PM slams 'unfathomable' WHO decision

 

Scott Morrison has torn into the World Health Organisation for the "unfathomable" decision to support the reopening of China's cruel wet markets.

Experts believe the new coronavirus originated at a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, but the WHO says it does not support the closure of the markets "because they are a source of livelihood and food security to many people".

"It's unfathomable, frankly," Mr Morrison told Nine's Today. "We need to protect the world against potential sources of outbreaks of these types of viruses. It's happened too many times. I'm totally puzzled by this decision. We don't have them here in Australia. I am just puzzled by that decision."

It comes amid warnings up to 1.4 million Australians could be out of work by June with Australia's jobless rate tipped to soar to 10 per cent, its highest level in nearly three decades, due to the coronavirus shutdown - which experts say must remain in place for many more weeks at least.

There are more than 6300 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia, with 2870 in New South Wales, 1291 in Victoria, 998 in Queensland, 431 in South Australia, 523 in Western Australia, 150 in Tasmania, 103 in the Australian Capital Territory and 28 in the Northern Territory.

The death toll now stands at 61.

Follow our live, rolling coverage below.

Originally published as PM slams 'unfathomable' decision

Older Australians less worried

Frank Chung

Older Australians are less worried than younger people about coronavirus even though they will be worse off if they catch the disease.

Health officials and politicians have warned young Australians against being complacent about the virus, saying anyone can get ill.

The latest polling from Essential Research shows two-thirds of Australians think they're unlikely to contract the virus - more than a week ago - amid a flattening of the infection curve.

But those aged older than 55 years were much more likely to think they wouldn't get the virus - 74 per cent of this age group - compared to younger people.

Two-in-five of those aged between 19 and 34 years thought it was likely they would catch it.

The polling also found more than one-in-10 people were struggling with the isolation imposed through the social distancing rules and restrictions on travel and gatherings.

The proportion of those struggling is almost double for younger people.

That same younger age group was much more likely to have engaged in some activity to combat the sense of isolation, with 84 per cent of people aged between 18 and 34 staying connected online.

By comparison, just 65 per cent of those aged over 55 said they had sought virtual company.

The most common way of coping was spending more time in contact with friends and family via text message, phone calls and online chats.

Overall, economic issues were seen as more concerning than the health aspects of the crisis.

- Katina Curtis, AAP

ATO's huge blow for parents

Alexis Carey

Countless Aussie parents are juggling working-from-home pressures and the stress of educating their kids at home during the coronavirus isolation period.

But while many families may have racked up extra expenses related to home schooling their children, the Australian Taxation Office has revealed they will remain out of pocket.

That's because home schooling expenses can't be claimed as tax deductions even in this unprecedented situation.

An ATO spokesman told news.com.au that Australian parents would not be able to add those extra educational costs - such as electronic equipment or office furniture - to their tax return this year.

"The ATO understands that family and community are most important right now, and that in response to COVID-19, many people may be working from home," the spokesman said.

"If you are an employee who is working from home, you can only claim a deduction for expenses that are directly related to your work."

Read more here.

Royal Adelaide Show cancelled

Frank Chung

The Royal Adelaide Show has been cancelled due to coronavirus.

It's only the fifth time in the show's 181-year history it has been cancelled - after the 1852 Victorian Gold Rush, World War I, the 1919 Spanish Flu and World War II.

"It will be disappointing for many, but I'm sure South Australians will be excited for its return in 2021," Premier Steven Marshall said.

ICU nurse tests positive

Frank Chung

An intensive care nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital who was working with coronavirus patients has tested positive.

South Australia Health said the nurse, aged in her 20s, became "mildly symptomatic" on April 10 and yesterday returned a postive COVID-19 test.

She is currently isolating at home. Twenty-three of her close contacts have been advised to self-isolate, including 22 hospital staff - mainly nurses and two doctors.

Same-day results via text

Frank Chung

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she's pleased the state has recorded a slower rise in COVID-19 cases than other locations around the world but has warned social and business restrictions will not be lifted in the short term.

Those who are tested for COVID-19 in NSW and return a negative result, meanwhile, will soon be able to receive a same-day text message with their outcome.

The number of confirmed NSW cases on Tuesday in NSW rose by seven to 2870, with 32 patients in intensive care.

The NSW death toll remains at 26. Ms Berejiklian said testing would this week be ramped up in areas including eastern Sydney, western Sydney and Lake Macquarie after evidence of clusters and community-to-community transmission in those districts.

She said she was glad to see the COVID-19 curve flatten in NSW but warned the virus could quickly reappear if social restrictions were not heeded.

Community-to-community transmission - the main statistic by which authorities are gauging the success of NSW shutdown measures - remains a major threat.

