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What you need to know about COVID-19 today, Monday March 23.

NRL to suspend season after two rounds.

The NRL has confirmed it will be suspending their 2020 season after two rounds, in order to protect their players from coronavirus.

Originally, the NRL planned to continue their matches without an audience, however recent state-implemented lockdowns and quarantine periods would have prevented players from being able to compete.

So far, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia have shut their borders and people wishing to enter these states must self-isolate for 14 days.

Logistically, this would have affected the League’s three QLD-based teams – the Brisbane Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans.

Previously speaking to the media, Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys has said that a lack of games would be “catastrophic” for the NRL, with the League in danger of exhausting its cash reserves in three months.

“I can’t stress enough that our game has never faced a challenge like this,” he told media last week.

“It could have catastrophic effects on us moving forward. Our money will only last so long and once it’s extinguished we are in big trouble. It depends on the scenario we’re faced with but if it’s a total closure, we haven’t got long at all.”

The AFL is also currently on hold until May 31, however, there is currently no word as to when the 2020 NRL season will resume.

Woolworths to implement protective shields to protect workers against coronavirus.

Woolworths has rolled out protective shields across their stores, in an effort to protect their checkout staff.

The multi-million dollar measure is already being implemented in its NSW stores and will be carried out in its other 1000 supermarkets. A similar practice is already being used in France and Canada.

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Speaking to the Herald Sun, Woolworths Supermarkets’ managing director, Claire Peters, said the chain was doing everything possible to continue the government’s social distancing guidelines of 1.5m.

“We know it’s not always easy to maintain social distancing at check-outs so we’ve started installing plexiglass screens as an additional safeguard for our team members and customers,” he said.

“As our team members continue providing for the community we will do everything necessary to uphold public health and safety in our stores.”

Australia won’t compete at the 2020 Olympics.

The Australian Olympic Committee has confirmed that sending a team to the 2020 Tokyo Games is impossible amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to media on Monday, AOC CEO Matt Carroll confirmed that the Australian team will withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics.

“We have athletes based overseas, training at central locations around Australia as teams and managing their own programs,” Carroll said in a statement.

“With travel and other restrictions, this becomes an untenable situation.”

Australia’s decision comes as Canada announced it would not send a team to this year’s Olympic Games, should it proceed as normal.

Australian Olympic athletes have been told to prepare for Tokyo to host the Olympics next year, amid discussions that the games could be postponed until mid-2021.

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It’s believed a decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee in the next four weeks on whether the Games will be postponed.

Queensland borders to close.

Queensland’s borders will close from midnight on Wednesday in the hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The new change, which was announced by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on social media, means anyone entering the state, including those returning from interstate travel, will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days.

The final details of the closure, including how it will be regulated, are to be released on Tuesday.

There are currently more than 250 cases of COVID-19 in Queensland.

“We need to act now.” New Zealand enters near-complete societal lockdown to fight COVID-19.

New Zealand will move to a near-complete societal lockdown within 48 hours, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who aims to seize on a “window of opportunity” to contain COVID-19.

Military personnel will join with police in enforcing nationwide self-isolation under the unprecedented restrictions.

Schools and non-essential businesses will close as the government ramps up its public coronavirus advisory to the maximum level from Thursday.

“Now is the time to put our plans into action,” Ardern said. “We need to act now, or risk the virus taking hold as it has elsewhere.

“We currently have 102 cases, but so did Italy once.”

covid-19 lockdown
Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on March 23, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Image: Getty.

The announcement comes as New Zealand confirmed a jump of 36 positive tests for the virus in the past 24 hours, including the first two cases of community transmission.

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There have been no fatalities of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

By comparison, Australia has recorded at least 1600 cases.

Kiwis will be allowed outside to walk the dog, or exercise, or to visit supermarkets or health services. But outside of industries deemed "essential" - including health and emergency services workers, police, some public servants and media - citizens will be asked to stay home.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Australians 2020 "will be the toughest year of our lives".

The Prime Minister has given an address to parliament saying that 2020 will be the toughest year of our lives but "Australia is up to the challenge".

"We must not allow [coronavirus] to change who we are as Australians," he told his colleagues this morning in a broadcasted statement.

"I know Australians are concerned at this difficult time. It's the fear of the unknown... and there is much that is unknown. But we must not let that fear overtake us. We must focus instead on what we can control. We know who we are as people. The legacy and inspiration that's been given to us from those before us has shown us through challenges and tests - our Great Depression generation, our Anzacs, those who won the peace of WWII - that is our legacy that we should draw on at this time."

Scott Morrison
The Prime Minister has addressed the country this morning. Image: Nine.

"We also know the compassion and respect we must show to one another," he added, reiterating that in the difficult months ahead "we must ensure no Australian goes through this alone".

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"The tests, hardships and sacrifices that will be placed on all of us and our national character will break our hearts in the months ahead, but we must resolve to come together and pledge to each other across our nation that this coronavirus will not break our Australian spirit. Together and with the rest of the world, we face a once in a 100-year event.

"2020 will be the toughest year of our lives.

