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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 23

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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 businesses to get ‘flexible’ guidelines

With eased coronavirus restriction allowing for more diners in South Australian restaurants, cafes and pubs, larger businesses will soon have more clarity around the number of customers they can accommodate.

With the state’s second stage beginning on June 5, Premier Steven Marshall said the “more flexible” guidelines will be released on Monday.

Larger hospitality venues with multiple segregated areas will have a clearer understanding if they can accommodate 20 people per section as opposed to it being the total patron number.

“We are very open to anything we can do to get businesses back to profitability,” Marshall said today.

“The continued good result and high level of testing have given us a lot of confidence.”

The stage two protocols extend to beauty salons, gyms and churches and will see cinemas and theatres open.

Marshall said the responsibility of interpreting and implementing the guidelines would rest upon individual businesses, ensuring the venue is COVID-safe.

Despite the state government’s delayed decision and ambiguity around which venues could trade under newly eased restrictions, he said businesses were “delighted” to be open and would not be compensated.

The Labor opposition called for the government to do the right thing by affected establishments and make up for its blunder.

“It was too confusing for businesses and consumers,” Marshall said on Saturday.

“Because we were getting continued improved results, we thought we should just extend that opportunity for all dining establishments.”

Under the new restrictions, which began on Friday, venues could hold 10 indoor and 10 outdoor seated patrons.

That morning, Mr Marshall clarified only businesses holding a restaurant and catering licence could accommodate the additional 10 customers.

A backflip decision was made late Friday afternoon, allowing all venues with a liquor licence, including wineries, pubs and small bars, to trade under the direction.

There were no new coronavirus cases – for the 16th consecutive day – reported on Saturday with the state’s total remaining at 439.

There have been 88,500 tests conducted since February.

Plans to reopen the state’s two zoos are also in the final phases, with Adelaide Zoo in the CBD to open first.

Feds left red faced after JobKeeper error

The federal government has been left red faced after a reporting error resulted in the cost of its wage subsidy program being slashed by $60 billion.

Treasury and the tax office have revised the cost of the JobKeeper wage subsidy program down to $70 billion from $130 billion.

A “significant” error was made by about 1000 businesses when reporting the number of employees estimated to receive help.

The program is now forecast to help 3.5 million employees instead of 6.5 million.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg argues it’s a positive result because the recovery bill has reduced, putting less stress on the budget.

“This revision by Treasury is not an invitation to go and spend more. All the money that the government is spending during the coronavirus period is borrowed money,” he told the ABC.

The government continues to resist pressure from Labor to extend the program, with shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers saying the coalition is deliberately leaving workers behind.

“This kind of serious economic incompetence is a threat to jobs, the economy and the recovery,” he said.

Palmer denied entry to locked-down WA

Clive Palmer has been denied entry to Western Australia as the state government remains adamant interstate borders will remain closed for months.

Palmer wanted to visit WA for meetings with business people, Senator Mathias Cormann and potential 2021 state election candidates for his United Australia Party, but was knocked back.

A spokesman told AAP he had commenced a High Court challenge to the border closure and would cite a section of the constitution that stipulates trade between states must be free.

Palmer accused Premier Mark McGowan of “denying Western Australians jobs and prosperity” by refusing to open borders.

“He risks economic shutdown with his gestapo tactics,” the Queensland-based billionaire said in a statement.

The WA premier said he endorsed the police commissioner’s decision not to deem Palmer exempt from the ban.

“He’s made it on proper grounds and with the correct purpose behind it, which is to protect the health of West Australians,” he told reporters.

“If Mr Palmer doesn’t like it, he’s subject to the law just like everyone else.”

National picture in brief

Brazil No. 2 in world coronavirus cases

Brazil has overtaken Russia in terms of the number of coronavirus cases, second only to the United States.

It has registered 330,890 people who have contracted the virus.

Brazil registered 1,001 daily coronavirus deaths on Friday, taking total deaths to 21,048, according to the health ministry.

However the true number – both of cases and deaths – is likely to be higher as Latin America’s top economy has been slow to ramp up testing.

Drug taken by Trump linked to death risk

Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is tied to increased risk of death in COVID-19 patients, according to a study published in medical journal The Lancet.

US President Donald Trump has been taking the drug as a preventative against the coronavirus despite medical warnings.

The Lancet study observed more than 96,000 people hospitalised with COVID-19, and showed that people treated with the drug, or the closely related drug chloroquine, had higher risk of death when compared to those who were not given the medicine.

Demand for hydroxychloroquine surged after Trump touted its use as a coronavirus treatment in early April.

Earlier this week, he surprised the world by admitting he was taking the pill as a preventative medicine.

The Lancet study authors suggested these treatment regimens should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials until results from clinical trials are available.

The authors said they could not confirm if taking the drug resulted in any benefit in coronavirus patients.

It comes as Trump deemed churches and other houses of worship essential and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen.

“Today I’m identifying houses of worship – churches, synagogues and mosques – as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump told a press conference at the White House, where he didn’t take questions.

He said if governors don’t abide by his request, he will override them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had prepared a draft of reopening guidelines for churches and other houses of worship weeks ago that included measures like maintaining distance between parishioners and limiting the size of gatherings.

But that guidance had been delayed for more than a month by the administration until Trump changed course on Thursday.

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

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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