Australian News

Record one-day loss of life in Spain and Italy, UK to protect wages

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will be under pressure to turn on the economic taps further after the UK guaranteed 80 percent of workers’ pay to save millions of jobs.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak made the unprecedented announcement this morning that the government would cover the payroll of millions of workers while they are off because of the coronavirus.

It came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson called last drinks across the UK, with pubs, cafes, restaurants, gyms and leisure centres to close tonight.

The dramatic interventions, which have been mirrored in other European countries, will provide a blueprint for Australia as the virus inevitably skyrockets there.

Mr Johnson pleaded with people to stay home tonight, saying people’s contact must drop by 75 per cent for the measures to work.

“You may think you are invincible, but there is no guarantee you will get mild symptoms, and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others,” he said.

The pub ban will be in place for at least a month, but could extend longer, with Mr Johnson trying to offer some hope that the UK would be able to turn the tide in 12 weeks.

Mr Sunak, who has the equivalent role in the UK to Mr Frydenberg in Australia, made the history making wages insurance policy this morning.

Mr Sunak, who took on the job only in February, said “our planned economic response will be one of the most comprehensive in the world”.

“To all those at home, right now anxious about the days ahead, I say you will not face this alone,” he said.

Workers will be paid up to $A5000 per month while they are off because of the coronavirus.

There have been almost 1 million job losses in the hospitality sector this week after Mr Johnson asked people to stop going to the pub and cafes.

UK unions said this measure would save another two million in the industry, with the cash guaranteed for three months.

The UK is effectively putting its money on black on the economic roulette wheel that has been caused by the killer virus.

They believe that paying out an “unlimited” wages guarantee would be cheaper than the devastation of millions of job losses.

The world has been watching as Italy’s death toll soars, with another 627 deaths in a day, taking its total to more than 4000.

The European country now has almost 25 percent more deaths than China where the virus began.

The world has been looking to testing as a way to solve the crisis, but the World Health Organisation said that more than 100 million would be required.

So far the WHO has distributed 1.5 million testing kits.


Five days ago Rebecca Taylor was living her dream – she worked in London and travelled around Europe in her spare time.

Now, she’s among the scores of Australian expats who have had their lives uprooted in an instant and been left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday morning, the 23-year-old woke to the news that the federal government was calling for all Australians abroad to come home.

She immediately resigned from her job, packed up her life, and 24 hours later was en route home.

“Most of my possessions are still in London. I could only bring back one suitcase,” she said.

“Because everyone was kind of in isolation before I left I didn’t even get to say goodbye to people.”

On the journey home passengers around her were wearing hazmat-like suits and goggles when she couldn’t even find a mask.

Unexpected temperature checks during her stop-over in Dubai had MsTaylor worried she’d be detained there.

But after a “full-on” three days, Ms Taylor landed in Sydney on Thursday night. She’s daunted by the uncertainty ahead of her, and in isolation in the Blue Mountains.

“I don’t know when I’m going to be able to work again, there’s no way of knowing when I’ll be able to go back to London, no way of knowing when I’ll get my stuff back.”

Vancouver-based Australian Jonathan Bernardini is in a similar position. He was visiting Melbourne when Canada announced it would shut its borders. Mr Bernardini is now unable to return to his medical research job at the University of British Colombia.

He’s applying to the Canadian government for an exemption but isn’t optimistic.

“Everything that I’ve got established in Canada – like paying bills, renting my apartment – all of those commitments are still ongoing but I can’t work,” Mr Bernardini said.

“I’m pretty anxious about it. I’m holding out hope but it’s kind of scary to have your career and your livelihood in the hands of a foreign government.”

Given his specialised line of work, the 27-year-old fears he’ll find himself unemployed in Australia and will have to move back in with his parents – along with another sibling in the same position.

“The worst-case scenario would be if the virus outbreak is not contained and I find myself in limbo.”


