coronavirus - AM981 Hunter Valley

'Do not hoard', PM tells grocery shoppers

Shoppers are seen at Coles in Earlwood, in Sydney, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coles will on Wednesday hold its first

Shoppers are seen at Coles in Earlwood, in Sydney, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Coles will on Wednesday hold its first "community hour" for seniors and pension card holders from 7am at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else. (AAP Image/Danny Casey)

Stop hoarding.

That's the blunt message from the prime minister to Australians in the wake of mass panic buying sparked by the spread of the coronavirus.

"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis," Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"It's ridiculous, it's un-Australian, and it must stop."

Bad behaviour and people emptying supermarket shelves are distracting officials' attention and diverting important resources to keeping shopping centre supply lines open, he said.

The prime minister read from the advice of senior medical officials, which discourages the panic-buying of food and other supplies.

Australia's major supermarket chains also banded together to plead with customers to be considerate of each other and stop abusing staff.

The call made in newspaper advertisements across the country came after more footage emerged online of customers verbally attacking retail staff because they couldn't find the goods they wanted in-store.

Aldi, Coles, IGA and Woolworth said they were doing everything they could to get as much produce on the shelves as possible, often under difficult circumstances.

"So we ask you to please be considerate in the way you shop," the ad says.

"We understand your concerns, but if you buy only what you need and stick to the product limits it helps everyone, especially the elderly and people with disability.

"No one working or shopping in any of our stores should experience abusive or aggressive behaviour."

Mr Morrison also urged people not to abuse staff.

Coles on Wednesday held its first "community hour" for seniors and pension card holders from 7-8am at its stores nationwide, before opening to everyone else.

People with government-issued concession cards on Tuesday flocked to Woolworths, which implemented a similar measure, and IGA is considering whether to roll out the same.

Coles is trying to employ more than 5000 casual workers to help restock its supermarkets quicker under a fast-tracked induction process, and will hire more Coles Online delivery van drivers.

Panic-buying sparked by the spread of coronavirus in Australia has seen supermarkets stripped of toilet paper, pasta, rice and frozen food, as well as tinned and other dried goods.

The issue has caused stress and frustration amongst elderly shoppers, many of whom find it difficult to make frequent visits to supermarkets for essential goods. In many cases, particularly for toilet paper, the shelves are often bare.

Woolworths fresh food director Paul Harker said there was no shortage of goods in Australia but it was a logistics puzzle to get products to stores in line with the pace and demand.

© AAP 2020

'Keep it up' is the message from Hunter New England Health on social distancing and hand hygiene


The Hunter New England Health (HNEH) District may have sounded like a broken record over the last three months, but the message to social distance and wash your hands as often as possible has contributed in a big way to our steady COVID-19 numbers.

There hasn’t been a new confirmed case of the virus in the district for more than four weeks with 279 remaining the total number since the pandemic began – the number has fluctuated as cases come under review.

In total 249 people have recovered after contracting the virus.

HNEH Public Health Physician Dr David Durrhiem said like many parts of NSW there have been some cases locally, but they’re from overseas travellers.

“Like many other parts of NSW we’ve had a few cases in people returning from overseas but they’ve seen out their quarantine in Sydney and we haven’t had a case locally for more than a month,” he said.

“We do know that now with the relaxation of measures people are streaming back to our beautiful regions, they love the Hunter Valley and they love Port Stephens and so we have to remain on the alert because people who travel may bring their Coronavirus with them.”

HNEH is urging everyone not to get complacent just because the numbers are looking good and restrictions are easing, no one wants to give COVID-19 a second chance.

“We need to keep going, the one thing that we can do clearly that works very well is closing our borders and the other thing that we’ve done extremely well in response to the virus is that people who’ve actually gotten ill we’ve got them rapidly tested and made sure that they actually isolated and that their close contacts are isolated,”

“That has really put the brakes on the spread of the virus so we need to make sure that anybody who gets respiratory illness or flu-like symptoms, they need to get themselves tested.”

The even better news about slowing the spread of the virus over the last month is that local hospitals have had the chance to prepare for any possible outbreaks in the future.

“We hope for the best and we had to prepare for the worst and that’s what the local hospitals have done,” said Dr Durrheim.

“The capacity of Intensive Care Units has been massively increased in case we need it, the systems have been tested, allowing us to switch off certain parts of the service to make sure that the other parts can surge if necessary,”

“Now we all hope we won’t need to do that but there’s still going to be a bit of time before we have a vaccine available to us and hopefully an effective and safe vaccine will be available before we see a surge in cases in Australia.”

“We know there are over 200 candidate vaccines already under development and there are at least 10 of those that are in human trials, either in early stage one or stage two trails and some of those are showing a bit of promise,”

“But the last thing we want to do is introduce a vaccine that we’re uncertain of,”

Dr Durrheim above all wants everyone to continue socially distancing from each other and washing our hands as regularly as we can because that really has contributed to slowing the spread.

“The standing back, keeping the 1.5 metres between ourselves and others means that droplets don’t have the opportunity to spread, washing our hands regularly, particularly when we’ve touched surfaces that others may have touched like doorknobs and so on is a really sensible thing to do and then making sure that if we do get symptoms to go and get ourselves tested,” he said.

There is still a testing clinic open at Muswellbrook Hospital, Monday to Friday 1:30pm to 3:30pm.

The Cessnock Hospital drive-thru testing clinic is also still available until June 13.

'Key' week for curbing SA virus cluster

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South Australia remains on track to ease coronavirus restrictions before Christmas but health officials say this week is crucial in combating a cluster of COVID-19 infections.

One more case was added to the so-called Parafield cluster on Monday, taking the total to 27.

But the woman was already in quarantine after being identified as a close contact and likely to catch the virus.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier says she's quietly confident the current situation is under control, but this week will be key.

"If we have had more community transmission we will be starting to see it this week," she said.

Prof Spurrier said it was normal to wait for 28 days, or two incubation cycles, before declaring an outbreak "all over red rover".

But the Parafield cluster had been identified very early and officials were quickly aware of the chains of transmission.

The easing of concerns has also left SA on course to open its borders to Victorians from December and positive about the chances of returning to a lower level of local restrictions.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said he was hopeful Christmas "will be celebrated as we would hope to celebrate it".

"I've given a pretty clear indication that we're aiming at the first of December to go back to a level where most community activities and family gatherings could occur," he said.

© AAP 2020

Photo: South Australian Chief Public Health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier. (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

'This virus may never go away,' WHO says

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The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could become endemic like HIV, the World Health Organisation says, warning against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating and calling for a "massive effort" to counter it.

"It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away," WHO emergencies expert Mike Ryan told an online briefing on Wednesday.

"I think it is important we are realistic and I don't think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear," he added. "I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be."

However, he said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a "massive effort" even if a vaccine was found - a prospect he described as a "massive moonshot".

More than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have underscored the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses.

Ryan noted that vaccines exist for other illnesses, such as measles, that have not been eliminated.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added: "The trajectory is in our hands, and it's everybody's business and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic."

Ryan said "very significant control" of the virus was required in order to lower the assessment of risk, which he said remained high at the "national, regional and global levels".

Governments around the world are struggling with the question of how to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, which has infected almost 4.3 million people, according to a Reuters tally, and led to more than 291,000 deaths.


The European Union pushed on Wednesday for a gradual reopening of borders within the bloc that have been shut by the pandemic, saying it was not too late to salvage some of the northern summer tourist season while still keeping people safe.

But public health experts say extreme caution is needed to avoid new outbreaks.

Ryan said opening land borders was less risky than easing air travel, which was a "different challenge".

"We need to get into the mindset that it is going to take some time to come out of this pandemic," WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told the briefing.

© RAW 2020

'We are doing the right thing, we are slowing the spread of the virus,' says Hunter New England Health


The message from Hunter New England Health (HNEH) is that we are doing the right thing and slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

An additional 11 cases have been confirmed today bringing the total for the district to 200. 

HNEH has said today that currently 11 COVID-19 patients are being cared for in our hospitals, six in ICU. Daily wellness checks continue to be undertaken with all other confirmed cases in the District.

The close contacts of the new cases are being contacted, and are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days from last contact. They will be contacted every day to check
that they are well and any contact who develops COVID-19 symptoms will be tested for the infection.

"What is rather encouraging is that this 24 hours period has seen fewer cases than what we've seen in the last couple of days added to our list, across Hunter New England we've seen that only 11 cases to date we don't have a specific origin for, they haven't come off a cruise ship or haven't been partners who've come off cruise ships or haven't returned from overseas," said HNEH Public Health Physician David Durrheim. 

"This is an exciting feature that says we are doing the right thing, we are slowing the spread of the virus, what we've got to do though is not become complacent, we've got to put in every effort now to distance ourselves and to follow the directions that have been given."

"Three is a crowd, only meet with one-on-one, don't gather in crowds at all."

NSW Health now has information on its website showing COVID-19 statistics broken down by Local Government Area. This information can be found at this link:

$42.2 million refresh for the Singleton Military Base


There's a $42.2 million refresh on the way for the Singleton Army Base.

The Federal Government says local contractors will benefit from the overhaul of facilities at the base which is due to start construction this week. 

The Government added that the injection of funds and work in the Hunter region would improve amenities for more than 1,000 defence and civilian personnel at the base.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the project to build a new transport workshop and upgrade existing infrastructure would maximise local industry involvement in the Hunter Region.

“This refresh will ensure the Singleton Military Area is able to continue to support Defence capability into the future,” Minister Price said.

“Lead contractor, Watpac’s Local Industry Capability Plan will ensure there will be opportunities for local businesses in the Hunter Region to get involved in the project."

“It’s estimated the project will engage more than 650 workers over the two-year construction period, with a daily peak workforce of up to 100.”

Patron Senator for the Hunter and Senator for NSW Hollie Hughes attended a project briefing today.

“I’m excited that this funding will provide opportunities for local small and medium-sized businesses,” said Senator Hughes.

“It’s going to mean work for a host of local contractors including carpenters, landscapers, glaziers, tilers, concreters, structural steelworkers, joiners, roofers, electricians, plumbers, bricklayers and even, demolition experts."

“And, I’m sure the staff here will be pleased to see the improvement to their mess hall and other facilities.”

Senator Hughes said the Government supported Watpac’s plan to target 82 per cent of its subcontract packages to Hunter businesses.

“It’s just part of our Government’s commitment to maximise opportunities for local industry to participate in the delivery of Defence facilities and infrastructure projects,” Senator Hughes said.

Construction is expected to be completed by early 2022.

1,259 cases of COVID-19 recorded in the Hunter New England


The Hunter New England regions detected a further 1,259 new cases of COVID-19 overnight. 

The latest infections were identified through 139 positive PCR tests and 1,120 positive rapid antigen tests (RATs). 

Of the 8,201 cases recorded across New South Wales, the Hunter New England Health District once again recorded the highest daily total for a region. 

The hospitalisation figures slightly spiked in the past 24-hours, with 41 locals receiving care in hospital, leaping by five since yesterday. 

There are four people in intensive care units. 

Hunter New England Health reported the death of another resident in the district overnight. 

The latest death for the Hunter was a man in his 80s from the Newcastle local government area. 

Image: 2NM/PowerFM



1,304 new cases of COVID-19 in Hunter New England


The Hunter New England regions have recorded the highest daily total of cases across New South Wales. 

The state detected 9,690 positive test results overnight, 1304 diagnosed within the Hunter New England alone. 

The new infections were identified through 283 positive PCR tests and 1,021 positive Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs). 

There are currently 50 cases in hospitals across the district and two are intensive care units. 

There are currently 2,068 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital across the state, including 132 people in intensive care, 61 of whom require ventilation.

Hunter New England Health confirmed the death of two males overnight. 

They were from the Cessnock and Newcastle local government areas, and in their 70s and 90s respectively. 

NSW Health reported the deaths of 18 people with COVID-19 including12 men and six women.

Image: 2NM/PowerFM

10 self-quarantine activities

10 Self Quarantine activites

With many businesses now advising staff to self-quarantine and work from home for the next few weeks to avoid the spread of covid-19, most of us will be spending majority of our time at home. We want to help keep work and life separate while still feeling comfortable. So schedule your work hours and read on for a list of suggested activities to help keep you sane and a little less isolated while in quarantine. (you can even do most of these, yes even #3, while face timing your friends and family).

1. Netflix Party

Netflix Party is a new way to watch Netflix with your friends online. Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favourite Netflix shows. You can link up with friends and host long distance movie nights and TV watch parties! There ain't no party like a Netflix watch party! 

2. Read

Reading increases creativity and imagination, lowers stress levels AND makes you smarter. Sign us up (to that library card)! You can find many great book recommendations and free downloads online. Catch up on classics and learn more through articles you’ve always wanted to read but didn’t have the time for. You could even start a book club with your friends and discuss (facetime) whether your team Jacob or Edward. Feeling inspired by all the new books you’ve read, why don’t you try writing your own?

3. Have a Bath

There’s nothing more enjoyable than submerging yourself in water, whether it’s for hygiene, leisure, health or because of a global pandemic. There’s some serious heath benefits, scientifically proven, to taking a bath such as reducing pain and inflammation, calming the nervous system, helping blood flow easier and relieving symptoms of cold and flu. Try out a new luscious bath bomb or epsom salt, lie back and relax.

4. Get Creative

Have you ever seen an artwork and thought “wow, I wish I could make that”. Whatever you want to draw or paint, you can learn the process through online courses or just give it a go and challenge yourself. Experiment with different mediums, charcoal, pencil, oil paints and more to find what you enjoy best. It can give you a real sense of achievement once you have them hanging on your wall. Watch the video below for some serious watercolour artwork inspo. 


5. Puzzles & Games

Dust off those boards games and have a friendly match. There’s nothing like getting to know your family better (or worse) than over a game of Monopoly. If you’re in self isolation and have no one to play connect 4 with, you can download plenty of games on your phone such as “Scrabble…with friends” or “chess…with friends” etc. Get out that Nintendo, PS4 or Xbox, we’ve all watched Witcher, have you thought of playing the game and living through Geralt?

6. Learn New Recipes

You probably have a repertoire of simple meals you make each week (cheese on toast) or maybe you’ve vowed to go meatless? You can look up recipes online and get some inspiration from Instagram. Plug in that slow cooker and add in all your veggies. How about perfecting that old family recipe, and the beauty of surprising a loved one with their favourite meal. Having pasta? try a different sauce or creating the pasta from scratch. Bon appétit!

7. Get Organised

Now is the perfect time to declutter and keep only what you need. Sort your clothing into piles, bag up all your unwanted clothing and have them ready to donate. Throw out old makeup that is past its prime, and wash all your brushes. Use your recycling and create a compost. Sell unwanted items on Facebook marketplace or gumtree. Wipe down all surfaces daily. Create a to do list and take control of your time and priorities.

8. Keep a Quarantine Diary

Putting your thoughts and feelings into words can change the way your brain deals with stressful information and makes room for other, more positive thoughts. By keeping a record your future self (and kids) will be interested in how you dealt with this intense time and disruption to daily life.

9. Show Pets Your Love

Go outside and soak up the sun by taking your pupper for a walk or hike, also a great way to get in your exercise as we assume you won’t be hitting up your gym. Teach your pets a new trick and show them off, you can even film it and start a youtube or Instagram so you can post images and write captions from your dog’s perspective “smooches for mama”.

10. Dance

Put on your favourite tune and get moving! Dancing is a fun way to increase your aerobic fitness, reduce stress and boost your mood! Finally you can learn the dance steps to “Ain’t no party like an S Club Party” (I know you’ve been thinking about that song since I mentioned it in the first point).

12 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the Hunter New England


A further 12 cases of COVID-9 has been identified in the Hunter New England regions overnight. 

The newly confirmed cases take the total number in the current outbreak to 4,390 - with currently 197 active cases.

It included 6 in the Moree Plains LGA, 4 in Mid-Coast and One in Newcastle and Singleton. 

This is the first case recorded in the Upper Hunter since December 3rd. 

One cases is currently being cared for in hospital.

10 cases are linked and two are unlinked.

Seven were infectious in the community and three were isolating while infectious.

There are two under investigation by health experts. 

A breakdown of today's cases:

6 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 6 from Moree

4 are from Mid Coast LGA

- 2 from Wingham

- 1 from Taree

- 1 from Tuncurry

1 is from Newcastle LGA

- 1 from Mayfield

1 is from Singleton LGA

- 1 from Singleton

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

Image: Grant Broadcasters

125 new cases of COVID-19 identified in Hunter New England


The Upper Hunter regions have identified a further 125 new cases of COVID-19 overnight. 

The new infections included 59 in Singleton, 34 in the Upper Hunter Shire and 32 in Muswellbrook local government areas.

It follows from the 2,430 new cases diagnosed across the Hunter New England.

There are currently 18,821 active cases in the district, with 99 of those cases being cared for in hospital and 11 in ICU. 

Hunter New England Health (HNEH) confirmed another two individuals passed away overnight in relation to the virus. 

"A man in his 80s from the Lake Macquarie area died at Wyong Hospital.

"He had not received any COVID-19 vaccinations and had underlying health conditions.

"A man in his 70s from the Port Stephens area died at John Hunter Hospital.

"He had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and had underlying health conditions.

"Our sincere condolences go out to their family and friends," a spokesperson from HNEH said.

Of the 2,430 new cases in the Hunter New England:

- 287 are from Newcastle LGA

- 563 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 364 are from Maitland LGA

- 254 are from Tamworth Regional LGA

- 248 are from Cessnock LGA

- 180 are from Mid Coast LGA

- 170 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 60 are from Gunnedah LGA

- 59 are from Singleton LGA

- 49 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 46 are from Armidale Regional LGA

- 34 are from Upper Hunter LGA

- 32 are from Muswellbrook LGA

- 25 are from Liverpool Plains LGA

- 16 are from Inverell LGA

- 15 are from Narrabri LGA

- 15 are from Dungog LGA

- 7 are from Walcha LGA

- 4 are from Tenterfield LGA

- 2 are from Glen Innes LGA

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

Image: 2NM/PowerFM

13 cases of COVID-19 located in the Hunter New England


A further 13 cases of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Hunter New England districts. 

The newly confirmed cases total number since the beginning of the outbreak to 4,403 - with currently 190 active cases.

None of the total active cases is currently being cared for in hospital.

10 cases are linked and two are unlinked, while one is under investigation.

10 were infectious in the community and two were isolating while infectious. 

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 420 locally acquired infections.

A breakdown of today's figures:

7 are from Mid Coast LGA

- 4 from Taree

- 3 from Purfleet

2 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 1 from Bonnells Bay

- 1 from Cardiff

2 are from Newcastle LGA

- 1 from Mayfield

- 1 from Wallsend

1 is from Dungog LGA

- 1 from Martins Creek

1 is from Maitland LGA

- 1 from Bolwarra Heights

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

Image: Grant Broadcasters



The New South Wales Government has announced 15 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region from 8pm Tuesday night.

The new figures bring the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 145.

10 are in Newcastle LGAs - 8 within Elemore Vale, 1 in New Lambton, 1 in New Lambton Heights and 4 were infectious in the community at the time.

3 are in Lake Macquarie LGAs - 2 in Cardiff, 1 in Barnsley and only 1 was infectious in the community.

2 from Maitland LGAs - 1 in Ashtonfield and 1 in Bolwarra Heights.

All are linked to previously known cases within the region and 1 was associated with the aged care cluster.

This comes after 633 new cases were reported in the state, 475 are under investigation and tragically 3 fatalities. 

For further information, visit the Hunter New England Health Website. 

Image Credits: BlenderTimer, Pixabay

177 new cases of COVID-19 in the Upper Hunter


Hunter New England Health confirmed a further 177 new cases of COVID-19 present within the Upper Hunter regions overnight. 

The new infections included 79 in Singleton, 56 in the Upper Hunter Shire and 42 in the Muswellbrook local government areas. 

The 177 cases are in conjunction with the overall total of 1,689 new cases recorded in the Hunter New England in the past 24-hours. 

There are currently 8,675 active cases in the district, 70 of which are being cared for in hospital while six remain in ICU. 

Hunter New England Health also confirmed the death of a Lake Macquarie man overnight.

