coronavirus - 7AD

'Borderline' test in the state's south

Latest Corona

Health authorities are investigating one potential coronavirus case in the state's South, the first "borderline" test to be returned in Tasmania.

"This is the first time in Tasmania and we're currently probing the case further," Deputy Director of Public Health Scott McKeown said.

"We are taking a precautionary approach, which includes isolation and contact tracking to manage any public health risk."

More than two-thirds of Tasmania's 214 cases have come in the North West, where a hospital outbreak has forced a tight lockdown and widespread testing.

On Monday 744 people were tested statewide, with 619 of those in the North West.

10 of Tasmania's 11 virus deaths have been in the North West.

'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

Nicola Spurrier 20200527001470594007 600x400

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

covid 19 concept 4031867 free

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

"An extraordinarily difficult time"

closed

Premier Peter Gutwein is warning people not to flout social distancing regulations by holding backyard parties as the state's pubs, clubs and casinos prepare to close at noon on Monday. 

Places of worship, gym and indoor sporting centres will also close, while restaurants will be limited to takeaway only.

Nursing home visitors will be limited to two at a time for up to two hours, with children under 16 banned, unless it's an end-of-life situation.

The typically combative Premier blasted the disastrous example set by those in Great Britain. 

"We are not going to go through the farcical situation that we saw in Britain, where "last drinks" brought hundreds of people together for one last night, which must have - there is no doubt in my mind - further spread the virus in that country," said Mr Gutwein. 

The Premier says schools and childcare centres will remain open for the time being. 

"Tomorrow night at National Cabinet we will be looking again at the issue of private gatherings," he said. 

"This cannot be a migration from the pub to the backyard; this is important, this will save lives."  

"Do not come": Spirit crackdown

Spirit Tasmania

The State Government is cracking down on Spirit of Tasmania arrivals, now banning non-essential passengers altogether. 

Some people have been seen ignoring self-isolation requirements minutes after leaving the vessel in Devonport.

"As from today, if you are travelling to Tasmania and it is non-essential travel, do not come," said Premier Peter Gutwein in announcing the rules, which exempt Tasmanian visitors coming home.  

"Do not get on the TT-Line. What we will do is turn you around and ask you to go back." 

A Tasmania Police compliance team is being tasked with enforcing self-isolation and non-essential gathering rules.

In other developments, Tasmanian Government Minister Jane Howlett is going into self-isolation.

She'll be absent from Parliament this week after her chief of staff had close contact with a confirmed coronavirus case in Queensland.

Mr Gutwein says it proves no one is exempt.

"While I believe the vast majority of Tasmanians are doing the right thing when asked to self-isolate, there are examples being brought forward where people are going against the rules," Mr Gutwein told the daily coronavirus briefing in Hobart. 

"I want to say again: stop deliberately putting people's lives at risk."

The state's infection count stands at 28 after news of another half-dozen cases emerged on Monday evening. 

The cases are evenly split between northern and southern Tasmania, and five of them stemmed from the Ruby Princess liner which docked in Sydney last week. 

Three people have recovered completely. 

 

"Not out of the woods yet", 51 casual contacts of infected teen

veitch credit josh agnew

The number of casual contacts linked to the COVID-positive Launceston teenager who breached quarantine has risen to 51.

"They're mostly people who were at the airport at the same time as the case, or at the IGA. Those numbers have come up a little bit since we spoke on Tuesday because at that stage we were still working through the process of identifying and categorising those contacts," Public Health Director Dr Mark Veitch said.

Seven of those have so far returned negative results, as have the 17 close contacts who will remain in isolation and receive multiple tests over the next 10 days.

The 15-year-old who had just returned from Victoria briefly left home quarantine to visit a local supermarket on Saturday, before it was confirmed he was carrying the Delta variant.

"We are not out of the woods yet," Acting Premier Jeremy Rockliff said. 

"They [close contacts] will be tested again over the weekend which is the 7 day mark from exposure."

Authorities have put the call out for more people in the Launceston region to come forward for testing.

"I'm saying to people in the Newnham area and Launceston more generally: if you have symptoms, go get tested because if there's been spread into the community somehow, cases could occur at any time from now over the next week or so," Dr Veitch said.


 Image: Josh Agnew

"Technical errors" blamed for missing test referrals

coronavirus 2

A number of doctor requests for coronavirus testing may have been lost by the Tasmanian Department of Health.

Anyone who was referred by their GP for a test on Thursday or Friday and hasn't been contacted, should continue to self-isolate and call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

State Health Commander Katherine Morgan-Wicks says a technical error affected the GP referral system meaning some test bookings were not properly processed and made for some patients within the normal timeframes.

"The Department has also notified GPs and requested that they re-process any referrals that may have been affected," a statement said.

"GP referrals to Tasmanian Department of Health testing clinics are the only GP referrals that have been affected. All other referrals have been processed as normal. The Department sincerely apologises to any patients who have been affected by this issue, which has now been resolved."

