Scott Morrison's latest update and everything else you need to know about COVID-19 today, Friday May 15.

National Cabinet announces $48.1 million for mental health funding.

Following Friday’s National Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced $48.1 million in funding for a national mental health and wellbeing pandemic response plan.

“It was particularly encouraging to see that, with the advent of telehealth, we are now seeing the number of presentations and consultations occurring for mental health now back to levels that were being experienced pre-pandemic,” he said.

Christine Morgan, who is heading up the national mental health commission, said the plan will aim to help people struggling with substance use and substance abuse, gambling, as well as issues around “domestic, family and sexual violence”.

“It belongs with us. And we are committed, absolutely committed, to being there for anybody who needs help. And we call it out, reach out, we are there for you,” she said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt added, “The stress of concerns about health, the loneliness of isolation, anxiety about a job, a small business’s set of finances, the mortgage – all of these pressure which come with the pandemic have created specific mental health challenges. Everyone here will have seen or felt, in among their own families or friends or circles, the pressures that are in place right across Australia. So one of the most important things we can do is to provide mental health support.”

There are three parts to this mental health plan. The first will see $7.3m invested in real-time research and data. Secondly, $29.5m will be invested in outreach to vulnerable communities including the elderly, people from non-Engish-speaking backgrounds, Indigenous Australians and people with pre-existing mental health conditions. The third will see $11.3m go towards communication and outreach, $10.4m of which will be spent on a national campaign-based around the slogan “It’s OK not to be OK.”

Elective surgery gets the green light.

Morrison also announced the resumption of elective surgery across Australia following Friday’s National Cabinet meeting.

“The boom is going up on elective surgery all around the country. That will be done, of course, at the pace that states set. But that will be welcome, particularly to the private health industry, in particular, and the jobs that are supported throughout that sector,” he said.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy added, “There is now pretty good room for further expansion, and clearly in those states that are having essentially no cases, they want to go fairly quickly back to full elective activity. Those states that still have some transmission are probably going to take it a bit more gently. But everybody is now heading towards full elective surgery, which is a really important thing.”

Victorian chief health officer admits Cedar Meats mistake.

Victoria’s chief health officer has admitted authorities could have done better in handling a coronavirus outbreak at a meat processing plant, including shutting down the facility when the first case was detected.


The Cedar Meats outbreak is the state’s biggest COVID-19 cluster and is now the subject of a WorkSafe investigation, as three new infections were linked to the abattoir on Thursday.

At present, 90 people linked to abattoir have been infected.

The state government and Cedar Meats’ management have defended the handling of the outbreak, including the decision to allow staff to work for several days after workers tested positive, but DHO Brett Sutton has admitted authorities could have acted earlier.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have waited for a third linked case,” he told 3AW radio on Thursday.

“Maybe for these settings, we should shut an entire place down; not just the boning room where it all started, but an entire facility.”

The Cedar Meats abattoir in Brooklyn has been linked to 49 infections. Image: Darrian Traynor/Getty.

The first case linked to the meatworks was confirmed on April 2, but it wasn't considered a risk site because the worker said they hadn't been at work for weeks.

Cedar Meats was shut down on April 29, after two more cases surfaced on April 24 and 25. It plans to partially reopen on Monday.

The WorkSafe investigation, meanwhile, will examine whether social distancing measures were in place at the abattoir and if workers were provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser.

Victoria's virus count went up to 1523 after nine new cases were confirmed on Thursday, two of which were linked to another developing cluster at the McDonald's in Fawkner.


In total, eight cases are linked to the fast-food restaurant, which reopened on Wednesday after a deep clean.

Australians must update COVIDSafe app.

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The government wants to reach 10 million COVIDSafe downloads. Image: Getty.

Tech experts are urging Australians to not just download, but update the coronavirus contact tracing app to avoid a problem where it could be disabled.

Software developer Richard Nelson found a flaw in COVIDSafe that would allow someone with a relatively simple Bluetooth device to crash the app running on phones in the vicinity.

That would mean they weren't picking up the "handshakes" with other phones, and so the data wouldn't exist for health officials if the user came down with coronavirus.

The government released an update for COVIDSafe on Thursday that fixes the problem, but people need to manually install it.

It's also believed the update increases the reliability of the app when it is used in the background of an iPhone.

More than 5.7 million people have downloaded the software but authorities have called for more.

Parliament on Thursday passed beefed-up privacy protections for the app.

Those accessing the data without authorisation or forcing others to sign up will face up to five years' jail and fines of $63,000.

Second wave possible as NSW, QLD and NT ease restrictions.

Health experts have warned Australia's success with flattening the coronavirus curve is set to be tested, and more cases should be expected as states ease restrictions.