"Sadly a man in his 70s from the Lake Macquarie area died at John Hunter Hospital.

"He was a resident of the Kilpatrick Court aged care facility in Toronto, where he acquired his infection.

"He had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our sincere condolences go out to his family and friends," a Hunter New England Health spokesperson said. 

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 23, 131 new locally acquired cases. 

1,344 citizens are in hospital across the state and 105 in ICU. 

A breakdown of today's HNE cases:

- 347 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 230 are from Newcastle LGA

- 233 are from Maitland LGA

- 195 are from Cessnock LGA

- 137 are from Tamworth Regional LGA

- 122 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 94 are from Mid Coast LGA

- 79 are from Singleton LGA

- 56 are from Upper Hunter LGA

- 42 are from Muswellbrook LGA

- 42 are from Narrabri LGA

- 32 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 27 are from Armidale Regional LGA

- 22 are from Dungog LGA

- 10 are from Gunnedah LGA

- 9 are from Inverell LGA

- 7 are from Liverpool Plains LGA

- 3 are from Gwydir LGA

- 1 is from Uralla LGA

- 1 is from Glen Innes LGA

Image: Grant Broadcasters

18 new cases of COVID-19 in the Hunter district


Hunter New England Health District have identified 18 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the past 24-hours. 

It takes the total number in the current outbreak to 310 - with currently 161 active cases.

Five are from Newcastle LGA - two in Mayfield and one in Mayfield West, Elemore Vale and Hamilton South.

Five are from Lake Macquarie LGA - two in Arcadia Vale and one in Balcolyn, Blackhalls Park and Boolaroo.

Four are from Port Stephens LGA - one in Salamander Bay, Nelson Bay, Anna Bay and Soldiers Point.

Two are from Maitland LGA - both in Tenambit.

Two are from Cessnock LGA - one in Greta and one in Weston.

Nine of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital, while zero are in ICU.

Eight of the cases are linked, two remain unlinked and eight are under investigation by health experts.

Two were isolating in their infectious period and eight were infectious in the community.

There are 546 close contacts across the Hunter in isolation.

For further information visit theHunter New England Health Website.




There are currently 20 active cases of COVID-19 across the Hunter New England Health District,  with seven new cases appearing in the last 24 hours. 

One case appeared in Armidale -  a female teenager who is a family household contact for the two recorded in the region.

One  linked to the Central Coast case - a young female who attends Morisset High School and is the second person connected to this outbreak.

Two cases are associated with the University of Newcastle - a young adult female and a male in his twenties. 

Two connected to the Blacksmith Beach cluster gathering - one male in his twenties and another young adult male.

A male in his thirties from Raymond Terrace has also tested positive to the virus, the source of his infection is still under investigation. 

There has also been a very low detection in a male in his 40s working at Boggabri coal mines. 

New restrictions were also announced for the Armidale Regional LGA, including the towns of Armidale and Guyra. These stay-at-home orders remain effective until Sunday August 15 and apply to residents of the area or have visited on or after July 29. 

Meanwhile, new exposure site updates have also been listed for Tamworth and Newcastle in the last 10 hours. 

People who have visited Inland Café, Tamworth on Thursday 5 August from 9:15am – 10:00am, Tudor Hotel, Tamworth on Thursday 5 August from 11:00am – 11:40am, Habesha Ethiopian Restaurant, The Junction any time from Saturday 31 July to Thursday 5 August and Mr Rice Takeaway, Cooks Hill on Wednesday 4 August from 3:00pm – 3:20pm are considered close contacts.

While those who attended Gloria Jeans Coffee, Tamworth (1/369 Peel Street) on Thursday 5 August 9:15am – 9:20am, Super Vape Store, Tamworth on Thursday 5 August from 10:55am – 11:05am and Ampol Roadhouse, Hillvue (502 Goonoo Goonoo Road) on Thursday 5 August from 12:25pm – 12:30pm are considered casual contacts.

 Image Credit: Geralt Pixabay, and Hunter New England Health


21 deaths, 410 new Victoria COVID cases

Coronavirus latest news2

Another 21 people have died and 410 Victorians have contracted coronavirus.

The record number of deaths, tweeted by the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, takes the state toll to 267 and the national toll to 352.

The ages and genders of those who have succumbed to the virus will be detailed later on Wednesday.

Victorian authorities had warned deaths would continue to rise given the number of people in hospital with the virus.

As of Tuesday, 650 people were in hospital and 43 of those in intensive care.

© AAP 2020

40 infectious while in the community of the Hunter regions


There were 40 infectious cases of COVID-19 present within the community over the last 24-hours. 

It follows from the Hunter New England Health data which confirmed 59 new cases were identified. 

It means 67 percent of the cases were out within the regions while 15 were in isolation.

One case was recorded within the Upper Hunter, located in Singleton. 

The new cases take the overall total in the current outbreak to 2,680 - with 924  currently active cases.

27 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital and six are in ICU.

46 cases are linked, 9 are unlinked, and  four are still under investigation.

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 294 locally acquired cases.

A breakdown of today's case:

19 are from Newcastle LGA

- 4 from Elermore Vale

- 3 from Maryland

- 2 from Carrington

- 2 from Jesmond

- 2 from Mayfield

- 1 from Hamilton South

- 1 from Islington

- 1 from Mayfield West

- 1 from Merewether

- 1 from The Hill

- 1 from Tighes Hill

16 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 5 from Bolton Point

- 3 from Windale

- 1 from Belmont South

- 1 from Blacksmiths

- 1 from Cardiff

- 1 from Cardiff South

- 1 from Carey Bay

- 1 from Charlestown

- 1 from Gateshead

- 1 from Morisset

7 are from Cessnock LGA

- 2 from Mulbring

- 1 from Cessnock

- 1 from Cliftleigh

- 1 from Kurri Kurri

- 1 from Millfield

- 1 from Weston

6 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 5 from Raymond Terrace

- 1 from Tomago

4 are from Maitland LGA

- 2 from Thornton

- 1 from Gillieston Heights

- 1 from Rutherford

2 are from Armidale LGA

- 2 from Armidale

1 is from MidCoast LGA

- 1 from Harrington

1 is from Singleton LGA

- 1 from Singleton

1 is from Dungog LGA

- 1 from Clarence Town

1 is from Tamworth Regional LGA

- 1 from Hillvue

1 is from Moree Plains LGA

- 1 from Moree

For further information visit Hunter New England Healthwebsite.

Image: Grant Broadcasters

40 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the Hunter New England regions


The Hunter New England regions have recorded 40 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 24-hours.

The new cases take the total number in the current outbreak to 4,086 - there are currently 698 active cases.

12 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital and three are in ICU.

35 cases are linked, four are unlinked and one is still under investigation.

19 were infectious in the community, 20 were isolating while infectious and one is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 216 locally acquired cases overnight.

A breakdown of today's figures:

15 are from Mid Coast LGA

- 9 from Taree

- 3 from Wingham

- 1 from Tinonee

- 1 from Tuncurry

- 1 from Chatham

13 are from Inverell LGA

- 11 from Inverell

- 2 from Tingha

7 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 6 from Moree

- 1 from Boggabilla

2 are from Tamworth LGA

- 1 from Moonbi

- 1 from Tamworth

1 is from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 1 from Speers Point

1 is from Newcastle LGA

- 1 from North Lambton

1 is from Maitland LGA

- 1 from Rutherford

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

Image: Grant Broadcasters

44 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the Hunter


A further 44 cases of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Hunter New England Health regions.

The new cases take the total number in the current outbreak to 3,993 - with currently 758 active cases.

14 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital and three are currently in ICU.

32 cases are linked, 10 are unlinked, two are still under investigation.

32 were infectious in the community, 10 were isolating while infectious and two are under investigation by health experts. 

There are no reported cases in the Upper Hunter. 

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 231 locally acquired cases overnight.

A breakdown of today's cases:

19 are from MidCoast

- 8 from Taree

- 6 from Wingham

- 2 from Forster

- 1 from Bootawa

- 1 from Green Point

- 1 from Old Bar

7 are from Newcastle LGA

- 3 from Birmingham Gardens

- 2 from Waratah

- 1 from Maryland

- 1 from North Lambton

6 are from Tamworth LGA

- 4 from Tamworth

- 1 from Moonbi

- 1 from South Tamworth

4 are from Cessnock LGA

- 4 from Abermain

3 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 1 from Belmont North

- 1 from Cameron Park

- 1 from Windale

2 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 1 from Glen Oak

- 1 from Lemon Tree Passage

1 is from Inverell LGA

- 1 from Tingha

1 is from Maitland LGA

- 1 from Rutherford

1 is from Moree Plains LGA

- 1 from Boggabilla

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

Image: Grant Broadcasters

46 new cases of COVID-19 in the Hunter regions


The Hunter New England Health District has identified a further 46 cases of COVID-19 including one in the Upper Hunter. 

It was located in the Singleton local government area within Darlington. 

The 46 new cases take the total number in the current outbreak to 3,653 - with currently 845 active cases.

18 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital and three are currently in ICU.

37 cases are linked, 6 are unlinked and three are still under investigation.

27 were infectious in the community, 16 were isolating while infectious and three are still under investigation.

A breakdown of today's figures: 

11 are from Cessnock LGA

- 7 from Cessnock

- 3 from Abermain

- 1 from North Rothbury

9 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 2 from Teralba

- 2 from Windale

- 1 from Blackalls Park

- 1 from Caves Beach

- 1 from Fennell Bay

- 1 from Tingira Heights

- 1 from West Wallsend

8 are from Tamworth LGA

- 4 from Tamworth

- 2 from West Tamworth

- 1 from Hillvue

- 1 from Oxley Vale

6 are from Newcastle LGA

- 3 from Mayfield

- 1 from Georgetown

- 1 from Merewether

- 1 from Wickham

6 are from MidCoast LGA

- 3 from Taree

- 1 from Forster

- 1 from Purfleet

- 1 from Tinonee

2 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 2 from Moree

2 are from Inverell LGA

- 2 from Tingha

1 is from Port Stephens LGA

- 1 from Medowie

1 is from Singleton LGA

- 1 from Darlington

Image: Grant Broadcasters

49 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the Upper Hunter regions


A further 49 new cases of COVID-19 has been identified within the Upper Hunter regions. 

The Singleton local government area recorded the highest number of infections at 23, Muswellbrook following at 16 and the Upper Hunter Shire with ten. 

The Hunter New England regions as a whole diagnosed 708 new cases overnight.

There are 8159 active cases in the district with 25 of those infections being cared for in hospital and one is in ICU.

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded a high of 12,226 locally acquired cases.

Of the 708 new cases in the Hunter New England:

- 194 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 153 are from Newcastle LGA

- 97 are from Maitland LGA

- 58 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 48 are from Cessnock LGA

- 39 are from Tamworth Regional LGA

- 30 are from Mid Coast LGA

- 23 are from Singleton LGA

- 17 are from Narrabri LGA

- 16 are from Muswellbrook LGA

- 10 are from Upper Hunter LGA

- 6 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 4 are from Armidale Regional LGA

- 4 are from Liverpool Plains LGA

- 3 are from Dungog LGA

- 2 are from Gunnedah LGA

- 2 are from Gwydir LGA

- 1 is from Glen Innes LGA

- 1 is from Tenterfield LGA

Image: Grant Broadcasters

67 new cases in the Upper Huner, another death recorded


The Upper Hunter has recorded a further 67 new infections of COVID-19 throughout the regions in the past 24-hours. 

The new cases included 38 in Singleton, 17 in Muswellbrook and 12 in the Upper Hunter Shire local government areas. 

Hunter New England in total saw a high of 2,491 daily case numbers. 

Of the new infections, Lake Macquarie recorded the most with 558, while the Newcastle LGA followed in suit at 465. 

Hunter New England Health (HNEH) also confirmed the death of another Hunter man overnight. 

"Sadly, we’re reporting the death of a man in his 60s from the Cessnock area.

"Our  sincere condolences go out to his family and friends," a HNEH spokesperson said. 

Anyone who tests positive using a RAT is now required to register their result with  Service NSW via the website or app under a Public Health Order.

Public Health Physician Dr David Durrheim said registering an  RAT result enables NSW Health to provide advice on self-isolation and managing COVID-19 symptoms at home, to connect high risk people to clinical care  services and to help inform the ongoing public health response.  

"We urge people to get their booster dose as soon as they are eligible to help protect  themselves, their loved ones and the community from the ongoing transmission of  COVID-19.

"People aged 18 years and over are eligible for a booster vaccination if  they had their second dose at least four months ago," he said.

A breakdown of today's cases:

  • 558 from Lake Macquarie LGA
  • 465 from Newcastle LGA
  • 301 from Maitland LGA
  • 234 from Port Stephens LGA
  • 220 from Cessnock LGA
  • 175 from Mid Coast LGA
  • 142 from Tamworth Reg. LGA
  • 105 from Armidale LGA
  • 64 from Inverell LGA
  • 40 from Moree Plains LGA
  • 38 from Singleton LGA
  • 27 from Narrabri LGA
  • 26 from Gunnedah LGA
  • 17 from Muswellbrook LGA
  • 17 from Tenterfield LGA
  • 14 from Walcha LGA
  • 13 from Glen Innes Severn LGA
  • 12 from Upper Hunter LGA
  • 11 from Dungog LGA
  • 10 from Liverpool Plains LGA
  • 2 from Uralla LGA

Image: 2NM/PowerFM

74 new cases of COVID-19 in the Hunter regions


The Hunter New England Health District has identified 74 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24-hours. 

It takes the total number in the current outbreak to 2,429 - with currently 940 active cases. 

Of the active infections, 23 are currently being cared for in hospital and there are three in ICU. 

35 are linked, nine are unlinked, and 30 are still under investigation.

30 were infectious in the community, 14 were isolating while infectious.

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 372 new locally acquired cases. 

A breakdown of today's cases:

23 are from Newcastle LGA

- 3 from Elermore Vale

- 3 from Hamilton

- 3 from Hamilton South

- 3 from Jesmond

- 2 from New Lambton Heights

- 2 from Wallsend

- 1 from Adamstown

- 1 from Birmingham Gardens

- 1 from Mayfield West

- 1 from Merewether

- 1 from North Lambton

- 1 from Tarro

- 1 from The Hill

15 are from Maitland LGA

- 6 from Rutherford

- 4 from Metford

- 3 from Woodberry

- 1 from Lorn

- 1 from Thornton

12 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 2 from Dudley

- 2 from Macquarie Hills

- 1 from Belmont North

- 1 from Bolton Point

- 1 from Cardiff South

- 1 from Gateshead

- 1 from Pelican

- 1 from West Wallsend

- 1 from Windale

- 1 from Wyee

9 are from Cessnock LGA

- 8 from Cessnock

- 1 from Kurri Kurri

8 are from MidCoast LGA

- 4 from Taree

- 1 from Cundletown

- 1 from Killabakh

- 1 from Purfleet

- 1 from Hawks Nest

4 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 2 from Raymond Terrace

- 1 from Williamtown

- 1 from Karuah

3 is from Tamworth Regional LGA

- 1 from East Tamworth

- 1 from South Tamworth

- 1 from West Tamworth

Image: Grant Broadcasters

83 cases of COVID-19 identified within the Greater Hunter


A further 83 cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed within the Greater Hunter over the past 24-hours. 

It brings the total number in the current outbreak to 2,811 - with 1,010 active cases. 

The Hunter New England Health District recorded 24 in Newcastle, 20 in Cessnock, 11 in Port Stephens, seven in Lake Macquarie, six in Maitland and Tamworth, five in the Mid-Coast, three in Dungog and one in Armidale. 

There are no new cases identified within the Upper Hunter regions.

23 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital and five are in ICU. 

47 were infectious while out in the community, 30 were isolating during their infectious period and six remain under investigation by health experts. 

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 304 locally acquired cases overnight.

A breakdown of today's figures:

24 are from Newcastle LGA

- 7 from Carrington

- 6 from Mayfield

- 4 from Wallsend

- 3 from Mayfield East

- 1 from Adamstown Heights

- 1 from Black Hill

- 1 from Merewether

- 1 from Waratah

20 are from Cessnock LGA

- 12 from Kurri Kurri

- 5 Cessnock

- 2 Weston

- 1 Bellbird Heights

11 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 10 from Raymond Terrace

- 1 Nelson Bay

7 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 1 from Cardiff South

- 1 from Charlestown

- 1 from Jewells

- 1 from Macquarie Hills

- 1 from Morisset

- 1 from Toronto

- 1 from Windale

6 are from Maitland LGA

- 2 from Rutherford

- 1 from Ashtonfield

- 1 from Morpeth

- 1 from Windella

- 1 from Woodberry

6 are from Tamworth LGA

- 4 from Tamworth

- 1 from South Tamworth

- 1 from West Tamworth

5 are from Mid-Coast LGA

- 4 from Taree

- 1 from Forster

3 are from Dungog LGA

- 3 from Martins Creek

1 is from Armidale LGA

- 1 from Armidale

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

To view the case location map for NSW visit

Image: Grant Broadcasters

A further 30 cases confirmed in the Hunter New England


The Hunter New England Health District has recorded 30 confirmed COVID-19 int he past 24-hours.

The new cases take the total number in the current outbreak to 4,176 - there are currently 625 active cases.

10 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital and three are currently in ICU.

22 cases are linked, five  are unlinked and three are under investigation.

12 were infectious in the community, 15 were isolating while infectious and three are under investigation by health authorities. 

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 180 locally acquired cases overnight. 

A breakdown of today's COVID-19 figures:

11 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 11 from Moree

8 are from Mid Coast LGA

- 4 from Taree

- 1 from Wingham

- 1 from Cedar Party

- 1 from Krambach

- 1 from Old Bar

7 are from Newcastle LGA

- 3 from Jesmond

- 1 from Mayfield

- 1 from New Lambton Heights

- 1 from Wallsend

- 1 from Waratah West

2 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 1 from Cameron Park

- 1 from Macquarie Hills

1 is from Narrabri LGA

- 1 from Narrabri

1 is from Port Stephens LGA

- 1 from Nelson Bay

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

Image: Grant Broadcasters

A further 54 cases of COVID-19 in the Hunter regions


A further 54 confirmed cases of COVID-19 has been identified in Hunter New England Health regions.

The new cases take the total number in the current outbreak to 3,949 - with currently 762 active cases.

12 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital and three are currently in ICU.

42 cases are linked, eight are unlinked and four are still under investigation.

27 were infectious in the community, 23 were isolating while infectious and four are still under investigation by health experts.

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 212 locally acquired cases overnight.

A breakdown of today's cases:

15 are from MidCoast

- 8 from Taree

- 2 from Forster

- 2 from Wingham

- 1 from Cedar Party

- 1 from Rainbow Flat

- 1 from Wherrol Flat

9 are from Newcastle LGA

- 3 from Maryland

- 2 from Hamilton South

- 2 from Jesmond

- 1 from Fletcher

- 1 from Waratah

7 are from Inverell LGA

- 4 from Inverell

- 3 from Tingha

6 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 3 from Cameron Park

- 3 from Rathmines

5 are from Tamworth Regional LGA

- 3 from Tamworth

- 2 from Moonbi

4 are from Maitland LGA

- 4 from Gillieston Heights

4 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 4 from Glen Oak

3 are from Cessnock LGA

- 1 from Kurri Kurri

- 1 from Neath

- 1 from North Rothbury

1 is from Moree Plains LGA

- 1 from Moree

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

Image: Grant Broadcasters

A further 660 new cases recorded in the Hunter New England


The Hunter New England regions have recorded a further 660 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24-hours. 

The newly diagnosed cases take the total number of active cases in the districts to 4,368. 

There are 17 cases currently in hospital and three in ICU. 

The Upper Hunter spiked again with 25 new infections identified overnight. 

It includes 16 in Singleton, five in Muswellbrook and four in the Upper Hunter Shire local government area.

Hunter New England Health Chief Health Officer Dr David Durrheim said the Omicron variant has really taken off in the Hunter New England area particularly in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Cessnock and Port Stephens LGAs.

Of the 660 new cases, Newcastle's local government area recorded 294 and Lake Macquarie behind with 220 new infections.

