Aged care wants 1bn boost as PM plans to get economy going
Seven of Australia's biggest aged-care providers have teamed up to ask the federal government for more than $1 billion to get them through the pandemic crisis.
The rescue package would keep the 1.3 million people in aged and home care safe and feeling less isolated, according to the group which includes Anglicare Australia and Catholic Health Australia.
The cash boost would also bolster the 360,000-strong workforce, enabling centres to add extra staff as people get sick and cannot work.
Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Patricia Sparrow said: "The risks that we're facing are as real the ones being faced by the aviation sector.
"We need this emergency intervention to keep us safe and open. We don't want to see closures, and we want to make sure people at home continue to get the care they need."
Uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus through the aged-care sector has been one of the main concerns for health officials so far.
A cluster of cases and deaths has been linked to one Sydney nursing home, after a staff member continued to go to work without realising they had coronavirus.
In a bid to stop repeats of that, the government has asked for workers to be especially careful in making sure they do not work when they could be sick, meaning some centres have had to hire more staff.
The federal government has already stumped up $2.4 billion to support the struggling sector.
"We are ready to as we navigate through this difficult time together," Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said.
"It's absolutely critical we continue to have a strong workforce so there are no gaps in care, particularly in regional and remote areas.
"We have plans in place for worst-case scenarios where an outbreak in aged-care facilities means local staff are unable to continue to provide care due to an infection in the service."
But the group of seven providers says it needs more. They are asking for $250 million to fund home care, $546 million for residential care and a $500 million pool for IT and training, to reduce loneliness.
Carers were increasingly concerned about older people not being able to see family and friends because of the strict visiting restrictions in place due to the coronavirus emergency, the group said.
They wanted to be able to buy items such as iPads to keep the elderly connected.
PM'S 'ROAD OUT PLAN' TO REBOOT AUSSIE ECONOMY
Workplaces could gradually reopen within weeks as the federal government looks to breathe life into the economy while it continues to fight the coronavirus.
News Corp Australia understands the Morrison Government's "road out plan" will focus on opening businesses in office buildings and sectors such as manufacturing.
But the plan depends on states recording low daily infection rates and increased and broad testing.
An opt-in tracing app that would allow officials to pinpoint contacts of coronavirus cases is one of the key measures being developed in the fight against the virus.
The app is due to be completed within the coming fortnight and officials hope at least 40 per cent of the population will download the app, enabling rapid tracing, which is key in plans to reopen workplaces.
The strategy to reinvigorate the country's struggling economy would focus on industries where social distancing was possible.
Hospitality and other high-contact industries would remain closed under the measures being considered.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said social distancing was to remain in place but a route out of some restrictions was being worked on.
"It's good to have plans to get the way back to where we want to be," Mr Morrison said.
"That's what we're working on as a National Cabinet.
"(Tomorrow) we will be considering further plans about how we can chart that way back to get the economy operating at a much higher level than it is now so it can support people's incomes."
It is understood industry representatives are in consultation with the Federal Government so workplaces can be given clear guidelines on minimising the spread of the virus and what to do if someone contracts the illness.
The gradual strategy includes the hope people returning to workplaces would continue to spend money in their daily lives, such as buying a takeaway lunch or coffee to bolster small business.
The AHPPC has been working closely with senior government officials to work out how the measures could be introduced, including locking in the low transmission rates recorded across the country over the past week.
It would need to happen in step with significantly increased rapid testing, contact tracing and surveillance capacity.
News Corp Australia understands Attorney-General Christian Porter has been working through the privacy issues with a tracing app, which is being based on an app already in use in Singapore.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said an app was one of a range of technological interventions being looked at by the AHPPC.
"We're very much interested in relation to what we can do to find close contacts of cases as quickly as possible.
The government is not considering mandating Australians download and use the app, but is instead hoping the chance to save lives by quickly tracking down cases and the flow-on effect of measures being eased would be enough of a sweetener.
Mr Morrison said while Australia was doing a good job containing cases so far, that could change at any point.
"As we've seen overseas, we've seen this move right through the community, and so it's very important that we remain very aware of the potential of where this pandemic can go in Australia and not become complacent because of our relative success," Mr Morrison said.
"We don't want to end up like New York or like London or like in Spain or in Italy or any of these places."
The Prime Minister mapped out a path forward for Australia if its success in containing COVID-19 holds for "many weeks", but warned restrictions on non-essential movement and social gatherings would remain.
"Broader travel I think is … very dangerous, but we need to get our construction industry going, our infrastructure programs, our manufacturing industries," Mr Morrison said. "We have got to look to those areas of the economy that can start picking up again, without creating great health risks."
The PM said "not one country in the world" had been able to plan a path out of coronavirus restrictions but Australia was "better positioned than many", adding: "We have bought valuable time to plot our way out."
But any changes to restrictions would only happen in tandem with an increase in Australia's coronavirus testing, contact tracing and surveillance capability.
Health officials' ability to quickly detect, trace and isolate localised outbreaks, such as the cluster of cases currently gripping Tasmania, will be critical to the long-term success of relaxed restrictions.
