Tasmania closed its borders, the Federal government again said it would not close schools and Qantas and Jetstar announced they were temporarily standing down two-thirds of their 30,000 employees.
These were among the latest developments in Australia as the fight against the coronavirus stepped-up today.
Other measures include:
- The Victorian Government announces a $437 million boost to hospital funding.
- Queensland’s Government rushed sweeping new powers to fight coronavirus through Parliament last night, including being able to hit people with hefty fines if they fail to follow health orders.
- British PM Boris Johnson announces all British schools will close on Friday.
- The Eurovision song contest was cancelled.
- AFL and ARL matches will go ahead this weekend m(starting tonight) behind closed doors, and
- US President Donald Trump invokes wartime powers.
The Qantas and Jetstar sand-downs will begin from late March and run until at least the end of May.
The airline group will also suspend all international flights, after the Federal Government told all Australians to avoid international travel.
Qantas said some scheduled international flights would continue until late March to help people return home to Australia.
“As the national carrier, Qantas is in ongoing discussions with the Federal Government about continuation of some strategic links,” it said in a statement to the ASX.
More than 150 aircraft have been temporarily grounded, including all of Qantas’s A380s, 747s and B787-9s and Jetstar’s B787-8s.
“Discussions are progressing with airports and government about parking for these aircraft,” Qantas said.
“Essential domestic, regional and freight connections will be maintained as much as possible.”
The airlines had already announced cuts to 90 per cent of international flights and about 60 per cent of domestic flights on Tuesday.
And on Wednesday, Virgin Australia said it was grounding its international fleet in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sydney Catholic Schools reversed a decision to close after the PM urged them to stay open, despite concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher, in a letter sent to NSW and ACT bishops on Wednesday, said Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan and Prime Minister Scott Morrison made it clear they were disappointed some independent schools had closed their doors.
“The Government asks us to work together, collectively to seek the best medical advice, to help preserve calm, and to help it in its best efforts to address this public health emergency,” he wrote.
On Wednesday Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said health officials had advised state and federal governments to keep schools
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said today the state will introduce the “toughest border measures in the country” to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
He said that from midnight on Friday, all “non-essential” travellers into the state will have to go into 14 days’ quarantine, after declaring a state of emergency, giving power over to the Police Commissioner
The new measures will attract a penalty of up to $16,800 or six months in jail if ignored.
Mr Gutwein said “essential” travellers included people required to keep the state’s health system and trade operational.
In Queensland Health authorities have been given new powers to order individuals into isolation, and to fine people more than $13,000 if they defy such orders.
And parliament will be able to sit via electronic channels under changes passed in parliament on Wednesday night.
Queensland’s chief health officer will be using the new powers pushed through Parliament to issue bans on non-essential outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people, and non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people.
“We must continue to throw everything we have at this and support our frontline medical staff to do their vital work,” Health Minister Steven Miles said on Wednesday.
Political leaders are reiterating that false coronavirus information is going viral and warning Australians to be careful when sharing information.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told the public to read health department information to know what the government’s response to the pandemic is.
He’s concerned over fake reports about looming lockdowns and school closures, which are being shared via text messages, fake documents and even false recordings pretending to be from government meetings.
“Avoid all that nonsense that you’re seeing on social media,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“If you hear it from me, if you hear it from a premier, if you hear it from (chief medical officer Brendan) Dr Murphy, if you hear it from those official sources and websites, that’s the information you should follow.
Dozens of Australian passengers on-board an international cruise ship have evacuated the vessel in lifeboats as they make the mad dash home amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to report from news.com.au
The ship, MV Columbus – owned by Cruise and Maritime Voyages – has hundreds of Australians on-board after recent stops in Sydney, Cairns and Darwin.
The ship, which can carry 1,400 passengers, was this week ordered to curtail its world cruise and sail back to its original port in Tilbury, England.
Passengers were given the choice to spend the next four weeks at sea while the ship makes its way back to England, or to join a nearby Australian cruise ship bound for its point of origin in Fremantle, Western Australia.
According to a passenger who spoke to news.com.au, 178 people elected to leave the international ship after arriving off Phuket Island and join the Vasco da Gama in Thailand on Wednesday, local time.
The Queen’s granddaughter Princess Beatrice has been forced to cancel her wedding on May 29 because of the coronavirus outbreak, The Sun newspaper reported in London .
It comes as Prince George and Princess Charlotte will begin home schooling as the coronavirus outbreak worsens in Britain.
A friend of Beatrice – daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York – told The Sun she is “very sad” about the decision, but realised there was “no alternative” to moving the event to next year for the safety of all concerned.
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