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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 14

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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

South Australia won’t compromise quarantine for AFL

Restarting the AFL season could hinge on Adelaide and Port Adelaide joining West Coast and Fremantle in temporarily relocating to quarantine hubs on the eastern seaboard, throwing a planned June 11 return date into question.

The league was poised to announce its return to train and play dates on Thursday but on Wednesday night, South Australian health officials threw a spanner in the works by rejecting the league’s request for training and travel exemptions.

In a letter to AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan, South Australia’s SA COVID-19 Transition Committee rejected an AFL request for players to be able to bypass a 14-day quarantine period when flying in and out of the state.

It was signed by SA chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier and Commissioner of SA Police Grant Stevens.

“On public health advice, the committee has resolved that any economic and social benefits to be gained by allowing modification or exemptions to SA quarantine requirements for AFL players and staff were not outweighed by the public health risk,” the letter said.

The Crows and Power were also denied exemptions that would allow them to commence full training, including contact.

South Australia’s rules only allow for non-contact training in groups of 10 until at least June 8 – just three days before the proposed season restart of June 11.

“The committee also agreed that the restrictions on training for sport in South Australia should apply equally to the AFL,” the letter said.

As players across the league are currently restricted to training in pairs due to varying rules across the states, it appears likely the two SA clubs will have to relocate to allow all 18 clubs to quickly progress to full training.

Port Adelaide club president David Koch says the Power would prefer relocating to Queensland for the AFL season restart but they will be severely disadvantaged no matter where they set up their quarantine hub.

“We’re disappointed with the decision but we have always said we take the advice of medical experts,” Koch said on Seven Network’s Sunrise program.

“It will put us at a severe disadvantage to the big Melbourne clubs and other interstate clubs… but that will make victory even sweeter to get over those hurdles.

“Our preference is Queensland but obviously we will base anywhere we need to be part of the competition.”

Spurrier said today she had agonised over the decision.

“This is not something that we do lightly because I absolutely understand how people enjoy football,” Spurrier told Triple M.

“My job is to protect the health of South Australians. I’m really sorry to be disappointing the fans.”

Earlier this week, Premier Steven Marshall said he was discussing a modified quarantine arrangement, to allow local AFL players to fly in and fly out of SA, but Spurrier said any exemptions to the 14-day rule would pose a relatively high risk.

Read the full letter below.

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Latest SA statistics

SA Health reported there were no new cases of COVID-19 in South Australia, in its latest update this afternoon.

The last new case was reported on May 7.

There remains one active case in the state. One person is in hospital recovering from the effects of the virus.

South Australia has had 439 reported cases, with 434 people cleared and four deaths.

Meanwhile, public transport in Adelaide has emerged as a concern for health officials as an increase in commuters on some train services makes social distancing under COVID-19 measures almost impossible.

A maintenance issue with some trains added to the problem, with images on social media on Wednesday showing some passengers forced to stand in close quarters in full coaches.

Public health and transport officials rode on some services and will meet to provide advice.

Premier Steven Marshall says the government had “massively” upgraded the cleaning on all public transport in SA and some travellers were trying to avoid peak hour.

“Some people are choosing to start work earlier, some people are coming in later in the day to get that greater spread,” he said.

“But we are encouraging people when they’re on public transport, wherever possible, to maintain that social distancing.

“And, most importantly, if they’re not well, don’t go to work.”

Labor’s Tom Koutsantonis has called on the Government to introduce free “early bird” travel on the train system to spread out travel and ease crowding. He also wants substitute buses offered on all train routes so commuters have an alternative.

COVIDSafe legislation passes federal parliament

The Morrison government’s coronavirus tracing app will have beefed up privacy protections under legislation which has passed parliament.

People found accessing the data without authorisation will face up to five years’ jail and fines of $63,000.

Data can only be accessed by state and territory health officials for contact tracing purposes after a user tests positive to the virus and consents to their encrypted information being uploaded.

Businesses refusing to serve people because they haven’t downloaded the app will face the same penalties, along with anybody who tries to force someone to sign up.

All sides of politics supported the bill’s passage through the Senate on Thursday, putting strict requirements on the collection, use and disclosure of COVIDSafe app data.

The new privacy protections also make it a crime to store data outside Australia or communicate the information to someone overseas.

The government is hopeful the new laws will encourage more people to join the 5.68 million who have downloaded the contact tracing scheme.

Hospital cases tumble as virus battle changes focus

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus has fallen almost 900 per cent since early April.

Federal health officials revealed on Wednesday there were just 50 people fighting COVID-19 in hospital, well down on the 448 recorded just five weeks ago.

As the number of unrecovered cases fell to 700, attention is turning to the mental health fallout from Australians having spent so long in isolation from friends and family.

A new deputy chief medical officer has been appointed to deal with mental health ahead of the national cabinet on Friday approving a plan to improve support services.

Just as the government got “ahead of the curve” with the virus, Health Minister Greg Hunt says former Victorian chief psychiatrist Dr Ruth Vine will play a crucial role in heading off major problems with mental health.

Australia’s death toll rose to 98 on Wednesday after an 81-year-old passenger from the Ruby Princess died in NSW.

Daily number of reported COVID-19 cases in Australia.

‘This virus may never go away’: WHO

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organisation says, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a “massive effort” to counter it.

“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan told an online briefing on Wednesday.

“I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear,” he added. “I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”

However, he said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a “massive effort” even if a vaccine was found – a prospect he described as a “massive moonshot”.

More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have underscored the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses.

Ryan noted that vaccines exist for other illnesses, such as measles, that have not been eliminated.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added: “The trajectory is in our hands, and it’s everybody’s business and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic.”

Ryan said “very significant control” of the virus was required in order to lower the assessment of risk, which he said remained high at the “national, regional and global levels”.

Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, which has infected almost 4.3 million people, according to a Reuters tally, and led to more than 291,000 deaths.

Spanish testing indicates 2.3 million infected

Up to 5.0 per cent of Spain’s population – 2.3 million people – could be infected with the coronavirus based on the results of a new study, according to the health ministry.

The antibody study included about 90,000 people in 36,000 households and was designed to give an idea of the true extent of the viral outbreak. That would far surpass the official count of 229,000 known infections.

However, health authorities have long known that the number must be too low, since most tests have been on people displaying symptoms or on people working in health care.

Many people get the virus and never display any symptoms. But many come down with the potentially fatal respiratory disease COVID-19.

Designed to provide more concrete data about the virus’ spread, participants were given two different tests three times three weeks apart.

Results showed that the population of hard-hit Madrid had an infection rate of about 10 per cent, while the Canary Islands or Mallorca only had rates of about 2.0 per cent.

But experts caution that the tests sometimes yield false positives if a person has been exposed to any other kind of coronavirus.

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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