NSW has reported 11 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the state total to 2897.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says it is a “very positive outcome” and urged more people to get tested.
“If you live in a suburb we have identified and you think you might have symptoms or you are in direct contact with someone who has the virus, please come forward and get tested,” she said.
“But across the state, if you are someone who works with vulnerable people or someone who has been in direct contact with someone or feels (you) have symptoms, do not hesitate to come forward. In one day, we saw the testing rates go up from just over 1000 to over 3000. We want to get that back up to 4000.”
A special commission of inquiry will investigate the Ruby Princess cruise ship debacle, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian vowing to leave no stone unturned in the search for answers.
Eminent barrister Bret Walker SC is leading the inquiry and is expected to report back to the government in three to four months.
“It is important that answers are provided quickly for the people of NSW,” Ms Berejiklian said in a statement on Wednesday.
“As I have said before, we will leave no stone unturned until we find out exactly what happened.”
The Ruby Princess, which docked in Sydney on March 19, is now linked to 19 coronavirus deaths and hundreds of cases across Australia.
Some 2700 passengers were permitted to disembark without adequate health checks, which federal border authorities blame on NSW Health.
Mr Walker will examine the ship’s departure and arrival, as well as the role of NSW and federal agencies and the cruise ship operator in its disembarkation.
He will have unlimited powers in the execution of his duty, Ms Berejiklian says, and will not receive direction from government or bureaucracy.
The ill-fated cruise is also subject to a police investigation, and there’s potential for a coronial inquest.
There are now some 140 crew aboard the Ruby Princess with confirmed cases of COVID-19, while another 12 crew members have been evacuated to NSW hospitals.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on Wednesday said the ship – which is docked at Port Kembla – could leave Australia by Sunday after authorities last week seized its black box and conducted interviews.
NSW had 16 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, taking the total to 2886.
Some 29 people are being treated in intensive care but there were no new deaths recorded overnight, with the NSW toll remaining at 26.
Six staff and four residents linked to the Anglicare’s Newmarch House aged care facility in western Sydney had by Wednesday tested positive to the coronavirus.
Students in WA could head back to school at the end of the month but teachers first want COVID-19 safety gear in the classroom.
Educators are concerned about how schools can safely operate in term two, as the state hits a total of 532 coronavirus cases.
A decision will be made after the national cabinet meeting on Thursday, with WA public schools to begin term two on April 29.
State School Teachers Union of WA president Pat Byrne said members were concerned they did not have access to personal protective equipment like health workers.
“There’s no question that the best form of learning is in the classroom,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
“What the dilemma for us is, is how to put that consideration against the consideration of safety and health for both the students and the adults who work in a school.”
But Health Minister Roger Cook is “fairly comfortable” with schools opening, despite a lot of anxiety in the community.
– Christine McGinn, AAP
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has just appeared on Nine’s Today.
He was asked about reports the government is aiming for the economy to reopen in four to six weeks.
Mr Frydenberg said “we will continue to be led by the medical advice” that had resulted in the curve flattening, with daily increase in coronavirus cases going from more than 20 per cent to below 2 per cent.
“If you look at Japan, if you look at Singapore, in those countries they thought they were making real progress, they started to relax restrictions and they saw a second wave of infections across their country,” he said.
“In places like Sweden, which allowed large gatherings, they’ve now had more than 10 times the number of deaths from the coronavirus than Australia, yet Sweden has less than half of our population. There are real challenges ahead. People should not be complacent. Patience is a real virtue.”
Mr Frydenberg said he was talking daily with business leaders and understood the “severe economic impact that the health restrictions are having on businesses”.
“But everyone understands that we do need to take the medical advice, that we need to preserve lives and livelihoods,” he said.
On schools, Mr Frydenberg reiterated the government’s position was “the clear medical advice” is that schools should remain open, despite lingering confusion among parents with most states and territories moving towards online learning.
“We need to have a system where the schools are open, providing that form of education but also providing the online support for those parents who do choose to stay at home,” he said.
He also played down talk of a bailout for Virgin, which could go into administration within days. “We want to see two major airlines continue to operate in Australia, but at the same time the government is not in the business of owning an airline,” he said.
“Paul Keating sold Qantas back 27 years ago. Our focus has been on industry-wide support, providing relief from various taxes and charges and other regulatory measures.”
The March jobs figures are out today, but Mr Frydenberg cautioned they wouldn’t show the full impact of coronavirus.
Treasury modelling released this week forecast the unemployment rate could reach 10 per cent by June – but that it would have peaked at 15 per cent if not for the government’s $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy program.
The International Monetary Fund has warned of a $9 trillion loss to the Australian economy.
South Australians will be checked for coronavirus in increased numbers as the state goes on a “testing blitz”.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said low COVID-19 case numbers in recent days had allowed for the broader testing regime.
“This blitz will give us the opportunity to get a better read on the level of disease in the community,” he said on Wednesday.
SA Pathology chief Tom Dodd says the state has the resources to conduct up to 45,000 tests over the next two weeks.
But he doubts it’ll unearth a significant number of fresh cases. More than 38,000 tests have already been conducted since the state opened up 54 rapid testing centres.
It was limited to people with symptoms who had travelled or been in close contact with known cases, have links to clusters or are health care workers.
But it’s since been widened to anyone with even mild symptoms, such as a fever or cough, a sore throat or shortness of breath.
There were no new cases on Wednesday, with the state’s total at 433.
