March 06, 2020 07:22:22
There are now more than 50 recorded cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with a baby diagnosed in South Australia and more than a dozen Brisbane hospital staff in home isolation as a precaution.
The coronavirus travel ban has been extended to South Korea with another spike in cases reported, and Qantas has been handed a breach notice and ordered to improve their practices to protect cleaners.
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Thursday’s key moments
One-day closure at Epping Boys High School following confirmed case
NSW Health and Education announced Epping Boys High School will be closed on Friday after a Year 11 student tested positive for COVID-19.
The one-day closure will enable the school community and health officials to work through a contact and containment strategy.
Students of the school have been advised to stay at home and self-isolate over the weekend.
Staff are also asked to stay at home and self-isolate.
The school will provide a further update over the weekend about next steps.
The case brings the number of confirmed cases in NSW to 25.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said “we are immediately establishing contact with all new cases and their families, as well as their close contacts, and advising them to self-isolate for 14 days, monitor their health and be tested for COVID-19 should they become unwell.”
Secretary of Education Mark Scott said: “[The Department of] Education has well-prepared continuity plans and is contacting students, parents and the broader school community to provide advice and support.”
Help for Aussies stuck on cruise ship
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it has consular officials in San Francisco ready to assist Australians who are stuck onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship.
The ship is docked off California amid concerns of another coronavirus outbreak on board.
A passenger who had recently disembarked from the ship in the US has since died from coronavirus.
Reports have emerged that there are around 20 other people on the vessel showing symptoms.
It’s understood four Australians are on board the ship.
Around the world at a glance
Coronavirus is continuing to spread across the globe, with the total number of cases creeping towards 100,000 internationally.
More than 3,200 people have died of the virus, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins.
The hardest-hit countries include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan, with numerous travel restrictions or changes in place to many of those areas.
Italy’s death toll is now more than 100, with more than 3,000 total cases since the outbreak began.
South Korea confirmed 760 new cases and five more deaths according to Reuters, taking its total number of infections to 6,088 with a death toll of 37.
Three children have been identified to be among the close to 200 cases in Spain, where one person has died.
According to a government policy document seen by Reuters, Dubai has asked organisers to postpone all sports related activities until the end of the month, with at least 27 cases reported in the United Arab Emirates.
Australia currently has more than 50 confirmed cases.
Italy to close schools as part of new coronavirus containment methods
We’ve heard lots of suggestions (some better than others) of how to contain the spread of coronavirus wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, foot-tap instead of hand-shake.
Now, Italy’s governmenthas announced new “emergency” methods to try and control the virus, as its death toll rises over 100.
Here are some examples:
- Don’t hug or shake hands, and keep a distance of “at least 1 metre” from other people
- “Events of any nature that entail a gathering of people” should be suspended if you can’t uphold the 1-metre rule
- All Italian schools and universities will close until at least March 15 apart from training for doctors and health workers
- Cinemas and theatres should close too
- Anyone who has travelled to red-zone areas who shows symptoms must wear a mask and stay in their room with the door closed
- Anyone who can work from home should do so
Travel ban for South Korea, more screening for travellers from Italy
Hundreds of new COVID-19 cases have been reported in South Korea, according to the latest reports from Reuters released on Thursday evening (AEST).
At a press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that coronavirus-related travel bans for foreigners coming from mainland China and Iran would continue, and that the ban would also be extended to South Korea.
The revised bans will be in place until Saturday, March 14.
Enhanced screening measures will also be brought in for travellers who have come from Italy, including being asked more questions at check-in and having temperatures checked on arrival.
The travel advice for South Korea has been upgraded, with Australians advised to reconsider the need to travel there. The advice for the South Korean city of Daegu is “do not travel”.
Earlier, a “special care zone” was declared for the South Korean city of Gyeongsan after a spike in cases, which has around 275,000 residents and is 250 kilometres south-east of Seoul.
The South Korean Government has promised extra resources such as face masks and has warned people against travelling there.
Similar zones have been declared around neighbouring Daegu city and Cheongdo County.
