Australian News

Aussie hospitals running out of face masks

Billions of dollars will start flowing to unemployed Australians and businesses pushed to the brink of collapse by the coronavirus crisis after parliament passed the government’s stimulus package in a mammoth single sitting day.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said more than 1.7 million Australians were expected to access the government’s coronavirus supplement – a $550 top up to the existing jobseeker allowance.

Late on Monday the parliament agreed to amendments that extended the payment to students on Youth Allowance and Abstudy.

Mr Frydenberg said the economic measures were the most significant “since wartime”.

“We face an enemy that is under no flag, that has no face, it’s an enemy that we cannot see, but we know that we must deploy every weapon in our arsenal to defeat it,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg said the economic situation was deteriorating “as every day passes” and more measures will likely in the future.

The multi-billion dollar Coronavirus Economic Response Package was given the final tick of approval in the House of Representatives about 11pm on Monday night.

Mr Frydenberg said the economic measures, being described as the most significant since wartime, were designed to build a bridge to recovery on the other side of the virus.

“We know that the economic situation has deteriorated as every day passes,” he said in a late night press conference at Parliament House.

“The Australian people can be assured that tonight their parliament reached across the political divide.


Eighty Catholic hospitals which provide 10 per cent of the nation’s public hospital beds are running out of face masks, gloves, gowns and other protective gear, as COVID-19 stretches the system.

Catholic Health Australia is calling on the Morrison Government to urgently release stockpiles of personal protective equipment (PPE) to its hospital staff — some of which have less than a week’s supply — as stocks in its network reach critically low levels.

The Catholic network employs tens of thousands of nurses and clinical staff.

“Requests by Catholic hospitals to access stocks of gowns, masks and gloves have been met with confusion, buck passing between the states and the Commonwealth and even a diktat that supplies will be released only to publicly owned hospitals,” Catholic Health Australia CEO Pat Garcia said.

Almost one in ten public hospital beds are located in Catholic hospitals but because they are not directly owned by the state they are being denied access to the stockpiles, he said.

In some cases personal protective equipment stocks in Catholic hospitals would run out in as little as a week, prompting Mr Garcia to write to state, territory and federal health ministers warning of the imminent shortfall.

“We cannot have a situation where thousands of doctors and nurses are treating people unprotected – it’s a shocking situation for patients, staff and the wider community. We need every weapon in our arsenal to fight the coronavirus and masks, gowns and gloves are the very basics. It would be like sending in our fireys to fight fires without a truck.”

Mr Garcia said Catholic hospitals were running testing clinics, treating COVID-19 patients and ramping up the capacity in their wards and emergency departments to alleviate pressure on public hospitals.

“We are working with everyone in the wider health network to fight this virus. All we are asking for is the same access as the public network and for a clear and efficient way for our people to get hold of PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies in a timely fashion.”

Chief Executive of the St John of God group Dr Shane Kelly which runs 17 hospitals in Western Australia, Victoria and NSW, said time is running out.

“As of today if I can’t get hold of some more PPE stocks, some of my hospitals will run out in a week. In order to protect nurses, doctors and other health care workers, and to help to reduce infections, we need sufficient stocks of gloves, gowns and masks to continue to operate, and we are just not getting the right information on how we can access the stockpile.

“We have been endeavouring to do everything we can to manage stocks but we cannot and will not compromise the safety of our staff and ultimately our patients,” he said.


Two of Australia’s major gyms will freeze payments for members – at a cost – after the Federal Government expanded its lockdown.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Sunday that non-essential services, including hospitality venues, places of worship, cinemas and gyms would be closed in a bid to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

In a statement on Facebook, Goodlife Health Clubs said its gyms would be “temporarily closed” nationally, and an “automatic freeze” had been placed on memberships. It said it would provide members with “a whole host of online workout content”.

However, an email subsequently sent members explained members would be charged $5 per week during the freeze.

“Our standard Time Freeze fee of $5 per week will continue for the duration of the closure unless stated in your membership type,” the email said.