– Christine McGinn, AAP
Reinforcements for Queensland’s health workers are on the way, while Chinese Australians have been the target of abuse amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Police have laid 22 charges for racially-motivated offences following 16 complaints that range from wilful damage and public nuisance to robberies and assaults.
Verbal abuse and graffiti are also among the alleged offences.
“These are racially-motivated offences,” Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll has said.
Meanwhile, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says 60 paramedic graduates are being fast-tracked and will complement an earlier deployment of 45 paramedics across the state.
“The graduates will be out on the ground helping people, again making sure we have the frontline services we need to combat COVID-19,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Schools will reopen on Monday when the second term starts for vulnerable students and children of essential workers.
Ms Palaszczuk said concerned parents should talk to their school principals about whether their kids should front up for class on Monday or stay home and learn remotely.
She said each school was best placed to assess a student’s needs, especially if parents are worried about balancing a child’s home-schooling while they are also working from home.
“They should talk to their principal about whether or not they can continue to supervise from home,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Essential workers are deemed as any parent or carer who needs to attend a place of work and is unable to provide supervision for their child at home.
Just five new confirmed COVID-19 cases were recorded in the state on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 999. It’s the lowest daily increase since March 10.
There are 552 active cases while 442 have recovered. There have been five deaths.
– Darren Cartwright, AAP
Victorian renters struggling to pay rent amid the coronavirus can sleep easier knowing they can’t be kicked out for six months.
The temporary half-year ban on evictions and rent increases for residential and commercial tenants was confirmed on Wednesday.
The state government package also includes about $420 million land tax relief for landlords, while $80 million will be put in a fund for renters facing hardship due to the virus.
Tenants Victoria said the multi-million-dollar package recognises the struggle of one-third of the state’s households.
Eligible renters must register their revised agreement with Consumer Affairs or have gone through mediation, have less than $5000 in savings and pay at least 30 per cent of their income in rent.
Small businesses with an annual turnover of under $50 million with a 30 per cent or more in revenue reduction due to COVID-19 can be granted rental waivers or deferrals.
The new measures are backdated to March 29.
The measure comes as the state recorded an increase on Wednesday of eight COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 1299.
There have been 14 deaths.
– Christine McGinn, AAP
Tasmania is ramping up coronavirus testing in the northwest as it works to get to the bottom of a fatal outbreak.
The state government will start a “testing blitz” in the region, bringing in extra laboratory technology to boost capacity.
“We will be instigating a testing blitz on the northwest coast,” Premier Peter Gutwein said on Wednesday.
“If you’ve got flu symptoms or you believe you have been exposed to COVID, talk to the public health hotline, talk to your GP and we will get you tested.”
Up to 500 people can be tested each day for COVID-19.
Tasmania has 169 coronavirus cases with more than 80 linked to the outbreak at the North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie.
More than 45 health workers have tested positive to the deadly virus, with a spike in cases over the Easter break.
Testing has been offered to staff of the two hospitals in the region closed for a deep clean due to the outbreak.
It is hoped the facilities’ emergency department will reopen on Thursday. A total of six people with coronavirus have died in the island state.
– Christine McGinn, AAP
The world must not be complacent on the economic front just as countries cannot afford to relax in the health fight against coronavirus, Australia’s treasurer has told his foreign counterparts.
Josh Frydenberg discussed the state of the global economy again with his G20 colleagues overnight on Wednesday.
The meeting of the finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s largest economies comes on the heels of the International Monetary Fund warning Australia – and the globe – is headed for a recession as deep as the Great Depression.
“The world will judge the G20 on our ability to ensure global economic and financial stability throughout this unprecedented crisis,” Mr Frydenberg told the meeting.
Governments had to remain responsive, flexible and ready to do more and to make sure that finance was available to all countries.
“Now is not the time for complacency given how rapidly this situation has evolved and how far into uncharted territory this virus has taken us,” the Treasurer said.
“As we take actions to safeguard our economies, we must resist the temptation to take measures which constrain global supply chains and restrict trade, especially for vital medical supplies and other essential goods. Such commitments will give markets the investment certainty and confidence they need during these challenging times.”
He applauded the toolkit that the IMF, the World Bank and other multilateral organisations had assembled.
Mr Frydenberg also expressed his pleasure that countries had been able to work collaboratively and in record time to coordinate the actions of central banks so as to stabilise markets and improve access to emergency financing. The IMF forecast the Australian economy would shrink by 6.7 per cent this year then grow 6.1 per cent over 2021, ultimately leaving it smaller than it was at the end of 2019.
Unemployment was tipped to rise to an average of 7.6 per cent in 2020 and 8.9 per cent in 2021.
But Mr Frydenberg said these figures didn’t take into account the full extent of Australia’s support package and its efforts to flatten the rate of coronavirus infections.
Treasury is working on its own forecasts of the impact on GDP. Mr Frydenberg will follow up the G20 meeting with another with his counterparts involved in the IMF on Thursday night.
– Katina Curtis, AAP
A 29-year-old man has been taken to the Howard Springs quarantine facility after he allegedly breached quarantine at a Darwin hotel.
The man arrived in Darwin by plane on April 6 and was issued an infringement notice on his first day in hotel quarantine, according to Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services.
He had already been identified as being a “high risk” for non-compliance.
“Further disruptive behaviour identified that the man was no longer going to comply with directions and he has been relocated for an increased level of supervision,” PFES said in a statement on Wednesday.
Commissioner Jamie Chalker said compliance was essential during a critical period for the Northern Territory.
“Irresponsible behaviour and non-compliance is not tolerated and we will take action against those who threaten the safety of Territorians,” Mr Chalker said.