December 2, 2021

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Coronavirus Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s health package

Table of Contents

  • China’s cover-up: How it hid killer coronavirus
  • Who Australia’s coronavirus spreaders really are

Unemployed Australians who have been unable to qualify for welfare because their partner earns more than $48,000 will soon be able to access support as the government confirms it is changing the rule.

Asked if the measure would be changed on Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “yes”.

“There is an even more effective way beyond the changes in social services that we can address that and I will be announcing that in the not-too-distant future,” he said.

The Prime Minister also flagged Australian workers who have recently been stood down due to the coronavirus will still be eligible for the federal government’s new income support measures when the package is finalised.

media_cameraPrime Minister Scott Morrison with Christine Morgan, National Suicide Prevention Adviser, and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd. Picture: Gary Ramage

Mr Morrison said he would not go into the details of the not yet finished plan, which is widely believed to include a capped wage subsidy, but assured workers they would qualify for help if they had been stood down in recent weeks.

“The principles, I can say, is that the package would support those who have more recently been the victims of these closures that have taken place and we will be seeking to support people involved in those closures, but we will advise further details of the starting point about that,” he said.

“The Treasurer and I will be making an announcement on that as soon as we can, it is not that far away but we want to be sure that when we do it, we have covered the majority of the ground that needs to be covered to enable the program to be successfully implemented in partnership with the businesses.”

Mr Morrison said Australia was facing a “long term battle” on two fronts that would stretch until September if not longer.

“This is going to be incredibly tough economically as well as from a health point of view but where Australia can ensure we can bounce back better and stronger on the other side is by following these strategies which enable businesses to re-emerge very, very quickly, with their employers, the capital, their equipment, with their shops and all of the things which they can switch on again and get moving again,” he said.

“Sadly, this health crisis and economic crisis is a battle on two fronts and it is going to be waged in an unimaginable and unprecedented way over the next at least six months and potentially beyond that.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says imported cases still make up the majority. Picture: Gary Ramage
media_cameraPrime Minister Scott Morrison says imported cases still make up the majority. Picture: Gary Ramage

CORONAVRIUS APP PROVIDES UPDATES

In what Health Minister Greg Hunt has called “an early positive sign”, the rate of increase in coronavirus cases has gone from around 25 per cent to 30 per cent per day a week ago to around 13 per cent to 15 per cent today.

The national death toll has risen to 16 today after a Mebourne man in his 80s died in hospital, bringing Victoria’s number of deaths up to 4.

In Queensland, a woman in her 70s who was a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, has died at Caboolture hospital.

Australians can now get the latest coronavirus information straight to their smartphones as the government tips more than $1 billion into support for mental and primary health care during the coronavirus crisis.

The government has also launched a dedicated coronavirus app for all smartphones and an official information platform on Whatsapp.

The aus.gov.au/whatsapp service is available on Android and Apple devices, while the app is currently only available in the Apple Store.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Health Minister Greg HuntPicture Gary Ramage
media_cameraPrime Minister Scott Morrison with Health Minister Greg HuntPicture Gary Ramage

The government has also announced $74 million for mental health support and $150 million for domestic violence initiatives to assist vulnerable Australians who are increasingly isolated due to the social distancing measures.

“Google has shown a 75 per cent increase in searches when it comes to concerns about domestic violence in recent days,” Mr Morrison said.

“We need to put more resources into supporting people who will be vulnerable and may be vulnerable, and we are putting up support in.”

The government has also put $200 million into emergency relief support.

“That will be provided to support charities and other community organisations which provide emergency food relief as demand surges as a result of the coronavirus,” Mr Morrison said.

“These services are demand driven, but we anticipate the funding boost, which is more than four times annual funding, will help hundreds of thousands of Australians in most urgent need. It will be shared among existing providers, including FoodBank, the Salvation Army, St Vincent DePaul, Anglican and many other local community organisations.”

