Refresh this page for updates – scroll down for links to official health information.
- SA hits a coronavirus free fortnight
- SA food exports on way to Asia
- Federal government considering when to reopen pubs and clubs
- UK death toll overtakes Italy
- US talks on winding down virus taskforce
- Oil prices surge
SA hits two weeks with no new coronavirus cases
South Australia has gone a fortnight, which is the incubation period for the COVID-19, without a new case.
Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the state’s biggest risk of new infection now came from interstate travellers.
She said the total number of coronavirus cases on Wednesday remained unchanged at 438, with just two people in hospital – and none in intensive care.
The health authority’s comments come after Premier Steven Marshall flagged the imminent easing of various restrictions designed to get the state and national economies moving on Tuesday.
However, Spurrier said border restrictions would not be eased “in days” but rather “when there is a lower risk of community transmission.”
SA food exports fly out
More than 30 tonnes of fresh South Australian produce, seafood and meat is on its way to Asia aboard a Singapore Airlines flight, under a deal with the airline to give local businesses a direct freight route into key export markets shut down due to coronavirus restrictions.
Once the cargo of chilled seafood, tuna, lamb, chicken meat and eggs arrives in Singapore, they will be distributed across Asia to markets including Hong Kong, Thailand and China.
“We’re backing South Australia’s farmers and fishers through this agreement that will restore this critical freight route and give exporters a direct line back into key export markets across Asia,” said trade minister Simon Birmingham.
“Our exporters fight so hard to win contracts in export markets and we want to make sure they can continue to get their products to their customers on time.
“The more South Australian produce, meat and seafood we can onto these flights and headed overseas, the more local jobs we can secure and the more export dollars we can bring back into South Australia.”
Premier Steven Marshall said it would give a significant boost to local exporters and jobs.
“Today marks a real turning point for South Australia’s exporters who have been struggling with the impacts of coronavirus,” he said.
“It’s fantastic that our local producers now have a clear pathway to supply their fresh premium produce to markets around the world.
“This is a great result for local jobs, and I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Morrison Government and Singapore Airlines for supporting South Australian businesses.”
The International Freight Assistance Mechanism is part of the Morrison Government’s $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
The national death toll is 97 – NSW 46, Victoria 18, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 6 (includes 2 Qld residents who died in NSW and are included in both the Qld and NSW counts), SA 4, ACT 3.
11 of 17 new coronavirus cases in Victoria are connected to a cluster at a meatworks facility in Melbourne’s west, bringing the total number of cases at that facility to 45.
6856 cases have been recorded in Australia but only around 960 remain active, with 25 new cases and 27 in intensive care.
Deaths at Newmarch House, the western Sydney aged care home, have hit 16.
More than 660,000 people have been tested in Australia, out of a population of 25.7 million.
More than five million of an estimated 16 million people have registered for the federal government’s coronavirus tracing app, COVIDSafe, since April 26.
Reopening pubs on agenda
Scott Morrison has 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,” he 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”.
UK death toll surpasses Italy
The UK has overtaken Italy to report the highest official death toll from the new coronavirus in Europe.
Weekly figures from Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) added more than 7000 deaths in England and Wales in the week to April 24, raising the total for the UK to 32,313.
But the daily cumulative death toll published by Britain’s government, which unlike the ONS figures records deaths only for confirmed coronavirus cases, rose on Tuesday to 29,427 – exceeding Italy’s own daily toll for the first time.
Only the US, with a population nearly five times greater, has suffered more confirmed fatalities from the virus than Britain, according to the data so far.
Tuesday’s figures are based on death certificate mentions of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, including suspected cases.
While different ways of counting make comparisons with other countries difficult, the figure confirmed Britain was among those hit worst by a pandemic that has killed more than 250,000 worldwide.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was too early to compare different countries’ responses to the pandemic.
“I don’t think we’ll get a real verdict on how countries have done until the pandemic is over, and particularly until we’ve got international comprehensive data on all-cause mortality,” he told reporters.
Opposition politicians said the figures proved the government had been too slow to provide enough protective equipment to hospitals and introduce mass testing.
“I’d be amazed if, when we look back, we don’t think ‘yep we could have done something differently there’,” the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said in response to lawmakers’ questions on testing.
Responding to the ONS figures, a Downing Street spokesman pointed to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent comments that Britain had passed the peak of the disease but remained in a “dangerous phase”.
Italy and Spain, the next worst-hit European countries, have smaller populations than Britain, further complicating comparisons.
Oxford University professor of evidence-based medicine Carl Heneghan cautioned against unhelpful comparisons but said serious questions remained.
“Putting a graph out with the United States at the top and UK second is not helpful, but once you start to break it down by looking at the population we should be seriously asking questions about what’s different,” he said.
“Why are six countries disproportionately affected?” Heneghan added, referring to a list dominated by Europe.
US considers winding down virus taskforce
The White House is having preliminary talks about when to wind down its coronavirus taskforce and may start moving coordination of the US response on to federal agencies in late May, Vice President Mike Pence says.
Pence said President Donald Trump was starting to look at May 25 as the time to shift management of the response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 70,000 Americans so far.
Trump placed Pence in charge of the task force, which has been meeting almost every day since it was formed in March.
Conversations are taking place about “what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency-by-agency level,” Pence said, confirming a New York Times report.
Oil prices surge
Oil prices soared overnight as some European and Asian countries along with several US states began to ease coronavirus lockdown measures.
The rally extended Brent crude’s gains to six straight days, while US benchmark West Texas Intermediate has rallied for five consecutive sessions.
Fuel demand worldwide was down roughly 30 per cent in April, but demand is rising modestly due to efforts to lift travel restrictions.
International benchmark Brent crude rose $US3.77, or 13.9 per cent, to settle at $US30.97 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained $US4.17, or 20.5 per cent, to close at $US24.56 a barrel.
Prices extended their gains in after-hours trading despite industry data showing a larger-than-forecast weekly build in US crude inventories, as the report also showed a surprise large fall in gasoline stocks.
US crude inventories rose 8.4 million barrels last week, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed late Tuesday. Analysts forecast a build of 7.8 million barrels ahead of the government’s report on Wednesday morning.
The API also reported gasoline stocks fell 2.2 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a 43,000-barrel increase, signaling that demand was recovering.
Italy, Spain, Nigeria and India, as well as some US states including Ohio, began allowing some people to go back to work and opened up construction sites, parks and libraries.
Health experts, however, have warned that such moves could cause coronavirus infections to rise again.
OFFICIAL SOURCES OF ADVICE AND INFORMATION
Local updates and resources
State Government central information
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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