Coronavirus - 2ST

'Do not hoard', PM tells grocery shoppers

Shoppers are seen at Coles in Earlwood, in Sydney, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coles will on Wednesday hold its first

Shoppers are seen at Coles in Earlwood, in Sydney, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coles will on Wednesday hold its first "community hour" for seniors and pension card holders from 7am at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else. (AAP Image/Danny Casey)

Stop hoarding.

That's the blunt message from the prime minister to Australians in the wake of mass panic buying sparked by the spread of the coronavirus.

"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis," Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"It's ridiculous, it's un-Australian, and it must stop."

Bad behaviour and people emptying supermarket shelves are distracting officials' attention and diverting important resources to keeping shopping centre supply lines open, he said.

The prime minister read from the advice of senior medical officials, which discourages the panic-buying of food and other supplies.

Australia's major supermarket chains also banded together to plead with customers to be considerate of each other and stop abusing staff.

The call made in newspaper advertisements across the country came after more footage emerged online of customers verbally attacking retail staff because they couldn't find the goods they wanted in-store.

Aldi, Coles, IGA and Woolworth said they were doing everything they could to get as much produce on the shelves as possible, often under difficult circumstances.

"So we ask you to please be considerate in the way you shop," the ad says.

"We understand your concerns, but if you buy only what you need and stick to the product limits it helps everyone, especially the elderly and people with disability.

"No one working or shopping in any of our stores should experience abusive or aggressive behaviour."

Mr Morrison also urged people not to abuse staff.

Coles on Wednesday held its first "community hour" for seniors and pension card holders from 7-8am at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else.

People with government-issued concession cards on Tuesday flocked to Woolworths, which implemented a similar measure, and IGA is considering whether to roll out the same.

Coles is trying to employ more than 5000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets quicker under a fast-tracked induction process, and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.

Panic-buying sparked by the spread of coronavirus in Australia has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice and frozen food, as well as tinned and other dried goods.

The issue has caused stress and frustration amongst elderly shoppers, many of whom find it difficult to make frequent visits to supermarkets for essential goods. In many cases, particularly for toilet paper, the shelves are often bare.

Woolworths fresh food director Paul Harker said there was no shortage of goods in Australia but it was a logistics puzzle to get products to stores in line with the pace and demand.

© AAP 2020

'This virus may never go away,' WHO says

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The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organisation says, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a "massive effort" to counter it.

"It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away," WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan told an online briefing on Wednesday.

"I think it is important we are realistic and I don't think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear," he added. "I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be."

However, he said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a "massive effort" even if a vaccine was found - a prospect he described as a "massive moonshot".

More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have underscored the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses.

Ryan noted that vaccines exist for other illnesses, such as measles, that have not been eliminated.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added: "The trajectory is in our hands, and it's everybody's business and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic."

Ryan said "very significant control" of the virus was required in order to lower the assessment of risk, which he said remained high at the "national, regional and global levels".

Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, which has infected almost 4.3 million people, according to a Reuters tally, and led to more than 291,000 deaths.

 

The European Union pushed on Wednesday for a gradual reopening of borders within the bloc that have been shut by the pandemic, saying it was not too late to salvage some of the northern summer tourist season while still keeping people safe.

But public health experts say extreme caution is needed to avoid new outbreaks.

Ryan said opening land borders was less risky than easing air travel, which was a "different challenge".

"We need to get into the mindset that it is going to take some time to come out of this pandemic," WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told the briefing.

© RAW 2020

10 self-quarantine activities

10 Self Quarantine activites

With many businesses now advising staff to self-quarantine and work from home for the next few weeks to avoid the spread of covid-19, most of us will be spending majority of our time at home. We want to help keep work and life separate while still feeling comfortable. So schedule your work hours and read on for a list of suggested activities to help keep you sane and a little less isolated while in quarantine. (you can even do most of these, yes even #3, while face timing your friends and family).

1. Netflix Party

Netflix Party is a new way to watch Netflix with your friends online. Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favourite Netflix shows. You can link up with friends and host long distance movie nights and TV watch parties! There ain't no party like a Netflix watch party! 

2. Read

Reading increases creativity and imagination, lowers stress levels AND makes you smarter. Sign us up (to that library card)! You can find many great book recommendations and free downloads online. Catch up on classics and learn more through articles you’ve always wanted to read but didn’t have the time for. You could even start a book club with your friends and discuss (facetime) whether your team Jacob or Edward. Feeling inspired by all the new books you’ve read, why don’t you try writing your own?

3. Have a Bath

There’s nothing more enjoyable than submerging yourself in water, whether it’s for hygiene, leisure, health or because of a global pandemic. There’s some serious heath benefits, scientifically proven, to taking a bath such as reducing pain and inflammation, calming the nervous system, helping blood flow easier and relieving symptoms of cold and flu. Try out a new luscious bath bomb or epsom salt, lie back and relax.

4. Get Creative

Have you ever seen an artwork and thought “wow, I wish I could make that”. Whatever you want to draw or paint, you can learn the process through online courses or just give it a go and challenge yourself. Experiment with different mediums, charcoal, pencil, oil paints and more to find what you enjoy best. It can give you a real sense of achievement once you have them hanging on your wall. Watch the video below for some serious watercolour artwork inspo. 

 

5. Puzzles & Games

Dust off those boards games and have a friendly match. There’s nothing like getting to know your family better (or worse) than over a game of Monopoly. If you’re in self isolation and have no one to play connect 4 with, you can download plenty of games on your phone such as “Scrabble…with friends” or “chess…with friends” etc. Get out that Nintendo, PS4 or Xbox, we’ve all watched Witcher, have you thought of playing the game and living through Geralt?

6. Learn New Recipes

You probably have a repertoire of simple meals you make each week (cheese on toast) or maybe you’ve vowed to go meatless? You can look up recipes online and get some inspiration from Instagram. Plug in that slow cooker and add in all your veggies. How about perfecting that old family recipe, and the beauty of surprising a loved one with their favourite meal. Having pasta? try a different sauce or creating the pasta from scratch. Bon appétit!

7. Get Organised

Now is the perfect time to declutter and keep only what you need. Sort your clothing into piles, bag up all your unwanted clothing and have them ready to donate. Throw out old makeup that is past its prime, and wash all your brushes. Use your recycling and create a compost. Sell unwanted items on Facebook marketplace or gumtree. Wipe down all surfaces daily. Create a to do list and take control of your time and priorities.

8. Keep a Quarantine Diary

Putting your thoughts and feelings into words can change the way your brain deals with stressful information and makes room for other, more positive thoughts. By keeping a record your future self (and kids) will be interested in how you dealt with this intense time and disruption to daily life.

9. Show Pets Your Love

Go outside and soak up the sun by taking your pupper for a walk or hike, also a great way to get in your exercise as we assume you won’t be hitting up your gym. Teach your pets a new trick and show them off, you can even film it and start a youtube or Instagram so you can post images and write captions from your dog’s perspective “smooches for mama”.

10. Dance

Put on your favourite tune and get moving! Dancing is a fun way to increase your aerobic fitness, reduce stress and boost your mood! Finally you can learn the dance steps to “Ain’t no party like an S Club Party” (I know you’ve been thinking about that song since I mentioned it in the first point).

A few glitches with exclusive hour shopping

Coronavirus LATEST

Woolworths admits its exclusive hour for vulnerable shoppers has not run as it should.

Doors were opened an hour early just for those with a disability and the elderly - only for the majority to find essentials were sold out.

Woolworths Managing Director Claire Peters says it would not have been possible to know if all stores were adequately stocked.

ADF called in to Tassie to fight COVID-19

World health coronavirus outbreak and international public infectious disease and global deadly virus health risk and flu spread or coronaviruses influenza as a pandemic medical conceptin with 3D illustration elements.

Tasmania has called in Australia's troops to fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in the state's northwest.

About 5000 people have been forced into quarantine, made up mainly of healthcare staff and their families, for two weeks amid the closure of two hospitals.

The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie shut on Monday to be deep-cleaned by specialist teams.

The drastic move is the result of more than 60 cases in the state linked to the northwest outbreak, including 45 health workers and nine patients.

There was an increase of six cases on Monday, bringing the state total to 150.

In the battle against COVID-19, Australian Medical Assistance Teams, which are deployed in natural disasters, and Australian Defence Force medics will roll into town this week.

"This is the best way that we can get on top of this, that we can stop the spread of this insidious disease," Premier Peter Gutwein said.

Patients have been moved to Mersey Community Hospital.

Virus testing is also being increased in the outbreak region.

© AAP 2020

AFL to announce resumption date this month

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks competes for the ball against Hugh McCluggage of the Lions  during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks competes for the ball against Hugh McCluggage of the Lions during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan is adamant the league will be able to deliver definitive details around the competition's resumption date by the end of April.

Despite an ever-changing landscape amid the coronavirus pandemic, McLachlan on Thursday told reporters the AFL would soon set dates for players to return to training and the next round of matches to be played.

"The decision we make will have the support of the relevant government authorities and their medical officers," McLachlan said.

"We're better placed every day to make that decision, I think, as things become clearer and the more we're able to consult with key government and medical partners who have a greater level of data and insight into what's going on."

The AFL campaign is suspended until at least May 31 but McLachlan is confident the shortened 153-match home-and-away season, plus finals, will be completed this year.

He said the AFL wanted to settle on a return date that would allow it to push through the rest of the season uninterrupted from that point.

"When the exact start date is, I don't have an answer, other than we're committed to being out (and) informing our supporters and the public and others by the end of April," McLachlan said.

The AFL has conceded matches will resume without fans in the stands but has not yet settled on the proposed plan of returning to play in quarantine hubs.

McLachlan is wary of the challenges that players will face if they are asked to spend time away from their families in the hubs.

Some players, including AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield, have expressed concerns about the hubs idea.

McLachlan said the AFL will not make a formal proposal to players until a concrete plan has been formulated.

"It's incumbent upon us to look at every option and that ranges from playing the way we have historically to various levels of quarantine," McLachlan said.

"We are working with the right people to get a considered view about the right way to take us forward.

"I understand the challenges that will be on so many people as we try to get this season away and we'll have to continue to work with all the stakeholders to get their buy-in.

"We understand the reservations of some in the absence of information."

AFL clubs' playing lists are likely to be trimmed for next season as part of football department cost-cutting measures across the competition, but McLachlan confirmed they will remain as they are for 2020.

McLachlan also said the AFL would open its books to the AFLPA when it comes to negotiating a reworked pay deal for future seasons.

"There will have to be a level of transparency about what industry revenue looks like to conclude that deal," he said.

© AAP 2020

Aged care workers, residents catch virus

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Ten aged care residents and seven staff have tested positive to coronavirus across six different homes in NSW, Western Australia and South Australia.

Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck revealed the tally in Senate question time on Monday.

"I can't give you a specific number of how many aged care workers have been tested or for that matter how many residents have been tested," he told parliament.

"Those that have needed a test have received a test."

He said people needed to limit their visits to aged care homes.

"It's a really tough message to tell people to limit visiting their loved ones in aged care facilities, but it's everybody's job to keep our senior Australians safe," the minister said.

Senator Colbeck said from May 1, anyone not vaccinated for influenza would be banned from entering aged care facilities.

"This is a very difficult time for people in aged care and their families," he said.

Three of Australia's seven coronavirus deaths have been residents of BaptistCare's Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Sydney.

© AAP 2020

Airlines hunt places to park idle planes

epaselect epa08316231 Swiss International Air Lines aircrafts are parked on the tarmac at the airport in Zurich, Switzerland, 23 March 2020. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic a large number of flights of the Swiss carrier have been cancelled and a part of their fleet grounding at Zurich airport.  EPA/ENNIO LEANZA

Swiss International Air Lines aircrafts are parked on the tarmac at the airport in Zurich. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic a large number of flights of the Swiss carrier have been cancelled and a part of their fleet grounding at Zurich airport (EPA/ENNIO LEANZA)

As airlines idle thousands of aircraft for which there are no passengers, they are hitting an unprecedented problem: finding a place to park them.

Taxiways, maintenance hangars and even runways at major airports are being transformed into giant parking lots for more than 2500 airliners, the biggest of which takes up about as much room as an eight-storey building with a footprint three-quarters the size of an American football field.

The number of planes in storage has doubled to more than 5000 since the start of the year, according to Cirium data, with more expected to be parked in the coming weeks as carriers such as Qantas and Singapore Airlines proceed with further announced cuts to flight schedules.

In Frankfurt, Germany's biggest airport is a ghost town of silent airliners. Its northwest landing runway, including taxiways and bridges, has been converted to an aircraft parking lot for Lufthansa, Condor and other airlines.

Lufthansa brand Swiss has rented parking spots at a military airport close to Zurich.

Similar crowds of planes are parked at other major airports, including Hong Kong, Seoul, Berlin and Vienna as well as traditional desert parking lots in Victorville, California, and Marana, Arizona, according to data from flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

In Manila, some Philippines Airlines jets are parked in the Lufthansa Technik Philippines hangar, an airline official said.

Even some smaller airports have been converted to parking lots. Avalon Airport west of Melbourne expects to take 50 planes from Qantas and its low-cost offshoot, Jetstar, according to the airport's chief executive, Justin Giddings.

"It is sad for everyone, the whole industry," he told Reuters of the groundings, which have led Qantas to put 20,000 staff members on leave.

Qantas is sending 30 engineers to Avalon help maintain the planes so they can re-enter service in three to seven days when demand returns, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

The carrier is also parking about 100 other aircraft at major airports around Australia and its five ageing 747s at a desert storage facility in Alice Springs, the source said.

Some airports, such as Melbourne and Brisbane, said they are providing free parking. Brisbane Airport said some international airlines had expressed interest in using its facilities, which can house up to 101 planes, but no deals had yet been reached.

Qantas and Virgin Australia will use some of the Brisbane spots.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, one of the first and hardest hit by the coronavirus, has been using remote bays, taxiways and other operational areas at Hong Kong International Airport.

In the United States, United Airlines and American Airlines said they were parking planes at maintenance facilities for now, while Delta Air Lines Inc said it was still looking into the issue.

© RAW 2020

Amazon hiring 100000 as orders surge

epa08299138 An employee works inside an Amazon pop up store in a shopping mall in Skokie, Illinois, USA, 16 March 2020. Many stores have reduced hours or closed completely in response to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the Covid-19 disease.  EPA/TANNEN MAURY

An employee works inside an Amazon pop up store in a shopping mall in Skokie, Illinois, USA, 16 March 2020. Many stores have reduced hours or closed completely in response to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the Covid-19 disease. (EPA/TANNEN MAURY)

Amazon says it needs to hire 100,000 people across the US to keep up with a crush of orders as the coronavirus spreads and keeps more people at home, shopping online.

The online retailer said it will also temporarily raise pay by $US2 an hour through the end of April for hourly employees, who work at its warehouses, delivery centres and Whole Foods grocery stores.

Hourly workers in the United Kingdom and other European countries will get a similar raise.

"We are seeing a significant increase in demand, which means our labour needs are unprecedented for this time of year," said Dave Clark, who oversees Amazon's warehouse and delivery network.

Amazon said this weekend that a surge of orders is putting its operations under pressure.

It warned shoppers that it could take longer than the usual two days to get packages.

It also said it was sold out of many household cleaning supplies and is working to get more in stock.

The Seattle-based company said the openings are for a mix of full-time and part-time jobs and include roles such as delivery drivers and warehouse workers, who pack and ship orders for shoppers.

© AP 2020

Anzac Day Services cancelled

Coronavirus breaking news

Anzac Day services have been cancelled in NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania after the federal government banned mass gatherings in response to the coronavirus crisis.

RSL NSW says it was a difficult decision to cancel all public commemoration services across the state on April 25.

"Given the significant concerns around the spread of COVID-19, we simply cannot allow such large gatherings as we see each year on Anzac Day to go ahead," acting state president Ray James said in a statement on Monday.

"The RSL has a responsibility to act in the best interests of veterans and the general public."

RSL WA chief executive John McCourt told ABC radio plans were under way for some sort of commemoration for April 25 using social media and live streaming.

RSL-held services and subsequent marches have also been called off in Tasmania.

"It was a tough decision because a lot of the sub-branches would have been organising these events from February onwards," state president Robert Dick told AAP.

"A lot of preparation work has already been done. But I emphasise the fact that public safety and wellbeing is more important."

Mr Dick said many older veterans fall in the group who are most at risk.

"The consequences could be devastating and we don't want to put people in that position," he said.

"We're asking people in their own private way to pay respects to our serving and ex-service members.

"Even if it's like on Remembrance Day, where you take a moment around 11 o'clock to pause and reflect on those who have gone before."

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has issued an order forcing the immediate cancellation of public events with more than 500 people.

Individuals who fail to comply could face up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $11,000, or both, he said on Monday.

The WA government on Sunday declared a state of emergency warning those who breach the 14-day self-isolation ban after returning from overseas will be fined up to $50,000.

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Ardern to deport non-quarantiners

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In this Friday, March 13, 2020, photo, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Christchurch, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Mark Baker) 

New Zealand will deport visitors who choose not to self-isolate on arrival and will clamp down on public gatherings in fresh efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued advice to end gatherings of more than 500 people to maintain public health standards.

As of 1am on Monday, any arrivals to New Zealand soil - except from Pacific nations - need to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Despite New Zealand's reputation as a hospitable destination for tourists, Ms Ardern issued a warning to anyone considering non-compliance, saying "Frankly, you are not welcome and you should leave before you are deported".

New Zealand recorded no new positive tests on Monday and has just eight confirmed cases and two probable cases.

Health officials expect that number to rise starkly despite the self-isolation measures in place.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson will announce a stimulus package - expected to be of historic proportions - targeted towards businesses and maintaining jobs.

© AAP 2020

Aussie experts 'unlocking' COVID-19 cure

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Australian scientists are using a massive X-ray machine to map the molecular structure of COVID-19 to help find a vaccine for the virus.

Experts at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne - which is about the size of a football field - capture atomic-scale 3D pictures of coronavirus.

The images are being shared with researchers across the world, who hope to use the information to develop drugs that bind to the virus and stop it growing.

"You need to know what the protein looks like so you can design a drug to attach to it," Australian Synchrotron director Andrew Peele said in a statement on Tuesday.

"It's like designing a key for a lock, you need to know the dimensions of the keyhole."

