coronavirus - 949 Power FM

'Do not hoard', PM tells grocery shoppers

Shoppers are seen at Coles in Earlwood, in Sydney, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coles will on Wednesday hold its first

Shoppers are seen at Coles in Earlwood, in Sydney, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coles will on Wednesday hold its first "community hour" for seniors and pension card holders from 7am at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else. (AAP Image/Danny Casey)

Stop hoarding.

That's the blunt message from the prime minister to Australians in the wake of mass panic buying sparked by the spread of the coronavirus.

"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis," Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"It's ridiculous, it's un-Australian, and it must stop."

Bad behaviour and people emptying supermarket shelves are distracting officials' attention and diverting important resources to keeping shopping centre supply lines open, he said.

The prime minister read from the advice of senior medical officials, which discourages the panic-buying of food and other supplies.

Australia's major supermarket chains also banded together to plead with customers to be considerate of each other and stop abusing staff.

The call made in newspaper advertisements across the country came after more footage emerged online of customers verbally attacking retail staff because they couldn't find the goods they wanted in-store.

Aldi, Coles, IGA and Woolworth said they were doing everything they could to get as much produce on the shelves as possible, often under difficult circumstances.

"So we ask you to please be considerate in the way you shop," the ad says.

"We understand your concerns, but if you buy only what you need and stick to the product limits it helps everyone, especially the elderly and people with disability.

"No one working or shopping in any of our stores should experience abusive or aggressive behaviour."

Mr Morrison also urged people not to abuse staff.

Coles on Wednesday held its first "community hour" for seniors and pension card holders from 7-8am at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else.

People with government-issued concession cards on Tuesday flocked to Woolworths, which implemented a similar measure, and IGA is considering whether to roll out the same.

Coles is trying to employ more than 5000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets quicker under a fast-tracked induction process, and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.

Panic-buying sparked by the spread of coronavirus in Australia has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice and frozen food, as well as tinned and other dried goods.

The issue has caused stress and frustration amongst elderly shoppers, many of whom find it difficult to make frequent visits to supermarkets for essential goods. In many cases, particularly for toilet paper, the shelves are often bare.

Woolworths fresh food director Paul Harker said there was no shortage of goods in Australia but it was a logistics puzzle to get products to stores in line with the pace and demand.

© AAP 2020

'Key' week for curbing SA virus cluster

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South Australia remains on track to ease coronavirus restrictions before Christmas but health officials say this week is crucial in combating a cluster of COVID-19 infections.

One more case was added to the so-called Parafield cluster on Monday, taking the total to 27.

But the woman was already in quarantine after being identified as a close contact and likely to catch the virus.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier says she's quietly confident the current situation is under control, but this week will be key.

"If we have had more community transmission we will be starting to see it this week," she said.

Prof Spurrier said it was normal to wait for 28 days, or two incubation cycles, before declaring an outbreak "all over red rover".

But the Parafield cluster had been identified very early and officials were quickly aware of the chains of transmission.

The easing of concerns has also left SA on course to open its borders to Victorians from December and positive about the chances of returning to a lower level of local restrictions.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said he was hopeful Christmas "will be celebrated as we would hope to celebrate it".

"I've given a pretty clear indication that we're aiming at the first of December to go back to a level where most community activities and family gatherings could occur," he said.

© AAP 2020

Photo: South Australian Chief Public Health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier. (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

'This virus may never go away,' WHO says

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The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organisation says, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a "massive effort" to counter it.

"It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away," WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan told an online briefing on Wednesday.

"I think it is important we are realistic and I don't think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear," he added. "I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be."

However, he said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a "massive effort" even if a vaccine was found - a prospect he described as a "massive moonshot".

More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have underscored the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses.

Ryan noted that vaccines exist for other illnesses, such as measles, that have not been eliminated.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added: "The trajectory is in our hands, and it's everybody's business and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic."

Ryan said "very significant control" of the virus was required in order to lower the assessment of risk, which he said remained high at the "national, regional and global levels".

Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, which has infected almost 4.3 million people, according to a Reuters tally, and led to more than 291,000 deaths.

 

The European Union pushed on Wednesday for a gradual reopening of borders within the bloc that have been shut by the pandemic, saying it was not too late to salvage some of the northern summer tourist season while still keeping people safe.

But public health experts say extreme caution is needed to avoid new outbreaks.

Ryan said opening land borders was less risky than easing air travel, which was a "different challenge".

"We need to get into the mindset that it is going to take some time to come out of this pandemic," WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told the briefing.

© RAW 2020

10 self-quarantine activities

10 Self Quarantine activites

With many businesses now advising staff to self-quarantine and work from home for the next few weeks to avoid the spread of covid-19, most of us will be spending majority of our time at home. We want to help keep work and life separate while still feeling comfortable. So schedule your work hours and read on for a list of suggested activities to help keep you sane and a little less isolated while in quarantine. (you can even do most of these, yes even #3, while face timing your friends and family).

1. Netflix Party

Netflix Party is a new way to watch Netflix with your friends online. Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favourite Netflix shows. You can link up with friends and host long distance movie nights and TV watch parties! There ain't no party like a Netflix watch party! 

2. Read

Reading increases creativity and imagination, lowers stress levels AND makes you smarter. Sign us up (to that library card)! You can find many great book recommendations and free downloads online. Catch up on classics and learn more through articles you’ve always wanted to read but didn’t have the time for. You could even start a book club with your friends and discuss (facetime) whether your team Jacob or Edward. Feeling inspired by all the new books you’ve read, why don’t you try writing your own?

3. Have a Bath

There’s nothing more enjoyable than submerging yourself in water, whether it’s for hygiene, leisure, health or because of a global pandemic. There’s some serious heath benefits, scientifically proven, to taking a bath such as reducing pain and inflammation, calming the nervous system, helping blood flow easier and relieving symptoms of cold and flu. Try out a new luscious bath bomb or epsom salt, lie back and relax.

4. Get Creative

Have you ever seen an artwork and thought “wow, I wish I could make that”. Whatever you want to draw or paint, you can learn the process through online courses or just give it a go and challenge yourself. Experiment with different mediums, charcoal, pencil, oil paints and more to find what you enjoy best. It can give you a real sense of achievement once you have them hanging on your wall. Watch the video below for some serious watercolour artwork inspo. 

 

5. Puzzles & Games

Dust off those boards games and have a friendly match. There’s nothing like getting to know your family better (or worse) than over a game of Monopoly. If you’re in self isolation and have no one to play connect 4 with, you can download plenty of games on your phone such as “Scrabble…with friends” or “chess…with friends” etc. Get out that Nintendo, PS4 or Xbox, we’ve all watched Witcher, have you thought of playing the game and living through Geralt?

6. Learn New Recipes

You probably have a repertoire of simple meals you make each week (cheese on toast) or maybe you’ve vowed to go meatless? You can look up recipes online and get some inspiration from Instagram. Plug in that slow cooker and add in all your veggies. How about perfecting that old family recipe, and the beauty of surprising a loved one with their favourite meal. Having pasta? try a different sauce or creating the pasta from scratch. Bon appétit!

7. Get Organised

Now is the perfect time to declutter and keep only what you need. Sort your clothing into piles, bag up all your unwanted clothing and have them ready to donate. Throw out old makeup that is past its prime, and wash all your brushes. Use your recycling and create a compost. Sell unwanted items on Facebook marketplace or gumtree. Wipe down all surfaces daily. Create a to do list and take control of your time and priorities.

8. Keep a Quarantine Diary

Putting your thoughts and feelings into words can change the way your brain deals with stressful information and makes room for other, more positive thoughts. By keeping a record your future self (and kids) will be interested in how you dealt with this intense time and disruption to daily life.

9. Show Pets Your Love

Go outside and soak up the sun by taking your pupper for a walk or hike, also a great way to get in your exercise as we assume you won’t be hitting up your gym. Teach your pets a new trick and show them off, you can even film it and start a youtube or Instagram so you can post images and write captions from your dog’s perspective “smooches for mama”.

10. Dance

Put on your favourite tune and get moving! Dancing is a fun way to increase your aerobic fitness, reduce stress and boost your mood! Finally you can learn the dance steps to “Ain’t no party like an S Club Party” (I know you’ve been thinking about that song since I mentioned it in the first point).

21 deaths, 410 new Victoria COVID cases

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Another 21 people have died and 410 Victorians have contracted coronavirus.

The record number of deaths, tweeted by the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, takes the state toll to 267 and the national toll to 352.

The ages and genders of those who have succumbed to the virus will be detailed later on Wednesday.

Victorian authorities had warned deaths would continue to rise given the number of people in hospital with the virus.

As of Tuesday, 650 people were in hospital and 43 of those in intensive care.

© AAP 2020

ADF called in to Tassie to fight COVID-19

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Tasmania has called in Australia's troops to fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in the state's northwest.

About 5000 people have been forced into quarantine, made up mainly of healthcare staff and their families, for two weeks amid the closure of two hospitals.

The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie shut on Monday to be deep-cleaned by specialist teams.

The drastic move is the result of more than 60 cases in the state linked to the northwest outbreak, including 45 health workers and nine patients.

There was an increase of six cases on Monday, bringing the state total to 150.

In the battle against COVID-19, Australian Medical Assistance Teams, which are deployed in natural disasters, and Australian Defence Force medics will roll into town this week.

"This is the best way that we can get on top of this, that we can stop the spread of this insidious disease," Premier Peter Gutwein said.

Patients have been moved to Mersey Community Hospital.

Virus testing is also being increased in the outbreak region.

© AAP 2020

ADF to be deployed on NSW-Victoria border

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Australian Defence Force personnel will patrol the NSW-Victoria border after it closes at midnight to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne.

The ADF is finalising plans to deploy between 350-500 personnel to support NSW Police Force border checkpoints, The Daily Telegraph reports.

"The first of these are expected to deploy to the border to achieve the NSW government directed border closure timings, pending finalising the agreement with NSW authorities," an ADF spokeswoman told the newspaper.

Defence Force personnel won't be directly involved with law enforcement but will support police operations.

"Defence is ready to provide support for a range of contingencies in both states and will continue to work to support states and territories when requested," the spokeswoman said.

The newspaper reports the ADF is also in talks with the Victorian government to deploy five more personnel to provide planning support for local coronavirus restrictions.

There are already ADF 200 personnel supporting public COVID-19 testing in the state.

Victoria on Monday had recorded an additional 127 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths.

NSW reported 10 cases, all in hotel quarantine, from 11,500 tests.

© AAP 2020

AFL to announce resumption date this month

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks competes for the ball against Hugh McCluggage of the Lions  during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks competes for the ball against Hugh McCluggage of the Lions during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan is adamant the league will be able to deliver definitive details around the competition's resumption date by the end of April.

Despite an ever-changing landscape amid the coronavirus pandemic, McLachlan on Thursday told reporters the AFL would soon set dates for players to return to training and the next round of matches to be played.

"The decision we make will have the support of the relevant government authorities and their medical officers," McLachlan said.

"We're better placed every day to make that decision, I think, as things become clearer and the more we're able to consult with key government and medical partners who have a greater level of data and insight into what's going on."

The AFL campaign is suspended until at least May 31 but McLachlan is confident the shortened 153-match home-and-away season, plus finals, will be completed this year.

He said the AFL wanted to settle on a return date that would allow it to push through the rest of the season uninterrupted from that point.

"When the exact start date is, I don't have an answer, other than we're committed to being out (and) informing our supporters and the public and others by the end of April," McLachlan said.

The AFL has conceded matches will resume without fans in the stands but has not yet settled on the proposed plan of returning to play in quarantine hubs.

McLachlan is wary of the challenges that players will face if they are asked to spend time away from their families in the hubs.

Some players, including AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield, have expressed concerns about the hubs idea.

McLachlan said the AFL will not make a formal proposal to players until a concrete plan has been formulated.

"It's incumbent upon us to look at every option and that ranges from playing the way we have historically to various levels of quarantine," McLachlan said.

"We are working with the right people to get a considered view about the right way to take us forward.

"I understand the challenges that will be on so many people as we try to get this season away and we'll have to continue to work with all the stakeholders to get their buy-in.

"We understand the reservations of some in the absence of information."

AFL clubs' playing lists are likely to be trimmed for next season as part of football department cost-cutting measures across the competition, but McLachlan confirmed they will remain as they are for 2020.

McLachlan also said the AFL would open its books to the AFLPA when it comes to negotiating a reworked pay deal for future seasons.

"There will have to be a level of transparency about what industry revenue looks like to conclude that deal," he said.

© AAP 2020

Aged care workers to get pandemic leave -selected

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Casual aged care workers will be eligible for paid pandemic leave after a Fair Work Commission decision to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The variations will take effect from Wednesday and will remain in effect for three months, the commission said in a ruling released late on Monday.

Many of the recent deaths in Victoria's second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have been linked to outbreaks at aged care facilities, which prompted the Fair Work Commission to act.

"There is a real risk that employees who do not have access to leave entitlements might not report COVID-19 symptoms which might require them to self-isolate, but rather seek to attend for work out of financial need," it said.

"This represents a significant risk to infection control measures.

"These matters weigh significantly in favour of the introduction of a paid pandemic leave entitlement."

There are now 84 cases linked to St Basil's Home for the Aged in Fawkner, 82 at Estia Health in Ardeer, 77 at Epping Gardens Aged Care, and 62 at Menarock Aged Care in Essendon.

Glendale Aged Care in Werribee has 53 cases linked to it, and 57 are associated with Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth.

Premier Daniel Andrews has said people who are going to work sick - including those who work at aged care facilities - are the "biggest driver" of the state's second wave.

But the union movement said many of those people could not afford not to work.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said the decision does not go far enough.

"We welcome the decision but this still does not remove the trap door for casual workers with irregular hours," she said in a statement.

"What this decision shows is that there is a need for paid pandemic leave and while the economy is struggling it should be government funded for all workers so no-one is even considering having to go to work with mild symptoms just to pay the bills."

The Victorian government is now providing a $300 payment for workers who can't go to work after testing for COVID-19.

A further $1500 hardship payment is available if the test result is positive.

The Fair Work Commission says the pandemic leave will:

* apply to workers who are required by their employer or a government medical authority or on the advice of a medical practitioner to self-isolate because they display COVID-19 symptoms or have come into contact with a suspected case;

* is limited to up to two weeks' paid leave on each occasion of self-isolation;

* not be paid to workers who are able to work at home or remotely during self-isolation.

© AAP 2020

Aged care workers, residents catch virus

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Ten aged care residents and seven staff have tested positive to coronavirus across six different homes in NSW, Western Australia and South Australia.

Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck revealed the tally in Senate question time on Monday.

"I can't give you a specific number of how many aged care workers have been tested or for that matter how many residents have been tested," he told parliament.

"Those that have needed a test have received a test."

He said people needed to limit their visits to aged care homes.

"It's a really tough message to tell people to limit visiting their loved ones in aged care facilities, but it's everybody's job to keep our senior Australians safe," the minister said.

Senator Colbeck said from May 1, anyone not vaccinated for influenza would be banned from entering aged care facilities.

"This is a very difficult time for people in aged care and their families," he said.

Three of Australia's seven coronavirus deaths have been residents of BaptistCare's Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Sydney.

© AAP 2020

Airbnb bans house parties worldwide

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Airbnb is banning house parties worldwide as it tries to clean up its reputation and comply with coronavirus-related limits on gatherings.

The US home sharing company will limit occupancy in its rental homes to 16 people.

It may offer exceptions for boutique hotels or other event venues.

Airbnb said it may pursue legal action against guests and hosts who violate the ban.

Last week, for the first time, Airbnb took legal action against a guest who held an unauthorised party in Sacramento County, California.

Airbnb has always prohibited unauthorised parties and the company said nearly 75 per cent of its listings explicitly ban parties.

Last November, Airbnb started manually reviewing US and Canadian reservations to weed out suspicious rentals, like a guest who booked a one-night stay close to their home.

It expanded that program to Australia last week.

In July, Airbnb banned US and Canadian guests under age 25 with fewer than three positive reviews from booking entire homes close to where they live.

It expanded that policy to the United Kingdom, Spain and France last week.

Airbnb said it also plans to expand a hotline for neighbours to report unauthorised parties.

Airbnb says about 2 per cent of the 7 million properties listed on its site can accommodate 16 or more people.

There are at least 53 in London, 277 in Beijing, 170 in New York and 116 in Los Angeles, according to the company's website.

© AP 2020

Airlines hunt places to park idle planes

epaselect epa08316231 Swiss International Air Lines aircrafts are parked on the tarmac at the airport in Zurich, Switzerland, 23 March 2020. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic a large number of flights of the Swiss carrier have been cancelled and a part of their fleet grounding at Zurich airport.  EPA/ENNIO LEANZA

Swiss International Air Lines aircrafts are parked on the tarmac at the airport in Zurich. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic a large number of flights of the Swiss carrier have been cancelled and a part of their fleet grounding at Zurich airport (EPA/ENNIO LEANZA)

As airlines idle thousands of aircraft for which there are no passengers, they are hitting an unprecedented problem: finding a place to park them.

Taxiways, maintenance hangars and even runways at major airports are being transformed into giant parking lots for more than 2500 airliners, the biggest of which takes up about as much room as an eight-storey building with a footprint three-quarters the size of an American football field.

The number of planes in storage has doubled to more than 5000 since the start of the year, according to Cirium data, with more expected to be parked in the coming weeks as carriers such as Qantas and Singapore Airlines proceed with further announced cuts to flight schedules.

In Frankfurt, Germany's biggest airport is a ghost town of silent airliners. Its northwest landing runway, including taxiways and bridges, has been converted to an aircraft parking lot for Lufthansa, Condor and other airlines.

Lufthansa brand Swiss has rented parking spots at a military airport close to Zurich.

Similar crowds of planes are parked at other major airports, including Hong Kong, Seoul, Berlin and Vienna as well as traditional desert parking lots in Victorville, California, and Marana, Arizona, according to data from flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

In Manila, some Philippines Airlines jets are parked in the Lufthansa Technik Philippines hangar, an airline official said.

Even some smaller airports have been converted to parking lots. Avalon Airport west of Melbourne expects to take 50 planes from Qantas and its low-cost offshoot, Jetstar, according to the airport's chief executive, Justin Giddings.

"It is sad for everyone, the whole industry," he told Reuters of the groundings, which have led Qantas to put 20,000 staff members on leave.

Qantas is sending 30 engineers to Avalon help maintain the planes so they can re-enter service in three to seven days when demand returns, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

The carrier is also parking about 100 other aircraft at major airports around Australia and its five ageing 747s at a desert storage facility in Alice Springs, the source said.

Some airports, such as Melbourne and Brisbane, said they are providing free parking. Brisbane Airport said some international airlines had expressed interest in using its facilities, which can house up to 101 planes, but no deals had yet been reached.

Qantas and Virgin Australia will use some of the Brisbane spots.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, one of the first and hardest hit by the coronavirus, has been using remote bays, taxiways and other operational areas at Hong Kong International Airport.

In the United States, United Airlines and American Airlines said they were parking planes at maintenance facilities for now, while Delta Air Lines Inc said it was still looking into the issue.

© RAW 2020

Almost 300 travellers quarantine in Vic

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Victoria has had 40 days without a new COVID case, as the number of international arrivals quarantining in Melbourne reaches 281.

Of those returned travellers, 20 are quarantining in so-called "health hotels" with six showing COVID symptoms.

A further eight flights are scheduled to land at Melbourne airport on Wednesday via Auckland, Hong Kong, Brunei, Singapore, Doha, Taipei and Abu Dhabi, with a total of 127 travellers to go into quarantine.

Victoria recorded no new cases and no COVID-19 deaths in the previous 24 hours, with 11,578 test results received, the state's Department of Health and Human Services said on Wednesday.

But with up to 1120 international arrivals scheduled each week and the reopening of its hotel quarantine program, Victoria's clean sheet may be tested.

The state has not accepted international flights since the end of June, when quarantine hotel outbreaks sparked its deadly second virus wave.

