Friday’s Covid-19 news roundup
We’re closing our live coronavirus coverage for the day.
Thanks from me, Graham Readfearn, and from my colleagues Josh Taylor and Amy Remeikis. You can still follow events elsewhere on the Guardian’s global live blog. We’ll be back tomorrow with more live coverage.
Here’s a summary of the day:
- Australia’s death toll from coronavirus rose to 79. Tasmania, Western Australia and New South Wales each announced a death. New case numbers remained low and Tasmania recorded no new cases for the first time in three weeks.
- Newmarch House in western Sydney announced a fifth death at the aged care facility.
- The prime minister, Scott Morrison, warned aged care providers to loosen restrictions or face stronger regulation.
- Testing criteria is being broadened across the country.
- Community sport could be one of the earliest activities to see restrictions lifted or eased. The national cabinet is working on a set of national principles to allow that to happen.
- Perth airport blocked four Virgin planes from being moved because the airline owes it $16m in airfield and terminal use fees.
Stay safe and thanks again for being with us.
Jimmy Barnes took a night off last night, but he’s back with more music from his lounge room.
It’s a cover of the 1963 Burt Bacharach and Hal David song (They Long to Be) Close to You, most famously recorded by the Carpenters in 1970.
Night has fallen now across the entire continent.
Usually hundreds of thousands of Australians would be up before sunrise tomorrow to join Anzac day dawn services and to honour those who serve and have served. But coronavirus means this year will be different.
There won’t be any local marches or public services, but people will still be able to watch ceremonies live streamed from state RSL websites and on the ABC and other networks.
But you can still take part if you choose to and RSL branches want people to still stand and remember at 6am, either in their homes, on their driveways, in their gardens or anywhere they’re allowed to go.
Prof Frank Bongiorno, historian at Australian National University, wrote on the Guardian earlier today that the lack of public ceremony will represent a return to Anzac days of decades long gone.
While the day has had its elements of public ritual since 1916, much early Anzac Day commemoration was private rather than public, sometimes conducted at the gravesides of Australian soldiers buried in cemeteries in Britain and Australia. Women were prominent in these efforts, honouring the memories of men they might or might not have known by placing flowers on their tombs.
There are other echoes of the past. Anzac Day in 1919 was also disrupted by a major crisis in public health. In New South Wales, where the rate of infection from Spanish influenza was high and the number of deaths – approaching 1,000 by Anzac Day – was alarming, the government had banned public meetings.
Several key developments emerged from the national cabinet meeting earlier today.
Rules around aged care visits, hopes for a restart of community sport, clarification on jobkeeper payments and a repeat of medical advice for school classrooms all made for a busy day.
My colleagues Daniel Hurst and Paul Karp have wrapped all the important details here.
Australia’s total death toll from Covid-19 is now at 79 with another death confirmed an hour ago at a western Sydney aged care home.
We told you about the death of a 96-year-old woman at the Newmarch House aged care facility, who was the third death confirmed today.
A 79-year-old woman, who had been diagnosed with Covid-19, died overnight in Tasmania. A man in his 70s died overnight in Western Australia.
Here are the daily new case counts as confirmed by states and territories.
South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have seen zero new cases.
The ACT recorded 1 new case, Queensland 2, Western Australia 2, Victoria 6 and New South Wales recorded 7.
Earlier today Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration issued infringement notices of $25,200 to celebrity chef Pete Evans, who claimed a fancy light box –sorry, “subtle energy platform” – could help treat coronavirus.
The BioCharger NG Subtle Energy Platform was yours for just $14,990 from chef Pete.
The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Harry Nespolon, has some comments about the fines.
This celebrity chef can carry on all he likes about ‘activated almonds’ and whatever latest fad excites him but he should steer clear of health advice, particularly when it comes to something as serious as Covid-19.
I welcome this decision and I hope that it gives pause for thought for anyone taking advantage of this pandemic to spread false and misleading nonsense on social media.
I encourage all Australians to ignore his social media content. Please listen to the experts including your GP, we have your best interests at heart and we are doing all we can.
As I have stated previously this ‘light machine’ doesn’t do anything but drain your wallet. However, the problem is that it may lull people into a false sense of security which means they don’t act as cautiously as they otherwise would on responsibilities such as social distancing.
The various interested parties in the world of broadcasting professional rugby league are creeping closer to agreement.
NRL broadcasters and the Australian Rugby League Commission have been in talks this afternoon. They’ve agreed the competition will start on 28 may, but AAP reports they still haven’t agreed the structure.
NRL television broadcasters Channel Nine and Foxtel have agreed to recognise May 28 as the competition recommencement date following extensive meetings.