About 75 per cent of all cases in South Korea are in and around Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city, where the flu-like virus that emerged from China late last year has spread rapidly through members of a religious group.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a letter of hope for South Korea to overcome the coronavirus outbreak, the South’s President Moon Jae-in’s office told Reuters.
Hospital staff in isolation as more Queensland cases confirmed
Two new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Queensland, and 15 staff from Brisbane’s Mater Hospital are in home isolation.
The hospital staff have been quarantined as a precaution after a student from China was tested there, and authorities say the risk is low.
A 29-year-old woman who recently returned from London via Singapore is now in hospital in Brisbane after testing positive.
An 81-year-old man who had recently returned from Thailand is in hospital on the Sunshine Coast with the virus.
Eight out of Queensland’s 13 total cases have recovered and been discharged from hospital so far.
Workplace safety regulator not impressed with Qantas
Safe Work NSW has issued Qantas with a scathing breach notice, saying the airline may be putting people at risk of catching coronavirus.
The workplace safety regulator wasn’t happy with the airline’s system to clean planes, noting that workers were “wiping over multiple tray tables” using “the same wet cloth with no disinfectant”.
The “Improvement Notice” also said Qantas “may have transported passengers with an infectious disease”.
Qantas has been told to develop a “safe system of work” and improve its cleaning practices by March 30.
A Qantas spokesperson said it was “considering” appealing against the notice they have until March 16 to do that.
Earlier today, Transport Workers’ Union assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said cleaners were not given adequate protection.
“Cabin cleaners were forced to handle wet tissues, soiled nappies, used passenger face masks, and clean vomit and blood without adequate personal protective equipment,” he said
Read the full story.
Elective surgeries could be delayed
Some elective surgeries may need to be put on hold in the event of widespread community transmission of COVID-19, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant told 7.30s Leigh Sales tonight.
Dr Chant said the state had been looking into how critical care capabilities and emergency departments could be surged.
“Certainly in a time of high demand, we may need to turn off some of our elective surgery to free up our capacity, and we may need to, for instance if we surge our critical care, use other places in our hospital to set them up as intensive care units,” she said.
“There has been extensive planning done in the past, and we’re moving forward that planning now in anticipation we may see more widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in the future.”
Earlier on Thursday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the state was “at war” with coronavirus and called on the Federal Government to provide emergency funding.
Staff failed to turn up for work after a 95-year-old resident died and later tested positive for the disease, making her the second coronavirus-related death in Australia.
Mr Hazzard said he asked his federal counterpart Greg Hunt for emergency funding to cover the cost of nursing staff, but that red tape was getting in the way.
“We need to know that the Federal Government’s got our back, and if we make decisions that are nimble, in the interests of patients, in the interests of citizens, and it costs state taxpayers, then the Federal Government will back us on that funding,” he said.
“The response I got yesterday indicated a fairly bureaucratic process that we’d have to go through that’s just not reasonable.”
More cases recorded in Western Australia, South Australia
South Australia’s Premier Steven Marshall confirmed two more people have coronavirus in the state, including the baby of a woman who was diagnosed on Wednesday.
The 40-year-old woman returned to South Australia from Iran on Sunday, and she and her baby are in a stable condition.
The second case is a 58-year-old man who arrived in Adelaide from Taiwan on Tuesday.
A woman in her 30s also tested positive for coronavirus in WA, confirmed by local health authorities there.
She recently returned from a holiday in Iceland and the UK and came back to Australia via Dubai.
Australia’s first coronavirus death was recorded in WA after 78-year-old James Kwan died over the weekend.
Read what we know from WA so far.
Elderly people most at risk, experts say
The elderly have been identified by experts as the age group most at risk from coronavirus.
A 95-year-old resident at the Dorothy Henderson Lounge in Sydney’s north died on Tuesday in hospital.
It is Australia’s second death related to coronavirus.
The woman who died had had contact with an aged-care worker who contracted coronavirus despite not travelling overseas.
Another elderly resident at the facility has also tested positive for the virus.
Of the more than 1,000 people who have died from the disease in China, the majority were over 60 years old and had pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Coronavirus questions answered in new podcast
Coronavirus is big news right now, both in Australia and around the world.
