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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 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.

KEY POINTS

Lucky 13 for SA as last quarantined Australians leave Adelaide hotel

South Australia has gone 13 days without a new COVID-19 case, with just five people in the state still infected.

The total number of coronavirus cases remains unchanged at 438, with just two currently in hospital – and none in intensive care.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said there were 800 tests undertaken yesterday, “a little bit of a drop-off”, but “we still lead the nation with 62,000 tests done since February”.

After another meeting of the national cabinet today – with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joining the online hookup – Premier Steven Marshall flagged the imminent easing of various restrictions designed to get the state and national economies moving.

Spurrier suggested restrictions limiting funeral attendances and  travel to SA’s regions would be among the first eased.

“We will be certainly increasing the number of people at funerals,” she told reporters.

“It’s not going to go back to normal, but it will still make a difference in people’s lives.”

Marshall said there had been “some discussion” with Ardern about “an Australia-New Zealand travel bubble” given both nation’s relatively low case numbers, meaning “there’s some potential for travel between Australia and NZ later in the year”.

But he added “most of our focus was on creating a framework for the road back”.

“Now we’ve got to tackle the unemployment crisis,” he noted.

SA, he said, already had the “lowest level restrictions in the country and the highest school attendances”.

“Now what we need to have is a return to work,” he said, flagging further announcements later this week after the national cabinet meets again on Friday.

Also after today’s meeting, PM Scott Morrison raised the prospect of reopening pubs and clubs after the industry provided a health and safety plan.

“We do not have a clear set of rules that would apply to a pub,” Morrison said.

“But what we do have is a set of recommendations that have been provided to us by the Australian Hotels Association and the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, and that is exactly the thing we are looking for from industry groups.”

He said that proposal had been passed on to a medical expert panel and “will be part of the process we will work through to get back to a position when pubs and clubs and restaurants or cafes in the future can be open”.

It comes as the last of the repatriated Australians to complete their mandatory 14-day isolation in an Adelaide hotel head home today.

On their final night, the 308 quarantined guests were treated to a three-course dinner and live entertainment by a local DJ before they check out of the Playford Hotel on Tuesday morning.

The Australians arrived in Adelaide on the second mercy flight from India via Mumbai a fortnight ago.

On Monday, 376 travellers from the first flight from India checked out of the Pullman hotel and journeyed home.

Guests from both hotels were regularly tested for coronavirus but did not return any positive results.

More COVID-19 beds become available

A dedicated COVID-19 healthcare facility at the Repat hospital will soon be available, making another 90 beds available if required to fight the virus.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the completion of the revitalised wards 5-8, with the former Wakefield Hospital and ECH College Grove also ready for use, ensures that South Australia is well placed to deal with any resurgence in cases.

The former Wakefield Hospital has been equipped with a new $1.9 million CT-scanner, bulk medical oxygen tank and 130 beds, while the ECH facility has another 58 beds available.

“Despite low numbers of the virus currently in South Australia, we still need to be vigilant in preparing for any potential second wave,” Wade said.

“South Australia is leading the nation in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is important that we continue to prepare for all possible scenarios that may unfold in the future.

“Hopefully, we will never need to use these facilities, but this investment is important insurance against the unexpected. COVID-19 is new, its unpredictable – we have to plan for the unexpected.”

Wade said SA Health was exploring a range of options to use the Repat facility post-COVID-19, including elective surgery, transition care and dialysis.

National virus toll

The national death toll is 96 – NSW 45, Victoria 18, Tasmania 13, WA nine, Queensland six, SA four and ACT three.

6825 cases have been recorded in Australia but only around 900 remain active, with 28 in intensive care.

More than 650,000 people have been tested in Australia, out of a population of 25.7 million.

Globally, more than 3.5 million infections have been reported, with more than 247,000 deaths, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. 

Shift from home to office plan 

Millions of Australians working from home could soon return to the office as federal and state leaders thrash out ways to reignite the economy.

Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews has been working across a range of sectors to prepare plans for a safe return to work.

“We are very keen to get restrictions eased but to do that sensibly and based on the best medical advice that there is available,” she said.

“It’s baby steps to make sure that we are back on track as quickly and as effectively and as safely as we can.”

Australia’s coronavirus death toll is at 96, with less than 1000 active cases from the 6825 detected since the pandemic erupted.

Low infection rates prompted governments to agree to bring forward a decision on lifting restrictions to this week.

Friday’s national cabinet meeting looms as crucial to easing baseline rules, with the economic cost increasingly in focus amid positive health outcomes.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 94 per cent of the arts and recreation sector has been affected by shutdown measures.

Unemployment is forecast to hit 10 per cent, while millions are relying on the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme and the boosted dole.

CSIRO is testing two vaccines – from the US and the UK – sparking hopes one could be available later this year or early in 2021.

“It’s entirely possible that by the end of this year or early next year, we will have a vaccine for COVID-19,” Andrews said.

COVIDSafe app penalties

Business owners who ban people from entry unless they have downloaded the government’s coronavirus contact tracing app will face five years in jail and a $63,000 fine under proposed laws.

The government has released a draft of its legislative backing to privacy and data protections for the COVIDSafe tracing app.

More than 4.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe tracing app but the government wants millions more to sign on.

It proposes to make it illegal for anyone to refuse a person without the app entry to a public place, ban them from an activity or refuse to buy or sell goods and services to them.

The legislation would also make it an offence to access the data without proper authorisation and for the data to be stored anywhere outside of Australia.

All offences have a maximum penalty of five years in jail, a $63,00 fine or both.

The legislation also says records of the Bluetooth “handshakes” a user’s phone makes with people they come in close contact with must be deleted after 21 days or upon request.

And once the health minister and chief medical officer decide the app is no longer necessary on health grounds, all data must be erased from the server and people will be told to delete the app from their phones.

Treasury expects $50b hit to economy in June quarter

Treasury has estimated Australia’s economy will shrink by between 10 and 12 per cent by June, equivalent to $50 billion.

A harsher lockdown, akin to the eight-week closures seen across Europe, could wipe $120 billion from GDP.

Unemployment is forecast to hit 10 per cent, while millions are relying on the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme and the boosted dole.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 94 per cent of the arts and recreation sector has been affected by shutdown measures.

Every extra week the current restrictions stay in place costs the economy another $4 billion, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the National Press Club today.

But Australia is fortunate in not having had to resort to a full lockdown.

“Significant sectors of our economy like agriculture, mining and construction have been able to adapt to the new health restrictions and in most cases continue to operate,” he said.

Nevertheless, he sees it as vital to get people back into jobs quickly.

History shows unemployment takes a lot longer to go down than it does to spike.

The number of jobs advertised more than halved in April, a record monthly drop.

“Notwithstanding Australia’s success to date on the health front, and the unprecedented scale and scope of our economic response, our economic indicators are going to get considerably worse in the period ahead before they get better,” Frydenberg said.

But still, he believes there is cause for optimism about the future.

The heads of Treasury and the Reserve Bank have told leaders policies to promote economic growth after the health crisis passes must not be business as usual.

OFFICIAL SOURCES OF ADVICE AND INFORMATION

Local updates and resources

State Government central information

SA Health

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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