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Australia's death toll rises to 8 and everything else you need to know about COVID-19 today, Tuesday March 24.

Coronavirus death toll rises to eight after cruise passenger death.

A woman in her 70s who was a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship has become the eighth person in Australia to die from COVID-19.

The woman died in hospital on Tuesday morning, NSW Health said in a statement.

“There have been 107 cases diagnosed in NSW from the Ruby Princess and 26 cases interstate,” the health department spokesperson said.

NSW is at a “critical” stage as the number of COVID-19 cases reached 818 on Tuesday morning – an increase of 149 overnight.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian implored people to follow social distancing rules and warned authorities are “ramping up” compliance.

“If they’re supposed to be in self-isolation and they’re not, there are harsh penalties and we’ll enforce that. We have to take this seriously,” she said.

In Australia, seven people in NSW have now died from coronavirus and one person has died in Western Australia.

The UK has gone into lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered Britons to stay home to halt the spread of coronavirus, closing non-essential shops, telling people not to meet friends or family, and warning those who flout the rules face fines.

Deaths from the virus in Britain jumped to 335 on Monday as the government said the military would help ship millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks to healthcare workers who have complained of shortages.

“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home,” Johnson said in a televised address to the nation, replacing his usual daily news conference.

Johnson said people would only be allowed to leave their homes to shop for basic necessities, exercise, for a medical need, to provide care or travelling to and from work where absolutely necessary.

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“That’s all – these are the only reasons you should leave your home,” he said, adding that people should not meet friends or family members who do not live in their home.

“If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings,” he warned.

The new measures would be reviewed in three weeks and relaxed if possible.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott wants lockdown in Australia. 

Former prime minister Tony Abbott says a “complete shutdown” is necessary.

“We need to have a very, very complete shutdown now to do everything we humanely can to prevent the spread of the disease,” he told Alan Jones on 2GB this morning.

“You can only put the economy into a coma for so long, it can’t be indefinite, but the more complete it is now the more likely it is to be shortlived,” he said.

He added that he thinks Scott Morrison is doing very well in this unprecedented crisis.

Australia is “running out of ICU beds”. 

There is a very real fear Australia will run out of Intensive Care Unit beds in less than three weeks if coronavirus cases continue to rise as they are now.

On ABC’s Q&A last night, Dr Norman Swan warned: “If this hockey stick (the sudden rise in cases) doesn’t change that much, is that we’ll be out of ICU beds in New South Wales, Victoria will be behind that, by April 10.

“And in that case ICU physicians will be faced with some very difficult decisions. And overseas, 30 per cent to 40 per cent of ICU beds are filled with young people.”

Chief medical officer Paul Kelly says however that state and territory leaders have told him doubling ICU capacity is a relatively simple thing and tripling capacity is also possible.

Government apologises for Centrelink queues.

No one could have predicted the run on Centrelink offices around the country, as thousands of Australians tried to register with the welfare agency for the first time, the federal government says.

Long queues formed on Monday after the online portal for government services crashed, as people scrambled to apply for benefits as job losses mount due to the economic impact of the coronavirus, which has shut down many businesses.

“I don’t think that anybody expected or could have prepared for… such an accelerated demand that came yesterday,” Social Services Minister Anne Ruston told Nine’s Today show on Tuesday.

TUESDAY-FEATURE
The queues snaked out of Centrelink premises around the country as thousands found themselves out of a job. Image: Getty.
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"We clearly understand the distress that this coronavirus is causing."

The federal government is now appealing to people trying to register with Centrelink - many for the first time - to hold off for a few days.

"We are asking for patience and calm... What we saw yesterday was heartbreaking."

The MyGov online portal crashed on Monday after it was overwhelmed by people trying to access it.

The government said the site could only handle 55,000 visitors at once, but numbers spiked to almost 100,000. On a normal day, visitor numbers are about 6,000.

The volume of traffic was so high, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert initially claimed hackers were responsible for crashing the website.

