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4 Apr 2020 6:38
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  •   Home > News > International

    Coronavirus update: Californian residents ordered to stay at home as concerns mount for passengers of cruise ship that docked in Sydney

    Australia's banks announce financial relief for small businesses, 2,700 cruise ship passengers are asked to self-isolate, and 25 million Californians are expected to be infected with coronavirus in the next eight weeks.



    Australia's banks have announced financial relief for small businesses, 2,700 passengers on a cruise ship that docked in Sydney have been asked to self-isolate, and 25 million Californians are expected to be infected with coronavirus in the next eight weeks.

    Friday's key moments

    PNG confirms its first case

    Health authorities in Papua New Guinea say their first confirmed case of COVID-19 has recovered.

    A statement from the PNG Institute of Medical Research said the patient was first reported on March 18 but had returned a negative test result.

    However, the institute said three subsequent tests proved to be positive.

    "It is important to note that this is an imported case and as of today [March 20] we do not have any evidence of local transmission within PNG," the statement said.

    "It is good news that the patient has recovered and is undergoing isolation as recommended…"

    Travel ban comes into effect

    Travellers have flocked to Australia, arriving at airports across the country just hours before strict foreign travel bans come into effect.

    The ban was enforced at 9:00pm (AEDT) on Friday. Now only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can enter the country.

    It replaced earlier travel bans on foreigners coming from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

    But, as countries including Australia begin to close their borders to foreigners, some people are finding it difficult to make the journey home.

    Sydney woman Sue Ann Muller had planned to spend two weeks holiday in Guatemala learning Spanish. But, after the Central American country announced it would close its borders for 15 days in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to make a dash across the border to Mexico.

    She said she and an American woman paid for a private car for the "nerve-racking" five-hour journey that included a stretch of mountainous roads.

    Currently holed up in the small Mexican border town of Tapechula, Ms Muller has now managed to book a plane ticket to Mexico City before travelling onto LA and, finally, back to Australia.

    "Things change so fast that I won't really be happy until I'm on that flight to Sydney. I'm still nervous something might happen in Mexico, or might not get into the US," she said.

    Moves to thin crowds in indoor venues

    From now on, pubs, bars, restaurants and other indoor venues will have to provide 4 square metres of space per patron.

    That means that in a room of 100 square metres, there would be no more than 25 people.

    Non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people had already been banned.

    But there are exemptions for schools, universities, airports, public transport, medical and emergency services facilities, aged care homes, jails, courts, parliaments, supermarkets and many workplaces.

    Wherever possible, people are advised to continue to keep between 1 and 1.5 metres between themselves and others.

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a number of announcements in his press conference on Friday afternoon, including that the Federal Government would ban travel into some remote Indigenous communities and delay handing down the federal budget until later this year.

    As well, Mr Morrison said he would be meeting with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on Sunday to discuss how Parliament will function over the next six months.

    NSW confirms another death, major concerns for cruise ship passengers

    Health authorities in New South Wales have confirmed 75 new coronavirus cases, the largest increase over a 24-hour period to date in the state, as well as another death.

    An 81-year-old woman with the virus died last night, bringing the state's total to six and Australia's total to seven.

    NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard also revealed there were major concerns about passengers on a cruise ship, the Ruby Princess, which arrived in Sydney on Thursday.

    The ship is now off the coast between Sydney and Wollongong.

    At least three people who were on the cruise ship have tested positive for coronavirus and authorities are now asking all 2,700 passengers to go into self-isolation.

    "If they think that it's not necessary to do the 14 days, and if they think that it's OK to be wandering around, the clear message from me as New South Wales Health Minister is, no, it's not," Mr Hazzard said.

    Meanwhile, Western Australia has announced that any non-Australians who arrive at WA ports on cruise ships will be prevented from disembarking.

    Instead, they will be forced to remain on board until they can be taken to an airport and flown to their home country.

    Premier Mark McGowan made the announcement as he confirmed 12 new COVID-19 cases in the state, bringing WA's tally to 64.

    Californians ordered to stay at home ahead of expected infection surge

    Californian Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a statewide "stay-at-home order" directing residents to leave their homes only when necessary during the coronavirus pandemic.

    He said that modelling had shown that 56 per cent of California's residents, or over 25 million people, were expected to contract COVID-19 over the next eight weeks, requiring nearly 20,000 more hospital beds than the state could currently provide.

    Mr Newsom earlier on Thursday (local time) asked US President Donald Trump to send a Navy hospital ship to the port of Los Angeles "immediately" as the state braces for the expected surge.

    He said Los Angeles, as the country's second-largest city, would likely be "disproportionately impacted" by the pandemic in the coming weeks.

    California has been among the hardest hit US states, with more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 18 deaths.

    NAPLAN cancelled for 2020

    NAPLAN exams will be cancelled this year due to widespread disruption to schools caused by coronavirus.

    The 2020 literacy and numeracy exams for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 were scheduled for May.

