie Mabo revealed they had tested positive for COVID-19 after being on the same plane as Mr Dutton.

Mr Dutton returned a positive result for the virus on Friday and was admitted to hospital in Brisbane.

He told Sky News on Monday that he had since been able to return home and is self-isolating after his family moved to a friend’s house.

Ms Kilroy and Ms Mabo are also among the coronavirus patients being treated outside hospital.

“We are not being hospitalised as there’s limited beds,” Mr Kilroy said.

“We are the first ones being quarantined in community.”



Photo:

Boneta-Marie Mabo says its been difficult being away from family while in home-quarantine. (Supplied: Debbie Kilroy)

On social media, Ms Kilroy shared images of her home-quarantine treatment, which included checks from doctors wearing protective equipment.

“Day three in quarantine in our community … being well looked after,” she said.

“I feel quite unwell with flu-like symptoms.

What happens when a pandemic is declared
Coronavirus is now hitting Europe and the Middle East. Experts say we all need to start preparing for things to get worse.

“Don’t risk your health cause (sic) the virus is vicious.

“Self-quarantine and take care everyone.”

Ms Mabo said the hardest part of being in home quarantine was having to stay away from her daughter.

“It’s quite distressing, it’s been hard,” she said.

“There is no treatment for this, so we’ve just been keeping our fluids up, eating healthy, doing what we can to stay healthy in the situation.”

Actor Tom Hanks, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, was discharged from the Gold Coast University hospital in the last day.

His wife Rita Wilson remains in the isolation ward.


Video: Dr Norman Swan explains coronavirus terminology

(ABC News)

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


St Patrick’s Day, Crab Fest celebrations cancelled, festivals delayed as coronavirus hits WA events


Perth 6000

The St Patrick’s Day Festival, the Mandurah Crab Fest and the Fairbridge Festival are among multiple high-profile West Australian events to be cancelled or postponed amid the worsening coronavirus outbreak.

Key points:

  • Organisers say event cancellations are disappointing but necessary
  • Several festivals are being delayed until later in the year
  • Cinemas say movie screenings will continue this weekend

Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised today that all non-essential organised gatherings of more than 500 people should be scrapped from Monday.

Entertainment businesses are preparing for a hit to their bottom line as coronavirus forces them to reconsider events in the wake of a possible extended period of public social isolation.

Before the Prime Minister’s announcement, the axe had already fallen on this year’s St Patrick’s Day Festival, due to be held tomorrow in Leederville.

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

“We know people were looking forward to the event, and we know the community group has been working hard over 12 months to deliver this, but we do need to be cautious and we do need to put public health first,” Vincent Mayor Emma Cole said.

“I believe people understand why, and they know it’s really important.”

St Patricks Day WA Festival chairman Olan Healy said the event had been 12 months in the making, with many people working full-time to draw in fundraising and sponsors.

“I think it’s the right decision,” he said.

“We are bitterly disappointed but we completely understand.”

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.

Ms Cole said the council was still considering whether to proceed with a series of mid-sized and smaller events scheduled for the coming weeks.

“We’re relying on daily advice coming through from public health, and every day we’re reassessing and making these tough decisions,” she said.

Festivals, sports events postponed

Fairbridge Festival organisers announced today the event would be postponed for six months.

The folk, roots, blues and world music festival has been running for 27 years at its bushland site 100 kilometres south of Perth, and was due to go ahead in April.

Festival general manager Stuart MacLeod said it was a difficult time for the industry in general.

“Fairbridge Festival provides a family experience unlike any other in WA and we look forward to continuing to provide this experience for our community at a time deemed safe by qualified health professionals,” he said in a statement.



Photo:

Next month’s Fairbridge Festival has been postponed until later in the year. (ABC South West WA: Sharon Kennedy)

“Our team is excited to bring your Fairbridge Festival later in the year, and we hope to announce these new dates as soon as possible.”

All tickets purchased for the April dates will be valid for the new festival dates.

The Good Day Sunshine festival in WA’s Margaret River region next weekend has also been postponed until October. About 5,000 tickets had been sold for the event at 3 Oceans Wine Company, which was to headline John Butler and Xavier Rudd.

Organisers Macro Music said the event will be re-scheduled for October, with a specific date to be announced on Monday, and all tickets would remain valid for the new date.

Surf Life Saving WA has cancelled this weekend’s Nipper Championships, which were set to be held at Scarborough Beach from Friday to Sunday.

Organisers said they were carefully considering the future of upcoming championship events over the next few months as well.

Little Athletics WA has also called off its State Championships this weekend, which was set to host 1,500 junior track and field athletes.

Crab Fest cancellation ‘devastating’ for businesses

Mandurah Mayor Rhys Williams confirmed today that Crab Fest, which traditionally attracts tens of thousands of people and was due to take place this weekend, would not go ahead.

“In light of the evolving status of coronavirus since last night, we sought the chief health officer’s recommendation on Crab Fest, which was that it should not go ahead,” Mr Williams said.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly and given how important Crab Fest is to our local businesses, community and economy, we are devastated that we have had to cancel.

“Ultimately, the health and wellbeing of our community is paramount.”