"Almost every suburb has been affected and we all really need to consider the virus is around us and take appropriate action to keep ourselves and our families safe," Dr Durrheim said.

Hunter New England are urging residents to continue following the best COVID-safe protocols in the lead up to Christmas Day.

"We want this to be as safe a Christmas as possible and what does that mean? Well mask wearing is a very good idea. 

"Every one of us that goes into a situation where we can't distance effectively from others particularly in an indoor environment should be wearing a mask. 

"We know this in addition to the vaccination is an important protection," Dr Durrheim said. 

Hunter New England Health are asking anyone who is yet to receive their vaccination to do so and book in for a booster if eligible. 

Walk in appointments, including for boosters are available at the Belmont Hub for all people who received their second vaccination more than 5 months ago.

"Booster doses are very important particularly if you are five months or further from your second dose. 

"The booster provides a very big jump in protection against clinical illness and we encourage everyone whose due for a booster - get boostered," Dr Durrheim said.

Although testing numbers have skyrocketed over the past week, Hunter New England Health are advising those with the slightest of symptoms to continue getting tested.

"We do not want to take the virus into high risk situations or expose loved ones who may be immune compromised, elderly or be at greater risk for severe disease to the virus.

"If you have symptoms, please get tested," he said.

Meanwhile, New South Wale recorded 2,501 new locally acquired cases overnight.

Image: Grant Broadcasters

A further two coronavirus cases in the Upper Hunter


A further two cases of COVID-19 was identified within the Upper Hunter regions. 

The new infections were reported in Singleton's local government area within Darlington and Hunterview. 

It follows after 54 new cases were recorded across the Hunter New England district. 

It brings the total number in the current outbreak to 2,944 - with currently 856 active cases. 

17 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital and  there are four in ICU.

39 cases are linked and nine were unlinked.

36 were infectious in the community, 12 were isolating while infectious and six are still under investigation.

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 268 locally acquired cases overnight. 

A breakdown of today's cases:

15 are from Newcastle LGA

- 4 from Hamilton South

- 3 from Wallsend

- 2 from Mayfield

- 2 from New Lambton

- 1 from Adamstown

- 1 from Carrington

- 1 from Islington

- 1 from Merewether

10 are from MidCoast LGA

- 5 from Taree

- 2 from Forster

- 2 from Tuncurry

- 1 from Tea Gardens

7 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 1 from Jewells

- 1 from Morisset

- 1 from Mount Hutton

- 1 from Redhead

- 1 from Swansea

- 1 from West Wallsend

- 1 from Windale

6 are from Cessnock LGA

- 2 from Kearsley

- 1 from Cessnock

- 1 from Greta

- 1 from Kurri Kurri

- 1 from Neath

6 are from Tamworth Regional LGA

- 5 from Tamworth

- 1 from West Tamworth

4 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 2 from Raymond Terrace

- 1 from Anna Bay

- 1 from Heatherbrae

3 are from Maitland LGA

- 1 from Bolwarra Heights

- 1 from Chisholm

- 1 from Rosebrook

2 are from Singleton LGA

- 1 from Darlington

- 1 from Hunterview

 1 is from Armidale Regional LGA

- 1 from Armidale

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

To view the case location map for NSW visit

Image: Grant Broadcasters

A new case of COVID-19 identified in Hunterview


A new case of coronavirus has been identified in the Upper Hunter regions in the past 24-hours. 

It was located in the Singleton local government area in Hunterview. 

It follows after 79 new infections were recorded across the Hunter New England Health District. 

The additional cases bring the total number in the current outbreak to 2,890 - with 838 active cases. 

The other infections included 18 in Lake Macquarie, 17 in Newcastle, 11 in Tamworth, eight in Port Stephens, seven in Maitland, six in Cessnock, five in the Mid-Coast, two in Dungog and Moree, and one in Armidale and Tenterfield. 

21 of the total active cases are being cared for in hospital and four are currently in ICU.

51 cases are linked, 14 are unlinked and 14 are still under investigation.

41 were infectious in the community and 24 were isolating while infectious.

Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 293 locally acquired cases. 

A breakdown of today's figures:

18 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 3 from Belmont North

- 3 from Valentine

- 2 from Toronto

- 1 from Windale

- 1 from Cameron Park

- 1 from Cardiff

- 1 from Morisset

- 1 from Swansea

- 1 from Tingira Heights

- 1 from Warners Bay

- 1 from Whitebridge

- 1 from Gateshead

17 are from Newcastle LGA

- 3 from Mayfield

- 3 from North Lambton

- 2 from Elermore Vale

- 2 from Hamilton South

- 1 from Carrington

- 1 from Georgetown

- 1 from Maryville

- 1 from New Lambton

- 1 from Newcastle East

- 1 from The Hill

- 1 from Wallsend

11 are from Tamworth LGA

- 4 from East Tamworth

- 2 from South Tamworth

- 2 from West Tamworth

- 1 from Oxley Vale

- 1 from Tamworth

- 1 from Warral

8 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 5 from Raymond Terrace

- 1 from Mallabula

- 1 from Soldiers Point

- 1 from Tanilba Bay

7 are from Maitland LGA

- 4 from Woodberry

- 1 from East Maitland

- 1 from Maitland

- 1 from Tenambit

6 are from Cessnock LGA

- 3 from Kurri Kurri

- 2 from Cessnock

- 1 from Aberdare

5 are from Mid-Coast LGA

- 2 from Chatham

- 1 from Harrington

- 1 from Old Bar

- 1 from Taree

2 are from Dungog LGA

- 1 from Martins Creek

- 1 from Clarence Town

2 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 2 from Moree

1 is from Armidale Regional LGA

- 1 from Armidale

1 is from Singleton LGA

- 1 from Hunterview

1 is from Tenterfield LGA

- 1 from Woodside

To see vaccination rates by postcode visit

To view the case location map for NSW visit

A positive case of COVID-19 has been identified in Tamworth overnight


A positive case was identified in today's Coronavirus figures in Tamworth overnight.

It comes as there were 24 newly confirmed cases in total across the Hunter New England Health District.

11 were from Newcastle - Three in Shortland, two in Newcastle East, and one in Elermore Vale, Wallsend, Bar Beach, Waratah, Birmingham Gardens and Carrington.

Seven in Lake Macquarie - Two in Morisset, 2 in Edgeworth, and one in Arcadia Vale, Toronto and Dora Creek.

Three in Maitland - One in Rutherford, East Maitland and Thornton

One in Port Stephens - located in Tanilba Bay

One in Tamworth - located in Tamworth. 

It brings the total number in the current outbreak to 458 - with 291 active cases.

15 were infectious while in the community, eight were isolating and one remains under investigation by health authorities.

17 are linked to known sources, one is unlinked and six require further investigations.

13 of the total active cases are in hospital and two remain in ICU.

There are 742 close contacts in isolation across the regions.

New South Wales recorded 935 new locally acquired cases overnight.

There were tragically four deaths.

A Singleton GP says it's the whole community effort that has led to the slow in the spread of COVID-19


Singleton GP Dr Bob Vickers said it's the whole community effort that has led to a slowing of COVID-19 not only here in the Upper Hunter but across the country. 

NSW Health's latest data on COVID-19 is an additional five cases diagnosed since 8pm 21 April, bringing the total to 2,976.

During that time, 5,645 people were tested, up from 4,291 the 24 hours before.

"People have done brilliantly, this isn't something where health care workers are solely responsible for these numbers, this is a whole of community effort," said Dr Bob Vickers.

"When we look at our numbers you can look at it in different ways, you can look at it in testing per capita, testing per 100,000, testing per million, testing per positive cases - everyone will look at those cases and say we're either doing enough or not enough depending on how you interpret the data,"

"I think the important thing is the case numbers we're seeing in the hospitals and our deaths that we're seeing from COVID-19 tend to match up in a time frame with the testing curve so for example if you're in a country where your testing curve has a peak and then a couple of days or a week later you're seeing a peak in the deaths you're probably not catching up with the testing, you're not picking up everyone. Whereas the peaks of our deaths tend to occur at the same time as the peak of our testing which means that we're probably testing enough to pick up the majority of cases which is good," said Dr Bob Vickers.

There are three screening clinics open in the Upper Hunter including a drive through clinic at Scone and Singleton Hospitals and a more traditional clinic at Muswellbrook Hospital. 

Dr Bob Vickers said if you think you may have symptoms call your GP, call the clinic and get a test.

"In NSW it's different to some other sates. In NSW if you have a telehealth consult with your GP and you have signs of a flu like illness or fever or cough or sore throat your GP can refer you to any one of the testing clinics and you can have a test done. The hospitals will be testing anyone who presents with flu like illness as well so anyone with symptoms at the moment in NSW is likely to be able to get a test done," he said. 

The latest statistics from the Hunter New England Health District has 278 total cases of confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

There have been 18,774 total tests for COVID-19 across the HNEH since the pandemic began.

There is one recorded case in the Upper Hunter Shire, another in the Liverpool Plains Shire area, one in Muswellbrook and two in Singleton.

Dr Bob Vickers added that due to the COVID-19 they've seen a decrease in the number of people going to doctors and hospital, and is urging people who need to go to continue going.

"What we have seen is a actually a decrease in presentations to the emergency department and a little bit in general practice as well and I think some of that is people frightened of attending the hospital because of fear of catching COVID-19. We need to reassure people that that's not the case, while we are doing telehealth where we can from a GP setting, if you need to see a doctor that's fine, you're going to be safe."

"What we don't want to see if peoples usual health conditions getting worse because of the fear of going to hospital," he said. 

Image credit: Singleton Argus

ADF called in to Tassie to fight COVID-19

World health coronavirus outbreak and international public infectious disease and global deadly virus health risk and flu spread or coronaviruses influenza as a pandemic medical conceptin with 3D illustration elements.

Tasmania has called in Australia's troops to fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in the state's northwest.

About 5000 people have been forced into quarantine, made up mainly of healthcare staff and their families, for two weeks amid the closure of two hospitals.

The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie shut on Monday to be deep-cleaned by specialist teams.

The drastic move is the result of more than 60 cases in the state linked to the northwest outbreak, including 45 health workers and nine patients.

There was an increase of six cases on Monday, bringing the state total to 150.

In the battle against COVID-19, Australian Medical Assistance Teams, which are deployed in natural disasters, and Australian Defence Force medics will roll into town this week.

"This is the best way that we can get on top of this, that we can stop the spread of this insidious disease," Premier Peter Gutwein said.

Patients have been moved to Mersey Community Hospital.

Virus testing is also being increased in the outbreak region.

© AAP 2020

ADF to be deployed on NSW-Victoria border

ADF 20'Container

Australian Defence Force personnel will patrol the NSW-Victoria border after it closes at midnight to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne.

The ADF is finalising plans to deploy between 350-500 personnel to support NSW Police Force border checkpoints, The Daily Telegraph reports.

"The first of these are expected to deploy to the border to achieve the NSW government directed border closure timings, pending finalising the agreement with NSW authorities," an ADF spokeswoman told the newspaper.

Defence Force personnel won't be directly involved with law enforcement but will support police operations.

"Defence is ready to provide support for a range of contingencies in both states and will continue to work to support states and territories when requested," the spokeswoman said.

The newspaper reports the ADF is also in talks with the Victorian government to deploy five more personnel to provide planning support for local coronavirus restrictions.

There are already ADF 200 personnel supporting public COVID-19 testing in the state.

Victoria on Monday had recorded an additional 127 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths.

NSW reported 10 cases, all in hotel quarantine, from 11,500 tests.

© AAP 2020

AFL to announce resumption date this month

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks competes for the ball against Hugh McCluggage of the Lions  during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Jaeger OMeara of the Hawks competes for the ball against Hugh McCluggage of the Lions during the Round 1 AFL match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Brisbane Lions at the MCG in Melbourne, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan is adamant the league will be able to deliver definitive details around the competition's resumption date by the end of April.

Despite an ever-changing landscape amid the coronavirus pandemic, McLachlan on Thursday told reporters the AFL would soon set dates for players to return to training and the next round of matches to be played.

"The decision we make will have the support of the relevant government authorities and their medical officers," McLachlan said.

"We're better placed every day to make that decision, I think, as things become clearer and the more we're able to consult with key government and medical partners who have a greater level of data and insight into what's going on."

The AFL campaign is suspended until at least May 31 but McLachlan is confident the shortened 153-match home-and-away season, plus finals, will be completed this year.

He said the AFL wanted to settle on a return date that would allow it to push through the rest of the season uninterrupted from that point.

"When the exact start date is, I don't have an answer, other than we're committed to being out (and) informing our supporters and the public and others by the end of April," McLachlan said.

The AFL has conceded matches will resume without fans in the stands but has not yet settled on the proposed plan of returning to play in quarantine hubs.

McLachlan is wary of the challenges that players will face if they are asked to spend time away from their families in the hubs.

Some players, including AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield, have expressed concerns about the hubs idea.

McLachlan said the AFL will not make a formal proposal to players until a concrete plan has been formulated.

"It's incumbent upon us to look at every option and that ranges from playing the way we have historically to various levels of quarantine," McLachlan said.

"We are working with the right people to get a considered view about the right way to take us forward.

"I understand the challenges that will be on so many people as we try to get this season away and we'll have to continue to work with all the stakeholders to get their buy-in.

"We understand the reservations of some in the absence of information."

AFL clubs' playing lists are likely to be trimmed for next season as part of football department cost-cutting measures across the competition, but McLachlan confirmed they will remain as they are for 2020.

McLachlan also said the AFL would open its books to the AFLPA when it comes to negotiating a reworked pay deal for future seasons.

"There will have to be a level of transparency about what industry revenue looks like to conclude that deal," he said.

© AAP 2020

Aged care workers to get pandemic leave -selected

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Casual aged care workers will be eligible for paid pandemic leave after a Fair Work Commission decision to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The variations will take effect from Wednesday and will remain in effect for three months, the commission said in a ruling released late on Monday.

Many of the recent deaths in Victoria's second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have been linked to outbreaks at aged care facilities, which prompted the Fair Work Commission to act.

"There is a real risk that employees who do not have access to leave entitlements might not report COVID-19 symptoms which might require them to self-isolate, but rather seek to attend for work out of financial need," it said.

"This represents a significant risk to infection control measures.

"These matters weigh significantly in favour of the introduction of a paid pandemic leave entitlement."

There are now 84 cases linked to St Basil's Home for the Aged in Fawkner, 82 at Estia Health in Ardeer, 77 at Epping Gardens Aged Care, and 62 at Menarock Aged Care in Essendon.

Glendale Aged Care in Werribee has 53 cases linked to it, and 57 are associated with Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth.

Premier Daniel Andrews has said people who are going to work sick - including those who work at aged care facilities - are the "biggest driver" of the state's second wave.

But the union movement said many of those people could not afford not to work.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said the decision does not go far enough.

"We welcome the decision but this still does not remove the trap door for casual workers with irregular hours," she said in a statement.

"What this decision shows is that there is a need for paid pandemic leave and while the economy is struggling it should be government funded for all workers so no-one is even considering having to go to work with mild symptoms just to pay the bills."

The Victorian government is now providing a $300 payment for workers who can't go to work after testing for COVID-19.

A further $1500 hardship payment is available if the test result is positive.

The Fair Work Commission says the pandemic leave will:

* apply to workers who are required by their employer or a government medical authority or on the advice of a medical practitioner to self-isolate because they display COVID-19 symptoms or have come into contact with a suspected case;

* is limited to up to two weeks' paid leave on each occasion of self-isolation;

* not be paid to workers who are able to work at home or remotely during self-isolation.

© AAP 2020

Aged care workers, residents catch virus


Ten aged care residents and seven staff have tested positive to coronavirus across six different homes in NSW, Western Australia and South Australia.

Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck revealed the tally in Senate question time on Monday.

"I can't give you a specific number of how many aged care workers have been tested or for that matter how many residents have been tested," he told parliament.

"Those that have needed a test have received a test."

He said people needed to limit their visits to aged care homes.

"It's a really tough message to tell people to limit visiting their loved ones in aged care facilities, but it's everybody's job to keep our senior Australians safe," the minister said.

Senator Colbeck said from May 1, anyone not vaccinated for influenza would be banned from entering aged care facilities.

"This is a very difficult time for people in aged care and their families," he said.

Three of Australia's seven coronavirus deaths have been residents of BaptistCare's Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Sydney.

© AAP 2020

Agricultural Show Societies thrown a funding lifeline


Agricultural Show Societies have been thrown a funding lifeline. 

The Australian Government is spending $36 million to support agricultural show societies recover from the effects of COVID-19, ensuring they can continue after the pandemic.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt agricultural shows, with most expected to be cancelled for 2020 in the interest of public health and social distancing measures.

“Agricultural shows are part of the fabric of regional Australia, showcasing everything positive about our communities and local industries,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“These shows are estimated to contribute $1 billion to the economy each year and attract 6 million patrons annually, supported by 50,000 volunteers."

“They create social bonds and improve mental health in parts of regional Australia where distance, drought, bushfires and now COVID-19 have caused significant hardship and distress.”

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the Supporting Agricultural Shows program will provide a one-off reimbursement to agricultural show societies to deal with cash flow pressures caused by COVID-19 related cancellation of agricultural shows.

“This funding supports not only the big Royal Shows in each capital but right down to the small country show, because we acknowledge the role shows play in connecting agriculture and regional Australia to metropolitan Australians,” Minister Littleproud said.

“There is a real risk that if we don’t help that not only could Royal Shows cease to function the way they are now but also those small shows all of which are run by volunteers could fold."

“In addition, $100,000 will go towards supporting the Agricultural Shows Australia rural ambassador program, which will enable the vital community work the ambassadors perform in regional Australia to continue."

Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said eligible local shows in his electorate could receive a reimbursement of up to $70,000 under the Supporting Agricultural Shows program.

“This is fantastic news for our many hardworking show society volunteers who because of COVID-19 were unable to stage a show for their communities this year,” Barnaby Joyce said.

“Agricultural shows play an important civic role in many country towns so it’s integral we do as much as we can to keep them going during this time of need."

“The Government is reimbursing shows for costs incurred in 2020 and funds will be paid in 2021 and I encourage local show societies to check their eligibility and apply when the grants open.”

The $36 million Supporting Agricultural Shows program comprises three components:

  • $10 million in operational support for local show societies. Shows will be able to claim up to $10,000 if their attendance last year was less than 2,000, up to $15,000 if their attendance was between 2,000 and 4,999 and up to $70,000 if their attendance was over 5,000.
  • $26 million in operational support for Royal Agricultural Show societies which can additionally to claim for unrecoverable costs associated with preparing for the cancelled show.
  • $100,000 in operational support for Agricultural Shows Australia’s Rural ambassador program.

All agricultural shows that have cancelled their show in 2020 because of COVID-19 will be eligible and they will not have to compete for assistance.

Eligible reimbursement costs are expected to include: Bank fees, utilities, rates, insurance, fire alarms and equipment, cleaning supplies, telecommunications, IT system licencing costs, website costs, state/national show body affiliation fees and rent.

For more information on the Fund, visit

Image credit: Grant Broadcasters/Jessica Rouse

Airbnb bans house parties worldwide

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Airbnb is banning house parties worldwide as it tries to clean up its reputation and comply with coronavirus-related limits on gatherings.

The US home sharing company will limit occupancy in its rental homes to 16 people.

It may offer exceptions for boutique hotels or other event venues.

Airbnb said it may pursue legal action against guests and hosts who violate the ban.

Last week, for the first time, Airbnb took legal action against a guest who held an unauthorised party in Sacramento County, California.

Airbnb has always prohibited unauthorised parties and the company said nearly 75 per cent of its listings explicitly ban parties.

Last November, Airbnb started manually reviewing US and Canadian reservations to weed out suspicious rentals, like a guest who booked a one-night stay close to their home.

It expanded that program to Australia last week.

In July, Airbnb banned US and Canadian guests under age 25 with fewer than three positive reviews from booking entire homes close to where they live.

It expanded that policy to the United Kingdom, Spain and France last week.

Airbnb said it also plans to expand a hotline for neighbours to report unauthorised parties.