So to learn more and stay up to date, you can listen to Coronacast a new daily podcast that is all about answering your coronavirus questions.
In the first episode, we hear more about:
- What are the risks to pregnant women? What will happen if an expectant mother is infected?
- Can you get coronavirus from mail from overseas? What about other surfaces?
- Can coronavirus hide in the brain?
Listen to Coronacast here.
Preventing coronavirus from reaching remote communities
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt had a chat on Afternoon Briefing about how remote communities were preparing.
He said some remote communities had shut down and access was restricted to try and prevent the spread of coronavirus, particularly to vulnerable people.
“I think for remote and isolated communities, it is a very pragmatic and sensible way of ensuring that communities aren’t hit hard and that they’re not requiring external health services to provide the care should an outbreak occur,” Mr Wyatt said.
“We will do that anyway if that does happen, but it’s better to be preventative instead of being reactive.”
Does coronavirus change the game for flu shots?
Coronavirus concerns have sparked questions about whether people should be getting their flu jab early this year.
But health authorities say for most people, there’s no need to do so before April when the national rollout usually begins.
The Australian Government recommends everyone aged six months and over get immunised against seasonal flu, and vaccinations are free for at-risk groups including young children, people aged over 65, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months and over and pregnant women, to name a few.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said earlier this week that although the flu vaccine would not combat COVID-19, it would help reduce the severity and spread of seasonal influenza, which could lower a person’s immunity and make them susceptible to other illnesses.
Experts say while vaccinations are really important, paying extra attention to personal hygiene is too for minimising the spread of both the flu and the coronavirus.
Get up to speed with flu vaccination details.
Facebook contactor diagnosed with coronavirus
Facebook is set to close its Seattle office until March 9, confirming a contractor at that site has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Seattle has the highest number of confirmed cases in the US to date.
Facebook said all employees had been notified and workers in all its Seattle locations were being encouraged to work from home until the end of the month.
Aussie couple stuck in quarantine have ‘had a gutful’
Karen and Jason Honey were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship when everyone on board was quarantined on February 1.
Karen said she started to get a high temperature and headaches, but thought she was OK and initially put it down to stress.
Ten days after the ship went into quarantine, Karen tested positive for COVID-19 and was taken off the ship.
She was taken to hospital, where she suffered bouts of fever, but a few days later her condition started to improve.
Eventually she tested negative but then tested positive a second time.
Jason also thought he was fine, and had no symptoms then he tested positive too.
He’s been in hospital in Japan for 10 days, and Karen has been there for three weeks.
“I feel fine. I’ve had no fevers, no coughs, no nasal problems, no aches, no pains. Nothing,” Jason told 7.30.
Since arriving in hospital, the couple has been isolated in separate rooms, but recently they were allowed to visit each other.
“Karen’s had a gutful and I’ve had a gutful too,” Jason said.
“We very much feel like the forgotten Australians here in Japan.”
Read Karen and Jason’s full story.
Man arrested after suspected toilet paper fight
The toilet paper battle is getting real.
ABC New England North West reports that a man has been tasered in a Tamworth shop after a fight broke out.
According to police, a man aged in his 50s was arrested after allegedly assaulting a staff member and another customer.
It’s believed the fight was about toilet paper.
The man is assisting police with inquiries.
First US death outside Washington state
The death toll from coronavirus in the United States has risen to 11, with the country reporting its first fatality outside Washington state.
Health officials say an elderly person died in California and that it was likely they were exposed on a cruise ship that travelled between San Francisco and Mexico last month.
California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency in response to the coronavirus after the person’s death was announced, Reuters reports.
According to Johns Hopkins data, there have been more than 150 confirmed cases in the US so far.
Meanwhile, Thailand has also reported more new positive coronavirus cases, taking the total to 47.
Olympics to go ahead, unless…
Despite the coronavirus outbreak hitting Japan pretty hard, the Olympics organising committee says it is confident the Tokyo games will go ahead as scheduled.
Organisers do have contingency plans in place to cancel competitions though in the event of an earthquake or other natural disasters.
According to local media reports, competitions would be cancelled if the venues were hit by a quake measuring an upper-6 or 7 on Japan’s Shindo intensity index, which runs to 7.