The synchrotron is the largest particle accelerator in the Southern Hemisphere and produces light a million times brighter than the sun to capture clear 3D images of atoms and molecules.

"Using our technology, within five minutes you can understand why a drug does or doesn't work in attaching to a COVID-19 protein," Professor Peele said.

Dozens of samples have arrived at the synchrotron from across the country and Asia.

Federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the work would support research to find a solution to COVID-19.

© AAP 2020

Aussie ICU beds over capacity in a week

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

There are calls to increase the number of intensive care unit beds at Australian hospitals, amid worries coronavirus cases could exceed capacity next week.

A new study published by the Medical Journal of Australia compared real data of the infection in Italy to forecast how many Australians will need an intensive care unit bed in the coming weeks.

"ICU capacity will be exceeded at around 22,000 COVID-19 cases sometime around April 5 if public health measures fail to curb the rate of growth," the study concludes.

Australia has around 2200 ICU beds currently, the MJA study says.

"Over the coming months it's going to take courage, brains and a concerted unified effort to manage the infection," Professor Nick Talley said.

"While the results reported may represent a worst-case scenario and may not come to pass, we must better prepare, now," he wrote.

Calls to urgently increase hospital capacity have been voiced repeatedly over the last week.

Swiss doctor Professor Paolo Ferrari criticised the government for stepping in too late to stop the spread of the virus and wanred about the need to increase ICU beds.

Under his advice, the Swiss region of Ticino grew its intensive care capacity ten days before it even had one positive case, turning different locations into coronavirus-dedicated hospitals.

Professor Talley said that in order to take action, "bureaucrats must step to the sidelines."

"We will also require our health system leadership to understand at a time like this the structure in every hospital should be a military-like command-and-control one," he said.

© AAP 2020

Aussie options to flee the US are closing

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Australians have been warned that time and flight options are running out if they want to flee the US as the coronavirus spreads across the globe.

Chelsey Martin, Australia's consulate-general in Los Angeles, issued a stark message on Thursday to the "tens of thousands" of Australians who live within her jurisdiction in America's southwest states.

Qantas and Virgin Australia are about to cut flights from the US to Australia while United Airlines will have a limited schedule.

"Whatever your circumstances, given the escalating COVID-19 crisis I wanted to reach out and encourage any Australians wishing to go home to do so as soon as possible," Ms Martin said in a video message posted on the LA consulate's Twitter page.

"After the end of this week, commercial flight options will be incredibly limited.

"Qantas' final scheduled flight is out of LAX (Los Angeles) on Friday, the 27th of March.

"Virgin's final scheduled flight out of LAX is on Sunday the 29th of March.

"United Airlines has advised us that they will continue with a limited flight schedule from San Francisco to Sydney in the weeks ahead, but the situation is changing rapidly and I would encourage anyone who is still deciding whether or not they would like to return to Australia, not to delay taking that decision.

"These are unprecedented and anxious times for many."

Ms Martin said the LA consulate would remain open "around the clock" to provide consular assistance.

Australians were also being urged to follow the consulate on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for information updates.

© AAP 2020

Aussies import Trump's virus 'cure' drug

Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate tablets with coronavirus written in background

Aussies import Trump's virus 'cure' drug (Bigstock)

Thousands of hydroxychloroquine tablets have been seized at Australian borders after it was touted by US President Donald Trump as a potential cure for coronavirus.

The Australian Border Force says there has been a surge in unauthorised imports of the prescription-only anti-malarial drug.

Dozens of consignments containing a total of more than 6000 tablets have been intercepted at international gateways since January.

All have been referred to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for assessment, the ABF says.

President Trump last month described hydroxychloroquine as a potential "game-changer" in the battle against COVID-19.

But the TGA has warned the drug poses serious risks to patients, including irreversible eye damage, severe depletion of blood sugar and cardiac toxicity which could lead to sudden heart attacks.

ABF acting commander Susan Drennan says the force is maintaining a strong presence during the pandemic.

"Anyone considering further unauthorised imports will be wasting their money," she said on Friday.

"Whether it's individuals wanting to self-prescribe, or criminals aiming to sell the drug on the black market, our officers have the technology, skills and innovative processes to detect and disrupt their illegal importations of pharmaceuticals such as this."

© AAP 2020

Aussies stashing cash during pandemic

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Australians weren't just stockpiling toilet paper during the COVID-19 crisis - they have also been hoarding crisp new banknotes.

While consumer spending has fallen after the panic-buying splurge in March, and many retailers are refusing cash payments for hygiene reasons, banknotes have been stashed away in homes and wallets more than ever.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been meeting spikes in demand for banknotes from commercial banks and their customers, despite reporting last week that use of cash had reduced during the pandemic.

The demand for notes for the year to last Thursday rose by more than nine per cent, going against the trend of the past couple of years.

Up to six per cent of that increase - worth about $5 billion - has happened since the mid-March share market convulsions.

The RBA revealed in its April financial stability report that cash withdrawals from banks increased in the second half of March.

"This included a small number of customers making very large withdrawals - more than $100,000, and in some cases into the millions of dollars," it said, adding that the elevated demand had since abated.

But a banking system insider says there's been another spike in demand in the past two weeks, not quite as big as in March, coming from banks and their customers.

"We are seeing banks are getting extra cash in anticipation of COVID restrictions easing, and retailers, pubs and clubs wanting their floats back, while people aren't making as many deposits," he told AAP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Also when people are more uncertain about things they tend to hold more liquidity around them. No one's suggesting there's any concern with the banks - people just do that."

The use of cash has fallen steadily to 27 per cent of all payments late last year from 69 per cent in 2007, according to RBA statistics.

But the pandemic may not bring Australia closer to being a cashless society.

The Royal Australian Mint says coin production for general circulation has decreased slightly during the pandemic compared to the same period last year.

"We believe that Australians using contactless payments may increase post COVID-19 but this will not lead to a permanent shift to a cashless society, at least not in the near future," the mint said in a statement.

© AAP 2020

Australia pressing on with virus inquiry

Chinese paramilitary police wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard along a street near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. China, in a step toward returning to business as normal, announced Wednesday that its previously postponed national legislature session would be held in late May. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Chinese paramilitary police wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard along a street near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) 

Australia is pushing ahead with calls for a review into the origins of coronavirus despite it straining diplomatic relations with China.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has indicated the review is picking up steam.

"There is a very broad range of understanding that there is definitely a need for an independent and transparent review," she told ABC radio on Friday.

"We have been very gratified by the engagement we've had in recent days and in the last week, with the prime minister's calls and my own."

Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye has floated a consumer boycott of Australian products in retaliation to the review.

But Senator Payne isn't perturbed.

"What we do need to do is to put that stake in the ground, to say we need to have an independent and transparent review," she said.

Conservative MPs have blasted mining magnate Twiggy Forrest for inviting a Chinese diplomat to a ministerial press conference unannounced.

Mr Forrest said his invitation to Victoria's Chinese consul-general Long Zhou to address the media was a gesture of appreciation and friendship.

Mr Long is reportedly a former top cyber official for Beijing, The Australian reports.

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said Chinese diplomats had been "downright despicable and menacing" since Australia started pressing the case for an investigation.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the media conference had overshadowed the good work of the Forrests.

Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop says it's time for calm and quiet diplomacy.

"So that we can understand more about this virus, how it got into human populations and whether decisions could have been taken that would have prevented its spread," she told the ABC.

However, she said China had a responsibility to support an independent global investigation if it did not intend to carry out its own inquiry to help the rest of the world learn what happened.

Australian National University's Andrew Carr warned attempts by Australia to rebuke China could distract from calls for an inquiry into COVID-19's origins.

Dr Carr told AAP the current spat was minor in the scheme of things but Australia shouldn't let it slide.

A serious inquiry into coronavirus' orgins could help counter conspiracy theories and racist attacks.

But Australia was well positioned to manage how diplomats inside Australia are supposed to act, he said.

© AAP 2020

Australia will fund WHO but demand reform

epa08364179 The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. US President Donald Trump announced that he has instructed his administration to halt funding to the WHO. The American president criticizes the World Health Organization for its mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic Covid-19.  EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI

Australia will fund WHO but demand reform (EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI)

Australia will continue funding the World Health Organisation despite arguing it has made "significant mistakes" during the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government declared the pandemic two weeks before the WHO, and was criticised for closing its borders to Chinese travellers.

Australia has also admonished the WHO for endorsing China's decision to reopen wet markets, which were the likely cause of the COVID-19 and other diseases like SARS and swine flu.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia would leverage of its membership of the WHO to push for reform.

"It does important work in our region and we want to see that continue," he told ABC radio on Thursday.

"The practical solutions provided by the WHO locally are much more beneficial than some of the political decisions they have taken centrally."

A group of Australian professors who work at centres that collaborate with the WHO have criticised the United States for withdrawing funding from the United Nations body.

"To remove this funding suddenly and in the middle of a pandemic seems rather callous and introspective," the 19 professors wrote in a joint statement.

"We are unanimous in thinking that this defunding of WHO is a global health disaster (that) will result in thousands of additional and potentially preventable deaths from COVID-19."

© AAP 2020

Australia's borders closed

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Non-citizens and non-residents are now banned from entering Australia as the number of coronavirus cases across the country surges past 870.

The ban came into effect last night in a drastic bid to stop the disease spreading and will be in force for at least six months.

Australians will still be able to return home but will be forced to self-isolate.

Meantime individual suburbs could face strict isolation rules if they emerge as virus hot spots.

The federal government has also flagged further domestic travel warnings and announced new limitations of four-square-metres of space per person for indoor gatherings of less than 100 people.

The changes will require cafes and cinemas to limit seating and reduce capacity significantly.

Image: News stock

Australia's virus inquiry gathers momentum

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Australia's virus inquiry gathers momentum (Pexels)

Australia has received international backing for an independent coronavirus inquiry as trade tensions with China come under heavy strain.

More than 60 countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and all 27 European Union member states have co-sponsored the motion.

The draft resolution calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.

It doesn't mention China, but Australia's push for the inquiry has angered Beijing, which has threatened a huge tariff on barley and blocked some beef imports.

Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the virtual World Health Assembly meeting on Monday night.

A vote is expected in the early hours of Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the inquiry was about investigating what the world could learn from the devastating pandemic.

"That's the responsible thing to do when 300,000 souls have lost their lives around the world," he told the ABC on Monday.

Mr Littleproud said his Chinese counterpart had indicated he would not discuss trade issues in the near future.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has not received a return call from his opposite number.

Australia isn't ruling out taking China to the World Trade Organisation over the 80 per cent tariff on barley.

Mr Littleproud said he would continue to make the case to China that exporters were not dumping product.

"We will prosecute that case on behalf of Australian exporters," he said.

"If those that we're prosecuting against don't understand it, we'll take it to an umpire for them to understand."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus as completely unremarkable.

But China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at foreign politicians for politicising the pandemic.

Beijing's man in Canberra raised the prospect of consumer boycotts of Australian products because of the push for an inquiry.

Since then, the barley threat has surfaced, while four major Australian abattoirs have been blocked from sending product to China.

© AAP 2020

Australia's virus tally pushes 2000

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Australia's coronavirus tally could hit 2000 cases by the end of the day as authorities develop new rules about who can get tested.

NSW and Victoria reported 205 new cases on Tuesday morning, taking the national tally to 1914. Australia's death toll stands at seven, all but one in NSW.

Other states are yet to add their new cases. They include Queensland which recorded 60 fresh positive results on Monday - it's highest daily increase so far.

The World Health Organisation warned overnight that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, with more than 300,000 cases now confirmed and thousand upon thousands of deaths.

It took 67 days from the first reported of the virus to hit 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000, and just four days for the third 100,000.

WHO says it's still possible to change the trajectory of the pandemic, urging countries to adopt rigorous testing and contact-tracing strategies.

Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says testing criteria for coronavirus will change as a result of sweeping travel bans that have lessened the risk of imported disease.

Current rules require tests for people who fell ill within two weeks of returning from overseas, or had contact with such a person.

But Prof Kelly has indicated a rule change that's more focused on community transmission, telling the ABC the traveller component would be removed.

"There will be announcements about that over the coming days," he told the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, NSW reported 149 new cases, taking its tally to 818. Victoria added another 56 people to its list of infections, taking the state tally to 411.

Queensland has recorded 319 cases since the outbreak began, but won't reveal how many new cases it's had in the past 24 hours until later on Tuesday.

In Western Australia, police and Australian Border Force officers will ensure passengers do not leave a cruise ship that has docked at Fremantle Port.

Premier Mark McGowan says no one will be allowed ashore while the vessel refuels before heading for Dubai, amid fears at least 250 peope are suffering an upper respiratory illness.

The operator of the ship, which left Italy in January, has denied reports of widespread illness, but Mr McGowan isn't taking any chances after dozens of people with coronavirus disembarked from a cruise ship in Sydney.

Political and health authorities are ramping up the message for people to stay home and implement social distancing, as states including WA and Queensland announce more cash to help workers and businesses survive.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state is now at a critical stage, and people needed to self-isolate where necessary, stay home if they can, and social distance.

"This is a difficult time for us, but I am confident NSW will control as much as we can the spread of this virus, so long as everyone steps up and does what they need to do," she told reporters on Tuesday.

She warned that people would face harsh penalties if they were told to self-isolate but didn't.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott has called the decision to let passengers leave the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney was a "monumental stuff up". At least 50 people from that vessel have the virus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made another appeal for people to grasp the gravity of the situation.

"Turn your TV on - have a look at Italy, have a look at Spain, have a look at France," Mr Andrews told Triple M Melbourne on Tuesday.

Some states have closed their borders while others are tussling over school closures amid fears the pandemic could affect Australia for months to come.

Border controls are now in place for South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, with only freight and essential travel exempted. Queensland will close its borders on Wednesday.

Schools remain open in South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland.

NSW is also keeping schools open but Ms Berejiklian has told parents to keep their children home if possible.

Victoria and the ACT have moved to early holidays to give schools time to set up online and distance education arrangements, while private schools are making up their minds.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Australians face six months of severe but necessary restrictions, with pubs, bars, nightclubs, cinemas and other indoor venues forced to close.

Supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies remain open.

He also warned of a dire year ahead for many, including thousands of Australians who have or are expected to lose their jobs.

Huge queues began forming early on Tuesday outside Centrelink offices as many people who lost their jobs on Monday apply for welfare payments.

The MyGov online portal also crashed on Monday after it was overwhelmed by jobless Australians.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston says no one could have predicted the spike in demand, even though the government shut down entire sectors of the economy.

The government has since asked people trying to register with Centrelink to wait a few days.

"We are asking for patience and calm... What we saw yesterday was heartbreaking," Senator Ruston said.

© AAP 2020

Australian economy projected to fall 6.7pc

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Australia is expected to suffer its biggest economic blow since the Great Depression of the 1930s, with unemployment to remain high for at least two years beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund expects the Australian economy to shrink by 6.7 per cent this year, more than double the global rate.

Unemployment is tipped to rise to an average of 7.6 per cent in 2020 and 8.9 per cent in 2021.

The fund expects the economy to grow by 6.1 per cent in 2021, leaving it smaller than it was at the end of 2019.

Australia's performance is expected to be among the bottom third of the world's top 20 economies, with countries such as the United States, Britain and South Korea all tipped to fare better.

The IMF predicts a partial rebound for the world economy in 2021, with an overall 5.8 per cent growth rate.

But the fund's forecasts are marked by "extreme uncertainty" and the outcomes could be far worse.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government had taken decisive action to protect Australians and the economy from the effects of coronavirus.

The government has so far thrown $320 billion at the crisis, or 16.4 per cent of GDP.

He also noted the reserve bank had responded quickly to worsening risk sentiment by injecting $90 billion into the financial system to support small and medium businesses.

"Australia approaches this crisis from a position of economic strength," Mr Frydenberg said.

"The federal budget returned to balance for the first time in 11 years and Australia's debt to GDP is about a quarter of what it is in the United States or United Kingdom, and about one seventh of what it is in Japan."

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers seized on the world economic outlook to reiterate calls for government-funded wage subsidies to be extended to more casual workers.

"Expectations of persistently high unemployment is a sobering reminder of the devastating economic impacts of this diabolical health crisis, and highlights the need to protect as many jobs as possible now," he said.

"When unemployment spikes in the next few months, remember hundreds of thousands of job losses could have been prevented if the treasurer picked up his pen and included more workers currently left out and left behind."

© AAP 2020

Australians banned from leaving country

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

Australians will be banned from travelling overseas under a further crackdown on trips as the government tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it is clear from the numbers of people still travelling that some are defying advice not to travel anywhere in the world.

Small exceptions will be made for aid workers and other vital government travel.

© AAP 2020

Australians face months of virus measures

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) 

Schools will stay open but non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are now banned as the government rolls out further restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Australians are also being told not to travel overseas, and strict restrictions will be placed on visitors to aged care homes.

The prime minister also bluntly told Australians to stop hoarding groceries and other supplies.

National coronavirus cases are approaching 460 and five people have died. Some 81,000 people have been tested, 99.5 per cent of whom returned a negative test.

Scott Morrison cautioned the changes to daily life will be a long-haul measure, with the government expecting the virus crisis will roll on for at least six months.

"What we are doing, you have to be able to keep doing that and sustain that," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"There is no two-week answer to what we're confronting...The idea that you can just turn everything off for two weeks and then turn it all back on again and it all goes away, that is not the evidence."

The medical assessment is that schools should stay open, and Mr Morrison and chief medical officer Brendan Murphy warned the consequences of closing schools would be severe.

That could include tens of thousands of jobs lost, Mr Morrison said.

But Professor Murphy said school life would also have to change, with no assemblies, regular hand washing, and strict bans on sick students and teachers.

"It will be hard for schools, but it would be much, much, much harder for society if the schools were closed," he said.

A ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people is effective immediately.

It does not affect public transport, airports, medical facilities, supermarkets and shopping centres, parliaments, courts or jails.

Office buildings, factories, construction or mining sites, schools, universities, child care facilities and hotels are also exempt.

But people should practice social distancing in all these areas, keeping a space of 1.5 metres between themselves and others.

"Every citizen now has to think about every interaction they have with another person during the day," Professor Murphy said.

"No more hand-shaking. No more hugging except in your family... No more scant attention to hand hygiene."