Photo:

Mandurah’s annual Crab Fest traditionally attracts thousands of people. (Source: Kate Stephens)

Mr Williams said the council would work closely with local businesses to help minimise the impact of the cancellation, but urged people to consider dining out.

“One of the messages that we are sending out to our local people is that if you feel that you can and you are well, go out this weekend and have a bite to eat at a local restaurant because it is likely that they will be overstocked,” he said.

Mandurah crab catcher Damien Bell said people were still encouraged to visit restaurants in the area over the weekend to help consume the two tonnes of local crabs that had been caught ahead of the event.

He said to minimise waste some crabs had been taken to Perth for sale, while others had been donated to local community groups like the Mandurah RSL.

“So it’s not like a real big disaster, but it … was a shock,” Mr Bell said.

Cinemas assess impact

Grand Cinemas managing director Allan Stiles said movie screenings would still go ahead over the weekend, despite at least two long-anticipated films being pulled by distributors — the new James Bond film and Peter Rabbit 2.

Mr Stiles said the delayed release of those movies “takes a lot of money out of the marketplace”.



Photo:

Grand Cinemas says it’s a worrying time for cinemas. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

“It’s a worrying time, it’s a worrying concern, but we’re making all precautions towards hopefully just keeping running with it all,” he said.

He said the cinema was taking precautions to leave gaps in patron seating and restrict some sessions, as well as applying stringent cleaning protocols.

Mr Stiles said the cinema market in China had lost billions of dollars in six weeks as people stayed in isolation and he was concerned about the financial implications for Grand Cinemas.

“We’re watching it very closely … we might have to talk to landlords and banks.”

However, Perth Festival has cancelled the remainder of its film season from Monday.

Ticketing manager Scott Beckwith said the decision had been taken in response to “concerns around COVID-19” and thanked patrons “for your understanding at this time”.

External Link:

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


This school has been planning for a coronavirus shutdown for weeks. Here is how it will work


Perth 6000

Schools across Australia are facing the prospect of having to close their doors to students after the Prime Minister announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people in a bid to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Key points:

  • The Federal Government has been ramping up its coronavirus response
  • The AMA wants educational facilities closed as soon as possible
  • Perth’s Christ Church Grammar has already taken steps to prepare

Although the advice does not yet extend to schools, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has urged governments to consider closing educational facilities soon to limit the spread of the virus.

In Western Australia, Christ Church Grammar School in Perth’s western suburbs has spent the past three months preparing for a possible prolonged closure.

On Friday morning the school undertook a trial of remote teaching involving 200 of its Year 10 students.

The boys were given the option to stay at home for the first two periods and use a computer program to connect with their teacher online.

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

Student Seb Chandraratna was one of those who stayed at home and tested the new technology.

“I reckon it’s a good idea, because education is important … especially if you want to get a good job,” he said.



Photo:

Student Seb Chandraratna took part in the trial of the technology. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

“I never thought this would actually happen.

“Yes technology is improving every day, but I never thought it would get this far, at least this quickly.”

Using the technology, teachers can see all students in their class via their webcams, with the boys able to raise their hands virtually to gain the teacher’s attention.

Director of studies Mahendra Vaswani said the plan was all about risk mitigation, ensuring students could still access education in the event of a prolonged shutdown.



Photo:

Mahendra Vaswani says the aim is to ensure teaching and learning continuity. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

“We want to be assured and we want to reassure our community that we’ve got teaching and learning continuity no matter what might happen,” he said.

“So as a result of today’s trial we certainly will be looking at how we might scale this.”

School started the ‘what if’ conversation early

The school executive met in early January, when the coronavirus pandemic was in its infancy, to begin contingency planning.

“It hadn’t quite hit our shores, but we started the conversation about ‘what if’, what might happen,” Mr Vaswani said.

Mathematics teacher Hamish McLean led the first online class with students on Friday morning.

“It actually went really well,” he said.



Photo:

Hamish McLean was pleased with the first online teaching session. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

“There were a few teething problems, but that’s what happens with a trial — that’s why we’ve done it.

Mr McLean said the interpersonal relationship was not hugely affected by the loss of face-to-face contact.

“A tiny bit was lost, but the good thing about the software is we can still see students’ faces and they can still react via chat,” he said.

AMA predicts students won’t return after term break

The AMA’s WA president, Andrew Miller, predicted widespread school closures would happen in the near future.

“The schools, we need a bit of preparation time but it will be coming,” he said.

“Sometime in the next few weeks we would expect the Government would be looking closely at that.

“I suspect what will happen is that schools won’t go back after the holidays.



Photo:

The school is now looking at running the online program on a bigger scale. (ABC News: Benjamin Gubana)

“I think it is also time to look at tighter travel restrictions.”

Education Minister Sue Ellery said her department was developing materials to help public school students continue learning in the event of school closures.

“Obviously this planning has to take into account the many different locations and types of schools we have around Western Australia,” she said.

“There are a range of options that are being considered, including the School of Isolation and Distance which already delivers online education, as well as online learning platforms which schools already use, such as Connect.

“Public school principals were made aware today that plans are well underway.

“Principals will communicate directly with parents to let them know of any arrangements if and when the need arises.

“I understand non-government schools are making their own arrangements to suit their individual schools.”


