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- Just one new case in SA on Saturday, four critical
- SA joins vaccine trial
- New federal stimulus earmarked
- Quarantined locals to head home today
- Australia “on cusp” of conquering virus
- UK PM “up and walking”
- US death toll set to overtake Italy
“Some distance to go,” local authorities warn
SA Health have confirmed just one new case on Saturday – a person in their 20s, bringing the state’s total to 429.
Only 15 are currently hospitalised, with seven in intensive care – four of whom are in a critical condition.
Six of the seven in ICU are male.
It follows seven new cases added to the total yesterday, which was the highest daily rise in six days, a period in which three South Australians died from COVID-19.
Significantly, 225 of the state’s total confirmed cases have since recovered.
Health officials have linked a further three existing cases to the controversial Ruby Princess cruise ship, brining the total of linked SA cases to 89.
SA chief medical officer Nicola Spurrier said the cluster linked to baggage handlers at Adelaide Airport remained a concern, with another case added to this group, bringing the total to 34 – of whom 18 were baggage handlers.
Spurrier said three of the airport staff were among the 15 currently being treated in the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Australia’s death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 56 following two fatalities in NSW and Victoria, but the number of new cases remains relatively small in a sign that social restrictions are working.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth concedes the restrictions have made it difficult for Australians over the long Easter weekend break.
“We have asked you to change the way we live as Australians essentially overnight,” Coatsworth said on Saturday.
“And it’s because of that reason that we can continue to give you, for several days now and including today, good news about the number of cases that are occurring.”
In contrast, the global death toll from COVID-19 now exceeds 100,000.
More than 6200 coronavirus cases have been recorded nationally, with the number of new cases continuing to decline.
Yesterday, Australia’s national deputy chief medical officer argued the nation could be on the “cusp” of seeing the coronavirus dying out locally but warns if social distancing measures were relaxed the epidemic could yet explode.
Professor Paul Kelly said the reproductive rate has been somewhere between one and two – meaning every infected person infects between one and two others.
“Where you want to be is below one – so less than one other person being infected after a person themselves has the infection,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
“Once you get to that point the virus dies out or the epidemic dies out.
“At the moment we’re probably on the cusp of that in Australia … whether that’s where we’re going to be in several weeks or months remains to be seen.”
Kelly stressed “we’re not at that stage yet” and warned people needed to remain vigilant in the fight to flatten the curve of case numbers.
Without the social distancing measures currently in place, one positive person could lead to 400 other cases within a month, he said.
“That is the sort of explosive epidemic we’ve seen in other countries. We just cannot afford, at this stage, to be considering that happening.”
SA health workers joins vaccine trial
The Marshall Government will contribute $200,000 towards a national trial to test if an established tuberculosis vaccine may provide an immune system boost that reduces the prevalence or severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
It will see 500 frontline healthcare workers in SA – and 4000 across Australia – take part in a clinical trial of Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a vaccine designed to protect against tuberculosis but which been shown to boost immunity against other infections.
SA’s Health and Medical Research Institute Executive Director Professor Steve Wesselingh told media the trial, which is already underway in Victoria, was “world-leading” and would see half the participants given BCG with the other half receiving a placebo, in the hope that if healthcare workers contract COVID-19 the severity would be lessened in those receiving the vaccine.
He said it would be a “significant undertaking” to roll the vaccine out more widely, but “obviously if the results are particularly exciting, that’s something we could look at… in the next couple of years,” he said.
$100 million earmarked for charities and community groups
The Morrison government is providing an immediate $100 million funding injection to more than 300 charities and community organisations faced with an economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.
Called the community support package, Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said a further $100 million would be allocated over the next six months where it is needed,
To assist in these allocations Ruston also announced a new national coordination group to help identify emergency issues at the local, state and the national level.
“The Government understands this is a trying time for relief providers facing rapidly increasing demand while dealing with challenges in maintaining the workforce and distribution lines needed to operate,” Ruston said in a statement.
“Many people reaching out to these services may have never needed this type of assistance before so we need to make sure we have the right supports in place to help people through this period and bounce back stronger when it’s over.”
HOW THE INITIAL FUNDING IS SHARED
– $37 million to be shared among almost 200 Commonwealth-funded emergency relief organisations.
– $7 million to be provided to the Red Cross over the next six months.
– $16 million to be shared to food relief providers Foodbank Australia, SecondBite and OzHarvest.
– $20 million for financial counselling services including the National Debt Helpline, Money Support Hubs and Problem Gambling.
