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What you need to know about COVID-19 today, Wednesday May 6.

Jacinda Ardern shuts down TV host’s questions about New Zealand’s COVID-19 restrictions.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shut down a television presenter on breakfast TV after he questioned her decision to not yet lift lockdown restrictions in New Zealand, despite their low number of new cases.

Ardern was being interviewed on New Zealand’s The AM Show earlier this week when the presenter, Duncan Garner, asked if the country would soon move to a level two lockdown – they are currently at level three.

“What’s the figure you’re looking for to move us to level two… all the international experts are saying that this is going to be the new normal for months and months and months. What are we waiting for?” he questioned the PM.

“I didn’t realise you were an epidemiologist,” Ardern quickly responded with a laugh. “Congratulations on your new qualification!”

The presenter cut in: “If you wanna get personal then that’s fine, but I’m just asking a question.”

Ardern went on to explain she is deeply concerned about the nation’s economy, whilst also concerned about the safety of citizens.

“Duncan, do you for a moment question the fact that I do not have concern about the employment of New Zealanders? It’s why we have the wage subsidy, it’s why we put in the small business loan scheme last week, it’s why we worked with the banks on the business guarantee scheme, it’s why we have put through $3 billion of tax changes to get cash flow into business,” she said.

“I am desperately concerned about people’s employment, I’m also desperately concerned about their lives. Our job is to make sure that we do the best thing for both and it just so happens our strategy is focused on both. The sooner we win the fight against the virus the sooner we get our economy back up and running but I do not want to make hasty decisions that lead to a yo-yoing between levels.

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“So I am going to listen to the evidence and the advice and the data.”

New Zealand has recorded 1,488 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths. They have now achieved zero new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row.

The Queen called ScoMo last night.

The Queen has wished Australians well in dealing with coronavirus, bushfires and drought and is pleased to hear horse races are still going on in the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the monarch called on Tuesday night to check on Australians amid the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns.

He says the 94-year-old also wanted to hear about the bushfire recovery and the ongoing drought.

“Was very kind to receive Her Majesty’s call this evening to check in and see how we’re all getting on in Australia,” Mr Morrison wrote on Instagram.

“The Queen was very interested to hear about our progress in combating COVID-19 and was so pleased we have managed to prevent the terrible impacts.

“Our recovery from the bushfires was also a key area of interest for her as well as the ongoing drought.

“Her Majesty was also pleased to hear our horse races were still running in Australia and sent her very best wishes to all Australians.”

July target for back-to-work.

Businesses have been urged to make workplaces coronavirus-safe in preparation for a major economic restart.

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The National Cabinet has set a July target to reignite business and industry with federal and state leaders looking to stem the pandemic-induced economic bleeding.

The Safe Work Australia website has been turbocharged to provide specific advice to 23 sectors across 1300 pages.

Cleaning standards and maintaining physical distancing to limit the spread of the virus are among the most important requirements.

WATCH: Today’s coronavirus headlines. Post continues after video. 

Video by Today Show

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said staggered hours were one way to reduce contact as people return to work.

“We don’t want everybody crowding on public transport at the same time,” he told reporters.

Professor Murphy said cleaning products and hand sanitiser should be in workplaces, while hot-desk arrangements would need to change.

He also said using video conferencing where possible and maintaining the handshake ban would be important.

Shutdown measures are estimated to cost $4 billion a week nationally.

“We now need to get one million Australians back to work. That is the curve we need to address,” Mr Morrison said.

Some economic and social restrictions are set to be eased on Friday after the next meeting of federal and state leaders.

There have been 97 coronavirus deaths in Australia, while more than 5800 people have recovered from the disease.

NSW Health worker in tears over Ruby Princess.

A NSW Health official has been reduced to tears after it was suggested there’d been a “reprehensible shortcoming” by the department when Ruby Princess passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney.

Senior epidemiologist Kelly-Anne Ressler was questioned yesterday during a special commission of inquiry hearing into the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which is responsible for 20 deaths and 600 Australian infections.

