Australia’s COVID-19 death toll rises, cases still to grow

 

The death of an elderly man from COVID-19 in Tasmania takes Australia's coronavirus death toll to 19.

It's the second death in Tasmania from the virus, following the death of a woman in her 80s on Monday.

"This is a very sad time. It serves as a warning to us all that these are going to be tough and difficult times," Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein told reporters today.

A woman in her 80s became the ACT's first fatality from the illness. The woman acquired COVID-19 overseas and died during the weekend at Canberra Hospital.

 

The total number of coronavirus cases worldwide has exceeded 750,000 with more than 35,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Italy lost 812 people on Monday, bringing that country's shocking toll to 11,591. The European nation said it will extend its lockdown at least until Easter, with 101,739 infections and 14,620 people recovered.

Volunteer workers in a clothing factory manufacturing firefighting gear, pose for a photo as they make hospital gowns for medical staff to protect them from the coronavirus, in Arnedo, northern Spain. Picture: AP
Volunteer workers in a clothing factory manufacturing firefighting gear, pose for a photo as they make hospital gowns for medical staff to protect them from the coronavirus, in Arnedo, northern Spain. Picture: AP

Spain listed 7340 deaths from COVID-19, the second highest toll in the world after Italy.

That includes 812 in the past 24 hours, with 85,195 infections in total.

France reported its highest daily number of deaths since the outbreak began, saying 418 more people had died in hospital bringing the death toll to 3024.

GRIM OUTLOOK FOR NEW YORK

The US continues to have the highest number of cases with nearly 145,000 recorded, including 2487 deaths.

Nearly 100 people died in New York City of the coronavirus in just seven hours.

That brought the death toll for the Big Apple to nearly 800.

 

The grim update came as footage emerged of forklifts being used to load bodies into refrigerated trucks outside the city's hospitals.

The New York Post reported that the harrowing video footage appeared to show the moment bodies were loaded onto freezer truck with a forklift outside a New York hospital as coronavirus cases soared in the city.

The video, posted to social media on Sunday, was shared as the state's coronavirus death toll soared past 1000.

President Donald Trump became emotional when talking about the images from Elmhurst Hospital in his hometown of Queens during a White House press briefing.

He said he had never seen the likes of such horrors in his lifetime.

 

New York is facing a massive shortage of hospital beds as it continues to be America's viral hotspot.

The city gained some good news when a massive navy ship arrived to provide 1000 hospital beds.

As the USNS Comfort prepared to dock off the West Side of Manhattan, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the 1000-plus bed navy medical ship is providing a tremendous morale boost to his embattled city.

"I'm really happy that the Comfort is here," de Blasio said.

 

"I think the fact that the navy is here, the military is here to help New York City in our hour of need, that is amazingly important to this city. This is like an additional hospital just floated right up to our shores and now is going to save lives."

The Comfort, a former oil tanker converted in the 1980s into a medical ship, will provide surgeries and other care to patients not infected with the coronavirus to open up intensive-care unit beds at New York hospitals, the navy said.

TOKYO OLYMPICS TO BE STAGED IN 2021

Australian athletes will be forced to completely revise their training schedules after it was announced the Tokyo Olympics - the first to ever be postponed in history - will now go ahead in 2021.

Japanese officials say the coronavirus delay will cost them billions of dollars.

Timing for the Olympics will be almost exactly the same timeslot scheduled for the Olympics this year with the opening ceremony to be carried out on July 23, 2021, almost exactly one year after the games were due to start this year.

"The schedule for the games is key to preparing for the games," Tokyo organising committee president Yoshiro Mori said.

It is a major blow for Aussie athletes who have put years of preparation in to be ready for the Olympics this year.

 

The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in the same time slot scheduled for this year's games. Picture: AP
The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in the same time slot scheduled for this year's games. Picture: AP

 

SA COMPANY TO MAKE 100M-PLUS MASKS

More than 100 million surgical masks will be pumped out by a South Australian company in the coming months under an agreement with the federal and SA governments that also includes the manufacture of respirators.

The agreement with Adelaide's Detmold Group is for 145 million masks, with 100 million to go to the National Medical Stockpile and 45 million to SA.

"We have a sufficient supply of masks at the moment, but this work will ensure we sustain that supply over the months ahead," federal Minister Industry, science and Technology Karen Andrews said in a statement today.

 

Detmold director Sascha Detmold Cox with company CEO Alf Ianniello. Picture: Tricia Watkinson
Detmold director Sascha Detmold Cox with company CEO Alf Ianniello. Picture: Tricia Watkinson

 

Detmold will employ up to an extra 160 workers and invest more than $1 million in buying local supplies that will support other businesses.

"This new production line won't be up and running overnight, that's why we're attacking this challenge from all angles, including continuing work to secure further masks out there in the market," Ms Andrews said.

Detmold Group CEO Alf Ianniello said production will start by May from the company's manufacturing facility in Brompton.

