March 28, 2020 16:58:47
The US Congress has approved an economic aid package worth $US2 trillion to help cope with the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, while Italy warns cases there have not yet reached their peak.
This story is being updated regularly throughout Saturday. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Saturday’s key moments:
Global death toll exceeds 27,000
The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic stands at more than 27,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Italy has recorded the most deaths, with more than 9,100. Spain has logged the second-most deaths with more than 5,100, followed by China’s Hubei province, which has tallied 3,177.
Worldwide, there have been more than 597,000 cases reported. More than 131,700 people have recovered. Roughly 62,000 of those recoveries were recorded by China’s Hubei province, followed by 11,000 in Iran and 10,000 in Italy.
In Australia, the death toll has reached 14, with a 91-year-old woman from an aged care facility dying in hospital in New South Wales overnight.
The woman was a resident at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge in northern Sydney, where 13 residents and five employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly warned while most people who had died from coronavirus in the country were in their 80s and 90s, the age of those dying was getting lower.
“There was a 68-year-old person who has passed away,” he said.
He said 389 people had been hospitalised since the virus was detected in Australia at the start of the year. That is just 11 per cent of total cases.
Of those hospitalised, 39 people have been admitted to intensive case.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
Trump signs trillion-dollar stimulus package
US President Donald Trump has signed off on the largest economic aid package in its history worth $US2 trillion ($3.3 trillion), as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
The House of Representatives passed the bill two days after the Senate, and Mr Trump rushed to sign it into law.
@realDonaldTrump (with photo): We are marshalling the full power of government and society to achieve victory over the virus. Together, we will endure, we will prevail, and we will WIN! #CARESAct
The bill includes $US500 billion to help hard-hit industries and $US290 billion for payments of up to $US3,000 to millions of families.
It will also provide small-business loans, expanded unemployment aid and money for hospitals and related health systems.
“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses,” Mr Trump said.
“I really think in a fairly short period of time … we’ll be stronger than ever.”
Passing the stimulus package is seen by some in Congress as the most significant show of bipartisanship since the fight against terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
General Motors called upon to produce ventilators
Mr Trump also announced the US would produce or obtain 100,000 extra ventilators to help treat coronavirus patients in intensive care within 100 days.
The President signed an order effectively forcing General Motors to produce thousands of the breathing machines under the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era statute that gives the government more control during national emergencies.
The US has overtaken China as the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 100,000 positive tests.
Experts say that no matter how many ventilators companies can crank out, it may not be enough to cover the entire need, and it may not come in time to help areas now being hit hard with critical virus cases.
Mr Trump said there was a great chance the US would not need that many ventilators, but they would be able to help other countries in need.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
US doctors and nurses pleading for more protective gear and equipment as they prepare to treat waves of patients expected to overwhelm hospitals.
Hospitals in New York City, New Orleans, Detroit and other virus hotspots have also sounded the alarm about scarcities of drugs, medical supplies and trained staff.
WHO tweets: WHO hosted a briefing with Ministers of Health around the world on #COVID19
“We are scared,” Arabia Mollette, of Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Centre in Brooklyn, said.
“We’re trying to fight for everyone else’s life, but we also fight for our lives as well, because we’re also at the highest risk of exposure.”
Rob Davidson said hospital staff in the Detroit area in Michigan had started telling families some patients could not be saved due the lack of equipment.
“We have hospital systems here … getting to the end of their supply of ventilators and have to start telling families that they can’t save their loved ones because they don’t have enough equipment,” Dr Davidson said.
The news came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment was now one of the biggest obstacles to preventing coronavirus deaths.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said 2 million items of protective gear had been sent to more than 70 countries but more was needed.
“This problem can only be solved with international cooperation and international solidarity. When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk,” he said.
Victoria records 111 new coronavirus cases overnight
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the number of coronavirus cases in the state has increased to 685, with 111 new cases overnight.
The Premier has also announced Victorians who breach social distancing rules will now face on-the-spot fines.
Activities that police are looking out for include:
People who have travelled overseas defying self-quarantine rules People gathering at weddings and funerals where numbers exceed the maximum of five and 10 respectively
The fines are not aimed at people standing closer than 1.5 metres apart in public spaces. Police can issue fines:
More than $1,600 for individuals gathering in groupsAlmost $10,000 for businesses facilitating gatherings that breach the rules
All travellers to go into isolation to protect ‘Fortress Tasmania’
All non-essential travellers to Tasmania will be placed into enforced isolation at a Government-operated facility if they arrive after midnight on Sunday.
The new rules apply to both interstate visitors and Tasmanians returning home.
Facilities will be established in the state’s north, north-west and south.
Premier Peter Gutwein said the new measures would be the toughest in the country to protect Tasmanian lives, declaring: “Fortress Tasmania is what we want.”
It follows the announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday that any Australian returning from overseas would be isolated in a hotel or government facility for a fortnight.