Ms Ressler – coordinator of the department’s cruise ship health program – told the commission protocol suggested all passengers visit a ship’s medical centre if they had respiratory symptoms and a fever, with isolation to follow.

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NSW Health
A NSW Health worker has broken down in tears while giving evidence at the inquiry into Ruby Princess. Image: 9News.

But, Ms Ressler said, while a ship was at sea she had "no jurisdiction" to control what actions were taken.

The federal department overseeing biosecurity arrangements has said NSW Health "advised there were no issues preventing disembarkation".

Commissioner Bret Walker SC asked Ms Ressler why he "should not draw the conclusion that there has been a reprehensible shortcoming from NSW Health".

"All I can say is that I'm very sorry it turned out the way it did, it was not our intention," she replied as she fought back tears.

"Myself and my colleagues at the public health unit were working very hard on this. We did what we could and if we could do it again it would be very different."

"My understanding is the technician didn't realise they were cruise ship swab samples... and they were not tested as a priority," Ms Ressler said.

Record low flu rates thanks to social distancing.

Early-season flu is at record lows in Australia thanks to improved hygiene and social distancing.

The latest report by the Department of Health-backed Australian FluTracking Team shows just 0.2 per cent of nearly 75,000 participants in its online survey last week had influenza-like illness.

That compares with a five-year average above 1.5 per cent for the same time of year.

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Thanks to hygiene and social distancing measures, flu numbers are also low this season. Image: Getty.
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As governments ease coronavirus-related restrictions, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has said Australians need to learn from the experience after previously becoming "a bit relaxed about hygiene".

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Terry Slevin says while it was always known regular, thorough handwashing and social distancing could prevent flu and related transmissions, often the focus had been on vaccines and finding cures.

"Rates of flu have gone through the floor. Record low rates at the moment demonstrate the benefits of the kind of things we've been doing, driven by the COVID pandemic," he told AAP.

$19 Melbourne-Sydney flights: Qantas's recovery plan.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce says the airline's budget carrier Jetstar could cut airfares from Sydney to Melbourne to as low as $19 in an effort to stimulate demand once COVID-19 restrictions end.

“On Melbourne-Sydney you could see Jetstar have $39 airfares, you could see $19 airfares and we'll still cover our cash costs on those flights," he said following an investor update.

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Qantas has flagged interstate flight will more than halve when travel resumes. Image: Getty.
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Qantas has extended the suspension of most of its domestic and trans-Tasman flights until the end of June, and for international flights until the end of July.

But the airline said some capacity could be added back within a week of domestic and trans-Tasman restrictions eased earlier.

By the end of June, the airline expects to reach a cash burn rate of $40 million a week, which is $2.08 billion a year. The airline is currently operating about five per cent of its pre-crisis domestic network and one per cent of its international network.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hopeful interstate travel will resume by the June school holidays.

UK has Europe's highest virus death toll.

The UK has overtaken Italy to report the highest official death toll from the new coronavirus in Europe.

Weekly figures from Britain's Office for National Statistics (ONS) added more than 7000 deaths in England and Wales in the week to April 24, raising the total for the UK to 32,313.

Only the US, with a population nearly five times greater, has suffered more confirmed fatalities from the virus than Britain, according to the data so far.

While different ways of counting make comparisons with other countries difficult, the figure confirmed Britain is among those hit worst.

A US scientist says he was ousted by Trump after raising COVID concerns.

A US government scientist says he was ousted from his position after raising concerns that the Trump administration wanted to "flood" coronavirus hotspots with a malaria drug.

The former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has filed a complaint with the US Office of Special Counsel, a government agency responsible for whistleblower complaints.

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A US scientist says he was ousted after trying to warn Trump against using a malaria drug. Image: Getty.
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Rick Bright alleges he was reassigned to a lesser role because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug favoured by US President Donald Trump.

Bright also said the Trump administration rejected his warnings on COVID-19, after he "acted with urgency" to address the growing spread of the virus after the World Health Organisation issued a warning in January.

He said he encountered "resistance" from Department of Health and Human Services leadership, including the department's secretary Alex Azar, who "appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic event".

- 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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