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Coronavirus: What we know today, March 20


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.


SA coronavirus cases rise to 50

SA Health’s latest update on COVID-19 – provided this afternoon – is that eight more people have been diagnosed with the virus in South Australia, bringing the total to 50.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said four of the new cases had clear links to overseas travel.

In relation to the remainder, SA Health wasn’t saying they were as a result of “community spread” but were “seeking more information on their contacts and travel history”.

One of the new cases is a student at Unley High School, with authorities insisting the school was safe to reopen today after closing earlier this week when a teacher returned a positive test.

Full story on the Unley student here.

Federal budget postponed until October

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has postponed handing down the federal budget until October 6 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government was due to deliver the budget in mid-May but has pushed it back as Australia responds to the spreading disease.

The states and territories have agreed to push back their own budgets after a meeting of the national cabinet on Friday.

“It was agreed today that putting budgets together at this time, with the great uncertainty that exists, is not something that any commonwealth or state government should be doing,” the prime minister said in Canberra.

“As a result, we have already decided that we will not be now handing down a budget until the first Tuesday in October.

“States and territories will be working to similar timetables.”

The Government also decided today to inject an extra $444.6 million into aged care facilities, including money to help them hold onto staff amid the coronavirus crisis.

Morrison said the extra funding would comprise $234.9 million in retention bonuses, $78.3 million to support continuity of workforce and $26.9 million to keep facilities financially viable.

Other money will be set aside to support in-home care providers, including Meals on Wheels.

NAPLAN tests cancelled

School students will not face national literacy and numeracy testing in 2020 because of the spread of coronavirus.

Education ministers made the decision to bin the NAPLAN tests at a meeting on Friday. The exams were scheduled for May.

The ministers said cancellation would help teachers and principals “focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education, including potential online and remote learning”.

“Further, the impact of responses to the COVID-19 virus may affect the delivery of NAPLAN testing, including the operation of centralised marking centres and the implications for nationally comparable data if an insufficient number of students are available to do the test,” they said in a statement.

But they reiterated the strong medical advice that schools should remain open for now.

The cancellation also means testing of the expanded online NAPLAN platform, supposed to start next week, now won’t happen.

Indoor event limit tightened

Australians will have to space themselves out one person for every four square metres for gatherings of less than 100 people.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has introduced the new measure as part of a crackdown on activities to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“So for example, if you’ve got a room, if you’ve got a premises, if you’ve got a meeting room or something like that, that’s 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

Real estate agents adapt

Adelaide real estate agents are pushing ahead with open inspections and auctions as the coronavirus fails to flatten the market.

Limiting auctions to registered bidders only, practising social distancing and requesting that visitors to open inspections come in small private groups and keep hands in pockets are among measures being taken to ease concerns and prevent the spread of the virus.

Many companies are also asking that their customer-facing staff work from home between appointments to limit the exposure of office workers.

Full story here.

Banks offer business loan relief

Banks will allow pandemic-hit small businesses to defer loan repayments for six months, as the government grapples with a massive hit to the economy.

“This is a multi-billion-dollar lifeline for small businesses when they need it most, to help keep the doors open and keep people in jobs,” Australian Banking Association chief executive Anna Bligh said on Friday.

“All that a business has to do is register their need with their bank,” Bligh said.

Friday’s announcement follows the Reserve Bank cutting the interest rate to a record low of 0.25 per cent in an historic suite of measures to offset a likely loss of jobs and income during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia’s small businesses collectively have $100 billion in loans and this bailout could put up to $8 billion back in their pockets, Bligh said.

Full story here.

Italy’s virus death toll surpasses China

Italy’s death toll from coronavirus has overtaken that of China, where the virus first emerged, as hospitals say they are being overwhelmed and the government prepares to prolong emergency lockdown measures.

A total 427 deaths were registered in Italy in the past 24 hours, bringing the total nationwide tally on Thursday to 3,405 since the outbreak surfaced on February 21.

China has recorded 3,245 deaths since early January.

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

Officials and experts believe the total number of infections here is significantly higher, with testing largely limited to those arriving for hospital care.

The country’s large, elderly population, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus, is also seen as factor for the high number of fatalities.

Australia’s borders close to tonight

Travellers to Australia will soon be banned as the government implements measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

All non-citizens and non-residents will be banned from entering the country from 9pm on Friday.

Australians and their direct family members will still be allowed in but must self-quarantine for 14 days.


Local updates and resources

SA Health:

National advice and information

Australian Government Coronavirus information hotline: 1800 020 080


Australian Government travel advice:

Check your symptoms

Free, government-funded, health advice:

– Reporting by InDaily staff, AAP and Reuters

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