Meanwhile, the Victorian government has rejected calls to waive an estimated $3 million in COVID-19 fines handed to thousands of teenagers, despite many coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The COVID-19 Fines Community Lawyer Working Group, a coalition of 10 community legal centres, estimates at least 2000 children aged 14 to 17 have been fined in Victoria for coronavirus breaches during the pandemic.

© AAP 2020

Alpacas could help fight the coronavirus

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Australian medical researchers have found an unlikely hero in a pair of alpacas they hope will help them develop a prevention and treatment for COVID-19.

The nameless duo have been immunised with safe, non-infectious virus fragments, to trigger their rare immune response.

The camelid species, as well as some sharks like the Wobbegong, produce an extra, miniscule type of antibody which enable them to fight the 'spiky' coronavirus in ways human antibodies can't.

Alpacas were the easy choice of the two, Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham told AAP.

"We're interested in these nanobodies because they're really stable, can fit into things that other bigger antibodies can't, and they're very sticky to the protein target, which is a good thing to have in a treatment option," she told AAP.

The joint head of infectious disease at Melbourne's Walter Eliza Hall Institute, Ms Tham is leading the project which will attempt to recreate and manipulate the nanobodies in a lab.

First, researchers will need to identify which of the alpaca's millions of nanobodies - which are ten times smaller than regular antibodies - best inhibit the virus.

Then, they'll have to make them more closely resemble human antibodies, so our immune systems don't kill them off.

But Ms Tham says those objectives are achievable, and any treatment would be easily scalable too.

"The fact that there is already an approved nanobody drug for blood clotting shows that you really can deploy nanobodies well."

The team is currently designing the nanobodies to be used both as a prevention and treatment for the virus.

"In populations that may not mount a very good immune response to the vaccine for a variety of reasons, we could deploy the antibody-based therapies then, because there we're directly giving you the antibodies that work," Ms Tham said.

Immuno-compromised people and those in aged care are the best candidates for that use of nanobodies, but they could also be used in treatment of mild COVID cases.

The project is part of a larger search for suitable antibodies by Australian researchers, and would need to be among the top prospects for research to continue.

"If all goes well and they're potent and they're safe, then we'll be looking at clinical trials next year," Ms Tham said.

As for the alpacas, the team says their involvement is harmless, and they'll enjoy long and happy lives in their East Gippsland home.

© AAP 2020

Amazon hiring 100000 as orders surge

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An employee works inside an Amazon pop up store in a shopping mall in Skokie, Illinois, USA, 16 March 2020. Many stores have reduced hours or closed completely in response to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the Covid-19 disease. (EPA/TANNEN MAURY)

Amazon says it needs to hire 100,000 people across the US to keep up with a crush of orders as the coronavirus spreads and keeps more people at home, shopping online.

The online retailer said it will also temporarily raise pay by $US2 an hour through the end of April for hourly employees, who work at its warehouses, delivery centres and Whole Foods grocery stores.

Hourly workers in the United Kingdom and other European countries will get a similar raise.

"We are seeing a significant increase in demand, which means our labour needs are unprecedented for this time of year," said Dave Clark, who oversees Amazon's warehouse and delivery network.

Amazon said this weekend that a surge of orders is putting its operations under pressure.

It warned shoppers that it could take longer than the usual two days to get packages.

It also said it was sold out of many household cleaning supplies and is working to get more in stock.

The Seattle-based company said the openings are for a mix of full-time and part-time jobs and include roles such as delivery drivers and warehouse workers, who pack and ship orders for shoppers.

© AP 2020

Andrews outlines Vic home visit rules

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Home visits in Melbourne will be restricted to one per day as the city emerges from its lockdown.

The day after announcing a widespread easing of the city's restrictions, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Tuesday how its residents can visit each other in their households from midnight.

He also said that masks will remain mandatory outdoors for the rest of the year and probably into 2021, throughout the state.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he was "very confident" an outbreak in Melbourne's northern suburbs, which delayed the Monday announcement by 24 hours, was now under control.

Confirmation of the home visit rule comes after Victoria reported its second-straight day of no coronavirus deaths and no new cases.

This is the first time two straight days of no new cases or deaths has been recorded since March 5-6.

The announcement on home visits was delayed by a day so health authorities could work out the rules, which the premier acknowledged would have "some complexities".

But the base rule is two adults and any dependents from one home can only visit another household once per day.

The rule also applies to the home being visited, meaning anyone there cannot visit another residence on the same day.

The home rules will remain beyond November 8, when the 25km travel limit and Melbourne's "ring of steel" containing the city from regional Victoria is set to end.

"Ultimately what we tried to do here is just have one - one household - and a second household connecting once a day and then they don't connect inside (the home) with anybody else," the premier said.

"I know it's not a nice thing to say or a nice thing for anyone to acknowledge but the place where you feel safest, your home, is actually the most dangerous environment for the spread of this virus."

Mr Andrews said masks had to be worn outdoors for the time being throughout Victoria, particularly given the "ring of steel" would soon end.

While he said masks are frustrating, they have a significant benefit in helping combat the virus.

"This is one of those trade-offs - if we're going to have that ring of steel gone on the 8th, and we're going to have people travelling into regional Victoria and vice versa, and that's critical for tourism and lots of reasons," he said.

"Masks need to be with us across the whole state .. at least until the end of the year and into next year."

He also said there would be an update on November 8 about when more people can return to their workplaces.

Mr Andrews added there would be more talks with the NSW, SA and Tasmanian governments later this week about the reopening of borders.

The virus death toll was last updated on October 19, with the state toll remaining at 817 and the national figure on 905.

Melbourne's 14-day case average is down to 2.8 and there were six mystery cases from October 11-24.

The corresponding figures for regional Victoria are 0.2 and none.

From midnight Tuesday, all retail outlets will reopen along with cafes, restaurants and pubs, with some restrictions on numbers.

© AAP 2020

Photo: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (AAP Image/James Ross)

Andrews to be grilled at Vic virus inquiry

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Monday, May 11, 2020.  (AAP Image/Daniel Pockett)

Premier Daniel Andrews is set to be grilled over his government's handling of Victoria's second coronavirus wave at a parliamentary inquiry.

Mr Andrews will be the first witness called at the second sitting of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee's COVID-19 Inquiry on Tuesday.

He last appeared at the hearing on May 12, when the state's total number of coronavirus cases was 1509 and just 18 people had died.

Some 228 Victorians have now died from the virus, many of them aged care residents.

There are now more than 7869 active cases in the state, of which 1756 are linked to aged care residents and staff.

Also appearing on Tuesday are Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kym Peake.

Victoria recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday with 19 deaths and 322 new cases.

The latest Victorian victims are a man in his 50s, a woman in her 60s, two men in their 70s, one man and six women in their 80s, and one man and seven women in their 90s.

Fourteen of the 19 deaths are linked to aged care outbreaks.

Monday's case numbers were the lowest since July 29, when the state recorded 295 new cases.

But the premier urged people not to become complacent about the numbers.

"It is really important that we all stay the course on this," Mr Andrews told reporters on Monday.

"(COVID-19) is a wicked enemy, it will do everything it can to wear you down and that is where it absolutely flourishes."

Metropolitan Melbourne has been under tough stage-four restrictions for a week - including an 8pm curfew - while regional Victoria is under stage-three measures.

The lockdowns are in place until September 13.

"It is still very early for us to be trying to measure the impacts of stage four, but we're certainly seeing perhaps some greater stability that is a result of the cumulative impact of stage three," Mr Andrews said.

"It's bought some stability in the numbers, but we've got to drive them down so that we can reopen."

A new outbreak emerged on Monday at the Altona North packaging and distribution facility for meal kit delivery company Marley Spoon.

So far, eight cases are linked to the warehouse.

© AAP 2020

Another hotel worker COVID positive in Vic

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A hotel quarantine worker at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport has tested positive to coronavirus.

The woman tested positive on Sunday after she completed a shift as an authorised officer at the hotel, the Department of Health confirmed in an alert just before midnight.

She had previously tested negative after a shift on February 4.

The woman is working with contact tracers who have already identified a number of potential exposure sites in Melbourne's west.

Authorities are also contacting Holiday Inn Airport workers and other primary close contacts, who are being told to immediately get tested and then isolate for 14 days.

Testing capacity at nearby exposure sites will be scaled up, with increased opening hours, additional staff and new pop-up sites to be confirmed.

It comes after a hotel quarantine worker at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt tested positive for the infectious UK strain of the virus last week.

About 1100 of the 26-year-old's close and secondary contacts are self-isolating, with 70 per cent returning a negative test result.

"They are the real heroes of this response over the past few days - stepping up, doing the right thing," Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters on Sunday.

He said it could be at least a week before authorities are confident they have contained that outbreak.

The Grand Hyatt was one of three hotels used as part of the Australian Open's quarantine program, and the breach forced more than 500 tennis players and their entourage to isolate as casual contacts of the infected worker.

All eventually tested negative and were released.

The tournament begins at Melbourne Park on Monday.

Meanwhile, a potential case of guest-to-guest transmission at the Park Royal hotel was also identified last week.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville, who is responsible for the quarantine program, has confirmed a ventilation review of all hotels has been initiated and face shields made mandatory among workers.

NEW COVID-19 CASE EXPOSURE SITES

Visitors to the following venues at the specified times must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days:

Friday, February 5

* Marciano's Cakes, Maidstone, 9.45am - 10.25am

* Dan Murphy's, Sunshine, 5.50pm - 6.30pm

Saturday, February 6

* Off Ya Tree Watergardens, Taylors Lakes, 1.17pm - 1.52pm

* Dan Murphy's, Sunshine, 6.50pm - 7.30pm

© AAP 2021

Photo: Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley (AAP Image/Erik Anderson)

Anzac Day Services cancelled

Coronavirus breaking news

Anzac Day services have been cancelled in NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania after the federal government banned mass gatherings in response to the coronavirus crisis.

RSL NSW says it was a difficult decision to cancel all public commemoration services across the state on April 25.

"Given the significant concerns around the spread of COVID-19, we simply cannot allow such large gatherings as we see each year on Anzac Day to go ahead," acting state president Ray James said in a statement on Monday.

"The RSL has a responsibility to act in the best interests of veterans and the general public."

RSL WA chief executive John McCourt told ABC radio plans were under way for some sort of commemoration for April 25 using social media and live streaming.

RSL-held services and subsequent marches have also been called off in Tasmania.

"It was a tough decision because a lot of the sub-branches would have been organising these events from February onwards," state president Robert Dick told AAP.

"A lot of preparation work has already been done. But I emphasise the fact that public safety and wellbeing is more important."

Mr Dick said many older veterans fall in the group who are most at risk.

"The consequences could be devastating and we don't want to put people in that position," he said.

"We're asking people in their own private way to pay respects to our serving and ex-service members.

"Even if it's like on Remembrance Day, where you take a moment around 11 o'clock to pause and reflect on those who have gone before."

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has issued an order forcing the immediate cancellation of public events with more than 500 people.

Individuals who fail to comply could face up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $11,000, or both, he said on Monday.

The WA government on Sunday declared a state of emergency warning those who breach the 14-day self-isolation ban after returning from overseas will be fined up to $50,000.

AAP RLM/Maur/EJA/psm/jcd/SRJ

Ardern pleads for calm after COVID return

In this image from a video, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Ardern said Tuesday that authorities have found four cases of the coronavirus in one Auckland household from an unknown source, the first reported cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days. (TVNZ via AP)

In this image from a video, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (TVNZ via AP)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appealed for calm from Aucklanders heading back into lockdown after a clutch of new COVID-19 cases were identified.

Four south Auckland family members have tested positive to the deadly virus on Tuesday, prompting the return of emergency measures.

As of noon on Wednesday, Aucklanders will be required to stay home unless they are conducting essential work or essential personal movement - such as supermarket shopping, health care or exercise.

"One of the most important lessons we've learned from overseas is the need to go hard and go early and stamp out flare-ups to avoid the risk of wider outbreak," Ms Ardern said in a late-night press conference on Tuesday.

"As disruptive it is, a strong and rapid health response remains the best long term economic response.

"In line with our precautionary approach, we will be asking Aucklanders to take swift action with us."

The lockdown has been announced for 60 hours - from noon on Wednesday to midnight on Friday - to allow health officials to contact trace, isolate potential cases and conduct mass testing.

However, the short-term lockdown still prompted Kiwis to head out to shops; within the hour Radio NZ reported hundreds of people queuing outside supermarkets.

"There will be ample stock on the shelves, there is no reason to go out and make any purchases this evening," Ms Ardern said.

"I know that this information will be very difficult to receive," she said.

"We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again but we had also prepared for it.

"As a team we have also been here before. We know if we have a plan and stick to it we can work our way through very difficult and unknown situations."

While Aucklanders will be largely shut off from the rest of New Zealand, where social distancing and gathering caps will be enforced, all New Zealanders would have felt flummoxed by the news.

Psychologist Jacqui Maguire said Kiwis would be experiencing a range of emotions, including "anxiety, fear, anger and disappointment".

"Take that disappointment and use it as motivation to stick to the rules," she said.

"Turning away from or suppressing your emotional reactions will only intensify them.

"Hold compassion and kindness for yourself and others as you adjust, reach out and offer support to those around you.

"Take one day at a time, practise your wellbeing strategies and hold the hope that we will get through this together."

© AAP 2020

Ardern to deport non-quarantiners

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In this Friday, March 13, 2020, photo, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Christchurch, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Mark Baker) 

New Zealand will deport visitors who choose not to self-isolate on arrival and will clamp down on public gatherings in fresh efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued advice to end gatherings of more than 500 people to maintain public health standards.

As of 1am on Monday, any arrivals to New Zealand soil - except from Pacific nations - need to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Despite New Zealand's reputation as a hospitable destination for tourists, Ms Ardern issued a warning to anyone considering non-compliance, saying "Frankly, you are not welcome and you should leave before you are deported".

New Zealand recorded no new positive tests on Monday and has just eight confirmed cases and two probable cases.

Health officials expect that number to rise starkly despite the self-isolation measures in place.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson will announce a stimulus package - expected to be of historic proportions - targeted towards businesses and maintaining jobs.

© AAP 2020

Ardern, Morrison writing COVID rules in NZ

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The Australian and New Zealand leaders say they'll write new pages in the COVID-19 rulebook when they meet for formal talks on Monday.

Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern are in Queenstown for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders Forum.

Mr Morrison is making a whistlestop trip: he's in Aotearoa for just under 24 hours, and the actual talks will go for less than three hours.

The pair will start their day by laying a wreath at the Arrowtown War Memorial, before settling into their policy agenda.

Both have dropped hints about what will be discussed.

China is a major talking point.

New Zealand has signalled it will join Australia in a World Trade Organisation dispute with China, after the superpower levied tariffs against Australia on barley.

"We rely on the rules-based trading system to provide a secure and predictable global trading environment for everyone so we will act to uphold it," trade minister Damien O'Connor said.

The move is a sign that the two trans-Tasman allies, both of which are heavily trade dependent on China, are unified.

Mr Morrison said the Australia-New Zealand partnership "will be even more vital in the years ahead as we both confront an increasingly challenging geostrategic environment".

"These talks will be an important opportunity for us to continue our efforts to support an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific," he added.

Mr Morrison has referenced a possible biosecurity deal being announced on Monday.

Both leaders are expected to discuss their rollout of COVID-19 vaccine in the Pacific after committing 7.5 million doses to the developing region.

Addressing business leaders on Sunday night, Ms Ardern said she was most eager to talk about the next phase of COVID-19 planning.

"The path that New Zealand and Australia carved (during COVID-19) was unique, and it continues to be unique," Ms Ardern said.

"That however means there is no rulebook for us.

"We're both looking forward to the next day of talks, that next stage of writing the rulebook.

"As we both grapple with the challenge of how we safely re-open ourselves up to the world, whilst holding on to all the gains we've made, those are conversations that I would love to be able to have together - to write that rule book together."

© AAP 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine approved in Australia

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Australia's medical regulator has approved a second coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for millions of jabs to be administered in coming months.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration on Tuesday approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 18 and over, with decisions about those aged over 65 to be made on a case-by-case basis.

Initial supplies of the vaccine will be imported into Australia from overseas before 50 million doses are manufactured locally.

TGA boss John Skerritt said the vaccine was recommended for all ages.

"AstraZeneca gives us a vaccine that can be used in major facilities, in primary care through GPs and potentially through pharmacy practices," he told reporters in Canberra.

"Having a vaccine accessible in a country as wide and brown as ours is important."

Elderly patients over 65 years of age showed a strong immune response in clinical trials, but there were not enough participants to conclusively determine efficacy for that group.

There are no safety concerns associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The provisional approval is valid for two years and means it can now be legally supplied in Australia.

It comes a day after an initial 142,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in the country with the first shots to start from Monday.

AstraZeneca has been found to have an efficacy rate of 82 per cent when two doses are administered 12 weeks apart.

Pfizer has recorded efficacy rates of up to 95 per cent after two doses with a 21-day gap.

"Frankly, there's not a difference when you go into the real world whether something is 82 per cent of 90 per cent," Professor Skerritt said.

"I would emphasise a lot of the discussion on numbers is not particularly relevant. What is important is to get vaccines into people's arms."

Most opinion polls show about four in five Australians are willing to be vaccinated but there remains lingering trepidation about the vaccines among pockets of people.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for all Australians to listen to official medical advice, saying the country boasted the world's best experts.

"The same experts that you've trusted with your own children are the same people that you can trust when it comes to this vaccine," he said.

He said he was entrusting experts with the health and safety of his family, including his mother and mother-in-law.

Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler said the vaccine rollout should already be under way and called for more details from the government.

"How will the online booking system work? How will the vaccines be distributed to the states? When will we start to see jabs actually in people's arms?" he said.

Hotel quarantine remains the subject of national debate after two billionaire businessmen offered to run regional isolation centres in Victoria and Queensland.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is looking at building a quarantine facility either at Avalon or Tullamarine airport.

Mr Morrison is prepared to work with state governments on new isolation hubs but insists any new facility would supplement hotels.

The proposals are in response to quarantine breaches triggering snap lockdowns in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Victoria recorded two cases of local transmission on Tuesday, the fourth day of a five-day lockdown.

© AAP 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine trial volunteer dies

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Brazilian health authority Anvisa says a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University has died but adds that the trial will continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment "there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial".

Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported that the volunteer had been given a placebo and not the trial vaccine, citing unnamed sources.

Anvisa provided no further details, citing medical confidentiality of those involved in trials.

AstraZeneca declined immediate comment.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which is helping coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil, separately said the volunteer was Brazilian without revealing where the person lived.

AstraZeneca shares fell 1.7 per cent.

The federal government has plans to purchase the UK vaccine and produce it at its biomedical research center FioCruz in Rio de Janeiro while a competing vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd is being tested by Sao Paulo state's research centre Butantan Institute.

Brazil has the second deadliest outbreak of coronavirus, with more than 154,000 killed by COVID-19, following the United States.

It has the third largest number of cases, with more than 5.2 million infected, after the United States and India.

© RAW 2020

Aussie experts 'unlocking' COVID-19 cure

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Australian scientists are using a massive X-ray machine to map the molecular structure of COVID-19 to help find a vaccine for the virus.

Experts at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne - which is about the size of a football field - capture atomic-scale 3D pictures of coronavirus.

The images are being shared with researchers across the world, who hope to use the information to develop drugs that bind to the virus and stop it growing.

"You need to know what the protein looks like so you can design a drug to attach to it," Australian Synchrotron director Andrew Peele said in a statement on Tuesday.

"It's like designing a key for a lock, you need to know the dimensions of the keyhole."

The synchrotron is the largest particle accelerator in the Southern Hemisphere and produces light a million times brighter than the sun to capture clear 3D images of atoms and molecules.

"Using our technology, within five minutes you can understand why a drug does or doesn't work in attaching to a COVID-19 protein," Professor Peele said.

Dozens of samples have arrived at the synchrotron from across the country and Asia.

Federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the work would support research to find a solution to COVID-19.

