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The White House says up to 240,000 Americans will die from coronavirus even with social distancing, Spain becomes the third country to record more than 100,000 cases, two more deaths have been confirmed in New South Wales, and the UK records its highest daily toll.
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Wednesday’s top stories
- White House predicts up to 240,000 deaths
- Queensland Premier calls for ‘care army’ to help older people
- Two more deaths in NSW, pop-up testing clinic opens at Bondi Beach
- UK extends visas for foreign medics as death toll jumps
- Spain records deadliest day, hospitals struggling
- Vladimir Putin had contact with infected doctor
With social-distancing measures, the White House is projecting that between 100,000 and 240,000 people in the US will die in the coronavirus pandemic.
“As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, who is helping to lead the US effort.
If no social-distancing measures had been put in place across the country, the modelling indicates that between 1.5 million and 2.2 million people would have died.
According to a Johns Hopkins University database, there have been 3,721 deaths already in the United States.
That puts America, which has by far the most confirmed cases in the world, above China (3,309 deaths) but below Italy (12,428) and Spain (9,053).
The death toll for Tuesday (local time) hit 800, the most for a single day so far, with nearly half of the those fatalities in New York State.
During a White House briefing on the pandemic, US President Donald Trump said every American was being “called upon to make sacrifices” and that following the national guidelines on social distancing was a “matter of life and death”.
“This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks,” he said.
Despite the lack of a nationwide stay-at-home order, a majority of Americans are already under state or local government orders to do just that to slow the spread of the virus.
Spain has reported a record 864 deaths in one day.
And the nation’s total number of infections has broken the 100,000 mark, making it the third country to pass that milestone behind the United States and Italy.
Spanish health authorities said on Wednesday the total number of deaths had reached 9,053 since the beginning of the outbreak.
The total number of infections had hit 102,136, but the 24-hour increase of 7,719 was 1,500 fewer than the increase from the previous day, offering hope the contagion rate was stabilising.
Madrid was forced to open a second temporary morgue this week after an ice rink pressed into service last week was overwhelmed.
Spain and Italy are still struggling to avoid the collapse of their health systems, with Spain saying hospitals in at least half of its 17 regions are at or near their ICU bed limits, and more than 13,000 medical workers have been infected.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Cabinet is expected to add a new 700-million-euro ($1.19 billion) aid package, including zero interest loans, as well as suspend home evictions for families who can’t afford to pay their rent.
More than 5,000 people in hotel quarantine
It has been four days since the Government introduced tougher quarantine rules for international arrivals and in that time more than 5,000 Australians have been placed in mandatory quarantine in hotel rooms and other accommodation.
Here’s the state-by-state breakdown:
- NSW more than 3,140
- VIC more than 990
- WA more than 830
- QLD more than 520
- NT fewer than five
A cruise ship docked in the port of Fremantle that is responsible for dozens of coronavirus cases in WA hospitals is refusing to leave Australian waters.
The Artania has been directed by the Australian Border Force to depart Fremantle, but its crew has responded saying they want to remain for another two weeks.
“I am very disappointed. I’d urge the Australian Border Force to get the ship on its way. It has to get back to Germany. I suspect most of the crew want to go back to Germany. I think the Federal Government needs to step up here,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said.
He suggested it might be a “very reasonable idea” for the occupants of the ship to serve out their 14-day quarantine period on Christmas Island, rather than on the ship.
The ship still has 450 crew and about a dozen passengers on board, with the rest flown home on charter flights to Germany over the weekend.
None of the passengers or crew from the vessel are Australian.
A total of 41 passengers and crew from the Artania are already being treated in West Australian hospitals for COVID-19, with several in life-threatening situations.
A 95-year-old woman has died after contracting COVID-19 at an aged-care facility in Sydney and a person has died at a hospital in regional NSW.
It raises the death toll in the state to 10 and the toll nationally to 21.
The woman was a resident at Sydney’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged-care facility, where 21 infections have been confirmed and five people have died.
BaptistCare CEO Ross Low said it was “heartbreaking to learn of another resident passing away”.
The second death was a patient at Orange Base Hospital in the state’s Central West.
The person had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 before being admitted to hospital, where they died today.
The hospital said no further details would be provided at the family’s request.