"Technical errors" blamed for missing test referrals

coronavirus 2

A number of doctor requests for coronavirus testing may have been lost by the Tasmanian Department of Health.

Anyone who was referred by their GP for a test on Thursday or Friday and hasn't been contacted, should continue to self-isolate and call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

State Health Commander Katherine Morgan-Wicks says a technical error affected the GP referral system meaning some test bookings were not properly processed and made for some patients within the normal timeframes.

"The Department has also notified GPs and requested that they re-process any referrals that may have been affected," a statement said.

"GP referrals to Tasmanian Department of Health testing clinics are the only GP referrals that have been affected. All other referrals have been processed as normal. The Department sincerely apologises to any patients who have been affected by this issue, which has now been resolved."

"Technical errors" blamed for missing test referrals

coronavirus 2

A number of doctor requests for coronavirus testing may have been lost by the Tasmanian Department of Health.

Anyone who was referred by their GP for a test on Thursday or Friday and hasn't been contacted, should continue to self-isolate and call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

State Health Commander Katherine Morgan-Wicks says a technical error affected the GP referral system meaning some test bookings were not properly processed and made for some patients within the normal timeframes.

"The Department has also notified GPs and requested that they re-process any referrals that may have been affected," a statement said.

"GP referrals to Tasmanian Department of Health testing clinics are the only GP referrals that have been affected. All other referrals have been processed as normal. The Department sincerely apologises to any patients who have been affected by this issue, which has now been resolved."

"Toughest quarantine measures in the country"

gutters 1

Premier of Tasmania Peter Gutwein speaking to media ahead of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AAP Image/James Gourley)

Any non-essential arrival in Tasmania - including those returning home - will be placed into quarantine at a government-operated facility, as of midnight Sunday. 

Premier Peter Gutwein announced the strict new measures on Saturday, reaffirming the need to secure "Fortress Tasmania" from the spread of COVID-19.

There will be one facility in the south, one in the north and one in the north-west, operated by Communities Tasmania and overseen by police and ADF personnel. 

It comes as the state recorded a further 12 cases of coronavirus overnight, including a healthcare worker from the Mersey Community Hospital. 

The majority of the latest cases are relations of cruise ship passangers or people returning from overseas, ranging in age groups from 20s to 80s.

As of noon on Saturday, Tasmania had 59 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced all Australians returning from overseas would be placed into hotel quarantine at their point of entry for two weeks, without getting on a connecting flight. 

The new measures mean Tasmanians returning from overseas would have to do 2 separate two-week periods of quarantine at government-operated facilities. 

Also as of last night at 6pm, there's a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people on public or private land with Mr Gutwein fearing the sunny weather this weekend will entice Tasmanians to congregate.  

"We will throw the book at you" - warning to COVID liars

gutwein 2

Premier Peter Gutwein provides a media update on Tasmania's COVID-19 situation (AAP Image/Rob Blakers)

The Premier is vowing to go after anyone not being honest with health authorities when trying to enter Tasmania, following two teenagers in Queensland breaching quarantine and refusing to come clean. 

Peter Gutwein says those flouting the rules face fines up to $16,800 or six months jail.

He's also announced additional hotspots in Queensland from where visitors will be turned around and sent home, adding to Victoria and parts of NSW.

A returned traveller from Victoria who tested positive for coronavirus 9 days ago while in hotel quarantine has been cleared, meaning there's now ZERO active cases in the Apple Isle once again.

It comes as the state government prepares to relax our border restrictions with South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory from August 7, although WA isn't reciprocating the offer.

In addition, South Australia has deemed any travellers who go via Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne will have to quarantine for 14 days, meaning the 3 direct flights per week between Hobart and Adelaide will have to be utilised.

Meanwhile, The Hospitality Association and others pressing for a total lifting of gathering rules in Tasmania because of months of being clear of community transfer of the virus won't get their way.

Director of Public Health Mark Veitch is making it clear, they'll be sticking around for quite a while.

"Those measures are going to be in place for many months. I don't foresee a major changes in those measures. Whether or not we ever opened our borders we would still need to have those in place because borders aren't an absolutely steadfast guarantee that we won't have a case introduced," he said.

Peter Gutwein pointed out if the two infected Brisbane women had come to Tasmania, without internal COVID-safe measures we would have widespread community transmission. 

Nearly 700 tests have been carried out in the past 24 hours. 

From today, visitors have to pay for their own hotel quarantine. 

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

1 year on from Tassie's first COVID case

tassie coronavirus response

Tuesday marks a year since Tasmania's first coronavirus case was identified, and we're being assured the vaccine rollout is proceeding as planned.

1159 Tasmanian front line workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Health Minister Sarah Courtney told Parliament on Tuesday the state's entire initial allocation was almost exhausted before another tray arrived at the Royal on Sunday.