Airbnb says about 2 per cent of the 7 million properties listed on its site can accommodate 16 or more people.

There are at least 53 in London, 277 in Beijing, 170 in New York and 116 in Los Angeles, according to the company's website.

© AP 2020

Airlines hunt places to park idle planes

epaselect epa08316231 Swiss International Air Lines aircrafts are parked on the tarmac at the airport in Zurich, Switzerland, 23 March 2020. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic a large number of flights of the Swiss carrier have been cancelled and a part of their fleet grounding at Zurich airport.  EPA/ENNIO LEANZA

Swiss International Air Lines aircrafts are parked on the tarmac at the airport in Zurich. Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic a large number of flights of the Swiss carrier have been cancelled and a part of their fleet grounding at Zurich airport (EPA/ENNIO LEANZA)

As airlines idle thousands of aircraft for which there are no passengers, they are hitting an unprecedented problem: finding a place to park them.

Taxiways, maintenance hangars and even runways at major airports are being transformed into giant parking lots for more than 2500 airliners, the biggest of which takes up about as much room as an eight-storey building with a footprint three-quarters the size of an American football field.

The number of planes in storage has doubled to more than 5000 since the start of the year, according to Cirium data, with more expected to be parked in the coming weeks as carriers such as Qantas and Singapore Airlines proceed with further announced cuts to flight schedules.

In Frankfurt, Germany's biggest airport is a ghost town of silent airliners. Its northwest landing runway, including taxiways and bridges, has been converted to an aircraft parking lot for Lufthansa, Condor and other airlines.

Lufthansa brand Swiss has rented parking spots at a military airport close to Zurich.

Similar crowds of planes are parked at other major airports, including Hong Kong, Seoul, Berlin and Vienna as well as traditional desert parking lots in Victorville, California, and Marana, Arizona, according to data from flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

In Manila, some Philippines Airlines jets are parked in the Lufthansa Technik Philippines hangar, an airline official said.

Even some smaller airports have been converted to parking lots. Avalon Airport west of Melbourne expects to take 50 planes from Qantas and its low-cost offshoot, Jetstar, according to the airport's chief executive, Justin Giddings.

"It is sad for everyone, the whole industry," he told Reuters of the groundings, which have led Qantas to put 20,000 staff members on leave.

Qantas is sending 30 engineers to Avalon help maintain the planes so they can re-enter service in three to seven days when demand returns, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

The carrier is also parking about 100 other aircraft at major airports around Australia and its five ageing 747s at a desert storage facility in Alice Springs, the source said.

Some airports, such as Melbourne and Brisbane, said they are providing free parking. Brisbane Airport said some international airlines had expressed interest in using its facilities, which can house up to 101 planes, but no deals had yet been reached.

Qantas and Virgin Australia will use some of the Brisbane spots.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, one of the first and hardest hit by the coronavirus, has been using remote bays, taxiways and other operational areas at Hong Kong International Airport.

In the United States, United Airlines and American Airlines said they were parking planes at maintenance facilities for now, while Delta Air Lines Inc said it was still looking into the issue.

© RAW 2020

All eyes will be on regional pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes for Operation to ensure COVID-safe trading


All eyes will be on regional pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes for a new operation to ensure COVID-safe trading.

The NSW Police Force have rolled out a high-visibility policing operation across regional NSW to ensure social distancing and the Public Health Order are being adhered to at licensed venues. 

Operation Pariac will run for the entire month of June and be conducted by general duties and specialist licensing police in the Northern, Southern and Western Regions, but will have an altered focus for June 2020.

The operation aims to ensure education and compliance around the Public Health Order conditions, relative to the easing of restrictions in licensed premises from this week.

Police will also be targeting alcohol-related crime, including assaults, anti-social behaviour and public order incidents.

Operation Pariac Commander, Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell APM, said as restrictions continue to ease, venues and patrons need to be aware of their responsibilities to maintain a COVID-safe environment.

“From today, the movement of people across the state will start to increase dramatically, as thousands of people head to regional communities to inject much needed tourism dollars."

“Police will be conducting random checks and patrols of licensed venues throughout our regions, with the ability for resources to be shared amongst police districts where the demand is needed – particularly across the Queen’s Birthday long weekend (Saturday 6 June – Monday 8 June 2020)."

“Operation Pariac, as part of a Vikings operation, will see officers working closely with industry and business owners to ensure they are able to operate safe environments for their customers, while making the public feel confident about returning to a COVID-safe venue."

“Whether you’re heading to a winery in the Hunter Valley, a bar at Byron Bay, a pub on the bushfire-hit South Coast, or an RSL in drought-impacted areas out west – licensees and patrons alike need to be aware of their surroundings and the strict rules which now apply,” Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said.

Image credit: Grant Broadcasters

Almost 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the Hunter New England


The Hunter New England has recorded 2,961 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24-hours. 

Of the newly confirmed infections, 137 were identified in the Upper Hunter regions. 

It included 97 in Singleton, 22 in Muswellbrook and 18 in the Upper Hunter Shire.

There are 11,422 active cases throughout the overall district.

71 active cases are being cared for in hospitals and five are currently in ICU.

New South Wales leaped into a new thousands threshold after recording 35,054 new locally acquired cases.

There are 1,491 people in hospital across the state and 119 in ICU. 

NSW Health is reporting the deaths of eight people with COVID-19, six men and two women.

Of the 2,961 new cases in the Hunter New England:

- 704 are from Newcastle LGA

- 684 are from Lake Macquarie LGA

- 450 are from Maitland LGA

- 223 are from Port Stephens LGA

- 213 are from Mid Coast LGA

- 163 are from Tamworth Regional LGA

- 135 are from Cessnock LGA

- 97 are from Singleton LGA

- 91 are from Narrabri LGA

- 71 are from Moree Plains LGA

- 29 are from Armidale Regional LGA

- 22 are from Muswellbrook LGA

- 20 are from Gunnedah LGA

- 19 are from Dungog LGA

- 18 are from Upper Hunter LGA

- 9 are from Liverpool Plains LGA

- 3 are from Walcha LGA

- 5 are from Uralla LGA

- 2 are from Gwydir LGA

- 2 are from Inverell LGA

- 1 is from Glen Innes LGA

Image: 2NM/PowerFM

Almost 300 travellers quarantine in Vic

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Victoria has had 40 days without a new COVID case, as the number of international arrivals quarantining in Melbourne reaches 281.

Of those returned travellers, 20 are quarantining in so-called "health hotels" with six showing COVID symptoms.

A further eight flights are scheduled to land at Melbourne airport on Wednesday via Auckland, Hong Kong, Brunei, Singapore, Doha, Taipei and Abu Dhabi, with a total of 127 travellers to go into quarantine.

Victoria recorded no new cases and no COVID-19 deaths in the previous 24 hours, with 11,578 test results received, the state's Department of Health and Human Services said on Wednesday.

But with up to 1120 international arrivals scheduled each week and the reopening of its hotel quarantine program, Victoria's clean sheet may be tested.

The state has not accepted international flights since the end of June, when quarantine hotel outbreaks sparked its deadly second virus wave.

Meanwhile, the Victorian government has rejected calls to waive an estimated $3 million in COVID-19 fines handed to thousands of teenagers, despite many coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The COVID-19 Fines Community Lawyer Working Group, a coalition of 10 community legal centres, estimates at least 2000 children aged 14 to 17 have been fined in Victoria for coronavirus breaches during the pandemic.

© AAP 2020

Alpacas could help fight the coronavirus

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Australian medical researchers have found an unlikely hero in a pair of alpacas they hope will help them develop a prevention and treatment for COVID-19.

The nameless duo have been immunised with safe, non-infectious virus fragments, to trigger their rare immune response.

The camelid species, as well as some sharks like the Wobbegong, produce an extra, miniscule type of antibody which enable them to fight the 'spiky' coronavirus in ways human antibodies can't.

Alpacas were the easy choice of the two, Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham told AAP.

"We're interested in these nanobodies because they're really stable, can fit into things that other bigger antibodies can't, and they're very sticky to the protein target, which is a good thing to have in a treatment option," she told AAP.

The joint head of infectious disease at Melbourne's Walter Eliza Hall Institute, Ms Tham is leading the project which will attempt to recreate and manipulate the nanobodies in a lab.

First, researchers will need to identify which of the alpaca's millions of nanobodies - which are ten times smaller than regular antibodies - best inhibit the virus.

Then, they'll have to make them more closely resemble human antibodies, so our immune systems don't kill them off.

But Ms Tham says those objectives are achievable, and any treatment would be easily scalable too.

"The fact that there is already an approved nanobody drug for blood clotting shows that you really can deploy nanobodies well."

The team is currently designing the nanobodies to be used both as a prevention and treatment for the virus.

"In populations that may not mount a very good immune response to the vaccine for a variety of reasons, we could deploy the antibody-based therapies then, because there we're directly giving you the antibodies that work," Ms Tham said.

Immuno-compromised people and those in aged care are the best candidates for that use of nanobodies, but they could also be used in treatment of mild COVID cases.

The project is part of a larger search for suitable antibodies by Australian researchers, and would need to be among the top prospects for research to continue.

"If all goes well and they're potent and they're safe, then we'll be looking at clinical trials next year," Ms Tham said.

As for the alpacas, the team says their involvement is harmless, and they'll enjoy long and happy lives in their East Gippsland home.

© AAP 2020

Amazon hiring 100000 as orders surge

epa08299138 An employee works inside an Amazon pop up store in a shopping mall in Skokie, Illinois, USA, 16 March 2020. Many stores have reduced hours or closed completely in response to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the Covid-19 disease.  EPA/TANNEN MAURY

An employee works inside an Amazon pop up store in a shopping mall in Skokie, Illinois, USA, 16 March 2020. Many stores have reduced hours or closed completely in response to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the Covid-19 disease. (EPA/TANNEN MAURY)

Amazon says it needs to hire 100,000 people across the US to keep up with a crush of orders as the coronavirus spreads and keeps more people at home, shopping online.

The online retailer said it will also temporarily raise pay by $US2 an hour through the end of April for hourly employees, who work at its warehouses, delivery centres and Whole Foods grocery stores.

Hourly workers in the United Kingdom and other European countries will get a similar raise.

"We are seeing a significant increase in demand, which means our labour needs are unprecedented for this time of year," said Dave Clark, who oversees Amazon's warehouse and delivery network.

Amazon said this weekend that a surge of orders is putting its operations under pressure.

It warned shoppers that it could take longer than the usual two days to get packages.

It also said it was sold out of many household cleaning supplies and is working to get more in stock.

The Seattle-based company said the openings are for a mix of full-time and part-time jobs and include roles such as delivery drivers and warehouse workers, who pack and ship orders for shoppers.

© AP 2020

Andrews outlines Vic home visit rules

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Home visits in Melbourne will be restricted to one per day as the city emerges from its lockdown.

The day after announcing a widespread easing of the city's restrictions, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Tuesday how its residents can visit each other in their households from midnight.

He also said that masks will remain mandatory outdoors for the rest of the year and probably into 2021, throughout the state.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he was "very confident" an outbreak in Melbourne's northern suburbs, which delayed the Monday announcement by 24 hours, was now under control.

Confirmation of the home visit rule comes after Victoria reported its second-straight day of no coronavirus deaths and no new cases.

This is the first time two straight days of no new cases or deaths has been recorded since March 5-6.

The announcement on home visits was delayed by a day so health authorities could work out the rules, which the premier acknowledged would have "some complexities".

But the base rule is two adults and any dependents from one home can only visit another household once per day.

The rule also applies to the home being visited, meaning anyone there cannot visit another residence on the same day.

The home rules will remain beyond November 8, when the 25km travel limit and Melbourne's "ring of steel" containing the city from regional Victoria is set to end.

"Ultimately what we tried to do here is just have one - one household - and a second household connecting once a day and then they don't connect inside (the home) with anybody else," the premier said.

"I know it's not a nice thing to say or a nice thing for anyone to acknowledge but the place where you feel safest, your home, is actually the most dangerous environment for the spread of this virus."

Mr Andrews said masks had to be worn outdoors for the time being throughout Victoria, particularly given the "ring of steel" would soon end.

While he said masks are frustrating, they have a significant benefit in helping combat the virus.

"This is one of those trade-offs - if we're going to have that ring of steel gone on the 8th, and we're going to have people travelling into regional Victoria and vice versa, and that's critical for tourism and lots of reasons," he said.

"Masks need to be with us across the whole state .. at least until the end of the year and into next year."

He also said there would be an update on November 8 about when more people can return to their workplaces.

Mr Andrews added there would be more talks with the NSW, SA and Tasmanian governments later this week about the reopening of borders.

The virus death toll was last updated on October 19, with the state toll remaining at 817 and the national figure on 905.

Melbourne's 14-day case average is down to 2.8 and there were six mystery cases from October 11-24.

The corresponding figures for regional Victoria are 0.2 and none.

From midnight Tuesday, all retail outlets will reopen along with cafes, restaurants and pubs, with some restrictions on numbers.

© AAP 2020

Photo: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (AAP Image/James Ross)

Andrews to be grilled at Vic virus inquiry

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Monday, May 11, 2020.  (AAP Image/Daniel Pockett)

Premier Daniel Andrews is set to be grilled over his government's handling of Victoria's second coronavirus wave at a parliamentary inquiry.

Mr Andrews will be the first witness called at the second sitting of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee's COVID-19 Inquiry on Tuesday.

He last appeared at the hearing on May 12, when the state's total number of coronavirus cases was 1509 and just 18 people had died.

Some 228 Victorians have now died from the virus, many of them aged care residents.

There are now more than 7869 active cases in the state, of which 1756 are linked to aged care residents and staff.

Also appearing on Tuesday are Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kym Peake.

Victoria recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday with 19 deaths and 322 new cases.

The latest Victorian victims are a man in his 50s, a woman in her 60s, two men in their 70s, one man and six women in their 80s, and one man and seven women in their 90s.

Fourteen of the 19 deaths are linked to aged care outbreaks.

Monday's case numbers were the lowest since July 29, when the state recorded 295 new cases.

But the premier urged people not to become complacent about the numbers.

"It is really important that we all stay the course on this," Mr Andrews told reporters on Monday.

"(COVID-19) is a wicked enemy, it will do everything it can to wear you down and that is where it absolutely flourishes."

Metropolitan Melbourne has been under tough stage-four restrictions for a week - including an 8pm curfew - while regional Victoria is under stage-three measures.

The lockdowns are in place until September 13.

"It is still very early for us to be trying to measure the impacts of stage four, but we're certainly seeing perhaps some greater stability that is a result of the cumulative impact of stage three," Mr Andrews said.

"It's bought some stability in the numbers, but we've got to drive them down so that we can reopen."

A new outbreak emerged on Monday at the Altona North packaging and distribution facility for meal kit delivery company Marley Spoon.

So far, eight cases are linked to the warehouse.

© AAP 2020

Another four deaths recorded in the Hunter New England


A further four people in the Hunter New England regions passed away overnight after contracting COVID-19. 

Hunter New England Health confirmed the latest deaths included four men from the Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, Midcoast and Tamworth regions.

Three were aged in their 80s and one was aged in their 90s.

There is currently 108 infections being cared for in hospital across the regions while seven are in intensive care. 

It follows as a further 1,035 new cases of COVID-19 was reported throughout the districts in the past 24-hours. 

New South Wales identified 29,830 positive test results (cases) notified to 8pm last night – including 13,763 positive rapid antigen tests (RATs) and 16,067 positive PCR tests.

Of the 13,763 positive RAT results, 11,564 of these positive tests were from the previous seven days.

There are currently 2,850 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital, including 209 people in intensive care, 63 of whom require ventilation.

New South Wales recorded its highest daily deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. 

It included the deaths of 36 people including 22 men and 14 women.

One person was aged in their 40s, two people were aged in their 50s, one person was aged in their 60s, 11 people were in their 70s, 12 people were in their 80s and nine people were in their 90s.

Of the 36 people who died, 33 people had received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and three people were not vaccinated.

Image: 2NM/PowerFM

Another hotel worker COVID positive in Vic

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A hotel quarantine worker at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport has tested positive to coronavirus.

The woman tested positive on Sunday after she completed a shift as an authorised officer at the hotel, the Department of Health confirmed in an alert just before midnight.

She had previously tested negative after a shift on February 4.

The woman is working with contact tracers who have already identified a number of potential exposure sites in Melbourne's west.

Authorities are also contacting Holiday Inn Airport workers and other primary close contacts, who are being told to immediately get tested and then isolate for 14 days.

Testing capacity at nearby exposure sites will be scaled up, with increased opening hours, additional staff and new pop-up sites to be confirmed.

It comes after a hotel quarantine worker at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt tested positive for the infectious UK strain of the virus last week.

About 1100 of the 26-year-old's close and secondary contacts are self-isolating, with 70 per cent returning a negative test result.

"They are the real heroes of this response over the past few days - stepping up, doing the right thing," Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters on Sunday.

He said it could be at least a week before authorities are confident they have contained that outbreak.

The Grand Hyatt was one of three hotels used as part of the Australian Open's quarantine program, and the breach forced more than 500 tennis players and their entourage to isolate as casual contacts of the infected worker.

All eventually tested negative and were released.

The tournament begins at Melbourne Park on Monday.

Meanwhile, a potential case of guest-to-guest transmission at the Park Royal hotel was also identified last week.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville, who is responsible for the quarantine program, has confirmed a ventilation review of all hotels has been initiated and face shields made mandatory among workers.


Visitors to the following venues at the specified times must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days:

Friday, February 5

* Marciano's Cakes, Maidstone, 9.45am - 10.25am

* Dan Murphy's, Sunshine, 5.50pm - 6.30pm

Saturday, February 6

* Off Ya Tree Watergardens, Taylors Lakes, 1.17pm - 1.52pm

* Dan Murphy's, Sunshine, 6.50pm - 7.30pm

© AAP 2021

Photo: Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley (AAP Image/Erik Anderson)

Another returned traveller tests positive to COVID-19 in the Hunter New England Health District


Another returned traveller has tested positive to COVID-19 in the Hunter New England Health District. 

NSW Health reported there had been 20 new positive cases of the virus in the 24 hours to 8pm last night including four cases in hotel quarantine after they'd returned to Australia from being overseas. 

The new case for the HNE Health District is a 34 year old man, who is a returned overseas traveller from the Middle East, and is now in hotel quarantine in Sydney.

There are now 283 confirmed cases for the district since the pandemic began.

“The Sydney outbreaks particularly the one that started at Crossroads which is subsequently spread is a real reason for concern and we would strongly advise anybody from the Hunter New England region to rather stay at home then visiting Sydney at this stage unless absolutely necessary," said Public Health Physician Dr David Durrheim.

"Lots of lessons can come out of the Sydney experience particularly the fact that this virus if you give it half a chance can spread very very rapidly and even from asymptomatic people in the presymptomatic stage before they develop symptoms."

"So, our only defenses are really standing back, making sure that we take real care about our hand washing and not taking colds or coughs into the community and spreading the virus,"

"Now the important thing is if you've been tested in the past, a single negative test doesn't mean that if you develop new symptoms that you’re COVID free. It's very important to again go and get yourself tested and the good news is that the new testing regime which includes a deep nasal swab rather than a nasopharyngeal swab swap is much more comfortable," he said.

"So we encourage anybody develops even mild symptoms, the scratchy throat and runny nose a mild fever, a cough, get yourself tested, make sure you don't have COVID-19 and let's make sure we keep up community safe against this virus," said Dr Durrheim. 

Ardern pleads for calm after COVID return

In this image from a video, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Ardern said Tuesday that authorities have found four cases of the coronavirus in one Auckland household from an unknown source, the first reported cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days. (TVNZ via AP)

In this image from a video, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (TVNZ via AP)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appealed for calm from Aucklanders heading back into lockdown after a clutch of new COVID-19 cases were identified.

Four south Auckland family members have tested positive to the deadly virus on Tuesday, prompting the return of emergency measures.

As of noon on Wednesday, Aucklanders will be required to stay home unless they are conducting essential work or essential personal movement - such as supermarket shopping, health care or exercise.

"One of the most important lessons we've learned from overseas is the need to go hard and go early and stamp out flare-ups to avoid the risk of wider outbreak," Ms Ardern said in a late-night press conference on Tuesday.