Strict rules around visitors at aged care facilities are also now in place, barring anyone who has recently travelled, sick people, children except in exceptional circumstances, and from May 1 anyone who hasn't had a flu vaccination.

Only one daily visit of at most two people per resident is allowed.

But Mr Morrison said the new restrictions did not mean Australians should be panicking and certainly not stripping supermarket shelves bare.

"Stop hoarding," he said.

"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis."

The Department of Foreign Affairs has updated its travel advice for the second time in 24 hours, now telling all Australians not to travel overseas.

Anyone already overseas is being urged to return home as soon as possible.

The majority of new coronavirus cases in Australia are still among people who have brought it back from overseas or people in close contact with travellers.

All people arriving from overseas must self-quarantine for 14 days and cruise ships are barred from Australian ports for at least 30 days.

The federal government has flagged another round of economic stimulus measures on top of a $17.6 billion package announced last week.

This includes a $715 million assistance package for airlines like Qantas and Virgin Australia that will give the carriers relief from airport fees and other aviation industry charges.

The states and territories have developed their own economic packages to lessen the economic blow from the spread of COVID-19, which is set to crush major industries and hurt workers.

© AAP 2020

Australians told to get flu jab this month

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Australians are being urged to get the flu shot this month so they don't contract the disease and coronavirus at the same time.

More than 13.5 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine have been secured for the national program.

"Vaccinating against the flu will reduce the risk of a very dangerous double-up of flu and coronavirus - both diseases affecting the respiratory system," Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday.

"Fewer cases and fewer severe cases of flu will result in less demand on our health care system."

Australia's flu season is expected to peak between June and September. Vaccinating against the disease in April will provide the greatest protection.

© AAP 2020

Australians told to keep up virus measures

Members of the public are seen walking past a sign reading '1.5 Metres Apart' at Scarborough Beach, Perth, Monday, April 6, 2020. Beaches in Perth remain open but people must still adhere to social distancing rules. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING

Members of the public are seen walking past a sign reading '1.5 Metres Apart' at Scarborough Beach, Perth, Monday, April 6, 2020. Beaches in Perth remain open but people must still adhere to social distancing rules. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) 

Health authorities are urging Australians to maintain social distancing measures despite the rate of coronavirus cases falling.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd says Australians can't let their guard down because community transmissions are occurring.

"I know it's really challenging for many people with the self-isolation that's occurring, with the restriction of activities, but we are doing this to help each other, help ourselves and save lives by stopping the spread," he told Nine on Tuesday.

The government's coronavirus modelling will soon be released to show how the virus has spread and will potentially offer a glimpse at how long strict measures will be in place.

The prime minister and state and territory leaders are meeting on Tuesday where they will discuss the modelling as well as relief for commercial tenants.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who is yet to see the modelling, says Australians deserve to know what's driving decision making.

"I think it will build trust and will encourage support for the measures that have been put in," he told the ABC.

"We're all in this together."

A scaled back parliament will meet on Wednesday to pass the government's $130 billion wage subsidy plan, which will see eligible employees receive a $1500 fortnightly payment.

Health authorities say the slowdown in the rate of new cases each day shows the restrictions on daily life and social distancing measures have successfully flattened the curve.

But they are cautious about the rate spiking again.

Younger people in particular have been warned about being complacent, given that people aged in their 30s are among the worst-affected patients.

Scott Morrison has wished British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a speedy recovery after he was admitted to intensive care after contracting the disease.

"Thinking of you, your family and all our UK friends at this tough time," Mr Morrison said.

The nation's leaders and medical experts are now starting to look at how and when to start easing the tough restrictions in place to slow the disease's spread.

That will include a consideration of how prepared the health system is for an increase in cases and what effect lifting particular measures would have.

More than 5800 people have coronavirus in Australia and 41 people have died.

Governments are concerned that people will be tempted to breach restrictions on movements and social distancing rules over the coming Easter weekend.

Popular beaches in Sydney and Queensland closed on Monday as people continued to flock there.

© AAP 2020

Ban on pubs, cinemas to stop virus spread

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Pubs, cinemas and churches will be forced to close across Australia from noon on Monday to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The closure of more types of businesses could follow if Australians continue to fail to heed health warnings.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders agreed on Sunday night to a staged process starting with a shutdown of "principal places of social gathering".

The initial types of venues to be closed include registered and licensed clubs, entertainment venues, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sports venues, including gyms, and places of worship.

Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only.

Mr Morrison said the decision was taken because Australians were not adequately sticking to rules around social distancing.

Virus cases are doubling every three days. The death toll remains at seven.

"We cannot have the confidence as a group of leaders that the social distancing guidelines and rules that we have put in place won't be followed to the level of compliance that we require to flatten the curve and slow the spread and save lives," Mr Morrison said.

One Nation leader and senator Pauline Hanson, who will not attend parliament this week, said the new rules were confusing and she was concerned beaches were being closed.

"I am confused by it all, I really am," she told Nine's Today show on Monday.

"I just feel it's probably a bit too far... A lot of the businesses that shut down, they won't open again. I hope it is worth it."

Meanwhile, parents are being reassured schools will reopen after the Easter holidays, based on current medical advice.

The Victorian and ACT school holidays have already been brought forward to Tuesday.

And in further action, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are imposing two-week quarantine periods on people seeking to enter these states, with police checkpoints posted to monitor travellers.

The AFL announced matches would be suspended until at least May 31.

State and territory leaders and Mr Morrison have recommended against all non-essential domestic travel, following the unprecedented ban on international travel.

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced entry to his state would be restricted via road, rail, air and sea from 1.30pm local time on Tuesday.

There will be exemptions for health, emergency, defence and policing personnel, certain mining industry workers, flight crews, essential goods deliverers and on compassionate grounds.

Unless exempted, arrivals from interstate will be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.

In a bid to ease Australia's expected dive into recession, the federal government announced a second round of stimulus measures worth $66 billion.

It will temporarily double the Jobseeker payment - known as Newstart until last Friday - and make it easier for casuals and sole traders to access it; give a second round of $750 cash payments to pensioners; and significantly expand the already announced cash flow injection into small businesses, which will now get at least $20,000 and up to $100,000 each.

State governments have also implemented stimulus measures and are looking at other ways to ease pressure on people, including how to give renters and commercial tenants a break.

Federal parliament will sit from Monday to debate and pass laws enabling the initial two stimulus packages, with more measures expected in coming weeks.

Labor will seek to amend some of the bills, but is committed to passing the laws.

© AAP 2020

Band Together cancelled due to Corona fears

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Following advice received from the NSW Department of Health, Wollondilly Council has made the tough decision to indefinitely postpone the Band Together 2020 concert.

The concert was being organised to support Rural Fire Service crews and Emergency Services.

However the advice from the Department indicated that large gatherings where people were in close proximity could potentially lead to the spread of the Corona Virus.

If the event did proceed, The Department recommended a whole host of guidelines including that people stand at least one and a half metres apart from one another.

In the end council decided it just wasn't practical.

Mayor Matthew Deeth says it's very disappointing but insists public safety comes first.

IMAGE CREDIT: Band Together

Big fine for those who do not self-isolate

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Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk speaking to media ahead of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AAP Image/James Gourley)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned of the heavy financial penalty that awaits any person who arrives from overseas and does not self-isolate.

From midnight all people coming to Australia will have to self-isolate for 14 days, while cruise ships will be banned from arriving at Australian ports for an initial 30 days.

Ms Palaszczuk said on Sunday that laws were in place to deal with those who fail to follow a direction to self-isolate.

"In relation to legislation around that... it's under our Public Health Emergency Act," she said.

"That bill was passed in early February and there are penalties for not complying with the notification and that is around $13,000," she said.

"We have random police checks to make sure people are compliant with that notice."

The warning came as Queensland had its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, taking the number of people detected with the COVID-19 to 61.

There were 15 people confirmed on Sunday as having contracted the viris.

People were also being discouraged from kissing, hugging or even shaking hands.

"We are asking Queenslanders, when you are out and about no hand shaking... and no kissing or hugging in public. Let's all minimise the risk," the premier said.

Queensland's chief health officer warned that now may not be the time for children to visit their grandparents.

"I implore people if you have parents... or grandparents in that older age group think about how you can help them. Maybe it's not the time for your young kids to see their grandparents," she said.

Meanwhile Queensland senator Susan McDonald has announced several Senate committee hearings scheduled for Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns this week have been cancelled until further notice.

The hearings were scheduled for the Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport Committee from Monday through to Thursday.

© AAP 2020

Black box seized from Ruby Princess as COVID-19 cases decline again in NSW

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New South Wales has recorded its lowest daily rise in Coronavirus cases in more than three weeks as detectives seize evidence from the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship that remains in isolation at Port Kembla.

The state recorded 39 new COVID-19 cases, the smallest increase in case numbers since March 16 while 31 Coronavirus patients are in intensive care.

The total number of cases in NSW sits at 2773.

"We cannot lift our foot off the pedal, we have to stay vigilant," said Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

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Ms Berejiklian reminded NSW residents they could not attend church or religious services over the Easter weekend and implored people to stay home.

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller confirmed that detectives boarded the Ruby Princess overnight to seize evidence and question crew members about the docking and disembarkation of passengers in Sydney three weeks ago.

"They spoke to the Captain of the ship who was extremely helpful.

"Ships have a black box very similar to that of international planes and that and other evidence has been seized for further investigation," Commissioner Fuller said.

The vessel - from which some 2700 passengers disembarked without adequate health checks - is linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases and more than a dozen deaths across Australia.

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In coming days Police will interview other high-priority witnesses about the scandal while the vessel is expected to remain at Port Kembla until mid next week with 1040 crew members undergoing medical assessments.

About 200 crew have shown symptoms of coronavirus, while 18 crew have so far tested positive.

Commissioner Fuller said about three-quarters of the Ruby Princess crew members had indicated they wish to remain on board the ship.

The Premier also provided some welcome news for parents and care givers with confirmation that NSW preschools would be made free for the next six months to ease pressure on family budgets amid the virus.

Images: NSW Police and NSW Health

Bon Jovi keyboardist has coronavirus

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Bon Jovi founding member and keyboardist David Bryan has revealed he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Less than a week earlier, he was home in New Jersey when, on March 15, he started to feel sick.

"The first symptoms were flu-like, with a low level fever around 100 with body aches and headaches," Bryan told Variety.

Soon after, the body aches made it difficult to get out of bed. By Wednesday, March 18, it started to move to his lungs. It was then that the Tony Award-winning musician, who had been in New York City in the weeks prior working on launching the new musical "Diana," knew he needed medical help.

He immediately called his doctor, Mike Rothenberg of Brick, New Jersey, who had access to drive-by testing for the coronavirus, which involved a deep swab up his nose.

Two days later, Bryan was informed that he was positive and was immediately prescribed antibiotics -- Azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine (the "anti- malaria drug") -- which he started on Saturday.

Two days later, Bryan reports that the medicine is working and he is "getting stronger" while remaining in self-isolation with his wife, Alexis. She, too, has tested positive but is not displaying any of the same symptoms except for a "slight headache for a couple of days."

Says Bryan: "I'm thankful that she is not as sick as I am. We are both quarantined but it just shows that some people can have it with no symptoms, and some people can have it like me, and there's others who are really sick and need to go to the hospital."

Wanting to share his story and at the same time try to help by "squashing fear" was the reason the 58-year-old Bryan went public on Instagram, writing that the virus was "the flu, not the plague." He also is encouraging everyone to practice social distancing to avoid spreading it to others.

For now, the protocol he is following includes another week of quarantine and, with improved symptoms, he will take the test two times to assure a negative result. In the meantime, Bryan has been in bed watching movies and getting a lot of sleep as his body fights the virus. He also says everyone should do their part to slow the spread and stay home.

"Everybody has just got to stay away from each other to kill this virus," he says. "As much as it's not any fun, it's less fun to have it. If people do the right thing, we can all get over this. People have to take this seriously. You can get it. I got it."

Meanwhile, Bon Jovi frontman Jon Bon Jovi has been helping feed those in need via his JBJ Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey.

© RAW 2020

Border boss warns against complete closure

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

The man responsible for Australia's borders has cautioned against a total shutdown of movement in and out of the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram said a vacuum seal around the nation would prevent essential items like stem cells from entering the country.

"We don't want to stop all flights to Australia. We don't want to seal ourselves off," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"Similarly with the ports, there's a lot of containers coming to Australia with goods that we need as a country."

But he insisted the ABF was ready for anything if the government decided to take more drastic action to contain the disease.

Passenger movements through Australian airports were down by around 5000 on Monday, while 23 flights were cancelled on Tuesday.

The 14 cruise ships which had left are returning to ports, with no reported sickness onboard any of them.

About 12 border force workers have been tested for coronavirus with no positive results so far.

Mr Outram said his staff not contracting the virus should reassure other frontline workers wearing personal protective equipment.

"If you follow procedures, you wear your PPE, it's a very, very low risk," he said.

Border force officers are preparing to welcome home Australians from overseas after the government advised people to return.

At airports, people will receive quarantine information at check-in and on the flight before signing a written declaration to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving.

Mr Outram said there had been little disagreement from people returning.

The commissioner has also told his officers to keep the pressure on drugs and other border crime.

"Whilst this is going on and all the focus of the media and the world is on COVID-19, we're not going to drop the ball," he said.

© AAP 2020

Borders to shut, Qld coronavirus tally 397

People are seen at the Brisbane domestic airport terminal in Brisbane, Monday, March 23, 2020. The Queensland Government has announced that they will close the state's borders to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, beginning at midnight on Wednesday and they will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after their arrival. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING

People are seen at the Brisbane domestic airport terminal, the Queensland Government has announced that they will close the state's borders to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, beginning at midnight on Wednesday and they will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after their arrival. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland's coronavirus tally has reached 397 as the government promised more intensive care beds, tripling the crisis call centre and employing more health professionals.

Health Minister Steven Miles said the state had so far conducted more than 37,300 tests for coronavirus, of which 78 were positive overnight, and taken 43,000 calls relating to a COVID-19.

Overall, one-in-four coronavirus tests in Australia had been conducted in Queensland, he said.

"That is amongst, if not the, highest rate of testing anywhere in the world," he said.

Earlier, Treasurer Jackie Trad pledged $1.2 billion for the health sector, which Mr Miles said would be used to "ramp up" testing, lift the call centre capacity from 300 to 1600 seats and boost the number of doctors and nurses.

There would also be more fever clinics and hospital wards would be expanded.

"There are 27 public fever clinics open, and this funding will allow us to open more," he said.

The funding increase comes ahead of Queensland's border closing at midnight on Wednesday to people not travelling for work, medical appointments or carrying freight.

Border travel will be policed in an RBT-style with officers to determine who needs to cross as the state tries to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Officials are working with airlines to ensure passengers know what will happen when they arrive in Queensland before they board flights.

Travelling from Tweed to Coolangatta for work is allowed.

"People should stay in their own state," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

"As far as possible, they should be staying in their suburbs and as much as possible staying at home."

Travelling to work, to the supermarket, the pharmacy and the petrol station is classed as essential.

Travel for all other purposes is highly discouraged.

A $4 billion package has also been announced to cover the state's additional health ($1.2bn) needs and relieve financial pressure on households and businesses.

Households will receive a $200 rebate on their electricity bill to take in the extra power and water usage while people are asked to stay home.

Some $300 million will be directed to reduce the cost of living for households and further funding for payroll tax relief for businesses.

© AAP 2020

Britons show love for health carers

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People applaud outside St. Thomas's Hospital in support of British National Health Service workers who are treating coronavirus victims, part of a nationwide salute to the doctors, nurses and staff of the NHS in London, Thursday, March 26, 2020. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has prompted a public display of appreciation for health service workers on the front line of the fight against the contagious virus. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali) 

People in coronavirus lock-down all over Britain have taken part in an emotional show of solidarity with health workers, during the nation's worst crisis since World War Two.

Clapping, banging pots and pans, and cheering and waving, vast numbers of people took part in the "Clap for our Carers" initiative, which mirrors similar events in other countries.

Italians, who have been the hardest hit by the virus and have been under strict lockdown for much longer, began the trend by singing and playing music from their balconies and applauding their doctors and nurses. The phenomenon soon spread to Spain and France, and has now reached as far as India.

With the UK in day three of its own lockdown, "Clap for our Carers" exploded on social media on Thursday, and was encouraged by celebrities, politicians and even the royal family.

Television pictures showed people clapping in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, breaking the quiet brought about by severe restrictions on public life and an edict from the government to stay indoors to stop the virus spreading.

Landmarks across the capital lit up in blue in tribute to the National Health Service.

The royal family tweeted three 'clapping hands' emoji and the message: "We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services. We thank you all."

After Prime MInister Boris Johnson called for 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus outbreak, more than double that number signed up within two days. By Thursday evening, the figure was over 670,000.

Britain has reported 578 deaths and more than 11,000 confirmed cases of the virus, with experts warning that the worst is yet to come and the government scrambling to buy equipment to keep its citizens alive.

As the health service becomes increasingly stretched by the number of cases, the government is opening a temporary hospital at an exhibition centre in east London and asking manufacturers to produce thousands of ventilators.

© RAW 2020

Bundanoon Highland Gathering postponed

Winner of the Bundanoon is Brigadoon Stones of Manhood was Jordan Steffan at his first appearance.

Next month's Bundanoon Highland Gathering which attracts thousands of people has been postponed due to the Corona Virus.

The President and Committee made the decision, following advice received from the Government's Chief Medical Officer.

The event will hopefully take place in August or September.

A new date will be announced shortly.

IMAGE CREDIT: Bundanoon Highland Gathering

Call for Anzac Day driveway tribute

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Australians are being called to honour Anzac Day by standing at the end of their driveways for a minute's silence after public events were cancelled across the nation.

RSL Queensland says the display would send a powerful message of solidarity to Australia's defence community after Anzac Day services, events and parades were cancelled amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

People can safely commemorate a different kind of dawn service by standing on their driveway or balcony at 6am and uniting in the Anzac spirit, RSL Queensland State President Tony Ferris said on Wednesday.

"This is an idea that has gathered momentum on social media, and we agree it's a brilliant way to collectively honour the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of our service people," he said.

