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Coronavirus: What we know today, April 5

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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.

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

Latest South Australian statistics: only two new cases reported today

A further two new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in South Australia today, bringing the state’s total number of infections to 409.

The result was the lowest increase in SA infections since March 15.

Dr Michael Cusack, SA deputy chief public health officer, said this afternoon that there were no new cases connected to the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which has so far been linked to 85 local infections.

However, the cluster connected with Qantas baggage handlers at Adelaide Airport had increased by three to 28.

Seventeen of these cases were in baggage handlers, while 11 were infected by “secondary contact” with the handlers.

Nine people were being treated in intensive care, with seven of these in a critical condition.

Cusack said he “didn’t want to read too much” into today’s low figure, because fewer people were generally presented for testing on weekends, however there had been a decline in infections over recent days.

Also today, the State Government announced it had “fast-tracked” new recruits to bolster South Australia’s paramedic workforce.

A fast-tracked intake of 36 paramedic interns and 20 patient transport officers will complement a recent intake of 23 graduates, Health Minister Stephen Wade said today.

Another 18 interns have recently begun on-the-road supervision, given the service 97 extra staff.

Criminal investigation into cruise ship

A criminal investigation will be launched to into how the cruise line operator Carnival Australia was allowed to disembark the Ruby Princess in Sydney and spread coronavirus.

“The only way I can get to the bottom of whether our national biosecurity laws and our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said on Sunday.

He said there was clear evidence COVID-19 has come off the Ruby Princess and at least 10 passengers have died in Australia because of it.

The investigation will cover the actions of the port authority, ambulance, police, the NSW Health deportment and Carnival Australia.

Detective Chief Inspector Jason Dickinson of homicide will lead the investigation and the coroner will be notified.

Labor pushes electronic tracking

South Australians who breach self-isolation or quarantine orders during the coronavirus pandemic could soon be forced to wear an electronic tracking device under a plan from the opposition.

Labor will this week introduce urgent legislation that will allow police to issue the device, with those who continue to flout the law facing a $1000 fine.

Anyone who tampers with the device faces a fine of up to $12,000 or up to 12 months in prison.

Western Australia has introduced similar laws.

“It is vitally important that people comply with self-isolation or quarantine orders if they have returned from interstate or overseas, or been in close contact with a confirmed case,” Shadow Attorney-General Kyam Maher said on Sunday.

“Most people are doing the right thing, but for those who do not, forcing them to wear an electronic device is a sensible measure to help stop the spread.”

Priority home delivery for NDIS recipients

National Disability Insurance Scheme participants will receive a priority delivery service from major supermarkets to help ease the stress during the coronavirus pandemic.

Government Services Minister Stuart Roberts said from Monday the service will help more than 340,000 NDIS participants who are unable to do their grocery shopping in their usual way.

“I thank those supermarkets for delivering this service as it will be a great help to hundreds of thousands of Australians­­­ and their families,” Roberts said in a statement on Sunday.

“Our priority during this period is doing what we can to support the immediate needs of NDIS participants, including through enabling priority home delivery of groceries and other basic essentials.”

On Monday every NDIS participant will receive an individual code via SMS or email which will give them access to the priority delivery offer.

Upon completing an online shopping order, participants will be prompted to enter their code when choosing the home delivery option.

Australia’s rate of infection slows

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth is cautiously optimistic about the path of the coronavirus as the rate of cases slows, but warned of the risk of lifting restrictions, such as social distancing, too soon.

Latest government figures show there are 5548 COVID-19 cases across the country with 30 deaths.

The daily rate of cases has been gradually easing from as much as 30 per cent a couple of weeks ago to single figures in recent days.

Using an AFL metaphor, Coatsworth said Australia was at the end of the first quarter in the grand final and a goal ahead.

“We know that if we work as a team and play as we are now, we can get the premiership, but we are a long way away from that being the case,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

“It is far too early to drop the ball and …. if we do stop these measures too early, then we have seen graphs in the media showing there could be a resurgence in cases so we have to be careful on those grounds.”