"As disruptive it is, a strong and rapid health response remains the best long term economic response.

"In line with our precautionary approach, we will be asking Aucklanders to take swift action with us."

The lockdown has been announced for 60 hours - from noon on Wednesday to midnight on Friday - to allow health officials to contact trace, isolate potential cases and conduct mass testing.

However, the short-term lockdown still prompted Kiwis to head out to shops; within the hour Radio NZ reported hundreds of people queuing outside supermarkets.

"There will be ample stock on the shelves, there is no reason to go out and make any purchases this evening," Ms Ardern said.

"I know that this information will be very difficult to receive," she said.

"We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again but we had also prepared for it.

"As a team we have also been here before. We know if we have a plan and stick to it we can work our way through very difficult and unknown situations."

While Aucklanders will be largely shut off from the rest of New Zealand, where social distancing and gathering caps will be enforced, all New Zealanders would have felt flummoxed by the news.

Psychologist Jacqui Maguire said Kiwis would be experiencing a range of emotions, including "anxiety, fear, anger and disappointment".

"Take that disappointment and use it as motivation to stick to the rules," she said.

"Turning away from or suppressing your emotional reactions will only intensify them.

"Hold compassion and kindness for yourself and others as you adjust, reach out and offer support to those around you.

"Take one day at a time, practise your wellbeing strategies and hold the hope that we will get through this together."

© AAP 2020

Ardern to deport non-quarantiners


In this Friday, March 13, 2020, photo, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Christchurch, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Mark Baker) 

New Zealand will deport visitors who choose not to self-isolate on arrival and will clamp down on public gatherings in fresh efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued advice to end gatherings of more than 500 people to maintain public health standards.

As of 1am on Monday, any arrivals to New Zealand soil - except from Pacific nations - need to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Despite New Zealand's reputation as a hospitable destination for tourists, Ms Ardern issued a warning to anyone considering non-compliance, saying "Frankly, you are not welcome and you should leave before you are deported".

New Zealand recorded no new positive tests on Monday and has just eight confirmed cases and two probable cases.

Health officials expect that number to rise starkly despite the self-isolation measures in place.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson will announce a stimulus package - expected to be of historic proportions - targeted towards businesses and maintaining jobs.

© AAP 2020

Ardern, Morrison writing COVID rules in NZ


The Australian and New Zealand leaders say they'll write new pages in the COVID-19 rulebook when they meet for formal talks on Monday.

Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern are in Queenstown for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders Forum.

Mr Morrison is making a whistlestop trip: he's in Aotearoa for just under 24 hours, and the actual talks will go for less than three hours.

The pair will start their day by laying a wreath at the Arrowtown War Memorial, before settling into their policy agenda.

Both have dropped hints about what will be discussed.

China is a major talking point.

New Zealand has signalled it will join Australia in a World Trade Organisation dispute with China, after the superpower levied tariffs against Australia on barley.

"We rely on the rules-based trading system to provide a secure and predictable global trading environment for everyone so we will act to uphold it," trade minister Damien O'Connor said.

The move is a sign that the two trans-Tasman allies, both of which are heavily trade dependent on China, are unified.

Mr Morrison said the Australia-New Zealand partnership "will be even more vital in the years ahead as we both confront an increasingly challenging geostrategic environment".

"These talks will be an important opportunity for us to continue our efforts to support an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific," he added.

Mr Morrison has referenced a possible biosecurity deal being announced on Monday.

Both leaders are expected to discuss their rollout of COVID-19 vaccine in the Pacific after committing 7.5 million doses to the developing region.

Addressing business leaders on Sunday night, Ms Ardern said she was most eager to talk about the next phase of COVID-19 planning.

"The path that New Zealand and Australia carved (during COVID-19) was unique, and it continues to be unique," Ms Ardern said.

"That however means there is no rulebook for us.

"We're both looking forward to the next day of talks, that next stage of writing the rulebook.

"As we both grapple with the challenge of how we safely re-open ourselves up to the world, whilst holding on to all the gains we've made, those are conversations that I would love to be able to have together - to write that rule book together."

© AAP 2021

ARTC will continue rolling out maintenance work with a number of COVID-19 precautions to ensure the essential service continues to run


The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will continue rolling out maintenance works with additional precautions to ensure the essential service continues to run. 

The ARTC said they have significantly scaled-back its previously planned maintenance shutdown of the Hunter Valley rail network this week, with a focus on delivering works essential to ensuring the rail network’s safety and reliability for the community and freight supply that relies on the network’s operation.

A range of measures are being implemented to ensure the main works continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Limiting workers to be those employees and contractors based in the Hunter Valley rather than the typical ‘surge’ workforce that can come from intra and interstate. This scales back the workforce by more than 500 people
- Ensuring teams carry out their work in smaller groups and in separate locations across the network
- De-scaling the total scope of works to focus on essential reliability focused tasks only.
- ARTC will also continue ensure all our staff practice social distancing, minimise interactions with the broader community, conduct communications and briefings with 4m2 and regular health and hygiene check-ups.

Group Executive of the Hunter Valley Wayne Johnson said the Hunter Valley Rail network plays a vital role in the transport and supply chain supporting not only the local economy, but the state and Australian economies.

Around half of the trains on the rail network are passenger services, and ARTC also manages the safe transit of valuable export commodities like coal, grain and other products. The transport of regional freight and interstate goods trains are also served by the Hunter rail network.

“The freight and transport industry has been identified as an essential service by the State and Federal Government – this is a responsibility the Australian Rail Track Corporation takes very seriously, and we are working hard to ensure we balance the challenge of ensuring the safety and reliability of a critical transport network, alongside our obligations to meet and respond to the current public health challenge,” Wayne Johnson said.

”It is critical that we continue to meet the need of delivering goods, products and people – but we are acutely aware of balancing the demands of running an extensive rail network, with the health and welfare of our people and the communities in which we operate.”

“As Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread and disrupt people’s daily lives, we have implemented a range of preventative measures to ensure the safety of our team and the community, while endeavouring to ensure reliable network operations can be sustained for critical freight movements in coming weeks.”

Wayne Johnson added that the measures are being assessed daily and the type of work being undertaken still requires a shutdown of the network to be carried out as safely as possible.

“The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is an incredibly challenging set of circumstances for us all and it’s clear that this period of uncertainty is going to remain for some time. “We thank our customers, the community, commuters, and motorists across the network for their understanding of the need to carry out this critical maintenance activity to assure the integrity of the network for coming weeks” he said.

“We remind residents to remain vigilant as there may be more vehicle movements in and out of work sites in areas around the work sites and the rail corridor.”

Alternative public transport will be provided for impacted passenger train customers, and details and schedules can be found at the Transport for NSW website.

Image credit: ARTC

AstraZeneca vaccine approved in Australia


Australia's medical regulator has approved a second coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for millions of jabs to be administered in coming months.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration on Tuesday approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 18 and over, with decisions about those aged over 65 to be made on a case-by-case basis.

Initial supplies of the vaccine will be imported into Australia from overseas before 50 million doses are manufactured locally.

TGA boss John Skerritt said the vaccine was recommended for all ages.

"AstraZeneca gives us a vaccine that can be used in major facilities, in primary care through GPs and potentially through pharmacy practices," he told reporters in Canberra.

"Having a vaccine accessible in a country as wide and brown as ours is important."

Elderly patients over 65 years of age showed a strong immune response in clinical trials, but there were not enough participants to conclusively determine efficacy for that group.

There are no safety concerns associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The provisional approval is valid for two years and means it can now be legally supplied in Australia.

It comes a day after an initial 142,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in the country with the first shots to start from Monday.

AstraZeneca has been found to have an efficacy rate of 82 per cent when two doses are administered 12 weeks apart.

Pfizer has recorded efficacy rates of up to 95 per cent after two doses with a 21-day gap.

"Frankly, there's not a difference when you go into the real world whether something is 82 per cent of 90 per cent," Professor Skerritt said.

"I would emphasise a lot of the discussion on numbers is not particularly relevant. What is important is to get vaccines into people's arms."

Most opinion polls show about four in five Australians are willing to be vaccinated but there remains lingering trepidation about the vaccines among pockets of people.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for all Australians to listen to official medical advice, saying the country boasted the world's best experts.

"The same experts that you've trusted with your own children are the same people that you can trust when it comes to this vaccine," he said.

He said he was entrusting experts with the health and safety of his family, including his mother and mother-in-law.

Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler said the vaccine rollout should already be under way and called for more details from the government.

"How will the online booking system work? How will the vaccines be distributed to the states? When will we start to see jabs actually in people's arms?" he said.

Hotel quarantine remains the subject of national debate after two billionaire businessmen offered to run regional isolation centres in Victoria and Queensland.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is looking at building a quarantine facility either at Avalon or Tullamarine airport.

Mr Morrison is prepared to work with state governments on new isolation hubs but insists any new facility would supplement hotels.

The proposals are in response to quarantine breaches triggering snap lockdowns in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Victoria recorded two cases of local transmission on Tuesday, the fourth day of a five-day lockdown.

© AAP 2021

AstraZeneca vaccine trial volunteer dies

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Brazilian health authority Anvisa says a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University has died but adds that the trial will continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment "there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial".

Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported that the volunteer had been given a placebo and not the trial vaccine, citing unnamed sources.

Anvisa provided no further details, citing medical confidentiality of those involved in trials.

AstraZeneca declined immediate comment.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which is helping coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil, separately said the volunteer was Brazilian without revealing where the person lived.

AstraZeneca shares fell 1.7 per cent.

The federal government has plans to purchase the UK vaccine and produce it at its biomedical research center FioCruz in Rio de Janeiro while a competing vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd is being tested by Sao Paulo state's research centre Butantan Institute.

Brazil has the second deadliest outbreak of coronavirus, with more than 154,000 killed by COVID-19, following the United States.

It has the third largest number of cases, with more than 5.2 million infected, after the United States and India.

© RAW 2020

Aussie experts 'unlocking' COVID-19 cure


Australian scientists are using a massive X-ray machine to map the molecular structure of COVID-19 to help find a vaccine for the virus.

Experts at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne - which is about the size of a football field - capture atomic-scale 3D pictures of coronavirus.

The images are being shared with researchers across the world, who hope to use the information to develop drugs that bind to the virus and stop it growing.

"You need to know what the protein looks like so you can design a drug to attach to it," Australian Synchrotron director Andrew Peele said in a statement on Tuesday.

"It's like designing a key for a lock, you need to know the dimensions of the keyhole."

The synchrotron is the largest particle accelerator in the Southern Hemisphere and produces light a million times brighter than the sun to capture clear 3D images of atoms and molecules.

"Using our technology, within five minutes you can understand why a drug does or doesn't work in attaching to a COVID-19 protein," Professor Peele said.

Dozens of samples have arrived at the synchrotron from across the country and Asia.

Federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the work would support research to find a solution to COVID-19.

© AAP 2020

Aussie ICU beds over capacity in a week

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

There are calls to increase the number of intensive care unit beds at Australian hospitals, amid worries coronavirus cases could exceed capacity next week.

A new study published by the Medical Journal of Australia compared real data of the infection in Italy to forecast how many Australians will need an intensive care unit bed in the coming weeks.

"ICU capacity will be exceeded at around 22,000 COVID-19 cases sometime around April 5 if public health measures fail to curb the rate of growth," the study concludes.

Australia has around 2200 ICU beds currently, the MJA study says.

"Over the coming months it's going to take courage, brains and a concerted unified effort to manage the infection," Professor Nick Talley said.

"While the results reported may represent a worst-case scenario and may not come to pass, we must better prepare, now," he wrote.

Calls to urgently increase hospital capacity have been voiced repeatedly over the last week.

Swiss doctor Professor Paolo Ferrari criticised the government for stepping in too late to stop the spread of the virus and wanred about the need to increase ICU beds.

Under his advice, the Swiss region of Ticino grew its intensive care capacity ten days before it even had one positive case, turning different locations into coronavirus-dedicated hospitals.

Professor Talley said that in order to take action, "bureaucrats must step to the sidelines."

"We will also require our health system leadership to understand at a time like this the structure in every hospital should be a military-like command-and-control one," he said.

© AAP 2020

Aussie options to flee the US are closing

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Australians have been warned that time and flight options are running out if they want to flee the US as the coronavirus spreads across the globe.

Chelsey Martin, Australia's consulate-general in Los Angeles, issued a stark message on Thursday to the "tens of thousands" of Australians who live within her jurisdiction in America's southwest states.

Qantas and Virgin Australia are about to cut flights from the US to Australia while United Airlines will have a limited schedule.

"Whatever your circumstances, given the escalating COVID-19 crisis I wanted to reach out and encourage any Australians wishing to go home to do so as soon as possible," Ms Martin said in a video message posted on the LA consulate's Twitter page.

"After the end of this week, commercial flight options will be incredibly limited.

"Qantas' final scheduled flight is out of LAX (Los Angeles) on Friday, the 27th of March.

"Virgin's final scheduled flight out of LAX is on Sunday the 29th of March.

"United Airlines has advised us that they will continue with a limited flight schedule from San Francisco to Sydney in the weeks ahead, but the situation is changing rapidly and I would encourage anyone who is still deciding whether or not they would like to return to Australia, not to delay taking that decision.

"These are unprecedented and anxious times for many."

Ms Martin said the LA consulate would remain open "around the clock" to provide consular assistance.

Australians were also being urged to follow the consulate on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for information updates.

© AAP 2020

Aussies import Trump's virus 'cure' drug

Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate tablets with coronavirus written in background

Aussies import Trump's virus 'cure' drug (Bigstock)

Thousands of hydroxychloroquine tablets have been seized at Australian borders after it was touted by US President Donald Trump as a potential cure for coronavirus.

The Australian Border Force says there has been a surge in unauthorised imports of the prescription-only anti-malarial drug.

Dozens of consignments containing a total of more than 6000 tablets have been intercepted at international gateways since January.

All have been referred to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for assessment, the ABF says.

President Trump last month described hydroxychloroquine as a potential "game-changer" in the battle against COVID-19.

But the TGA has warned the drug poses serious risks to patients, including irreversible eye damage, severe depletion of blood sugar and cardiac toxicity which could lead to sudden heart attacks.

ABF acting commander Susan Drennan says the force is maintaining a strong presence during the pandemic.

"Anyone considering further unauthorised imports will be wasting their money," she said on Friday.

"Whether it's individuals wanting to self-prescribe, or criminals aiming to sell the drug on the black market, our officers have the technology, skills and innovative processes to detect and disrupt their illegal importations of pharmaceuticals such as this."

© AAP 2020

Aussies stashing cash during pandemic

money unsplash

Australians weren't just stockpiling toilet paper during the COVID-19 crisis - they have also been hoarding crisp new banknotes.

While consumer spending has fallen after the panic-buying splurge in March, and many retailers are refusing cash payments for hygiene reasons, banknotes have been stashed away in homes and wallets more than ever.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been meeting spikes in demand for banknotes from commercial banks and their customers, despite reporting last week that use of cash had reduced during the pandemic.

The demand for notes for the year to last Thursday rose by more than nine per cent, going against the trend of the past couple of years.

Up to six per cent of that increase - worth about $5 billion - has happened since the mid-March share market convulsions.

The RBA revealed in its April financial stability report that cash withdrawals from banks increased in the second half of March.

"This included a small number of customers making very large withdrawals - more than $100,000, and in some cases into the millions of dollars," it said, adding that the elevated demand had since abated.

But a banking system insider says there's been another spike in demand in the past two weeks, not quite as big as in March, coming from banks and their customers.

"We are seeing banks are getting extra cash in anticipation of COVID restrictions easing, and retailers, pubs and clubs wanting their floats back, while people aren't making as many deposits," he told AAP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Also when people are more uncertain about things they tend to hold more liquidity around them. No one's suggesting there's any concern with the banks - people just do that."

The use of cash has fallen steadily to 27 per cent of all payments late last year from 69 per cent in 2007, according to RBA statistics.

But the pandemic may not bring Australia closer to being a cashless society.

The Royal Australian Mint says coin production for general circulation has decreased slightly during the pandemic compared to the same period last year.

"We believe that Australians using contactless payments may increase post COVID-19 but this will not lead to a permanent shift to a cashless society, at least not in the near future," the mint said in a statement.

© AAP 2020

Aussies won't be locked down for Christmas

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Most Australians won't be locked down over Christmas after the NSW government eased coronavirus restrictions in Sydney.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says Sydneysiders will be allowed to host limited visitors over Christmas, after just eight new locally-acquired cases were reported in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.

The NSW changes mean that people in every state and territory - who aren't in quarantine or isolation - can gather with friends or family over the festive break.

"They're modest tweaks and modest changes to account for the fact that everybody has had a very difficult year and some people's stress levels and mental health capacity is already at breaking point," Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Wednesday.

Restrictions for regional NSW will remain unchanged, while up to 10 people and unlimited children aged under 12 will be allowed to gather on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day across Greater Sydney.

Northern beaches residents north of the Narrabeen Bridge can host five people from the local area, while those in the south will be able to host 10 visitors from anywhere.

Seven of the cases reported on Wednesday were linked to the northern beaches cluster, but an eighth is a contact of an infected quarantine nurse.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said genomic testing has linked those cases with the cluster, but authorities are still trying to find the person who spread the virus to the pair.

She also warned that a Qantas staff member had flown into Darwin from overseas and then taken a domestic flight to Sydney while infected last Friday.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid welcomed the cautious approach, but said going hard and early on restrictions is the best way to tackle outbreaks.

He said the NSW government should consider cancelling New Year's Eve fireworks to avoid crowds gathering.

"We all need to be extra vigilant during this holiday period to the stop the spread of COVID-19, especially as at this time of year when people travel, attend events, and spend time in close proximity with family and friends," Dr Khorshid said in a statement.

Victoria reported no new cases after a 15-year-old girl contracted the virus in Sydney before driving home to Melbourne with her mother.

Four other family members have tested negative to the virus and are isolating together at their home.

With no other cases of community transmission in the rest of the country, Australians are set to celebrate a relatively normal Christmas.

Up to 30 people can gather in Victoria, while 50 people are allowed to get together in Queensland, South Australia and the ACT provided they keep a 1.5 metre distance.

Tasmanians and people in the NT can have up 100 people around for Christmas, while in Western Australia there is no limit.

However, every state and territory is keeping their borders closed to Greater Sydney, with WA shut to all of NSW due to the outbreak.

Ms Berejiklian's criticism of state leaders' decisions also means there's little hope of a Christmas truce about the borders.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the border closures were based on health advice about the Sydney outbreak, which the NSW government was responsible for.

"If there hadn't been the cluster outbreak in the northern beaches, well... everybody would have been seeing their family and friends over this Christmas-New Year period," she told reporters.

"But I think it's a bit rich for NSW to start blaming Queensland and Victoria and whichever other state and territory she (she) wants to blame.

"This has happened in NSW, it has happened in the northern beaches, and we wish them all the very best, but we do not want our lifestyle compromised."

Sydneysiders who do decide to travel interstate must undergo mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine on arrival.

Some have decided to do that, and with many people still returning from abroad, hundreds of Australians will spend Christmas in hotel quarantine or self-isolation around the country.

There are also tens of thousands of Australians who still remain stuck overseas, nine months after the pandemic began.

© AAP 2020

By Mirelle/

Aust firm developing 15-minute virus test

Coronavirus latest news2

 A 15-minute COVID-19 which could be quicker than a pregnancy test is being developed by researchers in Queensland.

Biotechnology firm Xing Technologies is working on the test, called XavTrap, after being allocated $1.5 million in Queensland government funding for its research.

Researcher Dr Yadveer Grewal explained how the test works.

A cheap and simple baker's yeast is coated with hook-like particles to trap the virus just like velcro.

That yeast is then combined with strip technology used in pregnancy tests to rapidly determine whether a person has the virus.

"That way someone could have a nasal swab taken, apply it to a strip and within five to 15 minutes, depending on how infectious they are, get a result then and there," he told Nine's Today program.

Currently, there's a risk high-quality nasal swab lab tests can produce double negatives.

