Australia’s Richie Porte gritted his teeth and delivered a brave performance to finish fifth on the most difficult stage yet of this year’s Tour de France which finished at the summit of Col de la Loze.
The final ascent to the summit finish was over 21 kilometres and the climb included gradients of 24 per cent
Richie Porte finished the stage fifth and moved to fourth overall in the general classification
Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez won the stage but Primoz Roglic extended his overall race lead
The fifth placing on the stage moved Porte up from sixth overall to fourth in the general classification as Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez took advantage of the high altitudes so familiar to him in his native country and sprinted clear in the final kilometres to take the stage victory.
The win moved him into third position overall behind yellow jersey wearer Primoz Roglic, who was second on the stage ahead of his nearest rival and fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.
“I feel emotional because of the work done at home with my family, my wife, my son, I dedicate this victory to them,” Lopez said.
Lopez moved to within 1:26 of Roglic, who extended his lead over Pogacar to 57 seconds after the two engaged in an epic duel to the finish line, in which Roglic seemed to break his younger countryman’s spirit.
The pair, along with Porte and Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Sepp Kuss, had already engaged in a tough battle that started during the final ascent, which included gradients of 24 per cent on the final 21 kilometre climb.
“It was again a good day for us,” Roglic said.
“Of course, I always want to win but I gained some time and I saw that others had problems. I knew I could gain time today and that’s what we did.”
Painful climb to the finish
With four kilometres to go Kuss took off when the man who had led for much of the day — Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz — came back to the small chasing pack, but he was followed by Lopez who had far more speed.
Commentators speculated at the time that it was a poor move for Kuss to leave his teammate and yellow jersey wearer but Roglic confirmed it was all part of a plan.
“Also, the others tried to chase him back and it helped me realise many guys around me were struggling.”
Porte did well just to hang on for as long as he did, having been dropped a few metres off the back of Roglic and Pogacar as they sought to jostle for second, but on multiple occasions the Australian managed to get back on their tail.
However with two kilometres to go the Slovenians showed their class and finally dropped the dogged Australian, who eventually crossed the line with American Kuss.
Porte finished the stage in fourth overall on the general classification 3’05” behind Roglic and 1’39” behind third-placed Lopez
Fans ignore COVID-19 protocols
Present for the stage was French President Emmanuel Macron, but he was far from the only one and it would be hard to imagine that Tour organisers were happy with scenes that were beamed across the world as the leaders made the final climb.
This year’s Tour set against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic has seen riders frequently tested and the usual crowds sparse, but that was not the case as large numbers of cycling fans closed in on the road and leaders during the final climb.
After the stage Mr Macron told reporters: “It’s extremely important to show that we can live with the virus.”
Richie Porte has put a disappointing stage seven result behind him to climb back into contention in the first Pyrenees stage of the Tour de France — and he did so with news of the birth of his daughter fresh in his mind.
Shortly before starting the eighth stage, the first of the Pyrenean mountain stages, Porte posted a message on Instagram announcing the birth of his daughter, Eloise.
“While yesterday was bitterly disappointing on the bike my wife Gemma and I had this little bundle of joy arrive,” Porte wrote.
“Hurts more than words can express to miss the birth of your child but thank you [to my team] Trek Segafredo for being so supportive.
He later told SBS that it had been a “weird last couple of days” and that he’d had his wife’s labour on his mind throughout the seventh stage of the race.
“Obviously I’d have loved to have been there for the birth but the Tour’s the objective at the moment,” Porte said.
“It’s going to be a long two weeks but I’m looking forward to getting home and meeting her.
“Coming into the Tour I knew that it was a possibility that I’d miss the birth.
On stage seven, Porte surrendered 1 minute 21 seconds to most of his general classification rivals on a riveting stage in which first Bora Hansgrohe and then Ineo Grenadiers put the hammer down to pressure the peloton.
However, he countered strongly on a tough stage eight, even attacking his general classification rivals on the final climb of the day up the Col de Peyresourde.