The next closest jursidictions for getting through their first allocations were the ACT at 84 percent and NSW at 74 percent.

"Our Phase 1A clinic at the Royal Hobart Hospital is again ready to vaccinate another cohort of Tasmanians. Another tray of 195 vials has arrived and the vaccination program continues from today until the end of the week, with almost every last appointment already filled," Minister Courtney said.

"I can confirm our vaccination program remains on track to commence at the Launceston General Hospital and North West Regional Hospital in mid-March, with the clinics at both hubs in the process of finalising set up, training and testing."

It was 12 months ago to the day that Tasmania's first COVID-19 patient was detected in the state's north, and an interm respiratory clinic was estabalished next to the LGH.

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).

10th Tasmanian virus death

merseyhosp

A tenth person has died from coronavirus in Tasmania.

The 90-year-old man from the North West who was receiving care at the Mersey Community Hospital passed away yesterday.

Premier Peter Gutwein has sent his sympathies to the deceased's loved ones.

"Sadly this is the 10th life lost to coronavirus, and the 9th life lost in the North West of the State as a result of the outbreak. To the North West community, which I know to be a tight knit community, my thoughts are with you all."

"We will continue to undertake the measures needed to keep Tasmanians safe. Please, look out for one another. Stay home and save lives," he said in a statement.

Two men in their 20s, also from the North West, have tested positive to COVID-19, bringing to the state tally to 207, with 117 recovered. 

Both are close contacts of a previously confirmed case.

The region's retail restrictions have been extened until next Sunday May 3rd, while school holidays have been prolonged for 4 days. 

Anyone across the state with even mild symptoms is being told to get tested.

As of Friday night, there were 13 inpatients at Tasmanian hospitals due to coronavirus including one ICU patient.

Nearly 8000 tests have been completed. 

11th case confirmed, prison visits banned

virus 1

The state government has announced a temporary ban on personal visits to prisoners, in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

It comes after Tasmania's 11th case of the disease was confirmed, a woman whom arrived from the UK on Wednesday, now in isolation at home in the south of the state.

Another Tasmanian - a woman in her 50s - has the condition and is being treated in Sydney after disembarking from the Ruby Princess cruise ship on Thursday.

There were 54 other Tasmanian passengers on board the vessel who have all had been contacted and informed of they must self-quarantine once they reach their destination.

Premier Peter Gutwein said he doesn't take the decision to ban jail visits lightly.

"The TPS will increase telephone access for prisoners where possible and appropriate, and put extra resources into alternative communication measures, such as video calls, to ensure that prisoners can continue to connect with their families and friends."  

The Premier also delivered a frank message to Tasmanians generally.

"If you don't need to go out, don't. Don't put the health and safety of other people at risk. Be cautious, be responsible and importantly, abide by the rules because the penalties will apply and they will be substantial."

Failure to self-isolate once ordered can attract a fine of up to $16,500 or six months prison.


 Image: Pixabay 

11th virus death in Tasmania

coronavirus update

Tasmania has recorded its 11th death from coronavirus

The man in his 90s passed away overnight at the Mersey Community Hospital, only hours after a 90-year-old male died from the condition at the same facility.

"On behalf of the Tasmanian Government I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends at this very difficult time," Premier Peter Gutwein said. 

"This is the 10th life lost in the North West of the state and my thoughts are with the entire community in the region who I know are hurting right now. We must continue to do all we can to reduce the spread of coronavirus and follow the rules put in place to keep one another safe."

A staff member from the hospital was Tasmania's only COVID-19 case confirmed last night.

Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch is confident the man in his 40s had very few close contacts.

"This healthcare worker took themself off work as soon as they had symptoms - which is exactly what we expect healthcare workers to do - substantially reducing the risk to fellow staff and patients."

The Mersey Community Hospital is said to be undertaking processes to ensure there's no outbreak similar to that of Burnie's hospitals - which are still undergoing a deep clean. 

Hundreds of North West health workers are finishing up their two week quarantine period and beginning to return to shifts, pending a negative test result.  

Tasmanian has now had 208 confirmed infections, with 123 recoveries.

12th person dies of COVID-19 in Tasmania

Corona Update

An 86-year-old woman has become the 12th person to die from coronavirus in Tasmania.

She was being cared for at the Mersey Community Hospital.

This is the 12th life lost to coronavirus in Tasmania, with 11 of those related to the North West outbreak. It takes the national toll to 91.

Premier Peter Gutwein extended his deepest sympathies to her family, friends and loved ones.

“We must continue to do all we can to reduce the spread of coronavirus and to keep Tasmanians safe and secure,” he said.

13 Tas deaths as national count eases

Coronavirus latest news2

Indications continue that Australia is bringing the pandemic under control, with the ACT the first jurisdiction to record no active cases - among five mainland jurisdictions with no new infections in the past day. 