But Dr Yadveer said his test, called XavTrap, could still be effective even though it was less sensitive.

The United States Food and Drug Administration, which is also backing the project with $US1 million, believes the sensitivity and price of tests can be lowered if people using them get tested more frequently, he added.

Dr Yadveer used the example of doctors and nurses using Xing's test every time they started a hospital shift and getting a fast result.

"Testing yourself every couple of days is about equivalent to having a once-off high-quality specific test from a lab," he said.

Another difference between XavTrap and other tests is that it discriminates between live and dead viruses, so it's less likely to result in false-positives.

Xing Technologies is hoping to have its new COVID-19 test on the market by the end of 2020 and also eventually hopes to use XavTrap to test for other infectious viruses like dengue fever, and even cancer

"Ideally then, we are able to manufacture immediately by the end of the year and distribute it," Dr Yadveer said.

"Because of our technology is easily programmable we have other lead candidates we are exploring, and they can come online early next year."

© AAP 2020

Aust Open qualifying hit by coronavirus

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American Denis Kudla has tested positive for COVID-19 at the Australian Open qualifying tournament in Doha and has been sent to a quarantine hotel.

Fourth-seeded Kudla downed Moroccan Elliot Benchetrit 6-4 6-3 but the match ended in controversy.

The positive COVID-19 text result reportedly came through with Kudla leading 5-3 in the second, and according to Benchetrit they had to finish the game in progress.

Because Kudla, the world No.114, won that game which wrapped up the match, he was declared the winner.

If Benchetrit had won the game, it would have been declared a walkover in his favour.

"At 5-3, they got the result. So to sum up: if I'd won that game at 5-3 to make it 5-4, I'd have qualified for the second round," Benchetrit said on Instagram.

In another blow, Benchetrit may also have to isolate if he is deemed a close contact.

However, it was good news for teenage Queenslander Dane Sweeny, who was supposed to face Kudla in his second match, but instead moves straight into the final round of qualifying - which is being held offshore for the first time.

Benchetrit told the Tennis Majors website that players are bizarrely permitted to play before getting their test results, which have taken longer than expected.

"The concept of a test is to have the information up front, to not put the linespeople, the opponent or - quite simply - everyone the person might meet before or after their match in danger," he said.

"There also are lucky losers who are waiting for a forfeit to be able to play, who travelled there for nothing.

"The draw is compromised; there will be a player in the third round of qualifications having played just one match.

"That's also the problem."

Benchetrit believes Kudla must have contracted the coronavirus in Doha, given this would have been his third test since arriving in Qatar.

© AAP 2021

Photo: By Leonard Zhukovsky/

Australia approves COVID-19 booster shot

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Aged care residents are expected to be the first people to receive a coronavirus vaccine booster shot after the medical regulator gave the green light.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration on Wednesday gave provisional approval for Australians 18 and over to receive a top-up dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would finalise plans for the expanded rollout within the next week.

"We'll be starting with those in the aged care facilities like we did with the vaccine program," he told the Nine Network.

People with severely compromised immune systems are already eligible for a third jab but the latest advice paves the way for the general population to receive another shot.

The TGA recommended the booster shot be given at least six months after a person's second dose.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will provide further advice on boosters to the government shortly.

Leading epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws said third shots were proven to work well.

"There's fantastic evidence now that your booster shot really does supercharge your immune system to get that vaccine efficacy up high," she told the Nine Network.

'There are many people who will benefit from this."

© AAP 2021

Photo: Tobias Arhelger/

Australia pressing on with virus inquiry

Chinese paramilitary police wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard along a street near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. China, in a step toward returning to business as normal, announced Wednesday that its previously postponed national legislature session would be held in late May. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Chinese paramilitary police wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard along a street near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) 

Australia is pushing ahead with calls for a review into the origins of coronavirus despite it straining diplomatic relations with China.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has indicated the review is picking up steam.

"There is a very broad range of understanding that there is definitely a need for an independent and transparent review," she told ABC radio on Friday.

"We have been very gratified by the engagement we've had in recent days and in the last week, with the prime minister's calls and my own."

Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye has floated a consumer boycott of Australian products in retaliation to the review.

But Senator Payne isn't perturbed.

"What we do need to do is to put that stake in the ground, to say we need to have an independent and transparent review," she said.

Conservative MPs have blasted mining magnate Twiggy Forrest for inviting a Chinese diplomat to a ministerial press conference unannounced.

Mr Forrest said his invitation to Victoria's Chinese consul-general Long Zhou to address the media was a gesture of appreciation and friendship.

Mr Long is reportedly a former top cyber official for Beijing, The Australian reports.

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said Chinese diplomats had been "downright despicable and menacing" since Australia started pressing the case for an investigation.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the media conference had overshadowed the good work of the Forrests.

Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop says it's time for calm and quiet diplomacy.

"So that we can understand more about this virus, how it got into human populations and whether decisions could have been taken that would have prevented its spread," she told the ABC.

However, she said China had a responsibility to support an independent global investigation if it did not intend to carry out its own inquiry to help the rest of the world learn what happened.

Australian National University's Andrew Carr warned attempts by Australia to rebuke China could distract from calls for an inquiry into COVID-19's origins.

Dr Carr told AAP the current spat was minor in the scheme of things but Australia shouldn't let it slide.

A serious inquiry into coronavirus' orgins could help counter conspiracy theories and racist attacks.

But Australia was well positioned to manage how diplomats inside Australia are supposed to act, he said.

© AAP 2020

Australia signs global virus vaccine deal

White bottle with Coronavirus Vaccine text on blue background

Australia has signed onto a global coronavirus agreement in the hope of gaining early access to dozens of potential vaccines.

The deal guarantees Australia access to enough vaccine doses for up to 50 per cent of the population.

Australia has committed an initial $123 million to be part of the purchasing pool.

"It means that we'll have access to any of potentially dozens and dozens of different vaccines that are being developed," federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday.

"Australia has contributed, along with over 80 other countries, to have that right."

The deal is in addition to agreements Australia has already struck with vaccine developers at Oxford University and the University of Queensland.

"It's about making sure that we have additional protection, additional access, additional support," Mr Hunt said.

"It's also a facility which means that the developing nations, whether it's in Africa or Asia or Latin America, will be guaranteed access.

"And that protects Australia by protecting the world, as well as doing the right humanitarian thing."

The COVAX facility was established by the World Health Organisation and other international agencies.

It aims to ensure equitable access to safe and effective coronavirus vaccines.

This is Australia's second commitment to the facility after donating $80 million in August to provide doses to developing countries.

As well as allocations for individual countries, 10 per cent of manufactured doses will be retained to respond to sporadic outbreaks across the globe.

© AAP 2020



Australia will fund WHO but demand reform

epa08364179 The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, 15 April 2020. US President Donald Trump announced that he has instructed his administration to halt funding to the WHO. The American president criticizes the World Health Organization for its mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic Covid-19.  EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI

Australia will fund WHO but demand reform (EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI)

Australia will continue funding the World Health Organisation despite arguing it has made "significant mistakes" during the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government declared the pandemic two weeks before the WHO, and was criticised for closing its borders to Chinese travellers.

Australia has also admonished the WHO for endorsing China's decision to reopen wet markets, which were the likely cause of the COVID-19 and other diseases like SARS and swine flu.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia would leverage of its membership of the WHO to push for reform.

"It does important work in our region and we want to see that continue," he told ABC radio on Thursday.

"The practical solutions provided by the WHO locally are much more beneficial than some of the political decisions they have taken centrally."

A group of Australian professors who work at centres that collaborate with the WHO have criticised the United States for withdrawing funding from the United Nations body.

"To remove this funding suddenly and in the middle of a pandemic seems rather callous and introspective," the 19 professors wrote in a joint statement.

"We are unanimous in thinking that this defunding of WHO is a global health disaster (that) will result in thousands of additional and potentially preventable deaths from COVID-19."

© AAP 2020

Australia's vaccine rollout plans in chaos

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Australia is facing a major delay in its coronavirus vaccine rollout after new bombshell advice plunged the program into chaos.

Health supremos have recommended not administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 50 because of an extremely rare but serious blood clot side effect.

The advice destroys the Morrison government's October rollout target with the immunisation effort not likely to be completed until 2022.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the program would be recalibrated over the weekend as officials come to grips with the new development.

"The overall impact of this on the timetable of the rollout, it is far too early," he told reporters just minutes after receiving the advice on Thursday night.

Australia was relying on AstraZeneca jabs to the backbone of coronavirus immunisations through 50 million locally produced doses.

Labor has lambasted the government for failing to secure more deals with other vaccines successfully being rolled out to millions of people worldwide.

Opposition frontbencher Kristina Keneally labelled the development a debacle and a negative game-changer.

"This just means Australians are going to wait months and months, possibly even another year, before life resembles anything like normal," she told ABC radio on Friday.

"That failure sits on Scott Morrison's head."

More people under 50 will now receive the Pfizer jab with health workers pushed to the front of the queue.

But Australia has a contract for only 20 million doses - enough for 10 million people - and less than one million have been delivered.

The government's immunisation advisory group made the cautious decision after blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine were mostly associated with younger people.

The reaction has appeared in four to six people for every million to receive the jab, with a 25 per cent death rate for people who develop the syndrome.

A man in his 40s who was admitted to hospital in Melbourne is the only person in Australia to develop the problem.

People who have already received their dose of AstraZeneca have been given the green light for a second jab with clotting only detected after the first shot.

Others under 50 could also be administered the jab if consultation with a doctor determined benefit outweighed risk.

AstraZeneca noted Australia's decision factored in having no community transmission of the virus.

"Overall, regulatory agencies have reaffirmed the vaccine offers a high-level of protection against all severities of COVID-19 and that these benefits continue to far outweigh the risks," it said in a statement.

The advice compounds the federal government's headaches with the rollout already under fire for lagging behind most other developed nations.

While 51 million doses of the promising Novavax vaccine could be injected into the effort from October, that jab is yet to gain approval anywhere in the world.

© AAP 2021

Image: Prime Minister Scott Morrison (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Australia's virus inquiry gathers momentum


Australia's virus inquiry gathers momentum (Pexels)

Australia has received international backing for an independent coronavirus inquiry as trade tensions with China come under heavy strain.

More than 60 countries including Russia, Indonesia, India, Japan, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and all 27 European Union member states have co-sponsored the motion.

The draft resolution calls for impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international response to the pandemic.

It doesn't mention China, but Australia's push for the inquiry has angered Beijing, which has threatened a huge tariff on barley and blocked some beef imports.

Health Minister Greg Hunt will represent Australia at the virtual World Health Assembly meeting on Monday night.

A vote is expected in the early hours of Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the inquiry was about investigating what the world could learn from the devastating pandemic.

"That's the responsible thing to do when 300,000 souls have lost their lives around the world," he told the ABC on Monday.

Mr Littleproud said his Chinese counterpart had indicated he would not discuss trade issues in the near future.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has not received a return call from his opposite number.

Australia isn't ruling out taking China to the World Trade Organisation over the 80 per cent tariff on barley.

Mr Littleproud said he would continue to make the case to China that exporters were not dumping product.

"We will prosecute that case on behalf of Australian exporters," he said.

"If those that we're prosecuting against don't understand it, we'll take it to an umpire for them to understand."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus as completely unremarkable.

But China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at foreign politicians for politicising the pandemic.

Beijing's man in Canberra raised the prospect of consumer boycotts of Australian products because of the push for an inquiry.

Since then, the barley threat has surfaced, while four major Australian abattoirs have been blocked from sending product to China.

© AAP 2020

Australia's virus tally pushes 2000


Australia's coronavirus tally could hit 2000 cases by the end of the day as authorities develop new rules about who can get tested.

NSW and Victoria reported 205 new cases on Tuesday morning, taking the national tally to 1914. Australia's death toll stands at seven, all but one in NSW.

Other states are yet to add their new cases. They include Queensland which recorded 60 fresh positive results on Monday - it's highest daily increase so far.

The World Health Organisation warned overnight that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, with more than 300,000 cases now confirmed and thousand upon thousands of deaths.

It took 67 days from the first reported of the virus to hit 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000, and just four days for the third 100,000.

WHO says it's still possible to change the trajectory of the pandemic, urging countries to adopt rigorous testing and contact-tracing strategies.

Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says testing criteria for coronavirus will change as a result of sweeping travel bans that have lessened the risk of imported disease.

Current rules require tests for people who fell ill within two weeks of returning from overseas, or had contact with such a person.

But Prof Kelly has indicated a rule change that's more focused on community transmission, telling the ABC the traveller component would be removed.

"There will be announcements about that over the coming days," he told the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, NSW reported 149 new cases, taking its tally to 818. Victoria added another 56 people to its list of infections, taking the state tally to 411.

Queensland has recorded 319 cases since the outbreak began, but won't reveal how many new cases it's had in the past 24 hours until later on Tuesday.

In Western Australia, police and Australian Border Force officers will ensure passengers do not leave a cruise ship that has docked at Fremantle Port.

Premier Mark McGowan says no one will be allowed ashore while the vessel refuels before heading for Dubai, amid fears at least 250 peope are suffering an upper respiratory illness.

The operator of the ship, which left Italy in January, has denied reports of widespread illness, but Mr McGowan isn't taking any chances after dozens of people with coronavirus disembarked from a cruise ship in Sydney.

Political and health authorities are ramping up the message for people to stay home and implement social distancing, as states including WA and Queensland announce more cash to help workers and businesses survive.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state is now at a critical stage, and people needed to self-isolate where necessary, stay home if they can, and social distance.

"This is a difficult time for us, but I am confident NSW will control as much as we can the spread of this virus, so long as everyone steps up and does what they need to do," she told reporters on Tuesday.

She warned that people would face harsh penalties if they were told to self-isolate but didn't.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott has called the decision to let passengers leave the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney was a "monumental stuff up". At least 50 people from that vessel have the virus.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made another appeal for people to grasp the gravity of the situation.

"Turn your TV on - have a look at Italy, have a look at Spain, have a look at France," Mr Andrews told Triple M Melbourne on Tuesday.

Some states have closed their borders while others are tussling over school closures amid fears the pandemic could affect Australia for months to come.

Border controls are now in place for South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, with only freight and essential travel exempted. Queensland will close its borders on Wednesday.

Schools remain open in South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland.

NSW is also keeping schools open but Ms Berejiklian has told parents to keep their children home if possible.

Victoria and the ACT have moved to early holidays to give schools time to set up online and distance education arrangements, while private schools are making up their minds.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Australians face six months of severe but necessary restrictions, with pubs, bars, nightclubs, cinemas and other indoor venues forced to close.

Supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies remain open.

He also warned of a dire year ahead for many, including thousands of Australians who have or are expected to lose their jobs.

Huge queues began forming early on Tuesday outside Centrelink offices as many people who lost their jobs on Monday apply for welfare payments.

The MyGov online portal also crashed on Monday after it was overwhelmed by jobless Australians.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston says no one could have predicted the spike in demand, even though the government shut down entire sectors of the economy.

The government has since asked people trying to register with Centrelink to wait a few days.

"We are asking for patience and calm... What we saw yesterday was heartbreaking," Senator Ruston said.

© AAP 2020

Australian economy projected to fall 6.7pc

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Australia is expected to suffer its biggest economic blow since the Great Depression of the 1930s, with unemployment to remain high for at least two years beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund expects the Australian economy to shrink by 6.7 per cent this year, more than double the global rate.

Unemployment is tipped to rise to an average of 7.6 per cent in 2020 and 8.9 per cent in 2021.

The fund expects the economy to grow by 6.1 per cent in 2021, leaving it smaller than it was at the end of 2019.

Australia's performance is expected to be among the bottom third of the world's top 20 economies, with countries such as the United States, Britain and South Korea all tipped to fare better.

The IMF predicts a partial rebound for the world economy in 2021, with an overall 5.8 per cent growth rate.

But the fund's forecasts are marked by "extreme uncertainty" and the outcomes could be far worse.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government had taken decisive action to protect Australians and the economy from the effects of coronavirus.

The government has so far thrown $320 billion at the crisis, or 16.4 per cent of GDP.

He also noted the reserve bank had responded quickly to worsening risk sentiment by injecting $90 billion into the financial system to support small and medium businesses.

"Australia approaches this crisis from a position of economic strength," Mr Frydenberg said.

"The federal budget returned to balance for the first time in 11 years and Australia's debt to GDP is about a quarter of what it is in the United States or United Kingdom, and about one seventh of what it is in Japan."

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers seized on the world economic outlook to reiterate calls for government-funded wage subsidies to be extended to more casual workers.

"Expectations of persistently high unemployment is a sobering reminder of the devastating economic impacts of this diabolical health crisis, and highlights the need to protect as many jobs as possible now," he said.

"When unemployment spikes in the next few months, remember hundreds of thousands of job losses could have been prevented if the treasurer picked up his pen and included more workers currently left out and left behind."

© AAP 2020

Australians banned from leaving country

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

Australians will be banned from travelling overseas under a further crackdown on trips as the government tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it is clear from the numbers of people still travelling that some are defying advice not to travel anywhere in the world.

Small exceptions will be made for aid workers and other vital government travel.

© AAP 2020

Australians face months of virus measures

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) 

Schools will stay open but non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are now banned as the government rolls out further restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Australians are also being told not to travel overseas, and strict restrictions will be placed on visitors to aged care homes.

The prime minister also bluntly told Australians to stop hoarding groceries and other supplies.

National coronavirus cases are approaching 460 and five people have died. Some 81,000 people have been tested, 99.5 per cent of whom returned a negative test.

Scott Morrison cautioned the changes to daily life will be a long-haul measure, with the government expecting the virus crisis will roll on for at least six months.

"What we are doing, you have to be able to keep doing that and sustain that," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"There is no two-week answer to what we're confronting...The idea that you can just turn everything off for two weeks and then turn it all back on again and it all goes away, that is not the evidence."

The medical assessment is that schools should stay open, and Mr Morrison and chief medical officer Brendan Murphy warned the consequences of closing schools would be severe.

That could include tens of thousands of jobs lost, Mr Morrison said.

But Professor Murphy said school life would also have to change, with no assemblies, regular hand washing, and strict bans on sick students and teachers.

"It will be hard for schools, but it would be much, much, much harder for society if the schools were closed," he said.

A ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people is effective immediately.

It does not affect public transport, airports, medical facilities, supermarkets and shopping centres, parliaments, courts or jails.

Office buildings, factories, construction or mining sites, schools, universities, child care facilities and hotels are also exempt.

But people should practice social distancing in all these areas, keeping a space of 1.5 metres between themselves and others.

"Every citizen now has to think about every interaction they have with another person during the day," Professor Murphy said.

"No more hand-shaking. No more hugging except in your family... No more scant attention to hand hygiene."

Strict rules around visitors at aged care facilities are also now in place, barring anyone who has recently travelled, sick people, children except in exceptional circumstances, and from May 1 anyone who hasn't had a flu vaccination.

Only one daily visit of at most two people per resident is allowed.

But Mr Morrison said the new restrictions did not mean Australians should be panicking and certainly not stripping supermarket shelves bare.

"Stop hoarding," he said.

"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis."

The Department of Foreign Affairs has updated its travel advice for the second time in 24 hours, now telling all Australians not to travel overseas.

Anyone already overseas is being urged to return home as soon as possible.

The majority of new coronavirus cases in Australia are still among people who have brought it back from overseas or people in close contact with travellers.

All people arriving from overseas must self-quarantine for 14 days and cruise ships are barred from Australian ports for at least 30 days.

The federal government has flagged another round of economic stimulus measures on top of a $17.6 billion package announced last week.

This includes a $715 million assistance package for airlines like Qantas and Virgin Australia that will give the carriers relief from airport fees and other aviation industry charges.

The states and territories have developed their own economic packages to lessen the economic blow from the spread of COVID-19, which is set to crush major industries and hurt workers.

© AAP 2020

Australians told to get flu jab this month

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Australians are being urged to get the flu shot this month so they don't contract the disease and coronavirus at the same time.

More than 13.5 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine have been secured for the national program.

"Vaccinating against the flu will reduce the risk of a very dangerous double-up of flu and coronavirus - both diseases affecting the respiratory system," Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Wednesday.

