Coronavirus: Italy announces shutdown of economy, Bondi Beach closed, UK pub ban, New York and California lockdowns

Coronavirus: Italy announces shutdown of economy, Bondi Beach closed, UK pub ban, New York and California lockdowns

Cash no go with Woolies’ new rules to stop virusWHO confirms newspapers safe to touch amid virus outbreak

Authorities have recommended halting all non-essential travel within Australia immediately as Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned there will be tougher measures to contain localised virus outbreaks.

The National Cabinet meeting has been brought forward to tonight to urgently address the matter.

Mr Morrison is unveiling the federal government’s $66 billion plan to save jobs and provide income support.

But he emphasised that the cornonavirus is a health crisis and that Australians needed to follow the guidelines of social distancing.

Italy has increased its lockdown with all non-essential businesses and factories to close, amid warnings the country has not reached the peak of its coronavirus outbreak despite the death toll rocketing by 793 in a day.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced stricter measures on Sunday Australian time as he desperately tries to slow the epidemic.

“This is the most difficult challenge after the war,” he said.

“We will close all non-crucial production activities. But supermarkets, food, pharmacies and parapharmacies will remain open.”

media_cameraItalian nurse Paolo Miranda takes a self portrait in an elevator’s mirror as he goes to start his shift at the Cremona hospital, southeast of Milan. Picture: AFP

Mr Conte said those who died were not just numbers, but people with families who were mourning them.

“We are living a nightmare,” he said.

Europe remains in the grip of the deadly virus, but without any signs that the infection rates were slowing like they did in China.

The overall death toll in Italy is on track to hit 5000 from more than 53,000, rapidly closing in on China’s overall cases which have stalled in recent days as that country starts to emerge from lockdown.

media_cameraNurses wearing protective mask and gear embrace at the Cremona hospital, southeast of Milan, Lombardy, during the country’s lockdown. Picture: AFP

Spain, the United States, Germany, Iran and France were next on the coronavirus rankings, with all having more than 20,000 cases.

It comes as Britain’s death toll climbed by 53 on the first day that pubs, cafes, and restaurants were closed, with medical staff pleading for people to follow social distancing rules.

Anaesthetic registrar Natalie Silvey posted a dramatic picture after a shift in a British hospital.

“This is the face of someone who just spent nine hours in personal protective equipment moving critically ill COVID-19 patients around London,” she said on Twitter.

“I feel broken – and we are only at the start. I am begging people, please please do social distancing and self isolation #covid19.”

This is the face of someone who just spent 9 hours in personal protective equipment moving critically ill Covid19 patients around London.

I feel broken – and we are only at the start. I am begging people, please please do social distancing and self isolation #covid19 pic.twitter.com/hs0RQdvsn3

— Natalie Silvey (@silv24) March 21, 2020

Ms Silvey was one of thousands of medical staff putting their lives at risk by dealing with infectious patients.

“I volunteered to do this. The consultant anaesthetist I was with volunteered. This is bringing out the best of us. Now can the rest of the country please bring out their best and listen,” she said.

Heathrow Airport was eerily quiet today as Australians headed home on Qantas flights, with anxious patients asking to be placed near empty seats.

However, staff warned them that flights were full, as many passengers heading to Hong Kong wore face masks as they checked in for their journey home.

British firms, including a vacuum cleaner company and Formula 1 team McLaren, were working over the weekend to discover ways to manufacture ventilators, with reports that at least 30,000 will be needed.

And it is feared that the virus was also about to hit eastern Europe and the Middle East, with Turkey recording more than 600 cases, and Iraq more than 200 cases.

media_cameraMedical staff stand outside a COVID-19 screening tent at the Brooklyn Hospital Centre. Picture: AFP

There are more than 3.5 million refugees in Turkey in makeshift refugee camps, with concerns it would wreak havoc if it was spread there.

Iran has more than 7,000 recovered patients from its 20,000 infections, as the world races to find a treatment for coronavirus.

Angelo Borelli, the head of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency said the worst may still be to come there, despite almost 800 deaths recorded early on Sunday Australian time.

He said that it had not reached the peak.

“We can’t say it, we have to look at the trends,” he said.

“We never made a prediction, not because they can’t be done but because they suffer from some assumptions and risk being misleading.”

Long queues remain at supermarkets across the country, with Italy to remain in lockdown indefinitely.

The Lombardy region in the north of Italy remains the hardest hit, accounting for 546 on yesterday’s death toll, with hospitals overwhelmed.

In New York City, the rampant coronavirus is killing residents at the rate of one death every hour – and residents have been told this is likely the new normal.

media_cameraA couple hold hands while wearing protective masks in Central Park as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States. Picture: Getty

Now the epicentre of the disease in the US, NYC has been declared a Major Disaster Zone – for the first time in history over a health emergency – and all non-essential stores in the state have been shut down and people ordered to stay indoors.

On Friday US time alone, 14 people died in NYC between 10am and 6pm.

The city’s death toll is 45, with the number of COVID-19 cases surging past 10,000.

The number of cases in the US has passed 21,000.

The number of cases globally according to the World Health Organisation is 266,073 with 11,184 confirmed deaths.

