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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 21

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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

No new cases – and “miracle” survivor releases statement

South Australia had no COVID-19 infections reported today, with the state’s total remaining at 439, with four deaths and 435 recovered cases.

So far, more than 85,000 people have been tested.

SA Health reported for the seventh day running that there were no active cases of COVID-19.

Also this afternoon, SA Health released a statement from COVID-19 survivor Paul Faraguna, who contracted the virus aboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

Faraguna has been in care at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and will be transferred to another facility for ongoing treatment this afternoon.

He said he had been in a coma, and when he awakened “virtually every doctor and nurse” told him his recovery was a miracle.

“I thought they were saying it just to give me encouragement. Since I came out of the coma I have a more complete understanding of my miraculous journey and realise the medical staff literally consider me to be a miracle survivor.”

Read his full statement below.

State Govt under pressure on restrictions

The State Government is being pressured on both border restrictions and the staged reopening of business operations within South Australia.

Premier Steven Marshall yesterday moved forward his timetable to ease restrictions, but the hotels industry and the Opposition are questioning what they say are inconsistencies in the approach.

From Friday, indoor dining at cafes and restaurants will be allowed for up to 20 people – 10 inside and 10 outside – and alcohol can also be served.

Then SA will move to stage two of its planned easing program three days earlier than scheduled on June 5, which will increase the number of people who can be served and also allow cinemas and theatres to reopen.

Also from June 5, pubs, clubs and small bars across the state will be allowed to open, with the Government to detail a “principles-based approach” to this in “coming days”.

Hoteliers argue there isn’t a need to differentiate rules for restaurants and pubs, many of whom operate, virtually, as restaurants anyway.

Small venue licence operators – such as the popular Peel St Restaurant – can’t open until June 5, for example.

Premier Steven Marshall announcing the easing of restrictions yesterday. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Labor’s treasury spokesman Stephen Mullighan says the rules don’t make sense.

“While the easing of restrictions for restaurants and cafes is welcome, it’s frustrating to the hundreds of pubs, clubs and small bars that are forced to remain closed,” he said.

“Keeping these other venues closed for the next two weeks delays getting thousands of South Australians back to work – and for what reason?”

The Premier says discussions will continue to clarify rules for pubs – and other sectors – ahead of the opening day on June 5.

However, he said he expected that on the day of opening, pubs, cafes and restaurants would have the least restrictions of any such businesses in Australia.

Restrictions on pub patron numbers would still be capped, but would be calibrated according to the size of the venue.

Each venue would be able to develop their own plan, which would be subject to external scrutiny.

Meanwhile, South Australia is under new pressure to ease its border restrictions which require most interstate visitors to quarantine for 14 days.

Canberra Airport is pushing for a “travel bubble” between the ACT and South Australia, allowing Canberra people to come to SA and return without quarantine.

The airport has written to the Queensland and South Australia governments, suggesting such a move would be a safe and incremental way to increase tourism.

However, South Australia remains unwilling to open the borders at this point.

The pressure increased this week when national deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said 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.

Daily number of reported cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Source: Australian Department of Health

Australia close to virus unemployment peak

Treasury boss Steven Kennedy believes Australia may have reached its unemployment peak stemming from coronavirus restrictions.

While the official unemployment rate is 6.2 per cent, Treasury is confident its forecast of 10 per cent is closer to the mark.

That’s because 489,000 people weren’t counted in the jobless rate due to leaving the workforce when statistics were recorded.

Kennedy said when those people are factored in the true number out of work was about 9.6 per cent.

He said the headline unemployment figure would rise as people became available to work again because of eased restrictions.

“The peak in my view would come through in these months in April and May. We’d be pretty close to it (now) would be my guess,” he told a Senate committee on Thursday.

“In a measured sense, the unemployment rate may well rise between May and June because of the switch between out of the workforce and back into the workforce.”

A further 720,000 people remained in employment but didn’t work, indicating they were on the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

Kennedy said it was hard to predict if a depression was looming, given that would mean a long period of economic downturn.

“We’ve gone well past the word recession,” he said.

NSW opens borders to visitors

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is welcoming travellers to the state from across Australia.

Berejiklian on Wednesday announced recreational regional travel will resume from June 1 in a move that she described as “best for NSW and Australia”.

She said social distancing would still be required and urged people to plan ahead.

Berejiklian said the easing of regional travel restrictions would boost jobs and the economy, and noted it was in Australia’s best interest for interstate borders to re-open as well.

The premier has also flagged plans to allow international students back into NSW potentially through the hotel quarantine system in place for Australians returning home.

“There’s no reason why in the future we can’t see students go through that process,” she told ABC News on Thursday.

“Of course, we will manage it in a very safe way.”

National snapshot

Australia has recorded 7084 cases, with only 534 active cases remaining. SA, ACT and NT have no active cases.

The national death toll is 100 – NSW 49, Victoria 18, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 6, SA 4, ACT 3. (Two QLD residents who died in NSW have been included in both state’s counts).

More than six million of an estimated 16 million people with smartphones have registered for the federal government’s COVIDSafe tracing app since April 26.

WHO reports most new virus cases in a day

The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the rising number of new coronavirus cases in poor countries, even as many rich countries have begun emerging from lockdown.

The global health body said on Wednesday that 106,000 new cases of infections of the coronavirus had been recorded in the past 24 hours, the most in a single day since the outbreak began.

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.

“We are very concerned about rising cases in low and middle income countries.”

Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, said: “We will soon reach the tragic milestone of 5 million cases”.

Many countries around the world are loosening their coronavirus restrictions but people are discovering that what a return to normal looks like varies widely.

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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