Coronavirus update: state of emergency declared, Woollies intros shopping hour for elderly, Aussie infections jump over night

- March 16, 2020 5 MIN READ
state of emergency

Victoria and Western Australia declared a state of emergency as new coronavirus infections continue to rise overnight. Western Australia has announced anyone caught failing to self-isolate will face a $50,000 fine.

WA Premier Mark McGowan made the announcement following a meeting of state’s Security and Emergency Committee of Cabinet. The premier suggested extreme measures were called for to protect the health and safety of the community. The WA coronavirus tally has now reached 16.

Similarly, in Victoria, Premier Andrews has enacted a state of emergency. The premier declared the state of emergency will be effective from noon today and will run for four weeks.

“The provisions and orders that are made as part of that will certainly change as advice and response to the emergency changes,” said Andrews.

“You will be aware the PM has mandated mandatory 14 days self-isolation, reminded Andrews. “It is an offence under the health act not to comply.”

A state of emergency gives the chief health officer the power to enforce self-isolation and banning of mass gatherings.

Victoria reported 14 new cases of coronavirus overnight, taking the state’s total to 71.

State and federal health officials will meet in Canberra today. The agenda is set to discuss education and aged care. Currently, there is no plan to shut down schools, but this may change.

ACT has also followed suit also declaring a state of emergency after a second man tested positive for the virus on Sunday. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said schools will remain open, however, camps and excursions will be cancelled.

Meanwhile, the PM has been quick to reassure that a “state of emergency is not a state of panic”.

The PM told ABC the state of emergency simply put into place special powers to help state government’s manage the spread of a health epidemic.

“Yesterday it was an issue discussed by the state premiers, that they would be all moving effectively to that footing,” confirmed the PM.

He also urged citizens to stop panic buying as the state of emergency announcements caused a fresh wave of frenzied shopping at supermarkets around the nation.

“Let’s all look after each other and be respectful to each other and help each other out,” Morrison said.

Following concerns that elderly and disabled people may be missing out on essential supplies due to panic buying supermarket giant Woolworths will open its stores for an hour at 7am every morning this week exclusively for the elderly and for people with disabilities as it seeks to provide equal access to all.

Other grocery retailers such as IGA, are making similar announcements, but on an individual basis. Woollies said: “From [Tuesday] until at least Friday, we’ll be opening exclusively for them to shop from 7-8am, where permitted”.

From an early run on toilet paper, shelves are now being cleared of pantry goods, such as pasta and tinned foods, and Woolworths yesterday stopped home deliveries in Victoria to focus on restocking shelves in stores.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne suggested panic buying has gone on across the globe but she assured the nation that stores would remain open.

“It’s not the case that stores are going to close or supplies are going to cease,” Payne said.

IN NSW 22 new cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed, taking the state’s total to 134.

The news comes as special powers come into effect today allowing the state government to fine people failing to self-isolate up to $11,000.

With schools likely to remain open, NSW Department of Education has introduced proactive measures to limit the impact of COVID-19. From today schools will be introducing social distancing measures requiring them to cancel assemblies, excursions and travel.

Meanwhile, KPMG has released a report this morning that suggests the global economy could take up to a decade to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

KPMG Chief economist Brendan Rynne told the ABC’s AM:

“There now does appear to be quite a lot of panic in the community with regards to how the coronavirus is going to play out within Australia. That panic in the community will translate into disruption within the economy.

Rynne advised calm saying “history tells us that pandemics are not unique but ultimately they pass”.

With the ban on mass gatherings coming into effect today, NRL boss Todd Greenberg has warned it could have catastrophic consequences for the league. Greenberg has joined ARLC chief Peter V’Landys in calling for a bailout from the government and suggested that players may take a pay cut to help stem the impact of the virus.

“Rugby league is an enormous industry providing enormous economic impact to our country,” Greenberg told ABC AM.

“The principle and I understand there will be public commentary against us on this, but the principle is that sport in this country … is a huge economic multiplier and we’re a part of the social fabric of this country.

“It’s really hard to put a figure on it [how much playing behind closed doors will cost the league] as the impact is very much unknown.”

Following the PM’s announcement yesterday that all people entering Australia will have to self-isolate for 14 days, many Aussies are reconsidering travel plans. Qantas has responded by allowing customers who booked directly on any domestic or international flight until May 31 to cancel and retain the value of their ticket as a travel credit. The offer is available ’til March 31.

The latest stats:

The Australian Department of  Health has confirmed 298 cases of coronavirus in Australia.

Location Confirmed cases
Australian Capital Territory 1
New South Wales 134
Queensland 62
South Australia 20
Tasmania 6
Victoria 57
Western Australia 18
Total 298

Case details

Of the 298 confirmed cases in Australia, 27 have recovered and 5 have died from COVID-19.

151 cases had direct or indirect links to travel outside of Australia:

  • 15 cases to Wuhan, China
  • 10 cases, including 1 death, to the Diamond Princess cruise ship repatriation flight from Japan
  • 19 cases to Iran
  • 39 cases to the United States
  • 16 cases to Italy
  • 77 cases to other countries and regions

11 cases had links to places of exposure:

  • 9 cases to an aged care facility in New South Wales
  • 2 cases to attendance at a workshop

29 cases are close contacts of known cases.

The likely place of exposure for 82 newly reported cases is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, in the US, LA has followed New York’s lead and is shutting down restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. Takeout and delivery services will still be available.

In response to the announcement, action movie star and former governor of Califonia, Arnold Schwarzenegger released the following tweet – urging people to just stay home.

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