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What you need to know about COVID-19 today, Tuesday April 14.

Tasmanian hospital staff attended ‘illegal dinner party’.

Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy told a New Zealand Parliamentary committee this morning a coronavirus cluster in north-west Tasmania appeared after medical staff attended a dinner party.

“You have to be prepared to deal with further outbreaks,” Dr Murphy said.

“We thought we were doing really well then in the last week we had a cluster of 49 cases in a hospital in Tasmania just over the weekend. Most of them went to an illegal dinner party of medical workers.”

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said Dr Murphy was “commenting on a rumour”.

“At this stage, there has… Our contact tracing has not identified a dinner party of health workers.

“However, I accept that this is a serious allegation, and it’s something that needs to be followed up, and so we will retrace our steps, but, importantly, I’ve asked the Tasmania Police to investigate this matter, and that will be started today.

“We need to get on top of this. We need to understand whether or not there is any strength to the rumour because, at the end of the day, I am certain that there are many hard-working health professionals on the north-west coach who feel that their reputations are being maligned, people that have done the right thing, and we need to understand exactly what’s occurred.”

Two hospitals – North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie – have closed due to the outbreak.

All staff and members of their households, totalling about 5000 people, have been placed in quarantine for two weeks.

Ruby Princess patient zero.

Detectives have begun interviewing thousands of witnesses about what they knew about potential COVID-19 cases on board the Ruby Princess cruise, before it docked in Sydney more than three weeks ago.

Since letting 2,700 passengers disembark and head home with little to no health checks – 18 people have died and hundreds of confirmed coronavirus cases have been linked back to the ship.

The NSW Police Commissioner says they think a waiter or a crew member that handles food is the likely patient zero.

“That would seem to be the most obvious point of transmission — someone that is handling food on behalf of multiple hundreds of people,” he said.

Ruby Princess berthed in Pork Kembla dock, NSW.
The Ruby Princess, berthed inside Port Kembla dock after being held by authorities due to the COVID-19 outbreak on-board. Image: Getty.
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A 24-year-old crew member has been rushed to Wollongong hospital, with the ship currently docked at Port Kembla with all of its crew still on board.

Police issue hundreds of fines over the long weekend.

Nearly $1.5 million in on-the-spot fines were handed out over the long weekend as police enforced strict social distancing laws.

In Queensland, 754 fines worth $1334 each were handed out.

200 NSW fines at $1000 each were given out, and Victoria recorded more than 150 fines at $1652.

In NSW, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said most of the fines were for people who had already received a warning, but there were several issued to people buying illicit drugs.

Australians Mark Easter Long Weekend In Coronavirus Lockdown
Police have issued thousands of fines across Easter. Image: by Paul Kane/Getty Images.

"Buying illicit drugs is not a reasonable excuse," he said.

Tasmania charged 23 people, and South Australia handed out 10 expiation notices and five cautions.

ACT didn't handed out any fines and the Northern Territory only handed out three.

WA police were called to two house parties and say charges from those "are likely," reports the ABC.

Victorian rate slowing and WA considering softening restrictions.

Across Australia there have only been 46 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, with 61 people confirmed dead.

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More than half of the country's 6359 cases have now recovered.

The current COVID-19 figures.

Victoria's rate of coronavirus is slowing with tough restrictions in place, but the government warns now is not the time to take the pressure off.

Premier Daniel Andrews says 13 people tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1281.

"We're seeing some stability in our numbers in terms of the number of additional cases," he told reporters.

Despite the number of cases in the state stabilising, the state of emergency was extended for a month to midnight on May 11, which allows the government to keep up social distancing measures.

South Australia wants to widen its testing criteria for COVID-19 in an effort to clear the virus from the state. It has some of the strongest testing in the entire world with more than 36,000 tests conducted.

The state confirmed two new cases yesterday bringing the state's total to 431.

WA is considering a softening of restrictions if there is evidence of a "sustained period" of low cases.

The state currently has just over 500 cases, with six new cases recorded over one 24 hour period across the weekend.

In New South Wales, another aged care home is under threat after a worker and one resident tested positive.