NSW health authorities said another 150 new coronavirus infections had been recorded in NSW, taking the state total to 2,182.
A pop-up coronavirus clinic opened at Bondi Beach today to deal with a surge in cases in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
St Vincent's Health: "The team at @SVHSydney have now got their Bondi Beach pop-up COVID-19 clinic up and running to address an increase in positive cases in the area. Great work guys!"
Seven new cases of coronavirus linked to Qantas baggage handlers from Adelaide Airport have been confirmed in South Australia.
The state’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Michael Cusack said five baggage handlers were now confirmed positive cases, on top of six who were yesterday confirmed to have tested positive to COVID-19.
Another two family members of the baggage handlers have contracted the virus, bringing the total in the cluster to 13.
Yesterday, Qantas cancelled seven Adelaide flights, including one that was turned back to Sydney mid-flight.
Passengers on that flight were put up in accommodation overnight, and will fly today.
Tourists visited Tasmania before COVID-19 diagnosis
Port Arthur, MONA and Cradle Mountain are among the destinations visited by two tourists who holidayed in Tasmania before they realised they were infected with coronavirus.
Public Health Services (PHS) said it had been in contact with a number of tourism and hospitality businesses after being alerted to the pair’s visit by an interstate health department.
In a statement, PHS said the pair travelled together as part of an organised tour of Tasmania from March 12 to 23.
“Neither person was aware they had coronavirus while they were in Tasmania and did not present for either medical care or testing,” the statement said.
The two were only diagnosed after they returned to their home state.
Meanwhile, a man in his 20s and another in his 70s are the latest coronavirus cases identified in Tasmania, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 71.
Both men had recently arrived in Tasmania from overseas and were already in self-quarantine, authorities said.
Britain says it will automatically renew the visas of foreign healthcare workers without charge to ensure they can focus on fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
The extension will apply to about 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics working in the stretched National Health Service whose visas were due to expire before October 1, and the measure will also include their family members.
“We owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do. I don’t want them distracted by the visa process,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.
The UK has experienced a sharp rise in the number of deaths from coronavirus, with a further 393 people dying, up from 180 the previous day.
The figures include a 19-year-old victim who had no underlying health conditions.
The total number of COVID-19 related deaths in the UK now stands at 1,789, while the total number of infections has increased to 25,150, with more than 140,000 people tested.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in self-isolation after testing positive to coronavirus last week, and conducted the UK’s first-ever digital Cabinet on Tuesday.
@BorisJohnson: This morning I chaired the first ever digital Cabinet. Our message to the public is: stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. #StayHomeSaveLives
Meanwhile, Prince Charles has recovered after testing positive for coronavirus, and has praised the selfless devotion of healthcare workers.
The heir-to-the-throne came out of self-isolation after suffering what he said were “luckily … relatively mild symptoms” and his office said he was now in good health.
In a video address, the prince said although he had recovered, he was still in a state of social distance and general isolation.
Clarence House on Twitter: As Patron of @age_uk , The Prince of Wales shares a message on the Coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the older members of the community.
His wife Camilla, 72, who had tested negative, is remaining in self-isolation until the end of the week in case she develops symptoms.
Victoria to fund thousands of additional intensive care beds
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says another $1.3 billion will be invested in the state’s health system.
He said Victorians must do “everything we can” to avoid what is happening in global hotspots including Italy, France, Spain and the United States.
“This $1.3 billion is a big part of it, but it’s no more important than every single Victorian doing the right thing — stay at home, protect the health system, save lives,” he said.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the additional funding would increase the number of intensive care beds in the state from about 500 to 4,500.
Victoria recorded another 51 cases of coronavirus overnight, bringing the state total to 968.
The Victorian Government has also committed $50 million to match people who have lost their jobs with food producers who are struggling to find workers due to a lack of migrants entering the country.
The program will provide training for workers to move into the horticulture, dairy and meat industries.
Western Australia to expand testing criteria
Anyone in Western Australia showing signs of fever and acute respiratory infection can be tested for COVID-19 from tomorrow.
Health Minister Roger Cook said the expanded testing regime would help find new cases, protect vulnerable populations and ensure the state was tracking the movement of the virus as it develops.