    But with high absenteeism, some private schools working remotely, and public schools temporarily closing due to infections, the test will no longer take place.

    The decision was made by consensus at today's COAG Education Council meeting, which includes Commonwealth, state and territory ministers.

    The ministers reiterated their support for the decision to keep schools open.

    Banks announce deferred payments for all small businesses affected by coronavirus

    The Australian Banking Association says all small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to access a six-month deferral of loan repayments.

    "All that businesses will have to do is to register their need with their bank," chief executive Anna Bligh said.

    She said banks can also help small businesses that may need access to more working capital.

    "If a small business needs to take on more borrowings, then they should also be talking to their banks. There is money there to lend to those who can take on more debt," she said.

    Meanwhile, National Australia Bank has announced its home loan borrowers in difficulty will be able to put their repayments on hold for up to six months.

    Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Federal Government was also working on a "very substantial" second economic stimulus package, in addition to the $18 billion package already announced.

    "What the second package will do is try to cushion the blow for those Australians who may have lost their job as well as to continue to support small businesses," he told ABC News Breakfast.

    Coronavirus will have worse impact than GFC, bank warns

    Commonwealth Bank boss Matt Comyn has warned the fallout from the spread of the coronavirus will hit harder than the 2008 global financial crisis.

    "There's every reason to be concerned at this particular point in time," Mr Comyn told ABC's The Business.

    On ABC News Breakfast on Friday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was asked, "Are we heading for a full-scale depression?"

    This is how he responded:

    "Well, what I can tell you is that the Australian economy has approached this health crisis, which is having a significant economic impact, from a position of strength. We are deploying all the means at our disposal to support the economy."

    On Thursday, the Reserve Bank slashed interest rates to a record low 0.25 per cent in an emergency move.

    Donald Trump cancels in-person G7 leaders' meeting

    Donald Trump has cancelled an in-person meeting of G7 leaders at Camp David, the US President's country retreat, in June and will hold a videoconference instead.

    The decision comes as nations around the world seal their borders and ban travel to stop the virus's spread.

    Countries normally send large delegations with their leaders to G7 summits and journalists from around the world convene to cover their meeting as well.

    The G7 is made up of the United States, Italy, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Britain as well as the European Union.

    Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, has been in self-isolation at home after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.

    35 cases linked to NSW South Coast wedding

    The number of coronavirus cases linked to a wedding on the New South Wales South Coast earlier this month has risen to 35.

    The wedding at Tumbling Waters Retreat, Stanwell Tops, was held on March 6.

    In a statement, NSW Health said it was also working with other states and territories to notify attendees:

    "To midday on March 19, there have been 26 NSW residents who attended the wedding who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

    "There are another four people, NSW residents with COVID-19 who are close contacts of wedding attendees with COVID-19.

    "NSW Health is aware of another five people with COVID-19 who attended the wedding but live interstate."

    Italy overtakes China's death toll

    A total of 427 deaths were registered in Italy, bringing the nationwide tally to 3,405.

    By comparison, 3,245 people have died in China since the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year.

    However, Italy has far fewer confirmed cases — 41,035 as of Thursday against 80,907 in China.

    Italy's outbreak did not come to light until it was first reported in the north of the country on February 21.

    Hospitals in the country said they were being overwhelmed and the Government prepared to prolong emergency lockdown measures.

    In China, for the second day in a row, the country recorded no domestically-transmitted cases of the virus. The focus has now turned to guarding against cases arriving from overseas as expatriates begin returning home to mainland China.


    Student tests positive in Adelaide, but school won't close

    In Adelaide, a Year 8 student at Unley High School has tested positive for COVID-19.

    In a letter to parents, the school said the student had been identified as a close contact of a staff member who tested positive for the virus last week.

    However, the school says it will not be closing as a result because the child was not at school during the infectious period.

    Americans urged not to go anywhere overseas

    The United States has raised its travel alert for the entire world to its highest level, urging Americans not to go overseas and calling on those already abroad to return to the country immediately due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

    "If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe," the advisory said.

    Australia announced similar travel advice earlier this week, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying people should "not go overseas" due to the "once-in-a-100-year-type event".

    UN says world is 'at war with a virus', global recession near certainty

    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world is "at war with a virus", and has warned that a global recession, "perhaps of record dimensions", is a near certainty.

    He said the global scale of the crisis demands "coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action" from the world's leading economies.

    "We must recognise that the poorest countries and most vulnerable, especially women, will be the hardest hit," he said.

    Mr Guterres welcomed next week's emergency summit of leaders of the Group of 20 major economic powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, "The magnitude of the response must match its scale."

    Donald Trump says anti-malaria drug could be a 'game changer'

    US President Donald Trump says medical professionals believe the anti-malaria drug chloroquine could be a treatment for coronavirus.

    He said he had asked the FDA to investigate whether certain therapeutic drugs currently used for other purposes.

    Chloroquine is widely available now and could be used off-label, but officials want a formal study to get good information on safety and effectiveness.

