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- Protesters across country breach restrictions
- Ruby Princess tuberculosis warning
- SA braces for more commuters
- ACT seeks a travel bubble with SA
- Scramble to export sheep from quarantined ship
- Trump terminates relationship with the WHO
Protesters defy social distancing rules
Protesters at Adelaide’s Rundle Mall have joined hundreds of demonstrators across Australia’s capital cities breaching social-distancing rules to rally against a mix of grievances including COVID-19 restrictions, vaccines, and 5G internet.
In Sydney, up to 500 protesters convened at Hyde Park before holding a singalong of anti-vaccination songs and walking to NSW Parliament House.
They chanted “freedom of choice” and “my body, my choice” on the march, with some attempting to raise the spectre of a “new world order”.
At the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne on Saturday, protesters booed police clad in gloves and face masks.
In a statement, Victorian police said those found in breach of COVID-19 directions faced fines of $1652 each.
Similar protests were planned for Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Hobart.
When asked about the rallies, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said “there’s no message that can get through to people who have no belief in science”.
In Victoria, nearly a dozen new cases have been confirmed, including three more linked to a Melbourne school and four from a hotel used to quarantine returned travellers.
There have been no new cases of COVID-19 in South Australia today. There have been a total of 440 cases reported in South Australia.
There is one active case of COVID-19 across the state and 435 people have been cleared of COVID-19.
There have been four reported deaths in SA from COVID-19. SA Pathology has undertaken 99,645 tests for COVID-19 so far, including 2,182 yesterday.
Tuberculosis warning for Ruby Princess passengers
Passengers aboard the Ruby Princess during the COVID-19 outbreak have been issued with another health warning, after a crew member was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
According to NSW Health, the crew member is receiving treatment at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, after receiving a positive diagnosis weeks after passengers disembarked.
The health body advised that some hospital staff, roommates, close friends and workmates may be at risk of infection.
Assistant Director of Communicable Diseases Christine Selvey sent out a letter today to passengers assuring them were at a very low risk of infection.
“Tuberculosis is spread from a person with active disease after close and prolonged contact with that person, rather than casual exposure,” the letter stated.
The WHO anticipates that people ill with both tuberculosis and COVID-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes.
State braces for commuter surge
Transport Minister Stephan Knoll has detailed new protective measures on public transport, in preparation for an anticipated increase in passenger numbers when restrictions ease on Monday.
Announcing the new safety plan on Friday, Knoll detailed changes to convert train seating to a 2×2 pattern, reduced from 3×3.
Arrows will be drawn on public transport, train station and platform floors to better direct foot traffic and stipulate which doors people can enter or exit.
A new peak-period timetable will be introduced, with Knoll revealing that without social distancing measures and a move to alternatives 4000 additional buses, 100 trams and 300 trains would be required.
The ABC reports that the measures mean 670 seats will need to be stripped out of Adelaide trains due to the changes.
Knoll added new phone app technology is under development to “give customers more understanding of what their public transport options are, and help them make individual decisions around social distancing.”
Currently, public transport usage is just over 40 per cent compared to the usual number of commuters.
Knoll said there would be no hard limit to the number of passengers, following advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. Commuters are urged to avoid travel if they are sick.
Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis, who has been critical of a lack of space on public transport in recent weeks, tweeted that the measures should have been introduced “over 10 days ago”.
The Government and Adelaide City Council have put together a taskforce to look into increasing cycling and parking options.
Commuter numbers are expected to rise from Monday as restrictions are eased to allow up to 80 people in hospitality venues with sufficient space, up to 50 people at funerals, and up to 20 people in cinemas, theatres, museums, beauty salons, gyms and indoor fitness centres.
Outside the city, South Australian transport workers including truck drivers can now receive a COVID-19 test out on the road even if they don’t have symptoms, with the first mobile testing clinic opening its doors at Bordertown.
To control commuter numbers, Premier Steven Marshall encouraged South Australians to continue working from home, but said people can return to workplaces if their productivity has suffered.
“We’ve been very clear that if you can work from home, you should stay in that position,” he said.
“But for many people, it has been an inconvenience and there has been a loss in productivity and for those people, they are permitted to come back to work.”
Victoria, which is also easing restrictions on Monday, is also concerned about commuter numbers spiking.
The state’s Premier Daniel Andrews said people are expected to continue to work from home if they can until the end of next month.
“Right now, we can’t have the usual number of people on our trains, trams and buses – it just isn’t safe,” he said.
Business groups have hit out at Victoria’s decision to fine employers of up to $9913 if they ask employees to return to work.
SA in talks to open up ‘travel bubbles’
The South Australian state government is in early talks to open up travel bubbles with other low-infection states, despite no agreement being reached at Friday’s national cabinet meeting.
Premier Steven Marshall confirmed that state borders were extensively discussed at the meeting of state and territory leaders, but that it was “no surprise” a decision was not reached.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr revealed he is in talks with Marshall and Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein to open up travel between the three states and territories.
“A small initial start to get flights between Canberra and Hobart and Canberra and Adelaide,” he said. “We would be safe-city pairs with which to start … flights between major Australian capital cities.”
Marshall indicated that no formal plan has been put in place.
The Federal Government and NSW are pushing for interstate travel restrictions to ease, with other states and territories keen to maintain the status quo.
One outcome of national cabinet was to scrap the Council of Australian Governments in favour of continuing the national cabinet meetings with the premiers and chief ministers on a monthly basis.
WA live export ship cases rise
Another eight cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among crew from the Al Kuwait livestock ship stranded at the port of Fremantle, bringing the total of recorded infections on board to 20.
All but 10 of the 48 crew.are in quarantine in a Perth hotel.
The West Australian health department said on Friday only five of seven workers who boarded the ship were considered close contacts and there were no positive results to date.
With the northern summer live export ban beginning on Monday, the scramble to get 56,000 sheep that were bound for the vessel to the Middle East is on and will require an exemption by the federal agriculture department.
Talks are under way to use the Awassi Express, centre of the 2017 controversy over mass sheep deaths from heat stress and now named the Anna Marra, to export the sheep sooner so they avoid extreme heat further into the northern summer.
Sending them to local abattoirs is considered a last resort.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan on Friday announced gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed as part of phase three of the State’s easing of social distancing restrictions.
The new rules, which will come into effect at 11.59pm June 5, will allow for food businesses and licensed premises to operate with seated service, and alcohol may be served without a meal.
Trump withdraws from WHO
United States President Donald Trump says his country is “terminating” its relationship with the World Health Organisation, to redirect funds to other unspecified global public health efforts.
Trump, who temporarily suspended funding to the UN agency in April, accused the organisation of failing to enact reforms in the face of US concerns over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and trust in China.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will today be terminating our relationship with the World Health Organisation and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump told a press conference at the White House on Friday. “China’s cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world,” Trump said.
As the largest source of financial support to the WHO, the US’s withdrawal is expected to significantly weaken the organisation’s response to the pandemic.
Richard Horton, editor in chief of prominent medical journal The Lancet, called the U.S. withdrawal from WHO “madness and terrifying both at the same time.”
OFFICIAL SOURCES OF ADVICE AND INFORMATION
Local updates and resources
State Government central information
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
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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