Liberal senator Andrew Bragg is amongst the latest spate of patients to be diagnosed with coronavirus. Bragg is believed to have contracted the virus from another guest at a wedding he attended last weekend.
Bragg is the third politician to test positive following Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Queensland LNP Senator Susan McDonald who both tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
The new diagnoses came as Minister Dutton was released from the hospital and commenced a period of self-isolation. Dutton took to Twitter to share his news.
I’ve been discharged from hospital and am at home self-isolating with my dog Ralph. Thank you for all the kind messages, I’m feeling much better. pic.twitter.com/00D6ZORHBs
— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) March 17, 2020
Intensive care specialist Dr Greg Kelly has led calls for the government to ramp up its response to the virus or face dire consequences. Kelly and his cohorts including several of the nation’s leading specialists from intensive care wards in Sydney and Melbourne have called for the government to implement lockdowns in an effort to curb transmissions. In an open letter to the PM, the physicians suggest the government needs to step up or Australia could face a crisis of epic proportions. Kelly told the ABC the letter has close to 4000 signatories.
ABC reports the letter as saying Australia’s health system and spread of age demographics are similar to Italy’s, rather than China’s.
“On current growth rates, the 300 cases in Australia today will be … 10,000 by the 4th of April” the letter warns.
“We believe that Australian federal and state governments can avert disaster by heeding the lessons of other countries,” it says.
In a press conference this afternoon, the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus has called for special paid leave for all workers.
“This leave needs to be for everyone,” McManus said. “It needs to be for casuals, It needs to be for labour hire workers, it needs to be for gig economy workers. Labour hire companies that have profited off the casualisation of the workforce now need to step up. They need to guarantee their workers, their workforce, two weeks special leave if they need to self-isolate or if they are affected by a downturn in business.
“We are saying today this is now a health and safety issue. Employers are required to provide safe work places for their employees and people visiting their workplace the refusal to supply paid leave to casuals provides a health and safety risk.”
Minister Greg Hunt has announced the government will be expanding the capacity of telehealth services to include a number of specialty services from today.
“We will expand the practice to include not just individual doctors but a whole practice in an effort to protect the vulnerable.
As part of that telehealth will cover new specialist services such as midwives, general surgeons, mental health facilities and support services and geriatricians.”
Hunt said this vastly expanded array of services will provide support for those who are diagnosed, in isolation or immune-compromised.
The minister said there have been some promising developments in regards to a vaccine with the Doherty Institute having successfully mapped the immune response in COVID-19 patients.
“This should allow faster access to therapies and treatments,” Hunt explained.
In Tasmania, premier Peter Gutwein has announced the government will offer $20 million in interest-free loans to those in the tourism, hospitality, seafood and export sectors in an effort to help them combat the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The government has also pledged to provide emergency payments to those forced to self-isolate and is following NSW’s lead by waiving payroll tax for the remainder of the financial year.
In NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has confirmed there have been 39 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours. Hazzard said the state should prepare for exponential increases as the pandemic sets in. NSW now has 201 cases confirmed. Of these, 90 were acquired overseas, 54 were likely due to contact with a confirmed case and the remainder are under investigation or unknown.
As the virus begins to take hold, the government has backed away fro enforcing a lockdown with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian suggesting it is still too early to decide if they will pull the plug on pubs and clubs. On Monday a ban on mass gatherings of 500 plus was put into place.
“We are not at that stage yet,” said Berijiklian. “But I do appreciate all of us, including myself, are taking extra precautions as we should, so there is no doubt been a downturn in what people normally do.”
Earlier today the NSW Premier introduced a 2.3 billion stimulus package which delivered payroll tax relief to the state’s employers and injected an additional 700 million to the states health care system to combat the virus.
Meanwhile, in the US, President Trump had an about-face and is now recommending US citizens avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
It is expected Australia will soon impose tighter bans on gatherings in an effort to turn the tide on the spread of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has told radio listeners on 2GB that it’s more important than ever that people practice social distancing.
“Keep your distance from people, avoid non-essential travel, try and avoid non-essential large groups … work from home. All of those sort of measures are very important,” he said.
Elsewhere, Australia’s Department of Health reports there is now 375 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia.
Location Confirmed cases*
Australian Capital Territory 2
New South Wales 170
Northern Territory 0
South Australia 29
Western Australia 28
Of the 375 confirmed cases in Australia, 27 have recovered and 5 have died from COVID-19.
189 cases were considered to be overseas acquired. Most of the overseas cases were acquired in the USA, Iran, Italy and the UK.
52 cases are contacts of previously confirmed cases.
The likely place of exposure for 115 reported cases is under investigation.
The source of infection for 19 cases is currently unknown.
Meanwhile, the ABC has suggested there are 449 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia.
The ABC’s data comes from compiling reports from individual states and territories as the notices cam in.
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