At that degree. people would be unable to stand or move without crawling and would see most buildings suffer severe damage.
The Mainichi newspaper reports cited unidentified sources involved in the organising committee.
Even though the coronavirus is spreading faster in Japan, with more than 1,000 confirmed cases, officials still seem pretty keen on the games going ahead.
“Cancellation or delay of the Games would be unacceptable for the athletes,” Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said on Thursday.
“An environment where athletes can feel at ease and focus should be firmly prepared.”
Good news for those who were on the Diamond Princess
Diamond Princess passengers who had been staying at the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin have now been released.
A group of about 150 Australians spent two weeks at the facility, after being evacuated out of Japan because their cruise ship had been hit by a coronavirus outbreak.
Mytran and Kenneth Donnelly, pictured above, are heading home to Sydney on Thursday after spending 32 days in isolation.
Mrs Donnelly said the hardest part of the quarantine was missing the birth of their first grandson.
“We’re home free, finally,” she said.
Children asked to stay away from aged care homes
Health authorities in NSW are advising that visits by groups of children to aged care facilities in the state be stopped until otherwise advised.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard has admitted that containment is now “an unlikely outcome”.
China has reported a rise in new confirmed cases
A spike in new infections in Wuhan, the epicentre of the global coronavirus outbreak, has led to an increase in new confirmed cases in China after three straight days of declines.
But the increase is mainly isolated to the Hubei region, and particularly the capital Wuhan.
Mainland China had 139 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, the country’s National Health Commission said on Thursday, bringing the total accumulated number of cases to 80,409.
In Wuhan, new infections climbed to 131 from 114 a day earlier.
But the number of new confirmed cases in Hubei, excluding Wuhan, has remained in single digits for seven consecutive days, with three new infections recorded on Wednesday.
And in the rest of mainland China, outside Hubei, there were only five new confirmed cases.
The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,012 as of the end of Wednesday, up by 31 from the previous day.
Treasury head says there is an urgent need for economic stimulus
The head of Australia’s Department of Treasury, Steven Kennedy, has flagged an urgent need for targeted stimulus in response to the coronavirus crisis.
He told Senate estimates the virus would wipe at least 0.5 percentage points off growth in the March quarter, more than double the predicted impact of the devastating bushfires.
That figure is likely to be an underestimate too, because it only takes into account the estimated impact on tourism, education and exchange rates, but not other industries.
“There would be some immediate measures that would be sensible to make people feel comfortable about their cashflows and support employment,” Mr Kennedy said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told ABC’s AM this morning the Government was doing everything it could to keep businesses operating, and that its stimulus package would be worth billions.
Australian children still stuck in China
Twenty-two young children, who are Australian citizens or permanent residents, remain stranded in the coronavirus epicentre of China’s Hubei province without their parents.
A Senate estimates hearing has been told the children were too young to be allowed to travel unaccompanied on earlier flights, and remain with other family members.
The youngest child is eight months old.
Foreign Affairs official Andrew Todd has told Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong that parents are frustrated but they are coping.
“These children are not left behind, they are accommodated with their grandparents and extended family,” he said.
While many people are still trying to get out of Wuhan, there are some longing to get back to the “fun, dynamic and lively city”.
GPs are stocking up on masks at hardware stores
Doctors say they are resorting to shopping at Bunnings to buy face masks to guard against coronavirus because too few government supplies are getting to clinics and traditional stockists have sold out.
“We would rather that healthcare facilities had healthcare-standard masks and that we don’t have to resort to workarounds,” Royal Australian College of GPs president Harry Nespolon said.
In late January, the Government authorised the release of a million masks from the national medical stockpile, to be distributed to doctors and health workers via local primary health networks.
But several GPs have told the ABC it has still been very difficult to get the masks.
Meanwhile, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) says masks at many dental practices are expected to run out within four weeks due to the demand.
“We urge the Government to corral some of that new supply for dentists across the nation,” it said in a statement.
About 9.5 million masks are used at dental practices across Australia each month, the ADA estimates.