South Australia will reportedly become the first state to loosen pandemic restrictions, from May 21.

There have been no new cases of covid-19 in South Australia for more than one week, the result boosted by the highest rate of testing per capita across the nation

That state's Premier Steve Marshall has told The Australian they'll be able to slowly ease restrictions and not suffer the setbacks seen in other countries.

945 people still have the illness nationwide, including 64 in Tasmania, after the number of active cases dropped by 41.

NSW remains the nation's hotspot with 692 active cases, Queensland the second highest with 84. 

Another two Tasmanian cases, a man and a woman in their 50s and 70s, were confirmed in the north and northwest overnight.

Two 86-year-old women have become the state's 12th and 13th coronavirus fatalities after passing away at the Mersey Community Hospital. 

The deaths came within 24 hours of each other. 

"It is a stark reminder of the serious nature of this virus and our need to maintain strong measures to mitigate its spread," said Premier Peter Gutwein while conveying his sympathies to their friends and families.  

205

coronavirus update

More Covid-19 infections on Tasmania's northwest coast are casting doubt on whether the region's hardline restrictions will be lifted on Sunday.

The four latest infections include a possible instance of community transmission, two workers at Burnie's public and private hospitals and a close contact of a confirmed case, taking the state's total to 205.

Three women and one man are aged in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. 

Premier Peter Gutwein says Public Health is monitoring the situation. 

"We will continue to review on a day-by-day basis whether or not the restrictions are lifted on Sunday," he said. 

"My hope is they will be able to, because that will mean that the snapshot we've got and the number of positive tests and cases we're seeing has flattened." 

The State's Director of Public Health says there are some positive indications. 

"There have been no further cases from any of the three North West nursing homes where residents and staff were tested late last week," said Dr Mark Veitch. 

"A concerted effort is being made to identify any further cases of coronavirus in the North West. Anyone who lives in the North West who currently, or in the last few days has had respiratory symptoms like a cough, sore throat, runny nose, or fever should arrange testing through the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 or their GP."

 

21 deaths, 410 new Victoria COVID cases

Coronavirus latest news2

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

3rd Burnie hospital worker with coronavirus

BurnieHospital

The medical and surgical wards at Burnie's North West Regional Hospital are closed to new admissions, after a third worker at the facility tested positive to coronavirus.

A full investigation was already underway to aggressively trace and track the movements of the first two diagnosed medical ward staff members.

The other COVID-19 case confirmed late yesterday was a child from Northern Tasmania, taking the state's toal to 82. 

Around 18 close contact hospital staff have been put into self isolation, but authorities say they'll be more.

"We're exploring options both within and outside the North-West Regional Hospital. We do have a co-located private hospital and we'll be in communication to determine if there's any excess capacity we can utilise there. We recognise that there is in-patient capacity at the Mersey Community Hospital and we may well be able to transfer appropriately selected patients there. And also the configuration of some of the wards at the hospital may change," Chief Medical Officer Professor Tony Lawler said. 

26 Tasmanians have now recovered from the virus.

3016 tests have been carried out, that number boosted in recent days as authorities attempt to unearth evidence of community transmission in the north-west. 

Meanwhile, Legislative Council elections for the seats of Rosevears and Huon are off for the time being.

Attorney-General Elise Archer says they're aiming to hold the Upper House polls before August 25th, if possible.  

Premier Peter Gutwein has also announced Tasmanian boats will only be allowed to launch from the same municipality in which they're kept.

There's fears thousands of people will descend upon "vulnerable coastal communities" this Easter.


Image: Vos Construction

6th case confirmed, cruise ships locked out

cruise

All cruise ships will be suspended from visiting Tasmanian ports until June 30th in an unprecedented move by the state government.

There are now six confirmed cases of coronavirus in Tasmania, after a female in her 60s tested positive late yesterday, a travel companion of a previous case in Hobart.

Spirit of Tasmania vessels are excluded from the new ban, while domestic flights are continuing as normal.

A single vessel will be allowed to refuel in Hobart on Sunday, but none of the 43 passengers will disembark.

Premier Peter Gutwein says he's not looking at closing the state's borders altogether, but believes this latest announcement is the right move.

"This is not a decision I make lightly, and one which has been done in careful consultation with senior members of our State Emergency Management Committee, Tasports and the tourism industry," he said on Sunday.

5 vessels were due to dock in Hobart, 5 in Burnie and 2 in Port Arthur during the period until June 30. 

Meanwhile Tasmania's sixth case of coronavirus is not being considered an example of community transmission.

The woman in her 60s is currently in isolation at the Royal Hobart Hospital, a tourist and travel companion of a previous confirmed case who had been overseas.

"While it is likely it had occurred within Tasmania, it has not occurred within the broader community because this person had already been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case," Health Minister Sarah Courtney said.

The 5 other cases are all in a stable condition.  

