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Coronavirus: What we know today, March 18

News

Follow this post for rolling updates on the impact of the coronavirus in South Australia, the nation and the world, as well as the latest health information and links to official advice.

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Refresh this page for updates – scroll down for links to official health information.

Uni student tests positive

A third-year student at Flinders University has tested positive for COVID-19, the university announced this afternoon.

In a statement, Flinders said the student had not been on campus for eight days and had not been in direct contact with any staff or other students during that time.

“The student’s partner, who had recently returned from overseas, was confirmed to have COVID-19, at which point the student self-isolated in line with Department of Health advice,” said university Vice-Chancellor Colin Stirling.

“In line with Department of Health practice, any close contacts of the student will be identified and contacted by the Department; we understand that they are not seeking to contact any Flinders University staff or students and are advised that no further action is required by the University.”

SA coronavirus cases rise to 37

SA Health’s latest update on COVID-19 – provided this afternoon – is that five more people have been diagnosed with the virus in South Australia, bringing the total to 37.

Of those, three recently returned from overseas, including a female patient in her 60s and a male in his 50s who arrived from the United States, and another female in her 30s who recently flew in from the Philippines.

The fourth patient – a female in her 20s – had close contact with another confirmed case, who was one of her family members.

Authorities are yet to receive details about the fifth case – a female in her 50s.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr Michael Cusack said this afternoon that of the confirmed patients in South Australia, the majority of those who were treated at the Royal Adelaide and Flinders Hospitals had been discharged. 

He said there had been no deaths in South Australia.

The State Government has moved to toughen its approach to self-isolation.

Premier Steven Marshall said today that all passengers arriving at Adelaide Airport from a flight outside of Australia will be handed a “Direction” by Commonwealth Border Force “outlining their obligation to self-isolate at home for 14 days, along with a fact sheet developed by SA Health with advice and support information on how to self-isolate”.

“South Australia Police (SAPOL) will conduct ‘spot checks’ of those who have recently returned overseas, based on details provided in their incoming passenger visitor cards, to ensure they are abiding by the Direction for self-isolation.”

Adelaide Uni suspends placements, will move many classes online

The University of Adelaide has written to its health professions students today, saying all placements and clinics have been suspended until further notice.

Executive Dean of the university’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Benjamin Kile wrote that it was committed to ensuring all students will meet the necessary requirements of their degrees nonetheless – but the length of the academic year and the timing of graduation may be affected.

“In the interest of your welfare and education, all placements and clinics are suspended for undergraduate and postgraduate students until further notice,” the email reads.

“…It is a decision that we have not come to lightly and it is a decision that may disappoint some of you.”

But the university is still requiring students to attend regular lectures and tutorials.

However, “many of these classes will be moved online in the coming weeks”.

“To some extent we expect these activities (assesments and attendance-based grades) will be affected in the short term,” Kile writes.

“As we work through the impacts of the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic we will be putting measures in place that ensure students will be eligible to complete their degree.”

In a post to the Adelaide University Student Representative Council Facebook page on Monday, SRC president Henry Armfield argued that the university was asking students to “choose between their health and their grades” by maintaining physical attendance at classes and lectures.

Read more on that story by clicking here.

Indoor gatherings of 100 or more banned

All non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more will be banned in Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ban this morning, effective immediately.

Outdoor gatherings of 500 people or more were banned on the weekend as the federal government tries to curb the spread of the disease.

The Government has also ordered Australians not to travel overseas – to prevent infection to other Australians on their return.

“It is very important that Australians do not travel abroad at this time,” Morrison said.

Read more here.

– AAP

City landmarks remain open

Adelaide’s key retail, food and cultural destinations, including the Central Market, Art Gallery and Rundle Mall, remain open but on alert as the Federal Government implements a new ban on indoor gatherings.

Read the full story here.

‘Students must stay at school’

Premier Steven Marshall has strongly urged parents to continue sending their children to school as he railed against “fake news” being passed around social media about an imminent lockdown.

Fronting media at midday today, Marshall said he understood many parents were anxious, with several taking matters into their own hands this week and keeping their children home despite no apparent symptoms of illness.

“Students must remain at school,” Marshall said.

“The advice from health professionals is very clear.”

Read the full story here.

Woolies, Coles tighten food buying restrictions

Woolworths Supermarkets have applied new restrictions on the number of items customers can purchase in a series of categories, confirming a one-pack limit, per customer, per shop on the following items:

Toilet paper, baby wipes, antibacterial wipes, paper towel, serviettes, rice (2 kilograms or more).

Product lines that have no limit on purchases per customer include perishables like fresh fruit, vegetables, most meat and seafood, bakery and fresh milk.

Coles Supermarkets has also announced product restrictions, limiting each customer to one pack of toilet paper and two packs of a series of basic items.

The two-pack limit is imposed on goods including pasta, flour, rice, paper towels, hand sanitiser, mince meat, eggs, canned tomatoes, soup and refrigerated milk.

Aged care visit restrictions

The federal government is limiting visits to aged care facilities to short, two-person visits once a day, per resident, to protect people from coronavirus.

But anyone who has been overseas in the past two weeks, been in contact with someone who has coronavirus or has respiratory infection symptoms will be barred completely.

Large groups, including school groups, will also be banned from aged care homes as well as social or entertainment events.

Visitors would be restricted to the residents’ rooms or outdoor spaces, with no meetings to be held in communal areas.

Gallipoli, Western Front Anzac Day services cancelled

Australian-led international Anzac Day services have been cancelled as the government moves to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Commemorations at Gallipoli and on the Western Front will be among the events cancelled this year because of the global pandemic.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester said the decision to cancel was made with great regret, but the safety of people involved was paramount.

“We simply couldn’t be having large gatherings of 500 or 1000 people on Anzac Day on foreign soil this year,” he told ABC News Breakfast on Wednesday.

The South Australian RSL announced yesterday that Anzac Day marches would be cancelled and services would be restricted to RSL members only.

Read the full story here.

Virgin suspends all international flights

Virgin Australia will suspend all international flights and has announced more cuts to domestic capacity as quarantine measures accelerate amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline on Wednesday said it will suspend all international flying from March 30 to June 14 and reduce group domestic capacity by 50 per cent.

Virgin’s measures follow Qantas’ 90 per cent reduction in international flights on Tuesday and is the equivalent of grounding 53 aircraft.

Virgin said it will operate a reduced international schedule between now and March 29 to enable Australians to return home and visitors to return to their point of origin.

– AAP

SACA cancels end-of-season events

SA Cricket Association today said it had cancelled the following events after advice from government and health authorities: Dansie McCauley Medal, the Bradman Rolton Medal, the Community Cricket Awards, the National Cricket Inclusion Championships Dinner and the Junior Senior Premier Cricket Presentation Night.

Award winners from all five events will still be announced on the originally scheduled event dates, but through online channels.

Regional airline warns of collapse

Australia’s largest independent regional airline has warned it is at risk of collapse within six months unless government further boosts support measures amid the coronavirus crisis.

Regional Express has sent an open letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Matthew McCormack asking the federal government to waive a number of fees and levies that it pays for weather forecasts, baggage handling and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

It also wants the federal government to guarantee its bank loans.

-AAP

OFFICIAL SOURCES OF ADVICE AND INFORMATION

Local updates and resources

SA Health: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/COVID2019

National advice and information

Australian Government Coronavirus information hotline: 1800 020 080

Travel

Australian Government travel advice: smartraveller.gov.au

Check your symptoms

Free, government-funded, health advice: healthdirect.gov.au

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