"It's bigger than premiers or chief ministers, it's bigger than all of us. I want to thank all of those who have come to this challenge with such united spirit."

The Prime Minister addressed those who have lost jobs, assuring that he and his government have important work to do to "cushion the blow".

Thousands across Australia are losing or have lost their jobs and lines at Centrelink are swelling every day.

As Morrison described, it's the "biggest economic shock we've had in generations".

"We've announced an economic package - a total sum of $189 billion in support... .about 10 percent of our economy," he said, adding, "there is more support coming".

"It's our job to work night and day to make sure we get to the other side and emerge stronger, safer and more united. Australians will be living with this virus, it's our advice, for at least the next six months. There's no 3-4 week shutdown that makes it go away. There's no short solution," he warned.

"No more going to the pub after work, or the gym after work, or brunch at a cafe on the weekend - these changes are vital to safe lives as the virus spreads - and it will spread. We'll likely need to impose even further restrictions on our lives," he said.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister asked Australians to work together, and do the right thing by the social distancing rules, asking those of faith to pray for the country.

"When the virus passes - and it will - we will be stronger on the other side. This is a test of our nation, of our spirit. There are some who think societies can't deal with these challenges - we can and we will do this together. May God bless us all."

Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

Convicted sex offender and disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, 68, is being isolated at Wende Correctional Facility in Western New York, according to a report by the Daily Mail.

Weinstein told prison staff he believed he had the virus after transferring to the state prison from Rikers Island, where a number of inmates have tested positive for the virus.

He tested positive and has been quarantined, the publication reported.

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Harvey Weinstein trial
Image: Getty.

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision confirmed on Sunday local time that two prisoners at Wende had tested posted for the coronavirus, but it was unable to confirm their identities.

A jury on February 24 found former movie producer Weinstein guilty of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and raping former aspiring actor Jessica Mann.

Earlier this month he was sentenced to 23 years in prison after delivering a rambling statement in court, saying he is trying to be "a better person".

"I feel remorse for all of the men who are going through this fight," Weinstein told the court before he was sentenced.

Wende was meant to be a temporary home for Weinstein, before the state decided what facility he would be transferred to permanently.

At least 38 people have tested positive across New York's vast jail system, including correctional staff and at least 21 male inmates.

Australian schools remain open.

On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the medical advice for schools has not changed, therefore children should go to school on Monday.

He said arrangements were being made for distance learning frameworks, but this couldn’t happen immediately.

“What we will be doing though is allowing parents in, to the end of this year’s school term, to be able to keep their children at home where they choose to. But for all of those parents who wish to send their children to school, for an education at the school, those schools will remain open. In addition, schools will seek to provide learning at home in a distance learning framework but you cannot be assured that that will come in place immediately,” he said.

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In Victoria, the end of term one has been brought forward. Victorian students will have their last day of school on Monday, March 23, and begin their school holidays early.

NSW schools will remain open until the end of term, however NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has encouraged parents to keep their children home if possible, to contain the spread of COVID-19.

"For parents that have no option, for parents that are workers, school is safe for children to attend and schools will remain open," Berejiklian said on Monday.

She said it was practical to keep schools open so parents who work in heathcare and essential services were not forced to stay home with children.

All non-essential services to shut down at midday today. 

Last night, Morrison ordered clubs, pubs, churches and cinemas to close in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

As of noon today, there will also be restrictions on hotels, gyms, indoor sporting venues, entertainment venues, casinos, restaurants and cafes - which will only be able to serve takeaway.

The current COVID-19 figures.

Hairdressers, beauticians, pharmacies, petrol stations, convenience stores, shopping centres, freight, logistics and home delivery will remain open.

The strict new rules are a result of Australians largely ignoring social distancing practices over the weekend.

"This sent a very clear message," said Morrison.

The Prime Minister said if the ‘stage one’ measures are not followed by Australians, harsher measures may have to be enforced.

In an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday night, Morrison reiterated: "What we saw at Bondi Beach was not OK. It was not even remotely OK, and that sent a message to the premiers, a message to the chief ministers and me, that not enough Australians are taking that seriously. I said today we are in a war against the virus, and all Australians are enlisted to do the right thing."

On Friday night, the popular beach was teeming with people all enjoying the balmy Autumn weather.

Coronavirus Australia update Bondi
Bondi beach on Friday. Image: Getty.
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"This needs to be observed, if it’s not observed then very draconian measures will have to be introduced that might otherwise have been unnecessary," said Morrison.

READ: Scott Morrison's full press conference.

READ: More about the VIC and NSW shutdowns.

READ: The Prime Minister's interview on 60 Minutes.

International Olympic Committee considering postponement of Tokyo 2020. 

The International Olympic Committee will step up its "scenario planning" for the Tokyo 2020 Games - including their postponement - it said after an emergency meeting.

The IOC will hold detailed discussions which will include possibly changing the July 24 start date because of the global coronavirus pandemic, but emphasised that a cancellation of the Games would not solve any of the problems or help anybody.

"Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda," the IOC said in a statement on Sunday, adding the discussions would be completed within the next four weeks.

