news

What you need to know about COVID-19 today, Thursday May 14.

“Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s latest press conference.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have faced the media to give an update on Australia’s unemployment figures.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday indicated the unemployment rate spiked a full percentage point to 6.2 per cent in April.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it is the largest number of people out of work since September 1994, with young workers hit the hardest.

scomo
Image: Channel Nine.

Youth employment (for 15 to 24 year olds) is now at 13.8 per cent, making it double the national unemployment rate.

"This is a tough day for Australia. A very tough day," the Prime Minister said.

"Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost. Every one of them devastating for those Australians, for their families, for their communities. A very tough day. Terribly shocking, although not unexpected."

Treasure Josh Frydenberg reiterated the importance of the Government's financial committments, such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Today, the number of employees covered by those businesses that are formally enrolled in the JobKeeper program now exceeds six million," he said, adding that 1.6 million Australians are now on JobSeeker.

When asked if JobKeeper will be expanded, Morrison reiterated that the stimulus plans will be reviewed at the end of June. It is currently unclear whether the plan will continue beyond September, or whether it could be stopped earlier.

"When you're running a program that is ashing of taxpayers more than $20 billion a month, that's a big load, but Australians are carrying it and they're carrying it for their fellow Australians," Morrison said.

Federal and state governments spar over Queensland plan to buy stake in Virgin.

A war of words has erupted after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton blasted a "corrupt and chaotic" Queensland Labor government over its surprise bid for Virgin Australia.

"Premier Palaszczuk has almost bankrupted Queensland, and now in the middle of a crisis they want to buy an airline," Dutton, also the federal MP for the Brisbane seat of Dixon, tweeted on Wednesday night.

"It is laughable. She 'leads' a government which is corrupt and chaotic."

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick returned fire, shooting back with "Look mate, just stick to cruise ships..." in reference to the Ruby Princess debacle.

The Queensland government announced 'Project Maroon' on Wednesday, saying it has appointed a state-owned funds management group to manage its bid for a stake in Virgin Airlines.

The airline went into voluntary administration last month following COVID-19 travel bans, but the state government wants to retain the airline and its headquarters based in Brisbane.

Treasurer Dick confirmed on Wednesday the government's investment could take the form of a direct equity stake, a loan, guarantee or other financial incentives.

He said two sustainable, national airlines are critical in helping to "keep the air fair" and for job prosperity in the state.

ADVERTISEMENT

"My number one focus as Treasurer is to retain and create jobs for Queenslanders, particularly as we move beyond the COVID-19 crisis," Dick said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We have an opportunity to retain not only head office and crew staff in Queensland, but also to grow jobs in the repairs, maintenance and overhaul sector, and support both direct and indirect jobs in our tourism sector.

"We saw the punishing increase to the cost of flights after the Ansett collapse, and this government will not stand by and let that happen again."

Virgin airlines restarting
Image: Getty.

Dick said the airlines' administrators, Deloitte, are seeking to conclude the sale process by June 2020.

"This is a competitive space, but Queensland is a serious contender and our discussions with the administrators have been making progress," he said.

Sydney school closed after staff member tests positive.

A Sydney school has been closed after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Werrington Public School in the city's west will be closed for students and staff today as it is cleaned and contact tracing with NSW Health is conducted, according to the NSW Department of Education.

"Staff and students who are identified as a close contact will be contacted and advised they should self-isolate for the required period of time," the department said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students is of paramount importance to us at all times. As such we will continue to work closely with NSW Health to ensure that all necessary health advice is adhered to."

Students will learn from home and further advice on when the school will reopen will be issued on Thursday.

NSW pubs and clubs to open for dining.

Residents of New South Wales will soon be able to dine at their favourite pubs and clubs, although bars and gaming facilities will remain closed, as NSW removes more COVID-19 restrictions.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has confirmed pubs and clubs will join cafes and restaurants in providing dining, as part of the state government's push to boost the economy.

Perrottet says the venues will be able to open from Friday, as long as they adhere to social distancing requirements, and stick to a limit of 10 customers at any given time.

Bars and gaming facilities will remain closed, but table service for alcohol with a meal will be allowed along with takeaway services.

NSW reported six additional cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday from 8100 tests, bringing the state's total to 3059.

Two new cases were contacts of those connected to the Newmarch House aged care home COVID-19 cluster, where 16 residents have died and 71 people have caught the virus.

An 81-year-old woman who travelled on the coronavirus-plagued Ruby Princess cruise ship died in NSW on Tuesday, taking the state's toll to 47 and Australia's to 98.

International travel ruled out indefinitely.