And the city’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, warned New Yorkers that double-digit daily deaths may well become the new normal for the time being.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to a day when we have double-digits new people dying every day,” she said.

media_cameraA patient wears a protective face mask as she is loaded into an ambulance at The Brooklyn Hospital Centre emergency room. Picture: APmedia_cameraA sparsely occupied Grand Central Station. New York City has been declared a Major Disaster Zone. Picture: Evan Agostini/Invision/APmedia_cameraPeople arrive to a COVID-19 test facility in New York. Picture: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

According to the New York Post, 52 police officers have been struck by the disease.

The Trump administration issued a Major Disaster Declaration for New York which gives city authorities access to US$42 billion (A$72.50bn) in aid from the Disaster Relief Fund.

On Saturday morning local time US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to tout the benefits of a drug cocktail to combat coronavirus.

HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents)…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2020

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has been touted by Mr Trump as a possible answer-in-waiting to the outbreak, though many experts caution more testing needs to be done.

The US President made sure to tag the official accounts of the US Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and FDA boss Stephen Hahn.

Earlier in the week, Mr Trump said hydroxychloroquine was among the drugs being tested for treating coronavirus, but his FDA chief said it’s too soon to say when.

media_cameraUS President Donald Trump listens during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 21, 2020, in Washington, DC. Picture: AFP

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Food and Drug Administration is sending 10,000 doses to the state.

Negotiators from US Congress and the White House were resuming top-level talks on Saturday on a ballooning US$1 trillion-plus (A$1.73tn) economic rescue package, racing to strike a deal after Mr Trump unleashed fury on those questioning his handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

KOREA TO ‘EXPORT VIRUS TEST KITS’

As countries struggle to provide accessible testing to symptomatic and asymptomatic citizens, it appears that South Korea is ramping up production of 10-minute diagnostic testing kits.

Journalist Florian Witulski tweeted the allegedly good news:

Korea finished developing the 10 minute Covid-19 diagnostic kit and is now ramping up production. They plan to export 300.000 test-kits per week – pic.twitter.com/DpJCph9RT7

— Florian Witulski (@vaitor) March 21, 2020

The claim could not be confirmed.

NT SHUTS ITS BORDERS

The Northern Territory is shutting its borders after the UK has closed its dining venues and gyms. New York has joined California in telling millions of residents to stay home. Bondi Beach and other Aussie beaches are also closed.

From 4pm on Tuesday March 24, anyone arriving in the Northern Territory will be forced to quarantine for two weeks.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the strict border controls were for all access points to the NT: roads, airports, train stations, ports and airports.

“Whether you are local or not, this applies to you,” Mr Gunner said.

The quarantine will be enforceable by law.

People arriving in the NT will be required to commit to the quarantine, and tell officials where they will stay.

The quarantine will not be applied to essential personnel, like health officials, flight crews, freight workers and Defence.

Travellers will also be able to apply for exemptions under compassionate grounds.

PRESSURE ON AUSTRALIA TO SAVE JOBS

It comes as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will be under pressure to turn on the economic taps further after the UK guaranteed 80 per cent of workers’ pay to save millions of jobs.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak made the unprecedented announcement this morning that the government would cover the payroll of millions of workers while they are off because of the coronavirus.

It came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson called last drinks across the UK, with pubs, cafes, restaurants, gyms and leisure centres to close tonight.

The dramatic interventions, which have been mirrored in other European countries, will provide a blueprint for Australia as the virus inevitably skyrockets there.

Mr Johnson pleaded with people to stay home tonight, saying people’s contact must drop by 75 per cent for the measures to work.

“You may think you are invincible, but there is no guarantee you will get mild symptoms, and you can still be a carrier of the disease and pass it on to others,” he said.

media_cameraAustralian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will be under pressure to turn on the economic taps further after the UK guaranteed 80 per cent of workers’ pay. Picture: AAP

The pub ban will be in place for at least a month, but could extend longer, with Mr Johnson trying to offer some hope that the UK would be able to turn the tide in 12 weeks.

Mr Sunak, who has the equivalent role in the UK to Mr Frydenberg in Australia, made the history making wages insurance policy this morning.

Mr Sunak, who took on the job only in February, said “our planned economic response will be one of the most comprehensive in the world”.

“To all those at home, right now anxious about the days ahead, I say you will not face this alone,” he said.

Workers will be paid up to $A5000 per month while they are off because of the coronavirus.

There have been almost 1 million job losses in the hospitality sector this week after Mr Johnson asked people to stop going to the pub and cafes.

UK unions said this measure would save another two million in the industry, with the cash guaranteed for three months.

media_cameraA Transport For London worker cleans hand rails on a London Overground train. Picture: Getty Images

The UK is effectively putting its money on black on the economic roulette wheel that has been caused by the virus, which has killed 180 people in the UK with 4145 infected nationwide.

They believe that paying out an “unlimited” wages guarantee would be cheaper than the devastation of millions of job losses.

The world has been watching as Italy’s death toll soars, with another 793 deaths in a day, taking its total to more than 4000.

The European country now has almost 25 per cent more deaths than China where the virus began.

As the worldwide death toll surged past 11,000 the World Health Organisation said that more than 100 million testing kits would be required.

So far the WHO has distributed 1.5 million testing kits.

NSW GOVERNMENT CLOSES BONDI BEACH

The NSW government closed Bondi Beach after footage of people packing onto its famous sands drew worldwide condemnation.

NSW Police David Elliott announced the drastic measure at Bondi Beach.

Waverley council has confirmed the council is also closing Bronte and Tamarama beaches effective immediately.

Thousands flocked to Bondi Beach on Friday amid temperatures in the high 30s, ignoring social distancing measures.