A $600 million expansion of Telehealth services will allow every doctor or specialist appointment that does not require a face-to-face treatment such as a blood test or surgical procedure will be able to happen over phone or video from Monday.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt announces the government's $1.1bn health and family violence package at Parliament House. Picture: AAP
media_cameraMinister for Health Greg Hunt announces the government’s $1.1bn health and family violence package at Parliament House. Picture: AAP

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government was also doubling the bulk-billing incentive to support healthcare providers and ensure concession and vulnerable patients had access to free services.

“Further changes will be introduced during the week that will allow GPs and other providers to apply their usual billing practices to telehealth consultations, while concessional and vulnerable patients will continue to receive services at no cost,” he said.

National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister Christine Morgan said every Australian needed to embrace physical distancing “but with social connection” during the coronavirus crisis.

“I would like to stop and just remember so many Australians who have recently been through the scourges of our drought and bushfires who are already suffering and to remember that their mental health and well-being is important,” she said.

“I would also like to stop and reflect on the fact that, as we must practice physical distance and as we all embrace the concept of loneliness that can go with that, for too many Australians today that also encompasses a sense of fear.”

HOSPITAL JOBS AT RISK

Meanwhile, Australian private and Catholic hospitals are about to be closed and their staff stood down, putting 100,000 workers out of a job, just as the hospital system is about to buckle under the weight of coronavirus admissions.

The catastrophe is the result of a failure of state and federal governments to come up with a financial solution for the hospitals after they banned non-elective surgery at a national cabinet meeting earlier this week.

Some hospitals are under threat with the potential of closure. Picture: Gordon McComiskie
media_cameraSome hospitals are under threat with the potential of closure. Picture: Gordon McComiskie

News Corp Australia reported on Friday that 600 nurses had been stood down in New South Wales and more in Queensland when the third largest private hospital group Healthe Care was forced to cancel surgery.

On Saturday, all the nation’s private hospitals issued a warning they too are on the brink as a result of the decision by the state and federal governments.

The nation will need the access to Australia’s 650 private hospitals as it tries to cope with demand from the COVID-19 virus.

Health workers applaud in support of the medical staff that are working on the COVID-19 virus outbreak at La Paz hospital in Madrid, Spain. Picture: AFP
media_cameraHealth workers applaud in support of the medical staff that are working on the COVID-19 virus outbreak at La Paz hospital in Madrid, Spain. Picture: AFP

The Australian Private Hospitals Association, Catholic Health Australia, and Day Hospitals Australia said the private sector is prepared to play their part in the fight against COVID-19, but cuts to elective surgery and a failure of state governments to step up to support the sector will have dire consequences for Australia’s future hospital capacity.

Staff wearing special equipment to prevent the spread of coronavirus arriving with a patient at San Pedro hospital, in Logrono, northern Spain. Picture: AP
media_cameraStaff wearing special equipment to prevent the spread of coronavirus arriving with a patient at San Pedro hospital, in Logrono, northern Spain. Picture: AP
Workers wearing protective outfits sanitise the streets of Rome. Picture: AP
media_cameraWorkers wearing protective outfits sanitise the streets of Rome. Picture: AP

“The hospitals are now faced with the very difficult decision to stand down staff and furlough services as a direct result, just when the entire health system is bracing itself for the surge in COVID-19 patients,” Australian Private Hospitals Association chief Michael Roff said.

The development comes as virus death rates soar around the world, with one person dying every eight minutes in Britain, and one New Yorker dying every 17 minutes. More than 830 people died in Spain in 24 hours, the nation’s worst day for deaths, and Italy’s death toll topped 10,000 as the number of cases around the world topped 640,000.

And US President Donald Trump shocked New York when he announced he was thinking about “quarantining” the state – meaning its residents could no longer leave the state.

FAMILIES TOLD TO STAY AWAY FROM LOVED ONES AT SYDNEY AIRPORT

It comes as NSW Police warned friends and families of Australians flying into Sydney International Airport to stay away and told them they won’t see their loved ones.

And a man and a woman have been fined $1000 each after the pair allegedly flouted their 14-day coronavirus self-isolation period following their arrival from Thailand.

The friends and families of Australians flying into Sydney have been warned to stay away and told they won’t see their loved ones.