    "The nice part is it's been around for a long time, so we know that if things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody," Mr Trump said.

    There are currently no known treatments for the COVID-19 virus and officials have said a vaccine could take up to 12-18 months.

    Virus taking a life 'every 10 minutes' in Iran

    Coronavirus is killing one person every 10 minutes in Iran, a health ministry spokesman said, as the death toll in the Middle East's worst-affected country climbed to 1,284.

    Kianush Jahanpur, the head of public relations and information in the ministry of Health and Medical Education, also tweeted that "some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour" in the country.

    Iran's deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said the total number of infections had reached 18,407 in the Islamic Republic.

    The Government has ordered the closure of schools and universities and banned sports, cultural and religious gatherings. Iran has also closed four holy Shi'ite shrines.

    The virus has also dampened Iran's celebrations for the Nowruz New Year that begin on Friday.

    AFL players get their first taste of fan-free stadiums

    On Thursday night, Richmond and Carlton kicked off the AFL season in front of an empty MCG, when in the past two seasons 90,151 (2018) and 85,016 (2019) fans turned up for the same fixture.

    Senior ABC Grandstand commentator Alister Nicholson said it was "not footy as we know it".

    "The vibe is very different tonight," he said.

    It was a similar story in Sydney, as round two of the NRL began with the Bulldogs hosting the Cowboys in an empty Olympic stadium in Sydney.

    AFL and NRL players and supporters will have to become used to matches being played without crowds following the Federal Government's decision to ban mass gatherings during the coronavirus crisis.

    Cannes Film Festival has been postponed

    France's Cannes Film Festival has postponed its 73rd edition.

    The film festival, arguably the world's most prestigious, was scheduled to take place May 12-23, but organisers say they are considering moving the festival to the end of June or the beginning of July.

    "See you very soon," the festival said in a statement.

    Royal tests positive to virus

    Prince Albert of Monaco has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first monarch to be diagnosed with the disease.

    A statement from the palace said the 62-year-old was tested for the virus earlier this week, and that his health "does not inspire any concern".

    The prince will continue to work from his private apartments and will be closely monitored by his personal doctor and specialist from Monaco's Princess Grace Hospital Centre.

    Prince Albert urged Monaco's 39,000 inhabitants to adhere to quarantine rules to halt the spread of the virus.

    Airline staff to become health workers

    Over a thousand laid-off SAS airline workers in Sweden are being offered fast-track healthcare training to help Sweden's beleaguered healthcare system to fight the coronavirus.

    SAS has laid off 10,000 staff, or 90 per cent of its workforce, temporarily as demand for flights has "more or less disappeared" after many European countries shut their borders or advised against travel.

    Sophiahemmet University will run a three-day pilot for 30 people at the end of March with the hope of extending the course to hundreds more shortly.

    "There are incredibly competent people who will be able to offer relief to our healthcare immediately after completing the training so that doctors and nurses can to an even greater extent devote themselves to caring for patients," the principal at the university said.

    The students will be trained in providing information to patients and their families, sterilising beds and equipment, and basic administrative duties.

    In Australia, Qantas and Jetstar will temporarily stand down two-thirds of their 30,000 employees from late March until at least the end of May. Virgin Australia is grounding its international fleet.

    Queen 'ready to play part', Invictus Games cancelled

    The Queen has issued a message after leaving Buckingham Palace with Prince Phillip to take up residence at Windsor Castle, saying that she and her family "stand ready to play our part" to help tackle the coronavirus crisis.

    "As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty," a statement from Buckingham Palace read.

    The Queen said the nation's history had been "forged by people and communities coming together to work as one", and that she was "enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services".

    "Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge," she said.

    Meanwhile, the Invictus Games, created by Prince Harry to help sick and wounded war veterans, announced it would be postponing the event until next year.

    It was due to take place in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in May.

    African nations are new frontier

    More African countries closed their borders on Thursday as the coronavirus' local spread threatened to turn the continent of 1.3 billion people into an alarming new front for the pandemic.

    The World Health Organisation's Africa chief Dr Matshidiso Moeti said about 10 days ago, there were five countries with the virus.

    Now, 34 of Africa's 54 countries have cases, with the total close to 650. Dr Moeti said it was an "extremely rapid evolution".

    In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has barred attendance at bars and clubs, calling limiting "merry-making" a new front in virus prevention.

    "Drunkards sit close to one another. They speak with saliva coming out of their mouth. They are a danger to themselves," he said.

    India to trial curfew

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to citizens to observe a self-curfew on March 22 from 7:00am to 9:00pm as part of a trial-run to test social isolation to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

    "If you think India has been spared and that everything is OK, and you will not be affected by the pandemic, then it is a wrong way of thinking," he said.

    In an address to the nation, Mr Modi also asked people to stand on their balconies on Sunday at 5:00pm and bang pots, applaud or ring bells to show their appreciation for those at the forefront including medical staff.

    India has so far recorded just three deaths and 176 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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