© AAP 2020

Aussie ICU beds over capacity in a week

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

There are calls to increase the number of intensive care unit beds at Australian hospitals, amid worries coronavirus cases could exceed capacity next week.

A new study published by the Medical Journal of Australia compared real data of the infection in Italy to forecast how many Australians will need an intensive care unit bed in the coming weeks.

"ICU capacity will be exceeded at around 22,000 COVID-19 cases sometime around April 5 if public health measures fail to curb the rate of growth," the study concludes.

Australia has around 2200 ICU beds currently, the MJA study says.

"Over the coming months it's going to take courage, brains and a concerted unified effort to manage the infection," Professor Nick Talley said.

"While the results reported may represent a worst-case scenario and may not come to pass, we must better prepare, now," he wrote.

Calls to urgently increase hospital capacity have been voiced repeatedly over the last week.

Swiss doctor Professor Paolo Ferrari criticised the government for stepping in too late to stop the spread of the virus and wanred about the need to increase ICU beds.

Under his advice, the Swiss region of Ticino grew its intensive care capacity ten days before it even had one positive case, turning different locations into coronavirus-dedicated hospitals.

Professor Talley said that in order to take action, "bureaucrats must step to the sidelines."

"We will also require our health system leadership to understand at a time like this the structure in every hospital should be a military-like command-and-control one," he said.

© AAP 2020

Aussie options to flee the US are closing

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Australians have been warned that time and flight options are running out if they want to flee the US as the coronavirus spreads across the globe.

Chelsey Martin, Australia's consulate-general in Los Angeles, issued a stark message on Thursday to the "tens of thousands" of Australians who live within her jurisdiction in America's southwest states.

Qantas and Virgin Australia are about to cut flights from the US to Australia while United Airlines will have a limited schedule.

"Whatever your circumstances, given the escalating COVID-19 crisis I wanted to reach out and encourage any Australians wishing to go home to do so as soon as possible," Ms Martin said in a video message posted on the LA consulate's Twitter page.

"After the end of this week, commercial flight options will be incredibly limited.

"Qantas' final scheduled flight is out of LAX (Los Angeles) on Friday, the 27th of March.

"Virgin's final scheduled flight out of LAX is on Sunday the 29th of March.

"United Airlines has advised us that they will continue with a limited flight schedule from San Francisco to Sydney in the weeks ahead, but the situation is changing rapidly and I would encourage anyone who is still deciding whether or not they would like to return to Australia, not to delay taking that decision.

"These are unprecedented and anxious times for many."

Ms Martin said the LA consulate would remain open "around the clock" to provide consular assistance.

Australians were also being urged to follow the consulate on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for information updates.

© AAP 2020

Aussies import Trump's virus 'cure' drug

Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate tablets with coronavirus written in background

Aussies import Trump's virus 'cure' drug (Bigstock)

Thousands of hydroxychloroquine tablets have been seized at Australian borders after it was touted by US President Donald Trump as a potential cure for coronavirus.

The Australian Border Force says there has been a surge in unauthorised imports of the prescription-only anti-malarial drug.

Dozens of consignments containing a total of more than 6000 tablets have been intercepted at international gateways since January.

All have been referred to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for assessment, the ABF says.

President Trump last month described hydroxychloroquine as a potential "game-changer" in the battle against COVID-19.

But the TGA has warned the drug poses serious risks to patients, including irreversible eye damage, severe depletion of blood sugar and cardiac toxicity which could lead to sudden heart attacks.

ABF acting commander Susan Drennan says the force is maintaining a strong presence during the pandemic.

"Anyone considering further unauthorised imports will be wasting their money," she said on Friday.

"Whether it's individuals wanting to self-prescribe, or criminals aiming to sell the drug on the black market, our officers have the technology, skills and innovative processes to detect and disrupt their illegal importations of pharmaceuticals such as this."

© AAP 2020

Aussies stashing cash during pandemic

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Australians weren't just stockpiling toilet paper during the COVID-19 crisis - they have also been hoarding crisp new banknotes.

While consumer spending has fallen after the panic-buying splurge in March, and many retailers are refusing cash payments for hygiene reasons, banknotes have been stashed away in homes and wallets more than ever.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been meeting spikes in demand for banknotes from commercial banks and their customers, despite reporting last week that use of cash had reduced during the pandemic.

The demand for notes for the year to last Thursday rose by more than nine per cent, going against the trend of the past couple of years.

Up to six per cent of that increase - worth about $5 billion - has happened since the mid-March share market convulsions.

The RBA revealed in its April financial stability report that cash withdrawals from banks increased in the second half of March.

"This included a small number of customers making very large withdrawals - more than $100,000, and in some cases into the millions of dollars," it said, adding that the elevated demand had since abated.

But a banking system insider says there's been another spike in demand in the past two weeks, not quite as big as in March, coming from banks and their customers.

"We are seeing banks are getting extra cash in anticipation of COVID restrictions easing, and retailers, pubs and clubs wanting their floats back, while people aren't making as many deposits," he told AAP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Also when people are more uncertain about things they tend to hold more liquidity around them. No one's suggesting there's any concern with the banks - people just do that."

The use of cash has fallen steadily to 27 per cent of all payments late last year from 69 per cent in 2007, according to RBA statistics.

But the pandemic may not bring Australia closer to being a cashless society.

The Royal Australian Mint says coin production for general circulation has decreased slightly during the pandemic compared to the same period last year.

"We believe that Australians using contactless payments may increase post COVID-19 but this will not lead to a permanent shift to a cashless society, at least not in the near future," the mint said in a statement.

© AAP 2020

Aussies won't be locked down for Christmas

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Most Australians won't be locked down over Christmas after the NSW government eased coronavirus restrictions in Sydney.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says Sydneysiders will be allowed to host limited visitors over Christmas, after just eight new locally-acquired cases were reported in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.

The NSW changes mean that people in every state and territory - who aren't in quarantine or isolation - can gather with friends or family over the festive break.

"They're modest tweaks and modest changes to account for the fact that everybody has had a very difficult year and some people's stress levels and mental health capacity is already at breaking point," Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Wednesday.

Restrictions for regional NSW will remain unchanged, while up to 10 people and unlimited children aged under 12 will be allowed to gather on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day across Greater Sydney.

Northern beaches residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge can host five people from the local area, while those in the south will be able to host 10 visitors from anywhere.

Seven of the cases reported on Wednesday were linked to the northern beaches cluster, but an eighth is a contact of an infected quarantine nurse.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said genomic testing has linked those cases with the cluster, but authorities are still trying to find the person who spread the virus to the pair.

She also warned that a Qantas staff member had flown into Darwin from overseas and then taken a domestic flight to Sydney while infected last Friday.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid welcomed the cautious approach, but said going hard and early on restrictions is the best way to tackle outbreaks.

He said the NSW government should consider cancelling New Year's Eve fireworks to avoid crowds gathering.

"We all need to be extra vigilant during this holiday period to the stop the spread of COVID-19, especially as at this time of year when people travel, attend events, and spend time in close proximity with family and friends," Dr Khorshid said in a statement.

Victoria reported no new cases after a 15-year-old girl contracted the virus in Sydney before driving home to Melbourne with her mother.

Four other family members have tested negative to the virus and are isolating together at their home.

With no other cases of community transmission in the rest of the country, Australians are set to celebrate a relatively normal Christmas.

Up to 30 people can gather in Victoria, while 50 people are allowed to get together in Queensland, South Australia and the ACT provided they keep a 1.5 metre distance.

Tasmanians and people in the NT can have up 100 people around for Christmas, while in Western Australia there is no limit.

However, every state and territory is keeping their borders closed to Greater Sydney, with WA shut to all of NSW due to the outbreak.

Ms Berejiklian's criticism of state leaders' decisions also means there's little hope of a Christmas truce about the borders.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the border closures were based on health advice about the Sydney outbreak, which the NSW government was responsible for.

"If there hadn't been the cluster outbreak in the northern beaches, well... everybody would have been seeing their family and friends over this Christmas-New Year period," she told reporters.

"But I think it's a bit rich for NSW to start blaming Queensland and Victoria and whichever other state and territory she (she) wants to blame.

"This has happened in NSW, it has happened in the northern beaches, and we wish them all the very best, but we do not want our lifestyle compromised."

Sydneysiders who do decide to travel interstate must undergo mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine on arrival.

Some have decided to do that, and with many people still returning from abroad, hundreds of Australians will spend Christmas in hotel quarantine or self-isolation around the country.

There are also tens of thousands of Australians who still remain stuck overseas, nine months after the pandemic began.

© AAP 2020

By Mirelle/shutterstock.com

Aust firm developing 15-minute virus test

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 A 15-minute COVID-19 which could be quicker than a pregnancy test is being developed by researchers in Queensland.

Biotechnology firm Xing Technologies is working on the test, called XavTrap, after being allocated $1.5 million in Queensland government funding for its research.

Researcher Dr Yadveer Grewal explained how the test works.

A cheap and simple baker's yeast is coated with hook-like particles to trap the virus just like velcro.

That yeast is then combined with strip technology used in pregnancy tests to rapidly determine whether a person has the virus.

"That way someone could have a nasal swab taken, apply it to a strip and within five to 15 minutes, depending on how infectious they are, get a result then and there," he told Nine's Today program.

Currently, there's a risk high-quality nasal swab lab tests can produce double negatives.

But Dr Yadveer said his test, called XavTrap, could still be effective even though it was less sensitive.

The United States Food and Drug Administration, which is also backing the project with $US1 million, believes the sensitivity and price of tests can be lowered if people using them get tested more frequently, he added.

Dr Yadveer used the example of doctors and nurses using Xing's test every time they started a hospital shift and getting a fast result.

"Testing yourself every couple of days is about equivalent to having a once-off high-quality specific test from a lab," he said.

Another difference between XavTrap and other tests is that it discriminates between live and dead viruses, so it's less likely to result in false-positives.

Xing Technologies is hoping to have its new COVID-19 test on the market by the end of 2020 and also eventually hopes to use XavTrap to test for other infectious viruses like dengue fever, and even cancer

"Ideally then, we are able to manufacture immediately by the end of the year and distribute it," Dr Yadveer said.

"Because of our technology is easily programmable we have other lead candidates we are exploring, and they can come online early next year."

© AAP 2020

Aust Open qualifying hit by coronavirus

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American Denis Kudla has tested positive for COVID-19 at the Australian Open qualifying tournament in Doha and has been sent to a quarantine hotel.

Fourth-seeded Kudla downed Moroccan Elliot Benchetrit 6-4 6-3 but the match ended in controversy.

The positive COVID-19 text result reportedly came through with Kudla leading 5-3 in the second, and according to Benchetrit they had to finish the game in progress.

Because Kudla, the world No.114, won that game which wrapped up the match, he was declared the winner.

If Benchetrit had won the game, it would have been declared a walkover in his favour.

"At 5-3, they got the result. So to sum up: if I'd won that game at 5-3 to make it 5-4, I'd have qualified for the second round," Benchetrit said on Instagram.

In another blow, Benchetrit may also have to isolate if he is deemed a close contact.

However, it was good news for teenage Queenslander Dane Sweeny, who was supposed to face Kudla in his second match, but instead moves straight into the final round of qualifying - which is being held offshore for the first time.

Benchetrit told the Tennis Majors website that players are bizarrely permitted to play before getting their test results, which have taken longer than expected.

"The concept of a test is to have the information up front, to not put the linespeople, the opponent or - quite simply - everyone the person might meet before or after their match in danger," he said.

"There also are lucky losers who are waiting for a forfeit to be able to play, who travelled there for nothing.

"The draw is compromised; there will be a player in the third round of qualifications having played just one match.

"That's also the problem."

Benchetrit believes Kudla must have contracted the coronavirus in Doha, given this would have been his third test since arriving in Qatar.

© AAP 2021

Photo: By Leonard Zhukovsky/shutterstock.com

Australia pressing on with virus inquiry

Chinese paramilitary police wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard along a street near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. China, in a step toward returning to business as normal, announced Wednesday that its previously postponed national legislature session would be held in late May. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Chinese paramilitary police wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard along a street near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) 

Australia is pushing ahead with calls for a review into the origins of coronavirus despite it straining diplomatic relations with China.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has indicated the review is picking up steam.

"There is a very broad range of understanding that there is definitely a need for an independent and transparent review," she told ABC radio on Friday.

"We have been very gratified by the engagement we've had in recent days and in the last week, with the prime minister's calls and my own."

Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye has floated a consumer boycott of Australian products in retaliation to the review.

But Senator Payne isn't perturbed.

"What we do need to do is to put that stake in the ground, to say we need to have an independent and transparent review," she said.

Conservative MPs have blasted mining magnate Twiggy Forrest for inviting a Chinese diplomat to a ministerial press conference unannounced.

Mr Forrest said his invitation to Victoria's Chinese consul-general Long Zhou to address the media was a gesture of appreciation and friendship.

Mr Long is reportedly a former top cyber official for Beijing, The Australian reports.

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said Chinese diplomats had been "downright despicable and menacing" since Australia started pressing the case for an investigation.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the media conference had overshadowed the good work of the Forrests.

Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop says it's time for calm and quiet diplomacy.

"So that we can understand more about this virus, how it got into human populations and whether decisions could have been taken that would have prevented its spread," she told the ABC.

However, she said China had a responsibility to support an independent global investigation if it did not intend to carry out its own inquiry to help the rest of the world learn what happened.

Australian National University's Andrew Carr warned attempts by Australia to rebuke China could distract from calls for an inquiry into COVID-19's origins.

Dr Carr told AAP the current spat was minor in the scheme of things but Australia shouldn't let it slide.

A serious inquiry into coronavirus' orgins could help counter conspiracy theories and racist attacks.

But Australia was well positioned to manage how diplomats inside Australia are supposed to act, he said.

© AAP 2020

Australia signs global virus vaccine deal

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Australia has signed onto a global coronavirus agreement in the hope of gaining early access to dozens of potential vaccines.

The deal guarantees Australia access to enough vaccine doses for up to 50 per cent of the population.

Australia has committed an initial $123 million to be part of the purchasing pool.

"It means that we'll have access to any of potentially dozens and dozens of different vaccines that are being developed," federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday.

"Australia has contributed, along with over 80 other countries, to have that right."

The deal is in addition to agreements Australia has already struck with vaccine developers at Oxford University and the University of Queensland.

"It's about making sure that we have additional protection, additional access, additional support," Mr Hunt said.

"It's also a facility which means that the developing nations, whether it's in Africa or Asia or Latin America, will be guaranteed access.

"And that protects Australia by protecting the world, as well as doing the right humanitarian thing."

The COVAX facility was established by the World Health Organisation and other international agencies.

It aims to ensure equitable access to safe and effective coronavirus vaccines.

This is Australia's second commitment to the facility after donating $80 million in August to provide doses to developing countries.

As well as allocations for individual countries, 10 per cent of manufactured doses will be retained to respond to sporadic outbreaks across the globe.

© AAP 2020

 

 

Australia will fund WHO but demand reform

epa08364179 The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. US President Donald Trump announced that he has instructed his administration to halt funding to the WHO. The American president criticizes the World Health Organization for its mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic Covid-19.  EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI

Australia will fund WHO but demand reform (EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI)

Australia will continue funding the World Health Organisation despite arguing it has made "significant mistakes" during the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government declared the pandemic two weeks before the WHO, and was criticised for closing its borders to Chinese travellers.

Australia has also admonished the WHO for endorsing China's decision to reopen wet markets, which were the likely cause of the COVID-19 and other diseases like SARS and swine flu.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia would leverage of its membership of the WHO to push for reform.

"It does important work in our region and we want to see that continue," he told ABC radio on Thursday.

"The practical solutions provided by the WHO locally are much more beneficial than some of the political decisions they have taken centrally."

A group of Australian professors who work at centres that collaborate with the WHO have criticised the United States for withdrawing funding from the United Nations body.

"To remove this funding suddenly and in the middle of a pandemic seems rather callous and introspective," the 19 professors wrote in a joint statement.

"We are unanimous in thinking that this defunding of WHO is a global health disaster (that) will result in thousands of additional and potentially preventable deaths from COVID-19."

© AAP 2020

Australia's vaccine rollout plans in chaos

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Australia is facing a major delay in its coronavirus vaccine rollout after new bombshell advice plunged the program into chaos.

Health supremos have recommended not administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 50 because of an extremely rare but serious blood clot side effect.

The advice destroys the Morrison government's October rollout target with the immunisation effort not likely to be completed until 2022.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the program would be recalibrated over the weekend as officials come to grips with the new development.

"The overall impact of this on the timetable of the rollout, it is far too early," he told reporters just minutes after receiving the advice on Thursday night.

Australia was relying on AstraZeneca jabs to the backbone of coronavirus immunisations through 50 million locally produced doses.

Labor has lambasted the government for failing to secure more deals with other vaccines successfully being rolled out to millions of people worldwide.

Opposition frontbencher Kristina Keneally labelled the development a debacle and a negative game-changer.

"This just means Australians are going to wait months and months, possibly even another year, before life resembles anything like normal," she told ABC radio on Friday.

"That failure sits on Scott Morrison's head."

More people under 50 will now receive the Pfizer jab with health workers pushed to the front of the queue.

But Australia has a contract for only 20 million doses - enough for 10 million people - and less than one million have been delivered.

The government's immunisation advisory group made the cautious decision after blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine were mostly associated with younger people.

The reaction has appeared in four to six people for every million to receive the jab, with a 25 per cent death rate for people who develop the syndrome.

A man in his 40s who was admitted to hospital in Melbourne is the only person in Australia to develop the problem.

People who have already received their dose of AstraZeneca have been given the green light for a second jab with clotting only detected after the first shot.

Others under 50 could also be administered the jab if consultation with a doctor determined benefit outweighed risk.

AstraZeneca noted Australia's decision factored in having no community transmission of the virus.

"Overall, regulatory agencies have reaffirmed the vaccine offers a high-level of protection against all severities of COVID-19 and that these benefits continue to far outweigh the risks," it said in a statement.

The advice compounds the federal government's headaches with the rollout already under fire for lagging behind most other developed nations.

While 51 million doses of the promising Novavax vaccine could be injected into the effort from October, that jab is yet to gain approval anywhere in the world.

© AAP 2021

Image: Prime Minister Scott Morrison (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Australia's virus inquiry gathers momentum

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Australia's virus inquiry gathers momentum (Pexels)

Australia has received international backing for an independent coronavirus inquiry as trade tensions with China come under heavy strain.

More than 60 countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and all 27 European Union member states have co-sponsored the motion.

The draft resolution calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.

It doesn't mention China, but Australia's push for the inquiry has angered Beijing, which has threatened a huge tariff on barley and blocked some beef imports.

Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the virtual World Health Assembly meeting on Monday night.

A vote is expected in the early hours of Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the inquiry was about investigating what the world could learn from the devastating pandemic.

"That's the responsible thing to do when 300,000 souls have lost their lives around the world," he told the ABC on Monday.

Mr Littleproud said his Chinese counterpart had indicated he would not discuss trade issues in the near future.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has not received a return call from his opposite number.

Australia isn't ruling out taking China to the World Trade Organisation over the 80 per cent tariff on barley.

Mr Littleproud said he would continue to make the case to China that exporters were not dumping product.

"We will prosecute that case on behalf of Australian exporters," he said.

"If those that we're prosecuting against don't understand it, we'll take it to an umpire for them to understand."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus as completely unremarkable.

But China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at foreign politicians for politicising the pandemic.

Beijing's man in Canberra raised the prospect of consumer boycotts of Australian products because of the push for an inquiry.

Since then, the barley threat has surfaced, while four major Australian abattoirs have been blocked from sending product to China.

© AAP 2020

Australia's virus tally pushes 2000

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Australia's coronavirus tally could hit 2000 cases by the end of the day as authorities develop new rules about who can get tested.

NSW and Victoria reported 205 new cases on Tuesday morning, taking the national tally to 1914. Australia's death toll stands at seven, all but one in NSW.