On Friday evening, ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys confirmed to AAP that the NRL and broadcasters would finalise a competition structure early next week, as both parties want different outcomes.
“We were all united on the 28th May start. But just the competition structure we need a little more time, but we definitely announce it early next week,” he said.
Fifth death confirmed at Newmarch House aged care home
A 96-year-old woman who had tested positive for Covid-19 has died at Newmarch House in western Sydney – the fifth death at the aged care home.
Anglicare Sydney has confirmed the sad news in a statement, saying the woman had “multiple health issues”.
Grant Millard, CEO of Anglicare Sydney, said:
I am thankful that a close relative was able to visit her last night before she died.
We grieve with the family, our staff who have cared for her, other residents who have come to know her, and everyone who has been thinking and praying for us during this difficult time.
Please keep everyone in your thoughts and prayers.
Schools in NSW go back next week under a model that has students in classrooms for a day a week, starting in week two.
Craig Petersen, the acting president of the New South Wales Secondary Principals’ Council, is talking to the ABC.
He says last night the NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant gave a briefing and “it’s quite clear that the transmission rate between children is absolutely negligible”. Petersen said:
That is reassuring but we also have staff to consider and we do have a number of staff in schools who are aged or have underlying health conditions so we look how we can maintain that. The logistics of returning to school is something the principals will work hard and how to cater for HSC students ….
And the reality is that any staggered return to school is going to be fraught with difficulty. We are really concerned about our HSC students, this is a big year for them and we want to minimise the disruption to their education and get them back on track as soon as we can but not losing track with other students. Some colleagues are working out how to get year 12 back more often than that, maybe 4 or five days out of the week in the early stages but it will depend on the local context and what is working for the students now.
So it’s been pointed out to me that when the prime minister spoke earlier today about how the four square metre distancing rule didn’t apply to classrooms, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Chiefly, because he has said it before – on 21 April, he said:
On schools, national cabinet was keen to reinforce the point as was made last week that the health advice is not, is not, in relation to schools that a four square metre per person rule be enforced in classrooms. That is not the advice of the medical expert panel and any suggestion that this is a requirement for schools is not the case.
To be fair, the PM didn’t mention the 1.5 metre social distancing rule on 21 April, and he did today. But it’s also clear that classrooms haven’t been the subject of the same health advice as other situations for some time.
Sydney beaches at Coogee, Maroubra and Clovelly will open on Saturday and Sunday morning for three hours, but only if people are there to exercise.
Between 6am and 9am, surfing, swimming and running is in. Hanging out and watching the world go by, isn’t.
Randwick City Council said it would would reassess the situation on Monday. In a statement, the council said:
All other unpatrolled beaches in Randwick City will remain closed until further notice. These beaches include Gordon’s Bay, Malabar beach, Little Bay beach, Frenchmans beach, Yarra Bay and Congwong beach.
Ocean rock pools in Randwick City will remain closed until further notice as they are subject to a public health order to close.
Graham Readfearn here taking you through the rest of the day in coronavirus-related news.
Earlier today, home affairs minister Peter Dutton had a crack at the Queensland government, saying kids in his state should be back at school.
The reason they weren’t, claimed Dutton, was because premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was “running scared of the militant” Queensland Teachers’ Union.
Well, QTU president Kevin Bates has just been talking to the ABC. An announcement earlier today from the national cabinet that the 1.5 metre distancing rule should no longer apply to schools has thrown the union’s position in the air.
Bates said that the union “had not formed a position” on whether there could be return to full schooling before the end of this current term, which is finishing its first week today.
If you had asked me that question yesterday, I would have potentially given you a different answer, because today the 1.5m social distancing rule has just disappeared. So you know, we’ve got this roller-coaster ride of changing conditions – we’re not making a decision on this in Queensland until the end of the next fortnight.
We would need to look at all of the circumstances that are in play at that time to make a good decision about what the second half of the term would look like.
Bates responded to the accusation his union was running the show saying they were only one of “almost 80 people” who were meeting almost daily for stakeholder meetings with the state’s Department of Education
We are one of the stakeholders, we are a major stakeholder, we represent 48,000 teachers and principals in Queensland, but our voice is not the only one and the government obviously listens to what we have to say, and then they make their own decisions. We don’t always agree with everything they decide and this is one of those cases. But we are working with the government as we look towards what might happen in the second half of the term.
I am now handing over to my colleague, Graham Readfearn, to take you through the evening.
Police were forced to break up a protest against 5G in Mullumbimby in NSW due to the coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings.
