The World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. WHO has called on all countries to take action in the hopes of stemming the spread of the virus.
In Australia, the number of cases in NSW is on the rise, with diagnoses increasing from 65 to 77 overnight.
Speaking at a press conference this morning Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, told the journalists the majority of NSW cases were acquired overseas while close to half (32) were people who had been in direct contact with people confirmed to have the virus. However, the source of infection for four recent diagnoses are yet to be confirmed.
These cases are the first in NSW of people who have not been in contact with someone who has travelled overseas. Chant said these cases were being thoroughly investigated to identify links to other confirmed cases.
In NSW over 9000 people have voluntarily tested for COVID-19. The CMO said this was encouraging as high test numbers will actually assist in restricting the spread of the virus.
“If you look at the testing numbers in some countries overseas you can see that they’ve actually had very, very low rates of testing and hence the spread of the virus can become unrecognised until you’re dealing with deaths.”
The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged people to carry on as usual whilst remaining alert to any risks. Currently, the government has avoided any ban on mass gatherings.
“I also want to let our citizens know there is no need to panic,” Berejiklian told assembled media. “There is no need to massively change what you are doing, but it is not business as usual. We are asking people to take extra precautions. We are asking people to consider how they move around.”
Berejiklian suggested government policy on mass gatherings was under constant revision and policy may change dependent on the outcome of the investigation of the latest cases.
“For that reason, we will continue to review our policies on mass gatherings and our advice might change,” she said.
Meanwhile, the ACT has just reported its first case of COVID-19. The infected person is a man in his 30s.ACT Health is still trying to determine the cause of his infection.
[Above] David Koch gives the lowdown on the government’s stimulus package
On the economic front, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a $17billion plus stimulus package to combat the economic impact of coronavirus. Amongst the offerings are one-off cash payments to Centrelink recipients and a cash injection from $2000-$25000 for small business owners to pay wages or hire extra staff plus $1.3 billion package to support the payment of apprentices. Casual workers who contracted COVID-19 or were forced to isolate will now also be able to access Centrelink without the waiting period.
“This plan is about keeping Australians in jobs. This plan is about keeping a business in business, particularly small and medium-sized businesses and this plan is about ensuring the Australian economy bounces back stronger on the other side of this and, with that, the budget bounces back with it,” said Morrison.
The treasurer Josh Frydenberg commented:
“The package is designed to support confidence, to encourage investment, and to keep Australians in a job. The package is worth $17.6 billion, $11 billion of which will go out the door before June 30. As the Prime Minister said, this is on top of the recent health package we announced of $2.4 billion in measures. Importantly, $3 out of every $4 spent will go to backing business and keeping Australians in a job.”
The PM also acknowledged the part everyone has to play in getting the nation through the current crisis.
“Everyone has a role to play here to get us through this. I particularly want to acknowledge the way big businesses have responded over the course of this week. You’ve heard me refer to what Qantas has done and what the banks did to pass through the rate cut. Yesterday, I was advised that Telstra are also going to be supporting their casual employees should they be in a position where they’re affected by coronavirus or self-isolation.”
Over in the US, President Trump has addressed the nation on the rising number of cases of coronavirus. Effective today the US has placed a travel ban between the US and Europe for the next 30 days. The UK has been exempted from the ban.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 12, 2020
And in breaking news, Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, currently shooting a film on the Gold Coast has announced he and wife Rita have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
View this post on Instagram
Hello, folks. Rita and I are down here in Australia. We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches. Rita had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive. Well, now. What to do next? The Medical Officials have protocols that must be followed. We Hanks’ will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires. Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated. Take care of yourselves! Hanx!