NSW Police said all travellers from Sunday morning will be processed discreetly and then taken to their nominated hotels, where they can contact family.

“There are no areas in the Sydney International Airport in which family and friends will be able to see the returned travellers or make contact with them,” a police statement said on Saturday.

Police put people onto a bus at Sydney Airport to take them into quarantine. Picture: Damian Shaw
media_cameraPolice put people onto a bus at Sydney Airport to take them into quarantine. Picture: Damian Shaw

“We understand this is unprecedented, but it is a vital step in trying to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

From midnight Sunday, all people flying into international airports in Australia will be forced to spend 14 days in quarantine in state-funded hotel rooms.

The last group of passengers to arrive back into Australia before the strict two-week quarantine period kicks in have made it into the country, with about 40 passengers on three flights touching down at Sydney Airport on Saturday night.

Darling Harbour’s Novotel Hotel was the destination for foreigners who disembarked to be loaded into six buses by police officers wearing face masks and gloves.

People are led onto a bus at the international terminal at Sydney Airport, to be taken to a hotel for quarantine. Picture: Damian Shaw
media_cameraPeople are led onto a bus at the international terminal at Sydney Airport, to be taken to a hotel for quarantine. Picture: Damian Shaw

Australians will also be forced to isolate in hotels upon returning home from midnight on Saturday.

The new rules have been introduced as about two-thirds of Australia’s 3640 coronavirus cases are from people returning from overseas trips.

An Australian couple who were on one of the three flights to land in Sydney on Saturday night before the new quarantine rules were enforced admitted they showed signs of the virus – but they were not tested and were allowed to leave the airport as they pleased, the Daily Mail reported.

Meanwhile, a man and a woman have been fined $1000 each after the pair allegedly flouted their 14-day coronavirus self-isolation period following their arrival from Thailand.

Police said they issued a 22-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman with Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) on Saturday after speaking to the couple at an address in Hillvue, western NSW, where the pair had been required to quarantine for two weeks.

Officers said the pair, who arrived in Sydney on a flight from Thailand on Tuesday, had travelled from Hillvue to Boggabri on Friday where they came into contact with another person.

The two were each issued with a $1000 PIN for failing to comply with a direction under Section 7 of the NSW Public Health Act.

PRIVATE HOSPITALS DEMAND GUARANTEES

In Australia, private hospitals are demanding governments guarantee their viability.

Between them, the private hospital system employs over 100,000 staff including 57,000 nurses across 650 hospital sites. There are well over 300 overnight acute private hospitals. More than a third of intensive care unit beds are in private hospitals, according to the Chief Medical Officer.

CHA Chief Executive Officer Pat Garcia said: “What should be happening at this time, in this breathing space we have before the full coronavirus onslaught, is all hospitals turn their attention to training up their existing clinical staff, and hiring additional staff – both clinical and non-clinical, to treat patients.

“We also acknowledge that winter, which is just around the corner, tests the hospital system at the best of times let alone when there is a global pandemic. Hospitals cannot simply close down entire wards and ICUs, then turn them back on at the flick of a switch. If we need to close down wards and hospitals, they may not be available when we need them.”

Michael Roff, CEO of the Australian Private Hospitals Association, said: “The states don’t seem to understand the urgency of reaching a deal this weekend, if they don’t do that, the beds they need in a few weeks’ time may no longer be available.”

“What we need is a national network of hospitals, co-ordinated between the States and the Commonwealth, and ensuring that our entire health system is at full capacity. Without a Commonwealth guarantee, private hospitals will start shutting their doors from early next week.”

An isolation room for a patient with COVID-19..
media_cameraAn isolation room for a patient with COVID-19..

Jane Griffiths, CEO of Day Hospitals Australia said: “we have seen what’s been happening in Spain and Italy, where patients don’t have access to ventilators and ICU beds.

“The capacity of the private hospital system in Australia is enormous. We must act now to ensure capacity is available when we need it”.

NSW Health said late yesterday they are in negotiations with private hospitals.