Mr Ferris said the qualities evoked by the Anzac spirit - ingenuity, humour, endurance, courage and mateship - are more important than ever in times of uncertainty.

"Regardless of the form this year's Anzac Day commemorations take, let's show that Australians will always remember those who have served and sacrificed for this nation," he said.

© AAP 2020

Canada-US border to close on Friday night

epa08305223 Trucks cross over the Ambassador Bridge to the US side of the US-Canadian border in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 18 March 2020. US and Canadian officials announced an agreement to temporarily close the US-Canadian border to non-essential travel in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the Covid-19 disease. Canada and the US share the largest non-militarized border in the world.  EPA/STEVE FECHT

Trucks cross over the Ambassador Bridge to the US side of the US-Canadian border in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 18 March 2020. (EPA/STEVE FECHT)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he expects the closure of the US-Canada border to take effect overnight on Friday and is working with domestic carriers to bring home citizens stranded overseas.

Canada, which closed its borders this week to most foreign nationals, agreed with the United States to close their shared border to "non-essential traffic" to curb transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Canada to date has 801 cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and 10 deaths.

About 55,000 people had been tested across the country so far, chief medical officer Theresa Tam said.

"What continues to concern us is the day-by-day sharp increase in cases and the reports from provinces of new cases with no links to travel," Tam told reporters.

Globally, there over 236,000 infections and more than 9700 deaths.

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, 49, went into self-isolation after showing "new, flu-like symptoms" and was awaiting test results.

Canada's indigenous communities, already facing poor healthcare options, are closing their own lands' borders to limit coronavirus exposure.

The Canadian government said this week it would provide $C27 billion ($A34.4 billion) in direct support to families and businesses affected by the virus.

It was also examining invoking the rarely used 1988 Emergencies Act, which would allow Ottawa to override provinces and restrict the movement of people and goods.

Trudeau said on Thursday he may utilise the military to help with procurement of supplies and urged Canadians to keep practising social distancing.

"These are difficult and extraordinary times in which Canadians are taking difficult and extraordinary measures," Trudeau told reporters outside his house, where he is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.

© RAW 2020

Centrelink income test threshold boosted

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Australians applying for welfare can now get support if their partner earns about $79,000, the prime minister has announced.

Scott Morrison says the government has boosted the threshold from about $48,000, which would allow more Australians to receive support during the coronavirus pandemic.

The change means an applicant's rate of welfare won't be affected unless their partner earns more than $79,762 a year.

© AAP 2020

Child care now free

Coronavirus Breaking News2

Child care will be free for parents still using it during the coronavirus crisis.

The government will also support the nation's 13,000 childcare centres to remain open after enrolment and attendance numbers plummeted.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said child care was an essential service to keep all parents who still had jobs in the current economy in that work.

Under the plan, the government will pay half the reasonable fee cap to centres for the next six months as long as they remain open and don't charge parents any fees.

The funding will start from April 6 and will cover enrolments as they stood in the fortnight leading up to March 2, before people started pulling their kids out of care en masse due to losing their jobs or out of health fears.

aap

Children contract COVID-19

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NSW has its first cases of kids contracting the coronavirus.NSW has its first cases of kids contracting the coronavirus.

The state's Chief medico Dr KERRY CHANT this morning announced two children under the age of 10 have been confirmed.

"A two-month-old boy who was tested following close contact with a confirmed adult case and he's had minimal symptoms and is isolated at home. And in a separate unrelated case we have a seven-year-old girl who was tested following close contact with a confirmed adult case and again has minimal symptoms and isolated at home."

Meantime the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in NSW has risen to 1,029.

Children removed from NSW quarantine hotel

NSW has recorded 48 new COVID-19 cases as new infections continue to stabilise and the premier flags a potential relaxation of social distancing restrictions down the track.

The state has now confirmed 2734 cases, with 36 patients in intensive care and the death toll remaining at 21.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says that while social distancing will be a part of people's lives until a coronavirus vaccine or cure is found, restrictions were being reviewed every month.

"Every month our health experts will give us advice as to whether there is an opportunity for us to relax any of the restrictions," Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

"I want to assure the community that if we did go down that path it would be based on health advice and we are going to assess that on a month-by-month basis."

Three children were on Tuesday taken to hospital from a Sydney hotel where a number of people have been placed in quarantine after returning to Australia.

AAP understands the children were transferred from the Hilton hotel in central Sydney on Tuesday for testing after displaying flu-like symptoms.

Pictures published online by the Daily Mail showed three children on stretchers wearing protective face masks being wheeled out of the hotel by paramedics.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly on Wednesday said he was aware of the children being taken to hospital but wouldn't comment further.

Professor Kelly told Nine's Today show that children could get affected by the virus and that's why they were taking social distancing rules so seriously.

It comes ahead of the release of the first group of 288 Australians quarantined at the nearby Swisshotel on Wednesday morning, under a police operation to ensure their departure is quick and seamless.

This group arrived in Australia on March 26 and have undertaken a mandatory 14-day self-isolation, to protect the community from the coronavirus.

All will get a letter confirming their period of isolation and undergo a final health check.

After Wednesday's operation, police will plan for further hotel departures with some 3000 Australian residents expected to come out of hotel isolation over the next week.

The Ruby Princess remains docked in Port Kembla, near Wollongong, where it's expected to remain for 10 days while 1040 crew members undergo medical assessments.

About 200 crew have symptoms of coronavirus.

The vessel is linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases and more than a dozen deaths across Australia.

The NSW Police homicide squad is investigating why passengers were allowed to disembark from the ship in Sydney on March 19 despite concerns some might have contracted the illness.

© AAP 2020

China has no new local virus transmissions

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, passengers board a train at the Jingmen Railway Station in Jingmen, central China's Hubei Province, March 25, 2020. Trains carrying factory employees back to work after two months in locked-down cities rolled out of Hubei province, the center of China's virus outbreak, as the government on Wednesday began lifting the last of the controls that confined tens of millions of people to their homes. (Peng Qi/Xinhua via AP)

Mainland China has reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus cases as the country's epicentre of the epidemic, Hubei province, opened its borders (Peng Qi/Xinhua via AP)

Mainland China has reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus cases as the country's epicentre of the epidemic, Hubei province, opened its borders.

But imported cases have risen as Beijing ramps up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections.

A total of 67 new cases were reported as of end-Wednesday, up from 47 a day earlier, all of which were imported, China's National Health Commission said in a statement on Thursday.

The total number of cases now stands at 81,285.

The commission reported a total of 3287 deaths at the end of Wednesday, up six from the previous day.

All of the new patients on Wednesday were travellers who came to China from overseas, with the mainland reporting no locally transmitted infections.

Shanghai reported the most cases with 18 followed by Inner Mongolia region at 12 and Guangdong province at 11.

About 90 per cent of all the imported cases are Chinese passport holders, Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui told a press conference on Thursday, adding that 40 per cent of them are overseas Chinese students returning amid rising infections abroad.

"We understand some overseas students are eager to come home...But under the current circumstances, by staying put, they can avoid being cross-infected in the hurried journey home or getting stuck mid-journey when the countries they transit in tighten border controls," Luo said.

Fearing a new wave of infections from imported cases, authorities have ramped up quarantine and screening measures in other major cities including Beijing, where any travellers arriving from overseas must submit to centralised quarantine.

The number of new daily cases in China remain down sharply from the height of the outbreak in the country in February, allowing Beijing to push for restarting economic activity in the world's second biggest economy.

Hubei province, home to some 60 million people, reported no new cases on Wednesday and opened its borders. Public transport restarted and residents in the city of Xianning strolled the streets wearing masks.

The lockdown of Hubei's capital Wuhan, where the virus first appeared late last year, will be lifted on April 8, a milestone in China's war against the epidemic as Beijing shifts its focus towards stemming imported cases and rebooting the economy.

The fatality rate in Wuhan stood at about 5 per cent, said Qiu Haibo, a medical expert on a panel led by the central government, according to the official People's Daily on Thursday.

© RAW 2020

China sees rise in new coronavirus cases

coronavirus update

Mainland China has reported 39 new coronavirus cases as the number of asymptomatic cases also surged, as Beijing continues to struggle to extinguish the outbreak despite drastic containment efforts.

The National Health Commission said in a statement on Monday that 78 new asymptomatic cases had been identified as of the end of the day on Sunday, compared with 47 the day before.

Imported cases and asymptomatic patients, who have the virus and can give it to others but show no symptoms, have become China's chief concern in recent weeks after draconian containment measures succeeded in slashing the infection rate.

Of the new cases showing symptoms, 38 were people who had entered China from abroad, compared with 25 a day earlier.

One new locally transmitted infection was reported, in the southern province of Guangdong, down from five a day earlier in the same province.

The new locally-transmitted case, in the city of Shenzhen, was a person who had travelled from Hubei province, the original epicentre of the outbreak, Guangdong provincial authorities said.

Mainland China has now reported a total of 81,708 cases, with 3331 deaths.

Daily infections have fallen dramatically from the peak of the epidemic in February, when hundreds were reported daily, but new infections continue to appear daily.

The country has closed off its borders to foreigners as the virus spreads globally, though most imported cases involve Chinese nationals returning from overseas.

© RAW 2020

Chinese Australians abused amid COVID-19

Asian woman in Chinese costume covered her face with regret for being racism and hate surrounded by hands mocking her, scoffing in the outbreak situation of Coronavirus 2019 infection or Covid-19

Chinese Australians abused amid COVID-19 (Bigstock)

Chinese Australians are being assaulted, robbed, spat on, refused service and verbally abused by some Queenslanders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes after members of the community have made hundreds of meals for the state's health workers and donated personal protective equipment to its medical staff.

Even the donation of equipment attracted attacks.

Police have laid 22 charges for racially-motivated offences following 16 complaints to police.

Wilful damage, public nuisance, robberies, assaults, verbal abuse and graffiti with abusive language are among the offences that have been committed.

"These are racially motivated offences," Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said.

Victims of racist attacks are not always coming forward to report what has happened to them, she said, adding they should do so.

Commissioner Carroll and Police Minister Mark Ryan have demanded an end to the offensive behaviour.

Some of those attacks have come from far-right political extremists, Multicultural Affairs Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.

"There are some very extreme, extreme right-wing activists who are using this current situation to attack members of our community," he said.

"It is completely unacceptable."

Incidents of racism against Chinese Australians had worsened, Michael Ma, secretary-general of Queensland Chinese United Council said.

Mr Ma attributed some of that behaviour to the way COVID-19 has been presented by officials around the world.

"Naming a virus after a race or a nation is unhelpful and unwise because it gives rise to stigmatisation and also encourages people who have biases to exercise their prejudice," he said.

"Perhaps some of the comments made by some of our public personnel has not helped, not necessarily from this country, but from other countries."

He said the broader community was suffering because of the virus, but only a united approach would get people through it.

Racism against Chinese Australians caught the attention of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who this week said the behaviour was just wrong.

"It was the Chinese Australian community that actually protected Australia so early on in this virus outbreak around the world," he told SBS on Tuesday.

"Sure the virus started in Wuhan, in China, that's what happened, that's just a fact.

"But that doesn't mean that this was, it has any nationalistic, or or any other sort of characteristics to it.

"That's just where it started."

© AAP 2020

Coles, Woolies relax online restrictions

coles shop online

Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have given hope life may be returning to normal after broadening their home delivery service for online customers.

Coles this week reopened its home delivery, "click and collect", to all customers, after having previously limited orders for vulnerable and remote Australians because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Woolworths has followed suit and announced it will make "tens of thousands of extra weekly home delivery windows for online customers", according to Nine News.

© AAP 2020

Community transmission of Coronavirus rises in NSW

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Premier Berejiklian is concerned about the number of coronavirus cases transmitted in the community as the state prepares to announce a second round of economic stimulus measures to help businesses during the outbreak.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in NSW has risen by 186 to 1405 with 877 of those acquired overseas and 278 locally acquired from contact with a confirmed case or a known cluster.

Of those 278 locally acquired cases, there are 145 where the source of the virus is unknown.

That is the group that is of most concern to authorities.

Gladys Berejiklian urged people to be vigilant and do the right thing, adding that people shouldn't be leaving their homes unless they have to.

"The one figure that we are most worried about is the number of people that are getting it within the community.

"The community to community transmission is what we are concerned with," the Premier said.

51 of the states confirmed cases are from the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Local Health District.

The Premier along with her Victorian counterpart are expected to push the Prime Minister on allowing stage three lockdowns in their states when the National cabinet meets later this morning.

If implemented, all non-essential workers could be forced to stay at home.

The Premier promises no matter what happens, Supermarkets and Chemists will remain open.

Photo source: Facebook

Confirmed case in Illawarra/Shoalhaven

corona virus illawarra

Our local Health District has now confirmed there's  one case of COVID-19 in the Illawarra Shoalhaven region.

The case involves a returned traveller who had contact with another confirmed case.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Health District will not be providing any details such as locations where cases live, worked or have visited.

A Spokesperson says publishing private details, such as the location of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, is a breach of patient privacy and serves no public health benefit.

There a few simple things everyone can do to help keep themselves and others safe:

 keep your hands clean by washing them often with soap and water or using hand sanitiser

 avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose as the virus can enter your body if it’s on your hands and you rub your eyes or touch your nose or mouth

 maintain social distance when you can, 1.5 metres between you and others is good

 if you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others

 sneeze and cough into your elbow rather than your hand

 use disposable tissues

 keep your distance from those who are coughing and sneezing

 stay home if you are unwell and call, not visit, your own GP or call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 for advice.

Corona Virus Update

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Australia's health officials are advising against "non-essential" gatherings of more than 500 people.

The change will come into effect from Monday.

The move does NOT include schools, universities, airports or shopping centres.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says the restriction on SOME mass gatherings is appropriate at this time.

Coronavirus - here's the good news

The latest Coronavirus

Some good news on COVID-19 from around the World today:

- China has closed down its last coronavirus hospital. Not enough new cases to support them.

- Doctors in India have been successful in treating Coronavirus. Combination of drugs used: Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to suggest same medicine, globally.

- Researchers of the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody against coronavirus.

- A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from COVID-19 after being treated for 6 days in Wuhan, China.

- Apple reopens all 42 china stores.

- Cleveland Clinic developed a COVID-19 test that gives results in hours, not days.

- Good news from South Korea, where the number of new cases is declining.

- Italy is hit hard, experts say, only because they have the oldest population in Europe.

- A German company is getting very close to a vaccine which can be mass produced and received large funding from the EU to accelerate.

- 3 Maryland coronavirus patients fully recovered; able to return to everyday life.

- A network of Canadian scientists are making excellent progress in Covid-19 research.

- A San Diego biotech company is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore.

- Tulsa County's first positive COVID-19 case has recovered. This individual has had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery.

- All 7 patients who were getting treated for at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi have recovered.

- Plasma from newly recovered patients from Covid -19 can treat others infected by Covid-19.


Source: https://www.goodthingsguy.com/opinion/coronavirus-15-good-news-stories-from-around-the-globe-show-things-do-get-better/

Coronavirus cases continue to drop in Qld

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV concept. Hand in medical glove holding test tube with inscription 2019-nCoV. Coronavirus test. Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, influenza pandemic virus infection.

Coronavirus cases continue to drop in Qld (Bigstock)

Queensland is celebrating another day of no new cases of COVID-19 being transmitted within the community.

The state added another six cases to its total on Tuesday, however these were all Queenslanders diagnosed and treated in other states who have since recovered.

Four of the six contracted the virus on the Coral Princess cruise ship.

The technical addition takes Queensland's total to 1051.

There are 19 active cases in the Sunshine State, with seven patients in hospital and three in intensive care.

The state has recorded 18 deaths.

Authorities are continuing to urge Queenslanders with any respiratory symptoms to get tested as the state's testing rate continues to drop and social distancing restrictions are eased.

Medical staff tested 1856 people in the 24 hours to 9am on Tuesday.

The state's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has previously urged Queenslanders to get their flu vaccination before employees begin to return to offices across the state.

However Dr Young said she wrote to the NRL on Monday to clear players who have refused a flu vaccination on medical grounds, but blocked those avoiding the jab for philosophical reasons.

The continuing low rate of coronavirus cases across the state will likely lead to further restrictions being eased.

Up to five people from the one household are now permitted to visit another home, while from Saturday, up to 10 people will be able to gather outside, at weddings, pools and for exercise.

Kindy, Prep, and students from Years 1, 11 and 12 have returned to the classroom this week, with other years expected to return to school from May 25.

On the Gold Coast, playgrounds, gym equipment and barbecues in Gold Coast parks will be reopened by Friday.

Skate parks, outdoor basketball courts will also be reopened and sports fields will be opened to groups of 10 people, as will park bookings.

"We are getting back to business, but in a staged and safe way," Mayor Tom Tate said.

He said there was still work to be done to ensure a staged opening of Aquatic Centres, Libraries and Indoor Sports centres could occur.

"We need to look closely at these services and the best way to reopen them - for example I can see us opening Aquatic Centres to elite athletes first," he said.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus cases slow in NSW as Premier tells people to stick to the rules

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The  government is urging the community to keep social gatherings to a minimum and obey new regulations as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the state passes 2000.

Premier  Berejiklian implored people to not leave their homes unless they "absolutely" have to as the state tries to slow the spread of the virus.

She said the biggest concern is the level of community transmission in some areas.

"Its really important for people to assume they have it and to act like they have it.

"We have had localised breakouts in areas like Waverley and Bondi and as a result increased testing in those areas will happen to really reduce community to community transmission," she said.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is now 2032, an increase of 114 on the previous day but positive results are declining.

Thirty-five NSW patients are in intensive care.

The Premier said unless there is a significant and unexpected spike in COVID-19 cases in the state, the current restrictions will not be revised for a month.

"Health experts have told us they'd like to maintain the restrictions we've put in place for at least the next month and then assess," she said.

Image: NSW Health

Coronavirus closes 12 Victorian McDonald's

SHENZHEN, CHINA - CIRCA FEBRUARY, 2019: Golden Arches sign at McDonald's restaurant in Shenzhen, China.

Coronavirus closes 12 Victorian McDonald's (Bigstock)

Twelve McDonald's outlets have been closed in Victoria due to a coronavirus-infected truck driver, while the state announces $2.7 billion to help revive the economy.

The fast-food outlets will be shut and deep-cleaned after the driver made deliveries while he was asymptomatic and unaware he had COVID-19.