A Tasmanian Response Package from the state government is due to be unveiled this week. 

8th coronavirus death in Tasmania

merseyhosp

A 74-year-old man at the Mersey Community Hospital has become Tasmania's eighth death from coronavirus, and second in 24 hours.

He'd been transferred from the North West Regional Hospital which closed amid the outbreak, but has since reopened its Emergency Department.

Premier Peter Gutwein has sent his sympathies to the family.

"That's eight deaths in less than 3 weeks. I cannot express just how serious this is. This is not the time to become complacent," he said. 

As of 6pm on Friday night, there had been 184 cases across Tasmania, 68 of which had recovered. 

About 500 coronavirus test results from staff and patients at three aged care facilities in the North West where an infected worked completed shifts are due back this afternoon.

Deputy Director of Public Health Scott McKeown says a specialist team has been established, should there be widespread infection at the nursing homes.

"This team is being led by a senior public health medical specialist who's also an epidemiologist, another public health doctor, 3 public health nurses, 2  epidemiologists and the support of the extensive team of contact tracers who work within Public Health Services," he said.

Also from today's media briefing, the Health Minister fired back at long standing accusations of not having adequate personal protective equipment for frontline staff.

Sarah Courtney says from today, a weekly outline of current stocks will be released to health workers.

"We have placed orders worth an additional 26 million dollars over and above our normal supply levels to prepare us for this pandemic. Those orders have already been placed. This is a key priority of ours," she said. 

A dinner party causes illness to spread: CMO

Corona Update

An illegal dinner party attended by medical workers in Tasmania, is likely to have exacerbated the Covid-19 crisis in the state's North West.

The revelation has been made by Australia's Chief Medical Officer during a briefing to New Zealand politicians.

Professor Brendan Murphy was giving a special committee an update on the situation in Australia.

During the video conference he told MPs, the problems in Tasmania could have been avoided:

"You have to be prepared to deal with further cases. We thought we were doing really well in the last week, and we had a cluster of 49 cases in hospital in Tasmania just over the weekend - most of them went to an illegal dinner party of medical workers," he said.

Premier Peter Gutwein has flagged a police investigation, but still believes it's a rumour. 

"Our contact tracing has not identified a dinner party of health workers, however, I accept that this is a serious allegation and it's something that needs to be followed up," he told Tuesday's coronavirus press briefing. 

"So we will retrace our steps, but importantly I have asked Tasmania Police to investigate this matter, and that will be started today." 

Active cases holding steady

Doctor Medicine Health

Around a third of Tasmania's overall coronavirus cases remain active, with 135 recoveries, according to the latest figures.

Another four cases confirmed on Tuesday night, comprising three northwest coast healthcare workers and a northern Tasmanian infection, have taken the state's infection tally to 218 with 72 active.

Deputy Director of Public Health Scott McKeown says they're also looking into a borderline test result in the state's south.

"This person is not a confirmed case, but we are certainly taking a precautionary approach. The person has been in isolation during their illness," he said. 

"We're applying a rigourous contact tracing process and quarantine until we can be clearer." 

Meantime, Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck says he's keeping a close eye on developments at a virus-hit NSW nursing home which has seen another four residents die from Covid-19 in 24 hours.

A total of 11 people have now died at the Anglicare-run Newmark House in Western Sydney, taking the nation's deathtoll to 88.

The Senator has described the developments as "absolutely tragic" and says a panel of medical experts will chart a path forward for the facility. 

Relatives of residents have claimed they've been kept in the dark by the home's management. 

ADF called in to Tassie to fight COVID-19

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.

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

ADF 20'Container

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

ADF to restart hospitals

Burnie

Australian Defence Force Medics and an Australian Medical Assistance Team are due in Tasmania's northwest this week to help get the region's hospitals back up and running.

The Northwest Regional and Northwest Private were closed for deep cleaning yesterday, with around 1200 staff going into quarantine after a rash of coronavirus infections in the area.

"With their families, we will have somewhere between 4-5000 people in the northwest that will be quarantined in the next 14 days; that is unprecedented," said Premier Peter Gutwein. 

The state's total case count rose to 150 overnight with another six in the northwest, including three health care workers.

23 patients were transferred to the Mersey Community Hospital at Latrobe. 

Health Minister Sarah Courtney wants the NWRH emergency department reopened before the end of the week.

"We're prioritising the emergency department first; that will be thoroughly cleaned and then re-staffed with the ADF to ensure those services are covered," she said. 

"We will then make sure that the rest of the sites - particularly prioritising the maternity services at the North West Private Hospital - will be the next area of prioritisation." 

The closure of non-essential businesses will also hit the region hard. 

"My sense is that in northwest Tasmania, as in other parts of the state and other parts of the country, the recovery period - whenever it is allowed to start - is going to be fairly slow," prominent Tasmanian economist Saul Eslake told the Seven network. 