Spanish authorities are planning to turn a Madrid conference centre into a giant military hospital for coronavirus patients, as Europe’s second-worst outbreak claimed another 235 lives.

Spain’s worst single-day death toll yet brought the country’s total fatalities above 1000 on Friday.

Spain has swiftly followed Italy to become the second European country where hundreds of people are being killed by the coronavirus daily. The death toll shows little sign of slowing.

Some 5500 hospital beds, including intensive care units, will be set up inside the 240,000 square metre IFEMA conference centre on the capital’s outskirts to cope with surging demand expected in the coming days, the Madrid region said in a tweet.

“The most difficult days are coming now,” health emergencies chief Fernando Simon told a news conference.

The capital has become the epicentre of the disease in Spain. With nearly 20,000 cases reported as of Friday, Spain overtook Iran to become the world’s third hardest-hit country after China and Italy.

The Madrid region accounts for 628 deaths and 7165 cases.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Spanish hospitals were running several clinical trials to treat severe and mild cases of the coronavirus, while the science ministry said researchers were working on potential vaccines and detection tests.

The government promised measures on Thursday to protect the elderly and staff at nursing homes after large numbers of deaths.

Some 30 firefighters were involved in an extensive disinfection operation at a Madrid nursing home, and a military team was working in another. On Friday the government said providing more face masks would be a priority and it could also do more to help the most vulnerable groups.

The justice ministry said 1000 forensic doctors and technicians would be redeployed to tackle the epidemic.

The country has ramped up efforts to curb the spread of the disease in the past week, ordering a nationwide 15-day state of emergency on Saturday that bars people from all but essential outings.

Bars, restaurants and most shops have been shut and transport restricted.


Ivanka Trump is back at the White House after testing negative for coronavirus and getting “clear results,” a person familiar with the results said.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and daughter had been working from home since coming in close proximity with Australia’s home affairs minister Peter Dutton, who tested positive for COVID-19.

He met with Ivanka Trump just days before he tested positive for coronavirus, in a meeting Attorney-General William Barr, Kellyanne Conway and another senior aide also attended.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were also at Mar-a-Lago with the Brazilian delegation, where at least one member also tested positive for the virus, over the weekend.

Prison advocate Debbie Kilroy and activist Boneta-Marie Mabo, Eddie Mabo’s granddaughter, have both tested positive for COVID-19 after being on the same flight as Mr Dutton several days ago.


Across Australia public school teachers are struggling with teaching their normal classes, being told to prepare for online teaching and also supplying schoolwork to students who are self-isolating.

In a memo seen by News Corp Australia teachers are being told they will be sent home immediately if they are wearing masks to school and to remind students at roll call about the importance of social distancing, as very few students are adhering to the rules.

Schools in NSW are closing toilet blocks in order to preserve soap and in Queensland students are being asked to bring in their own hand sanitiser, due to low supplies.

In Victoria teachers are frustrated they are going to work while the Victorian Institute of Teaching has shut its doors and the hotline is no longer active.

It comes as an NSW Department of Education health and safety hotline is being overwhelmed with calls from teachers calling to report coronavirus concerns regarding health and safety, cleanliness, hygiene and issues around social distancing.

Source – World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins, other media

Teachers are being urged to report their concerns to the Department of Education health and safety hotline but News Corp Australia understands the line is supposed to be used for principals only and does not have the resources to manage the incoming call load.

HSC students are particularly worried about how to manage their studies and News Corp Australia has been told there is a meeting of the NSW Education Standards Authority this coming Tuesday after which further advice regarding how to manage senior students who are self-isolating will be issued.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan will also meet with the leadership of the Australian Education Union (AEU) this Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

“AEU members are at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis. Not only do they have their own needs and that of their families, but they are continuing to provide a high-quality education to their students during very difficult times,” AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said.

The AEU expects that Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy or his representative will also attend the meeting and Ms Haythorpe described the meeting as a welcome step forward in responding to the National Cabinet’s decisions in relation to preschools, schools and TAFE.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new indoor gathering limit for Australians.