"We expect to have the capacity to manufacture over 20 million masks per month by June, and the facility will produce both surgical masks and respirator masks," he said.

SA Premier Steven Marshall said the deal with Detmold will help secure jobs in the state.

JAIL THREAT AS STRICT NEW RULES UNVEILED

States and territories will keep social distancing rules in place as a "national baseline" with further restrictions to be considered at a local level while one state has threatened jail for people who undertake non-essential travel.

And Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled "social distancing" measures are likely to be in place for at least another six months.

From today, people in NSW who leave their home without a valid reason - for work or study, buying food or other essentials, seeking medical care or exercise - they are liable for a fine of up to $11,000 and a maximum six months in jail.

Individual state chief medical officers will now advise if further steps are necessary to control community transmission of COVID-19, according to a new National Cabinet agreement on Monday night.

Australian states are considering further steps to control the spread of the coronavirus. Picture: Jerad Williams
Australian states are considering further steps to control the spread of the coronavirus. Picture: Jerad Williams

Factors that could influence a single state, territory or smaller region adopting extra restrictions include the overall number of new coronavirus cases, the proportion of locally acquired cases without a known source, outbreaks in vulnerable communities or health system capacity.

Premiers, chief ministers and the prime minister will meet again on April 3, where childcare and early childhood, and residential and commercial tenancies would be discussed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would be living with the coronavirus "for at least six months".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP

"So social distancing measures to slow the spread of this virus must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives," he said.

There are more than 4200 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia and 18 people have died.

The Cabinet also agreed international flight and maritime crew would continue to be granted a concession from the mandatory 14 day quarantine requirements for people arriving in Australia.

"This is in recognition of their extensive training in infection prevention and control and use of personal protective equipment, whereby the risk from these individuals is considered to be lower than other international travellers," the National Cabinet statement said.

"Maritime crew … members already practice self-quarantine on arrival in Australia and between movements in and out of the country.

"These arrangements should continue to apply, and as with aircrew, maritime crew will continue to practise social distancing, cough etiquette and hand hygiene."

Leaders agreed truck stops should remain open with social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

RESIDENTS FACE JAIL FOR LEAVING HOME

From today, people in NSW who leave their home without a valid reason - for work or study, buying food or other essentials, seeking medical care or exercise - are liable for a fine of up to $11,000 and a maximum six months in jail.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed the order under the Public Health Act at 10.20pm on Monday, just hours before it came into effect at midnight.

Individuals can also be fined for gathering indoors or outdoors in a group of more than two people, not including households or for essential work or study.

People continue to gather in Sydney despite virus warnings. Picture: Damian Shaw
People continue to gather in Sydney despite virus warnings. Picture: Damian Shaw

Anyone who breached the order would be fined an additional $5500 for every day they continued to break the law.

Corporations are liable for a fine of up to $55,000 and a further $27,500 for every day after that.

The federal government advice is that families - such as separated partners with children or couples who do not live together - are exempted from the two-person limit, but the NSW order does not specifically exclude these groupings from the gathering restrictions.

Mr Hazzard tweeted a picture of the order after signing it on Tuesday.

A group doing yoga near Bondi Beach, . Picture: AAP
A group doing yoga near Bondi Beach, . Picture: AAP

"10.20pm I just signed new restrictions on leaving residences. Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020," he said.

"Message - Stay home unless you need to go out for essential reasons such as work, study, obtaining food (or) medical supplies."

People queue outside a for a fever clinic at Epping Hospital. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
People queue outside a for a fever clinic at Epping Hospital. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

TRAVELLERS MAY BE ABLE TO QUARANTINE AT HOME

Meanwhile "vulnerable" travellers returning from overseas, including minors, may be permitted to quarantine for 14 days at home, instead of in a hotel, at the state's discretion.

The National Cabinet also agreed to further action to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading to the elderly or people with chronic illnesses.

The total number of coronavirus cases worldwide was more than 745,000 early this morning Australian time.

Leaders endorsed recommendations by health experts that people over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 50, people with chronic conditions over 65 and anyone with a compromised immune system follow specific advice including:

- If they are undertaking "essential work" a risk assessment must be taken by employers with a view to either redeploying people to non-customer roles or making special arrangements to accommodate them at home.

- Excluding healthcare where PPE and other provisions are taken, vulnerable people should not work in "high risk" areas including correction and detention facilities and group residential settings if risks cannot be mitigated.

The Cabinet also accepted health advice there was "limited evidence" regarding the risk of coronavirus to pregnant women.

 

A man wearing a protective suit sanitises the stairway of a public housing building in Rome. Picture: AP
A man wearing a protective suit sanitises the stairway of a public housing building in Rome. Picture: AP

 

DATA THAT CONVINCED TRUMP TO CHANGE COURSE

The US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said President Donald Trump dumped his plan to "re-open" the US after being shown projections that America's coronavirus death toll could run into the hundreds of thousands.