Another 28 people tested positive for coronavirus in the state over the past 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 392.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she wants volunteers to join a “care army”, citing the example of the “mud army” that responded to the 2011 floods in the state.
“If we can look after our most vulnerable, we can prevent them from ending up in hospital or even in ICU,” she said.
Ms Palaszczuk called for people to “support a senior in your suburb”, suggesting that they give them a call to check in, do their grocery shopping, or pick up their scripts from the pharmacy.
Queenslanders over the age of 65 with a chronic condition, and all Queenslanders over the age of 70, have been told to stay at home.
Another 41 coronavirus cases were confirmed in Queensland today, taking the state total to 781.
More than 40,000 doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists whose registrations have lapsed in the past three years will soon receive emails asking them to return to the workforce.
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency chief executive Martin Fletcher said they would automatically be added to the general register for a year, under a pandemic sub-register, unless they choose to opt out.
“Even if we get only 5 per cent or 10 per cent of practitioners wanting to stay on the sub-register, we’re talking about somewhere between 2,000 to 4,000 additional practitioners available to the health system,” he said.
Practitioners who have been struck off the register, or who have a complaint or sanction against them, will not be eligible to take part.
Registrations for newly graduated medical students, as well as internationally qualified doctors, nurses and pharmacists already living in Australia, are also being fast-tracked.
Physiotherapists and radiologists who recently stopped working will be contacted in future medical staff call-ups.
Job losses could top 25 million worldwide
The United Nations has announced a trust fund to help poorer nations recover from the socio-economic impact of coronavirus.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world was facing the greatest challenge since World War II.
He said up to 25 million jobs could be lost around the world due to the pandemic.
“The United Nations is establishing a new multi-partner trust fund for COVID-19 response and recovery to support low and middle-income countries to respond to the emergency, and to recover from the socio-economic shock,” he said.
Federal health authorities have brought forward the annual round of flu vaccinations in a bid to stop people becoming infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
Older people and vulnerable groups, such as Indigenous Australians and pregnant women, can access the vaccine for free.
Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told Channel Nine the flu season usually started in June, but vaccinations were now available.
“We brought the period forward only by a couple of weeks. Normally we start national vaccination around the middle of April, so it is only a couple of weeks early,” he said.
Professor Kidd told Channel Seven that people who get both COVID-19 and influenza have “very bad outcomes”.
“We can’t afford to have the doubling up of people who are unwell with influenza, and unwell with COVID-19, that we’ve seen occurring in Europe,” he said.
Thirteen million doses of the vaccine have been secured this year.
Spotlight on antibody tests
With much of society now effectively in lockdown, how will we know when it’s safe to resume something like normality?
University of Queensland research fellow Larisa Labzin said it would largely depend on being able to say who was safe from contracting the coronavirus and who still needed to stay out of harm’s way.
A blood test to detect who has antibodies against the virus would be a crucial aid.
The UK is already rolling out 3.5 million antibody tests, while Australia has ordered 1.5 million antibody tests.
What still needs to be tested is how specific those kits are.
As Ms Labzin wrote for The Conversation, it’s vital that these antibody test kits are only able to detect antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, and not other coronaviruses or even viruses of other types.
Otherwise, people might think they are protected against SARS-CoV-2 when in fact they aren’t.
There is still a long way to go before we can test people’s blood for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and confidently say it is safe for people to go back to work or into the community without getting sick.
Europe’s youngest victims of COVID-19
A 12-year-old girl from the Belgian city of Ghent has died days after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Belgian Government’s coronavirus taskforce said the death of children in the outbreak was rare, and her case had deeply affected the medical community.
In the UK, King’s College Hospital says a 13-year-old boy from South London died after contracting the disease.
He had been struggling to breathe when his family took him to hospital. He was put on a ventilator and placed in an induced coma.
His family put out a statement saying they did not know of any underlying health conditions and they were beyond devastated.
The Australian Government will re-launch hundreds of flights to deliver fresh produce to key international markets as part of a $170 million boost to the export sector, which has been grounded by the coronavirus emergency.
The support package includes $110 million to coordinate flights from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth to deliver fresh produce to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Return flights, under the program, will provide an opportunity for Australia to import medical equipment and medicines.