 

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 shutdown welcomed

Aged care

Premier Peter Gutwein's decision to ban visitors from all aged care homes has been welcomed by the state's peak body for older Tasmanians.

All facilities, as well as hospitals, are now locked down for at least the next two weeks, with exceptions made for end of life care, in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Tasmania's Council on the Ageing CEO Sue Leitch says acting early will save lives.

“We support this fully because we need to protect our most vulnerable in our community. We can’t risk elderly people getting this illness because it is deadly.”

She says facilities need to ensure loved ones can contact their relatives hassle-free during this time.

“The thing is some people have mixed views on this because they want to be able to still see their loved ones. What facilities need to do is to ensure people can still interact with their loved ones inside a residential home. There are so many ways to do that these days,” she said.

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

Agricultural shows plead for help

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Agricultural festivals across Australia are facing some tough times, as coronavirus restrictions continue.

The Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania is asking the Federal Government for financial help to keep its 24 events here afloat.

CEO Scott Gadd says despite the virtual world proving successful for AgFest this year, the same can't be said for farming shows.

"I know shows are looking at what they can do in a virtual sense. I know particularly the 'Royals' - Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide are all looking at that now. But the financial reality is there's not a proven business model that's going to generate enough economic activity through those models to sustain the societies," he said.

"Other businesses depend on shows that then work their way around the circuits thoughout the country. So when you start to lose one or two or ten or twenty it's a major disrutoption to all those businesses and it could create a bit of a domino effect where shows in the main become unviable down the track."

The proposed recovery package by Agricultural Shows Australia’s comprises three components; up to $30 million for capital city royal shows, up to $12.175m for state affiliated agricultural societies and $500,000 in operational support for ASA over two years.


 Image: Pixabay

Airbnb bans house parties worldwide

airbnb pxfuel

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

All of NSW barred from Tassie

tasborderslocked

More than half of Australia's population is now banned from entering Tasmania, after the high risk classification of Greater Sydney by public health officials here was expanded to include all of NSW.

That state recorded over 100 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday and Sunday, with reports some are fleeing the Habour City lockdown to go to freer regional areas.

It's prompted the Premier to reimpose a hard border not seen since the start of the pandemic, meaning only those with an exemption will be allowed in.

"We have been through this before. None of us wanted to go back to a situation where we've got large parts of the country locked out of Tasmania," Peter Gutwein said.

The entire state of Victoria is also high risk, but it's hoped that won't last too long, with the snap 5 day lockdown there due to end on Tuesday.

16 new local infections have been recorded there in Sunday's daily figures - all linked to current outbreaks.

Deputy Director of Public Health Scott McKeown was visibly distressed while announcing the hard border to all of NSW and Victoria late yesterday.

"For a person to travel from that region...they will need to apply for permission to enter the state. We'll continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly," Dr McKeown said.

All of NSW barred from Tassie

tasborderslocked

More than half of Australia's population is now banned from entering Tasmania, after the high risk classification of Greater Sydney by public health officials here was expanded to include all of NSW.

That state recorded over 100 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday and Sunday, with reports some are fleeing the Habour City lockdown to go to freer regional areas.

It's prompted the Premier to reimpose a hard border not seen since the start of the pandemic, meaning only those with an exemption will be allowed in.

"We have been through this before. None of us wanted to go back to a situation where we've got large parts of the country locked out of Tasmania," Peter Gutwein said.

The entire state of Victoria is also high risk, but it's hoped that won't last too long, with the snap 5 day lockdown there due to end on Tuesday.

16 new local infections have been recorded there in Sunday's daily figures - all linked to current outbreaks.

Deputy Director of Public Health Scott McKeown was visibly distressed while announcing the hard border to all of NSW and Victoria late yesterday.

"For a person to travel from that region...they will need to apply for permission to enter the state. We'll continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly," Dr McKeown said.

All of NSW barred from Tassie

tasborderslocked

More than half of Australia's population is now banned from entering Tasmania, after the high risk classification of Greater Sydney by public health officials here was expanded to include all of NSW.

That state recorded over 100 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday and Sunday, with reports some are fleeing the Habour City lockdown to go to freer regional areas.

It's prompted the Premier to reimpose a hard border not seen since the start of the pandemic, meaning only those with an exemption will be allowed in.

"We have been through this before. None of us wanted to go back to a situation where we've got large parts of the country locked out of Tasmania," Peter Gutwein said.

The entire state of Victoria is also high risk, but it's hoped that won't last too long, with the snap 5 day lockdown there due to end on Tuesday.

16 new local infections have been recorded there in Sunday's daily figures - all linked to current outbreaks.

Deputy Director of Public Health Scott McKeown was visibly distressed while announcing the hard border to all of NSW and Victoria late yesterday.

"For a person to travel from that region...they will need to apply for permission to enter the state. We'll continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly," Dr McKeown said.