Photos of beachgoers have been harshly criticised by foreign media and on social media as the world attempts to slow the spread of the deadly virus. It came as Waverley mayor Paula Masselos on Saturday issued a public plea for people to stay away from Bondi amid the coronavirus pandemic and away from beaches.

media_cameraBeachgoers are seen at Bondi Beach despite the threat of coronavirus. Picture: AAP

“The public must at all times keep a minimum safe distance from each other in public places and if you don’t need to be out in public, please consider staying at home,” Mr Masselos said.

“We all have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and I am frustrated that people continue to ignore health advice about social distancing as observed yesterday at Bondi Beach.” Mr Masselos asked for people to heed advice from NSW health including practising social distancing and following hygiene rules.

“No-one is immune to COVID-19 and behaving irresponsibly puts the entire community at risk,” Mr Masselos said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Melbourne that local councils needed to ensure people were observing health and safety measures.

“What happened in Bondi was unacceptable and the local council must take steps to stop that occurring,” Mr Hunt said.

“Each of us as individuals, as families, as groups, as councils, as state governments, as a national government has responsibility.

“Where something like this is occurring the local council must step in and that message is absolutely clear.”

Gold Coast beaches will stay open despite the decision to close popular Bondi Beach in Sydney over the COVID-19 threat.

media_cameraA woman waves to a bus transporting Japanese comedy duo Sandwich Man holding the Olympic flame after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Torch Arrival Ceremony at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Matsushima Air Base.

JAPAN INFECTIONS RISE OVER 1000

Japan has 1016 cases of domestically transmitted cases of coronavirus as of Saturday, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Although the number of cases is still on the rise, Japan has started scaling back some measures to fight the spread of the virus.

On Friday, Japan said it would not close schools as it faces mounting pressure on whether it will host the Tokyo Olympics.

COLOMBIA’S QUARANTINE, SINGAPORE’S FIRST DEATHS

Colombia will enter a nationwide quarantine from Tuesday night, President Ivan Duque said. The quarantine in the country, which has 158 confirmed cases of the virus, will last for 19 days, Reuters reports.

“In the coming weeks we have the opportunity to collectively take away the virus’ speed,” Duque said.

Singapore has now reported two coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday.

A 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man both died.

media_cameraPolice officers use face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in Cali, Colombia.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR TO YOUTH: ‘YOU’RE NOT SUPERMAN’

New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has warned young people that they are “not invincible” as 55 per cent of the state’s coronavirus cases are aged 18-49.

Troops will be called to New York State to help fight the coronavirus pandemic after US President Donald Trump declared it a major disaster area.

Gov. Cuomo said today that the state has officially asked for four military field hospitals – each with a capacity of 250 beds.

It also wants four Army Corps hospitals, according to The Sun.

He tweeted: “Younger people listen up: 55 per cent of New York State coronavirus cases are ages 18-49.

“Young people aren’t invincible. You can get this and you can give it to someone older you love.

“You shouldn’t endanger other people’s health.”

The governor – who says he hasn’t been tested for the killer bug – added that the state will be transporting 1.5 million N-95 masks to New York City and Long Island today.

media_cameraNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Picture: Getty

It comes as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home as he banned gatherings statewide.

“Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job,” Gov. Cuomo said of an executive order he signed on Friday local time.

Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are cancelled or postponed.

“We need everyone to be safe, otherwise no one can be safe,” Gov. Cuomo said. “So we’re going to put out an executive order today: New York State on pause: Policies that Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone.”

Civil fines and mandatory closures for businesses that don’t comply with the new mandate will be enforced, Gov. Cuomo announced.

“These provisions will be enforced,” he said. “These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance. Again, your actions can affect my health. That’s where we are.”

media_cameraA subway customer uses a tissue to protect her hand while holding onto a pole as COVID-19 concerns drive down ridership in New York. Picture: AP

New York saw a spike in coronavirus cases on the weekend.

New York State identified 3,254 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the state’s total to over 10,356 cases statewide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

In New York City, now the epicentre of the crisis, 1803 infections were identified since Friday, bringing the new total to 6,211.

media_cameraCoffins on the ground of the church in Serina, near Bergamo, northern Italy during a one-day record that saw the country’s toll shoot up. Picture: AFP

ITALY BECOMES GROUND ZERO AS AUSSIES FEAR DEATH

Italy’s tally of coronavirus cases and deaths continues to soar, with officials on Saturday announcing new day-to-day highs: 793 dead bringing the death toll to 4825.

The country, at the heart of western Europe’s rampaging outbreak, now counts 53,578 known cases.

The army has been called in to move coffins away from the Lombardy region in Northern Italy because burial services were swamped.

Italy has announced 627 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, the biggest day-over-day increase during the outbreak.

Lombardy sent for the army to enforce its coronavirus lockdown as 380 more people died in that region alone and doctors in Italy’s crisis-hit hospitals described an “endless stream” of sick patients.

The region in northern Italy has hired 114 soldiers to keep people inside after some Italians defied the country’s quarantine rules – hampering its efforts to halt the world’s deadliest outbreak.

Officials said that on Sunday a team of 65 Cuban doctors and nurses, with experience in battling ebola outbreaks, will arrive in northern Italy to help in the hard-hit Lombardy town of Cremona.

