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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 24

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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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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 yesterday.

“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, 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 17th consecutive day – reported today with the state’s total remaining at 439.

There have been 89,318 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.

Victoria records 19th coronavirus death

A man in his 60s from Victoria is the latest Australian to die of coronavirus.

His death brought the state death toll to 19 on Saturday, and the national toll to 102.

It is not yet known how the man contracted the illness.

Victoria’s confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 10 on Saturday, four of which were detected in returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

Three cases were picked up through community testing, three others are being investigated and another was reclassified.

None of the new cases are linked to the Cedar Meats outbreak in Melbourne west, responsible for 111 cases.

Nine people are in hospital, including three in intensive care.

There are 1602 confirmed cases, but 1484 of these have recovered.

The state’s transport union wants all passengers to be required to wear face masks but government authorities have said they are relying on a national panel of experts which has determined masks are unnecessary for routine public transport.

Victorian Prep, Year 1, Year 2, Year 11 and Year 12 students are preparing to return to classrooms on Tuesday.

The state remains on track for pubs, restaurants and cafes to open to limited numbers from June 1, but decisions regarding public spaces including playgrounds are yet to be made.

Meanwhile, the Muslim community will celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan on today, though the festival will feel much quieter than usual.

Eid – the end of Ramadan – traditionally involves visits to the mosque and large community events, none of which can happen under current restrictions.

Govt attacked over $60b JobKeeper error

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has questioned how the government will manage Australia’s economic recovery after it was left red faced over a $60 billion JobKeeper mistake.

Albanese launched another attack on the government on Saturday after it admitted to a reporting error to its much-heralded JobKeeper program a day earlier.

Rather than costing the budget $130 billion, the wage subsidy program has been slashed to $70 billion, and is now forecast to assist 3.5 million employees instead of 6.5 million.

“If they can’t manage a program like JobKeeper … then there has got to be a great question mark over how they’ll manage the economic recovery,” Albanese told reporters in Sydney.

Labor has been calling for the JobKeeper payment to be broadened to casuals and other work groups that missed out, but the government has repeatedly rejected the idea, even with the program now much smaller.

Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser said the six-month JobKeeper program is due to be reviewed at the end of June and any changes to the program will be part of that discussion.

“I think it’s important to remember here that this is all borrowed money,” he told ABC TV.

“So instead of paying back $130 billion of borrowed money, we’re paying back $70 billion of borrowed money. That’s still a very large amount of money that taxpayers of the current generation and future generations will need to pay back.”

But it is not just federal Labor who wants the over-estimated $60 billion to be used to broaden the JobKeeper scheme, with Liberal Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein saying it provides an opportunity to extend the program for a longer period.

“I’m certain that most states and territories will be of a similar view,” he said in a statement.

Australia recorded another death from the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday, with a man in his 60s dying in a Victorian hospital, bringing the national toll to 102.

Total COVID-19 cases now stand at over 7100.

National picture in brief

UK PM Johnson resists calls to sack aide

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted calls from opposition parties to sack adviser Dominic Cummings after he travelled 400 km to northern England while his wife showed COVID-19 symptoms.

Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union during the Brexit referendum, travelled to Durham in late March when a strict lockdown was already in place.

Johnson’s office said Cummings made the journey to ensure his young son could be properly cared for, as his wife was ill with COVID-19 and there was a “high likelihood” that Cummings would himself become unwell.

“I behaved reasonably and legally,” Cummings told reporters outside his house on Saturday after telling them to stay 2 metres apart in accordance with government guidelines.

When a reporter said it did not look good, he said: “Who cares about good looks – it’s a question of doing the right thing it’s not about what you guys think.”

Downing Street said his “actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines”.

“I can tell you that the PM provides Mr Cummings with his full support,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told reporters on Saturday.

Johnson’s most senior ministers, including Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, defended Cummings.

But opposition parties called for Johnson to sack Cummings and said the lockdown rules made clear that those with suspected COVID-19 symptoms should isolate with their whole household.

“The prime minister’s chief adviser appears to believe that it is one rule for him and another for the British people,” the Labour Party said.

“We are still unclear who knew about this decision and when, whether this was sanctioned by the prime minister.”

The Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats called for Cummings to be sacked.

No cases in China, virus spikes elsewhere

New coronavirus cases in China have fallen to zero for the first time but surged in India and overwhelmed hospitals across Latin America – both in countries lax about lockdowns and those lauded for firm, early confinement.

The virus also hit a reopened church in Germany and is suspected at a restaurant.

The pandemic’s persistence stymied authorities struggling to keep people safe and revive their economies at the same time, disrupting Memorial Day weekend in the United States and collective celebrations around the Muslim world marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Turkey imposed its toughest lockdown measures yet starting on Saturday for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan and Yemen’s Houthi rebels urged believers to use masks and stay inside as authorities try to contain infections at a time usually marked by days of multi-generational feasting and collective prayer.

Elsewhere, many governments are easing restrictions as they face a political backlash and recessions brought on by the battle against the virus.

In just a few months, the pandemic has killed at least 338,000 people worldwide and infected more than 5.2 million, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

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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