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Coronavirus: What we know today, June 2

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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 State Government confirms job cuts are back on the agenda in the health system.

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

KEY POINTS

Job cuts for health system on govt agenda

South Australian nurses have criticised the State Government for pushing ahead with a redundancy program despite the ongoing concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said today it had learned of plans to restart voluntary redundancies across health as part of a cost-cutting exercise implemented last year.

The process was put on hold during the COVID-19 emergency after 395 people applied, including 150 nurses.

The Government confirmed today that health system redundancies were back on the agenda, with local health networks managing the voluntary program.

The federation says about 377 packages still need to be taken.

Branch chief executive Elizabeth Dabars says restarting the program is “completely irresponsible” while concerns remain around the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t know how they can justify getting rid of nurses,” Ms Dabars said in a statement on Tuesday.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, hospitals started a process of getting retired nurses back into the workforce.

“Now that COVID is steady, they want to get rid of people, it seems unnecessary and reckless.”

Premier Steven Marshall said today that he didn’t have any information about the redundancy program.

“I know we’re in the final stages of Enterprise Bargaining negotiations,” he said, adding that he hoped the government and the ANMF could reach agreement soon.

However, Health Minister Stephen Wade later confirmed that suspension of the voluntary redundancy program had been lifted.

He said voluntary packages were being offered across the health system, but not, he said, for any staff involved in a COVID-19 response.

“Let’s be clear – these are expressions of interest, completely voluntary, and once that expression of interest is lodged, it’s up to the hospital to decide whether it makes sense in terms of their services going forward,” he said.

Labor said every frontline nurse was an essential worker at this time.

“Axing staff leaves those remaining stretched to breaking point,” said Opposition health spokesperson Chris Picton.

“Steven Marshall must immediately stop these cuts to our frontline health heroes.”

SA looks to further ease COVID-19 limits

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has toasted the reopening of the state’s pubs, downing his first beer in three months and flagging the lifting of more coronavirus restrictions.

Licensed venues across the state opened on Monday, with a limit of 80 patrons at a time, divided across at least four areas.

Customers can also have a drink without ordering food, but must be seated.

Marshall said authorities were looking to further lift COVID-19 measures with a particular focus on larger premises.

“We are looking at the issue of larger venues at the moment, not just in terms of hospitality but also in terms of community sports and venues like the art gallery, the zoo and churches in South Australia,” the premier said.

“All those things are being worked through at the moment and we believe we are making great progress.”

SA Health reported no new cases of COVID-19 in its latest update this afternoon.

Confidence key to economy lifting: RBA

Australia’s central bank believes much will hinge on consumer confidence as the nation recovers from the coronavirus shock, with the economic outlook still highly uncertain.

But the Reserve Bank governor says encouraging health news, signs that hours worked stabilised in May and a pick-up in spending show the economic slump might not be as deep as first thought.

The prediction is likely to further buoy consumer sentiment, on top of new data showing people are feeling happier and opening up their wallets as restrictions slowly ease across Australia.

However, Philip Lowe repeated his belief that both the fiscal and monetary support now in place will need to stay in the economy for some time.

“It is possible that the depth of the downturn will be less than earlier expected,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The rate of new infections has declined significantly and some restrictions have been eased earlier than was previously thought likely.

“In the period immediately ahead, much will depend on the confidence that people and businesses have about the health situation and their own finances.”

The bank has kept the official interest rate on hold at 0.25 per cent, and affirmed its intention to do so until progress is made towards full employment and inflation returns to the target band of two to three per cent – neither of which is expected for some years.

Reopening begins across Australia

Australia’s leaders are considering more targeted stimulus as parts of the economy that were shut down through the coronavirus pandemic begin to reopen.

People are now able to enjoy draught beers and sit-down meals across much of the nation, and beauty salons, tattoo parlours and gyms have begun reopening.

But numbers in these establishments are still limited to 20 in most areas.

The federal government is considering a plan for cash grants to build new homes or for major renovation projects.

The construction sector has warned it faces a cliff in the second half of the year as projects already underway finish up and people are cautious about starting new builds during the uncertain economic times.

Master Builders Australia says the jobs of 1.2 million people in the sector are under threat.

It’s called for $40,000 grants for new homes, a multi-billion fund to renovate homes to make them more resilient to natural disasters or accessible for older and disabled Australians, and funding to help rectify flammable cladding and asbestos on buildings.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would announce support for the sector shortly.

“The tradies and all the others, the apprentices and others who work in that home building sector are a sector we know are going to feel a lot of pain unless we can keep a continuity in the business of house construction,” he told reporters.

The government is also considering further assistance for the ailing entertainment sector.

More than 7200 Australians have tested positive to coronavirus with more than 1.47 million tests conducted.

About 480 cases remain active across the country, while the death toll remains at 103.

Youngest ‘virus death’ tests negative

The Queensland man thought to be Australia’s youngest COVID-19 victim has tested negative to the virus after his death.

Nathan Turner’s death last week baffled authorities after an initial coronavirus test following his death returned a positive result.

The initial result also placed residents in his central Queensland town of Blackwater on high alert.

Queensland Health confirmed the negative test result on Monday night.

“The Coroner tonight advised that further tests have returned negative for COVID-19. He is yet to determine the man’s cause of death,” the state’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said in a statement.

Turner, 30, had serious underlying health issues before experiencing coronavirus symptoms in the weeks before he died and was not tested while alive.

As Turner had not worked for six months or left the mining town since February, authorities were unsure how he contracted the virus.

Hundreds of Blackwater locals were tested and Queensland Health even had the town’s sewage tested to try and determine the source of his COVID-19 infection.

More than 1050 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Queensland, while the state’s death toll sits at seven.

Stage two of the state government’s ‘Roadmap to Easing Restrictions’ came into effect on Monday allowing residents to travel unrestricted distances throughout the state as well as overnight stays at a place other than your own.

Queenslanders can also now gather in groups of 20 in pubs, gyms, museums, art galleries and cinemas but the borders will remain closed through June.

No evidence virus losing potency: WHO

World Health Organisation experts and a range of other scientists say there is no evidence to support an assertion by a high-profile Italian doctor that the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic has been losing potency.

Professor Alberto Zangrillo, head of intensive care at Italy’s San Raffaele Hospital in Lombardy, which bore the brunt of Italy’s epidemic, on Sunday told state television that the coronavirus “clinically no longer exists”.

But WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove and several other experts on viruses and infectious diseases said Zangrillo’s comments were not supported by scientific evidence.

There is no data to show the coronavirus is changing significantly, either in its form of transmission or in the severity of the disease it causes, they said.

“In terms of transmissibility, that has not changed, in terms of severity, that has not changed,” Van Kerkhove told reporters on Monday.

It is not unusual for viruses to mutate and adapt as they spread. The pandemic has so far killed more than 370,000 people and infected more than 6 million.

Martin Hibberd, a professor of emerging infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said major studies looking at genetic changes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 did not support the idea that it was becoming less potent, or weakening in any way.

“With data from more than 35,000 whole virus genomes, there is currently no evidence that there is any significant difference relating to severity,” he said in an emailed comment.

Zangrillo, well known in Italy as the personal doctor of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, said his comments were backed up by a study conducted by a fellow scientist, Massimo Clementi, which Zangrillo said would be published next week.

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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