The private hospital sector will co-operate in whatever way it can to assist all governments with the development of the National coronavirus Partnership. A number of for-profit and non-profit private hospitals are currently in discussion with the states and territories to assist in the development of mechanisms designed to maintain the viability of the clinical capacity provided by the private hospital sector.

Nevertheless, the sector believes it is unlikely a nationally consistent position can be reached via individual negotiations with each of the states and territories in the time frame necessary to maintain viability and capacity of the private hospital system.

TRUMP FLAGS IDEA TO ‘QUARANTINE NEW YORK’

New York is likely to be put into a two-week quarantine to stop the spread of the coronavirus, locking in 21 million people.

United States President Donald Trump said he was considering the ban because infected New Yorkers were flying down to Florida.

“I’d rather not do it, but we may need it,” Mr Trump said

“We’d like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot,” he said.

“New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined. I’m thinking about that right now.”

“They’re having problems down in Florida, a lot of New Yorkers going down. We don’t want that.”

The ban is likely to be introduced on Sunday local time.

The US now has the highest rate of infections in the world, with 115,000 cases, with at least 50,000 cases in New York.

US President Donald Trump is weighing up implementing stricture anti-travel measures for New Yorkers. Picture: AP
media_cameraUS President Donald Trump is weighing up implementing stricture anti-travel measures for New Yorkers. Picture: AP

Mr Trump said the high numbers in the US showed that it was committed to testing and questioned whether China had revealed the full extent of the virus there.

There were more than 650,000 confirmed cases across the globe, with at least 3 billion people in lockdown, which appears to be the only effective way to slow its spread.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has delayed elections for presidential candidates until June, as pressure grows ahead of the planned November national vote.

Michigan has been declared a disaster area and there was a race to make more ventilators, whose have almost doubled as US regions compete to get access to them.

General Motors have been forced to switch its car production lines to making ventilators as the crisis deepens.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Picture: AP
media_cameraNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Picture: AP

An army hospital ship was on its way to New York to take up to 1,100 patients to ease the burden on the city’s overstretched hospital system.

The streets of Manhattan were deserted yesterday in eerie scenes as many New Yorkers without health insurance do their best to avoid the illness.

But anger has been spilling out, with footage showing one man dragged off a bus and beaten after he coughed near fellow passengers.

He tried to stay on the bus, clinging to a pole, but was pulled off and beaten.

Across America there have been reports of significant shortages of protection equipment.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday, local time, that he had spoken with some governors and was considering some type of an enforceable quarantine to prevent people in New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut from travelling.

Mr Trump said it would be for a “short period of time, if we do it at all.”

UK, US, EU STRUGGLE TO FLATTEN CURVE AS DEATHS SOAR

Coronavirus is killing people in New York City at rate of one every 17 minutes, according to the New York Post.

New York City is now the hardest hit area and may become the world’s biggest cluster. Deaths in the US have surpassed 1500.

The United States alone has the highest number of cases globally at more than 113,000. Medical staff in New York are facing a critical shortage of protective masks and gowns.

Artist Luba Drozd makes protective shields for health workers in her apartment on her 3D printers. Picture: AFP
media_cameraArtist Luba Drozd makes protective shields for health workers in her apartment on her 3D printers. Picture: AFP

The Sun reported that the UK coronavirus death toll had risen to 1019 overnight after more deaths were recorded in one day than ever before since the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is estimated that one British person is dying every eight minutes and more than 17,000 are now infected in the UK.

More than 6,000 people were in hospital with the illness in the UK yesterday.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Spain counted 832 deaths in 24 hours, the deadliest day since the outbreak began, bringing the death toll to nearly 6,000.

AFP reports that the death toll in Europe has surged past 20,000.

Almost 600,000 people across the globe have been infected with coronavirus.

PRIVATE HOSPITALS TREAT FOREIGN CRUISE PATIENTS

Dozens of passengers and crew onboard the Artania cruise ship in Fremantle have likely been infected with coronavirus and will be treated at private hospitals in Perth.