All of NSW barred from Tassie

tasborderslocked

More than half of Australia's population is now banned from entering Tasmania, after the high risk classification of Greater Sydney by public health officials here was expanded to include all of NSW.

That state recorded over 100 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday and Sunday, with reports some are fleeing the Habour City lockdown to go to freer regional areas.

It's prompted the Premier to reimpose a hard border not seen since the start of the pandemic, meaning only those with an exemption will be allowed in.

"We have been through this before. None of us wanted to go back to a situation where we've got large parts of the country locked out of Tasmania," Peter Gutwein said.

The entire state of Victoria is also high risk, but it's hoped that won't last too long, with the snap 5 day lockdown there due to end on Tuesday.

16 new local infections have been recorded there in Sunday's daily figures - all linked to current outbreaks.

Deputy Director of Public Health Scott McKeown was visibly distressed while announcing the hard border to all of NSW and Victoria late yesterday.

"For a person to travel from that region...they will need to apply for permission to enter the state. We'll continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly," Dr McKeown said.

Alleged quarantine dodger fronts court

tas police

A young Ulverstone man will front an after-hours court session today, accused of dodging home quarantine having come in from Victoria

Police say Alex Bezemer arrived in Devonport on July 3rd, but wasn't at his nominated place of residence when when officers did a random check three days later.

The 22-year-old was located yesterday without incident and has been held overnight, charged with failing to comply with a public health direction and driving while suspended.

“Although difficult, the directions requiring quarantine are a necessary precaution to help prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19,’ Sergeant James Scicluna said.

“Whilst compliance rates remain high, even one person can place an entire community at risk and will not be tolerated."

Any non-compliance of COVID-19 restrictions can be reported on 1800 671 738 or online at the Tasmania Health Hotline.

Almost 300 travellers quarantine in Vic

Coronavirus latest news2

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

Alternate winter celebration

There are plans to mount some replacement events to substitute for Dark Mofo which has been cancelled this year because of the coronavirus.

The wildly popular winter festival provides a tourism surge for Tasmania's otherwise sleepy winter, but it's financial exposure for a last minute cancellation was deemed too great.  

Hobart Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds is hoping council and state government funding for Dark Mofo can resurrect some sort of winter solstice celebration.

"We don't have the resources to organise something exactly the same as Dark Mofo, but the state government and the City of Hobart will be talking over the next couple of weeks to see if we can redirect the sponsorship that was going to Dark Mofo into some other activities in that same winter period."

The Lord Mayor admits the task ahead is a big one.

"Really challenging given the time frame and the coronavirus is always going to be a big issue, but we're certainly thinking about if there's anything we can do to try and provide some activity in those darkest winter weeks."

Amazon hiring 100000 as orders surge

epa08299138 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

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

An Easter like no other

Baptistsmurals

A Tasmanian pastor is seeing a silver lining on the mass gathering ban that will see churches around the globe sit empty over the Easter weekend for the first time in living memory.

In recent weeks Shaun White from C3 South Hobart has been preaching to his congregation - one of the largest in Southern Tasmania - from his home via online streaming, or with a small worship team from the foyer of the church's Anglesea Street function centre.  

He says it'll be a time for individuals and families to contemplate the bigger picture.

"It's a message of hope; I mean when Jesus died on the cross of course there was pain there for Him, but actually there was a message of hope for us...He rose again. There is a new day, there is something to go for," he said. 

"I'm really encouraging people this Easter that people are home, there's a different focus this year, people aren't out and about.

It's a time when we need to be thinking of each other, and we can engage through phone, we can engage through screens." 

Meantime Hobart Baptist Church has unveiled two new murals at its heritage-listed tabernacle by artist-in-residence Michael Henderson to mark one of the high points of the Christian year. 

“It is sad that no one can view them this Easter weekend, but we want to be part of caring for our community, through faith and general health, and right now that means helping people to stay at home," said Senior Pastor Stephen Baxter.

"We plan to leave them up until the restrictions are lifted, and look forward to viewing them in our church auditorium.”

Image: supplied

Andrews outlines Vic home visit rules

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews 20200914001490541083 600x400

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 case, but dancing's back!

Corona

Another confirmed coronavirus case in quarantine at Hobart's Best Western Hotel has taken the total number from the recent Indian flight to four.

A man from the same family as yesterday's cases initially tested negative but was retested later after reporting mild symptoms.

The family are being reunited in the dedicated Fountainside quarantine facility.

Staff involved in their movement haven't had to isolate after acting in accordance with infection control protocols.

Tasmanians are still being assured there's no coronavirus in the community.

Meantime health authorities have announced the state's unpopular bans on dancing and stand-up drinking at venues will vanish at 5 pm on Friday. 

It's been welcomed by the influential hotels lobby. 