Tough stage weeds out GC contenders
The 35-year-old was reigned in after his brief attack and made up no time on race leader Adam Yates, however he still finished in the main group of favourites, 6 minutes 40 seconds behind breakaway stage winner, Frenchman Nans Peters.
“It’s not too bad,” Porte told SBS after the stage finish.
“I didn’t have the best of legs but obviously now in the GC [general classification], I’ve got a little bit of breathing space, so it’s nice to at least do something.”
Porte moved up seven places in the general classification to 13th after several contenders lost time.
Tom Dumoulin also lost time when he sacrificed his chances with a brutal acceleration at the bottom of the last climb to help set things up for team leader, Primoz Roglic.
Reigning champion Egan Bernal finished with the main group alongside Yates — who despite yo-yoing off the back managed to keep pace with the overall contenders — Roglic, Guillaume Martin, Romain Bardet and Colombian trio Nairo Quintana, Miguel Angel Lopez and Rigoberto Uran.
The former wearer of the white jersey for best young rider, Tadej Pogacar, clawed back 40 of the 81 seconds he lost on stage seven.
Teams plead with fans to wear masks
Team Movistar has released a statement pleading with fans to wear masks when lining the route of the race.
Roadside fans during mountain stages are a key part of any Tour de France, and in this first Pyrenean stage the fans were out supporting the riders.
Despite this year’s Tour taking place amid a backdrop of rising coronavirus cases around Europe, supporters have still gathered on the side of the road.
While masks have been made mandatory at the start and finish of each stage, they have only been “encouraged” on the roadside as organisers concede they would be powerless to stop fans from going bare-faced.
“If you love the Tour, if you love the champions, wear a mask,” race director Christian Prudhomme said prior to the race start.
However, as a photo posted by Movistar on Twitter showed, not all supporters are wearing masks properly.
“It’s taken so much effort to restart the season — and we all don’t want it to end,” the statement read.
Adding to the jeopardy that teams face, organisers said that if two members test positive for COVID-19 in the space of a week, teams would be forced to abandon the campaign.
Tonight’s stage sees the peloton race 153 kilometres from Pau to Laruns, featuring two category one climbs.
It is the final stage in the Pyrenees and will be followed by the first rest day of this year’s race.
President Donald Trump weighed in on the figure a day later via Twitter, calling it “a very sad milestone” and extending condolences to the victims’ loved ones.
The US unemployment rate was 14.7 per cent in April, a level not seen since the Depression, and many economists expect it will be near 20 per cent in May.
First-time applications for unemployment have fallen for eight straight weeks, as states gradually let shops, restaurants, salons, gyms and other businesses reopen and the auto industry starts up its factories again.
“The decline in continuing claims is encouraging, signalling at least some people are finding jobs or are being rehired as the economy is reopening,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, a consulting firm.
Britain has overtaken Italy and is reporting the highest official death toll from coronavirus in Europe with more than 32,000 deaths, as the figure also places it second worldwide for deaths, behind the United States.
The UK now has the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, behind the United States
Prime Minister Boris Johnson may ease some restrictions later this week
According to an Italian statistical report that nation may actually have a much higher death toll than is being reported
The figures released on Tuesday from Britain’s national statistics office added more than 7,000 deaths in England and Wales, raising the total for the United Kingdom to 32,313.
The figure is one of several methods for calculating deaths and is difficult to compare with other countries, but it offers the clearest sign yet that Britain could emerge as the worst-hit country in Europe, despite being hit later than other countries.
Meanwhile the daily cumulative death toll published by the UK Government, which unlike the ONS figures records deaths only for confirmed coronavirus cases, rose on Tuesday to 29,427 people, which is still higher than Italy’s official count.
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was too soon to be making comparisons on COVID-19 deaths with other countries.
Mr Raab said there were different ways of counting deaths between countries and the numbers also depended on how good individual countries were at gathering statistics.
Britain’s high death toll could increase political pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who waited longer than other European leaders to order a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus in March.
Opposition parties have raised questions about Mr Johnson’s initial decision to delay a lockdown at a time when hospitals in Italy were already being overrun.