Pubs and clubs will join cafes, restaurants, and places of worship in welcoming back people inside their doors, as NSW enjoys its first day under an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

From Friday, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed and up to five people, including children, can visit households.

Religious gatherings and places of worship can now welcome up to 10 people, while restaurants and cafes are allowed to have up to 10 patrons at a time as long as they maintain social distancing.

A total of 10 guests are allowed at weddings and up to 20 people at indoor funerals and up to 30 at outdoor funerals.

In Queensland, public parks, playgrounds and barbecues will reopen from Saturday as the state emerges from isolation.

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People gather along Burleigh Heads in Gold Coast. Image: Getty.

Beauty salons will be able to open to 10 clients at a time for some services, and road trips are back as residents of the sunshine state are allowed to travel up to 150km from home, increasing to 500km for those in the outback.

From Saturday, up to 10 people will be able to gather outside at weddings, pools and for exercise.

From noon today, the Northern Territory is allowing restaurants, cafes, and bars to reopen as long as people purchase food and practice social distancing.


Non-contact sports can also resume from Friday with indoor activities allowed under a two-hour time limit and beauty salons, gyms, libraries and places of religious worship can also open their doors.

The internal border controls restricting access to areas that include indigenous communities under the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act will remain in place until June 18 and possibly longer, and the NT's border closures with other states will also remain in force.

More than a million children could die every six months.

The risk of children dying from diseases like malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea has spiked as developing nations adopt lockdown measures to combat COVID-19.

Research from a stark report published in Lancet Global Health journal on Wednesday, found almost 1.2 million children under five could die of preventative causes in the next six months due to the disruption to health services, travel and food and medical supplies caused by the pandemic.

Dr Stefan Peterson, chief of health at Unicef told The Telegraph, one size does not fit all when it comes to COVID-19 responses.

"If you're asking families to stay at home in one room in a slum, without food or water, that won't limit virus transmission," he said.

"I'm concerned that lockdown measures have been copied between countries for lack of knowing what to do, rarely with any contextualisation for the local situation. One size fits no one."

Researchers considered three scenarios in which the coverage of essential maternal and child health interventions is reduced by 9·8–51·9 per cent and the prevalence of wasting is increased by 10–50 per cent.

Under the modellings best case scenario, 253,500 children under the age of five and 12,200 mothers will die over just six months. Under the worst case scenario, 1,157,000 children and 56,700 mothers could die over the same time period.

The countries that could see the highest number of additional child deaths are, according to the research, Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and Tanzania.

WHO admits the coronavirus "may never go away".

The World Health Organisation has warned the new coronavirus "may never go away" and the world will have to learn to live with it, as the global death toll officially reaches 300,000.

"We have a new virus entering the human population for the first time and therefore it is very hard to predict when we will prevail over it," WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.

"This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away," he told a virtual press conference in Geneva.


"HIV has not gone away - but we have come to terms with the virus."

Dr Ryan said there was a "long, long way to go" on the path back to 'normality', insisting lockdowns and easing restrictions were both "fraught with dangers".

WHO warned there was no way to guarantee easing restrictions would not trigger a second wave of infections, and its recommendation "is still the alert at any country should be at the highest level possible".

Around the world.

France's cumulative coronavirus death toll has edged back above Spain's, as the health ministry reported that the number of people who died of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours increased by 351 or 1.3 per cent to 27,425.

Spain earlier on Thursday reported 217 new deaths, taking its toll to 27,321. France's toll first jumped over Spain's on Tuesday, but dipped below it on Wednesday.

France has the world's fourth-highest death toll after the US (83,720), the UK (33,186) and Italy (31,106).

Brazil, where the casualty rate is climbing quickly, has the sixth most deaths with 13,149 fatalities.

Russia now accounts for the third highest number of patients in the world, despite President Vladimir Putin declaring the virus under control in Russia back in March.

Across Europe, governments have promised more relief to their citizens.

France's government announced an 18-billion-euro ($A30.2-billion) plan to support restaurants, hotels and other tourist facilities which have been closed since mid-March.

Germany's parliament approved plans to increase the amount paid to people who spend months in a government-backed, short-time work program during the coronavirus crisis.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte promised a massive package of tax cuts and other financial aid to help businesses and families. "Your cry of alarm didn't escape us," Conte said.

In the US, Rick Bright - an immunologist who says he lost his government job because he warned the administration to prepare for the pandemic - told Congress the US lacks a plan to produce and fairly distribute a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available.

In China, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian fired back at criticism from the United States with criticism of his own, saying authorities there have failed to effectively fight the global coronavirus pandemic and "abused American people's trust".

-With AAP.

Feature image: Getty.

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