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Coronavirus: What we know today, April 22

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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.

KEY POINTS

One new coronavirus case

South Australia recorded one new coronavirus case on Wednesday.

Deputy chief public health officer Michael Cusack said there were now 438 cases in SA, 46 of which were active.

Of the total, four people are in hospital and two men, aged 68 and 75, remain in a critical condition in intensive care at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The new case, a person in their 20s, had overseas travel history.

Cusack said everyone who had been in contact with the most recent case had been contacted by SA Health and would self-isolate for two weeks.

He said 250 of the almost 700 repatriated South Australians in quarantine had been tested for COVID-19, all of which were negative.

The remaining 450 will continue to be tested.

To date, SA Pathology has tested about 47,000 people for coronavirus since February.

Marshall definitively rules out SA Pathology privatisation

SA Pathology’s central role in efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic has saved it from privatisation, with the State Government making a definitive statement on the service’s future today.

The state-owned pathology service has been in Treasurer Rob Lucas’s sights since 2018, when he warned it would be sold off unless it delivered efficiencies.

Now, the Government is praising the service, with Premier Steven Marshall stating this morning that it would remain in public hands.

And this afternoon he went even further, saying the Government would now fund a business case for a new “flagship laboratory” for SA Pathology – despite past demands that the service cut its budget.

“SA Pathology has stepped up to the plate during the coronavirus pandemic and provided South Australians with a world-class COVID-19 testing service that has reduced the spread of the virus and saved lives,” he said

“On coming to Government, we set SA Pathology the task of delivering high-quality pathology services that represented good value for the people of South Australia. I’m pleased to say they have delivered in spades.”

The Government says SA Pathology “has delivered on the cost reduction target of $7.3m and is well on the way to delivering a year two cost reduction target of $18m”, with service levels maintained or improved.

Professionals Australia, the employee association representing SA Pathology workers, said the COVID-19 crisis showed the service was “never a good fit for privatisation”.

“You simply must have surge capacity in SA Pathology to respond to crises like this one,” said Professionals Australia SA director Sarah Andrews.

“This is a huge victory for every scientist who joined their union and fought the good fight to protect a critical public health service.”

One-off cost-of-living payments

Cash-strapped South Australians will get a one-off $500 payment from the state government to help with cost-of-living expenses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Up to 11,000 people currently receiving federal government assistance will be eligible for the payment with the state government allocating $7.8 million to cover the costs.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink says at a time when many South Australians are hurting, every little bit helps.

“The cost of living concession is being paid directly into bank accounts to allow the funds to be put towards wherever households need it most,” she said.

“This might include putting the money toward rent for the month, or help with expenses like electricity, gas or water, or putting food on the table.”

The payments are part of the State Government’s $1 billion assistance package and come as local health authorities confirmed the tough economic restrictions in response to the pandemic will remain in place for some time.

Morrison looks at economic reforms

Scott Morrison is turning his mind to economic reform and overhauling global bodies as Australia’s coronavirus infection rate plummets.

The prime minister and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are eyeing tax cuts, deregulation and industrial relations reform as part of a business-friendly suite of measures on the other side of the crisis.

Big business is pushing for company tax cuts to be revived after Frydenberg talked to major employer groups about reform options.

“We’ll look at tax reform as an area of interest because we’re always looking for opportunities to cut taxes,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

Industrial relations is shaping as a key political battleground as coronavirus infections fall due to harsh economic and social restrictions.

Australia’s coronavirus death toll has reached 74 but the rate of new infections continues to drop, prompting eased restrictions on elective surgeries.

The latest victims include women aged 92 and 80, along with a 75-year-old man. All three died in NSW.

While there has been more than 6600 cases detected nationally, 4291 people have recovered from the disease.

No state or territory recorded a double-digit increase in cases on Wednesday as the national infection rate grew at just 0.4 per cent.

The prime minister spoke with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday about the need to improve global institutions such as the World Health Organisation.

While Australia hasn’t followed the US in pulling funding for WHO, senior ministers have been critical of the United Nations body’s response to the pandemic.

Global coronavirus cases pass 2.5 million

Global coronavirus infections have surpassed 2.5 million, according to a Reuters tally, with US cases surpassing 800,000.

The figure includes more than 170,000 deaths, two-thirds of which have been reported in Europe.

It took around 75 days for the first 500,000 cases to be reported, and just six days for the most recent half million to be registered.

The first 41 cases were confirmed on January 10, just over three months ago, and new cases have accelerated to over 70,000 a day in April.

It compares to three million to five million cases of severe illness caused annually by seasonal influenza, according to World Health Organisation estimates.

While experts say actual cases of the new coronavirus are likely higher than current reports, the number still falls far short of the Spanish flu, which began in 1918 and infected an estimated 500 million people.

Despite the growing number of cases in the current pandemic, there are signs that the spread of the coronavirus is slowing with many countries exercising lockdown measures.

At the beginning of April, the total case figure grew at a rate of 8-9 per cent per day and this has since slowed to between 3-4 per cent per day in the past week.

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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