"It would not have been a good idea to pull back at a time when you really need to be pressing your foot on the pedal as opposed to on the brakes," Dr Fauci said, describing how he and Dr Deborah Birx, the coronavirus task force co-ordinator, had convinced Mr Trump to reconsider his plan to ease the lockdown by Easter.

Dr Anthony Fauci and President Trump. Picture: AP
Dr Anthony Fauci and President Trump. Picture: AP

"We showed him the data. He looked at the data. He got it right away," Dr Fauci said.

"It was a pretty clear picture. Dr Debbie Birx and I went in to the Oval Office and leaned over the desk and said, 'Here are the data. Take a look.' He just shook his head and said, 'I guess we got to do it'."

Dr Fauci has estimated millions of Americans will catch the virus - and up to 200,000 will die.

Americans are now being asked to prepare for at least another 30 days of severe economic and social disruption, with schools and businesses closed and public life is up-ended. One in three Americans remain under state or local government orders to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus, and employment claims have already skyrocketed.

UK UNDERTAKES MERCY FLIGHTS

Britain has been given a glimmer of hope in its fight against coronavirus as hospital admissions flatten, as the government poured $A150 million into mercy flights to get British people home.

Hundreds of thousands of Brits remain stranded around the world, but the government will subsidise some charter flights to get people back home.

The elderly and the sick will be prioritised, with many Brits stuck in Spain, which has become the centre of the European outbreak.

There are 9000 coronavirus patients in UK hospitals, with admissions rising by about 1000 each day for the past three days.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson has managed to chair meetings via video link as he remains in quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus last week.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that $A150 million was allocated to help keep flights affordable.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Getty
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Getty

"Partner airlines include British Airways, Virgin, easyJet, Jet2 and Titan and this list can be expanded," he said.

"Under the arrangements that we are putting in place we will target flights from a range of priority countries, starting this week."

Tickets will be allowed to be transferred between passengers.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, said that so far hospital intensive care units were coping with current COVID-19 patients

"The number of hospital admissions had gone up roughly the same amount each day," he said.

The measures that have been taken have seen a dramatic reduction in contact.

"The measures are in place, they are making a difference, they are decreasing the contact which is so important to spread the disease and we're doing a good job at cutting that down," Sir Vallance said.

 

Soldiers and private contractors help to prepare a temporary hospital in London. Picture: Getty
Soldiers and private contractors help to prepare a temporary hospital in London. Picture: Getty

However, one in four doctors in the UK were now off sick or self isolating because a relative had symptoms of the disease.

He said that the number of infections per person was likely to be slowing.

"It's important that we do this now to get the numbers down on the NHS capacity," Sir Vallance said.

"Once we have got this below the ICU curve and stable and then how do we release those measures?"

He said it was premature to put a time frame on when the lockdown would end, amid previous reports it could be up to six months.

The UK's death toll was 180 in the 24 hours to Monday local time, which was lower than the previous day's total of 209.

The overall death toll was 1,408, and the overall cases were more than 22,000, which was only increasing by 13 per cent per day.

Last week it was climbing by 25 per cent, with the UK now falling below Italy's trajectory of infections and deaths.

UK LOCKDOWN MAY LAST SIX MONTHS

The UK lockdown could last six months as the government takes a cautious approach to the coronavirus.

Dr Jenny Harries said that the current three-week lockdown would not be automatically lifted.

When asked how long it would take, she replied:

"Three weeks for review, two or three months to see if we've really squashed it, but three to six months, ideally," she said.

"This is not to say we would be in complete lockdown for six months, but as a nation we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we're all doing until we're sure we can gradually start lifting various interventions which are likely to be spaced - based on the science and our data - until we gradually come back to a normal way of living."

 

But Britain was boosted when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced 20,000 retired health staff who have responded to a desperate call for help battling the coronavirus.

"One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as society," Mr Johnson said.

"Just this evening I can tell you we have 20,000 NHS staff coming back to the colours - doctors and nurses - it's a most amazing thing."

It comes as the Queen was put on alert again after one of her staffers tested positive to the coronavirus.

However, there have been no reports of the Queen becoming ill and the palace was not giving a "daily update" on her condition.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has written to 28 million households in the UK explaining the rules and urging them to follow them as the pandemic nears its peak.

It comes as Prince William and wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who issued photographs of themselves working from home, have urged Brits to look after their mental health during the crisis.

And supermarket Tesco has limited customers to one item of milk, bread and toilet rolls to stop panic buying.

The bans were for its small Express stores but were likely to be extended.

There were 209 deaths in the UK in a day on latest figures, a slight drop from the previous day's numbers, although reported figures have been lower on weekends in other countries.

The UK has ordered 10,000 ventilators from vacuum cleaner company Dyson, and another 10,000 from a consortium including Ford, Airbus and Rolls Royce.

The Government has predicted it will need 30,000 ventilators at the peak of its coronavirus crisis.

Originally published as Australia's COVID-19 death toll up amid grim outlook for New York



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