Four die on cruise ship stuck off Panama coast
Four passengers have died on a cruise ship off the Pacific coast of Panama and more than 130 others aboard are suffering from flu-like symptoms.
Holland America Line said the MS Zaandam, previously on a South American cruise, was trying to transit the Panama Canal and make its way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
But Panama’s Government has denied it access to the canal, leaving passengers and crew wondering when they will get home.
There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board, as well as four doctors and four nurses, the cruise operator said. The ship received testing kits on Thursday, and confirmed at least two of the sick passengers had COVID-19.
A ship official told passengers on Friday morning that one guest had died several days ago, followed by two deaths on Thursday and another overnight. The four dead were “older guests”, the operator said.
Passengers said the announcement was the first time they had been made aware of the deaths on the vessel.
Italy has not yet reached coronavirus contagion peak
Coronavirus infections in Italy have not reached their peak, says the head of the country’s national health institute.
“We haven’t reached the peak and we haven’t passed it,” said the chief of the Superior Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro.
Italy recorded 919 deaths in the past 24 hours alone, bringing the total to at least 9,134.
However, Mr Brusaferro said there were “signs of a slowdown” in the numbers of people becoming infected, suggesting the peak may not be far away, after which new cases will show a visible downward trend.
“When the descent begins, how steep it is will depend on our behaviour,” Mr Brusaferro said, referring to how strictly Italians will continue to respect restrictions on movement imposed by a government lockdown.
Regional airlines get a boost from Federal Government
The Federal Government has pledged almost $300 million to help regional airlines deal with COVID-19.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced the new package in Wagga Wagga this morning, saying regional airlines had been slammed since new regulations to deal with the pandemic were introduced.
The Government had already committed to waive fees and licences for all airlines, now regional airlines that service rural routes can apply for more support.
He said there were 12 smaller commercial airlines, as well as Virgin and Qantas, operating in eligible areas that would be able to access this money on a case-by-case basis.
Mr McCormack said the support measure would guarantee core regional routes can remain open and ensure essential workers remain employed.
Ecuador removes 100 corpses in one city within three days
Authorities in Ecuador have removed the bodies of 100 dead people from homes in the city of Guayaquil within three days.
The country’s interior minister said some of the deaths were related to the coronavirus and others were not.
But residents have been unable to dispose of their relatives’ remains due to the strict curfews in place and restrictions on funeral homes’ operating hours.
The coastal city has the country’s largest concentration of COVID-19 cases as well as a heavy presence of military officers enforcing curfew prompted by a nationwide health emergency declaration.
Most of those who died in their homes had not been tested for the virus, and therefore will not appear in the official tally of deaths.
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China fights imported cases
Mainland China’s latest 54 coronavirus cases have been imported, China’s National Health Commission has said.
Imported cases of COVID-19 have become many officials’ main concern, Widespread lockdowns within China had helped to sharply reduce domestic transmissions.
From today China has suspended the entry of foreign nationals with valid Chinese visas and residence permits. The Government has also ordered airlines to sharply cut international flights.
China’s official media told people to remain on guard against the virus.
“At this time, we must be extremely vigilant and cautious, and we must prevent the post-epidemic relaxation from coming too soon, leading to the loss of all our achievements,” the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
Chinese authorities have backed away from plans to reopen movie theatres.
The commission said the total number of infections for mainland China now stood at 81,394, with 3,295 dead.
South Australia gathering ban comes into effect
As of midnight, gatherings of more than 10 people are now banned in South Australia.
Groups of less than 10 people are restricted to one person per four square metres.
Some gatherings are not included under the new measures and are still allowed, including transiting through malls, gatherings at airports, using public transport, or carrying out essential errands at supermarkets, schools or in Parliament.
Racing SA has also been given an exemption from the ban, but those at the track will still need to obey social-distancing rules.
The state has 257 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — six of which are in intensive care.
Hundreds of alcohol poisoning deaths in Iran
At least 480 people in Iran have died of alcohol poisoning, as fake remedies for the new coronavirus spread across the country.
A doctor helping the Islamic Republic’s health ministry told AP another 2,850 people were sick from drinking alcohol.
Drinking alcohol is banned in Iran, so people who choose to do so rely on bootleggers.
Some Iranians remain deeply suspicious of the Government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country.
Iran has reported over 32,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,300 deaths from the virus, the highest toll of any country in the Middle East.
International experts also fear Iran may be under-reporting its cases, as officials played down the virus for days ahead of a parliamentary election.
‘The Queen remains in good health’
There have been concerns about the health of the Queen following news that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned a positive test for COVID-19. Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the Queen is healthy, and released the following statement:
“Her Majesty The Queen remains in good health. The Queen last saw the PM on the March 11 and is following all the appropriate advice with regards to her welfare. We will not be commenting further.”
Thursday’s meeting with the PM was conducted over the phone, a moment that was captured by the Royal Family Twitter account.
