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Coronavirus: What we know today, May 27

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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, SA shifts the goalposts on restrictions again and a 30-year-old becomes Australia’s youngest COVID-19 fatality.

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KEY POINTS

Restriction reboot likely

Premier Steven Marshall has flagged another looming adjustment to his Government’s increasingly complex reboot of the state’s economy.

As of last week, step two easing of coronavirus restrictions – to come into place from next Monday – showed “gyms and indoor fitness” allowed up to 20 patrons, provided they adhered to the “one in four square metre” rule.

However, that advice was clarified overnight, with operators of gym classes and dance classes now told they have a cap of 10 participants per class.

In a media release on Monday, the Government said: “Pubs, gyms, cinemas, places of worship, beauty salons and other sites will now be permitted to have up to 80 people on their premises from June 1 as long as they comply with appropriate safeguards, Premier Steven Marshall has today announced.”

SA Health this afternoon posted a clarification on their Facebook page: “…. there is a limit of 20 people permitted to be in a gym room doing individual workouts – provided you have separate rooms, you can accommodate up to 80 people. This does not include personal trainers or staff employed at the gym. People present must not exceed more than 1 person per 4 square metres and the 1.5 metres social distancing must be adhered to. Good hygiene practice is also encouraged. Classes or activities at gymnasiums, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre and spin facilities and dance and pilates studios are limited to a maximum of 10 participants. This does not include the people employed or engaged to work to run the activity.”

Marshall again conceded today it was “much easier to put those restrictions in place than ease those restrictions”, arguing the edict was “a tough issue”.

“We need to listen to the health advice, and the health advice is that 10 [people], for indoor fitness type activities, is the appropriate [number],” he said.

He explained that 20 people were allowed inside gyms, but gym classes were limited to 10 because “that’s an indoor activity, whereas the gyms is more a static activity, where you’re not coming into contact with other people”.

“There’s a difference between attending a gym and attending a gym class, and that’s the differentiation,” he said.

“In terms of an actual class, where you’ve got people that may be coming into contact in an enclosed environment, it’s 10.”

However, he appeared to pave the way for another change, following last week’s 11th hour backflip of the reopening of licensed venues for table service.

“We’ve asked Nicola Spurrier to provide some detail on her reasoning for that… and if it’s possible to be flexible on this we certainly will be,” he said.

No new infections as authorities field questions over exemptions

SA Health reported no new COVID-19 infections today, as questions continue to be raised about the state’s latest confirmed case.

A woman who travelled from overseas and briefly quarantined in Victoria became the state’s 440th reported coronavirus case when her results came back positive on Monday.

The woman in her 50s arrived in Adelaide from Melbourne by plane on the weekend after being given permission to come to SA on compassionate grounds.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said today that SA authorities had granted 22 “compassionate” exemptions to usual measures for people travelling to SA from overseas, either to visit dying relatives or attend funerals.

However, none of the people granted entry were exempt from quarantine requirements, she insisted.

After initially saying that her country of origin couldn’t be revealed for privacy reasons, SA Health later said the woman tested positive had travelled to Australia from the United Kingdom.

The woman has now been placed in isolation in Adelaide and a number of people she came into contact with are being tracked down, including those on the same flight.

So far she is experiencing only mild symptoms of COVID-19.

Spurrier said the new case did not present a serious risk to the wider SA community, but her team had been identifying her close contacts.

“This is a case that has come to us from overseas via another state and we’ve dealt with it,” she said.

“We still do not have any community spread in South Australia.”

Spurrier said there would be no change to the lifting of restrictions, but added they could only be eased if people remained vigilant in efforts to contain the virus such as social distancing and good hygiene.

“We have to be realistic and there is always going to be COVID-19 in the world,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide today.

Labor’s health spokesman Chris Picton said the government needed to answer a long list of questions about the latest infection, including why the public wasn’t told immediately.

“It’s vital South Australians have confidence in our border restrictions, and transparency is key,” he said.

“The public has a right to know the answers to simple questions about this special exemption which has led to a positive COVID-19 case.”

Thirty-year-old Queensland man dies

Queensland has recorded its seventh COVID-19 casualty with the death of a 30-year-old man in Blackwater – Australia’s youngest virus fatality.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young told reporters the man was showing symptoms for several weeks and tested positive to the virus after his death.

His partner is now sick and has been taken to Rockhampton Hospital.

The case is the first recorded in Blackwater, near Emerald in central Queensland, and residents with symptoms are being urged to get tested immediately.

“It appears that this just gentleman who has passed away was ill for some time and did not get tested,” Health Minister Steven Miles said on Wednesday.

“I know that men sometimes fob off their illnesses – they don’t go and get medical assistance – but it’s incredibly important right now that anyone with symptoms goes and gets tested.”

Police and ambulance were called to the home in Blackwater on Tuesday afternoon, where the man’s partner had found him unresponsive after she returned home from work.

The police and ambulance officers who attended the scene are also now in quarantine.

The death has been referred to the coroner, who will investigate whether the virus or the man’s other known illnesses caused his death.

Close watch on virus cases on sheep ship

Source: Australian Department of Health

Health officials are monitoring possible new coronavirus clusters across the country after a clutch of cases were identified.

The virus was detected on a live-export ship docked in Western Australia, with six of the 48 crew testing positive on Tuesday.

The state’s Health Minister Roger Cook says the Al Kuwait incident highlights the ongoing risks of the virus.

“We expect to see clusters of the virus continue to pop up. This is another reason why our hard border must stay for now,” he said.

Two private schools in Sydney’s eastern suburbs – a virus hotspot – were closed after a student at each tested positive.

The closures came just a day after thousands of students returned to full in-classroom learning.

All up, 15 new coronavirus cases were added to the national tally on Tuesday, bringing it to 7133.

There are 478 active cases across the country while the death toll stands at 102.

Americas the new COVID-19 epicentre: WHO

The Americas have emerged as the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization says, as a US study predicts deaths surging in Brazil and other Latin American countries.

“Now is not the time for countries to ease restrictions,” WHO director for the Americas Carissa Etienne said via videoconference.

The Americas have registered more than 2.4 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 143,000 deaths from the resulting COVID-19 respiratory disease.

Latin America has passed Europe and the US in daily infections, Etienne said on Tuesday.

“Our region has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

Of concern to WHO officials are accelerating outbreaks in Brazil, Peru, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

As Brazil’s daily death rate became the world’s highest on Monday, a University of Washington study warned the country’s total death toll could climb five-fold to 125,000 by early August.

The forecast from the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) came with a call for lockdowns that Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has resisted.

The current data projects COVID-19 deaths in Peru totalling nearly 20,000 by August, IHME said, indicating demand is likely to outstrip the supply of beds in intensive care units.

The latest IHME model projections see deaths rising to nearly 12,000 in Chile, 7000 in Mexico, 6000 in Ecuador, 5500 in Argentina and to 4500 in Colombia by August.

One country in the region doing relatively well against COVID-19 is Cuba, where the IHME forecasts a death toll of just 82 by August while testing continues to outpace the outbreak.

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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