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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 19

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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

SA federal minister challenges states on border controls

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham – a South Australian – has urged state and territory governments to open borders to domestic holiday-makers when safe.

SA and WA have signalled borders will remain shut in coming months with tourists unlikely to be allowed in until the end of winter, while Queensland has flagged border closures with southern states until at least September, prompting despair from tourism groups.

Birmingham said states and territories should continue on the road map to reopening, but South Australian Premier Steven Marshall says that won’t happen in SA at the moment.

“Those states who’ve got border controls in place, assuming we’ve continued to see very low rates of transmission of COVID-19, ought to be looking at opening up their borders,” Birmingham told Nine’s Today program on Tuesday.

Tourism has been one of the hardest-hit sectors as governments acted to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

There is growing division between governments on the issue of border control.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has hit out at her Queensland counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk who says her state’s border with NSW may not reopen until September.

Berejiklian said the sooner people could travel to other parts of Australia, the quicker the economy would recover.

Airline pilots sided with the NSW leader on Monday, urging a July 1 border reopening.

Birmingham’s comments put him at odds with Marshall, who has strongly advocated for the state’s borders to remain under strict control – awkwardly so, given the pair are close moderate faction allies, while Birmingham’s wife Courtney Morcombe is Marshall’s chief of staff.

Marshall has backed Queensland and Tasmania on tight border controls, saying a quick reopening would compromise efforts already made.

“I think there will be a time when we open up the borders but it’s not now,” he said.

He believed the border restrictions would lift “this year”, as long as the infection rates interstate continued to fall.

Marshall told reporters today “at this point we’ve got to keep people safe [and] that means we’ve got to keep the state border closed”.

He noted “we don’t have a date on it at the moment but it really does depend on how the other states perform”.

“But at this stage there’s no chance we’ll be lifting those state border restrictions any time soon,” he said.

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan backed Queensland, saying his state’s borders will remain closed until it’s safe to reopen.

“We had very low rates of infection here, they had higher rates in the eastern states, so we will keep the border up until we think it is the right time for the health of Western Australians,” he told reporters in Perth.

Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly says that while it’s up to the states to make decisions, they were never advised to close their borders.

“We didn’t see a reason to close them in the first place,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“COVID-clean” training for local businesses

Up to 5500 South Australians in retail, hospitality, tourism, security and transport industries will benefit from a new training program to prepare the sectors for reopening and staying “COVID-clean”.

The $5.5 million toolkit, co-funded by the state and federal governments, will teach skills like hand hygiene practices, effective surface cleaning, use of personal protective equipment and disposing of contaminated waste.

Premier Steven Marshall said having skilled operators was critical and the accredited program was being developed in consultation with the sectors.

“As restaurants and pubs gear up to get back to work, the ‘COVID-clean’ toolkit will boost business confidence, particularly as restrictions begin to ease,” Marshall said on Tuesday.

“We’ve already had weeks of work with individual industries, making sure the training materials provided are fit for purpose (and) tailored for their sector.

He said the materials would be finalised in the coming weeks and was likely to be an online course.

South Australian pubs are due to open next month but would be “modified”, likely beginning with table service, according to the premier.

“You won’t be having a situation where there might be 200 people clambering to get to the bar.

“We’re working through that model (and) if we make sure we have trained personnel, we’ll be able to get businesses up and running viably much sooner than other states.”

Hotel manager Matthew Binns said opening the business for 10 people, under the current restrictions, was not sustainable.

Latest SA data

South Australia again recorded no new or active cases of coronavirus today.

SA Pathology has now undertaken more than 81,000 tests for COVID-19.

The State Government says it is now focusing its testing on specific cohorts, including the homeless, health care workers, residential aged care workers, transport workers, prison inmates and seasonal labour.

Australia’s claim on inquiry a “joke”: China

China has lashed out at claims Australia’s push for an international probe into the coronavirus has been vindicated, labelling it a “joke”.

China agreed to support an investigation after more than 110 countries co-sponsored a motion at the World Health Assembly on Monday night.

The WHA resolution calls for an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.

Australia’s push for the inquiry into the origin of the virus sparked fury from Beijing with diplomatic ties between the two nations under intense pressure.

Senior government figures claim the inquiry vindicates the government’s stance, prompting a scathing response from China’s embassy in Australia.

“The draft resolution on COVID-19 to be adopted by the World Health Assembly is totally different from Australia’s proposal of an independent international review,” a spokesman told AAP on Tuesday.

“To claim the WHA’s resolution a vindication of Australia’s call is nothing but a joke.”

Senior cabinet minister David Littleproud denied the investigation was about confronting China.

“This wasn’t about persecution, this was about understanding a pandemic that 300,000 souls lost their lives to,” he told reporters in Toowoomba on Tuesday.

“We should be damn proud Australia is now leading the world.”

Trump reveals he is taking controversial malaria drug

US President Donald Trump says he is taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against the coronavirus.

“I’ve been taking it for the last week and a half. A pill every day,” Trump told reporters on Monday.

Trump has previously touted the malaria drug despite medical warnings about its use.

He made the disclosure in a question-and-answer session with reporters during a meeting with restaurant executives about the impact of the virus.

Weeks ago, Trump promoted the drug as a potential treatment for the virus but subsequent studies found it was not helpful.

The 73-year-old, who is tested daily for the virus, said he asked the White House physician if it was OK to take the drug, and the doctor told him, “well, if you’d like it”.

The disclosure came as drugmaker Moderna reported progress in a potential vaccine for the virus.

The only drug that has emerged as a potential treatment is Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, a drug reserved for hospital patients.

Fox News, immediately after Trump’s remarks, interviewed a doctor who cautioned people not to take hydroxychloroquine.

“There’s no effect that we have seen and we have treated multiple patients with it,” Dr Bob Lahita said.

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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