Video: Will the coronavirus push Australia into recession? Alan Kohler takes a look

(7.30)

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RSL concedes coronavirus concerns will likely cancel WA Anzac Day services


Perth 6000

The WA branch of the RSL has conceded there is a “pretty good possibility” Anzac Day services will be cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic given the vulnerability of elderly veterans to the disease.

Key points:

  • The AMA says veterans are “particularly vulnerable” to coronavirus
  • The number of confirmed WA COVID-19 cases remains at nine
  • A new text message service will quickly alert patients of their results

The comments came after the WA branch of the Australians Medical Association (AMA) called for services to be reconsidered.

RSLWA chief executive John McCourt said while planning for services was still underway, a final decision would be made in the coming days.

“If you’re asking whether it’s a possibility that Anzac Day here would be cancelled, there’s a pretty good possibility,” Mr McCourt said.

“There are two things in terms of the importance for RSLWA among all others — it’s the duty of care that we must adhere to not only for veterans and their families but also to the general community, and secondly the demographics that make up RSLWA.

“You can appreciate that while there are relatively new contemporary veterans, a large number of our veterans are elderly so [it’s] very, very important that we put their interest first.”



Photo:

The Anzac Day parade of retired and serving military personnel through Perth typically attracts thousands. (ABC News: Andrea Mayes)

Mr McCourt said if the services did not go ahead as they had in previous years, other options would be considered.

“That’s an option we’re looking at in terms of actually having a semblance of commemoration and then hopefully have that communicated by various electronic means to our members and the general public. We haven’t arrived at that planning yet,” he said.

‘It’s not just any mass gathering’: AMA

AMA WA president Andrew Miller said while the day should still be honoured, it needed to be done in a different way in the wake of the global public health emergency.

“Anzac Day is obviously a mass gathering which we are advising it would be prudent to reconsider at this stage,” he said.

How WA’s pandemic plan affects you
Western Australia’s pandemic plan includes some major steps to restrict the expected spread of coronavirus in the state.

“It’s not just any mass gathering, it’s one that’s very close to our hearts where we honour our veterans.

“They’re a particularly vulnerable group to this disease and so it would seem incongruous to get a whole group of them together during this crisis.

“We’re sure that the Government and the RSL will look at this with a great deal of care, and we think the community should start preparing for the idea that we should honour our Anzacs this year on that very special day, still with a holiday but in a very different way.”

He said the community needed to realise it was facing “the kind of challenge that maybe none of us could have imagined before” as the COVID-19 outbreak was official declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation overnight.



Photo:

The Anzac Day parade on St George’s Terrace is a traditional highlight of commemorations in Perth. (ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

The WA Government said it would look at how Anzac Day commemorations could be safely held.

“I’ll be advised by the chief health officer but Anzac Day, as you know, is often very cold,” WA Health Minister Roger Cook said.

“Sometimes it’s a little bit rainy and there’s a lot of older people attending, so we’re going to have to watch that date very carefully.”

WA Veterans Affairs Minister Peter Tinley said Anzac Day organisers should carefully consider the Health Department’s advice.

“One thing I can guarantee is that the veterans community of Western Australia, of which I am a proud member, will be commemorating Anzac Day,” Mr Tinley said.

“It’ll be in some form, some way — it might be quite modest.”

Text notifications for coronavirus results

Mr Cook today announced a new text message notification system would be rolled out across WA to alert people who returned a negative result for coronavirus.

He said the new alerts would help “get the information out to people more quickly so that they can get back to work … or back to their lives” and help preserve Health Department resources.

“It’s about streamlining the processes,” Mr Cook said at a press conference to give an update on the coronavirus situation in the state.



Photo:

Negative test results will be conveyed to people via text message, the WA Government has announced. (ABC Radio: Malcolm Sutton)

More than 2,000 people have so far been tested for COVID-19 in WA.

Mr Cook said no new cases of the virus had been confirmed overnight, leaving the number of diagnosed cases in the state at nine.

Perth’s first three specialist walk-in clinics began testing patients for the virus on Tuesday.

East Metropolitan Health Services chief executive Liz MacLeod, who is coordinating the clinics, said more than 1,500 people had attended in the first two days of operation, with 860 undergoing testing.

So far 20 negative results had been returned, but the results took up to 72 hours to finalise, she said.

Minister calls out unnecessary testing

Mr Cook has called for the community to listen carefully to official advice on who should be tested to avoid wasting resources.

“We’ve had instances [of] companies, particularly in the professional services industries, requiring those employees who are returning from overseas to get themselves tested before they go back into the workplace,” he said.



Photo:

Health Minister Roger Cook says it is important to conserve Health Department resources in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (ABC News: James Carmody)

“That’s unnecessary and it’s a waste of precious resources.

“We need to ration our resources and make sure that we only use them if it’s absolutely necessary.”

Mr Cook reiterated the parameters for those who should seek testing.

“If people are travelling back from overseas and you do not have any flu-like symptoms, you do not need testing,” Mr Cook said.

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.
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.
For more information go to the Health Department website.

“If you go to our COVID clinics, you’ll be turned away and we want people to get that message loud and clear.

