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.
- 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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
“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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