Daily News Roundup

March 23, 2020

MONDAY, March 23

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Australians to summon the spirit of the Anzacs in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 as Parliament resumed today to pass urgent economic stimulus measures. 

.Speaking to the House of Representatives, Mr Morrison drew on times of strength shown by Australians throughout history.

“We summon the spirit of the Anzacs of our Great Depression generation, of those who built the Snowy, of those who want the great peace of the Second World War and defended Australia,” Mr Morrison said.

His address came as schools will close in Victoria and the ACT tomorrow but are remaining open in NSW and Queensland with parents in those states urged to keep their children home.

This as Queensland’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 60 in the past 24 hours, the highest daily rise to date, reports chief health officer Jeannette Young.

A total of 319 cases have now been recorded across Queensland with 669 reported cases in NSW.

Dr Young said one patient with COVID-19 was being treated in intensive care in Queensland, and described that person as “unwell”.

“They are in ICU and are ventilated. I don’t have all the specific details,” she said.

Dr Young said the sharp rise in cases underscored the importance of adhering to social distancing measures.

“We must all of us maintain a 1.5-metre distance from each other, and we must minimise the number of interactions we have with other people in a day,” Dr Young said.

“It just makes sense — if you come across 100 people in a day, you have 100 times the chance of getting this novel coronavirus.”

Health Minister Steven Miles said some hospitals in Queensland had begun rescheduling non-urgent surgeries, and urged people to keep donating blood.

“That is the highest single-day figure we’ve had so far, and it justifies the strong action that the Premier and other national leaders have taken overnight to restrict people from accessing large gatherings and events,” Mr Miles said.

Last night, following a meeting with state and territory leaders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that from midday today places like pubs, indoor sporting venues and churches would be closed.

Mr Miles said Queensland Health had conducted 32,000 tests for COVID-19 so far.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queensland state schools would remain open but said parents could keep children home if they wished.

“Parents have a choice — if they choose not to send their child to school, that can that make that choice,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But schools will remain open.

“Also, we know that the school holidays are coming up in a couple of weeks’ time. I want to send a clear message to people to stay in your state, and stay in your suburb. There are no school holidays. It is not about packing up the car and going to the beach for a picnic or going for a swim on the beach.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the decision to keep schools open would ensure parents with limited childcare options could continue working.

The Premier said last week, before any restrictions were announced, about one third of parents had already decided to keep their children home from school.

At 8.00pm on Sunday there were 669 confirmed cases of coronavirus in NSW — an increase of 136 in 24 hours.

The ACT Government says most students should stay home from Tuesday onwards — this applies to both government and non-government schools.

But exceptions will be made for students whose parents are “essential” workers. Those parents will be notified of arrangements today.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr strongly urged parents to keep their kids at home, but said any children that did turn up at school tomorrow would not be turned away.

Overseas, McDonald’s says all of its restaurants in the UK and Ireland will be closed by 7:00pm Monday local time at the latest, in order to protect its employees and customers.

“This is not a decision we are taking lightly, but one made with the wellbeing and safety of our employees in mind as well as in the best interests of our customers,” the company said in a statement.

There are about 1,300 McDonald’s restaurants in the UK, with approximately 120,000 employees.

US President Donald Trump says he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ship mobile hospital centres to the hard-hit American states of Washington, California and New York amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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