Other states are yet to add their new cases. They include Queensland which recorded 60 fresh positive results on Monday - it's highest daily increase so far.

The World Health Organisation warned overnight that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, with more than 300,000 cases now confirmed and thousand upon thousands of deaths.

It took 67 days from the first reported of the virus to hit 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000, and just four days for the third 100,000.

WHO says it's still possible to change the trajectory of the pandemic, urging countries to adopt rigorous testing and contact-tracing strategies.

Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says testing criteria for coronavirus will change as a result of sweeping travel bans that have lessened the risk of imported disease.

Current rules require tests for people who fell ill within two weeks of returning from overseas, or had contact with such a person.

But Prof Kelly has indicated a rule change that's more focused on community transmission, telling the ABC the traveller component would be removed.

"There will be announcements about that over the coming days," he told the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, NSW reported 149 new cases, taking its tally to 818. Victoria added another 56 people to its list of infections, taking the state tally to 411.

Queensland has recorded 319 cases since the outbreak began, but won't reveal how many new cases it's had in the past 24 hours until later on Tuesday.

In Western Australia, police and Australian Border Force officers will ensure passengers do not leave a cruise ship that has docked at Fremantle Port.

Premier Mark McGowan says no one will be allowed ashore while the vessel refuels before heading for Dubai, amid fears at least 250 peope are suffering an upper respiratory illness.

The operator of the ship, which left Italy in January, has denied reports of widespread illness, but Mr McGowan isn't taking any chances after dozens of people with coronavirus disembarked from a cruise ship in Sydney.

Political and health authorities are ramping up the message for people to stay home and implement social distancing, as states including WA and Queensland announce more cash to help workers and businesses survive.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state is now at a critical stage, and people needed to self-isolate where necessary, stay home if they can, and social distance.

"This is a difficult time for us, but I am confident NSW will control as much as we can the spread of this virus, so long as everyone steps up and does what they need to do," she told reporters on Tuesday.

She warned that people would face harsh penalties if they were told to self-isolate but didn't.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott has called the decision to let passengers leave the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney was a "monumental stuff up". At least 50 people from that vessel have the virus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made another appeal for people to grasp the gravity of the situation.

"Turn your TV on - have a look at Italy, have a look at Spain, have a look at France," Mr Andrews told Triple M Melbourne on Tuesday.

Some states have closed their borders while others are tussling over school closures amid fears the pandemic could affect Australia for months to come.

Border controls are now in place for South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, with only freight and essential travel exempted. Queensland will close its borders on Wednesday.

Schools remain open in South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland.

NSW is also keeping schools open but Ms Berejiklian has told parents to keep their children home if possible.

Victoria and the ACT have moved to early holidays to give schools time to set up online and distance education arrangements, while private schools are making up their minds.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Australians face six months of severe but necessary restrictions, with pubs, bars, nightclubs, cinemas and other indoor venues forced to close.

Supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies remain open.

He also warned of a dire year ahead for many, including thousands of Australians who have or are expected to lose their jobs.

Huge queues began forming early on Tuesday outside Centrelink offices as many people who lost their jobs on Monday apply for welfare payments.

The MyGov online portal also crashed on Monday after it was overwhelmed by jobless Australians.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston says no one could have predicted the spike in demand, even though the government shut down entire sectors of the economy.

The government has since asked people trying to register with Centrelink to wait a few days.

"We are asking for patience and calm... What we saw yesterday was heartbreaking," Senator Ruston said.

© AAP 2020

Australian economy projected to fall 6.7pc

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Australia is expected to suffer its biggest economic blow since the Great Depression of the 1930s, with unemployment to remain high for at least two years beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund expects the Australian economy to shrink by 6.7 per cent this year, more than double the global rate.

Unemployment is tipped to rise to an average of 7.6 per cent in 2020 and 8.9 per cent in 2021.

The fund expects the economy to grow by 6.1 per cent in 2021, leaving it smaller than it was at the end of 2019.

Australia's performance is expected to be among the bottom third of the world's top 20 economies, with countries such as the United States, Britain and South Korea all tipped to fare better.

The IMF predicts a partial rebound for the world economy in 2021, with an overall 5.8 per cent growth rate.

But the fund's forecasts are marked by "extreme uncertainty" and the outcomes could be far worse.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government had taken decisive action to protect Australians and the economy from the effects of coronavirus.

The government has so far thrown $320 billion at the crisis, or 16.4 per cent of GDP.

He also noted the reserve bank had responded quickly to worsening risk sentiment by injecting $90 billion into the financial system to support small and medium businesses.

"Australia approaches this crisis from a position of economic strength," Mr Frydenberg said.

"The federal budget returned to balance for the first time in 11 years and Australia's debt to GDP is about a quarter of what it is in the United States or United Kingdom, and about one seventh of what it is in Japan."

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers seized on the world economic outlook to reiterate calls for government-funded wage subsidies to be extended to more casual workers.

"Expectations of persistently high unemployment is a sobering reminder of the devastating economic impacts of this diabolical health crisis, and highlights the need to protect as many jobs as possible now," he said.

"When unemployment spikes in the next few months, remember hundreds of thousands of job losses could have been prevented if the treasurer picked up his pen and included more workers currently left out and left behind."

© AAP 2020

Australians banned from leaving country

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

Australians will be banned from travelling overseas under a further crackdown on trips as the government tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it is clear from the numbers of people still travelling that some are defying advice not to travel anywhere in the world.

Small exceptions will be made for aid workers and other vital government travel.

© AAP 2020

Australians face months of virus measures

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) 

Schools will stay open but non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are now banned as the government rolls out further restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Australians are also being told not to travel overseas, and strict restrictions will be placed on visitors to aged care homes.

The prime minister also bluntly told Australians to stop hoarding groceries and other supplies.

National coronavirus cases are approaching 460 and five people have died. Some 81,000 people have been tested, 99.5 per cent of whom returned a negative test.

Scott Morrison cautioned the changes to daily life will be a long-haul measure, with the government expecting the virus crisis will roll on for at least six months.

"What we are doing, you have to be able to keep doing that and sustain that," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"There is no two-week answer to what we're confronting...The idea that you can just turn everything off for two weeks and then turn it all back on again and it all goes away, that is not the evidence."

The medical assessment is that schools should stay open, and Mr Morrison and chief medical officer Brendan Murphy warned the consequences of closing schools would be severe.

That could include tens of thousands of jobs lost, Mr Morrison said.

But Professor Murphy said school life would also have to change, with no assemblies, regular hand washing, and strict bans on sick students and teachers.

"It will be hard for schools, but it would be much, much, much harder for society if the schools were closed," he said.

A ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people is effective immediately.

It does not affect public transport, airports, medical facilities, supermarkets and shopping centres, parliaments, courts or jails.

Office buildings, factories, construction or mining sites, schools, universities, child care facilities and hotels are also exempt.

But people should practice social distancing in all these areas, keeping a space of 1.5 metres between themselves and others.

"Every citizen now has to think about every interaction they have with another person during the day," Professor Murphy said.

"No more hand-shaking. No more hugging except in your family... No more scant attention to hand hygiene."

Strict rules around visitors at aged care facilities are also now in place, barring anyone who has recently travelled, sick people, children except in exceptional circumstances, and from May 1 anyone who hasn't had a flu vaccination.

Only one daily visit of at most two people per resident is allowed.

But Mr Morrison said the new restrictions did not mean Australians should be panicking and certainly not stripping supermarket shelves bare.

"Stop hoarding," he said.

"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis."

The Department of Foreign Affairs has updated its travel advice for the second time in 24 hours, now telling all Australians not to travel overseas.

Anyone already overseas is being urged to return home as soon as possible.

The majority of new coronavirus cases in Australia are still among people who have brought it back from overseas or people in close contact with travellers.

All people arriving from overseas must self-quarantine for 14 days and cruise ships are barred from Australian ports for at least 30 days.

The federal government has flagged another round of economic stimulus measures on top of a $17.6 billion package announced last week.

This includes a $715 million assistance package for airlines like Qantas and Virgin Australia that will give the carriers relief from airport fees and other aviation industry charges.

The states and territories have developed their own economic packages to lessen the economic blow from the spread of COVID-19, which is set to crush major industries and hurt workers.

© AAP 2020

Australians told to get flu jab this month

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Australians are being urged to get the flu shot this month so they don't contract the disease and coronavirus at the same time.

More than 13.5 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine have been secured for the national program.

"Vaccinating against the flu will reduce the risk of a very dangerous double-up of flu and coronavirus - both diseases affecting the respiratory system," Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday.

"Fewer cases and fewer severe cases of flu will result in less demand on our health care system."

Australia's flu season is expected to peak between June and September. Vaccinating against the disease in April will provide the greatest protection.

© AAP 2020

Australians told to keep up virus measures

Members of the public are seen walking past a sign reading '1.5 Metres Apart' at Scarborough Beach, Perth, Monday, April 6, 2020. Beaches in Perth remain open but people must still adhere to social distancing rules. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING

Members of the public are seen walking past a sign reading '1.5 Metres Apart' at Scarborough Beach, Perth, Monday, April 6, 2020. Beaches in Perth remain open but people must still adhere to social distancing rules. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) 

Health authorities are urging Australians to maintain social distancing measures despite the rate of coronavirus cases falling.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd says Australians can't let their guard down because community transmissions are occurring.

"I know it's really challenging for many people with the self-isolation that's occurring, with the restriction of activities, but we are doing this to help each other, help ourselves and save lives by stopping the spread," he told Nine on Tuesday.

The government's coronavirus modelling will soon be released to show how the virus has spread and will potentially offer a glimpse at how long strict measures will be in place.

The prime minister and state and territory leaders are meeting on Tuesday where they will discuss the modelling as well as relief for commercial tenants.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who is yet to see the modelling, says Australians deserve to know what's driving decision making.

"I think it will build trust and will encourage support for the measures that have been put in," he told the ABC.

"We're all in this together."

A scaled back parliament will meet on Wednesday to pass the government's $130 billion wage subsidy plan, which will see eligible employees receive a $1500 fortnightly payment.

Health authorities say the slowdown in the rate of new cases each day shows the restrictions on daily life and social distancing measures have successfully flattened the curve.

But they are cautious about the rate spiking again.

Younger people in particular have been warned about being complacent, given that people aged in their 30s are among the worst-affected patients.

Scott Morrison has wished British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a speedy recovery after he was admitted to intensive care after contracting the disease.

"Thinking of you, your family and all our UK friends at this tough time," Mr Morrison said.

The nation's leaders and medical experts are now starting to look at how and when to start easing the tough restrictions in place to slow the disease's spread.

That will include a consideration of how prepared the health system is for an increase in cases and what effect lifting particular measures would have.

More than 5800 people have coronavirus in Australia and 41 people have died.

Governments are concerned that people will be tempted to breach restrictions on movements and social distancing rules over the coming Easter weekend.

Popular beaches in Sydney and Queensland closed on Monday as people continued to flock there.

© AAP 2020

Ban on pubs, cinemas to stop virus spread

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Pubs, cinemas and churches will be forced to close across Australia from noon on Monday to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The closure of more types of businesses could follow if Australians continue to fail to heed health warnings.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders agreed on Sunday night to a staged process starting with a shutdown of "principal places of social gathering".

The initial types of venues to be closed include registered and licensed clubs, entertainment venues, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sports venues, including gyms, and places of worship.

Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only.

Mr Morrison said the decision was taken because Australians were not adequately sticking to rules around social distancing.

Virus cases are doubling every three days. The death toll remains at seven.

"We cannot have the confidence as a group of leaders that the social distancing guidelines and rules that we have put in place won't be followed to the level of compliance that we require to flatten the curve and slow the spread and save lives," Mr Morrison said.

One Nation leader and senator Pauline Hanson, who will not attend parliament this week, said the new rules were confusing and she was concerned beaches were being closed.

"I am confused by it all, I really am," she told Nine's Today show on Monday.

"I just feel it's probably a bit too far... A lot of the businesses that shut down, they won't open again. I hope it is worth it."

Meanwhile, parents are being reassured schools will reopen after the Easter holidays, based on current medical advice.

The Victorian and ACT school holidays have already been brought forward to Tuesday.

And in further action, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are imposing two-week quarantine periods on people seeking to enter these states, with police checkpoints posted to monitor travellers.

The AFL announced matches would be suspended until at least May 31.

State and territory leaders and Mr Morrison have recommended against all non-essential domestic travel, following the unprecedented ban on international travel.

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced entry to his state would be restricted via road, rail, air and sea from 1.30pm local time on Tuesday.

There will be exemptions for health, emergency, defence and policing personnel, certain mining industry workers, flight crews, essential goods deliverers and on compassionate grounds.

Unless exempted, arrivals from interstate will be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.

In a bid to ease Australia's expected dive into recession, the federal government announced a second round of stimulus measures worth $66 billion.

It will temporarily double the Jobseeker payment - known as Newstart until last Friday - and make it easier for casuals and sole traders to access it; give a second round of $750 cash payments to pensioners; and significantly expand the already announced cash flow injection into small businesses, which will now get at least $20,000 and up to $100,000 each.

State governments have also implemented stimulus measures and are looking at other ways to ease pressure on people, including how to give renters and commercial tenants a break.

Federal parliament will sit from Monday to debate and pass laws enabling the initial two stimulus packages, with more measures expected in coming weeks.

Labor will seek to amend some of the bills, but is committed to passing the laws.

© AAP 2020

Band Together cancelled due to Corona fears

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Following advice received from the NSW Department of Health, Wollondilly Council has made the tough decision to indefinitely postpone the Band Together 2020 concert.

The concert was being organised to support Rural Fire Service crews and Emergency Services.

However the advice from the Department indicated that large gatherings where people were in close proximity could potentially lead to the spread of the Corona Virus.

If the event did proceed, The Department recommended a whole host of guidelines including that people stand at least one and a half metres apart from one another.

In the end council decided it just wasn't practical.

Mayor Matthew Deeth says it's very disappointing but insists public safety comes first.

IMAGE CREDIT: Band Together

Bells toll as US reaches 500k COVID deaths

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The United States has crossed the staggering milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths just more than a year since the coronavirus pandemic claimed its first known victim in Santa Clara County, California.

In a proclamation honouring the dead, President Joe Biden ordered the US flag to be flown at half-staff on public buildings and grounds until sunset on Friday.

"On this solemn occasion, we reflect on their loss and on their loved ones left behind," Biden said in the proclamation. "We, as a nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one nation to defeat this pandemic."

Bells tolled at the National Cathedral in Washington to honour the lives lost on Monday evening - ringing 500 times to symbolise the 500,000 deaths.

"As we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, remember each person and the life they lived," Biden said in an emotional speech at the White House after the bells sounded.

A few moments later, Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and their spouses appeared wearing black. They stood silently as the hymn Amazing Grace was played.

The country had recorded more than 28 million COVID-19 cases and 500,264 lives lost as of Monday afternoon, according to a Reuters tally of public health data, although daily cases and hospitalisations have fallen to the lowest level since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

About 19 per cent of total global coronavirus deaths have occurred in the United States, an outsized figure given that the nation accounts for just four per cent of the world's population.

"These numbers are stunning," Dr Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease adviser to President Joe Biden told ABC's Good Morning America program. "If you look back historically, we've done worse than almost any other country and we're a highly developed, rich country."

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Fauci said political divisiveness contributed significantly to the US death toll.

The country's poor performance reflects the lack of a unified, national response last year, when the administration of Donald Trump mostly left states to their own devices in tackling the greatest public health crisis in a century, with the president playing down the pandemic and often in conflict with his own health experts.

In 2020, the virus has taken a full year off the average life expectancy in the United States, the biggest decline since World War II.

Sweeping through the country at the beginning of last year, the US epidemic had claimed its first 100,000 lives by May.

The death toll doubled by September as the virus ebbed and surged during the summer months.

By December, the death toll had reached 300,000 in the United States. In the three months after Thanksgiving, the virus would claim 230,000 lives.

Deaths recorded between December and February accounted for 46 per cent of all US COVID-19 fatalities, even as vaccines finally became available and a monumental effort to inoculate the American public got started.

Despite the grim milestone, the virus appears to have loosened its grip as COVID-19 cases in United States fell for a sixth week. Health experts warn, however, that coronavirus variants discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil could unleash another wave that threatens to reverse the recent positive trends.

© RAW 2021

Biden moves to boost COVID vaccine supply

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Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden has announced the US is surging deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of summer or early autumn.

Biden, calling the push a "wartime effort", said the administration was working to buy an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines.

He acknowledged that states in recent weeks had been left guessing how much vaccine they will have from one week to the next.

Shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites around the US had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot.

"This is unacceptable," Biden said on Tuesday. "Lives are at stake."

He promised a roughly 16 per cent boost in deliveries to states during the next three weeks.

The administration plans to buy another 100 million doses each from drug makers Pfizer and Moderna to ensure it has enough vaccine for the long term.

Even more vaccine could be available if federal scientists approve a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to seek emergency authorisation in the coming weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the government plans to make about 10.1 million first and second doses available next week, up from this week's allotment of 8.6 million.

The figures represent doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It was not immediately clear how long the surge of doses could be sustained.

Governors and top health officials have been increasingly raising the alarm about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much vaccine is on the way so that they can plan.

Biden made management of the pandemic a core issue in his presidential election campaign, but in its early days, the administration has sent mixed messages about when exactly the vaccines will be fully administered.

On Monday, Biden said he believed it was possible to have 150 million doses of the vaccine administered in his first 100 days in office, an aspiration his press secretary Jen Psaki said was not an official adjustment of the current target of 100 million doses over that same period.

The outbreak has killed more than 420,000 Americans.

© AP 2021

Big fine for those who do not self-isolate

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Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk speaking to media ahead of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AAP Image/James Gourley)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned of the heavy financial penalty that awaits any person who arrives from overseas and does not self-isolate.

From midnight all people coming to Australia will have to self-isolate for 14 days, while cruise ships will be banned from arriving at Australian ports for an initial 30 days.

Ms Palaszczuk said on Sunday that laws were in place to deal with those who fail to follow a direction to self-isolate.

"In relation to legislation around that... it's under our Public Health Emergency Act," she said.

"That bill was passed in early February and there are penalties for not complying with the notification and that is around $13,000," she said.

"We have random police checks to make sure people are compliant with that notice."

The warning came as Queensland had its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, taking the number of people detected with the COVID-19 to 61.

There were 15 people confirmed on Sunday as having contracted the viris.

People were also being discouraged from kissing, hugging or even shaking hands.

"We are asking Queenslanders, when you are out and about no hand shaking... and no kissing or hugging in public. Let's all minimise the risk," the premier said.

Queensland's chief health officer warned that now may not be the time for children to visit their grandparents.

"I implore people if you have parents... or grandparents in that older age group think about how you can help them. Maybe it's not the time for your young kids to see their grandparents," she said.

Meanwhile Queensland senator Susan McDonald has announced several Senate committee hearings scheduled for Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns this week have been cancelled until further notice.

The hearings were scheduled for the Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport Committee from Monday through to Thursday.

© AAP 2020

Bon Jovi keyboardist has coronavirus

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Bon Jovi founding member and keyboardist David Bryan has revealed he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Less than a week earlier, he was home in New Jersey when, on March 15, he started to feel sick.

"The first symptoms were flu-like, with a low level fever around 100 with body aches and headaches," Bryan told Variety.

Soon after, the body aches made it difficult to get out of bed. By Wednesday, March 18, it started to move to his lungs. It was then that the Tony Award-winning musician, who had been in New York City in the weeks prior working on launching the new musical "Diana," knew he needed medical help.

He immediately called his doctor, Mike Rothenberg of Brick, New Jersey, who had access to drive-by testing for the coronavirus, which involved a deep swab up his nose.

Two days later, Bryan was informed that he was positive and was immediately prescribed antibiotics -- Azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine (the "anti- malaria drug") -- which he started on Saturday.

Two days later, Bryan reports that the medicine is working and he is "getting stronger" while remaining in self-isolation with his wife, Alexis. She, too, has tested positive but is not displaying any of the same symptoms except for a "slight headache for a couple of days."