Senator Ruston said there was no excuse for what happened.

"I'm apologising," she said.

Centrelink will boost its workforce by 5000 people to deal with the influx of applicants and extend call centre hours.

But there will be less staff at the centres because of social distancing requirements. No pop-up shopfronts are planned.

Many families, workers and business owners have been forced to seek social security payments as the pandemic throws the national economy, which is likely heading into a recession, into chaos.

Senator Ruston said no one needs to line up at Centrelink offices on Tuesday, unless they don't have a phone or internet access.

Frydenberg bolts during A Current Affair interview.

It's safe to say everyone is on edge right now, but A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw was left shocked as her guest last night got up and left mid-interview.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was answering questions about the government's response to coronavirus when he suddenly started ripping his earpiece out.

"I've got to go now, Trace," he told her.

"I had so many other questions," Grimshaw replied.

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Frydenberg up and left mid-interview last night. Image: Nine.

Frydenberg said he had to bolt from the interview because a division vote was called in parliament to pass legislation about the government's proposed coronavirus stimulus package.

To count in the vote, he had to physically be present in parliament.

West Australia on high alert over cruise ship.

West Australian police and Australian Border Force officers are on alert ahead of the arrival of the cruise ship Magnifica at Fremantle Port, to make sure no one leaves the vessel.

Premier Mark McGowan says no one will be allowed ashore when the vessel docks to refuel following its arrival about at 5am on Tuesday, amid fears at least 250 of more than 1700 passengers are suffering upper respiratory illness.

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But ship Operator MSC denies any crew or passengers on the ship, which departed Italy in January and is on its way to Dubai, have respiratory or flu-like illnesses.

"There is no evidence to suggest anyone onboard may be infected with COVID-19," the company said.

Mr McGowan has confirmed both police and border guards will monitor the Magnifica to make sure no one tries to disembark.

The state has 20 new coronavirus cases, bringing WA's total to 140. Two people are in hospital in a critical condition.

Queensland to announce $3 billion rescue package.

Queensland's government is set to unveil a $3 billion coronavirus package to help businesses stay afloat and keep workers in jobs during the pandemic.

The stimulus comes as the state prepares to close its borders on Tuesday to stop the spread of the virus, which has already infected at least 315 people in Queensland.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad says 24,000 businesses will get a payroll tax refund of $9000 on average and a payroll tax holiday, which will save them another $13,360 on average.

Households will also get a $200 rebate on their electricity bills and a $500 million fund will be set up to find workers employment in cleaning, fruit picking and other public purpose jobs.

Large employers will also be offered industry assistance packages.

Schools out in Victoria, but going ahead everywhere else.

The school holidays have officially started in Victoria, going against federal government advice to keep schools open.

At this stage, schools in the state are set to reopen on April 14, but the long holiday is being used to help prepare for the possibility of remote learning.

Schools are out in Victoria, but in everywhere else in Australia. Image: Getty.
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For now, kindergarten and childcare centres remain open.

In NSW, schools are still open, but parents are being encouraged to keep their kids at home if they can. The same advice is in place for the Northern Territory and the ACT.

QLD schools also remain open, but the state's teacher's union is threatening strike action.

WA schools will remain open until the Easter holidays, but Anglican schools are asking children to stay at home.

The State Government says Tasmanian schools will not yet close, as pressure mounts on leaders to take immediate action to halt the spread of coronavirus.

"Aggressive tactics needed," says WHO.

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating and more aggressive tactics are needed to fight it, the World Health Organisation has warned.

The WHO said there are now 300,000 confirmed cases worldwide. The first 100,000 were reported in the first 67 days of the virus, the second 100,000 cases came 11 days later and the next 100,000 cases just four days after that, the global health body said.

The current COVID-19 figures.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there were also "alarming" reports of health workers getting sick.

He said he would be contacting the G20 heads of state to solve the global shortage of protective gear for health workers.

"More than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, from almost every country in the world," he told a press briefing in Geneva on Monday.

