Daily News Roundup

March 30, 2020

MONDAY, March 30

Businesses will receive a fortnightly wage subsidy up to $1,500 per employee as part of a Federal Government bid to prevent millions of people from losing their jobs to the coronavirus pandemic.

The subsidy is the central plank in a $130 billion economic stimulus package, the third and largest package the Government has announced in response to the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expected 6 million Australians would access a so-called JobKeeper payment for the next six months.

He said there would be a legal obligation on employers to ensure they passed the full wage subsidy onto employees.

The Prime Minister also announced changes to the income test for people on the JobSeeker payment, meaning their partners could earn almost $80,000 a year before they were ineligible for the payment.

The Government last week doubled the JobSeeker payment, previously called Newstart, to $1,100 a fortnight.

The wage subsidy will include not-for-profit employees and New Zealanders who work in Australia but are typically unable to access welfare programs.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the JobKeeper payment would benefit the hardest-hit sectors.

“This $1,500 payment is a flat payment and is the equivalent of around 70 per cent of the median wage and represents about 100 per cent of of the median wage in those sectors most heavily impacted by the coronavirus like retail, like hospitality and tourism,” he said.

The Government ruled out a UK-style subsidy — which involved paying up to 80 per cent of a person’s wage — arguing it would be inequitable and difficult to administer within Australia’s social security system.

Mr Morrison said the UK program was for people who had been stood down, whereas the Australian program was aimed and preventing people from being in that situation.

There are now more than 4,100 confirmed coronavirus cases across the country with the national death toll sitting at 16.

New overseas arrivals by boat and sea must now enter government provided isolation hotels, hostel etc for two weeks before continuing their journeys and joining family.

About one-third of the country’s deaths can now be linked to cruise ships. 

There are at least 20 cruise ships carrying more than 2,500 Australian leisure-cruisers currently at sea around the worlds trying to return home.

From midnight tonight, people in Australia will only be able to gather in groups of two, down from the previous limit of 10.

It will be the states and territories responsibility to enforce this, and today Victorian, where 821 people have now been diagnosed with the virus, Premier Daniel Andrews acted to do just that followed by NSW, Queensland and other states, but, at this stage, not the NT.

Mr Andrews said from midnight tonight, Victorians face on-the-spot fines of more than $1,600 if they breach coronavirus restrictions that limit gatherings to just two people.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said police will start enforcing tougher coronavirus lockdown restrictions announced by the Prime Minister despite the number of new infections falling.

In the past 24 hours, 127 new infections have been recorded in NSW, bringing the state’s total to 1,918.

This follows a drop in cases over the weekend, from 212 on Saturday to 174 on Sunday.

“We are now in a position that allows us to control the spread as much as possible,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Announcing the “two person maximum” directive Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined the acceptable reasons for leaving your home:

  • Shopping for essentials
  • Medical or compassionate reasons
  • Exercise
  • Work and education (if it cannot be done remotely)

In the US, the new epicentre of the virus, the country’s top infectious diseases expert says there could be 200,000 deaths there with millions infected

Globally, more than 660,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus and more than 30,000 have died.

“Whenever the models come in, they give a worst-case scenario and a best-case scenario. Generally, the reality is somewhere in the middle. I’ve never seen a model of the diseases that I’ve dealt with where the worst case actually came out. They always overshoot,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN.

“Looking at what we’re seeing now, I would say between 100- and 200,000 [deaths],” he said, before adding “but I don’t want to be held to that”.

The US coronavirus death toll topped 2,300 on Sunday, after deaths on Saturday more than doubled from the level two days prior.

The US has now recorded more than 130,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the most of any country in the world.

New York, New Orleans and other major cities have pleaded for more medical supplies.

The surge in the number of coronavirus infections in the US came as former Vice President Joe Biden and current US President Trump are virtually neck and neck in the 2020 US presidential race, according to a new poll released on Sunday local time.

According to the New York Post, registered voters opted for Mr Biden by 49 per cent over Mr Trump’s 47 per cent, with the US President closing a 7 percentage point gap from February as his administration responds to the coronavirus outbreak

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