– $20 million for the Good Shepherd to offer 40,000 Australians access to safe, affordable financial products through the No Interest Loan Scheme.
Hundreds of Australians to return home after mandatory quarantine
Hundreds of Australian travellers being kept in mandatory quarantine in Sydney hotels are set to end their two-week confinement in time for Easter.
About 1300 people who arrived at Sydney International Airport after the clampdown on March 29 are finishing their 14-day quarantine on Saturday, NSW Police said.
They will undergo a final health check before they are allowed to leave for their homes around the country.
Police are overseeing the departures, assisted by health authorities, the Australian Defence Force and hotel staff.
Coaches will run to Sydney’s airport throughout the day, but some won’t be able to return to their home states today due to flight schedules.
“The remaining travellers are being assisted with alternate arrangements, as required,” police said in a statement.
“The operation will run each day as returned travellers continue to complete their mandatory quarantines and depart hotels across Sydney CBD.”
The NSW health minister issued an order in line with a federal directive that all overseas arrivals must go directly to a quarantine facility from March 29 to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Cruise ship Aussies homeward-bound
The government of Uruguay says 96 Australians and 16 New Zealanders from an Antarctic cruise ship will return home via a Melbourne-bound charter flight.
The Greg Mortimer, an Antarctic cruise ship operated by Aurora Expeditions, has been stranded in the La Plata River near capital Montevideo since March 27.
The operation is to begin on Friday evening local time when the ship is scheduled to dock in the Port of Montevideo.
The passengers, most of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus, are to be bussed to a special airport terminal with strict health controls.
They are scheduled to board a Melbourne-bound charter flight in the early morning hours of Saturday.
The “humanitarian corridor” will allow the 96 Australians and 16 New Zealanders to return to their homes but will not include passengers from other countries, who will remain on the ship pending negotiations with representatives of their home countries.
Uruguay’s Foreign Ministry said the ship was carrying citizens of the US, UK and Jamaica as well as people from various European countries.
NSW Minister quits over public health breach, Brownlow medallist cleared
A NSW minister has been forced to quit cabinet, two days after it was revealed he had been staying to his holiday home.
NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin quit his portfolio late yesterday, after it was revealed he’d decamped to his Central Coast holiday home during the coronavirus crisis.
Harwin returned to his primary residence in Sydney on the premier’s instructions before announcing his resignation on Friday evening.
He’d been fined $1000 by NSW Police for relocating from Elizabeth Bay to Pearl Beach “in contravention of a current ministerial direction”.
“There is nothing more important than the work of the government in fighting the coronavirus crisis,” Harwin said in a statement.
“I will not allow my circumstances to be a distraction from that work and I very much regret that my residential arrangements have become an issue during this time.”
He said he’d sought at all times to act in accordance with public health orders and “remains confident” he had done so, but acknowledged “perception is just as important during these times”.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement that Harwin had “appropriately resigned from cabinet”.
“The police, who have been tasked by my government with enforcing these health orders, came to the conclusion that Minister Harwin breached the order,” the Liberal leader said.
“While Minister Harwin has served the people of NSW well, and he continues to assure me that he did not break the rules, the orders in place apply equally to everybody.”
The minister earlier this week said he’d been mostly living on the Central Coast for four months for health reasons.
“I live in a very built-up area in Sydney with high density and here I have windows that can open so I can have the fresh air and I can walk in fresh air and I have more room in my house here than I would have in my small apartment,” he told the Daily Telegraph in Pearl Beach.
The NSW Police commissioner has previously said people should be in lockdown at their primary residence to prevent regional hospitals from potentially becoming overwhelmed with sick city-dwellers.
Various officials across the world have been caught flouting self-isolation rules and reprimanded, including Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood and New Zealand Health Minister David Clark.
Boris Johnson “back on his feet”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back on his feet in his recovery from COVID-19, the Government says.
The Prime Minister’s rapid health decline shook the country earlier this week, but he came out of three nights of intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital yesterday.
He was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, local time, after his symptoms persisted.
A spokesman for Johnson said the Prime Minister, 55, was back on a hospital ward as he continued his recovery, which was said to be at an early stage.
“I was told he was waving his thanks to all of the nurses and doctors he saw as he was moved from the intensive care unit back to the ward,” the spokesman said.
“The hospital said that he was in extremely good spirits last night.”
His Downing Street office said later that Johnson had been able to do short walks, between periods of rest, as part of the care he was receiving.