Some restrictions may ease
Mr Johnson will consider evidence provided by scientists at a review on Thursday before taking any decision on the next steps against the coronavirus outbreak, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
Britain must review the measures put in place six weeks ago in two days’ time, but any decision could come after that to allow ministers to consider and approve any changes to a lockdown that has all but shut the economy and kept millions at home.
Asked whether Mr Johnson would make a statement unveiling measures covering the next phase of Britain’s plan against the novel coronavirus on Sunday, the spokesman said: “I think what matters is that we get this right, that we fully consider all the evidence and ensure that we can communicate the next steps whatever they may be in a very clear way to the public.”
“Once we have the scientific evidence and we’ve completed the review process, we will be able to set out what those are.”
Britain is expected to set out guidelines to allow some businesses to return to work, through measures including rules to keep workers distanced from each other and staggering work times, and possibly easing rules on social gatherings.
On the guidelines for business to return to work, the spokesman said the advice had yet to be finalised.
“We are continuing working with the unions on developing sensible guidance for businesses that will give UK workers the utmost confidence that they can return to work safely,” he added.
Asked whether Britain could allow small social gatherings to take place outside, the spokesman said scientific advice suggesting that there is less likelihood of transmission outdoors would be considered in the Government’s review.
US virus death toll tops 50,000, Australia’s hits 80
Chinese infection rate ‘four times higher’
Pentagon fears virus could be ‘weaponised’
Businesses in US, Europe take small steps to re-open
Australia’s COVID-19 death toll continues to rise, after a 90-year-old man became the 10th person to die from the virus in Tasmania.
The man, who was from the state’s northwest, died at the Mersey Community Hospital in Latrobe on Friday.
“On behalf of the Tasmanian government I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to (his) family, friends and loved ones,” Premier Peter Gutwein said in a statement on Saturday.
The man’s death takes the national COVID-19 toll to 80.
According to official Department of Health figures, there have been 6,687 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with 20 new cases recorded across the country yesterday.
5,273 people have been reported as recovered from COVID-19, with more than 487,000 tests have been conducted nationwide.
The latest death comes as some Australians ignore social distancing rules, after beaches were re-opened in Sydney and then forced to close on Anzac Day.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard described the virus as “cagey”, “energetic” and “sneaky”, and urged members of the public to continue adhering to social distancing restrictions.
“If people become too relaxed or complacent, the virus can take off,” he said.
“We know we’re doing well, but don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security.”
FEARS OF US SECOND WAVE AS DEATH TOLL REACHES 50,000
The US passed a dreaded new COVID-19 death tally of 50,000 as some states took small steps to re-open for business despite warnings of a “second wave” of the virus hitting America.
It comes as US intelligence officials probe the possibility that America’s enemies might use the coronavirus as a bioweapon, according to an alarming report.
The Department of Defence is monitoring for the potential of the virus to be weaponised, possibly against prominent, high-level targets, sources told Politico.
A Pentagon spokesman said its Chemical and Biological Defense program continues to support federal coronavirus countermeasures such as testing, vaccines and screening machines.
Andy Weber, who served as assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense program under President Barack Obama, said the virus could be easily spread by US enemies or terrorists using a simple spray bottle.
“In its natural state, the current virus could be used as a bioweapon by less sophisticated groups,” Mr Weber said. “Or, for a nation-state with a more advanced biological weapons program, this virus could be given enhanced characteristics.”
US President Donald Trump yesterday signed off on another relief bill for small business and hospitals worth $A800 billion.
Fears of a global “second wave” of infections were stoked by reports Singapore – previously held up as a shining example of how to beat the virus – recorded a surge in new cases.
The nation had been able to stem the spread of the disease with strict border screening, rigorous contact tracing and surveillance. The new surge seems to come from the hundreds of thousands of low-paid foreign labourers who live in tightly packed dormitories.
And in news to delight millions of soccer fans, the English Premier League could be back on TV within weeks — in a major boost for bored sports fans.
UK PM Boris Johnson has been briefed on plans for matches to be played behind closed doors but broadcast live to homes for free.
Doctors are warning that patients who have survived COVID-19 may be left with longer-term health problems.
