TUESDAY, March 17
As the Federal Government considers more economic stimulus measures, medical experts will later today discuss with ministers the need to further ramp up anti-coronavirus restrictions.
The moves in Australia came as US President Donald Trump recommended Americans avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, saying tougher restrictions were needed to “blunt” the impact of COVID-19.
Australia’s restrictions currently apply to gatherings of 500 or more people, and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has confirmed ministers are having discussions about scaling up the nation’s response.
“We continue to receive medical advice,” he said.
“Obviously some other parts of the world, in particular Europe and also the US, are somewhat further advanced in terms of the spread of the virus there.
“But we will continue to act as we are advised. As the Prime Minister indicated yesterday in relation to some of these things, it is important to time these decisions in the right way.
“We will be making announcements before the Parliament returns next week.”
The Government is aware of community fears about schools remaining open, despite other countries closing them.
There are concerns sending students home will force parents to take time off work to look after them, putting further strain on the nation’s workforce.
On Monday night Prime Minister took to Facebook to tell parents: “Closing schools at this time could potentially worsen the situation.”
Professor Murphy said any decision to shut schools down could not be taken lightly.
“The issue of schools is a very vexed one,” he said.
The US has more than 4,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with at least 78 deaths. Australia now has more than 370 cases, with five deaths.
Australia’s National Security Committee and the National Cabinet — which includes state and territory leaders — are both due to meet today.
This morning Qantas and Jetstar announced they will cut international capacity by around 90 per cent, and domestic capacity by around 60 per cent, until at least the end of May.
In a statement, the airlines said the changes were due to a drop in travel demand due to coronavirus, and meant grounding about 150 aircraft.
“Despite the deep cuts, the national carrier’s critical role in transporting people and goods on key international, domestic, routes will be maintained,” the statement read.
“This includes using some domestic passenger aircraft for freight-only flights to replace lost capacity from regular scheduled services.”
The airline group said the “precipitous decline in demand” would be unlikely to rebound for weeks or possibly months and the impact would be felt across its entire workforce of 30,000 people.
Meanwhile, American actor Tom Hanks, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, has been discharged from the Gold Coast University hospital as Queensland’s total number of cases reach 78.
His wife Rita Wilson remains in the isolation ward for the time being.
Hanks was in Queensland to work on an Elvis biopic with director Baz Luhrmann.
Queensland schools are cancelling all gatherings, including parent-teacher meetings, keeping students’ desks apart and catering for a growing number of children staying home in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19, reports the ABC.
Yesterday, schools flagged social-distancing measures after the Queensland Government declined to opt for blanket school closures in response to the public health crisis.
While the State Government is still considering whether to extend Easter holidays, the steps to limit physical contact have changed the nature of schooling overnight.
All Saints Anglican School on the Gold Coast has made the unilateral call to shut down and deliver classes online for the two weeks ahead of the holidays.
St Peter’s Lutheran College in Indooroopilly on Brisbane’s west has closed the school for students in prep to Year 10 from today until Wednesday.
Teachers will spend the two days in online classroom training in the event they are forced to shut down.
Year 11 and 12 students will still attend for exams.
At other schools, assemblies, ceremonies and excursions have been cancelled, while inter-school sports and parent-teacher interviews have been postponed.
Fetes, fairs and concerts face cancellations under the federal ban on mass gatherings of more than 500 people.
Children are being kept in classrooms to eat meals with ready access to hand sanitiser or soap and are being given extra time outdoors in fresh air to make up for it.
Lunch breaks and play periods are being staggered to minimise student contact, and schools say they are hammering home the importance of regular hand washing.
Former US vice president Joe Biden is almost certainly going to be the Democrat to challenge Donald Trump at the coming Presidential election being declared the winner of last week’s Democratic presidential primary in Washington state, giving him victories in five out of six states that voted on March 10.
After nearly a week of counting votes, Biden held onto a small lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders that turned out to be insurmountable.
Washington was a state that Sanders had been hoping to win.
In 2016, he won more than two-thirds of the delegates from the Washington caucuses over Hillary Clinton.
Of the state’s 89 pledged delegates, only 31 are allocated based on the statewide result.
The remaining 58 are determined based on the results of the state’s 10 congressional districts, and those results might not be calculated until the election is certified by the secretary of state’s office, which could be as late as March 27.
Biden won four other states last Tuesday: Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan and Idaho. Sanders won North Dakota.
In Washington, Democrats used he vote-by-mail presidential primary – moved up this year from May – for the first time to allocate delegates instead of the smaller caucuses used in previous years.
Four states – Arizona, Ohio, Illinois and Florida – are scheduled to hold primaries on Tuesday.
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