"When you look at other countries in the world and you look at their numbers and where NSW was a few weeks ago, and (then) where they've gone compared to where we've gone … I think we should all feel satisfied we've contained the spread to the extent we have," Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday.

"While we're encouraged by the reduction in the number of cases every day, it's really up to us to continue to follow the restrictions and do what we've been asked."

Ms Berejiklian emphasised that the Easter long weekend had resulted in reduced COVID-19 testing which would be rectified in the coming days.

Those who are tested and return a negative result in the coming weeks will receive a text message on the same day with their outcome.

This will 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.

Those who test positive will have their results reported immediately to health authorities.

Essential workers in NSW, meanwhile, have been urged to stay home if they feel ill after an unwell Sydney aged care worker kept working before testing positive to COVID-19.

The worker at Anglicare's Newmarch House aged care home in Caddens in western Sydney went to work for six days while she had respiratory symptoms.

She has since tested positive for the coronavirus, as has a resident of the facility.

"If you're feeling sick, and you're working in an aged care facility, you're working with some of the most vulnerable people in our state. Please do not go to work," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters on Monday. "Unfortunately, the potential is disastrous consequences."

Newmarch House staff who were in close contact with the resident or their colleague are self-isolating at home, while all residents are in self-isolation in their own rooms.

The woman also worked two shifts at Greystanes Disability Services in Leura.

- AAP

Summer may have curbed virus

Frank Chung

One of Australia's leading infectious disease experts believes coronavirus travel and social restrictions should remain in place throughout winter to prevent a fresh outbreak.

And other measures may need to continue for up to two years.

Peter Collignon from the Australian National University said the timing of the global pandemic meant the country had dodged the worst of COVID-19.
"If you look at any respiratory virus, they transmit much more readily in winter," he told AAP on Tuesday.

Professor Collignon expects an uptick in coronavirus cases as more people retreat inside and the weather cools.

"All the factors aren't clear but what's beyond doubt is viral infections, respiratory infections are more common in winter and early spring."

He believes rules rolled out since March had helped flatten the curve of coronavirus infections.

Australia has shut down its borders, returned visitors have been quarantined, hospitality businesses have been closed and social gatherings dramatically curtailed.

"All those things that are pretty drastic and put a million people out of work, we're going to have to continue mostly till the end of winter," Prof Collignon said.

He pointed to America and Europe, where winter saw many coronavirus cases go unrecognised initially.

Australia's testing regime - one of the best in the world - has also helped keep the virus under control.

But Australians could have to continue vigorous hygiene practices and avoid large crowds for up to two years.

"Unless something magically changes, we're going to have to do more than we've done before if we want to keep the numbers of this virus down," Prof Collignon said.

He urged the government to stop modelling restrictions on places like the United States, where the virus had gotten out of hand before measures were introduced.

Instead, Prof Collignon believes there is a balance to be struck between allowing people to do things like visit the park or go for a drive, while also curbing large gatherings.

- Finbar O'Mallon, AAP

Cruise probe will take months

Frank Chung

The criminal investigation into the Ruby Princess cruise ship debacle is expected to take another five months as authorities probe Australia's highest COVID-19 killer.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday the police investigation would take at least six months, with a month already passed.

She said police are working with federal authorities to collect evidence from the ship and are looking into hundreds of calls made to CrimeStoppers.

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 and at least 18 deaths, including two in NSW on Monday.

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.

About 66 Ruby Princess crew members have also come down with the coronavirus, with authorities evacuating an additional 11 to NSW hospitals.

The rest of the crew are still quarantined on board the ship, which is docked at Port Kembla.

When asked about a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the Ruby Princess, Ms Berejiklian said it was important not to compromise the criminal and coronial inquiries already underway.

"Whilst the police investigation is focusing on potential criminal activity, it will be reporting on a whole range of issues so everything from go to woe is included," she said.

"I don't want anyone to feel the criminal investigation the police are conducting isn't robust."

She said her government would seek legal advice this week before considering the establishment of a commission of inquiry.

"If the police are able to publicly provide to the community in five months' time about everything they've uncovered … that is a positive for the community because any commission of inquiry would take at least six to 12 months," Ms Berejiklian said.

"We will not be leaving a single stone unturned."

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said he was willing to release all findings to the public if permitted, and that authorities had interviewed 200 witnesses over the weekend.

He said COVID-19 testing is still underway for crew members on the ship and daily conversations are taking place with NSW Health on moving the ship.