There is now a four square metre rule for gatherings of less than 100 people.

“What we are now moving to is an arrangement for gatherings of less than 100, is that they would be four square metres provided per person in an enclosed space, in a room. So that’s 2m by 2m,” he said.

“So for example, if you’ve got a room, if you’ve got a premises, if you’ve got a meeting room or something like that, that’s 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room.”

“I know these rules will take some time for people to get used to, but I would ask people to move as quickly as they can.

“I know it means a lot of change for a lot of venues, whether they be cafe‘s or restaurants or clubs or any of these other places of public gathering, including at this building here, we will be working to ensure that people know how many people can be in the various meeting rooms at this place.”

He said Australians should continue to practise wherever possible the 1m or 1.5m of healthy distance to limit contact.

The Federal Budget will also now be delayed until October. It is traditionally handed down on the first Tuesday in May. States would be postponing as well.

“Putting budgets together at this time, with the great uncertainty that exists, is not something that any Commonwealth or state government should be doing,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.

“As a result, we have already decided that we will not be … handing down a Budget until the first Tuesday in October, on the 6th of October.

“All other states and territories will be working to similar timetables.

“The idea that you can actually put together any sort of forecast around the economy at this time is simply not sensible.”

The federal debt limit will also be raised by a whopping $250 billion to combat the COVID-19 crisis.

In a joint statement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the ceiling would be lifted from $600 billion to $850 billion to ensure the government “has the capacity to deal with the ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus.”

And because of the decision announced earlier today to postpone the Budget until October 6, supply bills would be moved in parliament next week “to ensure the continuity of government in 2020-21.”

Mr Morrison said schools will remain open and anyone considering school holiday travel should reconsider the need for unnecessary travel.

He said the biosecurity act was being used to ban all non-essential travel into indigenous communities.

Mr Morrison said that next week, “advanced measures” would be considered to deal with future localised outbreaks and “what needs to be done wherever possible to shut that down”. He did not provide specifics.

“What we’ve asked for advice on is the density of those cases, how many cases in a particular area, that triggers actions over and above what these general rules that apply to those areas, and that would be staged up according to the level of that outbreak and what needs to be done wherever possible to shut that down,” he said.

“Now, the reason I say that is we need a consistent approach to how this would scale-up in the event of outbreaks in particular parts of particular areas.

“Because that means just because you might see, under those rules, something being done in Tuggeranong or somewhere else, that rules don’t necessarily apply … somewhere else.

“There will be advanced measures that would need to be put in place and we need a clear set of rules across states and territories to make those rules and that advice will be coming forward on Tuesday evening.”

He also flagged moves to protect renters from being turfed out of their homes during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Morrison said the NSW and Western Australian government would lead work to “identify how relief can be provided for tenants in both commercial tenancies and residential tenancies, to ensure that in hardship conditions, there will be relief that will be available, and ensuring that tenancy legislation is protecting those tenants over the next six months at least.”

And he announced additional funding $445 million of extra funding for aged care facilities. About half will be spent on a “retention bonus”.

Professor Brendan Murphy then told people to stop gathering in their homes, without practising social distancing.

“You should be distancing yourself from every fellow Australian where possible,” he said.

“That’s why we have guidelines for people in gatherings of less than 100. There’s no point having a gathering of 20 people if it’s in tiny room and you’re altogether.

“You’ve got to practise social distancing. Keep that metre-and-a-half away from each other, practise good hand hygiene all the time, and stay away from work or the community if you are unwell.”


Italy has become ground zero for the coronavirus as it passes China’s death toll, while up to 240 Australians stranded on a cruise ship fear they will die if they are dumped in Venice.

Sydney woman Lauren Petrovic said her mother-in-law Susan Morgan, who was on the Costa Victoria which was sailing towards the Italian port, was terrified.