Premier Mark McGowan said the Commonwealth had contracted Bethesda and Hollywood hospitals to treat the foreigners.

“Cruise ships continue to be the Achilles heel when it comes to managing this situation,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“I’m pleased so say the Commonwealth agrees this matter is their responsibility.” Mr McGowan said the Artania hit a crisis point on Friday night when it was revealed 77 people had virus-type symptoms and another person was evacuated for a separate illness.

WA health experts went aboard on Saturday, concluding 46 people should be tested for coronavirus, including 30 passengers and 16 crew.

Anyone who tests positive will be treated at the private hospitals. Seven of the nine people who disembarked on Friday, who tested positive, will no longer be quarantined at the WA police academy, and will instead go to the hospitals.

Two other people were previously evacuated from the ship for other medical reasons, then subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 and remain in a critical condition.

Health minister Roger Cook said it was likely the third emergency evacuee would also test positive.

Banners are hung from the cruise ship MV Artania in Fremantle harbour in Fremantle.
media_cameraBanners are hung from the cruise ship MV Artania in Fremantle harbour in Fremantle.

Mr McGowan said four chartered flights would take about 800 healthy passengers and some crew back to Europe.

New Zealanders onboard the Vasco da Gama cruise ship, which is also docked in Fremantle, will be assessed before flying out on Saturday evening. There are also about 30 British people onboard.

About 200 passengers from WA will soon go into isolation on Rottnest Island for 14 days, while about 600 other Australians will quarantine in WA for two weeks before heading home.

Cruise ship Magnifica, which is anchored off Fremantle, is reprovisioning and will leave later on Saturday.

A fourth ship, which only has crew onboard, also needs to reprovision and refuel.

“The truth is that there’s no perfect solutions in this whole set of events,” Mr McGowan said.

“We don’t want passengers from cruise ships wandering around the streets.” WA has 23 new cases, including the confirmed Artania passengers, taking the state’s total to 278.

There are 14 people in hospital, including six in intensive care. Mr Cook said the overall numbers were “very encouraging”.

A passenger walks from the MV Artania to be attended to by waiting paramedics on the wharf at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal.
media_cameraA passenger walks from the MV Artania to be attended to by waiting paramedics on the wharf at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal.

“What this means is that we are continuing to identify all the people who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 and we are isolating those people,” he said. Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said a lockdown was inevitable.

“The sooner we do it, the more effective it is and hopefully the shorter it will be.” But Mr McGowan said he did not like the term “lockdown”.

“We need to be careful in our language … there may well be further changes, but if there are, we will announce them in coming days, and if those changes are put in place it’s for the common good.” A 61-year-old man on his way to the beach has been charged after allegedly failing to comply with a direction to self-isolate upon his return to WA from Indonesia last week.

AUSSIE COPS MANAGE NEW QUARANTINES

Australian governments are now turning to police-managed quarantine measures and the threat of fines and jail to battle coronavirus, as the death toll reaches 14.

All Australians returning home on cruise ships or international airports from midnight Sunday – and many before that – will live out their 14 days of quarantine in state-funded hotel rooms.

The doors will be guarded by state police, defence personnel or private security guards.

Two-thirds of Australia’s more than 3580 cases have been linked to overseas travel, deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on Saturday.

Travellers arriving from flight QF66 from Johannesberg wearing protective face masks at Sydney International Airport.
media_cameraTravellers arriving from flight QF66 from Johannesberg wearing protective face masks at Sydney International Airport.

“We really need to get on top of the people that have returned … from these other countries that had a much wider and worse epidemic of COVID-19 than we currently do here in Australia,” he told reporters, pointing to cruise ships, the US, UK and Italy as key sources.

Dr Kelly said most locally acquired cases have had clear contact with a known case of the novel coronavirus, making quarantine compulsory for returning travellers was very important and supported by the “very best” medical evidence.