The Western Sydney facility - Anglicare's Newmarch House - now has all residents in self isolation in their rooms.

The worker went to work while she had symptoms of the illness for six days.

NSW has this morning announced a new same-day test return process for those who come back negative to the virus.

Jobless rate worst in 26 years.

Australia's jobless rate is expected to hit 1.4 million by June as our economy largely comes to a grinding halt.

The predicted 10 per cent jobless rate would be the highest jobless rate since April 1994, when Australia was still recovering from the 1990-91 recession.

NSW Liberal MP Don Harwin "came and went" from holiday home.

NSW Liberal MP Don Harwin has been fined $1000 for breaching a COVID-19 restriction to travel to his Central Coast holiday home from his residence in Sydney, but according to the police commissioner he did it multiple times.

Mick Fuller says the issue is that the then-NSW Arts Minister "came and went a number of times".

"I think the message is that if you're lucky to have two residences, and one is in Sydney and one is more remote, then you do need to pick one," Mr Fuller said.

donharwin
Minister Don Harwin. Image: Getty.
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Mr Harwin last week resigned as a state government minister, after it was revealed he had travelled from his primary residence in Elizabeth Bay to his Pearl Beach holiday home.

Mr Harwin argues he relocated in mid-March before the order was made, but said during his resignation speech "perception is important during these times".

Aussie researchers have ventilator breakthrough.

Australian researchers have found a way to help two people breathe from one ventilator as coronavirus sparks a global machine shortage.

The researchers have successfully tested ventilator splitting in a simulated setting.

Ventilator splitting is when two or more patients are connected to one ventilator and both are exposed to the same circuit dynamics.

The ventilators help push oxygen into patients whose lungs are failing.

While the researchers from Monash University, The Alfred and The Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne do not condone ventilator splitting, it could be done in extreme emergencies such as COVID-19.

The study researchers warn the findings need to be interpreted and applied with caution.

Deaths pass 10,000 in New York.

New York's coronavirus death toll has topped 10,000 only about a month after the US state recorded its first fatality, Governor Andrew Cuomo says.

The state tallied 671 new deaths on Sunday. It was the first time in a week the daily toll dipped below 700.

Still, the Governor noted people are still dying at a "horrific level of pain and grief and sorrow".

New york death toll
The death toll in New York has surpassed 10,000. Image: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images.
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Hospitals are still getting 2000 new patients a day, Cuomo said.

New York has now reported 10,056 deaths since early March, with more than half of them in the past week.

"This virus is very good at what it does. It is a killer," Cuomo said during a state Capitol news briefing.

Across the country, there are 554,849 cases of the coronavirus and 21,942 deaths.

President Donald Trump appears to have the nation's top infectious diseases expert in his sights, who says lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner.

Trump retweeted a message over the weekend which cited Dr Anthony Fauci's comments and said "time to #FireFauci".

Fauci has assumed national prominence in America as a leader in the fight against coronavirus, contradicting Trump on scientific matters throughout the crisis. According to some polls, Americans trust him more than Trump.

Boris Johnson tests negative.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is recovering at his country residence, 65km north of London, after spending a week in hospital with COVID-19.

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On the advice of his doctors he is not immediately returning to work, after being admitted to hospital and then the intensive care unit where he received oxygen.

Boris Johnson died
Boris Johnson is recovering at his country residence. Image: Getty.

His spokesperson, James Slack, has confirmed Johnson has now tested negative for the virus and has denied the government downplayed the seriousness of his condition.

The death toll in Britain is now above 11,000, with the government facing questions over its handling of the outbreak with complaints of insufficient testing, a lack of protective kit for medics and being too slow to lock the country down.

300,000 return to work in Spain.

300,000 people have returned to work in the Spanish capital of Madrid, thanks to a slight relaxation of the lockdown that's been in place in the country since last month.

The workers were mainly factory and construction employees, with the softened restrictions introduced despite Spain being one of the hardest hit countries from the virus.

Yesterday, they recorded 3477 new cases taking their total to 169,496.

At their height, they were recording 8000 new infections a day.

Spain has a death toll above 17,000.

- With AAP.

Feature image: Getty.

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
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.

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