OLYMPICS
The IOC is finally looking at postponing the Olympics, and will make a decision within four weeks. Image: Getty.
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The IOC is facing mounting opposition to the current schedule for the Games as athletes, teams and federations call for a delay because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Several National Olympic Committees have urged the IOC to postpone the Games, as the pandemic forces countries to lock down and wreaks havoc on their preparations.

"The IOC will... start detailed discussions to complete its assessment of the rapid development of the worldwide health situation and its impact on the Olympic Games, including the scenario of postponement," the IOC said.

"The IOC is confident that it will have finalised these discussions within the next four weeks."

The British Olympic Association called on the IOC to make its decisions quickly.

Infections rise in other parts of the country.

Tasmania's tally of coronavirus cases has risen to 22, with five new infections confirmed on Sunday.

Two people had returned from the United States, two from the Ruby Princess cruise ship, and one person from the Ovation of the Seas cruise.

In a further effort to help fight the coronavirus, the University of Tasmania has put its accommodation in the hands of the government. The facilities will be ready for the government on Tuesday.

WATCH: Some of your questions about the virus, answered. Post continues after video.

Video by Mamamia

COVID-19 is also starting to spread to regional South Australia with cases confirmed in Whyalla, the Barossa Valley and the Riverland.

The total number of cases in South Australia has now reached 100, with the state moving to shut its borders with a mandatory 14-day quarantine period to be enforced immediately and border checks to begin from Tuesday.

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South Australia is yet to announce a more widespread closure of non-essential services, as in the other states, but is likely to follow suit in coming days.

NRL to decide a way forward today.

The NRL is preparing to make one of the biggest calls in the game's history.

The ARL Commission will on Monday determine the best way forward for the sport through the health crisis, just a day after the AFL announced it was suspending its season.

The NRL are determined to play on, and intend on continuing into round three next weekend unless they are told they cannot by government or health authorities.

They also acknowledge they stare down the barrel of a huge loss worth up to $500 million if the season is scrapped, or around $13 million per round lost in TV rights.

But more than half the clubs are now facing a challenge of their own following new government measures shutting clubs and pubs on Sunday night.

Nine NRL clubs are either owned by or have links to leagues clubs, and some rely on them for financial security most years.

The NRL has already handed each club $425,000 in support, but it's anticipated further strain could be placed on sides - particularly if matches are lost.

Brits warned, "stay apart or face curfew". 

The British government is threatening to impose curfews and travel restrictions as locals there do not heed the official advice on social distancing.

Pubs, clubs and gyms have already closed, but social media on Sunday was awash with pictures of people congregating in parks and food markets, apparently ignoring advice to stay two metres apart.

So far, 281 Britons have died from coronavirus.

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"Stay two metres apart. It's not such a difficult thing. Do it," Johnson said at a news briefing on Sunday.

"Otherwise ... there is going to be no doubt that we will have to bring forward further measures and we are certainly keeping that under constant review."

Johnson said tougher measures such as curfews needed to be timed right for maximum impact.

"After all, when the epidemic is hardly spreading at all that's not the moment to impose curfews and prohibitions on movement and so on and so forth," he said.

"You've got to wait until, alas, it's the right moment to do it and that's always been how we've been guided."

Italy's death toll continues to soar.

Italians have been banned from travelling within the country in yet another attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with data showing a further 651 people have died from the disease.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced late on Saturday he would freeze all non-essential business activity, after previous measures failed to peg back the contagion.

The number of fatalities now stands at 5476 after the coronavirus emerged a month ago in the wealthy north before slowly advancing southwards.

Italy Continues Nationwide Lockdown To Control Coronavirus Spread
Banners stating 'everything will be fine' have been placed on balconies across Italy. Image: Antonio Masiello/Getty.

Full details of Conte's order have yet to be released, but the interior and health ministries said people had to stay where they were, unless urgent business or health reasons forced them to move to another town or region.

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Italy has registered more deaths than any other country in the world, while the number of confirmed cases is second only to China.

The tally of infections rose by 5560 to 59,138 on Sunday, the Civil Protection Agency said.

Spain "at war" as death toll jumps by 1700.

The Spanish government is seeking to extend a state of emergency until April 11, as it tries to control Europe's second-worst outbreak of coronavirus.

The death toll has jumped to over 1700, and more than 28,000 have been infected.

"We are at war," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told a news briefing on Sunday, a day after warning that the worst was yet to come in the coronavirus outbreak.

He said the military would have a larger role in the pandemic's response and called for more economic help from the EU.

The government also announced that - starting at midnight - it will restrict entry for most foreigners at air and sea ports for the next 30 days.

Normality returning in Wuhan, China.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic was first detected and the first city to be locked down has completed a fourth consecutive day without any new or suspected cases.

It must go 14 straight days before the strict travel restrictions being imposed on the "ground zero" are lifted, but parks and public gathering areas are reopening and healthy people are returning to work.

-With AAP

Feature image: Alex Ellinghausen/Getty. Izhar Khan/NurPhoto via Getty.

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. 

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.

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

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