Says Bryan: "I'm thankful that she is not as sick as I am. We are both quarantined but it just shows that some people can have it with no symptoms, and some people can have it like me, and there's others who are really sick and need to go to the hospital."

Wanting to share his story and at the same time try to help by "squashing fear" was the reason the 58-year-old Bryan went public on Instagram, writing that the virus was "the flu, not the plague." He also is encouraging everyone to practice social distancing to avoid spreading it to others.

For now, the protocol he is following includes another week of quarantine and, with improved symptoms, he will take the test two times to assure a negative result. In the meantime, Bryan has been in bed watching movies and getting a lot of sleep as his body fights the virus. He also says everyone should do their part to slow the spread and stay home.

"Everybody has just got to stay away from each other to kill this virus," he says. "As much as it's not any fun, it's less fun to have it. If people do the right thing, we can all get over this. People have to take this seriously. You can get it. I got it."

Meanwhile, Bon Jovi frontman Jon Bon Jovi has been helping feed those in need via his JBJ Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey.

© RAW 2020

Border boss warns against complete closure

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

The man responsible for Australia's borders has cautioned against a total shutdown of movement in and out of the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram said a vacuum seal around the nation would prevent essential items like stem cells from entering the country.

"We don't want to stop all flights to Australia. We don't want to seal ourselves off," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"Similarly with the ports, there's a lot of containers coming to Australia with goods that we need as a country."

But he insisted the ABF was ready for anything if the government decided to take more drastic action to contain the disease.

Passenger movements through Australian airports were down by around 5000 on Monday, while 23 flights were cancelled on Tuesday.

The 14 cruise ships which had left are returning to ports, with no reported sickness onboard any of them.

About 12 border force workers have been tested for coronavirus with no positive results so far.

Mr Outram said his staff not contracting the virus should reassure other frontline workers wearing personal protective equipment.

"If you follow procedures, you wear your PPE, it's a very, very low risk," he said.

Border force officers are preparing to welcome home Australians from overseas after the government advised people to return.

At airports, people will receive quarantine information at check-in and on the flight before signing a written declaration to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving.

Mr Outram said there had been little disagreement from people returning.

The commissioner has also told his officers to keep the pressure on drugs and other border crime.

"Whilst this is going on and all the focus of the media and the world is on COVID-19, we're not going to drop the ball," he said.

© AAP 2020

Border closures dominate national debate

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State borders closed to contain the spread of coronavirus are continuing to dominate the national debate.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has described Queensland's hardline border measures as a sham after American actor Tom Hanks was allowed to enter the state.

Hanks returned to Australia earlier this month to finish shooting a film, quarantining at a Gold Coast hotel with 11 other family, cast members and production staff.

Their entry was approved by the federal home affairs department at the request of the Queensland government.

"It's in stark contrast to people who can't go to funerals, and that's what aggravates me so much," Mr Joyce told the Seven Network on Monday.

"We've got the AFL in there first class, we've got Tom Hanks in there, we've got his offsiders in there, but we can't get a person across to see their dad buried."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth acknowledged state authorities were split over whether internal borders should be open.

"That is largely related to risk tolerance and whether one is prepared to allow any possibility of COVID-19 entering into one state," Dr Coatsworth told the ABC.

"We need to have these ongoing border discussions, they're obviously a live issue."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to focus on adopting a definition of a coronavirus hotspot when he chairs a meeting of premiers and chief ministers later this week.

Labor is sharpening its gaze on sealed international borders, raising concerns 25,000 Australians stuck overseas might not make it home for Christmas.

The federal government says it is working with the states to boost hotel quarantine capacities to try and get everyone back into the country.

But Labor says the Commonwealth should take responsibility for quarantine arrangements, pointing out federal facilities have been used to accommodate people returning from China and Japan.

Opposition frontbencher Kristina Keneally said the Morrison government was attempting to handball its duties to the states.

"If the Commonwealth government is serious about stranded Australians home, they need to step up, show leadership and put a plan in place," Senator Keneally told ABC radio.

"It is the Commonwealth's responsibility to assist stranded Australians in the middle of a global, deadly pandemic, who are stuck overseas."

Victoria recorded 35 new cases of coronavirus and seven more deaths on Monday as stage four restrictions began to ease across Melbourne.

Playgrounds have reopened after six weeks of lockdowns and people will be allowed out of their homes for an extra hour each day.

Rules around visits to other people's homes are also being eased, particularly for those living alone.

Dr Coatsworth said Victoria's restrictions were clearly having the desired effect.

"That light of the end of the tunnel is growing bigger by the day," he said.

However, Dr Coatsworth said the number of mystery cases in Victoria was still too high, and he wanted to see them reduced to single digits.

© AAP 2020

Borders shut to stamp out SA virus spread

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Extra support is at hand and state border closures are re-emerging as South Australia enters a critical phase of containing its coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison remains positive Australia will be open by Christmas, as Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania announced broad travel restrictions on Adelaide arrivals.

South Australia's cluster is at 17, with 15 of those in the same family.

The number doesn't include three children who have tested negative but are being treated as cases because they have symptoms and their parents tested positive.

Victoria - marking 17 days without new infections or deaths - and NSW have increased screening for Adelaide arrivals, while WA has re-introduced its hard border for the state.

Anyone who has recently been in SA will be blocked from entering WA unless they can secure an exemption.

More Australian Defence Force troops are on the way to help SA while international flights to Adelaide are paused for the rest of the week to ease the burden on hotel quarantine facilities.

WA and Commonwealth contact tracers are helping the SA teams in a bid to stop the cluster from growing.

SA Premier Steven Marshall says time is of the essence.

"We cannot wait to see how bad this gets. The next 24 hours will be critical," he said on Monday.

The state has re-introduced a range of restrictions, including gyms, recreation centres and play cafes closed for two weeks.

Mr Morrison hopes state border closures will be temporary.

"As soon as South Australia is able to get on top of this I would expect that states would keep on the path that we have set towards Christmas," he told reporters in Melbourne.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly convened an emergency meeting of the nation's key health advice panel on Monday to discuss the SA situation.

He believes authorities will be able to get on top of the cluster.

SA's Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier urged people to maintain hand hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes with their elbow, and to stay 1.5 metres from others.

"I know that's been difficult to do and an element of complacency has, you know, inevitably, occurred here in South Australia but everybody needs to heed those three messages."

© AAP 2020

Borders to shut, Qld coronavirus tally 397

People are seen at the Brisbane domestic airport terminal in Brisbane, Monday, March 23, 2020. The Queensland Government has announced that they will close the state's borders to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, beginning at midnight on Wednesday and they will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after their arrival. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING

People are seen at the Brisbane domestic airport terminal, the Queensland Government has announced that they will close the state's borders to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, beginning at midnight on Wednesday and they will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after their arrival. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland's coronavirus tally has reached 397 as the government promised more intensive care beds, tripling the crisis call centre and employing more health professionals.

Health Minister Steven Miles said the state had so far conducted more than 37,300 tests for coronavirus, of which 78 were positive overnight, and taken 43,000 calls relating to a COVID-19.

Overall, one-in-four coronavirus tests in Australia had been conducted in Queensland, he said.

"That is amongst, if not the, highest rate of testing anywhere in the world," he said.

Earlier, Treasurer Jackie Trad pledged $1.2 billion for the health sector, which Mr Miles said would be used to "ramp up" testing, lift the call centre capacity from 300 to 1600 seats and boost the number of doctors and nurses.

There would also be more fever clinics and hospital wards would be expanded.

"There are 27 public fever clinics open, and this funding will allow us to open more," he said.

The funding increase comes ahead of Queensland's border closing at midnight on Wednesday to people not travelling for work, medical appointments or carrying freight.

Border travel will be policed in an RBT-style with officers to determine who needs to cross as the state tries to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Officials are working with airlines to ensure passengers know what will happen when they arrive in Queensland before they board flights.

Travelling from Tweed to Coolangatta for work is allowed.

"People should stay in their own state," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

"As far as possible, they should be staying in their suburbs and as much as possible staying at home."

Travelling to work, to the supermarket, the pharmacy and the petrol station is classed as essential.

Travel for all other purposes is highly discouraged.

A $4 billion package has also been announced to cover the state's additional health ($1.2bn) needs and relieve financial pressure on households and businesses.

Households will receive a $200 rebate on their electricity bill to take in the extra power and water usage while people are asked to stay home.

Some $300 million will be directed to reduce the cost of living for households and further funding for payroll tax relief for businesses.

© AAP 2020

Brazil passes 50,000 coronavirus deaths

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Brazil, the world's No.2 coronavirus hotspot after the United States, officially passed 50,000 coronavirus deaths in a blow for a country already grappling with more than one million cases, rising political instability and a crippled economy.

Brazil on Sunday has a total of 1,085,038 confirmed cases and 50,617 deaths, up from 49,976 on Saturday, the Health Ministry said.

Experts say the true numbers are a lot higher because of a lack of widespread testing. Latin America's largest country has typically recorded more than 1000 deaths a day, but usually registers fewer on the weekends.

Brazil confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus on February 26 and passed one million cases on Friday.

Since first arriving in the country, the virus' rapid spread has eroded support for right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and has raised fears of economic collapse after years of anaemic growth.

Bolsonaro, sometimes called the "Tropical Trump", has been widely criticised for his handling of the crisis. The country still has no permanent health minister after losing two since April, following clashes with the president.

Bolsonaro has shunned social distancing, calling it a job-killing measure more dangerous than the virus itself. He has also promoted two anti-malarial drugs as remedies, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, despite little evidence they work.

On Sunday, Bolsonaro said the military serves the will of the people and its mission is to defend democracy, adding fuel to a raging debate about the armed forces' role amid rumbling fears of political fragility.

His comments came on the same day his supporters and detractors gathered in cities across the country, in a stark symbol of the polarisation in Latin America's largest country.

© RAW 2020

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston had COVID -selected

Brian Cranston in the press room during the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Press Room at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.(AAP Image/Graylock.com) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Brian Cranston in the press room during the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Press Room at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.(AAP Image/Graylock.com) 

Emmy-winning Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston has disclosed he has recovered from mild symptoms of COVID-19 and donated his plasma in the hopes his antibodies will help others with the disease.

Wearing a face mask, Cranston revealed the news in an Instagram video in which he documented the donation process at a blood and plasma centre run by the University of California at Los Angeles.

Cranston said he had experienced mild symptoms including a slight headache, tightness in the chest and loss of his sense of taste and smell.

"I was one of the lucky ones," Cranston wrote.

"I count my blessings and urge you to keep wearing the damn mask, keep washing your hands, and stay socially distant."

Cranston won multiple Emmy Awards for his role as a meth-making chemistry teacher on TV drama Breaking Bad from 2008 to 2013.

© RAW 2020

Brisbane children remain in virus lockdown

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Children at a Brisbane youth detention centre remain in lockdown as health authorities anxiously await coronavirus test results to determine if a staff member could be the state's first community transmission in a month.

The 77-year-old supervisor at Brisbane's Youth Detention Centre in Wacol had continued to work while infectious with COVID-19.

Health Minister Steven Miles said health authorities have tested 75 of the centre's 127 young residents who have been isolated in their rooms since Wednesday evening.

"We have health staff monitoring their physical and mental wellbeing," he told ABC radio on Friday.

The centre will not be taking new admissions and all face-to-face visits and court appearances have been cancelled.

Testing on the centre's 500 staff is also expected to be completed later on Friday.

Mr Miles said the infected worker, from Ipswich, was in a stable condition in hospital.

"I understand her symptoms were very mild," he said.

The latest case comes after a virus scare was linked to a false positive result in southeast Queensland last month.

But Mr Miles said the state's chief health officer was confident the case was genuine as the woman had recorded two results positive for coronavirus.

Queensland health are conducting contact tracing to discover if the latest case has any connection to an outbreak last month linked to two Logan women who dodged quarantine after visiting Melbourne.

"That's what we're trying to get to the bottom of, if there is any unknown, community transmissions here," Mr Miles said.

The case was the only one recorded in Queensland on Thursday, with eight active infections.

© AAP 2020

Brisbane to enter 3 day lockdown

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Greater Brisbane will enter a hard lockdown from 6pm on Friday after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with the highly contagious UK variant of COVID-19.

Residents in the council areas of Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Moreton Bay and Redlands will be required to stay at home until 6pm Monday except for essential work, exercise, essential shopping and to access healthcare.

Masks will also be mandated for people leaving home in the Greater Brisbane area.

The cleaner is Australia's first case of the more infectious strain of the coronavirus outside of quarantining returned overseas travellers.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the situation in Queensland was concerning.

"We do know that we've had cases of the UK variant in our hotel quarantine system," he told ABC RN on Friday.

"And we do know sometimes with a very complex system which relies on humans, mistakes can happen. That apparently is the case here."

The hotel cleaner's infection ended almost four months of zero locally acquired cases in Queensland.

She visited several locations while potentially infectious and contact tracers are tracking her movements.

The woman travelled on a train from Altandi station to Roma Street station at 7am on January 2, then returned on the 4pm service the same day.

She also visited Woolworths at the Calamvale Central Shopping Centre from 11am to 12pm on Sunday 3 January.

She was at Coles in Sunnybank Hills for 30 minutes from 7.30am on Tuesday 5 January and a newsagent at Sunnybank Hills Shopping Town from 8am to 8.15am on the same day.

Residents of Algester, Sunnybank Hills and Calamvale who have symptoms of the infection are especially urged to get tested as soon as possible.

© AAP 2021

Photo: Australian Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Britain considering lockdown

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The British government is planning to enforce a total social lockdown across a majority of northern Britain and potentially London, to combat a second wave of COVID-19, according to The Times newspaper.

Under the new measures being considered, all pubs, restaurants and bars would be ordered to shut for two weeks initially, the report said on Sunday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week said any new national lockdown would threaten jobs, livelihoods and human contact.

The report added that households would also be banned indefinitely from meeting each other in any indoor location where they were not already under the order.

Britain had last week imposed new measures that required people to work from home where possible and had ordered restaurants and bars to close early to tackle a fast-spreading second wave of COVID-19, with new restrictions lasting probably six months.

Schools and shops be allowed to remain open, along with factories and offices at which staff could not work from home, the Times added, citing a senior government source.

© RAW 2020

Britons show love for health carers

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People applaud outside St. Thomas's Hospital in support of British National Health Service workers who are treating coronavirus victims, part of a nationwide salute to the doctors, nurses and staff of the NHS in London, Thursday, March 26, 2020. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has prompted a public display of appreciation for health service workers on the front line of the fight against the contagious virus. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali) 

People in coronavirus lock-down all over Britain have taken part in an emotional show of solidarity with health workers, during the nation's worst crisis since World War Two.

Clapping, banging pots and pans, and cheering and waving, vast numbers of people took part in the "Clap for our Carers" initiative, which mirrors similar events in other countries.

Italians, who have been the hardest hit by the virus and have been under strict lockdown for much longer, began the trend by singing and playing music from their balconies and applauding their doctors and nurses. The phenomenon soon spread to Spain and France, and has now reached as far as India.

With the UK in day three of its own lockdown, "Clap for our Carers" exploded on social media on Thursday, and was encouraged by celebrities, politicians and even the royal family.

Television pictures showed people clapping in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, breaking the quiet brought about by severe restrictions on public life and an edict from the government to stay indoors to stop the virus spreading.

Landmarks across the capital lit up in blue in tribute to the National Health Service.

The royal family tweeted three 'clapping hands' emoji and the message: "We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services. We thank you all."

After Prime MInister Boris Johnson called for 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus outbreak, more than double that number signed up within two days. By Thursday evening, the figure was over 670,000.

Britain has reported 578 deaths and more than 11,000 confirmed cases of the virus, with experts warning that the worst is yet to come and the government scrambling to buy equipment to keep its citizens alive.

As the health service becomes increasingly stretched by the number of cases, the government is opening a temporary hospital at an exhibition centre in east London and asking manufacturers to produce thousands of ventilators.

© RAW 2020

Bundanoon Highland Gathering postponed

Winner of the Bundanoon is Brigadoon Stones of Manhood was Jordan Steffan at his first appearance.

Next month's Bundanoon Highland Gathering which attracts thousands of people has been postponed due to the Corona Virus.

The President and Committee made the decision, following advice received from the Government's Chief Medical Officer.

The event will hopefully take place in August or September.

A new date will be announced shortly.

IMAGE CREDIT: Bundanoon Highland Gathering

Call for Anzac Day driveway tribute

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Australians are being called to honour Anzac Day by standing at the end of their driveways for a minute's silence after public events were cancelled across the nation.

RSL Queensland says the display would send a powerful message of solidarity to Australia's defence community after Anzac Day services, events and parades were cancelled amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

People can safely commemorate a different kind of dawn service by standing on their driveway or balcony at 6am and uniting in the Anzac spirit, RSL Queensland State President Tony Ferris said on Wednesday.

"This is an idea that has gathered momentum on social media, and we agree it's a brilliant way to collectively honour the dedication, commitment and sacrifice of our service people," he said.

Mr Ferris said the qualities evoked by the Anzac spirit - ingenuity, humour, endurance, courage and mateship - are more important than ever in times of uncertainty.

"Regardless of the form this year's Anzac Day commemorations take, let's show that Australians will always remember those who have served and sacrificed for this nation," he said.

© AAP 2020

Canada-US border to close on Friday night

epa08305223 Trucks cross over the Ambassador Bridge to the US side of the US-Canadian border in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 18 March 2020. US and Canadian officials announced an agreement to temporarily close the US-Canadian border to non-essential travel in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the Covid-19 disease. Canada and the US share the largest non-militarized border in the world.  EPA/STEVE FECHT

Trucks cross over the Ambassador Bridge to the US side of the US-Canadian border in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 18 March 2020. (EPA/STEVE FECHT)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he expects the closure of the US-Canada border to take effect overnight on Friday and is working with domestic carriers to bring home citizens stranded overseas.

Canada, which closed its borders this week to most foreign nationals, agreed with the United States to close their shared border to "non-essential traffic" to curb transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Canada to date has 801 cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and 10 deaths.

About 55,000 people had been tested across the country so far, chief medical officer Theresa Tam said.

"What continues to concern us is the day-by-day sharp increase in cases and the reports from provinces of new cases with no links to travel," Tam told reporters.

Globally, there over 236,000 infections and more than 9700 deaths.

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, 49, went into self-isolation after showing "new, flu-like symptoms" and was awaiting test results.

Canada's indigenous communities, already facing poor healthcare options, are closing their own lands' borders to limit coronavirus exposure.

The Canadian government said this week it would provide $C27 billion ($A34.4 billion) in direct support to families and businesses affected by the virus.

It was also examining invoking the rarely used 1988 Emergencies Act, which would allow Ottawa to override provinces and restrict the movement of people and goods.

Trudeau said on Thursday he may utilise the military to help with procurement of supplies and urged Canadians to keep practising social distancing.

"These are difficult and extraordinary times in which Canadians are taking difficult and extraordinary measures," Trudeau told reporters outside his house, where he is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.

© RAW 2020

Centrelink income test threshold boosted

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Australians applying for welfare can now get support if their partner earns about $79,000, the prime minister has announced.

Scott Morrison says the government has boosted the threshold from about $48,000, which would allow more Australians to receive support during the coronavirus pandemic.

The change means an applicant's rate of welfare won't be affected unless their partner earns more than $79,762 a year.

© AAP 2020

Chief medic calms concerns about vaccine

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Australia's chief medical officer has rejected calls to pause the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, insisting it is completely effective in preventing serious illness and death from coronavirus.

Some doctors are concerned about the vaccine's efficacy rate, which ranges from 62 per cent to 90 per cent, depending on how doses are administered.

The doctors fear this may not be enough to achieve herd immunity and protect enough of the Australian community from the virus.

They are calling on the government to reshape its vaccine strategy and pivot to alternative candidates such as the Pfizer and Moderna jabs.

But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly is standing by plans to distribute AstraZeneca to most Australians.

