Daily News Roundup

March 13, 2020

FRIDAY, March 13

The Australian Grand Prix was this morning cancelled by organisers because of coronavirus fears as governments worldwide imposed strict new restrictions on their people and global stock markets braced for further heavy losses.

The GP cancellation came soon after Premier Daniel Andrews said it would go ahead without spectators and follows an announcement that three international cricket games between Australia and New Zealand over the weekend will be played in empty stadiums. 

The GP news came as one of Australia’s leading infection control experts said if he was controlling the response to the coronavirus crisis, he would immediately cancel every NRL, AFL and AFLW game.

“Facts and evidence dictate that these mass gatherings should not take place,” Bill Bowtell, from the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity, said on ABC News Breakfast.

Mr Bowtell said it was “not good enough” that there has been no public education campaign.

“We don’t seem to have a problem with a one, national economic response, but the Government has presided over eight or nine do-it-yourself state-and-territory responses on the public health side. This is not good enough.”

He pointed to Denmark as a cautionary example of how quickly the coronavirus crisis can escalate.

“Last Monday, they had 54 cases. Today they have 670. It is growing exponentially. It is the fierce urgency of now, the next hours and days, which will dictate the way in which this evolves in Australia,” he said.

NRL games set for this weekend are going ahead as scheduled, although the staging of all events attracting big crows will no doubt come under scrutiny at today’s talks between the Federal Government and the States.

Thje AFL said it was watching developments in light of the season’s opening round next weekend.

The UK has moved from the “contain” phase to the “delay” phase of its approach to tackling coronavirus as its chief scientific officer warned up to 10,000 people could already be infected.

Britain will not be closing schools and public institutions but advises foreign school trips to be cancelled and Britons displaying symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild, have been asked to stay home for seven days from when symptoms first began.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a stark warning to the nation, saying more lives will be lost, and the peak of infections may still be weeks away.

“I must level with you, level with the British public — more families, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time,” he said.

In other developments, Princess Cruises, the cruise line at the centre of recent major coronavirus outbreaks, has announced it is suspending all cruises globally from today and Italy announced that its death toll from the virus had passed 1000 people. 

The death toll has jumped in the last 24 hours by 189 to 1016, a rise of 23 per cent, the Civil Protection Agency said overnight.

The total number of cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus, rose to 15,113 from a previous 12,462, an increase of 21.7 per cent.

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Disgraced TV star and convicted child molester Robert Hughes’ attempt to trick parole authorities into letting him out of prison unsupervised has backfired.

The disgraced Hey Dad! actor, who has shown no remorse for his abuse of a child star and others, has been exposed for trying to hoodwink the system.

If he had succeeded, the 71-year-old child sex offender, who the NSW State Parole Authority (SPA) today called “unacceptable risk to community safety”, would have been free to roam unsupervised.

Hughes’ crafty legal move between the UK and Australian systems would have seen him expelled from Australia and deported back to Britain where his wife and daughter live.

Instead of being under the eyes of parole authorities until 2025, Hughes would have been unsupervised, wear no electronic monitoring anklet and have no conditions, such as staying away from children.

But SPA today not only denied Hughes’ parole application for release on April 6, but also his automatic right for a review in a public hearing of that refusal.

Instead it ruled Hughes “must now submit an application and satisfy the SPA that a public review hearing is warranted otherwise the decision to refuse parole will stand and he will not be reconsidered until 2021”.

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Cardinal George Pell faces a further wait to learn whether his last-ditch bid for freedom has paid off or he’ll stay behind bars for years.

The High Court hasn’t yet granted him permission to appeal his five convictions for sexually abusing two choirboys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.

Instead, after two days of arguments in Canberra, the judges reserved their decision and requested more written submissions from Pell’s barrister Bret Walker SC and Victoria’s top prosecutor.

Pell was convicted by a jury in 2018 on the word of a single choirboy that he was sexually abused as a teenager by Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic.

Now a man in his 30s, he also has to wait to know if the conviction will be upheld by Australia’s seven most senior judges.

Pell is one year into a six-year jail sentence.