“He has spoken to his doctors and thanks the whole clinical team for the incredible care,” a spokesman said.
His spokesman said his recovery was only just beginning and he would take advice from his medical team.
“He must rest up,” his father, Stanley Johnson, told BBC radio. “You cannot walk away from this and go straight back to Downing Street and pick up the reins without a period of readjustment.”
Johnson’s pregnant fiancee, Carrie Symonds, who has also had coronavirus symptoms, tweeted a rainbow picture – in support of healthcare workers – along with hand-clapping emojis.
US set to overtake Italy on grim statistic
The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus has surged past 100,000 as the epidemic in the US cut a widening swathe through not just New York City but the entire three-state metropolitan area of 20 million people connected by a tangle of subways, trains and buses.
In the bedroom communities across the Hudson River in New Jersey, to the east on Long Island and north to Connecticut, officials were recording some of the worst outbreaks in the country, even as public health authorities expressed optimism that the pace of infections appeared to be slowing.
As of this morning, the New York metropolitan area accounted for more than half the nation’s more-than-18,000 deaths, with other hot spots in places such as Detroit, Louisiana and Washington, DC.
“Once it gets into the city, there are so many commuters and travel, it gets everywhere,” said Matt Mazewski, a Columbia University economics student who tried to get away from the epicentre by leaving his apartment near the New York City campus for his parents’ house in Long Valley, New Jersey.
Worldwide, the number of deaths hit another sad milestone, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, while confirmed infections reached about 1.7 million.
The US is on track to overtake Italy as the country with the highest number of dead, though the true figures on infections and lives lost around the world are believed be much higher because of limited testing, government cover-ups and different counting practices.
In places such as New York, Italy and Spain, for example, many victims who died outside a hospital – say, in a house or a nursing home – have not been included in the count.
With Christians around the world heading into Easter weekend, public health officials and religious leaders alike urged people to stay home, warning that violating lockdowns and social distancing rules could cause the virus to come storming back.
Authorities in Europe put up roadblocks, used helicopters and drones, and cited drivers who had no good reason to be out.
Even in places where the crisis seemed to be easing, the daily death totals were hard to bear.
“I understand intellectually why it’s happening,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, where deaths rose by 777, to more than 7,800. “It doesn’t make it any easier to accept.”
But New York officials also said the number of people in intensive care dropped for the first time since mid-March and hospitalisations were slowing: 290 new patients in a single day, compared with daily increases of more than 1,000 last week.
Cuomo said that if the trend holds, New York might not need the overflow field hospitals that officials have been scrambling to build.
New Jersey’s outbreaks began with the state’s first confirmed infection, in a man who commuted between New York and his Fort Lee apartment. The virus is now in all 21 New Jersey counties.
Some suburbs had an infection rate even higher than New York City’s, including Rockland County, where the rate was double.
For several days, two of the globe’s other worst-hit places, Italy and Spain, reported that new infections, hospitalisations and deaths have been leveling off even as the daily death tolls remain shocking.
Spain recorded 605 more deaths, its lowest figure in more than two weeks, bringing its overall toll to more than 15,800. Italy reported 570 additional deaths for a total of more than 18,800.
With some signs of hope emerging, questions intensified about when restrictions might be loosened.
Spain said factories and construction sites could resume work Monday, while schools, most shops and offices will remain closed. In Italy, there were pleas to restart manufacturing.
Though US President Donald Trump insisted he would not lift restrictions until it’s safe, he announced an “Opening our Country” task force and said, “I want to get it open as soon as possible.”
The head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that easing restrictions prematurely could “lead to a deadly resurgence”.
Italy, Ireland and Greece were among the countries extending lockdown orders into May.
As the threat receded in some places, it increased elsewhere. In the US, Michigan announced 205 new deaths Friday, its highest daily total, up from 117 a day earlier. In Europe, Britain recorded 980 new deaths, likewise a one-day high, for close to 9,000 dead in all.
On Good Friday, some churches worldwide held services online, while others arranged prayers at drive-in theatres.
In Paris, services were broadcast from a nearly empty, closed-to-the-public Notre Dame Cathedral, still heavily scarred from a fire a year ago.
In Warsaw, Poland, priests wearing masks heard confessions in a parking lot. And in New Orleans, the Catholic archbishop sprinkled holy water from the Jordan River from a biplane travelling overhead.
OFFICIAL SOURCES OF ADVICE AND INFORMATION
Local updates and resources
State Government central information: https://www.sa.gov.au/
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
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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