All overseas arrivals will be quarantined in hotels for 14 days
Scott Morrison announced that from 11.59pm on Saturday, states and territories will quarantine all arrivals in hotels and other accommodation for mandatory 14-day isolation before they return to their homes. Australians coming back from overseas will be asked to sign an isolation declaration card, which will be strictly enforced. Defence force personnel will support state enforcement efforts in terms of people already in home isolation.
That means some returning travellers may have to self-isolate for 28 days. If they live in one of the five states and territories in Australia that has introduced state-based border controls, and requires a 14-day self-isolation period for domestic travellers, they will have to self-isolate again for another 14 days upon arrival in their home states.
Businesses are set for a possible six-month ‘hibernation’
The government is putting together a third stimulus package which would allow businesses to “hibernate” during the coronavirus crisis. Morrison said details of the plan to effectively cocoon businesses will be announced in the next few days as part of a third stimulus package which will also include commercial and residential rental assistance.
“There are businesses which will have to close their doors,” he said. “Some businesses will find they won’t have the customers to keep going, for various reasons. We want these businesses to effectively go into a hibernation, which means on the other side, the employees come back, the opportunities come back, the economy comes back.”
NSW and Victoria moving toward stage 3 restrictions
NSW is on the brink of announcing new restrictions in which only essential businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, petrol stations and health facilities will remain open and people will be asked to stay in their homes. Victoria is also heading toward stage 3 restrictions, with each state’s timing likely to move according to the local situation.
The imminent state measures come as the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, revealed that there were at least 145 Covid-19 cases that appeared to be due to community transmission, that could not be explained by overseas travel or contact with a person that had travelled. “The community-to-community transmission is what we’re concerned with. When you have cases that come from overseas, you can monitor them and you have a source,” she said on Friday morning.
$1,000 fine issued to woman breaking self-isolation order
A woman from the NSW Hunter region has been fined by police for twice defying orders to self-isolate after returning from overseas, as authorities across the country begin to police new rules and regulations to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The woman was first issued with a warning, but was later handed a $1,000 on-the-spot fine when police discovered she had left her home again.
NSW police say they have also issued fines to the operators of a Sydney massage parlour which remained open despite orders to close, and a woman who returned from a holiday in Bali on Saturday. In Queensland, police have conducted about 1,000 compliance checks of people under self-isolation orders. The commissioner said the strategy had been “communication and compassion ... because we know the community is going through a tough time”. Victoria police said as of Friday they were also monitoring people who had tested positive for Covid-19.
Experts condemn Clive Palmer-funded drug ads
Prominent advertisements paid for by the former federal politician Clive Palmer which promote a malaria drug as a potential “cure” for Covid-19 have been called “ethically immoral” by Prof Peter Collignon, a former World Health Organization adviser who worked on Australia’s response to the Sars virus. The two-page ad in the Australian states the drug, hydroxychloroquine, when combined with another medication could “wipe out the virus in test tubes”. The ad says Palmer had agreed to personally fund the acquisition or manufacture of 1m doses “to ensure all Australians would have access to the drug as soon as possible”. The ad ran despite the Therapeutic Goods Administration [TGA] warning that the drug and its derivatives “pose well-known serious risks to patients”.
Local elections going ahead despite Covid-19 risk
A leading medical ethicist said Queensland was taking a “lethal risk” by holding elections on Saturday, as the Australian Medical Association, virologists and others called for them to be postponed because of coronavirus. Local government elections will be held in council areas across the state. Byelections will be held in two key state electorates, Bundamba and Currumbin.
About 570,000 people applied for postal votes before the deadline, but large numbers said they had not received them. The Queensland electoral commission told those people they could vote in person on Saturday and that physical distancing and other precautions would be taken. The NSW government delayed its local government elections, due in September.
Australia backs G20 coronavirus effort
Australia and other G20 nations have struck a deal to coordinate efforts to tackle the pandemic as they collectively pledged $7.5tn to kickstart the global economy. Morrison joined President Donald Trump and other members of the G20 through a video link-up on Thursday night. In a communique issued after the meeting, Morrison and other leaders described the pandemic as “a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and vulnerabilities”.
In his contribution to the meeting, Morrison is understood to have called for greater assurances that medical supplies and medicines will freely flow to those who need them. The prime minister also urged support for developing and vulnerable nations including Pacific island countries, which have less capacity to deal with any outbreaks.