Good evening, and welcome to our daily roundup of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. These are the main stories on Monday 30 March.
Federal government announces wage subsidy
Businesses will be given wage subsidies of $1,500 a fortnight for each worker to keep staff on during the coronavirus crisis as part of an unprecedented $130bn package. Prime minister Scott Morrison said the package could help 6 million Australians. The federal government will give the allowance to businesses and not-for-profit organisations that have taken a 30% hit to turnover because of the coronavirus. Companies turning over more than $1bn will be eligible if they have taken a 50% hit. The subsidies will last for six months, with full-time, part-time and casual workers who have been with their employer for at least 12 months eligible. Sole traders have also been included in the package. Payments will flow to businesses in the first week of May, with the program to start from 30 March. Workers stood down since 1 March will be able to qualify for backdated payments.
States to enforce new physical distancing rules
Following the national cabinet’s advice on Sunday that social gatherings be limited to two people – unless the people live in the same household – most states have today announced they will be enforcing the rule. Western Australia and Tasmania have said they will enforce the new limits, while Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have gone further.
Those states are also moving to enforce the new advice stipulating people should only leave the house for essential reasons – such as shopping for essentials, to receive medical care or to attend work, childcare or education that cannot be done from home. More detail on these rules and enforcement can be found here. So far only the Northern Territory announced it would not be enforcing the new two-person rule, with chief minister, Michael Gunner, saying they would stick to the 10-person limit for now.
Australians returning home placed in hotel quarantine
Australians who have flown back to the country since midnight Saturday have been placed into an enforced 14-day quarantine in city hotels where some say they are not permitted to leave rooms or open windows, and are being given inadequate food. Paula Lemmon, who has multiple serious food allergies, has only been able to eat two small containers of chopped tomato and cucumber in almost 24 hours since arriving back in Australia and being placed in hotel quarantine in Sydney. “We completely understand travellers are a high risk – we are 100% for quarantining,” Paula’s daughter, Olivia, told Guardian Australia. “We’d be happy to be in a caravan … But we’re not staying at a five-star hotel, we’re staying at a government-run quarantine centre and we’re not getting basic needs.”
Death toll rises to 18 after first deaths in ACT and Tasmania
The ACT and Tasmania recorded their first deaths from coronavirus. ACT chief health officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, said a woman in her 80s died after catching the illness overseas. “This is the very sad reality of this disease, which is seeing the elderly at an increased risk of complications from Covid-19,” she said. In Tasmania, a woman, also aged in her 80s, died on Monday morning at the North West Regional hospital in Burnie.
Northern Territory to enforce stricter border control
The Northern Territory is beefing-up its border controls, ordering all arrivals from interstate or overseas into 14-days of forced and supervised quarantine in response to the coronavirus pandemic. From midnight on Wednesday, all arrivals will have to comply with the new rules, while from midnight on Friday anyone who arrives will be forced to pay for their hotel stay during the quarantine period. Chief minister Michael Gunner said people wanting to come to the territory had been given enough notice that such travel was not advised. “Do not come here, we do not want you here. Sorry, but not right now,” he said. He said his aim with the new measures was to not just slow the flow of people across the border, but to stop it completely. So far the territory has recorded 15 confirmed Covid-19 cases, all linked to overseas travel.
Covid-19 modelling to be ‘unlocked’
The deputy chief medical officer committed to releasing the modelling the medical panel is using to guide its decisions, including the restrictions. Paul Kelly said transparency was “very important” and that “as of today, I have asked my staff to organise a meeting later this week where the modelling and the epidemiology and the public health response will be unlocked, and people will be able to ask questions about that”.
Scientist gets magnets stuck up nose trying to invent Covid-19 device
An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak. Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at Melbourne’s Swinburne University, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night. Before attending the hospital, Reardon attempted to use pliers to pull them out, but they became magnetised by the magnets inside his nose.
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