Federal and Queensland police greeting passengers of a Qantas flight coming in from Sydney to check they know the quarantine rules. Picture: Stewart McLean
media_cameraFederal and Queensland police greeting passengers of a Qantas flight coming in from Sydney to check they know the quarantine rules. Picture: Stewart McLean

MORRISON’S NEXT STIMULUS PACKAGE

The Morrison government has announced almost $300 million in additional funding for the aviation sector, while it plans to put other businesses into hibernation to shield them from the economic hit caused by the coronavirus. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said $198 million is being provided to support regional airlines struggling through the crisis and an additional $100 million will also be available to smaller regional airlines should they need it. “The aviation industry is one of the hardest hit industries. It’s especially hard in regional areas,” Mr McCormack, the Nationals leader and transport minister told reporters in Wagga Wagga, NSW, on Saturday.

It brings the government’s total commitment to the aviation sector to more than $1 billion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday flagged a hibernation plan for business, indicating it will be part of a third stimulus package to be announced in days. The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the only way for small businesses to survive the coming months is if they can effectively hit pause for now.

“For businesses to bounce back when the health crisis is over, they need a holiday from all the costs that they incur during this extremely difficult period,” Ms Carnell said in a statement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: AAP
media_cameraPrime Minister Scott Morrison during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: AAP

The third support package – on top of the first two worth over $80 billion – is also expected to include commercial and residential rent assistance as the number of businesses closing their doors rise, putting tens of thousands of workers onto the dole queue and potentially into rental stress. “Our home is our castle. In the next few months, it will be our fortress,” Labor’s housing spokesman Jason Clare told the ABC.

“You can’t stay at home if you get evicted. We need to do what the Poms have done, what New Zealand has done, and Tasmania. A freeze on evictions.” Opposition spokeswoman for early education Amanda Rishworth also wants immediate support for childcare centres, which have seen enrolments plummet.

US 5-MINUTE TEST, WHO TO START DRUG TRIAL

A rapid test has been approved in the United States which is intended to detect within minutes whether a person is infected with the coronavirus. Abbott Laboratories said the device is small and portable – about the size of a toaster – and can be set up outside hospitals, for instance. The test kit can determine within five minutes whether a sample is infected with Sars-CoV-2 and 13 minutes to definitively confirm if it is negative, the US health care company said.

Abbott announced late Friday that its equipment had received emergency authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration, and that it aims to manufacture 5 million kits a month.

Last weekend, the FDA approved a testing procedure that is supposed to provide results within 45 minutes. But those tests, from the manufacturer Cepheid, are to be used mainly in hospitals.

The country’s ability to combat the coronavirus was hampered early on by a lack of testing capacity and then lengthy delays once the test had been performed. The United States now has more confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the Sars-CoV-2 virus, than any other country.

In Norway and Spain, the first patients were about to enrol in the WHO’s so-called solidarity trial, which will compare the safety and effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations.

More than 45 countries are taking part in trial and the more that join, the faster we will have results”.

WHO to launch COVID-19 treatment trial

The World Health Organisation is about to launch a major trial in pursuit of a treatment for the coronavirus. Officials are testing four of the most promising drugs on patients in Norway. A combination of malaria medications and anti-viral drugs used to treat HIV will be included in the trial. The World Health Organisation says a vaccine may be 12 to 18 months away. Image: Associated Press

UK BATTLES ON AS PM GETS VIRUS

Britain is battling the coronavirus with one hand tied behind its back after the country’s chief medical officer self isolated with symptoms of the illness.

Professor Chris Whitty, who had been giving daily briefings on the country’s response, has gone into lockdown after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive to the disease.

They are all working remotely and have insisted they are still in charge because they only have mild symptoms.

But there are plans in place for UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to take over should Mr Johnson become seriously ill.

Scientists have said Mr Johnson was taking too many risks before he came down with the illness.

UK PM Boris Johnson announces he has coronavirus. Picture: Supplied
media_cameraUK PM Boris Johnson announces he has coronavirus. Picture: Supplied

Professor Susan Michie, director of University College London’s centre for behaviour change, said: “Whilst the PM was telling people to stay at home and keep at least two metres apart from each other, the House of Commons (UK parliament) was open for business and face-to-face parliamentary activities were carrying on.

