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What you need to know about COVID-19 today, Saturday May 23.

Government admits $60bn JobKeeper error.

The federal government has been left red-faced after a reporting error resulted in the cost of its wage subsidy program being slashed by $60 billion.

Treasury and the tax office have revised the cost of the pandemic-prompted JobKeeper program down to $70 billion from $130 billion.

A “significant” error was made by about 1,000 businesses when reporting the number of employees estimated to receive help.

The program is now forecast to help 3.5 million employees instead of 6.5 million.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg argues it’s a positive result because the recovery bill has reduced, putting less stress on the budget.

“This revision by Treasury is not an invitation to go and spend more. All the money that the government is spending during the coronavirus period is borrowed money,” he told the ABC.

The government continues to resist pressure from Labor to extend the program, with shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers saying the coalition is deliberately leaving workers behind.

“This kind of serious economic incompetence is a threat to jobs, the economy and the recovery,” he said.

There were 15 new cases of COVID-19 across the country on Friday, with the number of active cases rising to just over 500.

The national death toll stands at 101.

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Australia extends cruise ship ban.

Australia’s ban on cruise ships will remain in place until at least September 17.

The ban was due to come to an end in June, but Border Force announced an extension on Friday, in order “to ensure the health and safety of the broader Australian community” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ban, which was first put in place on March 27, prohibits any cruise ship capable of carrying more than 100 passengers from entering Australian waters.

At the time it was introduced, 28 international ships were in Australian waters, including the now-infamous Ruby Princess cruise liner.

RUBY CRUISE
22 people from the Ruby Princess Cruise have died, including 20 Australians. Image: Getty.

The ship has accounted for more than 20 of the 101 deaths registered from COVID-19 Australia, after it was allowed to dock and disembark passengers in Sydney in late March.

The handling of the ship and its passengers is the subject of a NSW Police criminal investigation as well as a Special Commission of Inquiry, set up by the NSW government.

Drug taken by Trump linked to increased death risk.

Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is tied to increased risk of death in COVID-19 patients, according to a study published in widely respected medical journal The Lancet.

US President Donald Trump has been taking the drug as a preventative against the coronavirus despite medical warnings.

The Lancet study observed more than 96,000 people hospitalised with COVID-19, and showed that people treated with the drug, or the closely related drug chloroquine, had higher risk of death when compared to those who were not given the medicine.

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Demand for hydroxychloroquine surged after Trump touted its use as a coronavirus treatment in early April.

Earlier this week, he surprised the world by admitting he was taking the pill as a preventative medicine.

The Lancet study authors suggested these treatment regimens should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials until results from clinical trials are available.

The authors said they could not confirm if taking the drug resulted in any benefit in coronavirus patients.

Weeks ago, Trump had promoted the drug as a potential treatment based on a positive report about its use against the virus, but subsequent studies found it was not helpful.

The US Food and Drug Administration in April issued a warning about its use.

COVID-19 around the world.

- The WHO has declared South America to be the new epicentre of COVID-19 pandemic. Brazil, the hardest-hit country in the region, is now second in global cases behind the U.S. with 330,890. On Friday, the country recorded 1,001 daily virus deaths taking their total toll to 21,048.

- Britain will introduce a mandatory 14-day quarantine for international arrivals starting from June 8. Australia's request for an exemption to the scheme was rejected, but the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel left the door open for a special deal between the two countries in the coming months: "This is not for today but it doesn't mean we should rule this out in the future," she said.

- U.S. President Donald Trump has deemed churches and other houses of worship essential and has called on state governors to reopen them.

With AAP.

Read more about COVID-19:

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, remain in your home as much as possible, 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.

Feature image: Getty.

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