"The hospitality industry is committed to upholding the highest standards of community safety and will continue to comply with the remaining restrictions including capacity limits for stand up drinking and dancing, enforcing the 1 person per 2 square metre rule and mandatory contact tracing," said Tasmanian Hospitality Association CEO Steve Old. 

"The 100 person limit on stand up drinking and dancing will still provide some challenges for some venues, particularly nightclubs but we do understand the Government’s ongoing caution."

The rules: 

· A total of 100 people can stand up and drink alcohol, and dance in venues

· Venues must still comply with the 1 in 2 square metre rule, up to 250 people indoors

· Patron numbers above the 100 person limit indoors must be seated

· Venues must still comply with mandatory contact tracing

Another coronavirus arrest

Another coronavirus related arrest has been made in Launceston, this time a 23 year old woman for allegedly not having a reasonable excuse to be away from her home.

It started when police called out to a vehicle break-in near the Launceston General Hospital at around 8.45pm Wednesday night.

The woman was also charged with possessing a dangerous article or instrument with the intent of committing a crime.

Under the Emergency Management Act crimes around coronavirus carry fines of up to $16,800 or 3 months jail.

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)

Another Tasmanian with coronavirus

FB Coronavirus Update

Public Health Services has been advised of 4 cases of coronavirus infection among passengers and crew who disembarked from the Ruby Princess cruise ship yesterday in Sydney after a cruise to New Zealand.
 
One of these cases is a Tasmanian woman who remains in Sydney and is being managed by New South Wales Health.
 
Public Health Services have been advised there were 54 Tasmanians on board this vessel.
 
New South Wales Health is currently contacting all passengers. Passengers will be will reminded of their requirement, as returned overseas travellers, to remain in self-quarantine for 14 days after they reach their home destination.
 
Public Health Services will also contact the Tasmanian passengers.
 
Passengers still in Sydney who have symptoms should not board domestic flights and should follow the advice provided to them by New South Wales Health.
 
Another passenger who was on board the ship has been admitted to hospital in Tasmania with respiratory symptoms and will be tested for coronavirus infection.
 
All travellers returning to Tasmania from overseas travel are required to complete a Tasmania Arrivals Card and self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Whilst in self-quarantine they must monitor for symptoms of coronavirus infection and call their GP or the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 if they get symptoms.

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

Ardern_to_deport_non-quarantiners.jpg

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

Art prize cancels 2020 event

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Australia’s richest art prize has announced it will cancel its 2020 event.

The Tasmanian-based Hadley’s Art Prize, now in its fourth year, was scheduled to announce its $100,000 dollar winner at the opening of its Finalists’ Exhibition at Hadley’s Hotel in July this year, but due to the Coronavirus pandemic it's now been cancelled.

Prize Curator Dr Amy Jackett said it was a difficult decision to make, but given the latest government recommendations, it is necessary.

"It is with great regret that I advise we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Hadley’s Art Prize due to the Coronavirus outbreak. For everyone at Hadley’s Orient Hotel this is an incredibly upsetting decision but given the most recent government recommendations and the high level of uncertainty around future safety protocols, transport of works, domestic travel, and public gatherings, we see this action as necessary," she said.

"The Hadley’s Art Prize has fast become a valued part of the Australian art scene and while we have contemplated ways we might push on this year, there is no way to suitably mitigate the risks. Public safety must always take priority."

"As a relatively new prize, our brand is so delicate and we are confident, along with many others in this dreadful position, that the best outcome is to ensure everyone’s safety this year and make sure 2021 is the best Hadley’s Art Prize so far."

All entries, which were due to close on 6 April, will be fully refunded.

AstraZeneca vaccine approved in Australia

SPARX LATEST COVID BANNER 1 650x431

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

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

Aus monitoring AstraZeneca concerns

corona 5174671 640

The Morrison Government is now considering next steps in regard to the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine rollout, after the UK began offering people aged under 30 an alternative formula. 

It comes after the European Medicines Agency confirmed the jab can cause bloot clots in extremely rare cases, but maintains the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working with its foreign counterparts and the issue will be discussed at the next National Cabinet meeting.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has told Sky it's concerning.

"We've all got different DNA inside of us...some things don't suit some people, and there will be adverse reactions to them," she said. 

"I don't think it's helping build the confidence; it's not just that, it's such a slow rollout."

Health Minister Greg Hunt told media on Wednesday Australia's still well positioned compared to other countries. 

"This is another day with zero cases of community transmission in Australia. We know that we faced a potential two state breakout but the collective actions of Australians in coming forward has been immensely important in helping to isolate cases, to ensure that we have people in quarantine, and to ensure that the testing levels are high," he said. 

"That makes 57 days, I'm advised, this year, so 57 days of zero cases of community transmission in Australia. At the same time, almost extraordinarily, we’ve seen 579,000 cases around the world in the last 24 hours and 11,500 lives lost."

Tasmania's Health Department was approached for comment. 

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