Once NSW Health gives the all-clear on the health of crew members, Mr Fuller will ask the ABF to instruct the ship to return to its port of residence. The Commissioner on Monday said the disease was most likely spread on board by an ill food handler.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, meanwhile, on Monday said it was "unfortunate" 2700 passengers boarded the ship at a time when the coronavirus pandemic was already front and centre in the community's consciousness.

"It is a very unfortunate outcome but at the time that that ship sailed, which was March 8 from memory, there was COVID-19 well and truly," Mr Hazzard told reporters.

- Ashlea Witoslawski, AAP

$28 million for mental health

Frank Chung

A new $28 million COVID-19 mental health fund will help Queenslanders who are becoming increasingly vulnerable during the current health crisis.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the fund for non-government services on Tuesday, as the state's total number of cases jumps to almost 1000 and a child care centre was shut because of infection.

She said the money will help support those with mental illnesses, and drug and alcohol issues who are "doing it tough" in quarantine while facing job losses and financial pressure.

The funding has been welcomed by the state's mental health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic, who said many Queenslanders were at risk.

"Whether we were well before this, whether we were vulnerable at the time, or whether we were living with mental illness," he said.

"The level of vulnerability has an aspect to all of us."

The commissioner said the funding will support other mental health initiatives already being rolled out by the federal government.

He said it would provide structure and guidance for those struggling with this unprecedented crisis.

"This particular measure will help people to manage better and come out the other end, with much stronger mental health and ability to rebuild and to regain control," Mr Frkovic said.

An additional 11 COVID-19 cases have been recorded across the state overnight bringing the total to 998 cases.

Five Queenslanders have died from coronavirus while 442 patients have recovered. Although the rate of infection has dropped, public gathering restrictions will remain.

An early learning centre at Jimboomba, south of Brisbane, was ordered to close on the weekend due to the virus.

A sick person visited the centre on April 1 and April 8, according to the state's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.

Parents and staff have been notified.

It comes as Queensland schools prepare to switch to remote learning when the second term begins on Monday.

Schools, kindergartens and child care centres will remain open for vulnerable students and children of essential workers, but this will be reviewed on May 22.

Education Minister Grace Grace has acknowledged it would be a testing time for parents supervising their children at home.

"We're going to ensure as much as we can that students have the availability to have devices either from schools or to be able to have them lent or borrowed to them," Ms Grace said on Monday.

"Parents, of course, have a new role and we know it's not going to be easy."

Staff at schools and childcare centres are now on the list of those who can be tested for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, a rescue flight of Australians from the Peruvian capital Lima is expected to arrive in Brisbane on Tuesday.

- Michael Doyle, Nicholas McElroy and Darren Cartwright, AAP

3h agoApril 14, 2020Highlight

Murphy 'commenting on rumour'

Frank Chung

Well this is awkward.

Tasmanian Premier Gutwein now says chief medical officer Brendan Murphy was "commenting on a rumour" in blaming the north-west outbreak on an illegal dinner party of healthcare workers.

"I spoke to Brendan Murphy a short while ago," Mr Gutwein told reporters.

"To be frank, Brendan was commenting on a rumour. At this stage, our contact tracing has not identified a dinner party of health workers."

Mr Gutwein said he accepts that "this is a serious allegation, and it's something that needs to be followed up and so we will retrace our steps" and that Tasmania Police would also begin an investigation today.

"We need to get on top of this," he said.

"We need to understand whether or not there is any strength to the rumour because I am certain that there are many hard-working health professionals on the north-west coast who feel that their reputations are being maligned."

3h agoApril 14, 2020Highlight

Outbreak from 'illegal dinner party'

Frank Chung

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says the coronavirus outbreak that forced the evacuation of two Tasmanian hospitals was due to an illegal dinner party of healthcare workers.

Professor Murphy made the revelation in a livestreamed briefing to New Zealand MPs, apparently confirming social media rumours that had been denied by Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein at two press conferences, The Mercury reports.

"You have to be prepared to deal with further outbreaks," Prof Murphy said.

"We thought we were doing really well then in the last week we had a cluster of 49 cases in a hospital in Tasmania just over the weekend. Most of them went to an illegal dinner party of medical workers."

Read more at The Mercury.

4h agoApril 14, 2020Highlight

Fined for beach BBQ

Frank Chung

Four people having a BBQ at Brighton Beach are among 99 Victorians fined for breaching coronavirus lockdown in the past 24 hours.

Other examples provided in the daily update from Victoria Police were four people gathering outside shops in Baxter after visiting friends, 10 people at a home in Montrose where there were "multiple cars coming and going", 10 people gathered for a backyard party in Strathdale, and "multiple instances of private gatherings at residential properties".

Victoria Police have conducted 507 spot checks in the past 24 hours under Operation Sentinel and 20,993 since March 21.


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