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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 25

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Follow this post for rolling updates on the impact of the coronavirus in South Australia, the nation and the world. Today, the Premier brings forward the next easing of restrictions which will allow more patrons inside pubs, restaurants and bars.

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Refresh this page for updates – scroll down for links to official health information.

KEY POINTS

State Govt brings forward lifting of restrictions

Premier Steven Marshall has brought forward the ‘stage 2’ lifting of restrictions to next Monday.

He has also announced further details on the changes, with up to 80 people allowed in venues as long as each discrete part of the premises accommodates no more than 20 people with appropriate distancing.

The previous key date for the next change to pandemic restrictions was Friday, June 5, but the Premier said today the new rules could come in early.

Cinemas, theatres, museums, beauty salons, gyms and indoor fitness centres will also reopen, with a limit of 20 people per room as long as they have space for one person per four square metres.

Pubs will be able to serve alcohol – without a meal – but only to seated patrons rather than standing at the bar.

Funerals would be able to be attended by 50 people and outdoor contact sport training can also resume on Monday.

Marshall said there would be a “very level of normalisation” of activities in South Australia over the coming weeks.

“These great results give us confidence to gradually and carefully lift the restrictions and get us back to normality,” he said.

“It’s only possible because of the low or no results and high level of testing.

“If it continues, it opens up a world of possibilities of when and what (restrictions) we’ll be able to remove in the future.”

Stage two will see cinemas, theatres, museums, beauty salons, gyms and indoor fitness centres reopen.

Last week, the Premier brought forward ‘step two’ provisions allowing seated indoor dining – including the previously-banned service of alcohol – for up to 10 patrons inside cafes and restaurants. After confusion and criticism from pubs and small bars, Marshall provided the same rules for all licensed venues from Friday night.

SA again reported no new cases of COVID-19 today. The last new case was reported on May 7.

JobKeeper blunder could aid tourism sector

The treasurer has continued to rule out expanding eligibility to the JobKeeper payment after a $60 billion accounting error meant more money in the budget.

Josh Frydenberg flagged potentially more support for Australia’s tourism sector which has been devastated by the coronavirus lockdown.

“When it comes to JobKeeper, we’ll be undertaking a review in the month of June,” he told ABC on Monday.

Treasury released new data on Friday revealing the JobKeeper wage subsidy program was now expected to cost $70 billion not $130 billion, with 3.5 million employees signed up, not the predicted 6.5 million.

Frydenberg said he won’t answer calls from Labor to appear before a senate committee over the bungle.

“This is just a political stunt from the Labor Party,” he said.

The treasurer said he took responsibility for the error but the government had no plans for wholesale changes.

Meanwhile, other sectors are seeking huge government support with the Master Builders Association pitching for a $13 billion building and construction stimulus package to boost the economy and save jobs.

CEO Denita Wawn has cited economic modelling by Ernst & Young and commissioned by MBA that shows $13.2 billion in stimulus would generate $30.9 billion in gross domestic product and create 105,500 construction jobs.

It also would stimulate $17.6 billion in expanded construction activity in new housing, renovations and commercial construction activity, Wawn said on Monday.

The MBA wants the national cabinet of federal, state and territory leaders, which will meet this week, to consider its stimulus proposal for the industry.

“Building and construction is shaping up to be one of the industries worst hit in the long term by the COVID-19 economic crisis,” she said in a statement.

“We know from previous downturns that it takes four times longer for our industry to recover than the rest of the economy.”

Work for builders and tradies in 2020/21 was already evaporating, she said, and 2021/22 might not be much better.

There is about 400,000 building business in Australia employing 1.2 million people.

Master Builders is also seeking the establishment of a special task force to fast track construction activity.

States key to NZ travel bubble

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she expects to see Australian state borders re-open before the establishment of a trans-Tasman bubble.

The resumption of ordinary travel between the two countries has been mooted as a first step towards pre-coronavirus business as usual.

On Monday, Nine newspapers reported that NSW and Victoria may be open to the trans-Tasman bubble before other states due to internal border regimes.

Australian tourism minister Simon Birmingham said slow-moving states shouldn’t hinder the creation of the bubble, saying “the reluctance of other states to open up their domestic borders shouldn’t become an obstacle to progress”.

Ardern scotched that idea, saying “it matters” whether New Zealanders are able to move around Australia freely.

“The states haven’t opened up to each other yet,” she told Radio New Zealand.

“Obviously I would expect to see some of those issues resolved before we’d see them necessarily opening up to New Zealand and you can understand why.

“People want to be able to travel internally in Australia before they’d expect to be able to come across the ditch.”

Speaking later on 1News, she softened her language, saying the “most likely sequencing” is state borders opening up first.

Mining props up Australian exports

Australian minerals are still fetching a good price on the international market despite the economic hit of coronavirus.

Preliminary figures show exports plunged $4 billion or 12 per cent in April, compared to a record high of $31.44 billion in March.

But despite the month-on-month fall, Australian exports remain strong thanks to strong demand for iron ore in Asia.

Commsec chief economist Craig James said trade was still up one per cent compared to April 2019 despite everything the global economy had thrown at Australia.

“It’s a good news story,” James said.

“The low Australian dollar is certainly helping our exports as well as a strong demand for iron ore.”

The ABS pointed to a fall in fuel, aircraft and car imports.

But there was a rise in imports of coronavirus-related medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment.

James said Australia’s economy was still going strong despite the economic hits of Brexit, the US-China trade war, the summer’s bushfire crisis and coronavirus.

“Our exports remain in demand from the rest of the world,” he said.

“The mining sector is our biggest contributor.”

UK PM backs aide over lockdown travel

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed his senior adviser Dominic Cummings despite calls from within his own Conservative Party for the aide to resign for driving 400km during the coronavirus lockdown.

Cummings came under pressure when newspapers reported he had travelled from London to northern England in March when his wife was ill with COVID-19 symptoms during a country-wide lockdown.

“I’ve had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings,” Johnson told a news conference, saying his aide had followed the “instincts of every father” when he travelled with his wife for help with childcare while isolating.

“I believe that in every respect he has acted responsibly and legally and with integrity.”

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, described Johnson’s decision to take no action against Cummings as “an insult to the sacrifices made by the British people”.

“This was a test of the prime minister and he has failed it,” Starmer said in a statement.

A divisive figure, Cummings is seen by allies and enemies alike as Johnson’s most important and influential strategist.

Over the weekend, Downing Street and senior ministers all backed him, an early signal of their reluctance to succumb to the demands from several Conservatives, who said they had received angry messages from voters over the trips.

Johnson’s office said Cummings made the 400km journey after his wife showed symptoms, to ensure his four-year-old son could be properly cared for by relatives if he too fell ill.

The newspapers have since reported that Cummings was seen in northern England on other occasions. The government has denied this and Johnson did not answer a question about whether he knew about the additional trips.

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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