“As soon as we are able to re-open our clubs, we will credit your membership account with any Time Freeze fees paid during this time. This credit will be applied automatically once we have reopened and your membership is reinstated.”

The email sparked outrage online among members, with many posting publicly they had lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

Fitness First members received an email explaining they would be charged $8 per fortnight for the membership freeze for three months.

“When your freeze ends you will automatically return to your regular fortnightly rate and we look forward to getting you back in club enjoying our premium facilities,” the email states.

Fitness First also took to social media to advise customers it would provide members with at-home workout materials.

Fitness Australia is seeking clarification around the timeframe of the closures, which will remain in force until midnight on April 13 but may be extended.


More than 1.5 billion people around the world have been asked or ordered to stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

That is one in every five pople on earth.

The number of confirmed cases has now reached 335,000, although most experts believe this is a very rubbery figure given much of the developing world has no access to testing and even countries like the US are still trying to test their populations.

The death toll is more than 15,000.

As cases in China ebbed, the dangers to Europe, the US and Australia have grown exponentially, although Germany on Monday, local time, cautiously reported some flattening of its infection curve.


US Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams has echoed the frustration of health experts around the world who are exasperated at images of people continuing to ignore warnings to keep their distance from other people.

New York’s COVID-19 cases exploded overnight, with the state now having 10 times more sufferers than any other in the United States.

As New York ramped up testing to 16,000 patients a day, the Dr Adams warned the state was on track to mirror Italy’s devastating coronavirus experience.

“I didn’t expect to be starting off my week with such a dire message for America, but the numbers are going to get worse this week,” said Dr Adams.

“Things are going to get worse before they get better.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing New York is approaching Italy. Why? Because the numbers that you see of cases reflect what happened two weeks ago. Too many people are waiting too long to really take these 15 days to stop the spread initiative seriously.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo said there were almost 21,000 positive cases in New York, a 5,000 increase since Sunday, as he called on US President Donald Trump to unleash full federal assistance to stop price gouging from private companies over medical supplies.

“In absolute terms, New York has by far the greatest need in the nation,” Mr Cuomo said.

While the outbreak is spreading across the state, more than half the cases are concentrated in New York City’s five boroughs, and 157 New Yorkers have died.

Mr Cuomo also issued an emergency order for hospitals to increase capacity by at least 50 per cent to meet the coming wave of patients.

It came as former Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar announced her husband John Bessler was in isolation and being treated for the disease.

“My husband has coronavirus,” she wrote on twitter.

“I love him & not being able to be by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease. So many are going through this & much worse. I pray for him & you & meanwhile I will do all I can to get help to the American people.”

Dr Adams said images of crowds flocking to see blossoms in Washington DC showed people were still not taking social distancing advice seriously. He said social distancing was a preventative measure that would be meaningless once people were infected.

He said: “But, unfortunately, we’re finding that a lot of people think this can’t happen to them. We don’t want Dallas or New Orleans or Chicago to turn into the next New York.

“And that means everyone needs to be taking the right steps right, and that means stay at home.”

He said the US move to lock down for 15 days was based on the fact that the US was two weeks behind Italy in terms of the spread of the pathogen.

“We really hoped to instil a sense of urgency across America.

“But these mitigation measures work preventatively. They work best the earlier you do them.

“And people are still reacting, and waiting to see spread, before they decide to get serious.”

Meanwhile, the man who stands behind President Trump at the daily virus briefings, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr Anthony Fauci, has admitted: “I’m sort of exhausted.”

In the US, Dr Fauci has become famous for his head-shaking as the President tells his side of the “war against the China virus” and the two have disagreed openly about the effectiveness of existing medications.

“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” he told the journal Science.

“OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time,” Fauci said.

“I’m sort of exhausted. But other than that, I’m good. I mean, I’m not, to my knowledge, coronavirus infected. To my knowledge, I haven’t been fired.

“He goes his own way. He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.”


The hunt for potentially infected passengers aboard the Ruby Princess has been handed over to the military with Defence personnel dispatched to civilian COVID-19 co-ordination centres across the country.