CHINA’S REAL INFECTION RATE ‘FOUR TIMES HIGHER’
Meanwhile, a new study in Hong Kong says more than 232,000 people may have been infected in the first wave of Covid-19 in mainland China – four times the official figures.
The researchers at Hong Kong University’s school of public health said China’s initial approach to diagnosing cases was too narrow.
China reported more than 55,000 cases as of 20 February but, according to the Hong Kong research published in the Lancet, the actual number would have been far greater if the definition of a Covid-19 case that was later used had been applied from the outset.
To date, after coming out several times to adjust death tolls, China has now reported more than 83,000 cases.
“If the fifth version of the case definition had been applied throughout the outbreak with sufficient testing capacity, we estimated that by 20 February 2020, there would have been 232,000 … confirmed cases in China as opposed to the 55,508 confirmed cases reported,” the study said.
“In China, broadening the case definitions over time allowed a greater proportion of infections to be detected as cases,” the researchers wrote.
“The true number of infections could still be higher than that currently estimated, considering the possibility of under-detection of some infections, particularly those that were mild and asymptomatic, even under the broadest case definitions.”
The new estimates come amid a mounting clamour for an international inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak’s origins, led by the United States and Australia, which have called for an international investigation into the handling of the outbreak.
GETTING BACK TO WORK AMID FEARS OF ‘SECOND WAVE’
Businesses in a number of US states re-opened their doors following similar moves in some European countries.
Hairdressers, massage clinics, nail salons, bowling alleys, tattoo parlours and gyms were among businesses given the green light to get back to work, although reports indicated business was light. Some business owners said the lack of demand made it unviable to reopen.
It has been a similar story in Germany where some business lockdown measures were eased this week.
Germany allowed smaller retailers of under 800 square meters to re-open, as long as they abided by social distancing and hygiene measures.
Larger businesses, such as car dealerships, bike and book shops were also allowed to re-open as well as Ikea.
Stefan Stukenborg, head of an Ikea branch on the outskirts of Cologne, said his store’s re-opening “was very relaxed, there were no lines, there were no crowds.”
Stefan Genth, CEO of the German retail federation Handelverband Deutschland, suggested this was likely to be the case for some time as consumer sentiment was at an “all-time low,” partly becuase people were worried about keeping their jobs.
Italy, which has been the epicentre of Europe’s pandemic, also allowed some of its smaller retailers to re-open this week but store owners said they didn’t expect business to be same as before Covid-19.
Authorities in Germany and other nations have warned of the danger of reopening “too early” and possibly sparking a second wave of infections.
Authorities are worried that a second wave of Covid-19 infections could be dangerous, making people sick “everywhere at the same time”, virologist Christian Drosten of Berlin’s Charite hospital said.
He warned of complacency, saying Germany could be in the middle of potentially “squandering” the head start it had established.
Prominent New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also spoke of fears of “second wave” if US states and countries around the world re-opened prematurely.
“The game isn’t over, it’s only half time,” he said after reporting improving infection rates and death tolls for his state.
“If we are premature, all the progress we made is gone. Virtually all the experts say not only will the virus increase, but it will reach a higher point than we reached the first time.
“I know everyone is impatient, everyone wants to re-open, but that is what will happen.”
UK GOVT WARNED OF PANDEMIC RISK LAST YEAR: REPORT
Ministers in the UK were warned about the risk of coronavirus last year and told to stockpile PPE, a leaked document has revealed.
The detailed Cabinet Office document claimed a pandemic could cost tens of thousands of lives and demanded “capability requirements” to keep the nation safe.
Leaked to the Guardian, the document reveals the Government were told to stockpile Personal Protective Equipment, establish contact tracing, and draw up plans to manage a surge in deaths.
The document said a pandemic would play out in up to three waves, with 50 per cent of the population to be infected. They were warned that a pandemic of moderate virulence could lead to 65,600 deaths and the potential cost to the UK could be $A4.5 trillion.
It comes as the UK’s hospital death toll from coronavirus heads towards 20,000. Italy has 26,000 deaths, Spain 23,000, and France more than 22,000.