“This obviously is a death sentence if they are to be let off here without assistance or any Ave to safely come home to Australia. They will be potentially left to die,” she said.

It comes as Italy’s death toll hit 3405 compared with China’s 3130 and the army has been called in to move coffins away from the Lombardy region in Northern Italy because burial services were swamped.

Italy has announced 627 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, the biggest day-over-day increase during the outbreak.

The global death toll has now passed 10,000.

Lombardy in Italy has sent for the army to enforce its coronavirus lockdown today as 380 more people died in that region alone and doctors in Italy’s crisis-hit hospitals described an “endless stream” of sick patients.

The region in northern Italy has hired 114 soldiers to keep people inside after some Italians defied the country’s quarantine rules – hampering its efforts to halt the world’s deadliest outbreak.

Gold Coast woman Joanne Martin-Blakey is on the ship with her husband Iain to celebrate her 50th birthday. She said on Facebook:

“H.E.L.P. We are now stuck on this ship (Costa Victoria) until we reach Italy. What country is going to accept us after being in Italy? Emirates have cancelled our return flight back from Venice and offered no alternative.

“We are being forced into the epicentre of COVID-19, and we are all healthy on this ship but are now being put at risk.”

Italians will remain in lockdown indefinitely as it now becomes the deadliest place on the planet to contract the disease.

A ban on opening shops, due to expire on April 3, has now been extended.

“Use your common sense and act with utmost caution,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians.

“We are not underestimating anything and always acting based on the worst-case scenario.”

La Repubblica newspaper, Italy’s major outlet, reported 94 per cent of Italians remained in favour of the bans, despite the imposition on their lives.

Residents wandering the streets who were not going to food stores or pharmacies or travelling to work have been threatened with fines of $A385.

Iran has become the next major hotspot for the virus with a person dying there every 10 minutes bringing the nation’s already fragile health system to its knees.

French president Emmanuel Macron has lashed citizens for breaching his country’s lockdown, with beaches now being closed, amid warning its harsh measures will be in place for a month.

Prince Albert II of Monaco has become the first head of state to come down with the disease, amid concerns he had met Prince Charles recently.

In Italy, two doctors died in the Bergamo region, as the total number of medical staff killed rose to 13.

Britain has taken a more relaxed approach to bans, with people being asked to stay away from pubs and restaurants but they remain open.

Supermarkets have been stripped, with fresh meat hard to find, as all customers were limited to three items of any category of products in a bid to stamp out panic buying.

Photographs of devastated health workers trying to buy food after shifts from empty supermarkets have gone viral online.

Prince Philip, 98, has joined the Queen, 94, at Windsor Castle as they self isolate, with many engagements postponed.

The Queen said: “We know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty.”

“At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.

“Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged that the virus could be beaten in 12 weeks if people followed his social distancing rules.

“With ruthless, determined, collective action and scientific progress, we will succeed,” he said.

“If we do this together, we will save many thousands of lives.”

The death toll in the UK has hit 144, with almost half of those deaths occurring in London as the densely populated capital becomes the epicentre of the outbreak.

The UK government was considering cash handouts for workers amid predictions of thousands of job losses.

Meanwhile, the UK was in discussions with mobile phone companies to ask them to track if people were following social distancing rules.

And Prince Harry was forced to cancel The Invictus Games, the Olympic style event for injured soldiers due to be held in the Netherlands in May, because of the virus.

Netflix has reduced the quality of its stream to ease the pressure on the internet in Europe as millions stay at home.


US President Donald Trump also announced an effective closure of the US border with Mexico, prohibiting most travel except for trade. That brings it in line with the restriction on the Canadian border earlier this week.

It came as the president

invoked the Defence Production Act to get needed medical supplies on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, mobilising the federal government to marshal the private sector to combat the pandemic.

Mr Trump had said earlier in the week he would tap the act as needed.