“We don’t want to waste your time, your company’s time and we certainly don’t want to waste the resources of the Department of Health.”

‘Do it in WA’ tourism campaign launched

A multi-million-dollar tourism campaign using the slogan “Do it in WA” has been launched to help the local industry manage the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The campaign aims to encourage West Australians to holiday at home and explore their own backyard instead of travelling interstate or overseas.


Video: Do it in WA tourism campaign launched amid coronavirus pandemic

(ABC News)

WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia acknowledged the tongue-in-cheek messaging and said it was a call to arms for all West Australians to choose their home state.

“This is about unashamedly promoting Western Australian businesses,” Mr Papalia said.

“If you want to help Western Australia … help your fellow West Australians, then you should holiday at home.”

Mr Papalia said pockets of the tourism industry, in particular the areas that relied heavily on Chinese tourists, had already been hit hard.

“The full extent of what’s going to happen hasn’t yet necessarily spread everywhere,” Mr Papalia said.



Photo:

The Do it in WA tourism campaign aims to get locals to holiday at home. (Supplied: Tourism WA)

Tourism and hospitality businesses are being encouraged to offer up special deals as part of the campaign.

Funding for the campaign comes out of a previously announced $4.85 million pool of money for a domestic marketing boost.

The Australian Hotels Association WA has celebrated the campaign, saying it came at a time of unprecedented challenge for the industry.

“The ‘Do It In WA’ campaign will drive many Western Australians to look at the vast array of holiday options we have throughout the state, from well-known tourism hotspots through to unparalleled destinations off the beaten track,” chief executive Bradley Woods said.

Rock lobster rescue package

The WA Government also announced a rescue package to help the rock lobster industry deal with the financial impact of coronavirus.

Sales to China usually make up 95 per cent of WA rock lobster exports, but they have fallen to almost zero after the virus shut down much of the country.



Photo:

Western rock lobster exports have slumped because of coronavirus. (ABC Rural: Karen Hunt)

Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley said the current season would be extended from 12 to 18 months and the additional six months’ worth of quota would be brought forward, increasing the allowable catch to 9,000 tonnes.

He said only about 10 per cent of the normal season tonnage of 6,500 had been taken to date, “so that gives you an assessment and an idea of what’s happened to the market.”

Mr Tinley said he also wanted to make it easier for back-of-boat sales of lobsters to the local community.

“Basically this means more domestic supply for Western Australians to get access to our very prized resource in the lobster industry,” 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.

Western Rock Lobster Industry chief executive Matt Taylor said it was an extremely difficult period for the industry.

“Our fishers haven’t been able to fish for seven weeks now, we were about 13 days into the season so it’s come at the worst possible time,” Mr Taylor said.

“[There’s been] a lot of financial stress and that’s why it’s been great to work so well with Government to relieve some of that financial stress and create some business certainty around the response.”

Call for more coronavirus stimulus

The State Opposition said those steps did not go far enough, calling for a much broader economic stimulus package.


Video: Will the coronavirus push Australia into recession? Alan Kohler takes a look

(7.30)

“There’s a number of options on the table. The Government are awash with funds,” Liberal leader Liza Harvey said.

“They had a $2.5 billion windfall in the budget as a result of the high iron ore prices and the stability of the Australian dollar over time.

“They should use some of that to stimulate the domestic economy.

“Businesses are hurting, businesses are laying off people. We need to stop that, protect jobs, provide a stimulus.”

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Coronavirus has closed our school for six weeks and counting. This is how we make it work


Australia

There’s no playground or lunch bell at this school, but some 8,000 kilometres from Beijing, Angela Steinmann and Jaima Holland are preparing for another day of class.

From the confines of a renovated Queenslander in Brisbane’s northern suburbs, the pair have found themselves grappling with the residual impacts of the coronavirus crisis: school shutdowns.

Angela is the elementary school principal at Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), where Jaima is a physics teacher and Grade 9 mentor.

As the Chinese New Year rolled around in late January, the pair — like “50 per cent of our staff and students” — left the capital to travel overseas, opting to holiday in the Philippines.

Then, the outbreak occurred.



Photo:

Angela is the elementary school principal at the Western Academy of Beijing, where Jaima is a physics teacher and Grade 9 mentor. (Western Academy of Beijing)

“At the beginning of the holidays [Chinese authorities] announced that schools would be closed, so we had to very quickly make a plan of action to begin online learning when we came back a week later,” says Angela.

“Rather than quickly return to China, we decided there wasn’t really any need for it. We weren’t going back to school, so a decision was made that students and teachers could operate from wherever they were.”

With friends and family in Brisbane, the pair returned to Australia (“The internet connection here is better than the Philippines,” Jaima quips), where they have spent much of the year navigating the ups and downs of their new classroom.

They are now almost finished the sixth week of delivering an online learning curriculum to 1,400 WAB students aged from 3-18 who represent the many cultures and nationalities who attend this international school for expatriate children.

‘We went from zero to full-on in a week’

As authorities work to contain the spread of COVID-19, more than 290 million students across the globe have been disrupted by school closures (much to the chagrin of parents).

While China was the only nation mandating closures some three weeks ago, as of the beginning of March, at least 22 countries in three different continents had followed suit in announcing or implementing contingency plans of their own.