NOW EXPERTS SAY STAYING AT HOME COULD KEEP VIRUS THREAT ALIVE
In Italy, where the strict stay at home order has been credited with finally getting that nation’s crisis under some semblance of control, authorities are now warning that home has become a dangerous place for many Italians.
Italian households represent “the biggest reservoir of infections,” said Massimo Galli, the director of the infectious diseases department at Luigi Sacco University Hospital in Milan. He called the cases “the possible restarting point of the epidemic in case of a reopening”.
The family acts as a multiplier, said Andrea Crisanti, the top scientific consultant on the virus in the Veneto region.
“This is a ticking time bomb,” he told the New York Times.
The predicament of home infections is emerging not just in Italy but in hot spots like the suburbs of New York and Paris and areas of Rome and Milan.
Local officials and epidemiologists say the problem is getting too little attention, particularly as the government has announced tentative steps toward reopening in early May.
Italy’s leading virologists now consider home infections, alongside clusters in retirement homes, to be a major source of the country’s contagion.
Living together in close quarters and the failure to move the infected into dedicated quarantine facilities have propped up the curve of infections that “stay home” measures were designed to suppress.
The Chinese government dealt with this problem by rounding up all residents in Wuhan infected with the coronavirus and isolating them in quarantine camps. It is an approach that the would prove far harder to implement in western countries that place higher value on individual liberty.
CUOMO BACKS TRUMP ON WHO CRITICISM
As media critical of the US President had a field day lashing him for what he said was a “sarcastic” remark to explore the possibility of injecting disinfectant into people sick with COVID-19, he recieved support from a surprise source.
Leading Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said he back Mr Trump’s view that the World Health Organisation had to be questioned about its response to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Cuomo said it was no plain to see that the US – especially New York – had been left exposure to infection from millions of travellers from Europe and Asia earlier this year – unaware of the seriousness of the situation.
“Whose job is it to warn us of these global pandemics?” Mr Cuomo said.
“The President says its the World Health Organisation and that’s why he’s taken action against them.
“Not my field but he’s right to ask the question because this was too little too late and let’s find out what happened so it doesn’t happen again.”
US STATES FIND BUSINESS OPENING SLOWLY
Meanwhile, some businesses took the first steps toward reopening in the US state of Georgia Friday as the Republican governor eased a month-long shutdown amid experts’ warnings of a potential new surge in coronavirus infections.
In Atlanta, a TV reporter tweeted a photo of a man getting a haircut – he was among the first customers at a barber shop that was reopening. The barber was wearing a mask, but no gloves or other PPE.
A bowling alley in Rome, Georgia, posted on Facebook that it was getting back in business with social distancing rules, including a limit of six people to a lane and plenty of hand sanitizer.
With deaths and infections still rising in Georgia, many business owners planned to remain closed in spite of Governor Brian Kemp’s assurance that hospital visits and new cases have levelled off enough for barbers, tattoo artists, massage therapists and personal trainers to return to work with restrictions.
President Donald Trump, who had earlier been encouraging US states to reopen, denies having supported Mr Kemp’s controversial reopening of potentially dangerous businesses.
I (or @VP) never gave Governor Brian Kemp an OK on those few businesses outside of the Guidelines. FAKE NEWS! Spas, beauty salons, tattoo parlors, & barber shops should take a little slower path, but I told the Governor to do what is right for the great people of Georgia (& USA)!
The President yesterday signed off on another relief bill for small business and hospitals worth $A800 billion.
At a press briefing after the signing, he dismissed criticism about his suggestion Thursday that perhaps medical experts could look at the possibility of injecting disinfectant intp COVID-19 patients, saying it had been a “sarcastic” remark aimed at reporters.
BUSINESSES IN THE STATES FEAR THE LONG TERM
In Georgia, David Huynh had 60 clients booked for appointments Friday at his nail salon in Savannah.
He said that’s less than half the customers he would normally see.
But he’s also starting back with fewer nail technicians to allow for empty work stations between them.
Mr Huynh’s business, Envy Nail Bar, has been closed since March 26.
