March 13, 2020 03:54:05
Formula One’s season-opening event, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, will be cancelled, according to multiple reports.
It follows champion driver Lewis Hamilton’s comments on Thursday that he was “surprised” the race was going ahead after McLaren Racing pulled out of the event.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has restricted travel from Europe to the US, and Tom Hanks and his wife have coronavirus.
This story is regularly updated. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Thursday’s key moments
Grand Prix in Melbourne to be called off
Formula One’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix is set to be called off due to the coronavirus outbreak, multiple reports said on Friday.
McLaren already announced on Thursday they were pulling out after one of their employees tested positive.
The BBC and Sky television both reported the race was off.
The governing FIA and Liberty Media-owned Formula One had yet to make an official comment.
Motorsport.com quoted sources saying a majority of the teams were unhappy to continue and the governing FIA would accept the decision.
Spain’s death toll rises
Spain’s death toll from coronavirus has risen to 84 on Thursday, up from 47 on Wednesday, the health ministry said.
The ministry reported the number of cases rose to 2,968, up from 2,140.
China has offered to help Spain in its efforts to tackle the outbreak, a Spanish government source said.
The assistance from China would include medical equipment among other things.
Princess Cruises suspends operations for two months
Princess Cruises has announced it will voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for 60 days, affecting trips departing March 12 to May 10.
Cruise ships have been particularly hard hit amid the coronavirus pandemic and have been turned away by dozens of ports and countries.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship, which Japanese officials held in a flawed quarantine operation, infected hundreds of passengers and crew.
Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, said: “By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us.”
Passengers now on a Princess cruise that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected through the end of the itinerary.
Current voyages that extend beyond March 17 will be ended at the most convenient location for guests.
Under normal operations, Princess Cruises serves more than 50,000 passengers a day.
US stocks plunge, triggering halt again
An early plunge of 7 per cent on Wall Street has triggered the second trading halt in a week as a sell-off slamming global markets continued.
It is the second automatic trading halt this week, a mechanism which had not previously been used since 1997.
The drop came after US President Donald Trump imposed a travel ban on most of Europe and offered few new measures to contain the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Benchmarks in Europe fell more than 10 per cent even after the European Central Bank announced more stimulus measures.
World markets are enduring violent swings amid uncertainty about how badly the outbreak will hit the economy.
Ireland closes schools until March 29
Ireland will shut down its schools, colleges and childcare facilities until March 29 to try and combat the coronavirus threat.
Gatherings of more than 100 people indoors and outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people should also be cancelled, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, and urged people to work from home where possible.
He also said state-run cultural institutions will shut but shops will stay open and public transport will continue to operate.
“We need the public and businesses to take a sensible, level-headed and responsible approach during this difficult time,” he said during a press conference.
“In the period ahead the Government will deploy all the resources we can muster, human and financial, to tackle this threat head-on.”
Spanish football league La Liga suspended
Spain has suspended its top-flight football league, La Liga, for two weeks after Real Madrid placed its players in isolation.
It comes after a player from the team’s basketball squad, which shares facilities with the football team, tested positive for COVID-19.
“From now, the club has followed the recommendation of placing the basketball and football teams into quarantine as the two squads share facilities at the club’s training ground,” a statement from Real Madrid read.
“We have also decided to close our training ground and recommended that all staff who work at the facility remain in quarantine.”
Spain’s national basketball league has also been postponed.
McLaren Racing withdraws from Grand Prix
McLaren Racing has withdrawn from the 2020 Australian Formula One Grand Prix after a team member tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a statement posted on Twitter, McLaren said the team member self-isolated “as soon as they started to show symptoms” and would be treated by local healthcare officials.
“The team has prepared for this eventuality and has ongoing support in place for its employee who will now enter a period of quarantine,” the statement said.
It added the team was cooperating with the relevant authorities to help with their investigations and analysis.