He said he has put that “in gear.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he implored Mr Trump during a phone call to invoke the Korean War-era act immediately to order the manufacture of ventilators and other critically needed medical gear.

The president told Sen. Schumer he would, then could be heard on the telephone making the order.

Mr Trump also sparred with NBC News reporter Peter Alexander who asked whether Americans should feel scared.

“I would say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I’d say,” MR Trump erupted. “I think it’s a very nasty question.”

“The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism,” Mr Trump said.

He wagged his finger for emphasis and said: “That’s really bad reporting.”

“Let’s see if it works. I happen to feel good about it. Who knows? I have been right a lot. Let’s see what happens,” Mr Trump said.


YouTube has joined Netflix in agreeing to limit video stream quality in an effort to ease pressure on internet providers during the coronavirus outbreak. Internet service providers are braced for increases in internet traffic as people in the UK resort to working from home and self-isolation, while other parts of Europe are subject to lockdowns.

The scheme to ease the strain on providers has come from the European commissioner for internal market and services, Thierry Breton, who urged platforms to help infrastructure handle any potential usage increase.

On Thursday, Netflix said it expects its limit – which will last for 30 days – to cut network traffic by around 25 per cent. Y

ouTube said its scheme will see video quality limited to standard definition, also for a period of 30 days.

The company said it had so far seen little change in the peaks for usage, instead mostly seeing changes in usage patterns with more people at home, with usage expanding across longer hours.

“People are coming to YouTube to find authoritative news, learning content and make connections during these uncertain times,” a spokeswoman for the video platform said. “While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity.

“We are in ongoing conversations with the regulators (including Ofcom), governments and network operators all over Europe, and are making a commitment to temporarily default all traffic in the UK and the EU to standard definition.

Google said its chief executive Sundar Pichai and YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki discussed how the technology giant could help further during the coronavirus pandemic with Mr Breton.

YouTube also confirmed it was introducing a new area on its homepage dedicated to news about COVID-19 from trustworthy sources.


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide.

“Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job,” Gov. Cuomo said of an executive order he will sign Friday.

Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are cancelled or postponed.

“We need everyone to be safe, otherwise no one can be safe,” Gov. Cuomo said. “So we’re going to put out an executive order today: New York State on pause: Policies that Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone.”

Civil fines and mandatory closures for businesses that don’t comply with the new mandate will be enforced, Gov. Cuomo announced.

“These provisions will be enforced,” he said. “These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Again, your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”

It comes as New York saw a spike in coronavirus cases. New York State now has 7102 confirmed cases, 4408 of those in New York City.


Taiwan has accused the World Health Organisation of failing to communicate an early warning about transmission of the coronavirus between humans, the Financial Times reports.

Health officials in Taipei said they alerted the WHO at the end of December about the risk of human-to-human transmission of the new virus but said its concerns were not passed on to other countries.

“While the IHR’s internal website provides a platform for all countries to share information on the epidemic and their response, none of the information shared by our country’s (Centres for Disease Control) is being put up there,” said Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s vice-president. “The WHO could not obtain first-hand information to study and judge whether there was human-to-human transmission of COVID-19. This led it to announce human-to-human transmission with a delay, and an opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost,” said Mr Chen, an epidemiologist by training who was health minister at the time of the SARS outbreak.

China’s health ministry only confirmed human-to-human transmission on January 20, after the WHO said in mid-January there might be “limited” human-to-human transmission but stepped back from this view on the same day.

Taiwan is excluded from the WHO because China, which claims it as part of its territory, demands that third countries and international bodies do not treat it in any way that resembles how independent states are treated.


A second dog in Hong Kong has contracted the coronavirus in a likely case of human-to-animal transmission, according to a report on Thursday.

The two-year-old German Shepherd — owned by an COVID-19-infected 30-year-old woman in the Pok Fu Lam area — was quarantined at a government facility, according to the South China Morning Post.