But the losses extend beyond just the month he’s been shut down.
“We lost graduations, proms and weddings,” Mr Huynh said. “Already I see stores closing down permanently. … A lot of people don’t realise, if the nation stays shut down any longer, there will be severe consequences.”
Governor Kemp’s order allowing certain businesses to reopen requires precautions such as screening customers for potential symptoms, providing staff with masks and other protective gear as available and doing frequent cleaning.
The governor has said it’s imperative to begin easing his state’s economic suffering.
The Georgia Department of Labor announced that 1.1 million workers – about one-fifth of the state’s workforce – filed for unemployment in the five weeks since the crisis started. The national figure is 27 million.
Public health experts have warned that reopening too quickly could trigger a coronavirus resurgence.
Shannon Pengitore, a massage therapist in Marietta outside Atlanta, had a few clients ask for appointments this week.
But she’s not ready, saying she hasn’t seen clear protocols from the state for protecting herself and her clients.
Starting Monday, Georgia will allow movie theaters to reopen and restaurants to resume dine-in service – as long as customers are kept at a distance. Restaurants are allowed to re-open in Alaska.
Chef Hugh Acheson, who owns three fine-dining restaurants in Athens and Atlanta, said Georgia’s conducting too little testing to safely reopen. He also doubts it would be profitable.
“If I open up fine dining in midtown Atlanta and … 25 people show up to dinner because I’m brazen enough to do this, that’s not enough to make money and stay in business,” Acheson said.
SCOTT MORRISON ANNOUNCES NEW GUIDELINES, APP
Scott Morrison has said new guidelines are coming on a range of restrictions in place, and Australians can expect the COVID-19 contact tracing app soon.
Mr Morrison said the app to automate contact tracing was now in the final stages of development, and that rapid response measures were being bolstered to handle outbreaks.
The Australian Government’s controversial app will store users’ personal information in a central database hosted by US tech giant Amazon, it was confirmed today.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the database would be hosted on servers within Australia and it would be “illegal” for the multibillion-dollar company to use the information for any other purpose than for what it was originally intended.
The national contract to store the details of Australian app users and coronavirus carriers was awarded to the Seattle-based firm after an invitation-only tender organised by the Department of Home Affairs.
The Digital Transformation Agency, which has taken over the project, also confirmed it would store decryption keys for the information on the same servers as the information itself, even though security experts advise against this practice.
It’s understood the decryption keys will be protected by Amazon software.
The app, which is due to be released within weeks, will be based on Singapore’s TraceTogether app, and will use Bluetooth beacons to track whether users have been within 1.5m of one another for 15 minutes or longer.
If an app user is later diagnosed with COVID-19, state-based health officials will use information gathered by the app to identify and notify their close contacts.
Mr Morrison said the app would be released “soon,” but added “there are still some issues we’re working through”.
He said the Federal Government had worked with Amazon “on many, many sensitive issues” in the past.
But Optus Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub executive director Dali Kaafar said the decision to host this information offshore with a foreign company would not help to allay fears about user privacy. “This will likely raise more concerns or more questions,” he said.
“That will be also an important tool for the country as we seek to manage how we live in a COVID-safe economy and community into the future,” he said.
“And the rapid response to individual outbreaks – we should be aware, as a community right across the country, that when we take further steps to ease restrictions, of course, we will continue to see outbreaks. That is to be expected. What matters is being able to move on them quickly.”
The national cabinet, which met this morning, has also agreed to put in place national principles to guide the resumption of sport and recreation, including at a professional level.
“So, the major sporting codes, our Olympic sports, training arrangements that sit around support for those activities, by elite sportspeople,” he said.
“Secondly, at the community competitive sport level. That is such an important part of our way of life here in Australia, and the principles that can help guide decisions by states and territories in the future.
“And, thirdly, at the individual passive level of sport and recreation. Activities from everything from – whether it’s in the shire, if you’re going surfing, or if you’re walking in the local national park, or whatever it might happen to be, those set of principles that states and territories can draw on in terms of getting some consistency across the country as we move into this next phase.”
