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Coronavirus: What we know today, April 12

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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. A fourth South Australian has died but zero new cases were reported by SA Health on Sunday.

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

Key points

Latest SA update: no new cases recorded

SA Health says there were no new cases of COVID-19 to report on Sunday – the first time there hasn’t been a recorded increase in infections for more than a month.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said the result was a testament to the efforts of South Australians in maintaining hygiene and observing social distancing.

“This is the first time recording no new cases since the tenth of March,” she said.

“Thanks very much to all South Australians for your good work.”

She said she believed current restrictions should remain in place for “at least” the next two weeks, despite today’s positive results.

“We are in this fortunate position….that we are really getting on top of this,” she said.

“But this is a new virus and we don’t know everything about it.”

Premier Steven Marshall said the Government wasn’t considering lifting restrictions at this stage.

Spurrier believed South Australia should examine increasing the testing regime to get a further understanding of background levels of infection in the community.

The state’s total number of infections remains at 429, but the number of people who have recovered has risen from 225 yesterday to 239.

Fourteen people are in hospital. Of these, six people are in intensive care, with two in critical condition.

Spurrier said authorities were still concerned about the cluster of infections surrounding Qantas baggage handlers at Adelaide Airport, with SA Health’s examination of the issue showing potential contact between baggage staff and other Qantas employees.

For this reason, SA Health has requested that about 750 Qantas staff go into isolation immediately. SA Health will be contacting these staff individually.

South Australians have been encouraged today to nominate one family member to go shopping to limit the number of people at supermarkets and stores.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said it would significantly reduce overcrowding and make it easier to observe social distancing.

Fourth death recorded overnight

SA Health announced this morning that a fourth South Australian has died from COVID-19.

The 74-year-old man from metropolitan Adelaide died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital last night after acquiring COVID-19 on the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

A 76-year-old man died from the virus in the RAH on Wednesday night. His death followed that of a 62-year-old woman earlier the same day and a 75-year-old man last Monday.

Nationally, more than a dozen Ruby Princess passengers have died from the virus, and more than 500 people have been infected, either onboard or from contact with people who were.

Tasmania shuts hospitals

Tasmania is closing and conducting a “super clean” of two hospitals at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak in the state’s northwest.

The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie will close from 7am on Monday, it was announced by Premier Peter Gutwein.

All staff and their households, more than 1000 people, will be placed into quarantine for two weeks.

Forty-nine virus cases are linked to the two hospitals, including 35 health workers.

Tasmania recorded its fifth virus death on Sunday, an elderly woman at the North West Regional Hospital.

Australia in “good place”

Australia has put itself in a “position of strength” in the fight against the coronavirus but must keep up the pressure to beat the disease, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says.

“There is no place in the world I would rather be than Australia at the moment,” he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

But he said Australians cannot become complacent, with people in the community still transmitting the virus.

“That is why we have to keep our pressure on and make sure that we don’t end up like countries in the world that you have all seen on the news.”

“We are in a good place … but we have to maintain that good place”.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warned it would be “very dangerous and unrealistic” to remove social distancing restrictions too soon.

Murphy said there were now 6289 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia.

Fatalities increased by two to 58 people with the death of the 74-year-old South Australian man overnight, and the death of a woman in her 70s in Tasmania.

Free parking for hospital staff

Hospital staff will get free parking during the COVID-19 crisis, the State Government announced today.

Staff who don’t drive or prefer public transport will get free travel on the public transport system.

“The parking and transport measures are a small thanks from the people of South Australia to all hospital workers for continuing to turn up day in day out when we need you most,” Premier Steven Marshall said.

Labor leader Peter Malinauskas called for free parking for public hospital staff last month.

SA Health said today the free parking would be extended to doctors, nurses, administration staff, cleaners and “other support staff”, and would be capped at $101 per month.

Cut-price online courses to re-train jobless

Jobless Australians will be encouraged to “use their time” during the coronavirus outbreak to retrain online as nurses, teachers and other vital professions.

The Federal Government says prices will be slashed on a range of tertiary courses by more than 50 per cent in a bid to fill skill shortages once the pandemic is over.

Education minister Dan Tehan will on Sunday announce measures to assist the university sector which is forecast to lose up to $4.6 billion in revenue.

For the first time, the government says it will provide 20,000 greatly reduced places in six-month diplomas or graduate certificates delivered remotely by universities or private institutions.

The online courses starting in May will focus on what are deemed to be “areas of national priority”, such as nursing, teaching, counselling, IT and science.

“This plan will help Australians who have lost their job or are looking to retrain to use their time studying nursing, teaching, counselling, allied health or other areas considered national priorities,” Tehan told the ABC.

“The cost of these courses has been reduced by over 50 per cent, and in some instances up to 74 per cent,” he said.

“There has been a disruption to the economy, so we are providing an opportunity for people to re-skill or to look at other areas to advance their careers.”

The New Daily

US has highest number of COVID-19 deaths

US coronavirus deaths have surpassed 20,000, the highest reported number in the world, although there are signs the pandemic may be nearing a peak.

Italy has the second most reported deaths at 19,468 and Spain is third with 16,353.

The US has five times the population of Italy and nearly seven times the population of Spain.

The US has seen its highest daily death tolls to date in the epidemic with roughly 2000 deaths a day reported for the last four days in a row.

Public health experts have warned that the US death toll could spike to 200,000 over the summer if unprecedented stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses and kept most Americans indoors are lifted after 30 days.

The stay-at-home orders imposed in recent weeks across 42 of the 50 states have taken a huge toll on American commerce, with some economists forecasting job losses of up to 20 million by month’s end.

Globally, there have been more than 1.6 million confirmed cases, with the death toll surpassing 106,000.

Queen urges people to stay home

The Queen has stressed the importance of maintaining the coronavirus lockdown during the Easter holiday weekend, saying “by keeping apart we keep others safe”.

With the COVID-19 outbreak making church services impossible, the Queen has delivered what is believed to be her first Easter address.

“This year, Easter will be different for many of us, but by keeping apart we keep others safe,” the Queen said in the speech, recorded at Windsor Castle on Good Friday.

“But Easter isn’t cancelled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever.”

The monarch said just as the discovery of the risen Christ gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, all can take heart from this message.

“We know that coronavirus will not overcome us,” the Queen said.

“As dark as death can be – particularly for those suffering with grief – light and life are greater.

“May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.”

SA trials aim to boost workers’ immunity

About 500 South Australian hospital staff will be asked to participate in a medical research trial to boost their immune systems and better protect them against COVID-19.

Under the randomised control trial, 250 people will receive a BCG vaccine usually given to protect against tuberculosis to stimulate their immune systems while the other half will receive a placebo.

The State Government will invest $200,000 in the trial, which will be rolled out by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.

SAHMRI’s executive director Steve Wesselingh says the trial will run for six months and has been offered to staff from Royal Adelaide Hospital, Flinders Medical Centre and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“The results will have impacts right across Australia and the world in terms of how healthcare workers fight this infection,” Professor Wesselingh said.

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

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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