He has challenged the focus on efficacy rates published in a medical journal in December.

"In terms of preventing death, it works 100 per cent of the time. In terms of preventing severe illness, it works 100 per cent of the time," Professor Kelly told Sky News on Wednesday.

He said AstraZeneca's candidate exceeded the World Health Organisation's minimum efficacy rate for vaccinations.

The federal government has ordered 54 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and plans to give it to most Australians, pending approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Professor Kelly is standing by the strategy, which has been in planning for many months, pointing out alternatives such as the Pfizer vaccine cannot be manufactured in Australia.

"The great advantage of the AstraZeneca vaccine is it is being made here in Australia. It will be available as soon as the TGA gives its tick, which we expect that it will in February," he told the ABC.

Australia has supply agreements in place for the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Novavax vaccines.

There is a deal for 10 million Pfizer doses to vaccinate five million Australians, with the first doses to be given to frontline health and border workers.

The federal government has not struck a deal for Johnson and Johnson or Moderna, whose drug is easier to distribute than the Pfizer vaccine.

Johnson and Johnson has applied for a provisional designation with Australia's medicines regulator.

Professor Kelly expects the Novavax candidate or another protein vaccines to be the long-term option around the world.

"We have backed many horses. We have several eggs in the basket. We have, from the beginning, looked for a diversified portfolio of vaccines," Professor Kelly said.

Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen rejected calls to pause the AstraZeneca rollout but criticised the government for not having more options available.

"A pause only works if you've got something to replace it with," he told ABC radio.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook said he had spoken to a number of doctors who were concerned about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"Obviously there's an emerging view and evidence that the Pfizer vaccine is the highest standard and is more effective," he told Perth radio 6PR.

"And that's why I think people are looking to that and asking the question about why we can't secure more for the Australian community."

© AAP 2021

Image: siam.pukkato /Shutterstock.com

Children removed from NSW quarantine hotel

NSW has recorded 48 new COVID-19 cases as new infections continue to stabilise and the premier flags a potential relaxation of social distancing restrictions down the track.

The state has now confirmed 2734 cases, with 36 patients in intensive care and the death toll remaining at 21.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says that while social distancing will be a part of people's lives until a coronavirus vaccine or cure is found, restrictions were being reviewed every month.

"Every month our health experts will give us advice as to whether there is an opportunity for us to relax any of the restrictions," Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

"I want to assure the community that if we did go down that path it would be based on health advice and we are going to assess that on a month-by-month basis."

Three children were on Tuesday taken to hospital from a Sydney hotel where a number of people have been placed in quarantine after returning to Australia.

AAP understands the children were transferred from the Hilton hotel in central Sydney on Tuesday for testing after displaying flu-like symptoms.

Pictures published online by the Daily Mail showed three children on stretchers wearing protective face masks being wheeled out of the hotel by paramedics.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly on Wednesday said he was aware of the children being taken to hospital but wouldn't comment further.

Professor Kelly told Nine's Today show that children could get affected by the virus and that's why they were taking social distancing rules so seriously.

It comes ahead of the release of the first group of 288 Australians quarantined at the nearby Swisshotel on Wednesday morning, under a police operation to ensure their departure is quick and seamless.

This group arrived in Australia on March 26 and have undertaken a mandatory 14-day self-isolation, to protect the community from the coronavirus.

All will get a letter confirming their period of isolation and undergo a final health check.

After Wednesday's operation, police will plan for further hotel departures with some 3000 Australian residents expected to come out of hotel isolation over the next week.

The Ruby Princess remains docked in Port Kembla, near Wollongong, where it's expected to remain for 10 days while 1040 crew members undergo medical assessments.

About 200 crew have symptoms of coronavirus.

The vessel is linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases and more than a dozen deaths across Australia.

The NSW Police homicide squad is investigating why passengers were allowed to disembark from the ship in Sydney on March 19 despite concerns some might have contracted the illness.

© AAP 2020

China accused of frustrating virus inquiry

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A federal government backbencher has accused China of deliberately frustrating an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

A World Health Organisation-led team who spent almost a month in Wuhan has been unable to find exactly how the virus was transmitted to humans.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan said the answer would probably never be known.

"Through this whole process China has acted like it had something to hide and it has frustrated the inquiry, dragged it out," he told Nine on Wednesday.

"It's not really any surprise that a year on, or over a year, that it's become too hard to find the origin. We needed this inquiry to start pretty much straight away."

The WHO team has dismissed suggestions the pandemic was sparked by a lab leak in Wuhan.

It determined the virus was most likely to have been transmitted through an animal, but exactly which animal remains unclear.

Scientists found no clear link to bats, pangolins or any other wild animals.

The delegation also found the virus may have been spread through frozen food, and could have been active in other regions or countries before the first cases emerged in Wuhan.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the WHO team's findings were pretty straightforward.

Mr Hunt said it was overwhelmingly likely the virus came from the animal kingdom and originated where the first human cases were found.

"It's not surprising that there are no surprises," he told the ABC.

Mr Hunt later became combative when asked about why he attached a Liberal Party label to a vaccine announcement.

The partisan logo was attached to an Australian government announcement about securing an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

When asked who paid for the vaccines, the minister launched into a personal attack on the television anchor, claiming he was left-wing.

"I was elected under that (Liberal) banner," he said.

"There's nobody who's watching who doesn't identify you with the left and you should be open about that.

"It's important for you to honest about your position and your origins, I am honest about my position and my origins, and indeed I was elected by the Australian people on that basis."

Meanwhile, Labor and the Greens say the government must expand its basket of vaccines on order to ensure they keep up with new variants of the virus.

Australia has agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Novavax and the COVAX Facility.

Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said mutations coming out of South Africa and the UK had the potential to outpace the vaccines, so others such as Moderna's version should be secured.

However, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said there was a high level of confidence in the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, which will be Australia's mainstays for at least this year.

"At the moment, I can absolutely say there's no evidence anywhere in the world AstraZeneca effectiveness against severe infection is affected by any of these variants of concern," he said.

© AAP 2021

China find virus in food packaging

World health coronavirus outbreak and international public infectious disease and global deadly virus health risk and flu spread or coronaviruses influenza as a pandemic medical conceptin with 3D illustration elements.

Two Chinese cities have found traces of the coronavirus in imported frozen food and on food packaging, raising fears that contaminated food shipments might cause new outbreaks.

A sample taken from the surface of frozen chicken wings imported into the southern city of Shenzhen from Brazil, as well as samples of outer packaging of frozen Ecuadorian shrimp sold in the northwestern city Xian, have tested positive for the virus, local authorities said on Thursday.

The discoveries came a day after traces of the coronavirus were found on the packaging of frozen shrimp from Ecuador in a city in eastern Anhui province. China has been stepping up screenings at ports amid the concerns over food imports.

Shenzhen's health authorities traced and tested everyone who might have come into contact with potentially contaminated food products, and all results were negative, the city's notice said.

The health commission of Shannxi province, where Xian city is located, said authorities are testing people and the surrounding environment connected to the contaminated shrimp products sold in a local market.

In addition to screening all meat and seafood containers coming into major ports in recent months, China has suspended some meat imports from various origins, including Brazil, since mid-June.

The World Health Organisation on Thursday played down the danger of coronavirus latching on to food packaging and urged people not to be afraid of the virus entering the food chain.

"People should not fear food, food packaging or delivery of food," WHO head of emergencies programme Mike Ryan told a briefing. "There is no evidence the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus."

The first cluster of COVID-19 cases was linked to the Huanan seafood market in the city of Wuhan. Initial studies suggested the virus originated in animal products on sale at the market.

Li Fengqin, who heads a microbiology lab at the China National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment told reporters in June the possibility of contaminated frozen food causing new infections could not be ruled out.

Viruses can survive up to two years at temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius, but scientists say there is no strong evidence so far the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can spread via frozen food.

Xinfadi market in China's capital city Beijing, a sprawling food market linked to cluster infections in June, when virus was found on the chopping board on which imported salmons were handled, will be reopened from the weekend.

© RAW 2020

China has no new local virus transmissions

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, passengers board a train at the Jingmen Railway Station in Jingmen, central China's Hubei Province, March 25, 2020. Trains carrying factory employees back to work after two months in locked-down cities rolled out of Hubei province, the center of China's virus outbreak, as the government on Wednesday began lifting the last of the controls that confined tens of millions of people to their homes. (Peng Qi/Xinhua via AP)

Mainland China has reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus cases as the country's epicentre of the epidemic, Hubei province, opened its borders (Peng Qi/Xinhua via AP)

Mainland China has reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus cases as the country's epicentre of the epidemic, Hubei province, opened its borders.

But imported cases have risen as Beijing ramps up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections.

A total of 67 new cases were reported as of end-Wednesday, up from 47 a day earlier, all of which were imported, China's National Health Commission said in a statement on Thursday.

The total number of cases now stands at 81,285.

The commission reported a total of 3287 deaths at the end of Wednesday, up six from the previous day.

All of the new patients on Wednesday were travellers who came to China from overseas, with the mainland reporting no locally transmitted infections.

Shanghai reported the most cases with 18 followed by Inner Mongolia region at 12 and Guangdong province at 11.

About 90 per cent of all the imported cases are Chinese passport holders, Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui told a press conference on Thursday, adding that 40 per cent of them are overseas Chinese students returning amid rising infections abroad.

"We understand some overseas students are eager to come home...But under the current circumstances, by staying put, they can avoid being cross-infected in the hurried journey home or getting stuck mid-journey when the countries they transit in tighten border controls," Luo said.

Fearing a new wave of infections from imported cases, authorities have ramped up quarantine and screening measures in other major cities including Beijing, where any travellers arriving from overseas must submit to centralised quarantine.

The number of new daily cases in China remain down sharply from the height of the outbreak in the country in February, allowing Beijing to push for restarting economic activity in the world's second biggest economy.

Hubei province, home to some 60 million people, reported no new cases on Wednesday and opened its borders. Public transport restarted and residents in the city of Xianning strolled the streets wearing masks.

The lockdown of Hubei's capital Wuhan, where the virus first appeared late last year, will be lifted on April 8, a milestone in China's war against the epidemic as Beijing shifts its focus towards stemming imported cases and rebooting the economy.

The fatality rate in Wuhan stood at about 5 per cent, said Qiu Haibo, a medical expert on a panel led by the central government, according to the official People's Daily on Thursday.

© RAW 2020

China sees rise in new coronavirus cases

coronavirus update

Mainland China has reported 39 new coronavirus cases as the number of asymptomatic cases also surged, as Beijing continues to struggle to extinguish the outbreak despite drastic containment efforts.

The National Health Commission said in a statement on Monday that 78 new asymptomatic cases had been identified as of the end of the day on Sunday, compared with 47 the day before.

Imported cases and asymptomatic patients, who have the virus and can give it to others but show no symptoms, have become China's chief concern in recent weeks after draconian containment measures succeeded in slashing the infection rate.

Of the new cases showing symptoms, 38 were people who had entered China from abroad, compared with 25 a day earlier.

One new locally transmitted infection was reported, in the southern province of Guangdong, down from five a day earlier in the same province.

The new locally-transmitted case, in the city of Shenzhen, was a person who had travelled from Hubei province, the original epicentre of the outbreak, Guangdong provincial authorities said.

Mainland China has now reported a total of 81,708 cases, with 3331 deaths.

Daily infections have fallen dramatically from the peak of the epidemic in February, when hundreds were reported daily, but new infections continue to appear daily.

The country has closed off its borders to foreigners as the virus spreads globally, though most imported cases involve Chinese nationals returning from overseas.

© RAW 2020

Chinese Australians abused amid COVID-19

Asian woman in Chinese costume covered her face with regret for being racism and hate surrounded by hands mocking her, scoffing in the outbreak situation of Coronavirus 2019 infection or Covid-19

Chinese Australians abused amid COVID-19 (Bigstock)

Chinese Australians are being assaulted, robbed, spat on, refused service and verbally abused by some Queenslanders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes after members of the community have made hundreds of meals for the state's health workers and donated personal protective equipment to its medical staff.

Even the donation of equipment attracted attacks.

Police have laid 22 charges for racially-motivated offences following 16 complaints to police.

Wilful damage, public nuisance, robberies, assaults, verbal abuse and graffiti with abusive language are among the offences that have been committed.

"These are racially motivated offences," Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said.

Victims of racist attacks are not always coming forward to report what has happened to them, she said, adding they should do so.

Commissioner Carroll and Police Minister Mark Ryan have demanded an end to the offensive behaviour.

Some of those attacks have come from far-right political extremists, Multicultural Affairs Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.

"There are some very extreme, extreme right-wing activists who are using this current situation to attack members of our community," he said.

"It is completely unacceptable."

Incidents of racism against Chinese Australians had worsened, Michael Ma, secretary-general of Queensland Chinese United Council said.

Mr Ma attributed some of that behaviour to the way COVID-19 has been presented by officials around the world.

"Naming a virus after a race or a nation is unhelpful and unwise because it gives rise to stigmatisation and also encourages people who have biases to exercise their prejudice," he said.

"Perhaps some of the comments made by some of our public personnel has not helped, not necessarily from this country, but from other countries."

He said the broader community was suffering because of the virus, but only a united approach would get people through it.

Racism against Chinese Australians caught the attention of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who this week said the behaviour was just wrong.

"It was the Chinese Australian community that actually protected Australia so early on in this virus outbreak around the world," he told SBS on Tuesday.

"Sure the virus started in Wuhan, in China, that's what happened, that's just a fact.

"But that doesn't mean that this was, it has any nationalistic, or or any other sort of characteristics to it.

"That's just where it started."

© AAP 2020

Coles needs 5,000 workers

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Coles has recruited more than 7000 people in just two weeks to meet customer demand, providing much-needed employment opportunities at a time when many Australians are urgently seeking work.  

The new recruits have been fast-tracked into Coles’ supermarkets and liquor stores across Australia and have come from a wide range of industries and businesses, including many that have been forced to close or to stand down staff such as in travel, sport, fitness and hospitality. 

Coles has now extended the recruitment drive by opening an additional 5000 positions across the country. 

By State, Coles has offered 1700 jobs in Victoria, 2000 in New South Wales, around 1800 in Queensland, 600 in South Australia, 700 in Western Australian, 100 in Tasmania, around 90 in ACT and 100 in the Northern Territory. 

For information about roles offered at Coles, visit www.colescareers.com.au.Photo: Sydney resident and international flight attendant Jenny Dunworth. Source:Coles

Coles, Woolies relax online restrictions

coles shop online

Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have given hope life may be returning to normal after broadening their home delivery service for online customers.

Coles this week reopened its home delivery, "click and collect", to all customers, after having previously limited orders for vulnerable and remote Australians because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Woolworths has followed suit and announced it will make "tens of thousands of extra weekly home delivery windows for online customers", according to Nine News.

© AAP 2020

Confidence steadies ahead of COVID vaccine

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Australians appear to need an injection of good news to lift their mood, which may come from a successful rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

Consumer confidence is consolidating after recovering from last year's major setback when the economy sank into recession and gyrations at the turn of the year in response to snap COVID-19 lockdowns in parts of the nation.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index - a pointer to future household spending - eased 0.6 per cent in the past week after a 0.8 per cent rise previously.

ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said confidence is now holding close to its long-run average and probably needs some meaningful news or developments to break away from here.

"The vaccine rollout in Australia could be the next big trigger, with a successful program possibly propelling sentiment much higher," Mr Plank said releasing the survey on Tuesday.

"Of course, difficulties in providing vaccine coverage could have the opposite effect."

Economists expect the National Australia Bank's monthly business survey due later on Tuesday will show a recovery in confidence in January, a positive for hiring intentions and investment.

A separate survey by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland on Monday showed confidence among businesses in the state has risen sharply as virus restrictions eased.

In December, the NAB survey showed while confidence weakened in response to the snap lockdown in NSW's northern beachers just to prior Christmas. This was followed a few weeks later by the closing down of the Greater Brisbane region and then Perth.

However, business conditions rose for a fourth consecutive month to stand at their highest level since late 2018.

Notably, employment conditions showed a sharp increase.

Since then Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has provided positive views on the economic outlook, but made it clear that interest rates will not be rising any time soon, possibly not until 2024, if not later.

He said Australia has done better than most other countries on both the health and economic fronts, while vaccines hold out the prospect of restrictions being eased and many activities returning close to their pre-pandemic normality.

© AAP 2021

Confirmed case in Illawarra/Shoalhaven

corona virus illawarra

Our local Health District has now confirmed there's  one case of COVID-19 in the Illawarra Shoalhaven region.

The case involves a returned traveller who had contact with another confirmed case.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Health District will not be providing any details such as locations where cases live, worked or have visited.

A Spokesperson says publishing private details, such as the location of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, is a breach of patient privacy and serves no public health benefit.

There a few simple things everyone can do to help keep themselves and others safe:

 keep your hands clean by washing them often with soap and water or using hand sanitiser

 avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose as the virus can enter your body if it’s on your hands and you rub your eyes or touch your nose or mouth

 maintain social distance when you can, 1.5 metres between you and others is good

 if you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others

 sneeze and cough into your elbow rather than your hand

 use disposable tissues

 keep your distance from those who are coughing and sneezing

 stay home if you are unwell and call, not visit, your own GP or call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 for advice.

Corona Virus Update

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Australia's health officials are advising against "non-essential" gatherings of more than 500 people.

The change will come into effect from Monday.

The move does NOT include schools, universities, airports or shopping centres.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says the restriction on SOME mass gatherings is appropriate at this time.

Coronavirus - here's the good news

The latest Coronavirus

Some good news on COVID-19 from around the World today:

- China has closed down its last coronavirus hospital. Not enough new cases to support them.

- Doctors in India have been successful in treating Coronavirus. Combination of drugs used: Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to suggest same medicine, globally.

- Researchers of the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody against coronavirus.

- A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from COVID-19 after being treated for 6 days in Wuhan, China.

- Apple reopens all 42 china stores.

- Cleveland Clinic developed a COVID-19 test that gives results in hours, not days.

- Good news from South Korea, where the number of new cases is declining.

- Italy is hit hard, experts say, only because they have the oldest population in Europe.

- A German company is getting very close to a vaccine which can be mass produced and received large funding from the EU to accelerate.

- 3 Maryland coronavirus patients fully recovered; able to return to everyday life.

- A network of Canadian scientists are making excellent progress in Covid-19 research.

- A San Diego biotech company is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore.

- Tulsa County's first positive COVID-19 case has recovered. This individual has had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery.

- All 7 patients who were getting treated for at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi have recovered.

- Plasma from newly recovered patients from Covid -19 can treat others infected by Covid-19.


Source: https://www.goodthingsguy.com/opinion/coronavirus-15-good-news-stories-from-around-the-globe-show-things-do-get-better/

Coronavirus cases continue to drop in Qld

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV concept. Hand in medical glove holding test tube with inscription 2019-nCoV. Coronavirus test. Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, influenza pandemic virus infection.

Coronavirus cases continue to drop in Qld (Bigstock)

Queensland is celebrating another day of no new cases of COVID-19 being transmitted within the community.

The state added another six cases to its total on Tuesday, however these were all Queenslanders diagnosed and treated in other states who have since recovered.

Four of the six contracted the virus on the Coral Princess cruise ship.

The technical addition takes Queensland's total to 1051.

There are 19 active cases in the Sunshine State, with seven patients in hospital and three in intensive care.

The state has recorded 18 deaths.

Authorities are continuing to urge Queenslanders with any respiratory symptoms to get tested as the state's testing rate continues to drop and social distancing restrictions are eased.

Medical staff tested 1856 people in the 24 hours to 9am on Tuesday.

The state's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has previously urged Queenslanders to get their flu vaccination before employees begin to return to offices across the state.

However Dr Young said she wrote to the NRL on Monday to clear players who have refused a flu vaccination on medical grounds, but blocked those avoiding the jab for philosophical reasons.

The continuing low rate of coronavirus cases across the state will likely lead to further restrictions being eased.

Up to five people from the one household are now permitted to visit another home, while from Saturday, up to 10 people will be able to gather outside, at weddings, pools and for exercise.