The chain says no employee has tested positive in connection to the driver and customers are not at risk.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to close and conduct a deep clean of 12 restaurants in Victoria, following confirmation a truck driver for an external service provider has tested positive for COVID-19," McDonald's said in a statement.

"Potential close contacts and employees who have worked specific shifts during and after the truck driver's delivery have been instructed not to return to work for 14 days and advised to be tested."

The Department of Health confirmed the driver was an extended family member of a worker at Fawkner McDonald's, where a cluster of 10 cases emerged on May 9.

That site reopened on Wednesday after it had been closed for five days for deep cleaning.

The closure comes as Victoria tries to start reopening its economy and recorded six new cases, taking the tally to 1567 infections.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday announced $2.7 billion for building projects to help the jobs revival.

The money will be poured into road maintenance, train station and school upgrades and refurbishment to public housing.

"Hundreds and hundreds of projects delivering thousands and thousands of jobs - that's exactly what we need right at this time," Mr Andrews said.

Meanwhile, the Cedar Meats abattoir at the centre of a major coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne's west will begin reopening.

Authorities insist it will be some time before Cedar Meats resumes full operations after 99 coronavirus cases were linked to the meatworks.

The company will restart its cold storage facility on Monday with 15 to 20 staff cleared by the health department.

Domino's Pizza Enterprises confirmed late on Sunday it was notified on Friday a worker at its Fairfield store had tested positive to COVID-19.

The store was immediately shut and will remain closed for at least 14 days while a deep clean is undertaken and staff and their families were advised to self-isolate and get tested.

Victorians have been given the green light to eat and drink inside pubs, restaurants and cafes from June 1, starting with up to 20 people.

MCDONALD'S CLOSED IN MELBOURNE:

* Melton East

* Laverton North

* Yallambie

* Taylors Lakes

* Campbellfield

* Sunbury

* Hoppers Crossing

* Riverdale Village

* Sandown

* Calder Highway Northbound/Outbound

* Calder Highway Southbound/Inbound

* BP Rockbank Service Centre Outbound

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus could linger for days: medicos

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

Coronavirus could potentially linger on surfaces for days, health experts say, adding more urgency to the need for better hygiene standards.

Medicos put their heads together at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday to share tips and knowledge on the pandemic.

ACT Health's associate professor Vanessa Johnston said it was unknown how long coronavirus remained on surfaces, but it could be hours or days.

"It is important in terms of our own hygiene practices that we are cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that we will regularly touch," Professor Johnston said.

She said the average incubation period for the virus was five to six days, but could range from zero to 14.

Professor Johnston said of 300 cases that tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, 71 per cent were believed to have caught it overseas.

Australian National University's Dr Kamalini Lokuge said those who had the capacity to pull their children out of school, without leaving them with grandparents, should do so.

However it contradicted advice given by medical experts to the prime minister that schools should remain open.

Director of Epidemiology at Melbourne's Doherty Institute Professor Jodie McVernon said a flu vaccine would be even more important this year.

She said pregnant women were not at an increased risk of the virus.

Professor McVernon also defended the government's approach to school closures, saying Singapore had left schools open and had more success in containing the virus than Hong Kong, which shut classrooms.

On Tuesday, researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute announced the immune responses from one of Australia's first coronavirus patients had been mapped, which could lead to a vaccine.

Dr Paul Griffin, a researcher from Queensland's Mater Hospital, said it was a big step forward, but the vaccine development couldn't be rushed.

"We can't cut corners with vaccine development. At every step we have to make sure we're safe and effective," he said.

Dr Griffin said the use of anti-viral drugs to combat the coronavirus outbreak could help, but a vaccine was the answer.

The government has flagged any vaccine is at least one year away.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus emergency motion adopted by Shoalhaven Council

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Shoalhaven City Council has agreed to a plan to prepare the city should the Corona Virus be declared a pandemic.

Councillor Watson put an emergency motion to a meeting this week of councillors, outlining a four-point plan he believes would work to prevent the spread of the virus in the Shoalhaven.

He told the meeting he believes the city should take its own steps to be COVID-19 ready as the government is not doing enough.

"Really they're playing Russian Roulette by allowing airline flights coming in from Europe and particularly the hotspots like Italy and those places. Sooner or later it's going to get out in Australia and if it really takes off then this motion is about us being prepared and having a plan in place." Mr Watson said.

Not everyone was in favour:

Councillor John Levett was one of those who opposed the motion.

Mr Levett says it landed on his desk as he walked into the meeting and he dismissed it as little more than some grandstanding by councillor Watson in the lead up to the council elections...

He told Power/2ST news " It really intrudes into operational matters. It's pre-empting the state government's .. whatever state government remedies might be forthcoming in regard to the virus concerning us all and I thought it was not appropriate to vote for the motion."

Councillor Nina Di Giglio voted against adopting the plan.

She says it throws the science on the issue out the window and we should instead listen to the experts..

" I understand the fear around it and that's quite valid, but I think we also need to encompass our common sense and reduce the pandemonium around the so-called pandemic and really act from a place of evidence and with a level head to reduce people's anxiety." Councillor Di Giglio said.

Photo: Power/ST News stock

Coronavirus Fears Swamp Phone Lines - One In Two Virus Related

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Image Credit: CC0 

Coronavirus has caused an unprecedented surge in customers contacting companies with virus-related concerns, bogging down company phone lines for hours.

Contact centre expert Drew Le Grand from CDM Direct said impacted companies are reporting that more than 50 per cent of phone calls are related to the deadly virus.

“Impacted companies are telling us one in every two calls are now Coronavirus related,” Mr Le Grand said.

“Even the Dettol consumer hotline has seen volumes surge over 100 per cent as consumers seek advice on the products effectiveness against the virus.

“Customer wait times for Qantas have pushed out to two-and-a-half-hours. Customers are also reporting lines dropping out after enduring lengthy waits.

“CoverMore Travel insurance customers are being put on hold for upwards of two hours,” Mr Le Grand said.

The most impacted companies include travel agents, tourism operators, airlines, accommodation providers, cruise ships, travel insurance. Schools and higher education institutions have also been inundated with enquires relating to international enrolments.

According to Mr Le Grand retailers and e-commerce sites are also not immune from the virus and are being inundated with questions about out-of stock items and international shipping delays.

“Companies are struggling to cope with this unprecedented surge in customer contact. The problem is that every day sales enquiries and customer support questions are going into some very long queues which is really frustrating customers,” Mr Le Grand said.

“It is already a really tough operating environment for companies and now they have this really challenging business disruption to their non-core business.

“CDM Direct has been doing a lot of call re-routing for our customers into dedicated Coronavirus queues to free up front line staff contact centre staff for other calls.

“We’ve been inundated with short-term assignments from companies needing assistance until calls return to normal volumes,” Mr Le Grand added.

Coronavirus forces new etiquette rules

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Manners are a must as social distancing pushes Australians further apart, as experts turn their noses up at coronavirus panic buying.

Etiquette experts say being polite is crucial even as COVID-19 prompts health authorities to encourage a 1.5-metre space between people.

"We can social distance in a way that is not offensive, and respectful to others," Australian Finishing School chief executive officer Amanda King told AAP on Thursday.

"Communicating in a kind, respectful, polite manner."

Eye contact, a head nod and smiling could be greeting solutions.

"Due to this current crisis, rules governing interaction between people are more relevant than ever," the accredited etiquette expert said.

"We need to be leaders in society with manners and actions around being considerate and polite, for example the grocery store hours for disability and the elderly."

Panic buying has cleared supermarket shelves, leaving the vulnerable and elderly unable to buy food and other staples.

Monash University social philosopher Elizabeth Burns Coleman said the social norms of staying out of people's space had been widened.

"Politeness is always about being appropriate to a situation," Dr Burns Coleman told AAP on Thursday.

"Clear signal to others what you are doing. That allows people to interpret what is going on."

Health authorities want people to exercise "social distancing" measures, such as sitting in the back of a taxi as well as the 1.5m advice.

It comes alongside a limit on outdoor gatherings to less than 500 people and indoor gatherings to no more than 100.

Friends keen to meet in person may want to greet with air kissing while colleagues could head nod, Dr Burns Coleman suggested.

"It should be playful. This is a great time to experiment. Pick up what works," she said.

"We are going to evolve a whole new set of dynamics around social distancing. In some regards these... will be things we adapt in the longer term."

Face masks could become a new normal in a bid to protect others from a person sharing their illness, she suggested.

But don't forgot to exercise good hygiene.

For those not willing to meet in person, friends can have a night in with a Netflix Party, thanks to a Google Chrome extension.

It allows viewers to tune into the same show, and chat while it runs.

Swinburne University of Technology media studies lecturer Liam Burke said streaming shows first pushed people apart, but the tide had turned.

"What that crisis has done has forced us back into close proximity and... that need for social glue at a time of social distancing," Dr Burke said. But remember, always use your manners.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus restriction changes by state

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WHICH STATES AND TERRITORIES ARE EASING CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS?

NEW SOUTH WALES

* NSW will ease gathering restrictions from Friday, May 1.

* A maximum of two adults and their children will be permitted to visit others in their homes.

* Bondi and Bronte beaches have reopened for exercise only while Tamarama beach is only open for locals.

* Students will return to classrooms by mid-term following a staged return during the first fortnight.

* "We know that for many people, they've been cooped up in their homes for a number of weeks, and with the exception of exercising, medical needs or buying what they need or going to work, many people have been isolated in their homes," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

VICTORIA

* Coronavirus restrictions to be reassessed on May 11 when the state of emergency ends.

* "I don't know what transmission will look like this week or next week, but I think the state of emergency going to May 11 is a nice line-up with the national cabinet process for a real look at changing the restrictions," Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said.

QUEENSLAND

* Stay-at-home restrictions to ease from Saturday, May 2.

* Family picnics and weekend drives allowed, national parks will reopen and people can shop for clothing and shoes.

* Citizens must stay within 50km of their homes, and social distancing will still be enforced.

* People from the same household can go out together, while those who live alone can spend time with one other person.

* No change to schools until at least May 15 with students continuing to learn remotely where they can.

* "We recognise that Queenslanders have done a great job in trying to flatten that curve. So we also know it's having a big impact on people's mental health. We thought we could lift some stay-at-home restrictions," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

* Coronavirus restrictions eased from Monday, 27 April.

* Two-person limit on non-work activities, including picnics, boating, hiking, camping. Group exercise eased from two to 10 people, provided they adhere to social distancing and good hygiene.

* Weddings and funerals can have up to 10 people present.

* In real estate, open houses and display villages permitted but records must be kept of everyone who enters a home.

* Students will return to the classroom from May 29.

* WA Premier Mark McGowan said it was a "cautious relaxation" of restrictions.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

* South Australia health officials are looking at which restrictions can be lifted after a fifth consecutive day of no new coronavirus cases.

* "While you will see some states starting to adjust the restrictions, it's worth bearing in mind that South Australia didn't regulate to the same degree," SA Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said.

TASMANIA

* Tasmania won't follow the lead of other states in easing social restrictions.

* Restrictions closing non-essential retail in the northwest have been pushed back to at least May 3.

* Most Tasmanian students to begin term two on Tuesday remotely, but schools in the northwest area will open a week later.

* "Where some states might lift restrictions early, I don't believe we will be doing that. I don't intend to make knee-jerk reaction and take us to a position where the restrictions come off too quickly and then leaves us exposed," Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

* Parks and reserves will reopen this weekend.

* Cafes and gyms expected to reopen in June, but under strict rules.

* The territory's borders to be the last things to be lifted.

* "Based on our progress so far we expect there will be some businesses that can re-open or return to more regular operations within the next months," Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.

ACT

* The territory won't lift any restrictions soon.

* "This is not a race or a contest between jurisdictions. We are in a great position here in the ACT, largely thanks to the great community effort in complying with the rules around physical distancing. However, we have seen around the world what can happen when restrictions are imposed too late or taken away too early," ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus restrictions halt AFL season

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks kicks the ball during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks kicks the ball during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) 

The 2020 AFL premiership season has been shut down in response to new coronavirus measures put in place by federal and state governments.

Round one was only given the green light 24 hours before the season opener, and league chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced on Sunday the competition would pause until May 31.

The AFLW season has been abandoned and no premier will be named after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called on Australians to cancel all non-essential travel within the country.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus sees flu shots fly off shelves

Doctor giving patient vaccine, flu shot. Doctor making a vaccination in the shoulder of patient

Coronavirus sees flu shots fly off shelves (Bigstock)

Pharmacists say they have seen a huge surge in people getting flu shots, outpacing last season's demand.

Medicos are reminding Australians to get vaccinated for flu early this year to ease pressure on the health system, which is under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Chris Freeman says members are reporting huge demand.

He said people had learned from last year's horror flu season.

"(Pharmacist) flu clinics, which have just started in the last couple of weeks, have been fully booked out," Associate Professor Freeman told AAP.

Likewise GPs and medical centres were providing more shots.

"It certainly is increased compared to where we were last year," he said.

"I think the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened that awareness for everybody."

The best time for people to get their flu shot was between now and mid-April to give the vaccine time to take effect, he said.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia's Greg Turnbull said they had seen a heightened demand for flu shots as Australians started to get the message.

""There's already a lot of demand in the community," he told AAP.

"If you're going to try to resist or survive COVID-19, it's better that you are fit and not suffering from influenza at the same time."

Both Prof Freeman and Mr Turnbull stressed the importance of building Australia's flu herd immunity, where enough people are vaccinated against the disease to reduce it spreading.

They were both confident in supplies, with the government ordering extra vaccinations after last year's season.

Vaccine manufacturer Seqirus has previously told AAP it would be able to meet Australian demand, including the separate flu shot for over-65s.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has urged Australians to get their flu shots earlier than usual, but reminded people to call their GP ahead of time.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus-like symptoms found in Bega

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Southern NSW Local Health has confirmed a patient at South East Regional Hospital at Bega is being tested for Coronavirus, after presenting at the hospital with pneumonia-like symptoms. 

A spokesman says testing for the virus is a precaution with test results expected back today around midday.

The patient is in isolation at the hospital.


Photo: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2067688/coronavirus-what-providers-patients-should-know/

Country singer dies of virus complications

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This Aug. 22, 2018 file photo shows Joe Diffie at the 12th annual ACM Honors in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Al Wagner/Invision/AP, File) 

Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles such as Home and Pick-up Man, has died aged 61 after testing positive for COVID-19.

Diffie on Friday announced he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis.

Diffie's publicist Scott Adkins said the singer died Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, due to complications from the virus.

Diffie, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years.

His hits included Honky Tonk Attitude, Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die), Bigger Than the Beatles and If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).

His mid-90s albums Honky Tonk Attitude and Third Rock From the Sun went platinum.

Eighteen of Diffie's singles landed in the top 10 on the country charts, with five going No.1.

Diffie shared in a Grammy award for best country collaboration for the song Same Old Train with Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart and others.

His last solo album was 2010's The Bluegrass Album: Homecoming.

"Joe was a real true honky tonk hero to every country artist alive today," singer John Rich said in a statement.

"No one sang our music better than he did, and to see his life and artistry cut short is beyond tragic. He was loved, cherished and respected by all of country music and beyond."

Deanna Carter said she was "shell-shocked" by the news and had hoped to perform again with Diffie this year.

"He was a powerhouse that stopped people in their tracks, both on and off stage," she said.

Diffie is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children from four marriages.

© AP 2020

COVID-19 case numbers increase

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An additional 40 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in NSW to 307.

Cases confirmed: 307Cases tested and excluded​: 38,782

Of the confirmed cases, approximately 5 people are currently in our Intensive Care Units. The majority of cases have mild disease and are in isolation at home.

A confirmed case attended the Rugby Australia Australian Club Championship post-match function, following a game between Sydney University and the University of Queensland Rugby Clubs.

This function was held at the Sydney University Football Ground Function Room on Saturday 14 March starting at 7:30pm and finishing at 10:30pm. Those who attended the function are considered close contacts, and are required to home isolate until midnight Saturday 28 March.

NSW Health have been notified that a female patient, currently being treated at Shoalhaven Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19.

NSW Health public health and infection control officers are urgently working with hospital staff to ensure all patients, staff and others who may have had close contact with the female patient are identified.

These people are being contacted and will be in self-isolation for 14 days after their last contact with the confirmed case. Several mitigation strategies are in place to ensure continuity of service at Shoalhaven Hospital.

The number of confirmed covid-19 cases from this months wedding at Stanwell Tops north of Wollongong has exploded to 31...NSW Health has confirmed that 26 of the cases are residents of New South Wales...

/news/coronavirus-updates

 

COVID-19 cases continue to stabilise in New South Wales

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NSW has recorded 48 new COVID-19 cases as new infections continue to stabilise while the Premier has flagged a potential relaxation of social distancing restrictions down the track but she is cautious about the risks involved.

The state has now confirmed 2734 cases with 36 patients in intensive care and the death toll remaining at 21.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that while social distancing will be a part of people's lives until a Coronavirus vaccine or cure is found, restrictions were being reviewed every month.

"Every month our health experts will give us advice as to whether there is an opportunity for us to relax any of the restrictions.

"I want to assure the community that if we did go down that path it would be based on health advice and we are going to assess that on a month-by-month basis," she said.

The state's Chief Medical Officer has again called on the Shoalhaven communities identified as possible COVID hotspots to be on the alert.

Authorities have ramped up testing in areas where there's been a cluster of cases and evidence of community transmission.

Nowra and South Nowra are two of those being watched and Dr Kerry Chant is pressing residents experiencing flu-like symptoms to go to the Shoalhaven Hospital Coronavirus clinic to be checked out.

"I really urge the community to work with us in health and present for testing in those areas.

"We will change those areas because this is going to be a rolling process as we move through this spread of COVID in the community where we will need to call upon different communities at different times to embrace the testing message," Dr Chant said.

Three children were on Tuesday taken to hospital from a Sydney hotel where a number of people have been placed in quarantine after returning to Australia.

The children are being tested after displaying flu-like symptoms.

The development came as the first group of 288 Australians that were quarantined for 14-days at the Swisshotel were released under a Police operation.

Police will plan for further hotel departures with some 3000 Australian residents expected to come out of hotel isolation over the next week.

Image: news stock

COVID-19 cases increase in Illawarra/Shoalhaven

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The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District has confirmed 51 cases of the COVID-19 Virus, as the pandemic continues.