And national safe workplace principles have also been locked in, with Mr Morrison saying his focus was on getting Australians back to work.
“This is all about getting Australians back to work, and ensuring that when they go back to work that they and their families can feel safe in going back to work, and to ensure that there are important principles in place, there are protocols and procedures that, should a COVID case present in a workplace, then the rules that people need to follow …,” he said.
Schools do not have to keep children 1.5 metres apart, the national cabinet has agreed.
Mr Morrison said the national medical expert panel had confirmed the social distancing measure – along with one person per four square metres – did not apply in classrooms for kids.
Aged care homes face having to seek approval for locking down their facilities, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring he will not cop “having people stuck in their rooms, not being able to be visited by their loved ones and carers and other support people.”
“That’s not okay,” the PM told reporters this afternoon. “We are not going to have these as secret places, where people can’t access them.”
Shutting off homes was only valid if there was a “very real and serious medical reason”, as had been the case in parts of northwest Tasmania and western Sydney, Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison said he, along with the state and territory leaders, were “concerned about restrictions beyond the baseline requirements of what National Cabinet has agreed, based on the expert medical advice.”
“Should we not see an improvement in this area, under the voluntary arrangements that we currently have in place,” he said, “the Commonwealth would be moving to require aged care facilities that wish to have an exemption to those national principles, those national arrangements, then they would need to seek authority to do that from the Commonwealth, and we would make such a decision in consultation with the relevant state and territory jurisdiction.
“We would very much like to keep these things on a basis where aged care facilities are exercising their proper discretion,” he said.
One week after the national cabinet agreed to a four-week timeline to consider easing restrictions in the middle of May, Mr Morrison said: “Good progress is being made on the core requirements … that will enable our road back.”
Testing regimes are being expanded across the states and territories, which he said was a “very important pillar” to deal with the virus in the future.
New modelling, released by the Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, shows the effective reproduction rate remains below one – meaning each infected patient is spreading the virus to fewer than one other person on average.
Prof Murphy said the country needed to be “incredibly vigilant” about outbreaks – like the one seen in Victoria today.
The national cabinet will meet again next Friday.
DISINFECTANT MAKER REBUFFS TRUMP’S BIZARRE IDEA
The parent company of Lysol and another disinfectant warned that its products should not be used as an internal treatment for the coronavirus after President Donald Trump wondered about the prospect during a White House briefing.
Trump noted on Thursday that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the virus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into people, saying the virus “does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that” – although he said Friday he was just being “sarcastic”.
That prompted a strong warning from the maker of disinfectants Lysol and Dettol, which said it was issuing a statement to combat “recent speculation.”
“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” said the statement from Reckitt Benckiser.
William Bryan of the Department of Homeland Security said at a White House briefing Thursday that there are “emerging results” from new research that suggest solar light has a powerful effect in killing the virus on surfaces and in the air.
He said scientists have seen a similar effect from higher temperatures and humidity.
A biocontainment lab in Maryland has been conducting testing on the virus since February, Bryan said.
“The virus is dying at a much more rapid pace just from exposure to higher temperatures and just from exposure to humidity,” Bryan said.
In March, Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s emergencies chief. said, “We have to assume that the virus will continue to have the capacity to spread, and it’s a false hope to say yes, it will just disappear in the summertime like influenza.”
US President Donald Trump has suggested injecting people with bleach or alcohol to fight coronavirus.
AUSTRALIA RULES OUT MORE TAX HIKES
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has ruled out any tax increases in response to the coronavirus-induced economic storm.
The government is considering wide-ranging reform in the October federal budget, which shapes as a crucial juncture in the national recovery.
“Tax increases are off the table because you don’t want to make it harder for businesses to be successful,” Senator Cormann told Sky News on Friday.
It comes as leaders will examine Australia’s very low rate of coronavirus transmissions amid further discussions about the plan for lifting social restrictions.
After the first week of a four-week holding pattern, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says things are looking good.
“We are on the road back – and that is demonstrated by the measures that we already have taken – and we are on the way back to a COVID-safe economy as well,” he told reporters on Thursday.