Kindy, Prep, and students from Years 1, 11 and 12 have returned to the classroom this week, with other years expected to return to school from May 25.

On the Gold Coast, playgrounds, gym equipment and barbecues in Gold Coast parks will be reopened by Friday.

Skate parks, outdoor basketball courts will also be reopened and sports fields will be opened to groups of 10 people, as will park bookings.

"We are getting back to business, but in a staged and safe way," Mayor Tom Tate said.

He said there was still work to be done to ensure a staged opening of Aquatic Centres, Libraries and Indoor Sports centres could occur.

"We need to look closely at these services and the best way to reopen them - for example I can see us opening Aquatic Centres to elite athletes first," he said.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus closes 12 Victorian McDonald's

SHENZHEN, CHINA - CIRCA FEBRUARY, 2019: Golden Arches sign at McDonald's restaurant in Shenzhen, China.

Coronavirus closes 12 Victorian McDonald's (Bigstock)

Twelve McDonald's outlets have been closed in Victoria due to a coronavirus-infected truck driver, while the state announces $2.7 billion to help revive the economy.

The fast-food outlets will be shut and deep-cleaned after the driver made deliveries while he was asymptomatic and unaware he had COVID-19.

The chain says no employee has tested positive in connection to the driver and customers are not at risk.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to close and conduct a deep clean of 12 restaurants in Victoria, following confirmation a truck driver for an external service provider has tested positive for COVID-19," McDonald's said in a statement.

"Potential close contacts and employees who have worked specific shifts during and after the truck driver's delivery have been instructed not to return to work for 14 days and advised to be tested."

The Department of Health confirmed the driver was an extended family member of a worker at Fawkner McDonald's, where a cluster of 10 cases emerged on May 9.

That site reopened on Wednesday after it had been closed for five days for deep cleaning.

The closure comes as Victoria tries to start reopening its economy and recorded six new cases, taking the tally to 1567 infections.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday announced $2.7 billion for building projects to help the jobs revival.

The money will be poured into road maintenance, train station and school upgrades and refurbishment to public housing.

"Hundreds and hundreds of projects delivering thousands and thousands of jobs - that's exactly what we need right at this time," Mr Andrews said.

Meanwhile, the Cedar Meats abattoir at the centre of a major coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne's west will begin reopening.

Authorities insist it will be some time before Cedar Meats resumes full operations after 99 coronavirus cases were linked to the meatworks.

The company will restart its cold storage facility on Monday with 15 to 20 staff cleared by the health department.

Domino's Pizza Enterprises confirmed late on Sunday it was notified on Friday a worker at its Fairfield store had tested positive to COVID-19.

The store was immediately shut and will remain closed for at least 14 days while a deep clean is undertaken and staff and their families were advised to self-isolate and get tested.

Victorians have been given the green light to eat and drink inside pubs, restaurants and cafes from June 1, starting with up to 20 people.

MCDONALD'S CLOSED IN MELBOURNE:

* Melton East

* Laverton North

* Yallambie

* Taylors Lakes

* Campbellfield

* Sunbury

* Hoppers Crossing

* Riverdale Village

* Sandown

* Calder Highway Northbound/Outbound

* Calder Highway Southbound/Inbound

* BP Rockbank Service Centre Outbound

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus could linger for days: medicos

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

Coronavirus could potentially linger on surfaces for days, health experts say, adding more urgency to the need for better hygiene standards.

Medicos put their heads together at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday to share tips and knowledge on the pandemic.

ACT Health's associate professor Vanessa Johnston said it was unknown how long coronavirus remained on surfaces, but it could be hours or days.

"It is important in terms of our own hygiene practices that we are cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that we will regularly touch," Professor Johnston said.

She said the average incubation period for the virus was five to six days, but could range from zero to 14.

Professor Johnston said of 300 cases that tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, 71 per cent were believed to have caught it overseas.

Australian National University's Dr Kamalini Lokuge said those who had the capacity to pull their children out of school, without leaving them with grandparents, should do so.

However it contradicted advice given by medical experts to the prime minister that schools should remain open.

Director of Epidemiology at Melbourne's Doherty Institute Professor Jodie McVernon said a flu vaccine would be even more important this year.

She said pregnant women were not at an increased risk of the virus.

Professor McVernon also defended the government's approach to school closures, saying Singapore had left schools open and had more success in containing the virus than Hong Kong, which shut classrooms.

On Tuesday, researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute announced the immune responses from one of Australia's first coronavirus patients had been mapped, which could lead to a vaccine.

Dr Paul Griffin, a researcher from Queensland's Mater Hospital, said it was a big step forward, but the vaccine development couldn't be rushed.

"We can't cut corners with vaccine development. At every step we have to make sure we're safe and effective," he said.

Dr Griffin said the use of anti-viral drugs to combat the coronavirus outbreak could help, but a vaccine was the answer.

The government has flagged any vaccine is at least one year away.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus emergency motion adopted by Shoalhaven Council

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Shoalhaven City Council has agreed to a plan to prepare the city should the Corona Virus be declared a pandemic.

Councillor Watson put an emergency motion to a meeting this week of councillors, outlining a four-point plan he believes would work to prevent the spread of the virus in the Shoalhaven.

He told the meeting he believes the city should take its own steps to be COVID-19 ready as the government is not doing enough.

"Really they're playing Russian Roulette by allowing airline flights coming in from Europe and particularly the hotspots like Italy and those places. Sooner or later it's going to get out in Australia and if it really takes off then this motion is about us being prepared and having a plan in place." Mr Watson said.

Not everyone was in favour:

Councillor John Levett was one of those who opposed the motion.

Mr Levett says it landed on his desk as he walked into the meeting and he dismissed it as little more than some grandstanding by councillor Watson in the lead up to the council elections...

He told Power/2ST news " It really intrudes into operational matters. It's pre-empting the state government's .. whatever state government remedies might be forthcoming in regard to the virus concerning us all and I thought it was not appropriate to vote for the motion."

Councillor Nina Di Giglio voted against adopting the plan.

She says it throws the science on the issue out the window and we should instead listen to the experts..

" I understand the fear around it and that's quite valid, but I think we also need to encompass our common sense and reduce the pandemonium around the so-called pandemic and really act from a place of evidence and with a level head to reduce people's anxiety." Councillor Di Giglio said.

Photo: Power/ST News stock

Coronavirus Fears Swamp Phone Lines - One In Two Virus Related

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Image Credit: CC0 

Coronavirus has caused an unprecedented surge in customers contacting companies with virus-related concerns, bogging down company phone lines for hours.

Contact centre expert Drew Le Grand from CDM Direct said impacted companies are reporting that more than 50 per cent of phone calls are related to the deadly virus.

“Impacted companies are telling us one in every two calls are now Coronavirus related,” Mr Le Grand said.

“Even the Dettol consumer hotline has seen volumes surge over 100 per cent as consumers seek advice on the products effectiveness against the virus.

“Customer wait times for Qantas have pushed out to two-and-a-half-hours. Customers are also reporting lines dropping out after enduring lengthy waits.

“CoverMore Travel insurance customers are being put on hold for upwards of two hours,” Mr Le Grand said.

The most impacted companies include travel agents, tourism operators, airlines, accommodation providers, cruise ships, travel insurance. Schools and higher education institutions have also been inundated with enquires relating to international enrolments.

According to Mr Le Grand retailers and e-commerce sites are also not immune from the virus and are being inundated with questions about out-of stock items and international shipping delays.

“Companies are struggling to cope with this unprecedented surge in customer contact. The problem is that every day sales enquiries and customer support questions are going into some very long queues which is really frustrating customers,” Mr Le Grand said.

“It is already a really tough operating environment for companies and now they have this really challenging business disruption to their non-core business.

“CDM Direct has been doing a lot of call re-routing for our customers into dedicated Coronavirus queues to free up front line staff contact centre staff for other calls.

“We’ve been inundated with short-term assignments from companies needing assistance until calls return to normal volumes,” Mr Le Grand added.

Coronavirus forces new etiquette rules

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Manners are a must as social distancing pushes Australians further apart, as experts turn their noses up at coronavirus panic buying.

Etiquette experts say being polite is crucial even as COVID-19 prompts health authorities to encourage a 1.5-metre space between people.

"We can social distance in a way that is not offensive, and respectful to others," Australian Finishing School chief executive officer Amanda King told AAP on Thursday.

"Communicating in a kind, respectful, polite manner."

Eye contact, a head nod and smiling could be greeting solutions.

"Due to this current crisis, rules governing interaction between people are more relevant than ever," the accredited etiquette expert said.

"We need to be leaders in society with manners and actions around being considerate and polite, for example the grocery store hours for disability and the elderly."

Panic buying has cleared supermarket shelves, leaving the vulnerable and elderly unable to buy food and other staples.

Monash University social philosopher Elizabeth Burns Coleman said the social norms of staying out of people's space had been widened.

"Politeness is always about being appropriate to a situation," Dr Burns Coleman told AAP on Thursday.

"Clear signal to others what you are doing. That allows people to interpret what is going on."

Health authorities want people to exercise "social distancing" measures, such as sitting in the back of a taxi as well as the 1.5m advice.

It comes alongside a limit on outdoor gatherings to less than 500 people and indoor gatherings to no more than 100.

Friends keen to meet in person may want to greet with air kissing while colleagues could head nod, Dr Burns Coleman suggested.

"It should be playful. This is a great time to experiment. Pick up what works," she said.

"We are going to evolve a whole new set of dynamics around social distancing. In some regards these... will be things we adapt in the longer term."

Face masks could become a new normal in a bid to protect others from a person sharing their illness, she suggested.

But don't forgot to exercise good hygiene.

For those not willing to meet in person, friends can have a night in with a Netflix Party, thanks to a Google Chrome extension.

It allows viewers to tune into the same show, and chat while it runs.

Swinburne University of Technology media studies lecturer Liam Burke said streaming shows first pushed people apart, but the tide had turned.

"What that crisis has done has forced us back into close proximity and... that need for social glue at a time of social distancing," Dr Burke said. But remember, always use your manners.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus restriction changes by state

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WHICH STATES AND TERRITORIES ARE EASING CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS?

NEW SOUTH WALES

* NSW will ease gathering restrictions from Friday, May 1.

* A maximum of two adults and their children will be permitted to visit others in their homes.

* Bondi and Bronte beaches have reopened for exercise only while Tamarama beach is only open for locals.

* Students will return to classrooms by mid-term following a staged return during the first fortnight.

* "We know that for many people, they've been cooped up in their homes for a number of weeks, and with the exception of exercising, medical needs or buying what they need or going to work, many people have been isolated in their homes," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

VICTORIA

* Coronavirus restrictions to be reassessed on May 11 when the state of emergency ends.

* "I don't know what transmission will look like this week or next week, but I think the state of emergency going to May 11 is a nice line-up with the national cabinet process for a real look at changing the restrictions," Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said.

QUEENSLAND

* Stay-at-home restrictions to ease from Saturday, May 2.

* Family picnics and weekend drives allowed, national parks will reopen and people can shop for clothing and shoes.

* Citizens must stay within 50km of their homes, and social distancing will still be enforced.

* People from the same household can go out together, while those who live alone can spend time with one other person.

* No change to schools until at least May 15 with students continuing to learn remotely where they can.

* "We recognise that Queenslanders have done a great job in trying to flatten that curve. So we also know it's having a big impact on people's mental health. We thought we could lift some stay-at-home restrictions," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

* Coronavirus restrictions eased from Monday, 27 April.

* Two-person limit on non-work activities, including picnics, boating, hiking, camping. Group exercise eased from two to 10 people, provided they adhere to social distancing and good hygiene.

* Weddings and funerals can have up to 10 people present.

* In real estate, open houses and display villages permitted but records must be kept of everyone who enters a home.

* Students will return to the classroom from May 29.

* WA Premier Mark McGowan said it was a "cautious relaxation" of restrictions.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

* South Australia health officials are looking at which restrictions can be lifted after a fifth consecutive day of no new coronavirus cases.

* "While you will see some states starting to adjust the restrictions, it's worth bearing in mind that South Australia didn't regulate to the same degree," SA Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said.

TASMANIA

* Tasmania won't follow the lead of other states in easing social restrictions.

* Restrictions closing non-essential retail in the northwest have been pushed back to at least May 3.

* Most Tasmanian students to begin term two on Tuesday remotely, but schools in the northwest area will open a week later.

* "Where some states might lift restrictions early, I don't believe we will be doing that. I don't intend to make knee-jerk reaction and take us to a position where the restrictions come off too quickly and then leaves us exposed," Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

* Parks and reserves will reopen this weekend.

* Cafes and gyms expected to reopen in June, but under strict rules.

* The territory's borders to be the last things to be lifted.

* "Based on our progress so far we expect there will be some businesses that can re-open or return to more regular operations within the next months," Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.

ACT

* The territory won't lift any restrictions soon.

* "This is not a race or a contest between jurisdictions. We are in a great position here in the ACT, largely thanks to the great community effort in complying with the rules around physical distancing. However, we have seen around the world what can happen when restrictions are imposed too late or taken away too early," ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus restrictions halt AFL season

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks kicks the ball during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks kicks the ball during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) 

The 2020 AFL premiership season has been shut down in response to new coronavirus measures put in place by federal and state governments.

Round one was only given the green light 24 hours before the season opener, and league chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced on Sunday the competition would pause until May 31.

The AFLW season has been abandoned and no premier will be named after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called on Australians to cancel all non-essential travel within the country.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus sees flu shots fly off shelves

Doctor giving patient vaccine, flu shot. Doctor making a vaccination in the shoulder of patient

Coronavirus sees flu shots fly off shelves (Bigstock)

Pharmacists say they have seen a huge surge in people getting flu shots, outpacing last season's demand.

Medicos are reminding Australians to get vaccinated for flu early this year to ease pressure on the health system, which is under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Chris Freeman says members are reporting huge demand.

He said people had learned from last year's horror flu season.

"(Pharmacist) flu clinics, which have just started in the last couple of weeks, have been fully booked out," Associate Professor Freeman told AAP.

Likewise GPs and medical centres were providing more shots.

"It certainly is increased compared to where we were last year," he said.

"I think the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened that awareness for everybody."

The best time for people to get their flu shot was between now and mid-April to give the vaccine time to take effect, he said.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia's Greg Turnbull said they had seen a heightened demand for flu shots as Australians started to get the message.

""There's already a lot of demand in the community," he told AAP.

"If you're going to try to resist or survive COVID-19, it's better that you are fit and not suffering from influenza at the same time."

Both Prof Freeman and Mr Turnbull stressed the importance of building Australia's flu herd immunity, where enough people are vaccinated against the disease to reduce it spreading.

They were both confident in supplies, with the government ordering extra vaccinations after last year's season.

Vaccine manufacturer Seqirus has previously told AAP it would be able to meet Australian demand, including the separate flu shot for over-65s.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has urged Australians to get their flu shots earlier than usual, but reminded people to call their GP ahead of time.

© AAP 2020

Coronavirus snares Trump staff

coronavirus update

Coronavirus has further spread among US President Donald Trump's top aides, ensnaring Housing Secretary Ben Carson and the man leading his campaign's legal challenges to his election loss.

The infections of Carson, 69, a retired neurosurgeon, and political activist David Bossie, 55, have renewed the focus on a November 3 election night White House party and the administration's cavalier attitude toward guidelines encouraging Americans to wear masks and socially distance.

"Secretary Carson has tested positive for the coronavirus," Deputy Chief of Staff Coalter Baker at the Department of Housing and Urban Development said on Monday.

"He is in good spirits and feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery" .

Carson was not hospitalised.

A source familiar with the matter said Bossie's infection "takes him out of the decision process" of the election challenge effort, in part because he cannot physically be at campaign headquarters nor the Oval Office.

Trump himself tested positive and was hospitalised with COVID-19 in early October. A number of staff members, as well as Trump's wife and son, also tested positive.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who has frequently appeared at public events without wearing a mask, was diagnosed last week along with several other staffers.

Carson, Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Health Secretary Alex Azar and a number of other Trump Cabinet officials and top aides were at the White House for the Election night party on Tuesday.

Bossie, tapped on Friday to lead Trump's efforts to challenge election results in several battleground states showing Joe Biden as narrowly winning, also attended the election night party, sources say.

He appeared at a Phoenix news conference last Thursday criticising vote tabulations.

© RAW 2020

Coronavirus-like symptoms found in Bega

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Southern NSW Local Health has confirmed a patient at South East Regional Hospital at Bega is being tested for Coronavirus, after presenting at the hospital with pneumonia-like symptoms. 

A spokesman says testing for the virus is a precaution with test results expected back today around midday.

The patient is in isolation at the hospital.


Photo: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2067688/coronavirus-what-providers-patients-should-know/

Country singer dies of virus complications

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This Aug. 22, 2018 file photo shows Joe Diffie at the 12th annual ACM Honors in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Al Wagner/Invision/AP, File) 

Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles such as Home and Pick-up Man, has died aged 61 after testing positive for COVID-19.

Diffie on Friday announced he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis.

Diffie's publicist Scott Adkins said the singer died Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, due to complications from the virus.

Diffie, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years.

His hits included Honky Tonk Attitude, Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die), Bigger Than the Beatles and If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).

His mid-90s albums Honky Tonk Attitude and Third Rock From the Sun went platinum.

Eighteen of Diffie's singles landed in the top 10 on the country charts, with five going No.1.

Diffie shared in a Grammy award for best country collaboration for the song Same Old Train with Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart and others.

His last solo album was 2010's The Bluegrass Album: Homecoming.

"Joe was a real true honky tonk hero to every country artist alive today," singer John Rich said in a statement.

"No one sang our music better than he did, and to see his life and artistry cut short is beyond tragic. He was loved, cherished and respected by all of country music and beyond."

Deanna Carter said she was "shell-shocked" by the news and had hoped to perform again with Diffie this year.

"He was a powerhouse that stopped people in their tracks, both on and off stage," she said.

Diffie is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children from four marriages.

© AP 2020

COVID blamed for non-urgent Vic ambo surge

Coronavirus latest news2

A surge of non-urgent cases in Melbourne has led to ambulance delays, with the glut of call-outs blamed on COVID-19.

Ambulance Victoria took the extraordinary step of telling people not to call triple zero unless it was an emergency on Monday night, as the mercury remained well above 20C across the city.

At the time, paramedics were dealing with a high volume of non-urgent calls in metropolitan Melbourne and those patients were instead told to contact NURSE-ON-CALL or visit their GP.

Victorian Ambulance Union general secretary Danny Hill said the "massive surge" in demand led to up to 130 cases being left pending at its busiest point.

"They went to what's called 'Code Red'," he told 3AW.

"That's the level of what we would have seen with thunderstorm asthma."

While all critically unwell Code 1 patients had their calls answered in a timely manner, many non-urgent Code 2 and 3 cases were provided care over the phone.

"This is a timely reminder to all Victorians to stay on top of their health this summer as the weather warms up and many of us re-emerge from stage three and four restrictions," an Ambulance Victoria spokesman said on Tuesday.

"We also encourage the community to check in with their GP and local pharmacist to ensure their medications are up to date."

Mr Hill said it was likely people had been unable or neglected to see their GP over the year because of the COVID environment.

"The flow-on effect is that things hit crisis point and people end up calling an ambulance," he said.

"You see that play out with massive amounts of cases."

© AAP 2020

COVID vaccine program receives $1.9b boost

SPARX LATEST COVID BANNER 1 650x431

Almost $2 billion will be spent equipping hospitals and other health centres to administer coronavirus vaccines.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will make the funding commitment during a major speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday.

Mr Morrison says vaccinating 26 million Australians by the end of the year will be one of the nation's largest-ever logistical exercises.

He will announce an extra $1.9 billion - taking the vaccine program to $6.3 billion - for the workforce involved in the roll-out of the jabs through GPs, pharmacies and thousands of other approved centres.

A special surge workforce will ensure it gets to hard-to-reach areas.