Another pooch from the same home, a four-year-old mixed breed, was also placed on lockdown but tested negative, Hong Kong’s animal welfare authority said.

The sick puppy’s diagnosis came just three days after the first known dog to test positive for the coronavirus — a 17-year-old Pomeranian — died in Hong Kong after returning home from quarantine.

“It is very likely that the two positive cases (in Hong Kong) are examples of human-to-dog transmission,” Professor Malik Peiris, a public health virologist at the University of Hong Kong told the outlet.

But there’s no evidence that pets can transmit the virus to humans, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.

In the case of the German Shepherd, the pooch was given oral and nasal swabs and placed in a different kennel than its mixed-breed housemate. Neither dog showed any symptoms.

“The department will continue to closely monitor both dogs and conduct repeated tests on the animals,” the spokesman said.

Along with the canines, four cats are also under quarantine. Their health status wasn’t immediately known.


The New York Times and The Daily Beast report that four senators dumped millions of dollars worth of stock while Capitol Hill was being briefed on the threat of coronavirus but before the markets tanked, citing disclosure records.

Republicans Richard Burr, Kelly Loeffler and James Inhofe and Democrat Dianne Feinstein collectively offloaded up to $US11 million in stock between late January and early February.

Senator Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that was directly briefed on coronavirus, sold up to $US1.7 million in stock including in hotels; Feinstein, a member of the same committee, sold up to $US6 million in stock including in a biotech firm.

Senator Loeffler dumped up to $US3.1million in investments starting on the day the Senate Health Committee, which she sits on, was briefed by the CDC; meanwhile James Inhofe sold up to $US400,000 in stock including real estate.

Senator Loeffler and Senator Feinstein have defended themselves, saying their stocks are invested in trusts and portfolios that they have no personal control over, while Senator Burr and Senator Inhofe have not commented.


California’s 40 million residents should stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise, Governor Gavin Newsom said, warning that the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the state’s medical system.

The move, the most sweeping by any state so far, was an exclamation point at the end of a week of increasingly aggressive moves meant to keep the virus in check by forcing people to stay away from each other as often as possible.

“I can assure you home isolation is not my preferred choice, I know it’s not yours, but it’s a necessary one,” Gov. Newsom said at an evening news conference streamed on social media.

He assured residents that they “can still take your kids outside, practising common sense and social distancing. You can still walk your dog.”

Restaurant meals can still be delivered to homes.

The announcement came after the release of a letter to US President Donald Trump where Gov. Newsom warned the virus was spreading quickly and eventually could infect more than half the state’s population. A spokesman later clarified that the figure did not take into account the aggressive mitigation efforts that have been made.

The governor said he doesn’t expect police will be needed to enforce his stay-at-home order, saying “social pressure” already has led to social distancing throughout the state.

“I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement that it’s appropriate just to home isolate,” he said.

The Democrat who is barely a year into his first term also called up 500 National Guard troops to help distribute food.

There are at least 1030 confirmed cases in California and 18 people have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, New York’s total number of coronavirus cases reached 3954 — a significant jump (9.4 per cent) from the 3615 cases that were reported earlier on Thursday.

A total of 26 city residents have now died from the illness.

Brooklyn continues to be the borough with the most infected, at 1195 cases, according to the new tally. In Queens there are 1042 cases; 1038 in Manhattan; 496 in the Bronx; and 179 on Staten Island.


According to The Sun, Pornhub saw a spike in viewers after it offered its premium service for free to people stuck at home due to the coronavirus.

The porn site has offered free premium membership to viewers in Italy and has now extended this to adult users in France and Spain.

The company said on its Twitter feed: “In light of expanding quarantines, we are extending Free Pornhub Premium for the month to our friends in France! Pornhub will also donate this month’s sales from Modelhub … Courage France!”

It had a similar message for its Twitter followers in Spain.

The premium package offers no ads, faster streaming, high-speed downloads and better video quality as well as “discreet billing” and anytime cancellation.

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