Italian health officials realise they need to shorten the time between emergence of symptoms and diagnosis, said Silvio Brusaferro, the head of the national Superior Health Institute. Currently that lag is about five days, he said. The new increases come nearly two weeks into a national lockdown in a desperate bid to contain the contagion.

media_cameraThe Costa Victoria cruise ship. Picture: Costa Cruises

Meanwhile, a passenger on the Costa Victoria cruise ship which was sailing towards Venice told News Corp Australia calm had descended on the ship after it was diverted away from the Italian port.

Terrified passengers previously feared they would be left to die if they were dumped there.

“At first there was a bit of panic from some to get home before Australia closes the borders but Costa have been assuring us all will be OK,” she said.

“To be honest many feel this cruise should never have gone ahead to begin with we were supposed to start from the Maldives but the day before we flew out we got the call to say Maldives we’re locking us out and we had to now change our flights to Dubai.

“It had started before we even left but were given no option of a refund or reschedule, just had to go where we were told or we’d miss out all together and lose our money.”

The ship passed through the Suez Canal and was between Egypt and Cyprus when Ms Mapelsden spoke to News Corp Australia.

media_cameraAustralian couple Joanne and Iain Martin-Blakey, from the Gold Coast, went on the Costa Victoria to celebrate a 50th birthday. Picture: Evelyn Martin-Blakey

Previously, Sydney woman Lauren Petrovic said her mother-in-law Susan Morgan – who is also on the cruise ship – was terrified of being left in Venice.

“This obviously is a death sentence if they are to be let off here without assistance or any Ave to safely come home to Australia. They will be potentially left to die,” she said.

Gold Coast woman Joanne Martin-Blakey is on the ship with her husband Iain to celebrate her 50th birthday. She said on Facebook: “H.E.L.P. We are now stuck on this ship (Costa Victoria) until we reach Italy. What country is going to accept us after being in Italy? Emirates have cancelled our return flight back from Venice and offered no alternative.

“We are being forced into the epicentre of COVID-19, and we are all healthy on this ship but are now being put at risk.”

The cruise, which has no reported cases of coronavirus, continues for at least another eight days.

Passengers have been told to avoid social contact and all activities have been cancelled.

Italians will remain in lockdown indefinitely as it now becomes the deadliest place on the planet to contract the disease.

A ban on opening shops, due to expire on April 3, has now been extended.

“Use your common sense and act with utmost caution,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians.

“We are not underestimating anything and always acting based on the worst-case scenario.”

La Repubblica newspaper, Italy’s major outlet, reported 94 per cent of Italians remained in favour of the bans, despite the imposition on their lives.

media_cameraMembers of the Military Emergencies Unit prepare to carry out a general disinfection at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat airport in El Prat de Llobregat. Picture: AFP

Residents wandering the streets who were not going to food stores or pharmacies or travelling to work have been threatened with fines of $A385.

Iran has become the next major hotspot for the virus with a person dying there every 10 minutes bringing the nation’s already fragile health system to its knees.

French president Emmanuel Macron has lashed citizens for breaching his country’s lockdown, with beaches now being closed, amid warning its harsh measures will be in place for a month.

Prince Albert II of Monaco has become the first head of state to come down with the disease, amid concerns he had met Prince Charles recently.

FRANTIC SCENES AS AUSSIES HEAD HOME

A group of Australian teenagers have caught one of the last planes out of London after coronavirus robbed them of their gap year, while a cruise ship carrying up to 240 Australians is now heading for Greece rather than Italy.

There were frantic scenes at London’s Gatwick Airport early on Saturday Australian time, as people scrambled back to their home countries.

However, some couples were separate as those without passports to their destination country were rejected from flights as Europe enforces hard line travel bans.

Staff at the budget airline Easyjet said they had been dealing with frustrated, tearful passengers, as many travellers wore masks, and some even wore protective eye glasses when they went through security.

media_camera(L-R) Olivia Edwards, 19, Eliza Ewington, 18, Sascha Wilson, 18, Daisy Meehan, 18, and Cate von Behr, 18, leave London’s Gatwick Airport with their gap year in Oxford, UK, at a private school cut short. Picture Stephen Drill

Daisy Meehan, 18, of Armidale, Sydneysiders Eliza Ewington, 18, Olivia Edwards, 19, Cate von Behr, 18 and Sascha Wilson, 18, of the New South Wales Central Coast, just scraped out of the UK.

They had been working at a private school in Oxford, but were forced to make hurried plans to get back to Australia, as their parents urged them to get out quickly.

“My mum has been frantically texting and said you need to get your big girl pants on and get back home,” Miss Meehan said. “It’s so uncertain it’s so unsettling.”

Miss Wilson said she wanted a “Hamish and Andy” style gap year, but now she’s heading back to uncertainty.

Miss Ewington said she was upset that she had to leave her students, who had become like part of her family.

media_cameraThe coronavirus has killed 177 people in the UK. Picture: AFP

The rushed departure meant she was wearing three pairs of pants and three jackets to avoid breaching her bag weight limit on the Emirates flight.

“It’s not like we can go home and get jobs,” she said.

Miss Edwards said she missed out on her travel bucket list. There were trips all over the continent, including Portugal, Spain and Amsterdam on the itinerary.

“This week has been a rollercoaster. I could have held out for about three weeks but it hit us when nothing was going to be open if we stayed in Oxford,” she said.

“This is the first time we’ve been independent and we were looking forward to it.”