It means schools have had to pivot to an online curriculum, as they stare down the barrel of an uncertain future.



Photo:

Using online applications like Zoom, Skype and WeChat, teachers set the usual daily course work for their students. (ABC News: Bridget Judd)

As if the transition wasn’t hard enough, the Western Academy of Beijing, an international school in the north of the city, has been forced to confront another hurdle: many of their more than 150 staff, who had been overseas on holidays when the outbreak occurred, remain in all corners of the world (“We have people in Europe, America, Asia, Australia — everywhere,” Angela says).

“We all follow Beijing time, so the time zone has been the trickiest one,” she adds. “It has been a huge challenge; we went from zero to full-on in a week.”

Using online applications like Zoom, Skype and the Chinese social media app WeChat, teachers set the usual daily course work for their students, interspersed with parent workshops, forums and teacher staff meetings.

It is very much business as usual (“Our swimming teacher, for example, is still doing swimming lessons online,” Angela says), but that is not to say there have not been challenges.


Infographic:
Despite being stuck in different corners of the world, staff still have weekly meetings.
(Supplied: Angela Steinmann)

“In any classroom you’ve got a range of abilities. Not just academic abilities but self-management abilities, the ability to make sure they’re engaged and can organise themselves,” Jaima says.

“And when you go into an online learning platform, suddenly that range becomes so much larger.”

In the case of WAB’s multicultural student body, a range of English-language skills, particularly among younger pupils, add another layer of complication into the mix.

“The real difficulty of [taking lessons online] was, how are we going to do this to accommodate the needs of such a diverse range of students, but do it in a way that’s relatively streamlined?” Jaima says.

So what does an average day look like?

For Angela and Jaima, communication and engagement with both students and parents has been paramount in ensuring they do not slip “through the cracks”.

The wider community is acutely aware of the predicament they are facing, and until the school closures are lifted, students and staff simply don’t have any other options.

But while online learning may be part and parcel of modern life, the pair are quick to admit that the transition to a virtual classroom has been a matter of trial and error.

“At first I thought, this will be great, we’ll just post one email for the week and it’s not too overwhelming,” Jaima says.

“It was the opposite, students felt overwhelmed because they were getting a weeks’ worth of work for each class and it was just too much.”

The school has used this feedback to hone its approach.

Students are given their weekly coursework each Monday, and are then tasked with devising a timetable for the days ahead (“For example, when are they Zooming with their teachers?” Angela says).

Teachers also upload a video of themselves every morning, welcoming students into the new day and outlining their daily tasks, which have already been posted online.


Infographic:
An example of the course material posted online for students at the Western Academy of Beijing.
(Supplied: Angela Steinmann)

“Every class in elementary has a class blog, all children also have their own blogs, so if they have to do work, they can take a picture or upload it to the blog, so their parent and teacher can give feedback,” says Angela.

“I spend a lot of time just in correspondence, checking in with students, tracking students, giving feedback, communicating with mentors and counsellors if you feel a student is getting too far behind,” adds Jaima.

Virtual classrooms in use in Australia

While Australia has so far been largely immune to the brunt of the crisis, the premise of online learning is not an entirely foreign concept.

Classes have already been cancelled in New South Wales, while similar scenes have been observed in Victoria, as more people test positive for coronavirus.

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In anticipation of further closures, the NSW Education Department has confirmed it is working with its major IT providers to create virtual classrooms so teachers can provide work to students over the internet.

This technology is already in use at Epping Boys High School, which is using Google Classroom across all year groups and subjects to provide daily online lessons for students in self-isolation. At Willoughby Girls High School, also in Sydney, students have access to lessons and content from Edmodo and Google Classroom.

While Queensland is yet to be affected by school closures, its education department has also confirmed it has “online learning materials and virtual classroom capability that can be used by schools where appropriate to support sustained curriculum delivery”.

But should Australian schools have to transition to online learning in the event of a shutdown, it’s may not mimic the experience of Beijing’s WAB.



Photo:

Should Australian schools have to transition to online learning in the event of a shutdown, it may not mimic the Beijing experience. (ABC News: Elise Pianegonda)

“The technical infrastructure in public schools just doesn’t exist,” says Dan Hogan, a public school teacher.

“You’d be lucky to find a public school in the country where each student in a class of 30 has a device like a tablet or a laptop. They always have to be shared between two, or three, or more.”

‘There are equity and access issues’

Australia has one of the largest resource gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged schools in the OECD, while research has found the gap between high and low socioeconomic high schools is widening.

Should schools be forced to pivot to an online curriculum, some fear this education divide could become more pronounced.

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“There are many students, either because of the failure of infrastructure in their community or the socioeconomic status of individuals where they don’t have access to a computer or suitable device, who will be unable to get access to any virtual learning spaces,” says Kevin Bates, president of the Queensland Teachers Union.

“I’m also concerned that the sort of work we would be expecting people to pick up would involve a set of teaching materials that many teachers have never used.

“There are equity and access issues, and there are issues associated with the practicality of having 40,000 teachers familiarise themselves with the curriculum documents and effectively deliver a program for students in such a short timeframe.”