 The majority are over 60 and most are mild to moderate and in home isolation.

Dr Bruce Ashford told a media gathering outside Wollongong hospital yesterday  they have been preparing and resourcing, and have asked people to re-think visits to Wollongong Hospital.

Dr Ashford says they've closed Wolllongong's  Crown Street doors, and the entrance that comes off the Emergency Department waiting rooms, in an effort to control hospital 'traffic'.

While visitors to Shoalhaven hospital have been limited to two.

 

Covid-19 cases rise in NSW as elderly woman dies

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Premier  Berejiklian is calling on businesses to help plug crucial health equipment shortages as the state's coronavirus death toll rises to nine.

The number of confirmed infections in NSW has grown to 2182 while a 95-year-old woman has became the ninth COVID-19 death in the state, bringing the national death toll to 20.

Ms Berejiklian has urged businesses to re-direct their efforts towards the battle against coronavirus.

"I'm calling on the great people of our state, those great business people, those manufacturers who are able to re-tool, to help supply the additional things we need in coming months.

"Whether it's sanitisers, medical equipment or a whole host of other things which our hospitals will rely on in the coming months," she said.

NSW Health confirmed a 95-year-old woman from the Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Macquarie Park had died, the fifth person from that nursing home to die after contracting COVID-19.

There have been 150 new coronavirus cases recorded in NSW overnight after a few days of decreasing numbers.

Police are trying to soothe concerns about the enforcement of new coronavirus self-isolation measures.

Gatherings of more than two people - apart from immediate family - are banned in NSW and Police have powers to fine those flouting the rules.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says officers will take a common sense approach.

"I know there has been criticism of Police, which I don't accept.

"We haven't issued one infringement of the new powers at this stage.

"If you need medical assistance, pharmacies, doctors, the hospital - you can leave.

"If you need food, you can leave.

"If you are driving home and you need a take-away coffee, nothing wrong with jumping out the car and getting a coffee, just don't sit down and have it there," he said.

Image: Power/ST news

Covid-19 could kill 81000 in US: analysis

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The coronavirus pandemic could kill more than 81,000 people in the United States in the next four months and may not subside until June, according to a data analysis done by the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The number of hospitalised patients is expected to peak nationally by the second week of April, though the peak may come later in some states. Some people could continue to die of the virus as late as July, although deaths should be below epidemic levels of 10 per day by June at the latest, according to the analysis.

The analysis, using data from governments, hospitals and other sources, predicts that the number of US deaths could vary widely, ranging from as low as around 38,000 to as high as around 162,000.

The variance is due in part to disparate rates of the spread of the virus in different regions, which experts are still struggling to explain, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study.

The duration of the virus means there may be a need for social distancing measures for longer than initially expected, although the country may eventually be able relax restrictions if it can more effectively test and quarantine the sick, Murray said.

The analysis also highlights the strain that will be placed on hospitals. At the epidemic's peak, sick patients could exceed the number of available hospital beds by 64,000 and could require the use of around 20,000 ventilators. Ventilators are already running short in hard-hit places like New York City.

The virus is spreading more slowly in California, which could mean that peak cases there will come later in April and social distancing measures will need to be extended in the state for longer, Murray said.

Louisiana and Georgia are predicted to see high rates of contagion and could see a particularly high burden on their local healthcare systems, he added.

The analysis assumes close adherence to infection prevention measures imposed by federal, state and local governments.

"The trajectory of the pandemic will change - and dramatically for the worse - if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions," Murray said in a statement.

The analysis comes as the US becomes the country that has has the most coronavirus cases in the world.

© RAW 2020

COVID-19 new restrictions

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 The Prime Minister has  announced a range of strict new social distancing measures which will come into effect from midnight. 

They include:

Food courts in shopping centres will have to go to takeaway only.

Auction houses will have to close, real estate auctions and open house inspections must cease.

 State Govts will make a decision on outdoor and indoor markets (excluding food markets).

Beauty therapy, nail salons, spas, massage services, tanning & waxing services will all have to close.

 Hairdressers and barbers can stay open - but must restrict the time a client is in a salon to no more than 30 minutes.

Amusement parks and arcades will close.

Community halls and pools must close.

Weddings can only have 5 people attending while observing the one person per 4 square metre rule.

Funerals can have no more than 10 people while observing the 4 square metre rule.

Schools are staying open.

Photo: screenshot

COVID-19 Update: What you need to know

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𝗔𝗗𝗗𝗜𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡𝗔𝗟 𝗤𝗨𝗔𝗥𝗔𝗡𝗧𝗜𝗡𝗘 𝗠𝗘𝗔𝗦𝗨𝗥𝗘𝗦:
🚫 As of midnight Saturday 28 March, returning travellers will be quarantined at designated facilities (such as a hotel) for 14 days in the town or city they fly into, instead of self-isolating at home. Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities.

🚫 Defence Australia will support the NSW Police Force to ensure people already self-isolating are complying with instructions. They’ll visit homes/residences of people in NSW who are in mandatory isolation and will report to the local police whether the identified individual was at the residence.

𝗡𝗦𝗪 𝗦𝗘𝗖𝗢𝗡𝗗 𝗦𝗧𝗜𝗠𝗨𝗟𝗨𝗦 𝗣𝗔𝗖𝗞𝗔𝗚𝗘:
💰 We’ve released Stage 2 of the economic stimulus package worth billions to provide relief for NSW businesses and support our most vulnerable. This includes funding to help prevent homelessness, assistance for energy bills, and support for charities and Lifeline. More info at https://bit.ly/COVID-19-Second-Stimulus-Package

𝗕𝗨𝗦𝗘𝗦 𝗔𝗥𝗘 𝗖𝗔𝗦𝗛𝗟𝗘𝗦𝗦:
🚍To help protect the health of your driver, Opal single tickets will no longer be sold onboard buses across the Opal network. Learn more at https://transportnsw.info/COVID19

𝗖𝗢𝗠𝗣𝗟𝗜𝗔𝗡𝗖𝗘 𝗧𝗢 𝗛𝗘𝗔𝗟𝗧𝗛 𝗔𝗗𝗩𝗜𝗖𝗘:
👮If you don’t comply with directions to self-isolate, you can cop a $1,000 on-the-spot fine as an individual or $5,000 as an organisation.

Police officers will also no longer require a warrant to arrest an individual breaching a public health order.

👮Report anyone who doesn’t comply with public health advice to Crime Stoppers online at www.nsw.crimestoppers.com.au

𝗔𝗨𝗦 𝗧𝗥𝗔𝗩𝗘𝗟 𝗔𝗗𝗩𝗜𝗖𝗘:
✈️A ban on all overseas travel for Australians is now place. Exemptions include citizens who normally live overseas; where travel is essential; where travel is in our national interest, where travel is on compassionate & humanitarian grounds.
✈️Australian borders have closed to everyone excluding Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members. Australians abroad, if you wish to return home, do so ASAP. More at http://smartraveller.gov.au

✈️Tasmania, the NT, WA, QLD, and SA have announced border closures. Anyone entering is to self-isolate for 14 days.

𝟮𝟰/𝟳 𝗡𝗦𝗪 𝗖𝗢𝗩𝗜𝗗-𝟭𝟵 𝗛𝗢𝗧𝗟𝗜𝗡𝗘 (𝟭𝟯 𝟳𝟳 𝟴𝟴)

NSW workers and businesses are now able to access a range of advice and support on non-health related COVID-19 enquiries via a Service NSW's hotline. It is open 24/7 on 13 77 88.

𝗠𝗢𝗥𝗘 𝗜𝗡𝗙𝗢:
🆕 Latest NSW Health updates on COVID-19: https://bit.ly/33FKrnN

✈️ Known flights with confirmed cases of COVID-19: http://bit.ly/COVID-19-NSWFlights

📍 Heat map of NSW confirmed cases of COVID-19: https://bit.ly/COVID-19-NSW-Heatmap

🦠🔍Find the facts on COVID-19: https://bit.ly/COVID-19-NSW-FindTheFacts

✅ Find out if you need to get tested for COVID-19 with the Symptom Checker: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool

ℹ️ More info and advice on COVID-19: http://bit.ly/novel-coronavirus-covid-19

ℹ️ More info non-essential businesses & activities: https://bit.ly/COVID-19-NSW-Restrictions-on-Facilities

🚸 You can follow NSW Department of Education for regular updates. More at https://bit.ly/COVID-19-Schools-FAQs

📞 If you’re concerned you have COVID-19, please call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.

Story source: NSW Government. Image: news stock

COVID-19 vaccine trial to start in Perth

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Linear Clinical Research in Perth has been selected to undertake human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine (AAP Image/Supplied by Linear Clinical Research) 

A Perth clinical research company wants healthy adults and elderly volunteers to participate in one of the world's first human coronavirus vaccine trials.

The protein-based COVID-19 S-Trimer potential vaccine aims to help the body produce antibodies to fight the virus.

Volunteers will participate in the trial in the next two months and if successful, a larger phase involving thousands of people globally will be conducted.

The trial will be run by Perth's Linear Clinical Research and was developed by China-based Clover Biopharmaceuticals.

Linear Clinical Research chief Jayden Rogers said the vaccine showed immense potential.

With more than 60 possible vaccines being developed globally, he said it was significant because it was one of the first to make it to human trials.

"This is one of the most prominent trials globally and involves some of the most renowned vaccines companies," Mr Rogers said.

The vaccine was promising because of Clover Biopharmaceuticals' technology platform, he said.

It has previously been used in a number of clinical studies and to develop vaccines for other RNA-based viruses like influenza, RSV and HIV.

"The fight against COVID-19 requires a global effort bringing together the best science and innovation," Mr Rogers said.

"We are fortunate to be one of the few countries in the world to still be offering functional clinical trial facilities because we do not have large volumes of COVID-19 cases as compared to other parts of the world."

© AAP 2020

COVID-19  death toll rises

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NSW has now recorded 18 coronavirus deaths as the state's total number of cases rises to 2637.

NSW Health said today the state had recorded 57 new cases - a drop on the previous day which was partly explained by fewer tests being done over the weekend.

The death toll rose to 18 after the deaths of an 86-year-old man and an 85-year- old man on Sunday.

 

Criminal investigation into Coronavirus plagued Ruby Princess ramps up at Port Kembla

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Detectives involved in the criminal investigation into why the Ruby Princess docked and let its 2,700 passengers off in Sydney last month have spent the night interviewing high-priority witnesses.

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Strike Force investigators dressed in protective clothing boarded the ship at Port Kembla and ramped up inquiries while its crew remain in isolation at the dock.

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15 people linked to the vessel have died from Coronavirus while more than 600 others have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Detectives will continue interviewing people over the coming days.

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Police said the operation is being conducted under the strictest health and workplace safety guidelines.

Images: NSW Police

Data on drug raises hopes in virus fight

metal box with a test kit of the medicine Remdesivir against corona virus, Denmark, April 16, 2020

Data on antiviral drug remdesivir raises hopes in virus fight (Bigstock)

The United States' top infectious disease official says experimental antiviral drug remdesivir will become the standard of care for COVID-19 after early results from a key clinical trial showed it helped patients recover more quickly from the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Preliminary results from a US government trial showing that patients given remdesivir recovered 31 per cent faster than those given a placebo, were hailed by Dr Anthony Fauci as "highly significant".

"This is really quite important," Fauci told reporters at the White House, likening it to a moment in 1986 "when we were struggling for drugs for HIV and we had nothing".

"This will be the standard of care," he said.

The US Food and Drug Administration said it has been in discussions with manufacturer Gilead Sciences about making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, but the agency declined to comment on any plans to grant the drug regulatory approval.

"I want them to go as quickly as they can," President Donald Trump said, when asked if he wanted the FDA to grant emergency use authorisation for remdesivir.

"We want everything to be safe, but we would like to see very quick approvals, especially with things that work."

Interest in remdesivir has been high as there are no approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, and doctors are desperate for anything that might alter the course of the disease that attacks the lungs and can shut down other organs in severe cases.

Doctors on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle have been eager for results from the study because it is a large trial in which patients were randomised to treatment with the drug or a placebo without participants or doctors knowing which group they were in - the gold standard for clinical trials.

Gilead earlier this month said the company was prepared to donate to hospitals its existing supply of 1.5 million doses of remdesivir - enough for more than 140,000 patients depending on length of treatment. Regulatory approval of the drug would also clear the way for commercial sales.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, said partial results from its 1063-patient trial show that hospitalised COVID-19 patients given remdesivir recovered in 11 days, compared to 15 days for patients given a placebo.

The study showed a trend toward better survival for remdesivir - 8 per cent of patients given the drug died compared with 11.6 per cent in the placebo group - but the difference was not statistically significant so may not be due to Gilead's drug.

Despite the excitement, Dr Lawrence K. Altman, global fellow at The Wilson Center in Washington, was not ready to celebrate the preliminary findings.

The new data "offers a glimmer of hope" that remdesivir has an effect against COVID-19, but more scientific analysis is needed "comparing them to other studies of the drug that have shown mixed results", he said in a statement.

Also on Wednesday, results were published by the Lancet medical journal of a trial conducted in China that concluded remdesivir failed to improve patients' condition or reduce the pathogen's presence in the bloodstream.

Gilead said previously that those findings were inconclusive because the study was terminated early.

© DPA 2020

Disneyland shuts due to coronavirus

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Disney has temporarily closed theme parks in California because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The move to shutter its parks comes as the novel virus continues to rapidly spread across the country.

Over the past week it has officially become a pandemic, with cases increasing in the US, Asia and across Europe.

It's only the fourth time in history that Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has fully suspended operations. The other instances were the September 11 attacks, the morning after JFK's assassination and the Northridge earthquake.

It's unclear if Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, will remain open.

Disney said in a statement, "While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the Governor of California's executive order and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month".

The Hotels of Disneyland Resort will remain open until Monday, March 16 to give guests the ability to make necessary travel arrangements and Downtown Disney will remain open.

"We will monitor the ongoing situation and follow the advice and guidance of federal and state officials and health agencies. Disney will continue to pay cast members during this time," the statement said.

The company added, "Disneyland Resort will work with guests who wish to change or cancel their visits, and will provide refunds to those who have hotel bookings during this closure period."

Closures seemed inevitable after Los Angeles Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday called for gatherings with more than 250 people to be cancelled or delayed in an effort to halt the transmission of the virus. Officials are also encouraging "social distancing" of two metres per person.

Disney closed its parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong in January, and has also temporarily closed its parks in Japan as well.

Disney reported that it could lose $US280 million in revenues due to closures in Shanghai and Hong Kong alone.

© RAW 2020

Elderly head to Woolies for shopping hour

Empty shelves of tissues are seen at Woolworths Town Hall in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi) NO ARCHIVING

Empty shelves of tissues are seen at Woolworths Town Hall in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Seniors and pension card holders have made the most of a dedicated shopping hour set up at major supermarkets in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The initiative was started by the major supermarket groups to help seniors who have been disadvantaged by panic buying as a result of the coronavirus.

People with government-issued concession cards on Tuesday flocked to Woolworths supermarkets for the dedicated shopping hour which runs nationally from 7am to 8am on weekdays.

The stores open to everyone else after 8am.

"This temporary measure will give them, and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open - helping them obtain the essential items they need most in a less-crowded environment," Managing Director Claire Peters said.

Panic buying in recent weeks sparked by the spread of COVID-19 in Australia has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice, frozen food as well as tinned and other dried goods.

The issue has caused stress and frustration amongst elderly shoppers, many of whom find it difficult to make frequent visits to supermarkets for essential goods. In many cases, particularly for toilet paper, the shelves are often stripped bare.

Woolworths fresh food director Paul Harker said the initiative had proved very popular on Tuesday morning.

He insists there is no shortage of goods despite reports of widespread food shortages.

"There is no shortage of goods here in Australia," he told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

"It is a logistics exercise of moving the product to get it back into stores with the pace and demand we're seeing."

He said the exclusive shopping hour for seniors and pension card holders will be reviewed later this week to determine how it can best be managed.

The Coles shopping hour will start on Wednesday, when its stores also open at 7am for customers holding a government-issued Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card and Health Care Card.

Coles is also seeking more than 5000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets faster under a fast-tracked induction process and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.

It also plans to dedicate grocery deliveries to people who are isolated and vulnerable. This means deliveries for other customers will be temporarily suspended, as will the Click&Collect service.

"We believe all Australians deserve the right to access their share of grocery items, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable," Coles CEO Steven Cain said.

Meanwhile, the smaller national supermarket chain IGA is considering whether to roll out a similar pensioners-and-seniors-only shopping hour across its 1300 Australian stores.

The idea is being trialled at an IGA in Melbourne's Altona, with a shopping hour between 6am to 7am, which could be extended across its network if successful.

IGA Chief Executive Fred Harrison said on Monday a final decision would be made by Wednesday.

© AAP 2020

Endangered pangolins could be virus hosts

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Pangolins should be considered as possible hosts of coronavirus, scientists have said.

Researchers in Hong Kong and China claim to have found viruses in the scaly mammals which are closely related to the one responsible for the Covid-19 outbreak.

The team analysed samples taken from more than 30 Malayan pangolins seized during anti-smuggling operations between August 2017 and January 2019.

They detected two groups of coronaviruses related to the new virus behind the human pandemic, called Sars-CoV-2, in some of the animals smuggled into China.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, they said the findings suggest handling pangolins "requires considerable caution" and that the sale of these animals in wet markets "should be strictly prohibited".

Pangolins, which are classified as threatened with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature are said to be the most widely trafficked mammals in the world.

The animals, which are native to Asia, are used as both a food source and their scales are utilised in traditional Chinese medicine.

Bats are thought to be the original source of Sars-CoV-2, with another species being an intermediate host before zoonotic (animal to human) transmission.

Outside of bats, pangolins are the only mammals reported to date that have been found to be infected with a coronavirus related to Sars-Cov-2.

© PAA 2020

Fans barred from Aus GP: Vic premier

Spectators queue at the gate to gain entry ahead of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix 2020 at the the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AAP Image/Scott Barbour) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Spectators queue at the gate to gain entry ahead of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix 2020 at the the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AAP Image/Scott Barbour)

The Australian Formula One Grand Prix will be run without spectators due to the coronavirus, if it goes ahead at all this weekend, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews says.