Mr Morrison says CSL's Melbourne manufacturing plant alone should produce enough of the AstraZeneca vaccine to cover the nation.

But the Pfizer vaccine will still be the first rolled out from late this month.

However, the prime minister says even with the vaccines there can be no let-up in three vital suppression measures - international border controls and quarantine; testing, tracing and hotspot management; and physical distancing and personal hygiene.

"In 2021, these suppression measures, which must be exercised in a balanced way to protect jobs and livelihoods, will be complemented by the COVID-19 vaccines," Mr Morrison will say.

"This will be one of the largest logistics exercises ever seen in Australia's history. We will be vaccinating 26 million people, having secured over 140 million doses, enough to cover the Australian population several times over."

Under the vaccine strategy, all Australians will be offered the opportunity to be vaccinated by October.

Meanwhile, more than two million West Australians have spent their first of five nights in lockdown after coronavirus leaked from hotel quarantine.

The state's ten-month streak of no community cases came to an end after a hotel security guard tested positive in Perth.

Travellers from WA are now subject to tough restrictions and quarantine in every state and territory.

NSW and the ACT have ordered travellers to self-quarantine for five days.

At least nine federal politicians who arrived in Canberra from Perth for the first parliamentary sitting week of the year have been ordered to quarantine until Friday night.

The MPs and senators were already in the air when the positive case was announced.

Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is in isolation, raised hopes politicians could be allowed to attend federal parliament.

"They may be granting further exemptions, I don't know," he told Sydney's 2GB radio.

"They had a good debate as to whether to turn the plane around actually but that didn't happen. We've landed. The rules are the rules and we'll abide by them."

Advice for MPs and senators will be finalised on Monday morning.

Victoria has banned all travellers from the WA lockdown zone.

Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory ordered all arrivals from WA to quarantine for 14 days.

© AAP 2021

Covid-19 could kill 81000 in US: analysis

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The coronavirus pandemic could kill more than 81,000 people in the United States in the next four months and may not subside until June, according to a data analysis done by the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The number of hospitalised patients is expected to peak nationally by the second week of April, though the peak may come later in some states. Some people could continue to die of the virus as late as July, although deaths should be below epidemic levels of 10 per day by June at the latest, according to the analysis.

The analysis, using data from governments, hospitals and other sources, predicts that the number of US deaths could vary widely, ranging from as low as around 38,000 to as high as around 162,000.

The variance is due in part to disparate rates of the spread of the virus in different regions, which experts are still struggling to explain, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study.

The duration of the virus means there may be a need for social distancing measures for longer than initially expected, although the country may eventually be able relax restrictions if it can more effectively test and quarantine the sick, Murray said.

The analysis also highlights the strain that will be placed on hospitals. At the epidemic's peak, sick patients could exceed the number of available hospital beds by 64,000 and could require the use of around 20,000 ventilators. Ventilators are already running short in hard-hit places like New York City.

The virus is spreading more slowly in California, which could mean that peak cases there will come later in April and social distancing measures will need to be extended in the state for longer, Murray said.

Louisiana and Georgia are predicted to see high rates of contagion and could see a particularly high burden on their local healthcare systems, he added.

The analysis assumes close adherence to infection prevention measures imposed by federal, state and local governments.

"The trajectory of the pandemic will change - and dramatically for the worse - if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions," Murray said in a statement.

The analysis comes as the US becomes the country that has has the most coronavirus cases in the world.

© RAW 2020

COVID-19 found in Brisbane hospital ward

PA Hospital

Engineering consultants are inspecting a Brisbane hospital's infectious diseases ward after traces of coronavirus turned up in testing there, one week after it was deep cleaned.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital's Ward 5D was shut from March 30 and deep cleaned after it was found to be at the centre of two virus clusters involving 23 cases, which resulted in a snap three-day lockdown of Greater Brisbane last month.

Metro South Hospital and Health Service says deep cleaning was undertaken by contractors last week, but testing has found the virus is still in Ward 5D.

"Subsequently, testing has shown COVID-19 related virus in Ward 5D, and further cleaning will be occurring of the ward today," a spokesperson told AAP on Wednesday.

The service says engineering consultants are also examining the ward after maintenance reports indicated all isolation rooms were functioning properly.

Metro South stressed there were no patients currently being treated in the ward.

"It's important to remember that Ward 5D is currently closed," the spokesperson added.

Two patients with the highly infectious UK strain of the virus, who were treated in Ward 5D, spread the virus to healthcare workers who then inadvertently transmitted it in the community.

The PA Hospital, Queensland's second largest, has been locked down since March 26 along with all other hospitals, aged care facilities, disability providers and prisons in Greater Brisbane.

Restrictions on those facilities are set to be lifted on Thursday if no further unlinked cases of community transmission are reported.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk could also soon give the green light for virus restrictions, including mandatory mask-wearing indoors, to be lifted across Queensland from Thursday.

© AAP 2021

Photo: Shiftchange, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19 passports likely for travellers

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Qantas is part of a push by world airlines to require international travellers to prove they've had the coronavirus vaccination before entering or leaving a country on a flight.

A vaccination against COVID-19 could become available earlier in the new year, likely paving the way for a reopening of air travel for at least some parts of the world in the second half of 2021.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce is talking to his global counterparts about the possibility of a "vaccination passport" for overseas travellers.

"What we are looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you are travelling to," he told Nine's A Current Affair on Monday night.

Creating such a document for inbound and outbound travellers required a lot of thought and "a lot of logistics" and could require government intervention.

"We are looking at changing the terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft," Mr Joyce said.

"But certainly for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country (Australia), we think that's a necessity."

Federal Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said the proposal was a no brainer after Qantas lost $2 billion due to border restrictions in the wake of the pandemic.

"I would expect anyone coming into Australia is going to have to demonstrate to us that they are COVID safe," he told Nine's Today Show on Tuesday.

"Why wouldn't they (Qantas) want to make sure.

"I would like to know the passenger next to me was vaccinated."

It's also expected coronavirus vaccinations will be mandatory for international flight attendants.

© AAP 2020

COVID-19 Update: What you need to know

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𝗔𝗗𝗗𝗜𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡𝗔𝗟 𝗤𝗨𝗔𝗥𝗔𝗡𝗧𝗜𝗡𝗘 𝗠𝗘𝗔𝗦𝗨𝗥𝗘𝗦:
🚫 As of midnight Saturday 28 March, returning travellers will be quarantined at designated facilities (such as a hotel) for 14 days in the town or city they fly into, instead of self-isolating at home. Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities.

🚫 Defence Australia will support the NSW Police Force to ensure people already self-isolating are complying with instructions. They’ll visit homes/residences of people in NSW who are in mandatory isolation and will report to the local police whether the identified individual was at the residence.

𝗡𝗦𝗪 𝗦𝗘𝗖𝗢𝗡𝗗 𝗦𝗧𝗜𝗠𝗨𝗟𝗨𝗦 𝗣𝗔𝗖𝗞𝗔𝗚𝗘:
💰 We’ve released Stage 2 of the economic stimulus package worth billions to provide relief for NSW businesses and support our most vulnerable. This includes funding to help prevent homelessness, assistance for energy bills, and support for charities and Lifeline. More info at https://bit.ly/COVID-19-Second-Stimulus-Package

𝗕𝗨𝗦𝗘𝗦 𝗔𝗥𝗘 𝗖𝗔𝗦𝗛𝗟𝗘𝗦𝗦:
🚍To help protect the health of your driver, Opal single tickets will no longer be sold onboard buses across the Opal network. Learn more at https://transportnsw.info/COVID19

𝗖𝗢𝗠𝗣𝗟𝗜𝗔𝗡𝗖𝗘 𝗧𝗢 𝗛𝗘𝗔𝗟𝗧𝗛 𝗔𝗗𝗩𝗜𝗖𝗘:
👮If you don’t comply with directions to self-isolate, you can cop a $1,000 on-the-spot fine as an individual or $5,000 as an organisation.

Police officers will also no longer require a warrant to arrest an individual breaching a public health order.

👮Report anyone who doesn’t comply with public health advice to Crime Stoppers online at www.nsw.crimestoppers.com.au

𝗔𝗨𝗦 𝗧𝗥𝗔𝗩𝗘𝗟 𝗔𝗗𝗩𝗜𝗖𝗘:
✈️A ban on all overseas travel for Australians is now place. Exemptions include citizens who normally live overseas; where travel is essential; where travel is in our national interest, where travel is on compassionate & humanitarian grounds.
✈️Australian borders have closed to everyone excluding Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members. Australians abroad, if you wish to return home, do so ASAP. More at http://smartraveller.gov.au

✈️Tasmania, the NT, WA, QLD, and SA have announced border closures. Anyone entering is to self-isolate for 14 days.

𝟮𝟰/𝟳 𝗡𝗦𝗪 𝗖𝗢𝗩𝗜𝗗-𝟭𝟵 𝗛𝗢𝗧𝗟𝗜𝗡𝗘 (𝟭𝟯 𝟳𝟳 𝟴𝟴)

NSW workers and businesses are now able to access a range of advice and support on non-health related COVID-19 enquiries via a Service NSW's hotline. It is open 24/7 on 13 77 88.

𝗠𝗢𝗥𝗘 𝗜𝗡𝗙𝗢:
🆕 Latest NSW Health updates on COVID-19: https://bit.ly/33FKrnN

✈️ Known flights with confirmed cases of COVID-19: http://bit.ly/COVID-19-NSWFlights

📍 Heat map of NSW confirmed cases of COVID-19: https://bit.ly/COVID-19-NSW-Heatmap

🦠🔍Find the facts on COVID-19: https://bit.ly/COVID-19-NSW-FindTheFacts

✅ Find out if you need to get tested for COVID-19 with the Symptom Checker: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool

ℹ️ More info and advice on COVID-19: http://bit.ly/novel-coronavirus-covid-19

ℹ️ More info non-essential businesses & activities: https://bit.ly/COVID-19-NSW-Restrictions-on-Facilities

🚸 You can follow NSW Department of Education for regular updates. More at https://bit.ly/COVID-19-Schools-FAQs

📞 If you’re concerned you have COVID-19, please call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.

Story source: NSW Government. Image: news stock

COVID-19 vaccine trial to start in Perth

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Linear Clinical Research in Perth has been selected to undertake human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine (AAP Image/Supplied by Linear Clinical Research) 

A Perth clinical research company wants healthy adults and elderly volunteers to participate in one of the world's first human coronavirus vaccine trials.

The protein-based COVID-19 S-Trimer potential vaccine aims to help the body produce antibodies to fight the virus.

Volunteers will participate in the trial in the next two months and if successful, a larger phase involving thousands of people globally will be conducted.

The trial will be run by Perth's Linear Clinical Research and was developed by China-based Clover Biopharmaceuticals.

Linear Clinical Research chief Jayden Rogers said the vaccine showed immense potential.

With more than 60 possible vaccines being developed globally, he said it was significant because it was one of the first to make it to human trials.

"This is one of the most prominent trials globally and involves some of the most renowned vaccines companies," Mr Rogers said.

The vaccine was promising because of Clover Biopharmaceuticals' technology platform, he said.

It has previously been used in a number of clinical studies and to develop vaccines for other RNA-based viruses like influenza, RSV and HIV.

"The fight against COVID-19 requires a global effort bringing together the best science and innovation," Mr Rogers said.

"We are fortunate to be one of the few countries in the world to still be offering functional clinical trial facilities because we do not have large volumes of COVID-19 cases as compared to other parts of the world."

© AAP 2020

COVID-19 victims maintain immunity

coronavirus update

Australian researchers have discovered that patients who've been infected with COVID-19 retain immunity against the virus and the disease for at least eight months.

The research is the strongest evidence yet that vaccines against the virus will work for long periods.

Previous studies found the first wave of antibodies produced by the human body after infection waned after the first few months, raising concerns that people could quickly lose immunity.

The new research allays those concerns.

The study is the result of a collaboration led by Associate Professor Menno van Zelm, from Monash University and was published on Monday in the preprint server, MedRxiv.

The researchers found a specific cell within the human immune system, the memory B cell, "remembers" infection by the virus, and if challenged again, through re-exposure to the virus, triggers a protective immune response through rapid production of protective antibodies.

The researchers recruited 25 COVID-19 patients and took 36 blood samples between day four post-infection and day 242 post-infection.

As with other studies, looking at the antibody response, the researchers found that antibodies against the virus started to drop off after 20 days post-infection.

However, all patients continued to have memory B cells that recognised one of two components of the virus, the spike and nucleocapsid proteins.

These virus-specific memory B cells were present as long as eight months after infection.

Associate Professor van Zelm said the results gave hope to the efficacy of any vaccine against the virus and explained why there had been so few examples of genuine reinfection in the millions of people who had tested positive for the virus globally.

"These results are important because they show, definitively, that patients infected with the COVID-19 virus do in fact retain immunity against the virus and the disease," he said.

"This has been a black cloud hanging over the potential protection that could be provided by any COVID-19 vaccine and gives real hope that, once a vaccine or vaccines are developed, they will provide long-term protection."

© AAP 2020

CSIRO study tests virus survival times

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Australian scientists have found that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive for up to 28 days on surfaces such as the glass on mobile phones, stainless steel, vinyl and paper banknotes.

The national science agency, the CSIRO, said the research undertaken at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) in Geelong also found that SARS-CoV-2 survived longer at lower temperatures.

It said in a statement the virus survived longer on paper banknotes than on plastic banknotes and lasted longer on smooth surfaces rather than porous surfaces such as cotton.

The research, published in the Virology Journal, also found the virus lasted 10 days longer than influenza on some surfaces.

Dr Larry Marshall, Chief Executive of CSIRO, said establishing how long the virus survived on surfaces enabled scientists to more accurately predict and prevent its spread, and so protect the community from infection.

ACDP Deputy Director Dr Debbie Eagles said the results reinforced the need for good practices such as regular handwashing and cleaning surfaces.

"At 20 degrees Celsius, which is about room temperature, we found that the virus was extremely robust, surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens."

Similar experiments for Influenza A found it survived on surfaces for 17 days.

Further experiments were carried out at 30 and 40 degrees Celsius, with survival times for the SARS-CoV-2 virus decreasing as the temperature increased.

"While the precise role of surface transmission, the degree of surface contact and the amount of virus required for infection is yet to be determined, establishing how long this virus remains viable on surfaces is critical for developing risk mitigation strategies in high contact areas," Dr Eagles said.

ACDP Director, Professor Trevor Drew, said the research may help explain the apparent persistence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in cool environments such as meat processing facilities and how that might be better addressed.

© AAP 2020

Data on drug raises hopes in virus fight

metal box with a test kit of the medicine Remdesivir against corona virus, Denmark, April 16, 2020

Data on antiviral drug remdesivir raises hopes in virus fight (Bigstock)

The United States' top infectious disease official says experimental antiviral drug remdesivir will become the standard of care for COVID-19 after early results from a key clinical trial showed it helped patients recover more quickly from the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Preliminary results from a US government trial showing that patients given remdesivir recovered 31 per cent faster than those given a placebo, were hailed by Dr Anthony Fauci as "highly significant".

"This is really quite important," Fauci told reporters at the White House, likening it to a moment in 1986 "when we were struggling for drugs for HIV and we had nothing".

"This will be the standard of care," he said.

The US Food and Drug Administration said it has been in discussions with manufacturer Gilead Sciences about making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, but the agency declined to comment on any plans to grant the drug regulatory approval.

"I want them to go as quickly as they can," President Donald Trump said, when asked if he wanted the FDA to grant emergency use authorisation for remdesivir.

"We want everything to be safe, but we would like to see very quick approvals, especially with things that work."

Interest in remdesivir has been high as there are no approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, and doctors are desperate for anything that might alter the course of the disease that attacks the lungs and can shut down other organs in severe cases.

Doctors on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle have been eager for results from the study because it is a large trial in which patients were randomised to treatment with the drug or a placebo without participants or doctors knowing which group they were in - the gold standard for clinical trials.

Gilead earlier this month said the company was prepared to donate to hospitals its existing supply of 1.5 million doses of remdesivir - enough for more than 140,000 patients depending on length of treatment. Regulatory approval of the drug would also clear the way for commercial sales.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, said partial results from its 1063-patient trial show that hospitalised COVID-19 patients given remdesivir recovered in 11 days, compared to 15 days for patients given a placebo.

The study showed a trend toward better survival for remdesivir - 8 per cent of patients given the drug died compared with 11.6 per cent in the placebo group - but the difference was not statistically significant so may not be due to Gilead's drug.

Despite the excitement, Dr Lawrence K. Altman, global fellow at The Wilson Center in Washington, was not ready to celebrate the preliminary findings.

The new data "offers a glimmer of hope" that remdesivir has an effect against COVID-19, but more scientific analysis is needed "comparing them to other studies of the drug that have shown mixed results", he said in a statement.

Also on Wednesday, results were published by the Lancet medical journal of a trial conducted in China that concluded remdesivir failed to improve patients' condition or reduce the pathogen's presence in the bloodstream.

Gilead said previously that those findings were inconclusive because the study was terminated early.

© DPA 2020

Disneyland shuts due to coronavirus

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Disney has temporarily closed theme parks in California because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The move to shutter its parks comes as the novel virus continues to rapidly spread across the country.

Over the past week it has officially become a pandemic, with cases increasing in the US, Asia and across Europe.

It's only the fourth time in history that Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has fully suspended operations. The other instances were the September 11 attacks, the morning after JFK's assassination and the Northridge earthquake.

It's unclear if Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, will remain open.

Disney said in a statement, "While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the Governor of California's executive order and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month".

The Hotels of Disneyland Resort will remain open until Monday, March 16 to give guests the ability to make necessary travel arrangements and Downtown Disney will remain open.

"We will monitor the ongoing situation and follow the advice and guidance of federal and state officials and health agencies. Disney will continue to pay cast members during this time," the statement said.

The company added, "Disneyland Resort will work with guests who wish to change or cancel their visits, and will provide refunds to those who have hotel bookings during this closure period."

Closures seemed inevitable after Los Angeles Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday called for gatherings with more than 250 people to be cancelled or delayed in an effort to halt the transmission of the virus. Officials are also encouraging "social distancing" of two metres per person.

Disney closed its parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong in January, and has also temporarily closed its parks in Japan as well.

Disney reported that it could lose $US280 million in revenues due to closures in Shanghai and Hong Kong alone.

© RAW 2020

Easing Qld restrictions still days away

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Easing Qld restrictions still days away (Shutterstock)

Queenslanders will have to wait until Tuesday to find out when and how COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted after the transport minister stonewalled questions about borders reopening.

Mark Bailey reinforced Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's message that any changes would be announced on Tuesday and that any decision would be rooted in "evidence" and on the back of medical advice.

"Border provisions have been key to us, achieving that outcome, an outcome that NSW and Victoria haven't been able to achieve," he said on Sunday.

"The premier has made it very clear that there will be an announcement on Tuesday.

"There's a whole lot of factors to be taken into account including Victoria."

Queensland recorded no new cases overnight and has had just one positive test - a returned traveller from overseas - in the past eight days.

Victoria, however, on Sunday declared 49 more positive tests overnight with more than 100 cases announced in the past three days.

LNP opposition leader Deb Frecklington said Ms Palaszczuk should stop referring to the Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young as the reason for deciding to keep the borders closed.

She said the LNP remained resolute that borders should open on Wednesday to kick start the economy with businesses across the state that rely on tourism wilting because of intra-state only travel.

"It's up to her to make the decision, not the chief health officer," Ms Frecklington said.

"The borders should be open on first of July... the deputy chief medical officer has even said it is safe for the borders to be open."

The government's decision to not bring forward the announcement of easing of restrictions comes after Police Minister Mark Ryan announced extra quarantine compliance checks.

Backpackers and travellers in the Wide Bay region will be targeted - after a fruit picker tested positive on June 6 - as well as pubs and clubs across the state.

The next easing of restrictions will be triggered on July 10 which is also the last day of school holidays in Queensland.

Up to 100 people will be permitted to gather in restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs although opening borders is not covered in the road map.

© AAP 2020