"Fewer cases and fewer severe cases of flu will result in less demand on our health care system."

Australia's flu season is expected to peak between June and September. Vaccinating against the disease in April will provide the greatest protection.

© AAP 2020

Australians told to keep up virus measures

Members of the public are seen walking past a sign reading '1.5 Metres Apart' at Scarborough Beach, Perth, Monday, April 6, 2020. Beaches in Perth remain open but people must still adhere to social distancing rules. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING

Members of the public are seen walking past a sign reading '1.5 Metres Apart' at Scarborough Beach, Perth, Monday, April 6, 2020. Beaches in Perth remain open but people must still adhere to social distancing rules. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) 

Health authorities are urging Australians to maintain social distancing measures despite the rate of coronavirus cases falling.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd says Australians can't let their guard down because community transmissions are occurring.

"I know it's really challenging for many people with the self-isolation that's occurring, with the restriction of activities, but we are doing this to help each other, help ourselves and save lives by stopping the spread," he told Nine on Tuesday.

The government's coronavirus modelling will soon be released to show how the virus has spread and will potentially offer a glimpse at how long strict measures will be in place.

The prime minister and state and territory leaders are meeting on Tuesday where they will discuss the modelling as well as relief for commercial tenants.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who is yet to see the modelling, says Australians deserve to know what's driving decision making.

"I think it will build trust and will encourage support for the measures that have been put in," he told the ABC.

"We're all in this together."

A scaled back parliament will meet on Wednesday to pass the government's $130 billion wage subsidy plan, which will see eligible employees receive a $1500 fortnightly payment.

Health authorities say the slowdown in the rate of new cases each day shows the restrictions on daily life and social distancing measures have successfully flattened the curve.

But they are cautious about the rate spiking again.

Younger people in particular have been warned about being complacent, given that people aged in their 30s are among the worst-affected patients.

Scott Morrison has wished British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a speedy recovery after he was admitted to intensive care after contracting the disease.

"Thinking of you, your family and all our UK friends at this tough time," Mr Morrison said.

The nation's leaders and medical experts are now starting to look at how and when to start easing the tough restrictions in place to slow the disease's spread.

That will include a consideration of how prepared the health system is for an increase in cases and what effect lifting particular measures would have.

More than 5800 people have coronavirus in Australia and 41 people have died.

Governments are concerned that people will be tempted to breach restrictions on movements and social distancing rules over the coming Easter weekend.

Popular beaches in Sydney and Queensland closed on Monday as people continued to flock there.

© AAP 2020

Back-to-school RATs for Tasmanian children

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Tasmania will give students a back-to-school pack containing two coronavirus rapid antigen tests as part of the plan for returning to the classroom on February 9.

Students should only be tested if symptomatic and further rapid tests would be provided to schools to distribute as required, Premier Peter Gutwein said.

Students or teachers won't be considered a close contact and required to isolate if there are a "small number" of infections in a classroom.

If there are five or more cases in a classroom within a week, the scenario will be managed as an outbreak.

Students will still be required to abide by the household close contact rules, which require people to quarantine for seven days if they've visited the house of a case for more than four hours.

"The public health advice is really clear, and that is schools are safe. The best place for children to learn is in a school," Mr Gutwein told reporters.

Masks are mandatory for teachers and for high school students, but not for primary school students or in early education.

Lunch breaks will be staggered under the plan, which is in place for at least five weeks.

State Health Commander Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said it was "critically important" children have a least one vaccine dose before returning to school.

Some 4600 kids aged 12 to 15 are not vaccinated and 44 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 have not been booked in for a first dose, she said.

Deputy Public Health Director Scott McKeown said household and classroom close contacts are being managed differently because of different risk levels.

"When a single case, or a small number of cases, occur within a classroom, they will be identified," he said.

"The education department will inform the carers and parents of those children and any staff in that learning group of a case.

"They will be advised to monitor their child or their student or as a staff member very closely for symptoms and get tested... if any develop."

Tasmania recorded 927 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with the number of people in intensive care increasing from two to three. Two of them are on ventilators.

Thirty-one people with the virus are in hospital, with 14 of those being treated specifically for virus symptoms.

An outbreak in a medical ward at Mersey Community Hospital in the state's northwest has forced the facility to move to level three of its COVID-19 management escalation plan.

The outbreak, described by health authorities as "contained", increased by one case on Thursday to 11 and includes nine patients and two staff

The medical ward is not admitting new patients and is not allowing visitors or transfers. Overnight elective surgery at the hospital will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Staff are being requested to reconsider taking leave and all non-critical meetings have been cancelled.

Tasmania has 6127 active infections, a drop from Wednesday's figure of 6323.

© AAP 2022

Image by Samuel F. Johanns from Pixabay

Ban on pubs, cinemas to stop virus spread


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Pubs, cinemas and churches will be forced to close across Australia from noon on Monday to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The closure of more types of businesses could follow if Australians continue to fail to heed health warnings.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders agreed on Sunday night to a staged process starting with a shutdown of "principal places of social gathering".

The initial types of venues to be closed include registered and licensed clubs, entertainment venues, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sports venues, including gyms, and places of worship.

Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only.

Mr Morrison said the decision was taken because Australians were not adequately sticking to rules around social distancing.

Virus cases are doubling every three days. The death toll remains at seven.

"We cannot have the confidence as a group of leaders that the social distancing guidelines and rules that we have put in place won't be followed to the level of compliance that we require to flatten the curve and slow the spread and save lives," Mr Morrison said.

One Nation leader and senator Pauline Hanson, who will not attend parliament this week, said the new rules were confusing and she was concerned beaches were being closed.

"I am confused by it all, I really am," she told Nine's Today show on Monday.

"I just feel it's probably a bit too far... A lot of the businesses that shut down, they won't open again. I hope it is worth it."

Meanwhile, parents are being reassured schools will reopen after the Easter holidays, based on current medical advice.

The Victorian and ACT school holidays have already been brought forward to Tuesday.

And in further action, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are imposing two-week quarantine periods on people seeking to enter these states, with police checkpoints posted to monitor travellers.

The AFL announced matches would be suspended until at least May 31.

State and territory leaders and Mr Morrison have recommended against all non-essential domestic travel, following the unprecedented ban on international travel.

WA Premier Mark McGowan announced entry to his state would be restricted via road, rail, air and sea from 1.30pm local time on Tuesday.

There will be exemptions for health, emergency, defence and policing personnel, certain mining industry workers, flight crews, essential goods deliverers and on compassionate grounds.

Unless exempted, arrivals from interstate will be ordered to self-isolate for 14 days.

In a bid to ease Australia's expected dive into recession, the federal government announced a second round of stimulus measures worth $66 billion.

It will temporarily double the Jobseeker payment - known as Newstart until last Friday - and make it easier for casuals and sole traders to access it; give a second round of $750 cash payments to pensioners; and significantly expand the already announced cash flow injection into small businesses, which will now get at least $20,000 and up to $100,000 each.

State governments have also implemented stimulus measures and are looking at other ways to ease pressure on people, including how to give renters and commercial tenants a break.

Federal parliament will sit from Monday to debate and pass laws enabling the initial two stimulus packages, with more measures expected in coming weeks.

Labor will seek to amend some of the bills, but is committed to passing the laws.

© AAP 2020

Be mindful restrictions are still in place this Mother's Day weekend in the Upper Hunter


The Hunter Valley Police District (HVPD) is reminding everyone that they will be out and about across the district making sure everyone is adhering to the Public Health Act and following the ministerial directions. 

HVPD Commander Superintendent Tracy Chapman said that there are no changes this weekend compared to last.

 "Realistically the only change there was around visiting others at their home which enables two adults and their dependent children to visit another persons home to provide care and support, socialisation," 

"I think what's very important is that people still practice social distancing, obviously if people are visiting friends, relatives that they haven't seen for a period of time there's that automatic inclination to give them a hug and give them a kiss that sort of thing and I guess from a health perspective people need to still practice social distancing even when they are visiting other people in their homes."

Superintendent Chapman said she and her police team have noticed an increase in people out on the roads.

"There's definitely been an increase in people leaving their homes and obviously after a period of time where people have really felt like they absolutely cannot leave home for an essential purpose we have a very slight restriction, I don't want to see people just assuming that we can go back to business as usual because obviously that's not the case."

With Mother's Day on Sunday, a day when normally families might gather together in groups or travel around, it simply can't happen this year.

"I'm sure the mums are happy with that and obviously if people are going to visit their parents and in particular their mum its very tempting for all of the siblings to come together into the household at the same time so just a reminder to people that there is that two person limit plus children,"

"Obviously so we're really urging people to comply to the restrictions and stagger their visits so that we don't have lots of different households in the one household at the same time."

"Just because a rule says you can doesn't mean you should,"

"So people really need to think about who they're visiting and whether they're vulnerable if that's due to age or some other illness, but really choose options that reduce the risk to them, so as I said just because you can doesn't mean you should," said Superintendent Chapman. 

All of the States and Territories will be looking at implementing a plan laid out by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today that is a three stage plan to bring life back to a functional normality. 

Bells toll as US reaches 500k COVID deaths


The United States has crossed the staggering milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths just more than a year since the coronavirus pandemic claimed its first known victim in Santa Clara County, California.

In a proclamation honouring the dead, President Joe Biden ordered the US flag to be flown at half-staff on public buildings and grounds until sunset on Friday.

"On this solemn occasion, we reflect on their loss and on their loved ones left behind," Biden said in the proclamation. "We, as a nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one nation to defeat this pandemic."

Bells tolled at the National Cathedral in Washington to honour the lives lost on Monday evening - ringing 500 times to symbolise the 500,000 deaths.

"As we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, remember each person and the life they lived," Biden said in an emotional speech at the White House after the bells sounded.

A few moments later, Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and their spouses appeared wearing black. They stood silently as the hymn Amazing Grace was played.

The country had recorded more than 28 million COVID-19 cases and 500,264 lives lost as of Monday afternoon, according to a Reuters tally of public health data, although daily cases and hospitalisations have fallen to the lowest level since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

About 19 per cent of total global coronavirus deaths have occurred in the United States, an outsized figure given that the nation accounts for just four per cent of the world's population.

"These numbers are stunning," Dr Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease adviser to President Joe Biden told ABC's Good Morning America program. "If you look back historically, we've done worse than almost any other country and we're a highly developed, rich country."

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Fauci said political divisiveness contributed significantly to the US death toll.

The country's poor performance reflects the lack of a unified, national response last year, when the administration of Donald Trump mostly left states to their own devices in tackling the greatest public health crisis in a century, with the president playing down the pandemic and often in conflict with his own health experts.

In 2020, the virus has taken a full year off the average life expectancy in the United States, the biggest decline since World War II.

Sweeping through the country at the beginning of last year, the US epidemic had claimed its first 100,000 lives by May.

The death toll doubled by September as the virus ebbed and surged during the summer months.

By December, the death toll had reached 300,000 in the United States. In the three months after Thanksgiving, the virus would claim 230,000 lives.

Deaths recorded between December and February accounted for 46 per cent of all US COVID-19 fatalities, even as vaccines finally became available and a monumental effort to inoculate the American public got started.

Despite the grim milestone, the virus appears to have loosened its grip as COVID-19 cases in United States fell for a sixth week. Health experts warn, however, that coronavirus variants discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil could unleash another wave that threatens to reverse the recent positive trends.

© RAW 2021

Biden moves to boost COVID vaccine supply

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Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden has announced the US is surging deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of summer or early autumn.

Biden, calling the push a "wartime effort", said the administration was working to buy an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines.

He acknowledged that states in recent weeks had been left guessing how much vaccine they will have from one week to the next.

Shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites around the US had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot.

"This is unacceptable," Biden said on Tuesday. "Lives are at stake."

He promised a roughly 16 per cent boost in deliveries to states during the next three weeks.

The administration plans to buy another 100 million doses each from drug makers Pfizer and Moderna to ensure it has enough vaccine for the long term.

Even more vaccine could be available if federal scientists approve a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to seek emergency authorisation in the coming weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the government plans to make about 10.1 million first and second doses available next week, up from this week's allotment of 8.6 million.

The figures represent doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It was not immediately clear how long the surge of doses could be sustained.

Governors and top health officials have been increasingly raising the alarm about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much vaccine is on the way so that they can plan.

Biden made management of the pandemic a core issue in his presidential election campaign, but in its early days, the administration has sent mixed messages about when exactly the vaccines will be fully administered.

On Monday, Biden said he believed it was possible to have 150 million doses of the vaccine administered in his first 100 days in office, an aspiration his press secretary Jen Psaki said was not an official adjustment of the current target of 100 million doses over that same period.

The outbreak has killed more than 420,000 Americans.

© AP 2021

Big fine for those who do not self-isolate


Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk speaking to media ahead of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney, Friday, March 13, 2020. (AAP Image/James Gourley)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned of the heavy financial penalty that awaits any person who arrives from overseas and does not self-isolate.

From midnight all people coming to Australia will have to self-isolate for 14 days, while cruise ships will be banned from arriving at Australian ports for an initial 30 days.

Ms Palaszczuk said on Sunday that laws were in place to deal with those who fail to follow a direction to self-isolate.

"In relation to legislation around that... it's under our Public Health Emergency Act," she said.

"That bill was passed in early February and there are penalties for not complying with the notification and that is around $13,000," she said.

"We have random police checks to make sure people are compliant with that notice."

The warning came as Queensland had its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, taking the number of people detected with the COVID-19 to 61.

There were 15 people confirmed on Sunday as having contracted the viris.

People were also being discouraged from kissing, hugging or even shaking hands.

"We are asking Queenslanders, when you are out and about no hand shaking... and no kissing or hugging in public. Let's all minimise the risk," the premier said.

Queensland's chief health officer warned that now may not be the time for children to visit their grandparents.

"I implore people if you have parents... or grandparents in that older age group think about how you can help them. Maybe it's not the time for your young kids to see their grandparents," she said.

Meanwhile Queensland senator Susan McDonald has announced several Senate committee hearings scheduled for Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns this week have been cancelled until further notice.

The hearings were scheduled for the Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport Committee from Monday through to Thursday.

© AAP 2020

Bon Jovi keyboardist has coronavirus


Bon Jovi founding member and keyboardist David Bryan has revealed he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Less than a week earlier, he was home in New Jersey when, on March 15, he started to feel sick.

"The first symptoms were flu-like, with a low level fever around 100 with body aches and headaches," Bryan told Variety.

Soon after, the body aches made it difficult to get out of bed. By Wednesday, March 18, it started to move to his lungs. It was then that the Tony Award-winning musician, who had been in New York City in the weeks prior working on launching the new musical "Diana," knew he needed medical help.

He immediately called his doctor, Mike Rothenberg of Brick, New Jersey, who had access to drive-by testing for the coronavirus, which involved a deep swab up his nose.

Two days later, Bryan was informed that he was positive and was immediately prescribed antibiotics -- Azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine (the "anti- malaria drug") -- which he started on Saturday.

Two days later, Bryan reports that the medicine is working and he is "getting stronger" while remaining in self-isolation with his wife, Alexis. She, too, has tested positive but is not displaying any of the same symptoms except for a "slight headache for a couple of days."

Says Bryan: "I'm thankful that she is not as sick as I am. We are both quarantined but it just shows that some people can have it with no symptoms, and some people can have it like me, and there's others who are really sick and need to go to the hospital."

Wanting to share his story and at the same time try to help by "squashing fear" was the reason the 58-year-old Bryan went public on Instagram, writing that the virus was "the flu, not the plague." He also is encouraging everyone to practice social distancing to avoid spreading it to others.

For now, the protocol he is following includes another week of quarantine and, with improved symptoms, he will take the test two times to assure a negative result. In the meantime, Bryan has been in bed watching movies and getting a lot of sleep as his body fights the virus. He also says everyone should do their part to slow the spread and stay home.

"Everybody has just got to stay away from each other to kill this virus," he says. "As much as it's not any fun, it's less fun to have it. If people do the right thing, we can all get over this. People have to take this seriously. You can get it. I got it."

Meanwhile, Bon Jovi frontman Jon Bon Jovi has been helping feed those in need via his JBJ Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey.

© RAW 2020

Border boss warns against complete closure

Chinas coronavirus death toll up to 563

The man responsible for Australia's borders has cautioned against a total shutdown of movement in and out of the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australian Border Force commissioner Michael Outram said a vacuum seal around the nation would prevent essential items like stem cells from entering the country.

"We don't want to stop all flights to Australia. We don't want to seal ourselves off," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"Similarly with the ports, there's a lot of containers coming to Australia with goods that we need as a country."

But he insisted the ABF was ready for anything if the government decided to take more drastic action to contain the disease.

Passenger movements through Australian airports were down by around 5000 on Monday, while 23 flights were cancelled on Tuesday.

The 14 cruise ships which had left are returning to ports, with no reported sickness onboard any of them.

About 12 border force workers have been tested for coronavirus with no positive results so far.

Mr Outram said his staff not contracting the virus should reassure other frontline workers wearing personal protective equipment.

"If you follow procedures, you wear your PPE, it's a very, very low risk," he said.

Border force officers are preparing to welcome home Australians from overseas after the government advised people to return.

At airports, people will receive quarantine information at check-in and on the flight before signing a written declaration to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving.

Mr Outram said there had been little disagreement from people returning.

The commissioner has also told his officers to keep the pressure on drugs and other border crime.

"Whilst this is going on and all the focus of the media and the world is on COVID-19, we're not going to drop the ball," he said.

© AAP 2020

Border closures dominate national debate

Coronavirus latest news2

State borders closed to contain the spread of coronavirus are continuing to dominate the national debate.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has described Queensland's hardline border measures as a sham after American actor Tom Hanks was allowed to enter the state.

Hanks returned to Australia earlier this month to finish shooting a film, quarantining at a Gold Coast hotel with 11 other family, cast members and production staff.

Their entry was approved by the federal home affairs department at the request of the Queensland government.

"It's in stark contrast to people who can't go to funerals, and that's what aggravates me so much," Mr Joyce told the Seven Network on Monday.

"We've got the AFL in there first class, we've got Tom Hanks in there, we've got his offsiders in there, but we can't get a person across to see their dad buried."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth acknowledged state authorities were split over whether internal borders should be open.

"That is largely related to risk tolerance and whether one is prepared to allow any possibility of COVID-19 entering into one state," Dr Coatsworth told the ABC.

"We need to have these ongoing border discussions, they're obviously a live issue."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to focus on adopting a definition of a coronavirus hotspot when he chairs a meeting of premiers and chief ministers later this week.

Labor is sharpening its gaze on sealed international borders, raising concerns 25,000 Australians stuck overseas might not make it home for Christmas.

The federal government says it is working with the states to boost hotel quarantine capacities to try and get everyone back into the country.

But Labor says the Commonwealth should take responsibility for quarantine arrangements, pointing out federal facilities have been used to accommodate people returning from China and Japan.

Opposition frontbencher Kristina Keneally said the Morrison government was attempting to handball its duties to the states.

"If the Commonwealth government is serious about stranded Australians home, they need to step up, show leadership and put a plan in place," Senator Keneally told ABC radio.

"It is the Commonwealth's responsibility to assist stranded Australians in the middle of a global, deadly pandemic, who are stuck overseas."

Victoria recorded 35 new cases of coronavirus and seven more deaths on Monday as stage four restrictions began to ease across Melbourne.

Playgrounds have reopened after six weeks of lockdowns and people will be allowed out of their homes for an extra hour each day.

Rules around visits to other people's homes are also being eased, particularly for those living alone.

Dr Coatsworth said Victoria's restrictions were clearly having the desired effect.

"That light of the end of the tunnel is growing bigger by the day," he said.

However, Dr Coatsworth said the number of mystery cases in Victoria was still too high, and he wanted to see them reduced to single digits.

© AAP 2020

Borders shut to stamp out SA virus spread

Coronavirus latest news2

Extra support is at hand and state border closures are re-emerging as South Australia enters a critical phase of containing its coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison remains positive Australia will be open by Christmas, as Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania announced broad travel restrictions on Adelaide arrivals.

South Australia's cluster is at 17, with 15 of those in the same family.