"From a public health point of view, if the event is to be run - I will leave it to Grand Prix officials, the F1 organising body, to make an official announcement," Andrews told reporters in Sydney.

"On public health grounds, there will be no spectators at the Grand Prix this weekend - if a race actually happens at all.

"Now (organisers) are making the choice between no event or an event without fans."

Earlier, grand prix chairman Paul Little insisted the F1 season-opener in Melbourne would go ahead despite multiple reports the race will be cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The McLaren team has withdrawn from the event in Melbourne after a team member tested positive for coronavirus.

Despite widespread media reports overnight that the race won't proceed, Little told the Nine network on Friday the grand prix was going ahead.

Eight F1 team members had been tested for coronavirus with results released on Thursday revealing one, from McLaren, had tested positive to the potentially deadly virus.

McLaren subsequently withdrew from the event, due to start on Friday with practice sessions for Sunday's grand prix.

"The decision has been taken based on a duty of care not only to McLaren F1 employees and partners but also to the team's competitors, Formula 1 fans and wider F1 stakeholders," McLaren said in a statement.

"The team member was tested and self-isolated as soon as they started to show symptoms and will now be treated by local healthcare authorities.

"The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine."

Overnight, the BBC and Sky Television Association reported the race would be stopped after a crisis meeting between F1 hierarchy.

A number of team owners were reportedly unhappy to continue the event.

There has been no official confirmation from F1 or the sport's governing body, the FIA.

On Thursday, six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton said he found it "shocking" that the race was being staged amid a global coronavirus pandemic.

"I am really very, very surprised that we are here," the Mercedes star said.

"For me it is shocking that we are all sitting in this (press conference) room.

"It seems like the rest of the world is reacting... Formula One continues to go on - it's definitely concerning for me."

© AAP 2020

Fate of Virgin Aust still up in the air

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The NSW government is in talks with Virgin Australia about giving the cash-strapped airline a possible financial lifeline, but only if it moves its national headquarters from Brisbane to Sydney.

Virgin is carrying about $5 billion in debt and its domestic and international business has been hit due to the impact of the coronavirus.

The carrier has been seeking federal help to keep it running but the Morrison government has rejected its request for $1.4 billion.

The Queensland government has announced it had offered $200 million to help rescue Virgin, so long as it maintains its Brisbane HQ.

Now NSW has stepped in, with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet telling Sky News on Sunday night it was considering offering support and pointing to the new aerotropolis being built at Badgerys Creek in western Sydney.

"Virgin should have their headquarters for both Virgin and Tiger in Sydney," Mr Perrottet said. Tiger Air is owned by Virgin Australia.

"I'm always open for businesses right across the country to relocate to New South Wales and create jobs here in our state, particularly when you look at the aerotroplis in western Sydney.

"It provides a significant opportunity for Virgin and other airlines to relocate to our state."

© AAP 2020

Fears for local businesses as coronavirus takes hold

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Another call for us to band together to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Member for Kiama GARETH WARD says while the fires brought out the best in us, COVID-19 appears to be bringing out the worst.. with hoarding and ongoing reports of fights at supermarkets.

MR WARD says there is no shortage of food or toiletry supplies in this country and has flagged a greater concern.."I really am worried about people falling into homelessness because jobs are going to be lost because people aren't going to cafes anymore, not going to bars anymore, not going to small businesses anymore. Look this is going to be something that we're going to have to deal with over not just weeks but months ahead and potentially the impact will extend over a year."

Photo: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=closed%20sign&tbm=isch&hl=en&hl=en&tbs=sur%3Afc&ved=0CAIQpwVqFwoTCLieu6e_p-gCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAC&biw=1903&bih=937#imgrc=kpfG8MNNaeX_zM

 

Ferrets will reveal if virus vaccines work

Generic image inside a lab at the CSIRO's high-containment facility in Geelong, Friday, January 31, 2020. CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, has commenced key research in the rapid global response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. (AAP Image/David Crosling) NO ARCHIVING

Australian scientists from the CSIRO have been trusted to determine if the two vaccine candidates are effective and safe enough to test on humans (AAP Image/David Crosling)

Ferrets at a high-security Victorian lab will determine if two potential coronavirus vaccines can proceed to human trials within months.

Australian scientists from the CSIRO have been trusted to determine if the two vaccine candidates are effective and safe enough to test on humans.

If all goes well with the ferrets, phase-one human trials could begin later this month or in early June.

But even then, a vaccine won't be widely available until the end of the year at the earliest.

"The end of the year would be an optimist's view. Early next year would be closer to the reality, all things working well," the CSIRO's director of health and biosecurity Rob Grenfell told reporters on Thursday.

The agency will spend the next few months working out if the candidates - developed by the University of Oxford and US company Inovio Pharmaceuticals - are effective and harmless.

The ferrets, deliberately infected at a high-containment biosecurity facility in Geelong, were vaccinated a few days ago.

They seem relatively well so far apart from having slight fevers.

"Eventually we will challenge the ferrets - we'll inoculate them with some of the virus and see how they compare to unvaccinated controls," said Professor Trevor Drew, the director of the CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

If the vaccines are effective, immunised animals should no longer shed the virus.

Scientists will also be looking for any sign the ferrets' health is worsening, with previous trials for the SARS virus showing vaccines can sometimes make a disease worse.

"When cells of the immune system see an infected cell, they tell it to kill itself. This can cause overt damage to the lung, if there are a lot of cells in the lung which are infected at that time," Prof Drew said.

"We need to be able to measure defence responses and make sure it does not cause overt damage."

The work the scientists are doing would usually take a couple of years. But the urgency of the pandemic means everything is being done safely, but at break-neck speed.

Several rounds of human trials will be required if the ferret trials are deemed successful.

The potential vaccines are among six to be tested around the world.

They were identified by Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, in consultation with the World Health Organisation, as the most promising solutions to a virus that has infected more than 900,000 people and killed at least 45,000 globally.

Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has warned the virus will not be beaten without a vaccine, as the nation's number of diagnosed cases approaches 5000 with 23 deaths so far.

Asked how much hope people should have, Dr Grenfell said the world was seeing unprecedented cooperation among scientists and the public and private sectors.

"That, in itself, gives us a lot of hope."

Ferrets were chosen as the test animal because it has the right receptor cells in its lungs to allow infection, and has proven to be a suitable animal model in the past for research into SARS, influenza and even ebola.

© AAP 2020

First coronavirus death in Tasmania

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An elderly woman has become the first person to die from coronavirus in Tasmania, as the state introduces tough policing of social gathering restrictions.

The woman, aged in her 80s, died on Monday morning in the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie.

"I extend my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends. They're being provided the support and care they need at this time," Premier Peter Gutwein told reporters.

"All Tasmanians need to accept and understand that this is not a game. This is serious. Peoples' lives are at risk."

The woman had been unwell "for some days", Public Health Director Mark Veitch said.

There have now been 17 COVID-19 deaths nationally.

Mr Gutwein said anyone who disobeys the two-person-in-public rule, which comes into effect nationally from midnight on Monday, will be committing an offence and could be arrested and charged.

People have been ordered to stay home unless they are going to work or school, getting essential supplies or medical supplies, providing compassionate care or exercising.

Mr Gutwein urged people to take responsibility for their movements.

"This will be more deaths if this gets away from us. There will be more families burying loved ones," he warned.

The order will be in place for four weeks and then reviewed.

The maximum penalty for breaching restrictions is $16,800 or six months prison, with on-the-spot fines of up to $750-$1000 in the works.

Tasmania confirmed four new cases of coronavirus on Sunday night, bringing the state's total to 66.

Investigations are ongoing into two cases of potential community transmission at Devonport in the north.

Mr Veitch said 22 people linked to the two cases, neither of whom recently travelled overseas or on a cruise ship, are in quarantine.

Mr Gutwein urged people with holiday homes to stay in one residence and not move around the state.

Ten people have been issued on-the-spot fines for camping in banned areas.

© AAP 2020

First day of eased NSW virus restrictions

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Pubs and clubs will join cafes, restaurants and places of worship in welcoming back people inside their doors as NSW enjoys its first day under an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted from Friday and up to five people, including children, can visit households.

Religious gatherings and places of worship can welcome up to 10 people while restaurants and cafes can have up to 10 patrons as long as they maintain social distancing.

Ten guests are allowed at weddings, up to 20 at indoor funerals and up to 30 at outdoor funerals.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet confirmed this week pubs and clubs will join cafes and restaurants in being able to open for dining from Friday as part of the state government's push to boost the economy.

Bars and gaming facilities will remain closed but table service for alcohol with a meal will be allowed so long as businesses adhere to social distancing requirements and stick to a limit of 10 patrons.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday she understood it would not be viable for many larger venues to open and on Friday reiterated social distancing remained crucial.

"Some may even have already started enjoying the new freedoms that come with easing restrictions today but that also comes with personal responsibility and I can't stress that enough," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

"Easing restrictions have failed in so many places around the world and I don't want that to happen in NSW."

NSW recorded eight new cases of COVID-19 from 12200 tests in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, taking the state's total to 3071. Seven people are in intensive care.

The state's death toll remains at 47 and the national toll 98.

After closing their doors to worshippers in March, Catholic churches in NSW will reopen on Friday for private prayer, confession and small-scale masses, a statement from the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese said on Thursday.

St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney's CBD opened at 6.30am with the first of four masses on Friday at 7am.

Outdoor equipment including gyms and playgrounds can be used with caution, with people encouraged to wipe down the equipment, and outdoor pools are open with restrictions.

Randwick City Council will reopen all of its beaches for recreation from Friday, including Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra, as well as some ocean pools.

"Really, the way we move forward now is up to us," Ms Berejiklian said.

"(Social distancing) will be part of our lives until there is a vaccine or cure, we just have to accept that. But we can appreciate our time staying at home in the main has made us all appreciate what matters most."

© AAP 2020

Fly Corporate to ground fleet

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The Illawarra's only commercial passenger airline, Fly Corporate is temporarily suspending its operations from 1pm tomorrow following the government's decision to impose strict domestic travel limitations and border restrictions throughout Australia as part of the Coronavirus response.

Fly Corporate CEO, Andrew Major said the current circumstances are unprecedented.

"We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience to customers and would like to thank all of them, and our loyal staff, for their support.

"We wish everyone well during this most difficult period," he said.

The regional airline is targeting resumption of operations in the second half of 2020 but this will be governed by the extent of impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery from that impact throughout Australia.

Fly Corporate said it will resume normal operations as soon as possible once the Covid-19 situation has alleviated, travel restrictions have lifted, travel demand has normalised and operations can responsibly re-commence.

Customers whose travel plans have been affected by the suspension of all flight operations will be provided a travel credit for the value of their ticket which will remain available for use on the Fly Corporate network within 12 months of the original ticket issue date.

Fly Corporate will waive normal change fees, however at time of rebooking, one change will be permitted and fees for any differences in fares and/or applicable taxes may apply.

The airline said it will contact all customers with bookings.

Image: Travis Winks

France coronavirus death toll tops 1000

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France has become the fifth country to report more than 1000 deaths from coronavirus and the national lockdown imposed last week for an initial 15 days chould last at least six weeks.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told a briefing on Tuesday he could not determine at this stage when the lockdown would end. If the government were to follow the scientific council's advice, France would remain at a virtual standstill until April 28.

A statement by the council, which advises President Emmanuel Macron on the coronavirus crisis, also said the lockdown was the only really efficient strategy at the moment and "needs to be strictly implemented".

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Monday the widespread lockdown in France could last several more weeks and his government was tightening restrictions on daily life even further.

Veran also said France would heed World Health Organisation recommendations to increase coronavirus testing. Health agency chief Jerome Salomon said later France would soon be able to conduct 10,000 tests a day.

Salomon reported 240 new deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday for a total of 1100, an increase of 28 per cent that made France the fifth nation to cross the 1000-fatalities threshold after China, Italy, Iran and Spain.

This tally only accounts for people who died in public hospitals, whereas several retirement homes have been reporting deaths in the double digits.

Salomon said health authorities would soon be able to tabulate data coming from retirement homes, which will likely trigger a more dramatic increase in registered fatalities.

He said the total number of infections in France had risen to 22,300, a 12 per cent jump in 24 hours.

Salomon added that 2516 people were in a serious condition requiring life support, up by 21 per cent from Monday, and that 8000 hospital beds were now equipped with ventilators.

© RAW 2020

Freight's back on the menu after virus hit

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Farmers and fishers who had their exports derailed by coronavirus will be able to start sending their goods overseas again.

Air freight will be used to export Australian produce and bring back urgently needed medical supplies.

"Getting our export sector back on its feet is crucial to reduce job losses through the crisis," Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said.

"It's a critical part of the ultimate economic recovery."

The operation will also help prop up Australia's struggling airlines, with the government spending $110 million to secure the flights.

Produce will be shipped to key Australian markets including China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

Fishers will also see $10 million worth of levies waived for the rest of the year.

Former Australia Post executive Michael Byrne will head the export operations.

Assistant Fisheries Minister Jonno Duniam said the industry had taken a massive hit when China shut its borders.

"Unlocking key international markets will get thousands of fishers, divers, deckhands and processors back on the job," he said.

© AAP 2020

Global coronavirus cases top one million

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Global coronavirus cases have topped one million as the pandemic explodes in the US and the death toll continues to climb in Italy and Spain, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The virus has killed more than 51,000 globally with the largest number of deaths in Italy, followed by Spain and the US.

The first 100,000 cases were reported in around 55 days and the first 500,000 in 76 days. Cases doubled to one million within the past eight days.

Total cases reported by Thursday grew 10 per cent from a day earlier, the first time the rate has hit double digits since the virus took hold outside China.

There are 117 countries and territories that have reported above 100 cases, 50 with outbreaks of more than 1000 and seven that have reported 50,000 or more COVID-19 cases, mainly in Europe.

The global fatality rate is now above five per cent of all reported cases, with countries including the UK, the US and Spain reporting a spike in fatalities over recent days.

Around 22 per cent of total cases have been reported by the US, while Italy and Spain have each reported 11 per cent of global cases.

China, where the virus emerged in December, has reported eight per cent of total cases globally as the epicenter of the pandemic moved to Europe and the US.

Europe together accounts for more than half of cases and more than 70 per cent of deaths linked to the virus, as countries in southern Europe with higher older age demographics have been hit particularly hard.

© RAW 2020

Government steps up with free child care

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces the government's $130b wage subsidy package at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, March 30, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) has announced free childcare for parents still using it during the coronavirus crisis (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Childcare will be free for parents still using it during the coronavirus crisis.

The government will also support the nation's 13,000 childcare centres to remain open in the wake of enrolment and attendance numbers plummeting.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said child care was an essential service to keep all parents who still had jobs in the current economy in that work.

© AAP 2020

Govt sets Ruby Princess probe in motion

NSW Police Rescue officers look on as the Ruby Princess, with crew only onboard, docks at Port Kembla, Wollongong, Friday, January 1, 2016. A criminal investigation will be launched into how cruise line operator Carnival Australia was allowed to disembark Ruby Princess passengers in Sydney, resulting in several deaths and COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the country. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING

NSW Police Rescue officers look on as the Ruby Princess, with crew only onboard, docks at Port Kembla, Wollongong, Friday, January 1, 2016. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) 

The NSW government will establish a commission of inquiry into the disembarkation of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which is linked to at least 18 coronavirus-related deaths across Australia.

The inquiry will report back within four months, with NSW police and coronial investigations running in parallel to the probe.

Barrister Bret Walker SC will serve as commissioner for the inquiry and will examine the ship's departure, arrival and disembarkation.

"It is important that answers are provided quickly for the people of NSW," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We will leave no stone unturned until we find out exactly what happened."

The Ruby Princess, which departed Sydney on March 8 for New Zealand and returned on March 19, is responsible for hundreds of COVID-19 cases nationwide including 369 in NSW and nearly a third of the 62 deaths across the country.

Some 2700 passengers were permitted to disembark in Sydney without adequate health checks, an action blamed by the Australian Border Force on NSW health authorities.

NSW Health, meanwhile, is ramping up COVID-19 testing in several parts of the state as more residents and staff members test positive for the virus at a Sydney aged care facility.

Anglicare was informed by NSW Health on Tuesday that five staff and four residents linked to the organisation's Newmarch House facility in Caddens had tested positive as of 4pm.

It comes after an employee is said to have worked for several days before testing positive for COVID-19.

Earlier on Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases in NSW on Tuesday had risen by just seven to 2870, with 32 patients in intensive care.

The state's death toll remained at 26.

Ms Berejiklian said she was glad to see the COVID-19 curve flatten but warned the virus could quickly reappear if social restrictions were not heeded.

Testing is this week being ramped up in several areas including Sydney's inner west, Penrith, Liverpool, Randwick, Waverley, Woollahra, Blacktown, Westmead, Manning and Lake Macquarie.

Those who test negative in the coming weeks will also be able to receive a text message on the same day their result comes in.

This would halve the time currently required to inform a patient of their results and reduce anxiety and self-isolation time, Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said.

© AAP 2020

Govt weighs mental health impact of virus

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The federal government is expected to appoint Associate Professor Ruth Vine as the country's first deputy chief medical officer for mental health to help direct the response to the coronavirus crisis.

Health Minister Greg Hunt is expected to make a statement on mental health on Wednesday while Prof Vine, the former chief psychiatrist for Victoria, has been selected for the role, The Australian reports.

Government modelling forecasts a 50 per cent increase in suicides directly related to the economic shutdown and the associated distress, with the possibility they could outstrip direct deaths from coronavirus.

"A priority on the road out of the pandemic is supporting the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians," Mr Hunt will say, according to the newspaper.

"Supporting the mental health of Australians is a deep personal passion of mine and a priority of this government."

Prof Vine will sit alongside Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy, who recommended mental health be treated as a priority.

Lifeline 13 11 14

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© AAP 2020

Govt's virus tests 'not accurate enough'

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Some 1.5 million COVID-19 antibody tests bought by the federal government aren't accurate enough to be used in Australia, a report has found.

The antibody tests were supposed to be distributed soon after they arrived in March, but a report commissioned by Health Minister Greg Hunt said they were not ready for widespread deployment, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Australian National University Professor Carola Vinuesa, one of the report's co-authors, says the tests are not useful.