While teachers have always used technology as an “integrated part of their daily work”, the NSW Teachers Federation says, delivering an entire school curriculum on online platforms will not be able to occur overnight.

“That will require the department to provide additional resources in the areas of IT, in terms of accessibility of course across the state,” says senior vice-president Amber Flohm.

“But also in professional learning, that’s not something that could be rolled out across the state overnight.”

What can Australia learn from the overseas experience?

Jaima concedes the transition to online learning was aided by their “incredibly well-resourced” school, which had already purchased online learning platforms and software for teachers to use in classes prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

But being able to streamline those tools, and ensuring teachers were competent in them, was a learning curve in and of itself.



Photo:

Jaima says the school had already purchased online learning platforms and software for teachers to use in class. (Western Academy of Beijing)

“We’ve had teachers teaching teachers sessions, because some teachers are more IT savvy than others,” Angela says.

“Everyone has had to upskill in certain programs just to get them up and running. And that includes kids and parents as well.”

With no end in sight, Angela and Jaima are looking towards the year ahead.

There are senior exams to plan for, and other milestones they need to take into consideration, should their new classroom become a longer-term fixture.

So what can Australia learn from their experience?

“Look after each other, check in with your colleagues. It’s going to be difficult, but persevere and stick with it,” says Jaima.

“Don’t underestimate the importance of connecting with others. The isolation is really hard to deal with,” adds Angela.


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Coronavirus forces school trip ban with parents set to lose thousands of dollars


Brisbane 4000

Teenager Adelaide Hardy had been planning her overseas school trip for more than a year but it has now been cancelled due to coronavirus fears, with her parents possibly forfeiting thousands of dollars.

Key points:

  • Schools are responsible for organising insurance for overseas trips
  • Parents of affected students are being told to contact schools to figure out how much money they can recoup
  • Some schools are also cancelling local trips like school camps within Queensland

The Hardy family are one of hundreds across Queensland caught in financial limbo, after the Education Department ordered all overseas school travel be cancelled, indefinitely.

Mother Sally Hardy said she started paying for her 15-year-old daughter’s Year 10 literary tour of the United Kingdom at the beginning of 2019, and is facing the prospect of losing thousands of dollars.

The trip was meant to start at the beginning of April.

“We understand it, but we’re just gutted,” Ms Hardy said.

“I’m pretty sure we won’t see some of the money, because there were things that needed to be paid quite a lot in advance and I imagine they’re not refundable.”

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“At the moment there’s no information coming from anywhere — we just have to wait and see.

“We understand why it was cancelled and obviously they want to keep everyone as safe as possible — it’s just sad news for the kids.”



Photo:

Sally Hardy says she started paying for her 15-year-old daughter’s UK trip at the beginning of 2019. (ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

Schools are responsible for organising insurance for overseas trips and the costs can reach up to $10,000 per student, meaning refunds would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The Education Department has not been able to say how many excursions would be cancelled, or how much money parents could lose.

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But Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said support would be offered to parents to figure out what could be recouped.

“All state schools impacted by the official international travel ban are encouraged to work with their travel agent provider and insurers,” Ms Grace said.

“Parents are encouraged to contact schools directly with any questions they may have and any schools needing further assistance should contact the department’s international area.”

Adelaide said she was “really upset” at missing the trip.

“I was really excited to go and then it was just cancelled, so that was not fun,” she said.

“I’m just devastated but I can see why — even though England and Ireland have not been that big of a hit with the virus.”



Photo:

The trip for Sally Hardy’s daughter Adelaide was meant to start at the beginning of April. (ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

Local trips also cancelled

A number of private and Catholic schools in Queensland have also issued similar directives banning international school travel — for students and teachers.

The ABC has spoken with a number of school principals who were also unsure whether the cancellation would be covered by insurance.

The State Government hinted it might offer financial support if parents were unable to recoup the full amount.

But some schools have also cancelled local trips like school camps to South East Queensland or northern New South Wales.

In an email to parents yesterday, John Paul College, south of Brisbane, said it had postponed its three-day Year 11 camp at north Noosa, which was booked for next week.

“Advice from different government agencies and the potential threat of exposure to the coronavirus mean that we need to postpone the Year 11 camp until later in the year,” head of secondary school Allan Dennis wrote.

“We do this in the best interest of our students, their families and our community.”



Photo:

A number of school principals are unsure whether cancellations will be covered by insurance. (ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

School closures being considered

Schools have also been planning for shutdowns and closures to stop the virus spreading through the student community.

Brisbane biggest school — Kelvin Grove State College — wrote to parents warning of a possible closure.

“If there is a confirmed case at our school, it is likely our school will need to close for a period to allow Queensland Health to assess the situation and to perform contact tracing as required to identify people and students who may have come in contact with the COVID-19 case,” the letter by executive principal Llew Paulger said.

“The Department of Education will then work with our school to conduct any specialised cleaning of our facilities as required to ensure our school is safe for students and staff to return when clearance is given.

“A closure is likely to include any on-site services such as outside school hours care (OSHC) and other facility hirers.”


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McLaren and Haas team members quarantined at Australian Grand Prix


Melbourne 3000

Two members of the Haas Formula One team and one from McLaren are in quarantine as a precaution amid coronavirus fears ahead of Sunday’s season-opening race in Melbourne.