@RoyalFamily tweet: The Queen held her weekly Audience with the Prime Minister today by telephone. Her Majesty – pictured this evening at Windsor Castle – has held a weekly Audience with her Prime Minister throughout her reign.
Hours after Mr Johnson announced his diagnosis, the UK’s Health Secretary also confirmed he had tested positive for coronavirus and England’s chief medical officer announced he too was experiencing symptoms.
40,000 quarantined due to one ‘super spreader’ in India
Indian authorities in the northern state of Punjab have quarantined around 40,000 residents from 20 villages following a COVID-19 outbreak linked to just one man.
The 70-year-old preacher died of coronavirus — a fact found out only after his death.
He had ignored advice to self-quarantine after returning from a trip to Italy and Germany.
India has 887 confirmed cases of the virus, more than 30 of which are in Punjab.
This week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered a 21-day lockdown of the world’s second-most populous country of more than 1.3 billion people.
Number of virus fatalities stabilising in Spain
Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 769 overnight to 4,858, but a senior health official said the daily increase in the number of fatalities was stabilising.
Spain is second only to Italy in the number of coronavirus deaths worldwide and the number of people infected in the country rose overnight to 64,059 from 56,188 on Thursday.
“Today we have more deaths than registered yesterday, but it is also true that in percentage terms, today’s increase is roughly equivalent to that of the past three days, in which we seem to see a clear stabilisation,” health emergency chief Fernando Simon said.
Spain is struggling to cope with the outbreak, with Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium being used as a medical supply store and a fairground in Madrid turned into a mass testing area.
More than 9,400 health workers have tested positive for the virus, Mr Simon said. That is about 15 per cent of those infected in Spain.
Swiss woman, 95, survives COVID-19
A 95-year-old Swiss woman is back home and online with her 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren after recovering from a week in intensive care with COVID-19.
Gertrude Fatton told Reuters she had been treated in an isolation room and at one point, refused to be intubated to help her breathing.
“Not at my age, don’t intubate me. I have lived my life and I told them ‘Let me go peacefully’,” she said.
After a week of treatment, she said was now happy to be back home with her cat and her family.
Her daughter Jacqueline Fatton recalled: “When the doctor called to tell me that the oxygen in her blood was dropping and they had 24 hours to stop it, I was really, really afraid and thought I would lose her that night.”
“The next day the doctors said ‘We are going to go for it and try all the medicines that we can’ … By the third day, the oxygen was back up and the drugs worked extremely well.
“I could call twice a day with the cell phone. When I saw that she could speak to me without coughing much, I knew that we had won.”
The Swiss death toll from the coronavirus has reached 197 people and the number of cases rose to 12,161, the health ministry said.
Contagion stars unite for coronavirus public health campaign
Help Kate Winslet Stop the Spread by COVID 19 & Wash Your Hands | Control the Contagion
Actors from the 2011 pandemic thriller Contagion, which has enjoyed renewed popularity amid the coronavirus crisis, have come together for a series of public service announcements about COVID-19.
Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle have teamed up with scientists from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health to offer four individual homemade videos with advice and a message of unity.
The campaign is themed #ControlTheContagion.
First deaths in South Africa as cases grow across Africa
South Africa reported its first two deaths from coronavirus as cases rose above 1,000 and a three-week nationwide lockdown began.
The military helped to enforce measures that include bans on sales of cigarettes and alcohol, even dog-walking.
South Africa has the most virus cases in Africa, with the total across the continent now above 3,200.
In Rwanda, which imposed a lockdown over the weekend, police have denied that two people shot dead on Monday were killed for defying the new measures.
Twenty-four of Africa’s 54 countries already have fully closed borders, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts are concerned the continent will not be able to handle a surge in cases without the depth of medical facilities available in more developed economies.
World could face condom shortage amid talk of ‘coronababies’
A global shortage of condoms is looming after a coronavirus lockdown forced the world’s biggest producer to shut down production.
Malaysia’s Karex makes one in every five condoms worldwide. It has not produced a single condom from its three Malaysian factories in the past 10 days due to a lockdown imposed by the government to halt the spread of the virus.
That’s already a shortfall of 100 million condoms, normally marketed internationally by brands such as Durex, supplied to state healthcare systems such as Britain’s NHS or distributed by aid programs such as the UN Population Fund.
“We are going to see a global shortage of condoms everywhere, which is going to be scary,” said Karex chief executive Goh Miah Kiat this week, warning the shortage could last months.
The other major condom-producing countries are China, where the coronavirus originated and led to widespread factory shutdowns, and India and Thailand, which are seeing infections spiking only now.
State-by-state numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases
There have been more than 3,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, including 14 deaths. The latest update was at 1:00 PM AEDT on Saturday, March 28.
NSW: 1,617 (8 deaths)Victoria: 685 (3 deaths)Queensland: 625 (1 death)South Australia: 287Western Australia: 255 (2 deaths)ACT: 62Tasmania: 59NT: 14
March 28, 2020 01:03:15