Around 100 people, seemingly unaware of the potential dangers of contracting coronavirus in large gatherings, were incorrectly claiming that 5G can affect immunity.
“Especially in this age of coronavirus, you want to have your immunity as strong as you can,” 7News reported one of the protestors saying.
We’ve confirmed, as the prime minister said earlier, that Amazon Web Services will host the data from the app within Australia (Sydney area to be exact).
There’s been a lot of people quite concerned about using an American company for this, because of a US law that can force US-based companies to provide data they hold, even if they’re not located there.
We’ll have more on that later, but government services minister Stuart Robert has said new laws will be enacted to make it a crime for Amazon to take the data overseas.
“Keeping Australian data in Australia will be guaranteed through a determination through the Biosecurity Act and legislation. It will be a criminal offence to transfer data to any country other than Australia. A penalty of imprisonment for five years and/or 300 penalty units ($63,000) could apply to breaches of the direction,” he said.
“The highly secure information storage system keys will be managed through Amazon Web Services’ Key Management System (KMS), a widely used security service that has been previously assessed by the ACSC.
“This is exactly the same way the Australian government already uses AWS for many other agencies, including the work of our intelligence agencies, including ASD, and ensures Australian data stays in Australia.”
One point, he said, was that Australia hadn’t signed up to participate in the US Cloud Act yet – except there is currently legislation before parliament to do just that. So more to come on this.
In case you forgot, avid carnivore Pete Evans was recently seen promoting this Tardis console panel-looking device as a potential treatment for coronavirus.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has now fined Evans $25,200 (or roughly the cost of 1.5 of these machines) for claiming it could be used for coronavirus treatment.
The TGA found there was “no foundation” to these claims.
There were two infringement notices issued. One for the coronavirus claims, and one for the other claims made for this Back to the Future-looking device, including that it could “restore strength, stamina, coordination and mental clarity”.
“As the BioCharger device has been represented by the company as being for therapeutic uses, it is a therapeutic good within the meaning of the act, and is subject to the regulatory framework established under the act and administered by the TGA,” the TGA said.
“Unless a specific exemption applies, therapeutic goods must be entered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) before they can be lawfully supplied or advertised in Australia.”
The emergency laws that passed Victorian parliament yesterday as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus should be overseen by an independent committee, human rights commissioner Kristen HIlton has said.
Hilton, who is the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, said some of the measures introduced in the Covid-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 would have an impact on human rights, particularly changes relating to the management of prisons, the restriction of visitors, and changes to the way court proceedings are carried out.
She said those impacts were reasonable but must be closely monitored. “During a state of emergency, some limitations on human rights may be unavoidable – and these are not decisions we can take lightly. Any restriction on human rights must be necessary, justifiable, proportionate and time-bound,” Hilton said.
She added: “The government should establish an independent committee to scrutinise the response, that is informed by human rights expertise and can hear directly from the public. This is critical in maintaining public confidence and transparency.”
The Victorian opposition called for the establishment of such a committee, but the deputy Nationals leader, Steph Ryan, said the government refused to establish a committee with a non-government majority.
Hilton said the Victorian Government had filed a statement of compatibility, to show that the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities had been carefully considered in the drafting of the laws, but that did not do away with the need for continual monitoring and independent oversight.
Perth airport blocks four Virgin planes over $16m debt
Perth airport says it has blocked four Virgin planes from being moved because the airline owes it $16m in airfield and terminal use fees.
An airport spokeswoman said Qantas has also “unilaterally” refused to pay $20m in fees, although there’s no sign of any bulldozers in front of jets sporting the flying kangaroo yet.
The spokeswoman said: “Virgin has significant outstanding invoices from Perth airport for airfield and terminal use charges – money the airline has already collected from its passengers and the FIFO sector.
“While Perth airport is working with the Virgin administrators, it also needs to protect its own interests.
“Perth airport has taken liens over a number of Virgin aircraft – a standard practice in these situations.”
The terminal Virgin usually uses,T1, is closed and the planes in question aren’t currently in use due to the coronavirus crisis.
But Virgin continues to operate charter flights from T2 for the Fifo – fly-in-fly-out – workers in Western Australia’s mining industry.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese says privacy concerns about the contact tracing app need to be addressed.
He says the parliament will also scrutinise the legislation supporting the app.
“We will be scrutinising the legislation carefully that the government has said they will provide it to us in advance and we will be ensuring that privacy concerns are met. It can be, obviously, a very useful tool. The medical experts have said that.”
He says the parliamentary committees should have access to the legislation before it hits parliament to speed up the process of passing it in the second week of May.