Key points:

  • Renault pulled both Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon from the team’s livery unveiling due to concerns about coronavirus
  • Team members from McLaren and Haas are awaiting results of tests for coronavirus
  • Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said at this stage the F1 season-opener will go ahead as planned

“Two members of the team have been quarantined and remain in their hotel room. They displayed symptoms of a cold,” a spokesperson for Haas told Reuters.

McLaren said one team member had self-isolated in the hotel as a precaution.

“We expect to receive the results overnight. The team is operating as per our normal schedule,” McLaren said.

Australian Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo was pulled out of a scheduled Renault team media conference over fears he might be exposed to the coronavirus.



Photo:

Australian star Daniel Ricciardo was pulled from a media event at the Australian Grand Prix. (AAP: Julian Smith)

Ricciardo and teammate Esteban Ocon were due to take questions from reporters after they unveiled Renault’s new livery for the 2020 season at the Albert Park circuit on Wednesday, but were withdrawn by team officials at the last minute.

“Our drivers were supposed to be with us for this event but due to the situation we’ve excused them for the occasion … I hope you understand why we are taking such measures,” team principal Cyril Abiteboul said.

There had earlier been concerns about whether Ferrari would take their place on the grid at the Australian Grand Prix, due to fears about team members being exposed to the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy.

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says he was following advice from the state’s chief health officer in allowing the Grand Prix to go ahead in Melbourne this weekend.

“It is about proportionate responses. The advice is that it is not proportionate to cancel that event, or any other event at this stage,” Mr Andrews told ABC Radio Melbourne.

The government is not currently aware of any confirmed cases, or their close contacts, linked to the Grand Prix and a government spokesperson said the public would be “informed about new confirmed cases”.

The current advice from the chief health officer is that mass gathering events like the Grand Prix, the Melbourne Fashion Festival and AFL football can continue.

Australian Grand Prix chief Andrew Westacott said organisers are aware of the situation and were taking “prudent sensible measures”, including having more hand sanitisers and four warm water hand-washing stations around the venue.

“The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has been informed of three Formula One team personnel presenting for precautionary testing and who are now all undergoing precautionary self-isolation,” Mr Westacott said.

“The AGPC is monitoring the situation in conjunction with Formula One and the FIA.”

More than 300,000 fans attended race week at Albert Park last year, according to organisers’ estimates.


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We’re officially in a bear market and your superannuation is on the line


Australia

The wave of selling taking place on the share market right now seems unrelenting.

It’s been so strong that the benchmark ASX200 index and the All Ordinaries index are now both in what’s known as “bear market” territory.

That means top-to-bottom losses of at least 20 per cent. In dollar terms, we’ve seen hundreds of billions of dollars wiped off the market every week.

The reasons for the stock market plunge are well-known.

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There are fears the outbreak of the coronavirus will cripple the global economy, send many firms to the wall and leave many Australians unemployed. Add to that an oil price shock and you have the makings of a financial crisis.

The run on toilet paper captures the panic mindset that we’ve also seen in financial markets.

Apart from looking into the bathroom cupboard and finding you’ve run out of toilet paper, how does the financial and economic environment we’re in now actually affect you as an individual?

Share market gains and losses

Most younger Australians have time on their side. That’s a big advantage when it comes to investing.

As you can see from this chart, there’s a truism when it comes to investing in the share market: the market always rises over the long run.


Infographic:
In the long run, the market always rises.
(Supplied: CMC Markets Stockbroking)

So, if you’re a worker with superannuation, history suggests that over the next few decades your balance will return to what it was late last year and then keep growing again.

For those in or approaching retirement, it’s a nervous time.

It’s important to note that share prices are coming down from all-time highs. So, while the market is down over 20 per cent, it’s still well above where it was back in 2012.

That said, if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in your nest egg, your wealth will have been cut in the past couple of months, and the time at which you shift to the Age Pension, assuming share markets don’t immediately recover, has been brought forward.

Rate cuts can’t cure COVID-19
Reserve Bank interest rate cuts will do little to keep Australia out of a deep recession if coronavirus becomes a severe pandemic, but there are some unconventional policies that could help save the economy.

However, if you sell now, financial advisors say, you are crystallising your losses.

It all depends on whether you need cash now. Some retirees who run their own self-managed super funds have told the ABC they have sold a few shares just to make sure they have some cash, or income, for the next six months.

The jobs market

However, the share market doesn’t operate in isolation.

The market itself is reflecting a material or serious deterioration (of profitability) in Australian businesses, big and small.

For some, with mountains of debt, as cash flow dries up (as people spend less), many businesses may go to the wall. The only option for many companies will be to make certain positions redundant.

Losing your job in a downturn can be both a psychologically shocking experience and a traumatic event.

Once you’ve recovered from that, though, the overwhelming advice is to keep applying for jobs, consider trying your hand at a new career where there’s more demand for workers, and re-skilling or resuming your studies.

Economists say the shock and recovery process of an economic downturn creates new industries and jobs. Anticipating where these new opportunities might be, they say, is crucial for job seekers.

Save or spend?

