There are now 2252 cases of coronavirus across Australia with the largest number of cases in NSW. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Kelly says the majority of cases are mild with only 17 people in intensive care. The vast majority of those impacted by the virus are aged above 60.
Kelly’s pronouncement comes as the QLD premier announced the state had identified a cluster of 17 people who tested positive with the virus after attending a gathering at a restaurant last week.
The premier said she hoped people understood from this that ‘now is not the time to socialise. It’s the time to keep your distance”.
In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews has suggested the state could be moving to stage three shutdowns in an effort to slow COVID-19 infections. Currently, Victoria has the second-highest infection rate in the nation, with 466 cases diagnosed.
Meanwhile, the prime minister has announced that from midnight tonight all elective surgeries will be cancelled in an effort to clear the slates of the nation’s hospitals.
Category 1 surgeries and urgent category 2 surgeries will still be allowed but all other surgery will be suspended to allow hospitals to prepare for any surge in COVID19 cases requiring hospitalisation.
Australia’s agricultural minister has spoken up to assure Australians the country’s food supply chain is A-OK.
“The Commonwealth is guaranteeing food production and supply as we deal with the virus‘ spread,” Minister Littleproud said.
“As far as the Commonwealth is concerned, food production and supply is an essential service.”
Littleproud was also quick to assure that the border restrictions would not prevent trucks from delivering food supplies.
In WA, premier Mark McGowan has announced Rottnest Island is setting up to be used as a quarantine base for returning Aussies. A cruise ship destined for Freemantle on Friday will be the first to make use of the service with the premier saying they are exercising the “rottnest option” now.
“All Australians, including the West Australians, will be immediately transferred to Rottnest Island for 14 days of self-isolation,” he said.
“In the last two days we have cleared the island of visitors and made arrangements for accommodation, catering and security.”
WA has reported 30 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
Meanwile, the PM has also announced the formation of the National COVID Coordination Commission. The prime minister said the new commission will help facilitate solutions to the nation’s problems by ensuring the private sector and government work together in this time of crisis. The commission will be headed up by Neville Power. Power is the CEO of Fortescue Metals. The commission includes a board made up of former pollie Greg Combet; Jane Halton, a former public servant; ex head of Toll Holdings, Paul Little; CSIRO Chair David Thody; Catherine Tanner, the head of Energy Australia and who sits on the RBA board; Phil Gaetjens, the secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo.
Speaking of the appointment Power said:
I’ve stepped up to this role when he [the PM] asked me to do it because I think that Australia, right now more than anything, needs to focus on minimising and mitigating the impact of the coronavirus on our businesses, on our communities, on our people.
And that’s for the preservation of jobs as much as we possibly can, given the constraints that we have around the restrictions from the coronavirus.
So my role is going to be looking for those problems and looking for opportunities where we can join businesses together to solve two problems.
While in NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has said all organisations must take responsibility for their part in allowing the Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney Harbour last week. Following docking, the ship disembarked 1000s of passengers on the city with a number of Australians later testing positive for the virus and a 77-year-old woman unfortunately, succumbing to COVID-19.
Here’s what Berejiklian had to say:
“Every single agency needs to take responsibility for our borders. Whether it’s a ship at a port, whether it’s a plane load of people coming in from overseas. We’re still having thousands of people coming in on planes every single day.
“All authorities have to step up, including NSW Health, including all the other authorities involved.
“What is really imperative at this time, we realised, is strong communication between authorities and everybody stepping up.
“This a joint responsibility for all of us, whether you’re the traveller, a federal authority or a state authority and it’s really important for all of us to adhere to what we need to do.”