DEATH TOLL IN BRITAIN 'IS HIGHER' THAN REPORTED
Coronavirus deaths in the UK pushed past the 12,000 barrier on Tuesday (local time) after 778 more people lost their lives to the killer disease.
It comes as the grim coronavirus death toll could be 15 per cent higher than reported as almost 800 hidden deaths outside of hospital in England were revealed.
Positive COVID-19 cases also rose to 93,873 from 88,621 on Monday as Britain continues its fourth week of lockdown.
The British Department of Health on Tuesday confirmed a total of 12,107 people have died from the bug in hospital.
Among the latest deaths is a 65-year-old nurse who contracted the disease while treating patients with just a paper mask, plastic gloves and a pinny.
Gareth Roberts, 65, had come out of retirement and was working extra shifts before he died at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales last weekend.
At least 40 frontline NHS staff have died so far from COVID-19 in the UK.
Meanwhile, coronavirus death toll could be 15 per cent higher than reported.
New official figures show 21 per cent of all deaths in England and Wales up to April 3 were caused by the killer bug.
Nick Stripe, head of health analysis and life events at the ONS, who collated the figures, said: "When looking at data for England, this is 15 per cent higher than the NHS numbers as they include all mentions of COVID-19 on the death certificate, including suspected COVID-19, as well as deaths in the community.
"The 16,387 deaths that were registered in England and Wales during the week ending 3 April is the highest weekly total since we started compiling weekly deaths data in 2005."
The ONS collects figures where Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19 is mentioned anywhere on the death certificate, including in combination with other health conditions.
Covid-19 was listed as a factor in 21 per cent per cent of all deaths in England and Wales in the week leading up to April 3 but registered to April 11 - a total of 6235.
A total of 16,387 deaths were registered in both countries in that time-frame - a rise of 5,246 deaths registered the previous week and 6082 more than the five-year average.
They found 406 deaths occurred outside hospital up to April 3 - ten per cent of the total number of deaths.
FRANCE'S DEATH TOLL PASSES 15,000, CANNES CANNED
France has officially registered more than 15,000 deaths from coronavirus infections, becoming the fourth country to go beyond that threshold after Italy, Spain and the United States.
The rate of increase of fatalities is slightly up again on Tuesday (local time) after steadying in previous days.
But the number of people in intensive care units fell to 6730 from 6821 over 24 hours, with this total declining for a sixth consecutive day, suggesting the lockdown, extended to May 11 on Monday, is having positive effects in containing the disease.
During a press conference Jerome Salomon, head of the public health authority, said the number of people who died from the disease in French hospitals and nursing homes had risen by 5.0 per cent in a day to a cumulative total of 15,729, versus 4.0 per cent on Monday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival will not be held this year in "its original form" due to the coronavirus, organisers say.
The festival will nevertheless be made "real" in 2020, "in a way or another", they added in a statement.
The film festival, one of the largest in the world, was initially due to take place from May 12-23.
TRUMP MEETS WITH FORMER VIRUS VICTIMS
US President Donald Trump has met with patients who have recovered from the coronavirus.
Among the former COVID-19 patients who met with Mr Trump at the White House is Michigan state politician Karen Whitsett. Ms Whitsett has publicly credited Mr Trump for publicising the use of an anti-malaria drug - which she says she used during her illness - as a treatment for the disease.
Ms Whitsett thanked Mr Trump again during Tuesday's meeting and said hydroxychloroquine must to readily available for the people of Detroit, which is in her district.
Mr Trump has promoted the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 although it hasn't been approved by the federal government for that specific use.
Mr Trump also heard from a passenger who was on a cruise ship that experienced an outbreak of coronavirus.
NEW YORK GOV SLAMS 'KING' TRUMP
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has pushed back against Mr Trump's claim of "total" authority to reopen the nation's virus-stalled economy, noting that a president is not an absolute monarch.
"We don't have a king," Gov. Cuomo said on the Today show in the US on Tuesday (local time).
"We have a president. That was a big decision. We ran away from having a king, and George Washington was president, not King Washington. So the president doesn't have total authority."
The Democratic governor, whose state has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, was reacting to Mr Trump's assertion on Monday that "when somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total."
"Nope," Gov. Cuomo said.
When asked what he would do if the Republican president ordered him to reopen New York's economy, Gov. Cuomo said, "If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn't do it.
And we would have a constitutional challenge between the state and the federal government and that would go into the courts and that would be the worst possible thing he could do at this moment."
Mr Trump made his comments in reaction to moves by governors on both coasts on Monday to form multi-state compacts to coordinate reopening society amid the global pandemic.
More than 10,000 people in New York state have died from the coronavirus, Gov. Cuomo reported on Monday.
It comes as New York City's once-overwhelmed 911 system is now seeing a more normal volume of medical calls, a sign the crisis could be ebbing and people are heeding messages to call only in a life-threatening emergency.
Originally published as Aged care wants 1bn boost as PM plans to get economy going