The teenagers were also planning to attend a music festival in Budapest.

media_cameraMedical professionals put on new gloves after washing their hands at a newly opened drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 Friday, March 20, 2020, in Houston, Texas. Picture: AP

RECORD NUMBER OF DEATHS IN SPAIN

Spain now has the third-highest number of infections worldwide. On Saturday it reported almost 5000 new cases in the past day, bringing the total to nearly 25,000. The death toll rose to 1326, up from 1002 on Friday.

As hospitals and nursing homes buckle under the burden of the virus outbreak, Spanish health authorities have acknowledged that some intensive care units in the hardest-hit areas are close to their limit, and warned that they expect infections to continue to rise before measures to reverse the trend have an effect.

The army was building a field hospital with 5500 beds in a convention centre in Madrid, where hotels are also being turned into wards for virus patients without serious breathing problems.

Spain has swiftly followed Italy to become the second European country where hundreds of people are being killed by the coronavirus daily. The death toll shows little sign of slowing.

Thousands of hospital beds, including intensive care units, will be set up inside the 240,000 square metre IFEMA conference centre on the capital’s outskirts to cope with surging demand expected in the coming days, the Madrid region said in a tweet.

“The most difficult days are coming now,” health emergencies chief Fernando Simon told a news conference.

media_cameraMedical workers wearing protective suit work close to the Gran hotel Colon that was transformed into a medical building to treat COVID-19 in Madrid, Spain. Picture: AP

The capital has become the epicentre of the disease in Spain. With nearly 20,000 cases reported as of Friday, Spain overtook Iran to become the world’s third hardest-hit country after China and Italy.

The Madrid region accounts for 628 deaths and 7165 cases.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said Spanish hospitals were running several clinical trials to treat severe and mild cases of the coronavirus, while the science ministry said researchers were working on potential vaccines and detection tests.

The government promised measures on Thursday to protect the elderly and staff at nursing homes after large numbers of deaths.

media_cameraA man wearing a face mask walks his dog in after regional authorities ordered all shops in the region be shuttered for fourteen days save for those selling food, chemists and petrol stations, in order to slow the coronavirus spread. Picture: AFP

Some 30 firefighters were involved in an extensive disinfection operation at a Madrid nursing home, and a military team was working in another. On Friday the government said providing more face masks would be a priority and it could also do more to help the most vulnerable groups.

The justice ministry said 1000 forensic doctors and technicians would be redeployed to tackle the epidemic.

The country has ramped up efforts to curb the spread of the disease in the past week, ordering a nationwide 15-day state of emergency on Saturday that bars people from all but essential outings.

Bars, restaurants and most shops have been shut and transport restricted.

CALL TO FREE VIRUS VULNERABLE PRISONERS

Criminal law experts are recommending Australian governments release elderly, young and minor offenders from prisons and detention centres to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak.

More than 370 legal experts have signed a letter co-ordinated by the Australian National University and the University of Technology Sydney, which calls for urgent reforms to protect the prison population from the global health pandemic.

“Australian prisons and detention centres will become epicentres for the transmission of COVID-19 if governments don’t act now,” leader of the ANU criminology program Professor Lorana Bartels said in a statement.

media_cameraCriminal law experts are recommending Australian governments release elderly, young and minor offenders from prisons and detention centres to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak. Glenn Ferguson

The experts are urging the early release of vulnerable prisoners and detainees who are at high risk of harm from COVID-19, such as those with pre-existing conditions, the elderly and the young.

They are also believe those detained for offences such as unlawful driving, property crimes and those who are likely to be released in the next six months should also be freed.

UTS Professor Thalia Anthony said urgent measures, including the release of prisoners, have been undertaken in the US, the UK, southeast Asia and the Middle East in response to the virus.

She said Australian governments must provide a coherent approach to protect prison populations.

“It is only a matter of time before COVID-19 breaks out in prisons and youth detentions centres. This will then have a substantial flow-on effect to the community,” she said.

Professor Bartels said most people who enter prison are un-sentenced and nearly a third are expected to serve less than 12 months.

“Tens of thousands of people are likely to be released into the community by the end of the year, making them potential carriers of the coronavirus back into communities,” she said.

Justice Action co-ordinator Brett Collins said earlier this week riots seen in Italy’s prisons would be replicated in Australia if authorities couldn’t prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.

He also argued older prisoners are at high risk of dying and should be released and that nobody should be sharing cells to ensure proper social distancing.

‘IT COULD KILL YOU’: WHO WARNS YOUNG PEOPLE

Geneva UN health chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says young people around the world must face the reality that the novel coronavirus attacks them in large numbers, not only older generations.

“You are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) director general said in Geneva.

The pandemic, which has resulted in more than 210,000 confirmed infections and 9,000 reported deaths requires not only co-operation among countries but also among generations, Tedros stressed.

“I’m grateful that so many young people are spreading the word and not the virus,” the WHO chief said, commending young people who are protecting elders by protecting themselves.

media_cameraWorkers wearing protective suites as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus bury a coffin at La Bermeja Cemetery in San Salvador. Picture: AFP

Tedros also sent out a message to the millions who are forced to stay indoors as their authorities have imposed various forms of lockdowns.

Confined people should take extra care to eat healthy food, to avoid tobacco and alcohol, and to take good care of their bodies and minds.

“If you can’t leave the house, find an exercise video online, dance to music, do some yoga, or walk up and down the stairs,” the Ethiopian UN health chief said.