Can Morrison match Rudd in keeping Australia out of recession in a global crisis?
Amid the threat of coronavirus, Scott Morrison’s Government needs to keep growth going, spending enough — not too much, not too little — and choosing the right measures.

Deutsche Bank, AMP Capital, the National Australia Bank, BIS Oxford Economics and Bloomberg Economics all say Australia will enter recession in 2020 or experience a major economic shock.

The majority of Australia’s economic growth is generated by shoppers spending at the stores. Naturally, the government wants employers to keep employees on the payroll so they can keep spending.

That’s easier said than done. Why? Because it’s only natural to want to protect your own wealth.

Or, as chief economist of RBC Capital Markets Su-Lin Ong puts it:

“As much as the Prime Minister and others like to downplay some of that to a degree, I think the reality is that for both households and businesses, the underlying fundamentals will be quite weak and that needs to be taken into account when thinking about expenditure and borrowing.”

Getting by day-to-day

The pictures of toiler paper runs have also shocked, saddened and angered many Australians.

Of course, it’s upsetting to see shoppers fighting with one another to secure dunny paper.

The psychology behind it is similar to a bank run.

The reality is that even if a bank is in sound financial health, if a mistruth is spread that it’s not, public panic can develop and everyone rushes to take their money out of the bank.

While the coronavirus will knock out many business supply chains, Australia, for a start, is currently well-stocked for groceries and the ability to make those groceries.

As a spokesperson for Woolworths, Australia’s biggest supermarket supply chain, recently put it:

How will businesses cope?
Businesses are struggling with questions such as who will pay workers forced to self-isolate in a coronavirus outbreak.

“Our teams are continuing to work hard on restocking stores with long-life food and groceries from our distribution centres.”

“The vast majority of the products in our range remain available for our customers as normal.”

In the space of little over a month, Woolworths’ share price on the ASX has effectively crashed, down 20 per cent.

This means Woolworths, as a corporation, has a reduced capacity to raise funds (extra cash or finance). Put simply, it’s technically harder for it to grow its business. It does not, however, prevent the grocery chain from re-stocking its shelves with loo paper.

A time for calm

Economies grow and retract, as do share markets.

The coronavirus has a finite life, but the damage it does to the share market and the economy will take time to work through.

The hope in the meantime is that we don’t exacerbate the problems by misunderstanding or overestimating how they will ultimately affect us.


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First case of coronavirus in regional Australia shuts down two university campuses


Sydney 2000

Southern Cross University (SCU) has closed two of its campuses for the day following detection of the first coronavirus case in regional Australia.

Key points:

  • The Lismore and Gold Coast campuses are shut for the day
  • A staff member who attended workshops earlier this month has tested positive to coronavirus
  • The University is yet to decide when the campuses will re-open

The Lismore campus in northern NSW and Gold Coast campus in Queensland are in lockdown to stop any potential spread of the virus after a staff member tested positive.

The decision means an estimated 8,000 students will have to study at home but are not required to self-isolate.

A university employee from the Philippines attended a series of workshops at both campuses between March 2 and 6 before falling ill.

The male staff member returned a positive test for coronavirus on Tuesday but told the university his symptoms had subsided the previous day.



Photo:

The Southern Cross University campus at Coolangatta is closed today. (ABC News: Steve Keen)

“He is a strong young man and said that by Monday he felt fine,” SCU spokesman Dean Gould said.

“From what we know he is recovering well [but] we know we had a staff member on campus with this highly-contagious virus so it’s a duty of care really that we want to intervene straight away and break that potential cycle,”

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continues its steady rise in NSW with the total reaching 65.

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SCU has identified and contacted 45 people who came into contact with the man but only 16 of those people had frequent contact.

The campuses will undergo thorough cleaning today.

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Acting director of the North Coast Public Health Unit Dr Jane Jeffs said anybody who had not been contacted had no reason to be concerned.

“Generally close contact is someone who has been face-to-face for 15 minutes or more,” she said.

She said the unit is awaiting further information from their counterparts in the Philippines to gain better insight into where the man visited.

Dr Tony Lembke who is a GP in Alstonville, near Lismore, lauded the university’s decision as prudent and sensible.

He said lockdowns should be the emphasis to stop the virus “cascading” through high-traffic institutions like universities.



Photo:

Jonathon Manitta arrived at the Lismore campus to find it was closed due to coronavirus. (ABC News: Bronwyn Herbert)

But engineering student Jonathon Manitta said it was “a little bit scary” arriving to a locked-down Lismore campus this morning.

“How many weeks ago was it just in China and now all of a sudden it’s at Southern Cross Uni in rural Lismore,” he said.

“It’s unsettling, it’s eye-opening but we do have systems in place to deal with it so hopefully they keep us safe.”

Marine science student Sarah Daynes was pleased the university was being cautious.

“I’m not really too worried, it’s up to them, whatever they think is right. They’ve got to take in the safety of the students and that’s what they’re doing,” she said.

Southern Cross University’s coronavirus taskforce made up of senior executives will meet today to discuss when the university should re-open.

“There could be some online delivery of our courses but there’s a whole lot of other stuff that happens outside of the classroom that’s also suspended at the moment”, Mr Gould said.

Anyone who is feeling unwell has been asked to self-isolate and seek medical attention.


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