Coronavirus update: unemployment to hit double digits, testing expanded, curve flattening but restrictions to continue

- April 14, 2020 3 MIN READ

Australia is set to hit double-digit unemployment rates for the first time in 26 years. The Treasury reports the partial economic shutdown has put more than 700,000 Australians out of work with estimates the figure will rise to one million before the end of the June quarter.

As a result, the nation’s unemployment rate is expected to rise from 5.1 to 10 per cent. The last time Australia was in double-digit unemployment was in April 1994.

Treasury suggests the figures could have been far worse but the government’s $130 billion JobKeeper package has staved off unemployment peaking at a much higher rate.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced the state will be widening testing criteria for coronavirus to people with flu-like symptoms in areas that have experienced unexplained clusters of diagnoses. Now, anyone in council areas that have seen a large number of diagnoses including Sydney’s inner west, Randwick, Ryde, Penrith, Liverpool, Blacktown, Cumberland, Waverley, Woollahra and Westmead can rock up to the hospital or a covid-19 popup clinic to be tested.

Berejiklian also announced the state was fast tracking testing results so that people with flu-like symptoms could receive a negative notification via text message the same day; while those who tested positive would be contacted to receive next steps and begin the process of contact tracing.

“That is a huge step for us to make sure that people who are isolating, because think they may have the virus, have a test. They will be able to get a text — if they are happy for us to do that — on the same day to tell them they are negative.”

Similarly in Victoria, testing criteria has been broadened so that now anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms or respiratory infections can be tested for Covid-19. Prior to today only newly returned overseas travellers, people they were in close contact with, and frontline essential workers were able to be tested. The government hopes this increased level of testing will allow them to get a greater understanding of the spread of the virus via community transmission.

The news comes as Australia continues to flatten the curve. NSW reported just seven new cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 2,870.

Two Tasmanian hospitals in Burnie in the state’s north west have been closed for deep cleaning following an outbreak amongst staff and patients. The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital have been temporarily shut down following three staff, an inpatient and two contacts being diagnoses with COVID-19.  Members from AusMAT and the Australian Defence Force will assist in the clean up. More than 1000 staff have now be forced to quarantine for the next 14 days to control the spread of the virus.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told Sunrise viewers that Australians will need to maintain social isolation and restrictions to movement for some time to come as we do not want to ease restrictions and then fall victim to a massive spike in cases.

“We can’t be complacent. We have seen what happened in Singapore most recently and Sweden and other countries. If you take your eyes off this thing, it gets away from you so we do need to understand what the prerequisites are and the things we need to achieve before we can start to ease some of those restrictions.

“We will be having the discussion on Thursday and a lot of scientific work is being put into that and we have looked into the experience of other countries and we are hopeful that at some point, we are hopeful that at some point, we can move from the phase we are currently into a new phase.

“But I do want to caution Australians that we’re not in that phase yet and we’re not in that phase yet and we’re many weeks away from being in a phase like that.”

In South Australia, the organisers of the Royal Adelaide Show have announced the September event will no longer go ahead. The next Royal Adelaide Show will be held in 2021. The announcement follows the cancellation of the Royal Easter Show in Sydney and the 2020 Royal Queensland Show. The Royal Adelaide Show has been cancelled four times previously in history, during World War I and World War II, during the Victorian gold rush and for another pandemic – the Spanish Flu.

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