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Coronavirus: What we know today, June 7

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Follow this post for rolling updates on the impact of the coronavirus in South Australia, the nation and the world.

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KEY POINTS

Hong Kong flights for Adelaide fresh produce

Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has announced that Cathay Pacific will commence a weekly freight flight from Adelaide to Hong Kong to carry 30 tonnes of South Australian fresh produce including abalone, tuna, eggs and beef.

Singapore Airlines has also agreed to extend a weekly freight flight from Adelaide to Singapore for an additional six weeks due to strong demand.

“With very few international passenger planes flying at present, our agricultural and seafood producers continue to face major hurdles getting their produce into key export markets,” Birmingham said.

“These freight flights are critical to getting South Australian produce out the door during these tough times and helping to keep our farmers and fishers in business.”

It comes as Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced measures to sustain domestic flights, extending the Domestic Aviation Network Support program to September 30, and extending the Regional Airline Network Support program from September 30 to December 31.

Other measures include extending a range of measures under the $715 million Australian Airline Financial Relief and the $100 million Regional Airlines Funding Assistance program until December 31 or the funds are exhausted.

The government will also allow leased federal airports to seek partial relief from land tax charges to December 31 in line with state government land tax relief arrangements.

“The measures announced today will help ensure Australian airlines and operators can maintain essential air services as we map out our economic recovery,” McCormack said.

Cormann hits out at protesters

Senior federal government Minister Mathias Cormann has accused attendees of Saturday’s Black Lives Matter rallies in Australia of “reckless” behaviour during a pandemic.

Over 5000 protesters assembled in Adelaide and tens of thousands more rallied in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and some regional cities and towns on Saturday.

The  protests in solidarity with African American George Floyd who died while being arrested in Minneapolis, also a showed support for the Aboriginal community to highlight high levels of indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody.

But Senator Cormann, the federal finance minister, thought the protesters were “quite irresponsible”.

“I think it is incredibly selfish, it is incredibly self-indulgent, and yes it does impose unnecessary and unacceptable risks on to the community,” Senator Cormann told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda Program.

Labor’s indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney described Senator Cormann’s comments as “tone deaf” and “politically expedient”.

“Mathias Cormann should know better than to describe these protests yesterday, this cry from the heart of many thousands of people across the world and in Australia, as self-indulgent and reckless,” she told reporters in Sydney.

SA Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Harvey praised the protest in Adelaide, which featured widespread use of masks and no arrests.

The  march began in Victoria Square and continued down King William Street to Parliament House before returning to the square.

“We haven’t seen any instances of concern, there were no arrests and no injuries,” Harvey said.

Harvey acknowledged that it was very difficult for such a large crowd to effectively practise social distancing.

“A lot of people did try and I must commend them,” he said.

As the protest began, many in the crowd tried to maintain 1.5m gaps, but those on the edges were huddled shoulder-to-shoulder.

A large portion of those attending wore face masks provided by volunteers, who also supplied hand sanitiser.

Some wore masks decorated with messages such as “I can’t breathe”, the last words of Floyd.

Winston Howard, an African-American from Floyd’s home city of Minnesota, said the support for anti-racism at the protest was unbelievable.

“Being from America, you don’t know what kind of response it will have to people in another country, but seeing this was very overwhelming… the solidarity,” he told AAP.

Health officials say they are on guard against a spike in COVID-19 cases after the protests across the country.

The Sydney rally went ahead after a successful appeal of a ban was approved just minutes before the scheduled start.

Police and protesters clashed briefly at Central Station after the main rally, and at least two officers used pepper spray, with up to 30 people in the firing line. Three people were arrested at the protests and two charged.

Victorian Police will fine Melbourne Black Lives Matter rally organisers $1652 each for breaching the directions of the state’s chief health officer.

“We remain concerned that such a large gathering has occurred without regard for the need to maintain social distance and will now consider what action should be taken in relation to the organisation and conduct of this unlawful gathering,” Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said.

The organisers said on their Facebook page that they had received offers of help.

“We are really touched by the offer from everyone to pay the fines we may cop in Melbourne…. But we would prefer you to direct the funds to the families directly impacted by deaths in custody.”

Most of the protesters in Melbourne wore masks.

No new SA cases, first ACT case in one month

South Australia on Sunday marked twelve consecutive days of no virus cases, and a fourth successive day of zero active cases.

There have been four reported deaths in SA from COVID-19. SA Pathology has now undertaken more than 113,000 tests.

Meanwhile, the nation’s capital has recorded its first case of COVID-19 in more than a month, as a man aged in his 40s, who recently returned from overseas, tested positive, ACT Health said in a statement on Sunday.