"The pandemic is accelerating... but we're not prisoners to statistics. We're not helpless bystanders.

"We can change the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Dr Ghebreyesus said asking people to stay home and other physical distancing measures were important to slow the coronavirus, but stressed they were defensive measures.

"To win, we need to attack the coronavirus with aggressive and targeted tactics - testing every suspected COVID-19 case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case, and tracing and quarantining every close contact," he said.

He acknowledged that measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus may have unintended consequences by exacerbating shortages of essential protective gear.

Tokyo 2020 to be postponed a year.

A member of the International Olympic Committee says Tokyo 2020 will be postponed a year because of coronavirus.

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Dick Pound told USA Today, "On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know."

Australia and Canada withdrew from the Games on Monday as global pressure is put on the Olympic committee to postpone the event for the first time in its 124 year history.

A formal decision is yet to be announced, although the World Health Organisation says a decision would be made about the future of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games soon.

Global recession could be worse than the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic will cause a global recession in 2020 that could be worse than the one triggered by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the International Monetary Fund says.

However, world economic output should recover in 2021, the IMF predicts.

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva welcomed extraordinary fiscal actions already taken by many countries to boost health systems and protect affected companies and workers, and steps taken by central banks to ease monetary policy.

"Even more will be needed, especially on the fiscal front," she said.

UK to give Aussies visa relief.

The British government is set unveil new arrangements for thousands of Australian citizens trapped in the country amid the global coronavirus lockdowns.

Many Australian expatriates and travellers have been unable to return home due to flights being grounded, airports shut down and borders closed off as countries fight to stop the virus spreading.

Many Australians, particularly those looking to renew their work visas this month, are concerned they will be forced to overstay their visas.

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The UK Home Office has confirmed that special arrangements will soon be outlined for foreign nationals, including Australians, whose visas are impacted.

The British government last month extended most visas for Chinese nationals until March 31.

What's happening around the world.

More than one-fifth of the world's population - 1.5 billion people - have been ordered to stay in their homes at the start of what could be a pivotal week in the battle to contain coronavirus.

  • Italy has recorded a smaller day-to-day increase in coronavirus cases and deaths for the second straight day, with 602 dead and 4789 new cases on Monday.
  • The number of new coronavirus infections in Spain has risen for the second day in a row, with 4517 new cases.
Valencia Launches The Construction Of A Field Hospital Together With La Fe Hospital
An excavator works on the construction of a field hospital next to La Fe Hospital in Valencia, Spain. Image: Iván Terrón/Europa Press via Getty.
  • Two former passengers on a cruise ship have died in Japan, becoming the ninth and 10th fatalities from the Diamond Princess.
  • New York City convention centre is being transformed into a hospital with 1000 beds with the city's hospital 10 days away from shortages in basic supplies.
  • China's health ministry said Wuhan has now gone five consecutive days without a new infection, showing the effectiveness of Draconian travel restrictions that are slowly being relaxed around the country.
  • Sri Lanka's government has banned non-essential travel across the Indian Ocean island nation.
  • New Zealanders have been ordered to stay home and all non-essential businesses and activities must cease when a lockdown begins on Wednesday night.
  • Authorities in southern Pakistan have begun a two-week complete lockdown, as the number of positive coronavirus tests jumped to 799 across the country.
  • The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa jumped to 402 on Monday, up 128 from the day before.
  • Russia has reported 438 coronavirus cases and closed the border for foreigners, restricting air traffic with all countries.
  • Bangladesh has ordered a 10-day general holiday through to April 4 for all government and private organisations to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
  • 14 police officers in Greece have been placed in precautionary home quarantine after the arrest of a 26-year-old man who claimed he had the coronavirus.

-With AAP

Feature image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

The current situation around COVID-19 might be making you feel scared or uncertain. It's okay to feel this way, but it's also important to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety during this time. To download the free PDF: Anxiety & Coronavirus - How to Manage Feelings of Anxiety click here.

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