National cabinet will consider the latest Australian modelling when it meets today.
While the data pool is still small given Australia’s success in containing the virus, deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said experts were able to draw sound scientific conclusions from it.
The transmission rate is one of the main pillars governments and their health advisers are looking at as they seek to map out the way forward. The other crucial steps are ensuring hospital capacity and medical supplies, and boosting tracing and testing regimes.
The number of people allowed to be at events is likely to be considered in the first round of easing restrictions.
AFRICA DANGEROUSLY BEHIND IN GLOBAL RACE FOR VIRUS GEAR
Africa’s coronavirus cases have surged 43 per cent in the past week but its countries are dangerously behind in the global race for scarce medical equipment.
Ten nations have no ventilators at all.
Outbid by richer countries, and not receiving medical gear from top aid donor the United States, African officials scramble for solutions as virus cases climb past 27,000.
Even in the best scenario, the United Nations says 74 million test kits and 30,000 ventilators will be needed by the continent’s 1.3 billion people this year. Very few are in hand.
“We are competing with the developed world,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The very future of the continent will depend on how this matter is handled.”
Politicians instinctively try to protect their own people and “we know that sometimes the worst in human behavior comes out,” said Simon Missiri, Africa director with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, urging an equitable approach to help developing nations.
The crisis has jolted African nations into creating a pooled purchasing platform under the African Union to improve negotiating power.
Within days of its formation, the AU landed more than 100,000 test kits from a German source. The World Health Organization is pitching in; it has reported fewer than 2,000 ventilators across 41 African countries.
The person died in Orange Base Hospital, in New South Wales’ central west region, due to ‘complications’ related to COVID-19.
They are the 10th death in New South Wales.
‘The person had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 before being admitted to Orange Base Hospital where they passed away on 1 April 2020,’ Western NSW Local Health District said in a statement.
‘At the request of the family, no further details will be provided.’
It is the first coronavirus-related death recorded in the Western NSW region.
They are the 10th person to die from COVID-19 in New South Wales, and the 21st person in the country
The person died in Orange Base Hospital (pictured), in New South Wales’ central west region, due to ‘complications’ related to COVID-19
Their death comes after a 95-year-old woman from Sydney’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care home died.
The woman was the fifth resident of the Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care home in Macquarie Park to die of COVID-19.
The outbreak at the facility began in early March when one of the staff – who had not travelled overseas – was diagnosed with the disease.
About 42 people in NSW are currently in intensive care while 275 have no known source of transmission.
It comes after a man in his 80s died at the Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania on Monday, and a woman, also in her 80s, died in the state’s northwest the same day.
The elderly man had been a passenger on the coronavirus-infected Ruby Princess cruise ship, Public Health Director Mark Veitch confirmed, but the woman’s connection is unclear.
There have been 4,832 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia.
Police, meanwhile, are trying to soothe concerns about the enforcement of new coronavirus self-isolation measures.
Gatherings of more than two people, apart from immediate family, are banned in NSW as are all non-essential activities.
A pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic (pictured) is being set up in Bondi to help reduce the virus’ spread after clusters developed
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said officers would take a common sense approach and show discretion.
‘If you need medical assistance, pharmacies, doctors, the hospital – you can leave (home). If you need food, you can leave,’ Mr Fuller said.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 4,862
New South Wales: 2,182
Western Australia: 392
South Australia: 367
Australian Capital Territory: 84
Northern Territory: 19
TOTAL CASES: 4,862
‘We’ll be glad to see the powers go when the virus has reached the point where we can get back to some sense of normality … we do get the uncertainty.’
However, police are being less generous with those who flout self-isolation requirements after returning from overseas or coming into contact with COVID-19 cases. At least 14 people have been fined to date.
A pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic is being set up in Bondi to help reduce the virus’ spread after clusters developed within Sydney’s backpacker community.
NSW Health is directing doctors in Sydney’s Waverley Council area to send more patients for COVID-19 testing.
Other confirmed cases on Wednesday included a Kincumber High School student and three workers at a Mona Vale pizzeria.