The number doesn't include three children who have tested negative but are being treated as cases because they have symptoms and their parents tested positive.

Victoria - marking 17 days without new infections or deaths - and NSW have increased screening for Adelaide arrivals, while WA has re-introduced its hard border for the state.

Anyone who has recently been in SA will be blocked from entering WA unless they can secure an exemption.

More Australian Defence Force troops are on the way to help SA while international flights to Adelaide are paused for the rest of the week to ease the burden on hotel quarantine facilities.

WA and Commonwealth contact tracers are helping the SA teams in a bid to stop the cluster from growing.

SA Premier Steven Marshall says time is of the essence.

"We cannot wait to see how bad this gets. The next 24 hours will be critical," he said on Monday.

The state has re-introduced a range of restrictions, including gyms, recreation centres and play cafes closed for two weeks.

Mr Morrison hopes state border closures will be temporary.

"As soon as South Australia is able to get on top of this I would expect that states would keep on the path that we have set towards Christmas," he told reporters in Melbourne.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly convened an emergency meeting of the nation's key health advice panel on Monday to discuss the SA situation.

He believes authorities will be able to get on top of the cluster.

SA's Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier urged people to maintain hand hygiene, cover coughs and sneezes with their elbow, and to stay 1.5 metres from others.

"I know that's been difficult to do and an element of complacency has, you know, inevitably, occurred here in South Australia but everybody needs to heed those three messages."

© AAP 2020

Borders to shut, Qld coronavirus tally 397

People are seen at the Brisbane domestic airport terminal in Brisbane, Monday, March 23, 2020. The Queensland Government has announced that they will close the state's borders to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, beginning at midnight on Wednesday and they will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after their arrival. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING

People are seen at the Brisbane domestic airport terminal, the Queensland Government has announced that they will close the state's borders to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, beginning at midnight on Wednesday and they will force anyone entering Queensland to quarantine themselves for 14 days after their arrival. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland's coronavirus tally has reached 397 as the government promised more intensive care beds, tripling the crisis call centre and employing more health professionals.

Health Minister Steven Miles said the state had so far conducted more than 37,300 tests for coronavirus, of which 78 were positive overnight, and taken 43,000 calls relating to a COVID-19.

Overall, one-in-four coronavirus tests in Australia had been conducted in Queensland, he said.

"That is amongst, if not the, highest rate of testing anywhere in the world," he said.

Earlier, Treasurer Jackie Trad pledged $1.2 billion for the health sector, which Mr Miles said would be used to "ramp up" testing, lift the call centre capacity from 300 to 1600 seats and boost the number of doctors and nurses.

There would also be more fever clinics and hospital wards would be expanded.

"There are 27 public fever clinics open, and this funding will allow us to open more," he said.

The funding increase comes ahead of Queensland's border closing at midnight on Wednesday to people not travelling for work, medical appointments or carrying freight.

Border travel will be policed in an RBT-style with officers to determine who needs to cross as the state tries to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Officials are working with airlines to ensure passengers know what will happen when they arrive in Queensland before they board flights.

Travelling from Tweed to Coolangatta for work is allowed.

"People should stay in their own state," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

"As far as possible, they should be staying in their suburbs and as much as possible staying at home."

Travelling to work, to the supermarket, the pharmacy and the petrol station is classed as essential.

Travel for all other purposes is highly discouraged.

A $4 billion package has also been announced to cover the state's additional health ($1.2bn) needs and relieve financial pressure on households and businesses.

Households will receive a $200 rebate on their electricity bill to take in the extra power and water usage while people are asked to stay home.

Some $300 million will be directed to reduce the cost of living for households and further funding for payroll tax relief for businesses.

© AAP 2020

Both businesses and residents in Singleton will get a helping hand through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic


Businesses and residents in Singleton are getting a helping hand from Singleton Council to get through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Last week Council announced they were developing a $475,000 assistance package working with the Singleton Business Chamber to develop a $250,000 business support package, using money from the Community Economic Development Fund as well as bushfire grant funding to pool resources for the benefit of people across the local government area.

Mayor Sue Moore said the fund was designed to help deliver economic development and social development outcomes across the whole of the local government area.

The allocation of funds will require a formal resolution of Council at the Ordinary April meeting, in whatever format the meeting proceeds.

“The proposal to combine the bushfire grant money with an extra $125,000 from the fund adds up to $250,000 to get programs running on the ground right now, right here in our local government area to support our local businesses,” Mayor Sue Moore said.

“We also propose to allocate a further $125,000 to add to $100,000 from bushfire grant funds for a similar program targeting social issues arising from the current crisis, taking the total for both packages to $475,000."

“Council’s foresight in creating the fund, using Voluntary Planning Agreement money, has allowed us to be in a position to fund these programs."

“And although we never thought we’d need to spend some of the capital this early, we are in a position where we can and should take action to allocate some of the funding right now.”

Singleton Business Chamber president Sue Gilroy said with businesses already dealing with bushfire impacts, nobody could have foreseen the COVID-19 pandemic that was to come.

“These are unprecedented circumstances, and this is a great example of the proactive relationship between Council and the Chamber for the benefit of our local business community,” she said.

“We are fortunate to have these resources available to us to develop a package of measures to put in place now, in addition to the assistance coming from the Federal Government for small businesses and their staff.”

For residents, Council is proposing to lessen the load with a suite of measures to support the community around rates, fees and charges.

The measures include an extension for the fourth quarter rates installment from May 31 to August 31, and childcare cancellation fees have been waived.

Mayor Sue Moore said the urgency of the issue meant Council was working to provide solutions now, and more announcements would be made.

“Council is working quickly to review all fees and charges with the objective to find opportunities to provide further relief for our community,” she said.

“We will review water bills ahead of the next quarterly meter reading in May. If need be, we will provide payment extensions for this as well."

“We are also investigating a range of other options to help offset the impact on the community, such as procurement and service delivery changes and in-kind work, to help support the economy.”

Image credit: Singleton Council Facebook Page

Brazil passes 50,000 coronavirus deaths

Coronavirus latest news2

Brazil, the world's No.2 coronavirus hotspot after the United States, officially passed 50,000 coronavirus deaths in a blow for a country already grappling with more than one million cases, rising political instability and a crippled economy.

Brazil on Sunday has a total of 1,085,038 confirmed cases and 50,617 deaths, up from 49,976 on Saturday, the Health Ministry said.

Experts say the true numbers are a lot higher because of a lack of widespread testing. Latin America's largest country has typically recorded more than 1000 deaths a day, but usually registers fewer on the weekends.

Brazil confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus on February 26 and passed one million cases on Friday.

Since first arriving in the country, the virus' rapid spread has eroded support for right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and has raised fears of economic collapse after years of anaemic growth.

Bolsonaro, sometimes called the "Tropical Trump", has been widely criticised for his handling of the crisis. The country still has no permanent health minister after losing two since April, following clashes with the president.

Bolsonaro has shunned social distancing, calling it a job-killing measure more dangerous than the virus itself. He has also promoted two anti-malarial drugs as remedies, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, despite little evidence they work.

On Sunday, Bolsonaro said the military serves the will of the people and its mission is to defend democracy, adding fuel to a raging debate about the armed forces' role amid rumbling fears of political fragility.

His comments came on the same day his supporters and detractors gathered in cities across the country, in a stark symbol of the polarisation in Latin America's largest country.

© RAW 2020

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston had COVID -selected

Brian Cranston in the press room during the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Press Room at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.(AAP Image/ NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Brian Cranston in the press room during the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Press Room at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.(AAP Image/ 

Emmy-winning Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston has disclosed he has recovered from mild symptoms of COVID-19 and donated his plasma in the hopes his antibodies will help others with the disease.

Wearing a face mask, Cranston revealed the news in an Instagram video in which he documented the donation process at a blood and plasma centre run by the University of California at Los Angeles.

Cranston said he had experienced mild symptoms including a slight headache, tightness in the chest and loss of his sense of taste and smell.

"I was one of the lucky ones," Cranston wrote.

"I count my blessings and urge you to keep wearing the damn mask, keep washing your hands, and stay socially distant."

Cranston won multiple Emmy Awards for his role as a meth-making chemistry teacher on TV drama Breaking Bad from 2008 to 2013.

© RAW 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Positive COVID-19 case in Singleton LGA


The Singleton LGA now has confirmed case of COVID-19 which was infectious while in the community. 

It comes as the Hunter New England Health District revealed 13 new cases in the past 24-hours.

The Singleton is currently under investigation and not linked to any known infections. 

The other eight were in Port Stephens - located in Anna Bay, Fingal Bay, Fern Bae, Heatherbrae, Nelson Bay, Soldiers Point and Shaol Bay.

The other four were from Lake Macquarie - located in Wyee Point and Murrays Beach.

10 of the total active cases are currently being cared for in hospital. 0 are in ICU.

Eight of the cases are linked, while seven were infectious in the community, with two under investigation.

There are 485 close contacts are in isolation.


BREAKING NEWS: VIC and NSW to push for a lockdown


PM Scott Morrison said the matter will be discussed in detail at tonight's National Cabinet meeting with State and Territory heads.

VIC will also be pushing for all of their schools to be shutdown from this coming Tuesday.

If all States and Territories can not agree agree, it is believed VIC will go it alone.

Non-essential businesses it is believed would include restaurants and pubs.

BREAKING: Lockdown extended for Singleton, Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter LGA


Upper Hunter, Singleton and Muswellbrook LGAs will remain in lockdown despite some parts of the state easing restrictions.

Lower Hunter regions including Newcastle, Cessnock, Dungog, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Port Stephens will also continue following the stay-at-home orders.

Parts of regional NSW currently deemed low risk and which have seen zero COVID cases for at least 14 days will emerge from lockdown but will continue to operate under restrictions to ensure the safety of regional communities.

It follows from the 12 new confirmed cases that appeared within the Hunter New England Health District overnight. 

Four were in the Port Stephens LGA, four in Newcastle, three in Lake Macquarie and one in the Maitland. 

A spokesperson from Hunter England Health has confirmed the Maitland case belong to the Cessnock LGA and will be re-issued. 

The individual is from Hedden Greta but is linked to the Upper Hunter mines outbreak at Mt Pleasant in Muswellbrook.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said regional communities are doing an incredible job following health advice and getting vaccinated which has made the easing of lockdown in some areas possible.

“Today, I can announce that while unfortunately many regional LGAs will remain in lockdown due to COVID case numbers, for other parts of the state, stay-at-home orders will be lifted allowing more freedoms for those communities.

“This decision is based on NSW Health advice, and the LGAs which remain in lockdown will continue to be monitored and we will update those communities on a regular basis.

“My strong advice to everyone in regional NSW is to get vaccinated as soon as you can. Our communities need to continue to get vaccinated so that when NSW reaches 70 and 80 per cent, restrictions can ease significantly,” Mr Barilaro said.

A full list of the regional LGAs still under lockdown orders:

Stay-at-home orders will remain in place in the following LGAs:

  • Bathurst
  • Bega
  • Blayney
  • Bogan
  • Bourke
  • Brewarrina
  • Broken Hill
  • Cabonne
  • Central Coast
  • Central Darling
  • Cessnock
  • Dubbo
  • Dungog
  • Eurobodalla
  • Forbes
  • Gilgandra
  • Goulburn Mulwarre
  • Kiama
  • Lake Macquarie
  • Lithgow
  • Maitland
  • Mid-Coast
  • Mid-Western
  • Muswellbrook
  • Narrabri
  • Narromine
  • Newcastle
  • Orange
  • Parkes
  • Port Stephens
  • Queanbeyan-Palerang
  • Shellharbour
  • Shoalhaven
  • Singleton
  • Snowy Monaro
  • Upper Hunter
  • Walgett
  • Wingecarribee


BREAKING: Six parents test positive for COVID-19 at the John Hunter Hospital


Six parents, four women and two men, have tested positive for COVID-19 in the John Hunter Hospital. 

According to Dr Paul Craven, Medical Controller, HNE Health

On 26 September 2021, the mother of a newborn baby, who was a patient on the Maternity Ward at John Hunter Hospital, alerted staff to the onset of respiratory symptoms.

The parent was immediately isolated and swabbed for COVID-19, subsequently testing positive.

Following her diagnosis, close and casual contacts on the maternity ward and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at John Hunter Children’s Hospital, where her child is being cared for, were immediately contacted, tested and told to isolate - this included parents and staff.

Since the initial diagnosis, a further five parents have tested positive while in isolation.

All staff were wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while caring for these families and have to date, all tested negative.

The babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit have been assessed as a low-risk for exposure, however, multiple tests have been undertaken, with all babies testing negative for COVID-19.

The babies continue to receive high quality care from our dedicated nursing staff and neonatologists.

Parents in isolation have access to the NICU’s NICView camera system, which allows them to log on and see their baby 24-hours-a-day.

Exposure sites within the facility have been deep cleaned.

The operation of the NICU is unaffected and staff continue to abide by strict COVID-safe protocols.

Parents who are unaffected continue to access the Unit to spend time with their babies.

BREAKING! Possible local COVID-19 breach



A  truck carrying furniture crashed on the Golden Highway near Gungal early this morning. 

The large vehicle rolled to its side and the two male occupants including a 19-year-old driver were assisted out by a passing motorist. 

Hunter Valley Police District have released a statement overnight confirming the driver was from Blacktown, a current hotspot in Sydney. Inquiries revealed the man did not have a reasonable excuse for travelling to the area and was issued with a $1000 infringement. 

However, the passenger was a man from Stanmore and it was deemed he was not contravening the Public Health Order.

An informant  told Radio Hunter Valley that the person in question admitted to being tested for COVID-19 and not having their results yet. 

The statement from Police Media doesn't say if the man had received test results from his last COVID-test.

Meanwhile, Hunter New England Health have said they cannot provide any further details about the incident but if there is a positive result, they will work with all people involved. 

A spokesperson from Ambulance NSW said the driver and his passenger suffered minor injuries but refused any further medical assistance after treatment at the scene.

BREAKING! Tamworth LGA to be locked down



Tamworth LGA will go into lockdown from 5pm today. 

The new stay-at-home orders follows after a person from Newcastle traveled to the region. 

There are currently a number of exposure sites in Tamworth, however there are no confirmed cases of the virus at present.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian insisted this is a precautionary measure. 

Meanwhile, there are 283 new cases across New South Wales, with 64 infectious in the community. 

There was one fatality recorded today - a woman in her nineties. 

For all of the full details head to the NSW Health Website for venues of concerns and regulations around the stay-at-home order. 

Image Credit: Tumisu, Pixabay



Brisbane children remain in virus lockdown

World health coronavirus outbreak and international public infectious disease and global deadly virus health risk and flu spread or coronaviruses influenza as a pandemic medical conceptin with 3D illustration elements.

Children at a Brisbane youth detention centre remain in lockdown as health authorities anxiously await coronavirus test results to determine if a staff member could be the state's first community transmission in a month.

The 77-year-old supervisor at Brisbane's Youth Detention Centre in Wacol had continued to work while infectious with COVID-19.

Health Minister Steven Miles said health authorities have tested 75 of the centre's 127 young residents who have been isolated in their rooms since Wednesday evening.

"We have health staff monitoring their physical and mental wellbeing," he told ABC radio on Friday.

The centre will not be taking new admissions and all face-to-face visits and court appearances have been cancelled.

Testing on the centre's 500 staff is also expected to be completed later on Friday.

Mr Miles said the infected worker, from Ipswich, was in a stable condition in hospital.

"I understand her symptoms were very mild," he said.

The latest case comes after a virus scare was linked to a false positive result in southeast Queensland last month.

But Mr Miles said the state's chief health officer was confident the case was genuine as the woman had recorded two results positive for coronavirus.

Queensland health are conducting contact tracing to discover if the latest case has any connection to an outbreak last month linked to two Logan women who dodged quarantine after visiting Melbourne.

"That's what we're trying to get to the bottom of, if there is any unknown, community transmissions here," Mr Miles said.

The case was the only one recorded in Queensland on Thursday, with eight active infections.

© AAP 2020

Brisbane to enter 3 day lockdown

paul kelly 20201222001510029236 600x400

Greater Brisbane will enter a hard lockdown from 6pm on Friday after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with the highly contagious UK variant of COVID-19.

Residents in the council areas of Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Moreton Bay and Redlands will be required to stay at home until 6pm Monday except for essential work, exercise, essential shopping and to access healthcare.

Masks will also be mandated for people leaving home in the Greater Brisbane area.

The cleaner is Australia's first case of the more infectious strain of the coronavirus outside of quarantining returned overseas travellers.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the situation in Queensland was concerning.

"We do know that we've had cases of the UK variant in our hotel quarantine system," he told ABC RN on Friday.

"And we do know sometimes with a very complex system which relies on humans, mistakes can happen. That apparently is the case here."

The hotel cleaner's infection ended almost four months of zero locally acquired cases in Queensland.

She visited several locations while potentially infectious and contact tracers are tracking her movements.

The woman travelled on a train from Altandi station to Roma Street station at 7am on January 2, then returned on the 4pm service the same day.

She also visited Woolworths at the Calamvale Central Shopping Centre from 11am to 12pm on Sunday 3 January.

She was at Coles in Sunnybank Hills for 30 minutes from 7.30am on Tuesday 5 January and a newsagent at Sunnybank Hills Shopping Town from 8am to 8.15am on the same day.

Residents of Algester, Sunnybank Hills and Calamvale who have symptoms of the infection are especially urged to get tested as soon as possible.

© AAP 2021

Photo: Australian Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Britain considering lockdown

World health coronavirus outbreak and international public infectious disease and global deadly virus health risk and flu spread or coronaviruses influenza as a pandemic medical conceptin with 3D illustration elements.

The British government is planning to enforce a total social lockdown across a majority of northern Britain and potentially London, to combat a second wave of COVID-19, according to The Times newspaper.

Under the new measures being considered, all pubs, restaurants and bars would be ordered to shut for two weeks initially, the report said on Sunday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week said any new national lockdown would threaten jobs, livelihoods and human contact.

The report added that households would also be banned indefinitely from meeting each other in any indoor location where they were not already under the order.

Britain had last week imposed new measures that required people to work from home where possible and had ordered restaurants and bars to close early to tackle a fast-spreading second wave of COVID-19, with new restrictions lasting probably six months.

Schools and shops be allowed to remain open, along with factories and offices at which staff could not work from home, the Times added, citing a senior government source.

© RAW 2020

Britons show love for health carers


People applaud outside St. Thomas's Hospital in support of British National Health Service workers who are treating coronavirus victims, part of a nationwide salute to the doctors, nurses and staff of the NHS in London, Thursday, March 26, 2020. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has prompted a public display of appreciation for health service workers on the front line of the fight against the contagious virus. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali) 

People in coronavirus lock-down all over Britain have taken part in an emotional show of solidarity with health workers, during the nation's worst crisis since World War Two.

Clapping, banging pots and pans, and cheering and waving, vast numbers of people took part in the "Clap for our Carers" initiative, which mirrors similar events in other countries.

Italians, who have been the hardest hit by the virus and have been under strict lockdown for much longer, began the trend by singing and playing music from their balconies and applauding their doctors and nurses. The phenomenon soon spread to Spain and France, and has now reached as far as India.

With the UK in day three of its own lockdown, "Clap for our Carers" exploded on social media on Thursday, and was encouraged by celebrities, politicians and even the royal family.

Television pictures showed people clapping in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, breaking the quiet brought about by severe restrictions on public life and an edict from the government to stay indoors to stop the virus spreading.

Landmarks across the capital lit up in blue in tribute to the National Health Service.

The royal family tweeted three 'clapping hands' emoji and the message: "We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services. We thank you all."

After Prime MInister Boris Johnson called for 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus outbreak, more than double that number signed up within two days. By Thursday evening, the figure was over 670,000.

Britain has reported 578 deaths and more than 11,000 confirmed cases of the virus, with experts warning that the worst is yet to come and the government scrambling to buy equipment to keep its citizens alive.

As the health service becomes increasingly stretched by the number of cases, the government is opening a temporary hospital at an exhibition centre in east London and asking manufacturers to produce thousands of ventilators.

© RAW 2020