Keeping in contact with family and friends, and reaching out to neighbours is another way to protect one’s wellbeing, according to Tedros.

media_cameraMilitary armoured vehicles patrol the streets during a quarantine in El Alto, Bolivia. Picture: AP

Earlier on Friday, UN agencies warned that the pandemic creates risks for billions of people who cannot wash their hands properly, and for hundreds of millions of children who have to cope without school lunches as education facilities are shuttered.

Three billion people around the world have no adequate access to water or soap to wash their hands, the United Nations said in Geneva, citing WHO and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) data.

UBER POOL RIDES AXED

Coronavirus hit the ride-sharing market in Australia today as Uber announced it would shut down all Uber Pool rides in the country and start telling all users to “travel only when necessary”.

The tech giant suspended its group ride feature globally mid-morning on Saturday, with Uber global rides senior vice-president Andrew Macdonald tweeting it would remove the Uber Pool riding option in Australia, Latin America and India after suspending the service in London and Paris on Wednesday.

Uber Pool had allowed up to four riders to share a lift to a location and share the costs.

media_cameraCoronavirus hit the ride-sharing market in Australia today as Uber announced it would shut down all Uber Pool rides in the country. Picture: AFP

Despite the closure, other ride-sharing services including UberX and Uber Eats will remain open in Australia, a spokeswoman said, and riders would start to receive messages in the Uber app warning them to only take necessary travel.

“Our goal is to help flatten the curve of community spread in the cities we serve,” she said.

“With that in mind, we are suspending Uber Pool in all cities where it is available: Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

“We are always working to help keep everyone who uses the Uber platform safe and will continue to share advice from public health authorities with those who use the Uber app.”

The closure comes days after Uber revealed plans to pay drivers who are forced to quarantine or isolate themselves for 14 days.

Ride-sharing service Didi has also established a $US10 million fund to pay drivers diagnosed with COVID-19.

IVANKA TESTS NEGATIVE AFTER DUTTON MEETING

Ivanka Trump is back at the White House after testing negative for coronavirus and getting “clear results,” a person familiar with the results said.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and daughter had been working from home since coming in proximity with Australia’s home affairs minister Peter Dutton, who tested positive for COVID-19.

media_cameraWhite House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Joe Grogan, Attorney-General William Barr, White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Picture: AP

He met with Ivanka Trump just days before he tested positive for coronavirus, in a meeting Attorney-General William Barr, Kellyanne Conway and another senior aide also attended.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were also at Mar-a-Lago with the Brazilian delegation, where at least one member also tested positive for the virus, over the weekend.

Prison advocate Debbie Kilroy and activist Boneta-Marie Mabo, Eddie Mabo’s granddaughter, have both tested positive for COVID-19 after being on the same flight as Mr Dutton several days ago.

TEACHERS BEING TOLD DON’T WEAR MASKS TO SCHOOL

Across Australia public school teachers are struggling with teaching their normal classes, being told to prepare for online teaching and also supplying schoolwork to students who are self-isolating.

In a memo seen by News Corp Australia teachers are being told they will be sent home immediately if they are wearing masks to school and to remind students at roll call about the importance of social distancing, as very few students are adhering to the rules.

Schools in NSW are closing toilet blocks in order to preserve soap and in Queensland students are being asked to bring in their own hand sanitiser, due to low supplies.

In Victoria teachers are frustrated they are going to work while the Victorian Institute of Teaching has shut its doors and the hotline is no longer active.

It comes as an NSW Department of Education health and safety hotline is being overwhelmed with calls from teachers calling to report coronavirus concerns regarding health and safety, cleanliness, hygiene and issues around social distancing.

Source – World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins, other media

Teachers are being urged to report their concerns to the Department of Education health and safety hotline but News Corp Australia understands the line is supposed to be used for principals only and does not have the resources to manage the incoming call load.

HSC students are particularly worried about how to manage their studies and News Corp Australia has been told there is a meeting of the NSW Education Standards Authority this coming Tuesday after which further advice regarding how to manage senior students who are self-isolating will be issued.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan will also meet with the leadership of the Australian Education Union (AEU) this Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

“AEU members are at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis. Not only do they have their own needs and that of their families, but they are continuing to provide a high-quality education to their students during very difficult times,” AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said.

The AEU expects that Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy or his representative will also attend the meeting and Ms Haythorpe described the meeting as a welcome step forward in responding to the National Cabinet’s decisions in relation to preschools, schools and TAFE.

NEW INDOOR GATHERING LIMITS AS FEDERAL BUDGET DELAYED

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new indoor gathering limit for Australians.

There is now a four square metre rule for gatherings of less than 100 people.

“What we are now moving to is an arrangement for gatherings of less than 100, is that they would be four square metres provided per person in an enclosed space, in a room. So that’s 2m by 2m,” he said.

“So for example, if you’ve got a room, if you’ve got a premises, if you’ve got a meeting room or something like that, that’s 100 square metres, then you can have 25 people in that room.”

“I know these rules will take some time for people to get used to, but I would ask people to move as quickly as they can.

“I know it means a lot of change for a lot of venues, whether they be cafe‘s or restaurants or clubs or any of these other places of public gathering, including at this building here, we will be working to ensure that people know how many people can be in the various meeting rooms at this place.”

He said Australians should continue to practise wherever possible the 1m or 1.5m of healthy distance to limit contact.

The Federal Budget will also now be delayed until October. It is traditionally handed down on the first Tuesday in May. States would be postponing as well.

“Putting budgets together at this time, with the great uncertainty that exists, is not something that any Commonwealth or state government should be doing,” Mr Morrison said on Friday.

