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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 22

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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

Treasury revises JobKeeper cost down by $60 billion

The federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy program is now expected to cost $70 billion instead of $130 billion.

In a joint statement on Friday, Treasury and the tax office revised its figures for the program, with the number of employees forecast to be assisted now 3.5 million instead of 6.5 million.

About 1000 businesses made “significant errors” when reporting the number of employees estimated to receive help.

The most common error was reporting the amount of assistance they expected to receive rather than the number of employees expected to be eligible.

For example, instead of writing one eligible employee businesses wrote 1500 – the amount received each fortnight through the program.

Treasury officials provided evidence to a Senate inquiry into the government’s coronavirus response on Thursday, saying $8.1 billion had been paid out through the program.

The $1500 fortnightly payments began flowing to employers earlier this month and are legislated until the end of September.

The program is up for review in June.

The Morrison government has ruled out further extending the program to include casuals and migrant workers.

Treasury says its overall view of the labour market is unaffected by the reporting error, with expectations unemployment will rise to 10 per cent.

Restrictions ease today with more on the way

Cafes and restaurants in South Australia can offer indoor dining again and alcohol is back on the menu as the state moves to lift more coronavirus restrictions.

From today, venues can seat 10 customers indoors for meals along with 10 outdoors.

The change has come earlier than expected and SA will also look to move to stage two ahead of schedule.

Over the next few days the government will release details on how more restrictions will be eased from June 5, with different rules to apply to various business sectors.

It’s cleared the way for pubs to be allowed to welcome more patrons than the 20 originally planned.

Premier Steven Marshall has apologised for the “confusion” caused by his Government’s “arbitrary decision” to allow a two-tiered easing of coronavirus restrictions from today – a move he says will “incrementally increase the risk” of the disease re-emerging in South Australia. Read more here.

The changes come after South Australia again reported no new virus infections on Friday.

So far the state has had 439 confirmed cases but none are still considered active.

SA’s ‘miracle’ virus survivor leaves RAH

The first South Australian coronavirus patient to be admitted to intensive care has finally left the Royal Adelaide Hospital, with Paul Faraguna thanking medical staff for his “miracle” recovery.

Faraguna fell ill soon after disembarking from the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney in March and spent four weeks on a ventilator.

Despite his initial prospects being “very grim” he says he doesn’t seem to have any permanent damage or side-effects, though he is having physiotherapy to help him walk again.

“I remember that, after awakening from my coma, virtually every doctor and nurse consistently telling me that my recovery was a miracle,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

Faraguna said while he can’t remember his time in ICU, his wife had told of the care and attention he received and he wanted to thank all those involved in his treatment.

“I don’t particularly enjoy being in hospital for such a long time, but the experience of being looked after by the wonderful staff has made it far better,” he said.

“I will never be able to repay all of the dedicated medical staff, but I give you my heartfelt thank you.”

He was moved to Modbury Hospital yesterday.

Read his full statement below.

States urged to review border controls daily

Latest national data from the Australian Department of Health

States have been urged to keep the idea of opening borders under daily review as debate continues over coronavirus travel restrictions.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian does not believe it makes sense to keep borders across Australia closed, given the number of new coronavirus infections has stabilised.

But her push for other states to ease border restrictions is falling on deaf ears.

“We are not going to be lectured to by a state that has the highest amount of cases in Australia,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

NSW will relax travel rules within the state from June 1, with regional travel allowed for interstate visitors and residents.

But Queensland, WA, SA and the NT are maintaining hardline approaches amid fears of a second wave of infections.

Attorney-General Christian Porter, who represents a WA seat, said he understood the premiers had to balance health advice and kickstarting industry such as tourism.

“But I think you’d have to reassess that balancing exercise if not on a daily basis, with high regularity at the moment, because the situation is evolving,” he says.

The states and territories should also consider whether they want to miss out on the first wave of tourists taking advantage of restrictions being lowered.

“Australians who were going to Bali are going to be looking for somewhere else to holiday, there will be serious competition as to whether they go to Margaret River or Yanchep or the Gold Coast.”

$1.8 billion package for local roads

Local councils will share in $1.8 billion for road upgrades and community projects to help communities battling the impact of coronavirus.

The federal government has brought forward $1.3 billion from its annual grant to local governments from next financial year.

A further $500 million has been injected into a new program for roads and other infrastructure upgrades.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the money would help councils accelerate priority projects to boost local jobs.

“These projects will cut travel times, make our communities safer and upgrade the facilities we all enjoy while also getting more people into jobs,” he said on Friday.

“We know this is going to be vital support, particularly for councils that have faced the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and now COVID-19.”

One-fifth of Australians can’t support family

One in five Australians do not have enough work to support themselves and their families, a new study shows.

Think tank Per Capita has released a discussion paper looking at the economic cost of underemployment in Australia, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It points to Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force data from April, where the monthly increase of underemployment was 50 per cent, or more than 600,000 people.

The labour force underutilisation rate is about 20 per cent, so one in five Australians does not have sufficient work to support themselves and their families.

The report says that there was a crisis of insecure work before COVID-19, with wages and productivity being suppressed by slack in the labour market.

Report author Matthew Lloyd-Cape says underemployment is one of the biggest drags on the economy.

“(It’s) stifling wages and consumption, fuelling the productivity crisis, and ruining careers,” he said.

Australia seeks exemption to UK quarantine rules

Australians flying into the United Kingdom could be excused from spending 14 days in quarantine.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham discussed the exemption with his British counterpart this week.

Australia argues its success in bringing the disease under control at home makes it a low-risk country abroad.

Several UK cabinet ministers support the idea but others do not want to complicate the system.

The belated UK coronavirus quarantine regime is expected to start next month.

“We welcome any recognition that Australia has led the world in the successful containment of COVID-19, which clearly means that travellers coming from Australia would pose a low risk to the rest of the world,” Senator Birmingham told AAP on Friday.

“However, transmission from overseas continues to present a risk to Australia’s ongoing suppression of COVID-19 and restrictions on travel in and out of Australia will remain for the foreseeable future.”

Australia has since March effectively banned international travel and forced all incoming passengers to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine.

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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