The announcement follows months of uncertainty for the seafood sector, which was hit hard when markets in China collapsed early in the COVID-19 crisis.
Other winners include red meat, dairy and horticulture exporters that have relied on cargo in passenger aircraft to deliver their produce.
Australian diplomats are negotiating with their US counterparts to allow Australians off a coronavirus-affected cruise ship that is currently off the coast of Florida.
About 60 Australians are still onboard the Zaandam, but none are believed to have coronavirus.
At least 189 people on the ship are experiencing flu-like symptoms, some have tested positive for coronavirus and four people have died, though the cause of their deaths has not been confirmed.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the Federal Government is planning a rescue for the Australian passengers.
“We’re working with officials there to seek support for them to be allowed to disembark and to take flights home,” she said.
Owners of another cruise ship anchored off Uruguay with 100 Australians onboard are trying to get passengers additional coronavirus tests, so they can dock and disembark.
Six people on that ship currently have a fever.
Printing of community newspapers suspended
News Corp says it will suspend printing of 60 community newspapers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia from April 9.
The organisation says advertising revenues have rapidly declined after the restrictions placed on real-estate auctions and home inspections, and the forced closure of event venues and dine-in restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.
The move follows news of the closure of Victorian independent newspapers earlier this month as a result of a decline in revenue resulting from the pandemic.
There’s a lot of innovation going on at the moment as businesses adapt to the changing economic climate.
When the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled, Triple Eight Race Engineering based in Banyo, west of Brisbane, turned their attention to creating a ventilator prototype to help during the coronavirus crisis.
Team principal Roland Dane said the prototype was the result of his engineering team working with medical professionals and local intensive care unit experts.
“Engineering is engineering, so when you’re involving a control system, an electrical motor and circuit board it’s not dissimilar to the parts we use on a sophisticated Supercar,” he said.
“On the other side of this crisis we need to look at ‘Australia Incorporated’ and go back to making things, as we can’t rely on importing things from around the world.”
A doctor who gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a tour of Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital last week now says he has been diagnosed with the virus.
Mr Putin visited the Kommunarka hospital last Tuesday where he chatted to the doctor, Denis Protsenko, shook his hand, and rode with him in a lift.
Neither man was wearing protective equipment during the exchange.
@dimsmirnov175: “Like a hospital? “Space!”: Putin and the head doctor of the hospital in Kommunarka
“Yes, I have tested positive for coronavirus, but I feel pretty good. I’ve isolated myself in my office. I think the immunity I’ve developed this month is doing its job,” Dr Protsenko wrote yesterday on Facebook.
The Kremlin said Mr Putin was being regularly tested for coronavirus and that “everything is OK”, the RIA news agency reported.
It has previously said Mr Putin is being protected from viruses and other illnesses “around the clock”.
The Kremlin reported a coronavirus case in Mr Putin’s administration last week, but said the person in question had not come into contact with the President and that all measures were being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further.
Russia now has 2,337 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says hunger is just as big a threat as COVID-19, again minimising the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Bolsonaro has grown increasingly isolated over his belief that keeping the economy running is more important than strict quarantine measures advocated by state governors, public health ministers and even his health minister.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that view to journalists and supporters gathered outside his the presidential residence in Brasilia.
“Those who are under 40 years of age have almost zero chance of death. So there’s no reason not to let these people work. After all, if the virus kills in some cases, hunger also kills,” Mr Bolsonaro said.
South Korea is cancelling the re-opening of schools as clusters of coronavirus infections flare, announcing they will launch online classes while delaying the annual college entrance exams.
After an early surge in cases, South Korea has brought down its rate of new infections to about 100 or fewer a day, but groups of cases in churches, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as imported cases, are still emerging.
Authorities have postponed the beginning of the school semester three times from early March to April 6, and have decided to do so again, given the persistence of the outbreak.
“We regret that we have not reached levels where children can go to schools safely even though we mobilised all our capabilities to substantially decrease risks of infection,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said.
Australia has had 4,763 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (these numbers were last updated at 10:34am AEDT on Wednesday, April 1).
- New South Wales: 2,182
- Victoria: 968
- Queensland: 743
- Western Australia: 364
- South Australia: 337
- ACT: 80
- Tasmania: 69
- Northern Territory: 20
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