“As a result, we have already decided that we will not be … handing down a Budget until the first Tuesday in October, on the 6th of October.

“All other states and territories will be working to similar timetables.

“The idea that you can actually put together any sort of forecast around the economy at this time is simply not sensible.”

The federal debt limit will also be raised by a whopping $250 billion to combat the COVID-19 crisis.

media_cameraMr Morrison said Australians should continue to practise wherever possible the 1m or 1.5m of healthy distance to limit contact. Picture: Sam Mooy/Getty

In a joint statement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the ceiling would be lifted from $600 billion to $850 billion to ensure the government “has the capacity to deal with the ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus.”

And because of the decision announced earlier today to postpone the Budget until October 6, supply bills would be moved in parliament next week “to ensure the continuity of government in 2020-21.”

Mr Morrison said schools will remain open and anyone considering school holiday travel should reconsider the need for unnecessary travel.

He said the biosecurity act was being used to ban all non-essential travel into indigenous communities.

Mr Morrison said that next week, “advanced measures” would be considered to deal with future localised outbreaks and “what needs to be done wherever possible to shut that down”. He did not provide specifics.

“What we’ve asked for advice on is the density of those cases, how many cases in a particular area, that triggers actions over and above what these general rules that apply to those areas, and that would be staged up according to the level of that outbreak and what needs to be done wherever possible to shut that down,” he said.

“Now, the reason I say that is we need a consistent approach to how this would scale-up in the event of outbreaks in particular parts of particular areas.

“Because that means just because you might see, under those rules, something being done in Tuggeranong or somewhere else, that rules don’t necessarily apply … somewhere else.

media_cameraChief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said people to stop gathering in their homes, without practising social distancing. Picture: Gary Ramage

“There will be advanced measures that would need to be put in place and we need a clear set of rules across states and territories to make those rules and that advice will be coming forward on Tuesday evening.”

He also flagged moves to protect renters from being turfed out of their homes during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Morrison said the NSW and Western Australian government would lead work to “identify how relief can be provided for tenants in both commercial tenancies and residential tenancies, to ensure that in hardship conditions, there will be relief that will be available, and ensuring that tenancy legislation is protecting those tenants over the next six months at least.”

And he announced additional funding $445 million of extra funding for aged care facilities. About half will be spent on a “retention bonus”.

Professor Brendan Murphy then told people to stop gathering in their homes, without practising social distancing.

“You should be distancing yourself from every fellow Australian where possible,” he said.

“That’s why we have guidelines for people in gatherings of less than 100. There’s no point having a gathering of 20 people if it’s in tiny room and you’re altogether.

“You’ve got to practise social distancing. Keep that metre-and-a-half away from each other, practise good hand hygiene all the time, and stay away from work or the community if you are unwell.”

CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS TOLD TO STAY HOME

California’s 40 million residents should stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise, Governor Gavin Newsom said, warning that the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the state’s medical system.

media_cameraCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom. Picture: AFP

The move, the most sweeping by any state so far, was an exclamation point at the end of a week of increasingly aggressive moves meant to keep the virus in check by forcing people to stay away from each other as often as possible.

“I can assure you home isolation is not my preferred choice, I know it’s not yours, but it’s a necessary one,” Gov. Newsom said at an evening news conference streamed on social media.

He assured residents that they “can still take your kids outside, practising common sense and social distancing. You can still walk your dog.”

Restaurant meals can still be delivered to homes.

The announcement came after the release of a letter to US President Donald Trump where Gov. Newsom warned the virus was spreading quickly and eventually could infect more than half the state’s population. A spokesman later clarified that the figure did not take into account the aggressive mitigation efforts that have been made.

media_cameraA surfer walks on the beach in Huntington Beach, California. Picture: Getty

The governor said he doesn’t expect police will be needed to enforce his stay-at-home order, saying “social pressure” already has led to social distancing throughout the state.

“I don’t believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement that it’s appropriate just to home isolate,” he said.

The Democrat who is barely a year into his first term also called up 500 National Guard troops to help distribute food.

There are at least 1030 confirmed cases in California and 18 people have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, New York’s total number of coronavirus cases reached 3954 — a significant jump (9.4 per cent) from the 3615 cases that were reported earlier on Thursday.

A total of 26 city residents have now died from the illness.

Brooklyn continues to be the borough with the most infected, at 1195 cases, according to the new tally. In Queens there are 1042 cases; 1038 in Manhattan; 496 in the Bronx; and 179 on Staten Island.

TRUMP CLOSES US-MEXICO BORDER

US President Donald Trump also announced an effective closure of the US border with Mexico, prohibiting most travel except for trade. That brings it in line with the restriction on the Canadian border earlier this week.

It came as the president invoked the Defence Production Act to get needed medical supplies on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, mobilising the federal government to marshal the private sector to combat the pandemic.

media_cameraPresident Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. Picture: AP

Mr Trump had said earlier in the week he would tap the act as needed.

He said he has put that “in gear.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he implored Mr Trump during a phone call to invoke the Korean War-era act immediately to order the manufacture of ventilators and other critically needed medical gear.

The president told Sen. Schumer he would, then could be heard on the telephone making the order.

Mr Trump also sparred with NBC News reporter Peter Alexander who asked whether Americans should feel scared.