“The decision has been taken based on a duty of care not only to McLaren F1 employees and partners, but also to the team’s competitors, Formula 1 fans and wider F1 stakeholders,” it said.
Following the news, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) issued a statement saying it was “in discussions with Formula One, the FIA and the Department of Health and Human Services in relation to the broader implications of this test result”.
“The AGPC will provide updates as further details become available,” it added.
Hamilton criticises Melbourne Grand Prix decision
Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has questioned the wisdom of staging the season-opening Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne while other sports are cancelling events because of coronavirus.
“I am really very surprised we’re here … it’s shocking we’re all sitting in this room. So many fans already here today,” he said at the first drivers’ press conference ahead of Sunday’s race.
Some countries were closing borders and imposing strict travel bans, Hamilton added, “yet F1 continues to go on”.
When asked why he thought organisers were persisting with the race, Hamilton said: “Cash is king.”
Members of at least two Formula One teams have been placed in voluntary isolation since arriving in Australia this week after showing symptoms of coronavirus, although none have yet been confirmed as cases.
Australia won’t extend travel ban to Europe
An infection control expert has called for Australia’s borders to be closed to travellers from a wider range of countries, including the US, to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier on Thursday, it was announced bans for travellers from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea were being extended for one week.
The Government had asked medical officials to consider whether the ban should be extended to Europe, but on Thursday evening confirmed it was not necessary at this stage.
Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws said tougher border protection measures would help avoid internal measures like mass school closures.
“I believe that you go in early, and you go in hard so that you reduce the morbidity in the country,” she said.
“We’ve seen terrible morbidity in Italy … and we don’t want that at all.”
The extension means foreign nationals who have been in any of the four nations affected are not allowed into Australia for 14 days from the time they left those countries.
Australian citizens and permanent residents travelling from those countries are still able to enter Australia but must self-isolate for a fortnight after returning home.
‘Pretty good possibility’ Anzac Day services will be cancelled
The WA branch of the RSL has conceded there’s a “pretty good possibility” Anzac Day services will be cancelled because of concerns about coronavirus.
It comes after the state’s Australian Medical Association branch called for Anzac Day services to be reconsidered given the vulnerability of elderly people to the disease.
WA RSL chief executive John McCourt said while preparations were still underway, the league would consider the advice of health authorities.
“A large number of our veterans are elderly so [it’s] very, very important that we put their interests first,” he said.
He said a decision would be made in coming days.
Iran reports 75 new deaths
Iran has recorded 75 new deaths from coronavirus in just one day.
The figure was reported by the Health Ministry on Thursday local time.
It brings the death toll in Iran to 429.
“We have identified 1,075 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, meaning that there are 10,075 infected people in the country,” a Health Ministry spokesman said.
Scott Morrison uses national address to ‘assure Australia’
In a special address on Thursday evening, the Prime Minister said he wanted to assure people that “while Australia is not immune from this virus, we are well prepared”.
He said the Government’s plan had three priorities:
To protect Australians’ healthTo secure Australians’ jobs and livelihoodsTo set Australia up to bounce back stronger when the crisis was over
Mr Morrison outlined some measures Australia had already taken, such as establishing travel bans, and recapped key points of the stimulus package.
You can read our explainer on what’s in it for you here.
“The medical experts tell us that for most Australians in good health who contract the virus, they will experience a mild illness,” he said.
People in custody over Chinese hotel collapse, Wuhan infection rate drops
Chinese authorities have taken several people into custody as part of their investigation into the collapse of a coronavirus quarantine facility that killed at least 28 people.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency reported preliminary investigations had shown “serious problems exist in the construction, renovation and examination and approval” of the Xinjia Hotel.
The hotel in the south-eastern city of Quanzhou was being used to quarantine suspected coronavirus patients when it collapsed on Saturday night (local time).
In addition to 28 confirmed dead, one other person is still missing.
Forty-two people survived.
Meanwhile, new cases of coronavirus in the Chinese province of Hubei — where Wuhan is the capital — have fallen.