“He has been in quarantine since his arrival from overseas,” it said.

“A small number of close contacts have been identified and, in accordance with the national guidelines, are in quarantine.”

This brings the ACT’s confirmed cases to 108. The territory has suffered three deaths.

Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman is confident there has been no risk to the broader ACT community.

WA tackles COVID-19 downturn with $444m stimulus package

A wave of home-building and renovation work is the goal of a $444 million stimulus package unveiled by the West Australian government as it struggles to pull the state economy out of a coronavirus-induced downturn.

The bulk of the package is $319 million to build, buy, renovate and maintain social housing across the state, including at remote Aboriginal communities.

But the talking point is $117 million worth of $20,000 cash grants to anyone building a new home, including properties in a development under construction, that they plan to either live in or own as an investment.

Premier Mark McGowan said the grants were available to foreign and interstate investors.

Meanwhile, the Queensland government unveiled a $50 million recovery package for tourism operators, which included a $3 million gift to the Irwin family’s Australia Zoo, which will reopen next Friday.

Push for Showdown crowd

SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo has written to Premier Steven Marshall, state co-ordinator and police Commissioner Grant Stevens and chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier, calling for up to 10,000 fans to be allowed to attend the Showdown next Saturday evening.

Pangallo pointed to the exemption granted to the Black Lives Matter demonstration as precedent, as well as relaxing of restrictions for rugby league in NSW.

A Government spokeswoman told The Advertiser: “The transition committee is having ongoing discussions about the easing of restrictions, including the attendance of spectators at sporting matches.”

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan is holding out hope of having a capacity crowd at this year’s grand final.

The league restarts next week behind closed doors and is expected to maintain that approach for the first month of the return to play.

Fruitpicker contacts tracked

Health officials are tracking down everyone who came in contact with a Melbourne man diagnosed with COVID-19 after flying to Bundaberg in Queensland.

The 24-year-old flew to Brisbane on Monday, where he socialised with friends and family, before flying to Bundaberg, checking into shared accommodation and working a shift at a strawberry farm.

Dr Jeannette Young, the state’s chief health officer, said he was infectious the whole time.

The man’s family and friends are being tested while under quarantine, a testing clinic has been set up on the farm where he worked, and four other people in the same accommodation have so far tested negative.

Contact tracing is under way for anyone who travelled from Melbourne to Brisbane on Virgin VA313 on Monday and from Brisbane to Bundaberg on Virgin VA2905 on Tuesday.

Hospitality calls for support extension as WA pubs reopen

Pubs, clubs and hotels are calling for the $70 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to be extended until at least the end of the year, according to Nine newspapers.

The Australian Hotels Association and Tourism Accommodation Australia estimate about 240,000 of the 250,000 workers employed by their members have been stood down due to restrictions.

In a joint submission to the federal government’s review of the JobKeeper scheme, they called for an extension of the September 27 cut-off date until “at least” December 31.

“It is unlikely hotel businesses will be back to their usual trade by the end of September, thus placing immense pressure on hotels to retain staff,” the AHA and TAA submission said.

The call comes as customers flocked to pubs in Western Australia on Saturday, as bars reopened as part of the state’s stage 3 easing of restrictions.

Netherlands to protect against mink infections

The Netherlands has begun a cull of 10,000 mink amid concern that animals infected with COVID-19 could transmit the illness to humans.

Infected mink have been found on 10 Dutch farms, where the ferret-like animals are bred for their fur.

“All mink breeding farms where there is an infection will be cleared, and farms where there are no infections won’t be,” said spokeswoman Frederique Hermie.

Dutch mink were first infected with coronavirus by their handlers in April. In May, the government identified two cases in which humans had been infected by sick animals — the only animal-to-human transmissions known since the global outbreak began in China.

Restrictions are easing further on public spaces in Spain, where locals were able to reenter art galleries including the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza, for the first time in nearly three months on Saturday.

Open-air bullrings will be allowed to operate from Monday, according to the new rules published on the Official Gazette on Saturday.

In parts of Spain that are entering the second phase of lockdown-easing, no more than 400 spectators will be allowed in, and in the regions entering the third and last phase, the limit will be 800.

Cases of COVID-19 have now topped 7 million, according to a Reuters tally.

About 30% of those cases, or 2 million infections, are in the United States. Latin America has the second-largest outbreak with over 15% of cases.

Globally, deaths from the novel coronavirus are approaching 400,000.

In Brazil, the second largest source of infections with over 645,000 cases, the country’s Health Ministry stopped reporting a total tally of confirmed cases and took down a website showing the evolution of the pandemic over time and by state and municipality.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Twitter “The cumulative data … does not reflect the moment the country is in.”

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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