Trump has an epic meltdown and goes on a screed about the media when he is asked what he would tell people who are scared. Trump called NBC’s Peter Alexander a terrible reporter and started yelling and ranting. pic.twitter.com/dko6pIHrUt

— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) March 20, 2020

“I would say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I’d say,” MR Trump erupted. “I think it’s a very nasty question.”

“The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism,” Mr Trump said.

He wagged his finger for emphasis and said: “That’s really bad reporting.”

“Let’s see if it works. I happen to feel good about it. Who knows? I have been right a lot. Let’s see what happens,” Mr Trump said.

YOUTUBE JOINS NETFLIX IN LIMITING VIDEO STREAM QUALITY

YouTube has joined Netflix in agreeing to limit video stream quality in an effort to ease pressure on internet providers during the coronavirus outbreak. Internet service providers are braced for increases in internet traffic as people in the UK resort to working from home and self-isolation, while other parts of Europe are subject to lockdowns.

The scheme to ease the strain on providers has come from the European commissioner for internal market and services, Thierry Breton, who urged platforms to help infrastructure handle any potential usage increase.

On Thursday, Netflix said it expects its limit – which will last for 30 days – to cut network traffic by around 25 per cent. Y

ouTube said its scheme will see video quality limited to standard definition, also for a period of 30 days.

The company said it had so far seen little change in the peaks for usage, instead mostly seeing changes in usage patterns with more people at home, with usage expanding across longer hours.

“People are coming to YouTube to find authoritative news, learning content and make connections during these uncertain times,” a spokeswoman for the video platform said. “While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity.

media_cameraNetflix has limited streaming quality. Picture: Supplied

“We are in ongoing conversations with the regulators (including Ofcom), governments and network operators all over Europe, and are making a commitment to temporarily default all traffic in the UK and the EU to standard definition.

Google said its chief executive Sundar Pichai and YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki discussed how the technology giant could help further during the coronavirus pandemic with Mr Breton.

YouTube also confirmed it was introducing a new area on its homepage dedicated to news about COVID-19 from trustworthy sources.

TAIWAN SAYS WHO FAILED TO ACT ON CORONAVIRUS WARNING

Taiwan has accused the World Health Organisation of failing to communicate an early warning about transmission of the coronavirus between humans, the Financial Times reports.

Health officials in Taipei said they alerted the WHO at the end of December about the risk of human-to-human transmission of the new virus but said its concerns were not passed on to other countries.

media_cameraWHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L). Picture: Getty

“While the IHR’s internal website provides a platform for all countries to share information on the epidemic and their response, none of the information shared by our country’s (Centres for Disease Control) is being put up there,” said Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s vice-president. “The WHO could not obtain first-hand information to study and judge whether there was human-to-human transmission of COVID-19. This led it to announce human-to-human transmission with a delay, and an opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost,” said Mr Chen, an epidemiologist by training who was health minister at the time of the SARS outbreak.

media_cameraTedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO speaks during a news conference on updates regarding COVID-19, at WHO headquarters in Geneva. Accompanying him are Michael Ryan, left, executive director and Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead. Picture: AP

China’s health ministry only confirmed human-to-human transmission on January 20, after the WHO said in mid-January there might be “limited” human-to-human transmission but stepped back from this view on the same day.

Taiwan is excluded from the WHO because China, which claims it as part of its territory, demands that third countries and international bodies do not treat it in any way that resembles how independent states are treated.

ANOTHER DOG HAS CORONAVIRUS

A second dog in Hong Kong has contracted the coronavirus in a likely case of human-to-animal transmission, according to a report on Thursday.

The two-year-old German Shepherd — owned by an COVID-19-infected 30-year-old woman in the Pok Fu Lam area — was quarantined at a government facility, according to the South China Morning Post.

Another pooch from the same home, a four-year-old mixed breed, was also placed on lockdown but tested negative, Hong Kong’s animal welfare authority said.

The sick puppy’s diagnosis came just three days after the first known dog to test positive for the coronavirus — a 17-year-old Pomeranian — died in Hong Kong after returning home from quarantine.

media_cameraA German Shepherd, not pictured, has reportedly contracted coronavirus. Picture: Thinkstock

“It is very likely that the two positive cases (in Hong Kong) are examples of human-to-dog transmission,” Professor Malik Peiris, a public health virologist at the University of Hong Kong told the outlet.

But there’s no evidence that pets can transmit the virus to humans, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.

In the case of the German Shepherd, the pooch was given oral and nasal swabs and placed in a different kennel than its mixed-breed housemate. Neither dog showed any symptoms.

“The department will continue to closely monitor both dogs and conduct repeated tests on the animals,” the spokesman said.

Along with the canines, four cats are also under quarantine. Their health status wasn’t immediately known.

PORNHUB OFFERS PREMIUM SERVICE TO SELF-ISOLATORS

According to The Sun, Pornhub saw a spike in viewers after it offered its premium service for free to people stuck at home due to the coronavirus.

The porn site has offered free premium membership to viewers in Italy and has now extended this to adult users in France and Spain.

media_cameraPornhub is offering its Premium service for free to those isolated on coronavirus lockdown in Italy, France, and Spain. Picture: Supplied

The company said on its Twitter feed: “In light of expanding quarantines, we are extending Free Pornhub Premium for the month to our friends in France! Pornhub will also donate this month’s sales from Modelhub … Courage France!”

It had a similar message for its Twitter followers in Spain.

The premium package offers no ads, faster streaming, high-speed downloads and better video quality as well as “discreet billing” and anytime cancellation.

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