The province reported just eight new cases on Thursday (local time), the first time the tally has been in singled digits since it began.
There were seven new cases recorded in the rest of mainland China.
Donald Trump bans travel from Europe to the US
Health experts in the US say the coronavirus outbreak there will continue to spread, despite the 30-day travel ban on arrivals from 26 European countries announced by President Donald Trump.
Despite confusion surrounding Mr Trump’s initial statement, the restriction does not apply to legal permanent residents of the US or their families when they are returning from Europe.
It also does not apply to US citizens coming back from Europe.
Appearing before a congressional committee, a member of the President’s coronavirus taskforce, Anthony Fauci, said the worst was definitely yet to come.
“How much worse it will get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx, and … to contain and mitigate within our own country,” Dr Fauci said.
“Bottom line, it’s going to get worse.”
The proclamation released by the White House said the travel ban would affect the 26 European states in what is known as the Schengen Area. That means the ban does not apply to Ireland, Romania, Croatia, Ukraine and several other European states.
Mr Trump also said the UK would be exempt.
Shortly after Mr Trump’s address, the NBA announced it was suspending its season until further notice.
The announcement came shortly after a game between the Utah Jazz and host Oklahoma City Thunder was called off moments before tip-off after a Utah player tested positive.
Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson have coronavirus on the Gold Coast
Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson have been hospitalised on the Gold Coast with coronavirus.
The actor posted a photo of medical gloves in a hospital bin alongside the announcement on Instagram.
In the post, Hanks said he and his wife had felt tired and had body aches, with slight fevers.
“To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus, and were found to be positive,” he wrote.
Hanks said they would remain isolated for as long as necessary.
Australian share market closes 7.4 per cent lower
The ASX has closed 7.4 per cent, or 421 points, down after another turbulent day on the market.
About $130 billion was wiped off the value from Australian shares after US President Donald Trump announced a travel ban for 26 European countries and the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a pandemic.
At the lowest point of the sell-off, the ASX was down nearly 8 per cent — the worst one-day fall since October 2008 shortly after the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers.
The All Ordinaries index lost 7.2 per cent, or 418 points, to close at 5,371.
The Australian dollar is down 0.5 per cent to around 64.55 US cents.
Infected person went to Victorian music festival with 12,000 attendees
The ABC understands a person who attended the Golden Plains music festival, west of Melbourne, on the weekend has tested positive for COVID-19.
It is believed the person recently returned from overseas and became unwell on Sunday.
Around 12,000 people bought tickets for the outdoor music and camping event on March 7-9.
Headline act The Pixies have postponed the rest of their Australian tour.
The ABC has contacted festival organisers and the Victorian Health Department for comment.
Australia’s economic stimulus package unveiled
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have unveiled the details of their $17.6 billion plan to try to stop the economy sliding into recession because of coronavirus.
The package includes:
Increase in instant asset write-offs for businessesWage assistance for apprentices and trainees$750 stimulus payments for households receiving benefit paymentsA payment of up to $25,000 for businesses
We’ve put together an explainer on what’s in it for you.
Mr Morrison said the stimulus would have an obvious impact on the budget.
“Australians understand that, Australians know that this needs to be the priority,” he said.
ACT confirms first case, La Trobe University student tests positive
Every Australian state and territory has now been hit by coronavirus, with the ACT being the last jurisdiction to confirm a case.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said a man aged in his 30s tested positive and ACT Health was investigating who he may have come into close contact with.
Meanwhile, a student at Melbourne’s La Trobe University has tested positive.
The university said in a statement on Thursday afternoon that on the advice of the DHHS, the Bundoora campus would remain open.
“All staff and students with whom the student came into contact have been identified and asked to self-isolate,” it said.
All stores to close across Italy, with few exceptions
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says all stores except pharmacies and grocery stores are being closed nationwide in response to the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
He thanked the public for cooperating with the already unprecedented travel and social restrictions that took effect Tuesday (local time), but said Italy must “go another step”.