“Given the transmission routes of touching contaminated surfaces and breathing in virus-laden droplets, it should not come as a surprise to hear that the PM and Health Secretary have tested positive for coronavirus.”

Conservative politician Michael Gove stood in for Mr Johnson, 55, and defended him at a press conference early on Saturday Australian time.

“The fact that the virus is no respecter of individuals, whoever they are, is one of the reasons why we do need to have strict social distancing measures so that we can reduce the rate of infection and reduce the pressure on the NHS,” he said.

Mr Johnson’s pregnant fiancee Carrie Symonds has not been seen, while his controversial spin doctor Dominic Cummings was filmed running from No. 10 after Mr Johnson’s diagnosis was revealed.

Military and contractors building the Nightingale Hospital for novel coronavirus Covid-19 patients at the Excel centre in east London.
media_cameraMilitary and contractors building the Nightingale Hospital for novel coronavirus Covid-19 patients at the Excel centre in east London.

Mr Gove announced fast tracked testing for health workers.

They will be tested to find out if they have already had the virus and recovered, allowing them to get back to work.

Currently, anyone with symptoms must self isolate for 14 days, robbing the health system of key staff.

The UK has cleared 33,000 beds, or the equivalent of 50 hospitals to deal with the crisis.

And a new 4000-bed, 1km long hospital in a converted convention centre in London will open next week with the help of the British army.

Another two makeshift hospitals are being built in Birmingham and Manchester.

There were still 3000 beds available in London yesterday, which has been the centre of the UK outbreak, which has also claimed Prince Charles, although he only has mild symptoms.

Makeshift hospital rooms stretch out along the floor at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.
media_cameraMakeshift hospital rooms stretch out along the floor at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.

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ITALY

Italy’s death toll has climbed to more than 10,000 – three times higher than China’s fatalities – with another 889 deaths in a day.

But the country’s overall infection rate has flattened, giving some hope their hardline measures were slowing the virus.

Medical personnel and residents of the Honegger nursing home where 35 people have died so far from coronavirus in Albino, Italy. Picture: AFP
media_cameraMedical personnel and residents of the Honegger nursing home where 35 people have died so far from coronavirus in Albino, Italy. Picture: AFP

Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte looked set to extend the lockdown measures in Italy until the middle of April, beyond the Easter break, which is a significant moment in the traditional Catholic country.

There were no more 92,000 cases in Italy, with 10,023 deaths, a mortality rate of 10.8 per cent, although only serious cases have been tested.

Recovered patients were also rising with 1,434 beating the virus in one day, on the latest figures.

Angelo Borelli, head of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, said without the lockdowns it “would have been an unsustainable situation.”

INDIA

Tens of thousands of Indians have lined up to catch buses out of the capital New Delhi to beat the country’s 21-day lockdown.

Low paid workers have fled the city back to their villages and towns after the restrictions meant they had lost their jobs.

The government was planning to deliver lentil and grains rations to the population, with many likely to suffer without income.

Migrant workers and their family members line up outside the Anand Vihar bus terminal to leave for their villages during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown in New Delhi. Picture: AFP
media_cameraMigrant workers and their family members line up outside the Anand Vihar bus terminal to leave for their villages during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown in New Delhi. Picture: AFP

Some of those lining up in 500 metre long columns had not eaten for days, others ditched the bus and decided to walk home.

Dilipji Thakor said: “Rather than die hungry, we decided to walk.”

Jamu Rathwa, who was carrying his daughter on his shoulders, said he had a support network in his hometown and he must reach there to survive.

As many as 100 million people in India are unskilled workers, many of whom move to bigger cities to look for jobs.

There were 933 cases in India, with 20 deaths, according to latest figures, however it was likely that cases were higher because of a small amount of testing.

SPAIN

Spain was on track for 46,000 deaths, based on current trends, as it was likely to become the worst hit country in Europe.

An analysis of infection trends, experts at the Imperial College London have calculated the potential death toll, with Spain’s Princess Maria of Theresa among the latest victims.

The 86-year-old was the first known royal to die from the coronavirus.

