TUESDAY, MARCH 3
Australia’s chief health officers were meeting today to consider “social distancing” restrictions such as bans on major sporting and other big events because of the coronavirus.
The move comes after it was revealed Australia had recorded its first cases of human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Previously, the only people with the virus in Australia were those who had contracted it in other countries.
One of those infected locally is a 53-year-old doctor from Sydney’s west. It is not known how he contracted the virus.
The other is a 41-year-old Sydney woman, who is believed to have caught the virus from her brother after he returned from Iran. She, and another relative, had already been quarantined in Sydney’s Westmead Hospital.
The big gathering ban follows Australians being urged to stop shaking hands to reduce the coronavirus risk.
Infectious diseases expert Robert Booy, from the University of Sydney, said the news about person to person transmission was concerning but not unexpected.
“What it means is that the next phase [of the outbreak] is starting, when ordinary Australian people who haven’t travelled anywhere can catch the infection and transmit it to members of their family and community,” he said.
“We’re going to get increasing cases. We’ve got the start of the epidemic now.”
Sport, entertainment could be stopped
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPCC) is made up of all state and territory chief health officers and is chaired by Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy.
The committee could choose to enact restrictions such as bans on large sport and entertainment events, and requests for people to work from home.
The Government’s pandemic plan outlines possible measures, including bans on mass gatherings, closures of schools and childcare centres, and lockdowns on aged care homes.
The NSW Government has already ordered public schools to cancel any overseas trips planned for term one.
The refugee crisis in Europe has reignited with thousands of people trying to push through Greece’s land and sea borders following Turkey’s announcement that it was easing restrictions on those wishing to cross to Europe.
Footage has emerged of the Greek coast guard appearing to attack a migrant boat in an attempt to turn it back into Turkish waters.
Greek authorities said they had stopped more than 24,000 attempted illegal crossings at the land border with Turkey since early on Saturday, and arrested 183 people, very few of whom were Syrians.
Turkey’s announcement last week marked a dramatic departure from its previous policy of containing refugees and other migrants under an agreement with the European Union.
Turkey warns ‘millions’ of migrants on the way
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has demanded more support from Europe in dealing with the fallout from the Syrian war.
As European countries rushed to back Greece, Mr Erdogan said Western leaders were calling him and urging him to reverse the border opening.
“It’s done, the gates are open now. You will have your share of this burden now,” he said he told them.
“The number of people going to the border will be expressed in millions,” he said.
Speaking on state television later on Monday, Mr Erdogan said Greek soldiers had killed two migrants and severely wounded a third, but gave no further details.
A Greek Government spokesman said no shots had been fired by Greek border forces against any individuals attempting to enter the country illegally.
Greek officials accused Turkey of orchestrating a co-ordinated effort to drive migrants across the frontier.
Greece, which has made clear its borders will remain closed, says it is faced with an organised Turkish campaign to push people through.
The heavens are about to open with heavy rain forecast over the centre of Australia in coming days, thanks to ex-cyclone Esther.
BOM senior forecaster Neale Fraser said although Esther was hanging over northern WA, the upper atmospheric patterns were set up to drag the rain-bearing low pressure system eastwards.
“It should reach the north-west of NSW by Thursday morning,” Mr Fraser said.
“With that, it’s bringing lots of tropical moisture down and plenty of rainfall. The western half of the state, especially, is going to see some really good There will be sprinklings of rain about from tomorrow, but the big totals are expected to start on Wednesday.
Most of the Northern Territory, Queensland, eastern Victoria and Tasmania are also forecast to receive rain over the coming week, but it is looking like most of South Australia and southern WA will miss out.
Mr Fraser said north-west NSW to the state’s south-east coast, including Sydney, should see an average of about 30 millimetres, with some getting closer to 50mm.
“Thursday again, most of the inland will get at least 25 millimetres, some getting closer to the 50mm or 60mm mark.
“So over the two days, we should see totals of 50mm or more across much of the parched areas in the west of the state.”
By Friday, the rain is expected to retract to east of the Great Dividing Range and be down to around 10mm.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal review declared it the second-hottest summer on record in terms of maximum, minimum and mean temperatures — only summer 2018-19 was hotter.
Rainfall was below average for the nation as a whole but was highly variable in terms of location and date.
The east coast’s big wet did thankfully dampen the fires, but it was not enough to turn around the nation’s water stores.
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