Medical screener at Los Angeles International Airport gets infected
The US Department of Homeland Security says it’s unclear if a medical screener at LA International Airport contracted the virus through their work or from community transmission. No travellers screened at the airport have tested positive for coronavirus.
The patient last worked at the airport on February 21 and began feeling cold-like symptoms on February 29. The symptoms are mild and the worker is being quarantined at home.
Officials say the screener wore protective equipment at the airport.
The US death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 11 on Wednesday, with a patient dying in California the first reported fatality outside Washington state.
Jacqui Lambie calls for extended travel ban
Independent senator Jacqui Lambie is urging the Federal Government to close Australia’s borders to more countries affected by coronavirus.
Senator Lambie has told Channel Nine travel bans should be extended to Italy and South Korea, where the number of COVID-19 cases has also increased.
On Wednesday, the Federal Government announced that people who had arrived in Australia from Iran since February 19 needed to self-isolate.
Empty stadiums for one of Italy’s biggest football games
The Italian Government says all sporting events in the country will take place without fans present until at least April 3 due to the virus outbreak in the country.
That includes one of the biggest games of the Serie A season, when Juventus takes on Inter Milan in the Derby d’Italia.
Italy’s Six Nations rugby match against England in Rome is also scheduled March 14. That match will either have to go ahead behind closed doors or be postponed.
Italy is the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak. More than 100 people have died and more than 3,000 have been infected with COVID-19.
Truck fire in Brisbane and yes, this has something to do with coronavirus
Two fire trucks were called just before 10:00pm AEST last night when a B-double semi-trailer went up in flames on Brisbane’s Gateway Bridge.
A mechanical fault is believed to have been the cause and the driver managed to escape unhurt.
So what does this have to do with coronavirus? The truck was carrying a load of toilet paper and paper towels the former of which is in high demand at the moment as shoppers panic buy over coronavirus fears.
The blaze closed the Gateway Bridge for more than an hour. Fire crews managed to save half of the load of precious cargo.
Louvre reopens as a cashless museum
The Louvre Museum in Paris reopens after museum managers promise new measures to ease workers’ fears about catching coronavirus from visitors.
The measures include distributing more disinfectant gels and giving staff more time to wash their hands.
Additionally, staff will only need to stand at the entrance to the room where Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is displayed a big draw for the museum’s millions of yearly visitors rather than standing inside.
The Louvre will also stop accepting cash payments amid concerns that banknotes could harbour the virus.
WHO concerned by supply shortage
World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that each month, the organisation estimates that about 89 million medical masks, 76 million examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles will be required globally for health care workers to respond to the outbreak.
“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real,” Dr Tedros said.
“Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first.
“Shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other front line health care workers dangerously ill-equipped.
“The WHO has shipped nearly half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 27 countries, but supplies are rapidly depleting.”
The concerns of the WHO come after a NSW doctor was infected at Sydney’s Ryde Hospital.
James Bond film No Time To Die postponed until November
The worldwide release of the upcoming James Bond film is delayed until November amid the coronavirus outbreak.
No Time To Die, the last in the series to star Daniel Craig as the famous British secret agent, was due in cinemas in early April but MGM and Universal studios said “after careful consideration” the release will be postponed by seven months.
A statement released made no immediate mention of coronavirus but said the decision was made after “thorough evaluation of the global theatre marketplace”.
The announcement comes after two James Bond fan sites posted an open letter to the studios and producers, asking them to postpone the film due to a worldwide downturn in box office revenue linked to the coronavirus.
“With the coronavirus reaching pandemic status, it is time to put public health above marketing release schedules and the cost of cancelling publicity events,” the letter read.
Virus halts pilgrimages to Mecca
The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted Islamic worship in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia banning its citizens and other residents of the kingdom from performing the pilgrimage in Mecca, while Iran cancelled Friday prayers in major cities.
The Saudi move expands a ban last week on foreigners visiting Mecca and Medina, home to the holiest sites in Islam.
That decision alone disrupted travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affects plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Even after that announcement on February 27, people already in Saudi Arabia could still travel to Mecca’s Grand Mosque, where pilgrims circle the black, cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims around the world pray toward five times a day.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
March 05, 2020 06:02:36