SA to legislate payroll tax exemption for “JobKeeper” payments

The State Government will introduce legislation next week to make sure local businesses whose staff qualify for the Federal Government’s $1500 “JobKeeper” wage subsidies do not attract payroll tax.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said that under existing laws, the subsidies would not be exempt from payroll tax.

“We want to do everything in our power to ensure local businesses and jobs are supported throughout the greatest economic challenge of our time,” he said.

In response, the Government would introduce legislation on Tusday to amend the Payroll Tax Act to ensure qualifying businesses are exempt.

Labor MP loses father-in-law to virus

Federal Labor MP Ged Kearney has revealed her father-in-law was the 30th person in Australia to die from coronavirus.

Kearney took to social media to post a tribute to her late father-in-law, Mike, who died in Canberra Hospital on Saturday.

The 82-year-old was the ACT’s second coronavirus death.

The Labor MP said her father-in-law had done his best to isolate but became sick suddenly, was admitted to hospital and died seven days later.

“In fact I believe he only went outside a couple of times in the whole month to shop,” she said on Facebook.

“We actually teased him because he had bought 5kgs of rice and 10 tins of chic peas and 10 cans of tomatoes – for just him and his lovely wife Wendy. Panic buying we said! But of course it was the right thing to do.”

She went on to say that death in the time of COVID-19 is hard as Mike’s Canberra family, including his wife, are in isolation and must grieve on their own.

Kearney also thanked Australians for doing the right thing by staying at home during the pandemic but urged people to not become immune to the numbers.

“Every death is sad and felt deeply by someone. I know most people are finding kindness and helping out at every turn, and I am feeling the caring nature of our community first hand,” she said.

“I know you know what you must do to curb the deaths, I don’t need to tell you.

“Please – Just do it, and keep doing it.”

Around the world

Health care systems around the world are straining under a surge of patients as the number of people infected with the coronavirus has grown to more than 1.1 million.

In China, air raid sirens sounded across the country on Saturday and flags flew at half-mast in tribute to victims of the pandemic, including the health care “martyrs” who have died fighting to save others.

With the highest number of infections in Europe and their hospitals overwhelmed, Spain and Italy struggled to protect medical staff on the front lines of the outbreak, while 17 medics in Egypt’s main cancer hospital tested positive for the virus.

Italy and Spain, with combined deaths of more than 25,000 and nearly a quarter-million infections, have reported a high percentage of infections among health care workers.

Carlo Palermo, head of Italy’s hospital doctors’ union, fought tears as he told reporters in Rome of the physical risks and psychological trauma the outbreak is causing, noting reports that two nurses had taken their own lives.

“It’s a indescribable condition of stress. Unbearable,” he said.

Overall, new infections continued to slow their once-exponential pace in Italy, with 4805 new cases registered on Saturday that brought the country’s official count to 124,632.

The death toll continued to mount, with 681 new victims bringing the world’s highest toll to 15,362.

In France, 7560 people have died of coronavirus-related issues since the start of the outbreak in the country, including at least 2028 in nursing homes, health director Jerome Salomon said. More than 440 of the overall deaths happened in the last 24 hours.

The number of people infected in the US has exceeded a quarter-million, with the death toll climbing past 7000; more than 3500 of those deaths are in New York state, including more than 1900 in New York City alone.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an order that forces even private hospitals in the state to redistribute ventilators to the hospitals most in need.

“I want this all to be over,” Cuomo said. “It’s only gone on for 30 days since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime.”

World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned African leaders of an “imminent surge” in coronavirus cases on the continent, urging them to open humanitarian corridors to allow the delivery of badly-needed medical supplies.

OFFICIAL SOURCES OF ADVICE AND INFORMATION

Local updates and resources

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

Mental health support line (8am to 8pm): 1800 632 753.

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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