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Coronavirus: What we know today, March 29

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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. Today, governments agree on a moratorium on eviction, and Barossa schools to close in response to a cluster of 34 infections in the region.

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

Moratorium on eviction for renters

Renters will be offered a moratorium on evictions, in a bid to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a series of principles had been agreed at Sunday night’s national cabinet.

“The most significant of those is that states and territories will be moving to put a moratorium on evictions of persons as a result of financial distress … for the next six months,” he said.

Further work is being done by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and his state and territory counterparts on commercial tenancies.

But Morrison underlined the need for landlords to work with their tenants and banks on solutions, which should start immediately.

“We need you to sit down, talk to each other and work this out,” he said.

Measures will be put in place to encourage agreements, as part of the idea of “hibernating” businesses until the coronavirus crisis passes.

SA cases rise to 299 as Barossa flagged for concern

South Australian cases of COVID-19 have increased to 299, with 12 new cases reported to SA Health by Sunday afternoon.

The increase is significantly fewer than has been reported by SA Health in their daily briefing over the past week, however another person – a man in his 70s – has been admitted to intensive care.

Of the six South Australians in intensive care, four are in a critical condition.

Chief public health officer Dr Nicola Spurrier said she was particularly concerned about a cluster of cases in the Barossa, with 34 infections in the region linked to two groups of tourists who visited the area – one from the US and one from Switzerland.

Spurrier said she wanted to discourage travel to and from the Barossa towns of Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Angaston, Williamstown and Lyndoch.

Anyone who had been in these towns since March 14 and is feeling unwell should self-isolate.

“We are very concerned about the number of cases we have been seeing from the Barossa,” she said.

She said schools and childcare centres in these towns would be closed on Monday, not because they were particularly at risk but to discourage travel.

Overall, Spurrier said she was very pleased with the lower daily increase in infections today.

“I’m confident with all of the measures put in place, along with my request for people not to travel into this area, that we will get on top of this,” Dr Spurrier said.

Health Minister Stephen Wade reiterated the Government’s advice for people to stay at home over the Easter holiday period.

Public gatherings limited to two people

Federal and state governments have moved to further restrict public gatherings of people from 10 to two.

States and territories are now considering, following a national cabinet meeting on Sunday, whether to make the two-person limit enforceable.

The limit will not apply to households, education or employment, while skate parks and public playgrounds will also be closed.

Asked how it would apply to a family, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said parents and children could go for a walk together even if there were more than two.

Also in SA

Accommodation for people with COVID-19

Marion Holiday Park will be used to care for some South Australians with COVID-19.

The State Government announced today that Flinders Medical Centre “Hospital @ Home” nurses and specialist consultants would review and assess isolated patients and their families at the park, with special attention to patients who deteriorate or need emotional support.

“Marion Holiday Park is conveniently located close to FMC allowing for rapid medical attention if required,” said Health Minister Stephen Wade. “Our infectious diseases experts have toured the facility and highlighted the value of the separation of accommodation and facilities on the site.”

Woman charged after coughing on Police

A New South Wales woman will face court after speeding through a South Australian border checkpoint and coughing in the faces of two police officers.

The Navara Utility sped through the checkpoint on the Barrier Highway in Oodla Wirra about 10:45pm on Saturday and was followed by a police car.

Patrols tried to stop the vehicle and pursued it along the highway until the car’s tyres were spiked about 1.5km north of Whyte-Yarcowie.

Police searched the car and found two knives and an open carton of beer.

The 51-year-old woman, who refused a roadside breath test, was arrested and taken to hospital for a medical assessment.

It was at the hospital that the woman allegedly intentionally coughed in the officers’ faces but they were wearing protective equipment at the time.

The woman has been charged with various offences, including engaging in a police pursuit and carrying an offensive weapon.

She was also issued a $1060 fine for not complying with COVID-19 directions.

The woman was refused police bail and will appear in the Port Pirie Magistrates Court on Monday.

Infrastructure fast-track

The State Government says it is fast-tracking $120 million of infrastructure projects as part of its economic stimulus package.

The projects focus on regional road upgrades and include:

Around Australia

Wages subsidy in the pipeline

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has confirmed the Morrison government is working on a wage subsidy so that business can keep workers on their payrolls during the coronavirus crisis.

The government, including Cormann, has repeatedly rejected a UK-style 80 per cent wage subsidy, saying it would take too long to introduce.

“We are going to do it in an Australian way,” he told ABC television’s Insiders program on Sunday.

“We’re going to do it in a way that actually is going to be able to be delivered, using our existing systems and our existing architecture.”

He said from his understanding, the UK’s plan had yet to be rolled out.

“We are working very hard on further expanding the level of income support through businesses to enable more businesses either to stay in hibernation or to survive through this difficult period ahead for a strong bounce back on the other side,” Cormann said.

He declined to go into the specifics of the plan but said the government intended to make an announcement “over the next few days”.

Couple fined

A man and a woman have been fined $1000 each after the pair allegedly flouted their 14-day coronavirus self-isolation period following their arrival from Thailand.

Police said they issued a 22-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman with Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) on Saturday after speaking to the couple at an address in Hillvue, western NSW, where the pair had been required to quarantine for two weeks.

More mental health support

All Australians will be able to consult their GP over the phone and access new coronavirus-specific mental health support under a $1.1 billion package.

The Morrison government is expanding Medicare subsidies for telehealth to the entire population, giving more money to domestic violence and mental health support services, and providing $200 million to charities and community organisations who give emergency relief, such as food banks, and financial counselling.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says this latest round of spending aims to deal with the secondary effects of the health and economic crises the coronavirus is causing.

What’s happening around the world?

Global coronavirus infections were approaching the 650,000 mark as the United States led the world with confirmed cases – with cities such as Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans emerging as hotspots – and Russia prepared to fully close its borders.

The world death toll stood at more than 30,000 as new cases also stacked up quickly in Europe on Saturday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The US leads the world in reported cases with more than 115,000 but five countries exceed its roughly 1,700 deaths: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

Italy alone now has 10,023 deaths, the most of any country.

New York remained the worst-hit US city and state governor Andrew Cuomo said defeating the virus will take “weeks and weeks and weeks”.

The UN donated 250,000 face masks to the city and Cuomo delayed the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 23.

The virus is straining health systems in Italy, Spain and France.

Lockdowns of varying degrees have been introduced across Europe, nearly emptying streets in normally bustling cities.

Germany has fewer deaths than some neighbouring countries but still closed non-essential shops and banned public gatherings of more than two people until April 20.

But it still had its share of grim news, with 12 residents of a nursing home in the northern town of Wolfsburg dying since Monday after being infected, news agency DPA reported.

Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, reported 832 more deaths on Saturday, its highest daily count yet, bringing its total to 5690.

Another 8000 confirmed infections pushed that count above 72,000.

But Spain’s director of emergencies, Fernando Simon, saw hope in that the rate of infection is slowing and figures “indicate that the outbreak is stabilising and may be reaching its peak in some areas”.

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

Government information via WhatsApp: click here

Travel

Australian Government travel advice: smartraveller.gov.au

Check your symptoms

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

– Reporting by InDaily staff, AAP and Reuters

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