The cruise ship Ruby Princess was granted permission to dock and disembark in Sydney last Thursday despite pending testing results of those showing coronavirus symptoms.

Passengers were allowed to disperse nationally and it has since been confirmed there were infected people on board among the 2700 passengers; it is one of five cruise ships which docked in Australia with cases on-board that were allowed to disembark.

Defence has confirmed personnel from Reconnaissance and Planning Support Teams were embedded in civil COVID-19 co-ordination centres in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

They are tracking passengers on those ships in each state with further staff on stand by for call up.

The deployment comes on top of dozens of personnel supplying clinical and epidemiological support to national health operations and even face mask and hand sanitiser production.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the teams are contributing to the “overall strength and resilience of the Australian health system in this challenging time”.

“These ADF teams will provide logistics, transport, health and general planning assistance as the workload of civilian medical teams continues to increase as more Australians are diagnosed with, or affected by, COVID-19,” Senator Reynolds said.

“Defence continues to follow the advice of Australian health authorities when prioritising its support arrangements.

Nine Defence personnel have been diagnosed with COVID-19 including six in NSW.


Spain has extended its lockdown until after Easter as the country’s death toll soars, with medical workers making up 12 per cent of total coronavirus cases.

The Spanish government has warned that the worst was “yet to come”, as nurses and doctors there bear the brunt of the outbreak, which has almost 30,000 reported infections.

Extra testing was expected to see that number rise again, with Spain becoming the new epicentre as it follows Italy’s deadly path.

A conference centre in Madrid was being set up as a makeshift military hospital, with images showing similar setups to some of the hospitals used during the Spanish flu in 1918.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said: “Unfortunately the number of diagnosed cases is going to rise in the coming days.

“The worst is yet to come, and it is pushing our capacities to the limit.”

Italy’s death toll climbed yesterday with 651 extra fatalities, bringing its total 5476, as the country desperately tries to extend its lockdown to prevent further outbreaks.

The number of fatalities announced on Monday Australian time (Sunday local time) was less than the almost 1000 who died on Saturday local time, but it was too soon to say if the virus had peaked.

Italian civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli, who is running the country’s response, was cautious that the lockdown in place since March 8 was starting to work.

“The figures announced today are lower than those for yesterday,” he said.

“I hope and we all hope that these figures can be borne out in the coming days. But do not let your guard down.”

The UK will call in the army to deliver food parcels to up to 1.5 million people as it pleads with the sick, vulnerable and the elderly to stay at home for 12 weeks.

The UK was sending out letters to people over 70 and others considered at risk asking them to stay home.

They will also be offered help with food and medicine drops co-ordinated by the army if they do not have a support network to keep them going.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK needed to increase its measures but stopped short of a complete lockdown with police patrolling the streets.

In France, the first doctor has died as the toll hit 674, with almost 16,018 cases as the horrific toll jumped 112 in a day.

The country has ordered 250 million face masks as it attempts to slow the outbreak.

There were 1746 coronavirus patients receiving intensive care treatment, with 35 per cent of those under 65, smashing theories that it was a disease that only affected the elderly.

Germany has banned gatherings of more than two people, except for families, as its Chancellor Angela Merkel went into quarantine after she was treated by a doctor who has the coronavirus.

Ms Merkel was told about her doctor’s positive test after delivering a media conference, raising concerns that she may have spread the virus if she was also infected. Hairdressers in Germany will now also close, with the new sanctions in place for at least two weeks. Germany has almost 24,000 cases but a fatality rate of only 0.3 per cent.

India has 396 cases but there are fears that as many as 300 million will catch the illness if it gets a grip on the world’s second most populated country.

In Pakistan, telephone companies have been swapping ringtones when people call each other for messages warning about COVID-19, while doctors and nurses have been posting pictures of the bruising on their faces from warning protective equipment while treating patients.

Pakistan so far has 730 cases but there were concerns of a higher death toll because of the country’s already struggling health system compared with Western hospitals.

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