She was part of a junior royal family in Spain, which currently has 5,128 deaths but has taken the extraordinary measure of turning an ice rink in Madrid into a morgue as it becomes overwhelmed with cases.

Healthcare workers wait for drivers at a drive-through testing point for the COVID-19 disease at the University Hospital in Burgos, Spain. Picture: AFP
media_cameraHealthcare workers wait for drivers at a drive-through testing point for the COVID-19 disease at the University Hospital in Burgos, Spain. Picture: AFP

There was a record spike of 832 deaths reported in a day, but Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that the real figure could be much higher.

A leaked government report said that many victims were not being counted as dying from coronavirus even if they had symptoms.

Others had simply not been tested.

“This leaves out many people who died in residences or in their own homes, and who were never tested,” a source told the newspaper.

Professor Tom Pike, of Imperial College London, crunched the numbers that made the dire predictions, according to The Times.

Italy would lose 28,000 people, and the UK would have 5,700 deaths, compared with the prediction of 260,000 deaths without its lockdown.

But in a further blow, Spanish health authorities were forced to delay testing because they purchased faulty kits.

The 15-minute tests, ordered from China, had to be sent back because they kept missing positive tests.

They had been hailed as a game changer from the four-hour tests that have been locking up Spanish laboratories.

BRITAIN

Britain has started charging people for coughing on police officers as they dish out fines for breaching lockdown rules.

Manchester Police confirmed that a homeless man, 33, would appear in court on Tuesday charged with assault.

He had allegedly coughed at a police officer and claimed that he had coronavirus.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson remotely chairs the morning novel coronavirus COVID-19 meeting at Downing Street by video link. Picture: AFP
media_cameraBritain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson remotely chairs the morning novel coronavirus COVID-19 meeting at Downing Street by video link. Picture: AFP

It comes as the UK puts homeless people in hotels to stop them spreading the virus.

And a third government minister has self isolated after contracting symptoms of the virus, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s positive diagnosis.

The UK’s death toll jumped 260 in a day, above 1000, as the National Health Service’s medical director Stephen Powis said keeping the fatalities under 20,000 would be a good result.

Derbyshire Police have thrown black dye in a blue lake to stop it being attractive to tourists as some Brits ignore lockdown rules.

ARGENTINA

A coronavirus “super spreader” in Argentina who ignored isolation rules and allegedly infected 11 people has been charged.

Eric Torales, 24, attended a 15-year-old’s birthday party a day after he returned from the United States.

A worker fillets fish at a fish plant in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Picture: AFP
media_cameraA worker fillets fish at a fish plant in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Picture: AFP

Argentina had introduced a mandatory isolation for people returning from coronavirus infected countries, including the US which now has the world’s highest infection rates.

Another 15 guests at the party were also being tested with claims that Torales had infected them all.

Torales tested positive four days after the party in Buenos Aires, which was attended by 100 people, according to Todo Noticias.

There were 690 cases in Argentina and 17 deaths, with the South American country going into lockdown a week ago to fight the disease.

GERMANY

Germany will extend its coronavirus lockdown until April 20 as it battles the illness, with 56,000 recorded cases and 403 deaths.

Only supermarkets and pharmacies remain open, with gatherings of more than two people banned.

“We are not going to talk about any easing before April 20 – until then, all measures will remain in place”, Helge Braun, chief of staff to Mrs Merkel said.

There was no guarantee it would be lifted even then, he added.

Mr Braun said that “the older and the sick will have to reduce their contacts for significantly longer”.

Germany has also started mercy flights for some of Italy’s worst hit regions.

At least six patients have been transferred from Bergamo, Italy, to Cologne, Germany, for treatment.

PAKISTAN

China has been sending medical supplies to Pakistan, one of its key allies in its bid to build the new silk road.

Pakistan currently has 1,321 confirmed cases, 10 deaths and 23 patients who have recovered. Most of the infected people returned from Iran, where there are more than 30,000 confirmed cases and over 2,300 deaths.

Originally published as Australia ‘flattening the curve’ despite rising death toll