"At the moment, the quality does not seem to be good enough for these tests to be deployed in large scale," she told the newspaper.

"The sensitivity is not very good. They are not useful in being able to say 'you were infected'."

Australia has recorded 6966 coronavirus cases, with 6229 recovered and 97 deaths, according to data released on Tuesday night.

© AAP 2020

Half Australia's virus patients well again

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With more than half Australia's 100 coronavirus patients already recovered, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says it's unlikely anyone would be infected a second time.

Mr Hunt says neither will it be necessary to introduce a country-wide travel ban, a measure which has affected 60 million Italians, although Qantas has slashed flights by a nearly quarter and the temporary closure of schools is likely to become more widespread.

The government would also be reviewing its travel advice to Italy where more than 9000 people have contracted COVID-19 and 460 have died, Mr Hunt said on Tuesday.

Across the world there are an estimated 114,000 cases in 107 countries, with 1000 recorded deaths.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said it was highly unlikely people could catch the virus more than once.

"I think that's a very important message to Australians," Mr Hunt added.

"So now is the moment of pressure... this is a once in 50 year challenge that we face."

Three Australians have died from coronavirus, with states and territories setting up specialist clinics as the government looks to combine information into a smartphone app.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has followed US authorities in advising citizens, especially those with underlying health concerns, to reconsider taking an overseas cruise as the outbreak continues to spread.

Professor Murphy said there had been some confusion about who needed to be tested, saying it was only returned travellers from overseas with symptoms like a cough or sore throat.

Three schools in NSW and Victoria shut on Tuesday after three students tested positive to COVID-19, with similar temporary closures likely to become more widespread.

"School closures, I think, will become the norm as we go ahead but we are doing everything we can to keep our children safe," federal Education Minister Dan Tehan told Nine's Today program.

The minister was asked why schools were being closed for a day or two, while people with or suspected of having the virus are being told to self-isolate for two weeks.

"The schools have been closed for a day so they can be thoroughly cleaned," he replied.

Sydney is considered the worst-hit city.

Qantas has slashed the capacity of its international flights by almost a quarter for the next six months due to the virus' impact.

The decision means 38 planes will be grounded.

In coming days the government is expected to announce private sector involvement in providing pathology services and new advice on the testing of healthcare workers.

© AAP 2020

Hanks tweets on Vegemite after virus

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US actor Tom Hanks, in Berlin in October 2016 (Photo: Britta Pedersen/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa)

Actor Tom Hanks says he's still suffering from some symptoms of coronavirus as he and his singer wife Rita Wilson continue recovering in Queensland.

Hanks and Wilson were discharged from a Gold Coast hospital on Tuesday, about a week after being quarantined with the virus.

They are now in self-isolation and appear to be killing time by playing cards, according to a tweet Hanks posted on earlier on Wednesday.

"Hey folks. Good News: One week after testing Positive, in self-isolation, the symptoms are much the same. No fever but the blahs," Hanks posted.

"Folding the laundry and doing the dishes leads to a nap on the couch. Bad news: My wife @ritawilson has won 6 straight hands of Gin Rummy and leads by 201 points."

The tweet was accompanied by a photo of a Corona branded typewriter.

He also referenced his Vegemite spreading skills which were heavily criticised online after he posted a photo of two pieces of toast thickly smothered in the popular spread.

"I travelled here with a typewriter, one I used to love. We are all in this together. Flatten the curve. Hanx.

"But I have learned not to spread my Vegemite so thick."

The Oscar-winning actor, who is in Australia filming a Baz Luhrmann biopic about Elvis Presley, is not believed to have infected any other cast or crew, but production was shut down for two weeks.

© AAP 2020

Harry, Meghan urge 'empathy' against virus

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Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Cape Town.Photo credit: Mark Large/Daily Mail/PA Wire

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced an initiative to help people cope with the mental stress of the coronavirus pandemic and celebrate those on the front line of the crisis.

In a post on their @sussexroyal Instagram account, the couple said they would be using the platform to share resources and post "accurate information and facts from trusted experts".

They added they would also use it to help people learn measures they can take to keep themselves and their families safe and work with organisations that can help with "mental and emotional well-being".

Meghan and Harry, who are understood to be in their new home in Vancouver, Canada, having completed their final duties as senior royals earlier this month, said people are living in "uncertain times".

Calling for unity, they said: "Now, more than ever, we need each other."

They added: "We need each other for truth, for support, and to feel less alone during a time that can honestly feel quite scary."

"Our willingness, as a people, to step up in the face of what we are all experiencing with covid-19 is awe-inspiring," they wrote.

"This moment is as true a testament there is to the human spirit."

As well as sharing information and practical advice on maintaining physical health and wellbeing, the duke and duchess said they would be posting inspirational stories from around the world.

"We will focus on the inspiring stories of how so many of you around the world are connecting in ways big and small to lift all of us up," they said.

"We are all in this together, and as a global community we can support each other through this process - and build a digital neighbourhood that feels safe for every one of us."

They finished the post with the words: "We look forward to sharing more over the days and weeks to come..."

 
 
 
 
 
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These are uncertain times. And now, more than ever, we need each other. We need each other for truth, for support, and to feel less alone during a time that can honestly feel quite scary. There are so many around the world who need support right now, who are working tirelessly to respond to this crisis behind the scenes, on the frontline, or at home. Our willingness, as a people, to step up in the face of what we are all experiencing with COVID-19 is awe-inspiring. This moment is as true a testament there is to the human spirit. We often speak of compassion. All of our lives are in some way affected by this, uniting each of us globally. How we approach each other and our communities with empathy and kindness is indisputably important right now. Over the coming weeks, this will be our guiding principle. We will be sharing information and resources to help all of us navigate the uncertainty: from posting accurate information and facts from trusted experts, to learning about measures we can take to keep ourselves and our families healthy, to working with organisations that can support our mental and emotional well-being. In addition, we will focus on the inspiring stories of how so many of you around the world are connecting in ways big and small to lift all of us up. We are all in this together, and as a global community we can support each other through this process – and build a digital neighbourhood that feels safe for every one of us. We look forward to sharing more over the days and weeks to come...

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on

From March 31, Harry and Meghan will no longer use their HRH styles as they begin a life away from the royal family - mostly based in North America.

The couple have vowed to try and become financially independent and pay back the public funds used to renovate their former home of Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.

© PAA 2020

Home visits cleared, NSW virus toll now 37

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The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured) has warned the number of COVID-19 cases in the state will inevitably rise as restrictions on house visits are eased (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

The NSW premier has warned the number of COVID-19 cases in the state will inevitably rise as restrictions on house visits ease from the end of the week.

A maximum of two adults will from Friday be permitted in NSW to visit another household for social or care reasons, with children permitted to come along.

The measure fulfils the state government's earlier promise to reassess restrictions at the end of each month. Plans for students to resume face-to-face schooling from May 11 have already been announced, while an uptick in NSW retail activity is also expected.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday admitted health authorities expected the changes to increase the number of new COVID-19 cases but said hospitals had bolstered their capacity throughout April and sourced extra protective gear.

Those aged over 70 should continue to remain at home as much as possible.

Ms Berejiklian nevertheless said the government would not seek to limit the nature of visits and that social interaction was good for mental health.

Physical distancing measures and hand washing remain crucial.

"I anticipate that in May, it won't just be a handful of new cases we get every day because when you've got this increase in activity, unfortunately you will see a rise in the number of cases," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

"That's why we took time in April whilst we had those restrictions to beef up health supplies, capacity in hospitals to deal with extra cases, but also to learn from the data we've had.

"That's definitely the headspace we're in - what can we lift? When is it a safe time to lift them? What can boost jobs? That's a priority for us."

Ms Berejiklian added that return-to-school measures could be accelerated if the first two weeks of face-to-face learning from May 11 go smoothly.

A seventh person at the Newmarch House aged care facility in Sydney's west, meanwhile, has died after contracting coronavirus, taking the NSW death toll to 37.

Operator Anglicare said the 89-year-old female resident died on Monday night.

"This coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in terms of its scale and impact across the world. But more importantly we know what a devastating effect it is having on older people," Anglicare chief executive Grant Millard said in a statement.

COVID-19 was introduced to the Caddens facility by an aged care worker who worked for six consecutive days while suffering very mild respiratory symptoms.

Some 54 residents and staff members at Newmarch House have COVID-19.

NSW recorded five new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the state total to 3009. Some 19 people are in intensive care.

Bondi beach has also reopened for swimming and surfing but the sand will remain closed given the area boasts the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Australia.

Waverley Council mayor Paula Masselos said the waters at Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama beaches would reopen on Tuesday "for the sole purpose of exercising". Access to the water is strictly via designated entry and exit points.

Ms Berejiklian reminded all NSW residents they should stay home upon the first sign of any respiratory symptoms.

"If you have a sniffle, you shouldn't be visiting anybody - you shouldn't be out of your house frankly, you should be getting tested. We want to stress these opportunities to visit others in a household come with qualifications," Ms Berejiklian said.

© AAP 2020

How the coronavirus shut down world sport

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Will Hopoate of the Bulldogs makes a break during the round two NRL match between the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and North Queensland Cowboys at ANZ Stadium, in Sydney, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) 

TIMELINE OF MAJOR SPORTING EVENTS POSTPONED BY CORONAVIRUS:

DECEMBER 31: A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan is first reported to the WHO Country Office in China.

JANUARY 25: The first case of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is reported in Australia after a Chinese man is admitted to a Melbourne hospital.

MARCH 12: NBA, NHL halts seasons. ATP suspended for six weeks. Australian women's cricket team tour of South Africa cancelled.

MARCH 13: World Health Organisation (WHO) declares the virus outbreak a pandemic. English Premier League suspends season until April 30. Melbourne Grand Prix cancelled along with F1's next three races in Bahrain, Vietnam and China.

MARCH 14: Australia's ODI cricket series against New Zealand abandoned. Golf's Masters postponed indefinitely. Indian Premier League delayed until April 15.

MARCH 15: Super Rugby season suspended.

MARCH 16: Super League and the Rugby Football League suspend the season until April 3.

MARCH 17: NBL finals series cancelled after Sydney Kings withdraw from final series against Perth Wildcats. NSW declared Sheffield Shield winners after Cricket Australia suspends shield season. MLB postponed until at least mid-May. Tim Tszyu v Jeff Horn, scheduled for April 22, postponed.

MARCH 18: Euro 2020 pushed back to 2021. Copa America delayed until 2021. The PGA Championship scheduled for May 14-17 postponed. Supercars delay racing until June.

MARCH 19: The ATP and WTA extend suspension of their tours until June 7.

MARCH 21: The International Ice Hockey Federation cancels 2020 World Championship in Zurich and Lausanne.

MARCH 22: AFL season suspended until May 31, remainder of AFLW season cancelled.

MARCH 23: NRL suspends season, Australia pull out of Tokyo Olympics. Super Netball season deferred until at least June 30.

MARCH 24: A-League postponed. IOC member Dick Pound suggests Tokyo Olympics (scheduled to begin on June 24) be postponed until 2021. UEFA postpone Champions League final, Europa League final and Women's Champions League final.

© AAP 2020

Human trials of virus vaccine begin in UK

Doctor, patient and injection needle. Physician or nurse giving vaccine, flu or influenza shot in office room in hospital.  Immunity, health care or HPV concept. Medical professional working.

Human trials of virus vaccine begin in UK (Bigstock)

Trials of a vaccine that could protect against COVID-19 are to begin in the UK.

Work on the vaccine, developed by clinical teams at the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group, began in January.

Now a study involving up to 510 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 is to get under way.

The UK now joins only the US, with two studies, and China in beginning human trials.

Professor Saul Faust, director of the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Southampton, said: "There are not currently any licensed vaccines or specific treatments for COVID-19 but vaccines are the most effective way of controlling outbreaks and the international community has stepped up efforts towards developing one.

"This vaccine aims to turn the virus' most potent weapon, its spikes, against it - raising antibodies that stick to them allowing the immune system to lock on to and destroy the virus."

It is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees that has been genetically changed so it is impossible for it to grow in humans.

This has been combined with genes that make proteins from the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) called spike glycoprotein, which play an essential role in the infection pathway of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

About 187 of the study participants are to be recruited in Southampton.

The study is taking place in Oxford and Southampton, with three further sites likely to be added.

Half of the volunteers in the study will receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the other half will be given a licensed "control" vaccine against meningitis and sepsis (the conjugate MenACWY vaccine).

© PAA 2020

Hundreds report NSW isolation disobedience

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Hundreds of concerned people have been dobbing in their neighbours for flouting coronavirus restrictions, with NSW Police receiving about 600 calls in just two days.

Police from Thursday were given the power to hand out on-the-spot fines of $1000 to individuals and $5000 to businesses that breach public health orders or ministerial directions.

"I gave a clear warning that the time for cautioning people over not adhering to self-isolation was over," NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

Among those who have been fined already are staff from a Sydney massage parlour, and a 65-year-old woman from Lake Macquarie.

"What's disappointing is this lady had a caution on Monday to self-isolate, yesterday she was found walking around the streets - $1000 fine," Mr Fuller said.

He says before the new powers were introduced, Crime Stoppers had received 200 calls about people ignoring restrictions.

"Since then, that has gone up to 800, (with) 600 calls in two days," Mr Fuller said.

People in the firing line include returned travellers who contravened the requirement to self-quarantine for 14 days and those diagnosed with COVID-19 who similarly don't follow the rules.

Fines will also apply for breaches of the prohibition on outdoor gatherings of 500 people and indoor gatherings of 100.

It follows the passing of legislation in the NSW parliament on Tuesday to help tackle the spread of coronavirus.

Under the bill, police will be able to arrest people reasonably suspected of breaching COVID-19 public health orders and return them home or to a place of detention.

© AAP 2020

ICU COVID-19 admissions more likely in men

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Men with suspected COVID-19 symptoms are twice as likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit in Australia than women for treatment, a new study has found.

The Monash University study that collated data from 33 ICUs nationally reveals men are twice as likely to be admitted (67 per cent of cases) than women (31 per cent), while people over 60 make up 69 per cent of ICU patients.

The study - which is still underway - states 149 people have been admitted to an ICU across Australia since March 14 with coronavirus symptoms.

Of those, 85 were confirmed to have COVID-19, 18 were suspected cases but returned a negative test, and 46 are still awaiting results.

The data also shows 41 per cent of patients admitted to ICU are in the 70 to 79-year-old age group.

Patients with conditions such as diabetes, chronic cardiac disease and obesity were much more likely to be admitted.

Monash University's Professor Andrew Udy says the data is providing important insights into the type of therapy, care, and medical intervention given to the nation's sickest COVID-19 patients.

"It means we can inform clinicians and improve the therapies provided, as well as appraise resourcing, particularly if we experience a sudden spike in cases over the coming months," Prof Udy said in a statement on Thursday.

"We've never seen this infectious disease before and, as a consequence, a lot of the traditional ways that we manage a patient are being challenged."

The study also found the most common symptoms at the time of admission to hospital included fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and diarrhoea.

Australia has reported almost 7000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date with 98 deaths.

© AAP 2020

Illawarra/Shoalhaven hospitals make ready for COVID-19

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Illawarra Shoalhaven Health says they are moving to an increased level of preparedness in response to COVID-19.

Moves are underway to double intensive care capacity at Wollongong Hospital, starting with changes to elective surgery from Monday.

They include liaising with private providers to undertake elective surgeries in their facilities.

Elective surgery at Shellharbour will carry on as normal at this stage, and significant plans are now being finalised for  Shoalhaven, with further information to be provided as it becomes available next week.

Illawarra Shoalhaven Health Chief Executive, Margot Mains, says Wollongong Hospital will increase its current Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to 25 beds by Monday. 

They will be set up in a way that will allow for a dedicated COVID ICU and non-COVID ICU, to be completely isolated from each other. 

Should it be required, the hospital will have capacity to create a second ICU with additional capacity of up to 21 beds by the end of the month.

“We are planning for scenarios that include staff unavailability due to sickness or carer duties at any point in time, which makes the cancellation of elective surgery to focus on training and redeployment so vital at this time. It means our intensive care services are as prepared as possible,” said Ms Mains.

Photo: Rob Gooda

Indoor gatherings of 100 or more banned

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

All non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more will be banned in Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ban, which is effective immediately, on Wednesday.

Outdoor gatherings of 500 people or more were banned on the weekend as the federal government tries to curb the spread of the disease.

© AAP 2020

Infected children may be less contagious

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There are tentative signs children may not spread the novel coronavirus as much as adults, two top epidemiologists say.

However they said the bad news was that human immunity may not last that long.

As many countries start to return to work after lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19, world leaders are trying to work out when it is safe for children and students to get back to their studies.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine infectious disease modeller Dr Rosalind Eggo said she had seen some indications from research that children may not spread the novel coronavirus as much as adults.

"There are hints that children are less infectious but it is not certain," said Eggo, who sits on a panel that advises the British government about transmission of COVID-19 among children and within schools.

"We need more studies to really pin this down as it is so important," she told the science committee of the British parliament's upper house, the House of Lords.

Eggo said her research had shown there was a much lower level of symptomatic infection in those under 20 years-old - perhaps as little as 20 per cent of infections showing clinical symptoms.

"We think that children are less likely to get it so far but it is not certain," she said on Tuesday.

"We are very certain that children are less likely to have severe outcomes."

John Edmunds, a member of Britain's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told the same science committee hearing it was striking how children did not seem to easily spread the novel coronavirus.

"It is unusual that children don't seem to play much of a role in transmission because for most respiratory viruses and bacteria they play a central role, but in this they don't seem to," said Edmunds, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"There is only one documented outbreak associated with a school - which is amazing; you would normally expect most of the outbreaks to be associated with schools but yet in global literature there is only one documented study," Edmunds said, citing a study of a French secondary school. "It is pretty remarkable."

But he added there was potentially bad news - that human immunity to the novel coronavirus may not last long.

"Antibody responses decline over time from survivors of SARS so after a couple of years their antibodies have declined quite significantly," Edmunds said, referring to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which is also caused by a type of coronavirus.

"We can also see from other coronaviruses - the ones that cause coughs and colds - that individuals again do seem to not have particularly long-term immunity to many of those viruses and so allowing them to be infected later.

"So that's potentially bad news for us: that immunity may not last that long against this virus," he said.

© RAW 2020