All shops will be shuttered except supermarkets, food stores and chemists, and companies must close all their departments that are not essential to production.
Services such as hairdressers and beauty parlours will also be closed, along with bars and restaurants that cannot guarantee they can keep a distance of at least one metre between customers.
The fast-moving crisis has seen Italy’s number of coronavirus cases rise from three to 12,462 in less than three weeks.
12 new cases of COVID-19 in NSW
The number of people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus in New South Wales has jumped to 77.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian says health authorities are not sure how some of the 12 new patients contracted the virus.
She has asked the public not to panic but to take extra precautions.
“There is no need to massively change what you are doing but it’s not business as usual,” she said.
Over 9,000 people in NSW have been tested for COVID-19.
Pandemic declared by WHO as coronavirus spreads
The head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesushe, declared coronavirus a pandemic overnight, saying the UN health agency was deeply concerned about the alarming levels of spread.
But he also said countries should not give up trying to contain the virus, which has infected more than 120,000 people around the world and killed more than 4,300.
“We should double down and we should be more aggressive. That’s what we are saying,” Mr Tedros said.
When asked on Seven’s Sunrise on Thursday morning if the announcement would change Australia’s response, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “No, we called this two weeks ago and they have called it today. We welcome that but we have planning on that basis for the last two weeks.”
“Pandemic” refers to a disease that is spreading widely, and does not refer to how serious the disease is.
Merkel says two-thirds of Germans may get coronavirus
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the country will spend what it takes to tackle coronavirus, but the risks are huge.
“When the virus is out there, and the population has no immunity and no vaccination or therapy exists, then a high percentage — experts say 60 to 70 per cent of the population — will be infected, so long as this remains the case,” she said.
Germany has a population of just over 80 million, so 70 per cent of the population equates to about 56 million people.
The Czech Prime Minister has criticised Ms Merkel’s remarks, saying they could cause panic.
Germany has confirmed three deaths related to the coronavirus, and has reported 1,629 cases, according to the Robert Koch Institute for disease control.
Ms Merkel urged Germans to watch their personal hygiene and contacts, recommending they look each other in the eye “for a second longer” rather than shake hands.
‘If you want to be blunt, Europe is the new China’
More European countries are reporting their first deaths of people with coronavirus.
The death in Sweden of an elderly woman who had been in intensive care represented the first coronavirus-related death for the whole Nordic-Baltic region.
Ireland also recorded the country’s first death, as did Belgium, Bulgaria and Albania earlier on Wednesday (local time).
Greece reported its first death from COVID-19 on Thursday (local time) — a 66-year-old man who had returned from a pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt in February.
“If you want to be blunt, Europe is the new China,” said Robert Redfield, a virologist and the head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The worst-hit country in Europe is Italy, which has recorded 827 deaths and 12,462 total infections.
Mainland China, the epicentre of the crisis, has recorded 3,158 deaths and 80,778 cases of coronavirus.
Map shows spread of virus across Iran
Iran’s information and communications technology minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, has tweeted a map of Iran that shows the virus affecting almost the entire country.
He said the image was based on data exploration and analysis from a website on which some 3.5 million Iranians shared their information regarding the virus.
Iran reported another jump in deaths, by 62 to 354, behind only China and Italy.
Mr Jahromi said asked people not to travel to tourist spots.
India suspends majority of visas to limit spread
India will suspend the vast majority of visas to the country in a wide-reaching attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
As the number of cases in South Asia rise, experts fear that the region’s overstretched medical systems may not be able to handle the type of intensive care required.
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till April 15, 2020,” India’s Health Ministry said in a statement.
The statement also added that all travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain and Germany will be quarantined for at least 14 days.
Sixty-seven people in India have been confirmed as having contracted coronavirus.
The new measures will come into effect from 11:00pm AEDT on March 13.
March 12, 2020 07:00:14