Australia's Chief Medical Officer has ruled out international travel for the foreseeable future as there is "no clear roadmap" to reopening our borders.

Professor Brendan Murphy told a Senate inquiry on Wednesday border closures remain essential to defeating the coronavirus pandemic.

"I have no vision at the moment on the current international scene where international border measures of some very strong vigour won't be necessary," he said.

"There is no clear roadmap out of this."

Dr Murphy said interstate and territory borders would open long before overseas travel would be allowed, noting cases were still arriving in the country as overseas Australians return home and serve mandatory quarantine periods.

Australia's strategy was to maintain strong suppression, or elimination in parts of the country, while slowly opening up the economy, he said.

Hospital cases of COVID-19 tumble.

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus has fallen almost 900 per cent since early April.

ADVERTISEMENT

Health officials revealed on Wednesday there were just 50 people fighting COVID-19 in hospital, well down on the 448 recorded just five weeks ago.

As the number of unrecovered cases fell to 700, attention is turning to the mental health fallout from Australians having spent so long in isolation from friends and family.

A new deputy chief medical officer has been appointed to deal with mental health, ahead of the National Cabinet on Friday approving a plan to improve support services.

Just as the government got "ahead of the curve" with the virus, Health Minister Greg Hunt says former Victorian chief psychiatrist Dr Ruth Vine will play a crucial role in heading off major problems with mental health.

Huge increase in traffic to mental health website.

The Black Dog Institute reported a 123 per cent increase in visits to its website compared to a usual week in March.

Forty per cent of the content viewed was from a designated section around anxiety over COVID-19.

Now that governments are making cautious moves towards lifting COVID-19 restrictions, spokesperson Associate Professor Vijaya Manicavasagar cautioned re-entry into the real world will require adjustment.

"The world might actually be a different place when we get out of this," said Manicavasagar, a senior clinical psychologist at the Black Dog Institute who specialises in adult separation anxiety disorder. "The fact that we’ve had a pandemic in our lifetime, for a lot of people that would shake their beliefs in the world, the stability of the world, that nothing bad can happen. It’s a shock."

The Black Dog Institute has established a guide to life after lockdown, with advice on how to transition from isolation.

Steps include taking it slowly, reflecting on your lockdown experience, remembering the advice from leaders and speaking to your GP or seeking help from a mental health institute for resources if feelings of anxiety persist or worsen.

US concerned about inflammatory symptoms in children.

US health officials say they will issue an alert telling doctors to report cases of a rare life-threatening inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19 in children to their state and local health departments.

US scientists have been working to understand the inflammatory syndrome associated with exposure to the new coronavirus, which has stricken children in Italy, Spain, Britain and the United States.

In New York, more than 100 children are reported to have developed the syndrome, which may occur days to weeks after a COVID-19 illness.

ADVERTISEMENT

At least three children have died, the state reported on Saturday. All three tested positive for the coronavirus or had antibodies to it, suggesting the syndrome is linked to COVID-19.

The syndrome shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, with symptoms such as fever, skin rashes, swelling of the glands and, in severe cases, inflammation of arteries of the heart.

Scientists are still trying to determine whether the syndrome is linked with COVID-19.

AFL return could face delay.

Restarting the AFL season could hinge on Adelaide and Port Adelaide joining West Coast and Fremantle in temporarily relocating to quarantine hubs on the eastern seaboard, throwing a planned June 11 return date into question.

The league was poised to announce its return to train and play dates on Thursday, but on Wednesday night South Australian health officials threw a spanner in the works by reportedly rejecting the league's request for training and travel exemptions.

In a letter to AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan, reported by Newscorp, South Australia's SA COVID-19 Transition Committee rejected an AFL request for players to be able to bypass a 14-day quarantine period when flying in and out of the state.

It was signed by SA chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier and Commissioner of SA Police Grant Stevens.

"On public health advice, the committee has resolved that any economic and social benefits to be gained by allowing modification or exemptions to SA quarantine requirements for AFL players and staff were not outweighed by the public health risk," the letter said.

The Crows and Power were also denied exemptions that would allow them to commence full training, including contact.

South Australia's rules only allow for non-contact training in groups of 10 until at least June 8 - just three days before the proposed season restart of June 11.

As players across the league are currently restricted to training in pairs due to varying rules across the states, it appears likely the two SA clubs will have to relocate to allow all 18 clubs to quickly progress to full training.

Victorian clubs already have a state government exemption, while NSW and Queensland clubs are certain to receive allowances in line with those granted to their NRL counterparts.

West Coast and Fremantle are considering temporarily relocating to the Gold Coast if they, as expected, are unable to secure state government quarantine exemptions.

Feature images: Getty.

00:00 / ???