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Police tell cruise ships to go away before bringing more infection


NSW police are urging foreign cruise ships – a major source of coronavirus there and in South Australia – to immediately go home rather than risk flooding hospitals with patients.

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Cruise ship passengers now account for 101 – or around a third – of the total cases in SA, while Tasmania’s two deaths were linked to the Ruby Princess, which has become a major source of COVID-19 spread in Australia after infected passengers were allowed off the ship in Sydney without adequate checks.

There were on Monday night 285 coronavirus infections in NSW linked to cruise ships, including 189 from the Ruby Princess.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says there are nine cruise ships either docked in the state or waiting off the coast.

“There are thousands of people, potentially, in cruise ships off our coasts that aren’t members of our state and if we take them in, then that could well flood our system unnecessarily,” Fuller said.

“All the hard work we’ve done could be over.

“We will continue to allow them to have fuel and food … but it is time to go to your port of origin.”

Three Ruby Princess crew with severe coronavirus symptoms were taken to hospital in Sydney on Sunday night and another three crew were ferried to hospital on Monday.

Fuller says health authorities will continue to treat stranded cruise passengers on humanitarian grounds such as two pregnant women who have asked to come ashore.

“We are receiving people sensibly back into NSW. They get the required healthcare, then go into mandatory isolation,” he said.

Following the Ruby Princess fiasco, NSW has banned all cruise ship passengers from disembarking until new protocols are in place.

Fuller has said no cruise passenger will enter NSW unless they have his personal approval.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in NSW reached 2032 on Tuesday – an increase of 114 on the previous day.

Australia now has 19 coronavirus deaths, after a man aged in his eighties died in Tasmania overnight.

Eight people have died of the virus in NSW, four in Victoria, two each in Tasmania, WA and Qld and one in the ACT.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday implored people to not leave their homes unless they “absolutely” have to as the state tries to slow the spread of the virus.

She said the biggest concern is the level of community transmission in some areas, such as Waverley and Bondi in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where people may be unaware they have coronavirus.

“Its really important for people to assume they have it and to act like they have it,” she told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

“We have had localised breakouts in areas like Waverley and Bondi and as a result increased testing in those areas will happen to really reduce community to community transmission.”

A Sydney man is already behind bars for allegedly ignoring his home self-quarantine twice on Saturday before trying to leave the serviced apartment in which he had been confined.

Wage subsidy rush

Meanwhile, businesses are rushing to sign up to the federal government’s $130 billion plan to subsidise wages during the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost 60,000 businesses had signed up for the scheme within hours of it being announced on Monday afternoon.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg expects the plan will help six million Australian workers.

“Australia’s never seen income support like this,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

Employees will receive a flat-rate payment of $1500 per fortnight through their employers in a bid to lessen the economic blow caused by the virus.

It applies to full and part-time workers, sole traders, as well as casuals who have been on the books for at least 12 months.

The subsidies will last for six months.

Frydenberg said while there was more financial help on the way, none of it would match Monday’s announcement in dollars.

He said it would take years to pay off the debt generated as a result, but the government had to do what was needed.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government had committed the equivalent of 16.4 per cent of Australia’s GDP to keeping the economy on deck.

“It’s an eye watering amount … It is a very, very significant investment,” Cormann said.

Wage subsidies will flow to businesses in the first week of May, with workers stood down since March 1 able to access backdated payments.

New Zealanders on temporary working 444 visas and migrants eligible for welfare are also included.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said some countries would face economic collapse or hollowing out in coming months as the disease spreads globally.

“In the very worst of circumstances, we could see countries themselves fall into chaos – this will not be Australia,” he said.

Parliament could sit as early as next week to pass legislation related to the new JobKeeper payment, with Labor likely to back the overall package, which unions and business groups support.

Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the subsidies were a fair way of making sure employees stayed connected to employers during the crisis.

“This huge package will keep people in jobs and vitally, make sure Australia is ready to rebuild quickly once this challenge passes,” she said.

“We must safeguard as many jobs as we can to prevent long periods of joblessness and poverty.”

The $1500 per fortnight payment amounts to about 70 per cent of the median wage.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said while the decision was welcome, the amount may not be enough.

“We believe that allowing this amount to increase up to the median wage of $1375 a week is what is needed.”

McManus also raised concerns for casuals who had worked for the same employer for less than 12 months and who were not covered by the scheme.

Truck stops stay open

Truck stops and roadhouses will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure weary drivers can have a shower and a bite to eat.

Truckies have raised serious concerns about roadside diners and lounges being shut down during the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving them with nowhere to eat, sleep or go to the bathroom.

“We have heard their concerns loud and clear,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on Tuesday.

“This is a common sense solution which ensures heavy vehicle drivers have access to essential amenities, can take regular breaks and eat properly whilst delivering their vital cargo.”

Strict social distancing and personal hygiene measures will be enforced at rest stops allowed to stay open.

-with AAP

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