Just days after Prince Charles came down with the illness, Mr Johnson has also become a victim.
The World Health Organisation now says global coronavirus cases have surpassed 500,000.
Mr Johnson has insisted he has “mild symptoms” and that he would still be able to continue his work with the “wizardry of modern technology”.
— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) March 27, 2020
The diagnosis has thrown a cloud over the whole UK government, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak likely to be forced to self isolate because he was out early on Friday Australian time applauding medical workers alongside Mr Johnson.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock also revealed he had tested positive and is now self-isolating.
Downing Street must work out all the people they have had contact with who could now be at risk.
Multiple No10 staff and the Chancellor could also have to self-isolate if they have spread it to them.
There are also questions about whether Mr Johnson’s pregnant girlfriend Carrie Symonds, 31, has contracted the illness.
Mr Johnson, 55, posted a video message about his illness, where at that moment he appeared relatively well.
“I’ve developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus, that is to say a temperature and a persistent cough and on the advice of the chief medical officer I have taken a test, that has come back positive,” he said.
“I am working from home, I am self isolating and that’s entirely the right thing to do but be in no doubt that I can continue thanks to the wizardry of modern technology to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus.”
Mr Johnson was likely to have been infectious in the past few days, but he had reverted to phone briefings with the Queen.
The decision to stop the weekly private face-to-face meetings with the Quen took on greater importance after Mr Johnson came down with the illness.
The last time that Mr Johnson met the Queen was on March 11, the day before she came into contact with Prince Charles.
Buckingham Palace told News Corp Australia tonight that it would not give a “daily update” on the Queen’s health.
Earlier this week, Her Majesty, who is staying at Windsor Castle with Prince Philip, 98, had been in good health after Prince Charles returned a positive coronavirus test.
Mr Johnson also thanked the National Health Service for all their work and encouraged Brits to stay at home and wash their hands.
Britain was likely to hit its peak of the outbreak within the next seven to 10 days, with London preparing for a tidal wave of new cases.
Mr Johnson had been in contact with health minister Nadine Dorries who had recovered from the illness.
It was reported on Friday night that Ms Symonds was not living with Mr Johnson at No. 10 Downing Street, where he was running the government.
Pregnant women had been told to stay indoors for 12 weeks under UK guidelines, because they may have a higher risk of complications from the illness.
Over 70s were also ordered to stay home for three months, with an army of more than 500,000 volunteers to deliver them food and medicine.
The UK has recorded 578 deaths so far, with a jump of 113 in a day on the latest figures as the illness starts to spike.
The Excel Exhibition Centre in London has been turned into a 1km long, 4000-bed hospital, named after the famous nurse Florence Nightingale, who revolutionised hospital hygiene.
The hospital will open next week, with the army enlisted to help support its operation.
MYER TO SHUT ITS DOORS
Myer has announced it will shut its doors on Sunday and stand down 10,000 staff as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on Australia’s economy.
“The health and wellbeing of customers, team members, their families and the broader communities in which we operate remains Myer’s absolute priority,” the company said in a statement tonight.
“As such, Myer will temporarily close all stores from the close of business on Sunday (local time) 29 March 2020, for an initial period of four weeks until 27 April 2020.”
However, the department store will continue to trade online and has dropped the threshold for free delivery to $49 per order.
Ten thousand staff in stores across the country and support office will be temporarily stood down without pay starting from Monday.
“Full-time and part-time members will have greater flexibility to access their annual leave and long service entitlements, in addition to government assistance measures,” Myer said.
A small group of business-critical roles will be maintained to undertake essential work during the period and to support our online businesses.
“These roles will operate on an equivalent of 80 per cent of their normal salaries and contracted hours,” the company said.
The Myer Board, CEO and managing director John King, along with all of the executive team members, have opted to not receive any remuneration during this period, but will continue to work in their respective roles.
Myer CEO John King said the decision to temporarily close all Myer stores and stand down staff is “one of the toughest decisions this company has faced in its 120 years of operation”.
“Our focus must remain on operating our business in a manner that protects the health and wellbeing of customers and team members, whilst supporting the government, and the communities in which we operate, in limiting the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
“We will focus on ensuring we offer the best possible online experience for our customers, whilst being ready to restart the business in four weeks.
“We thank our loyal customers and team members for their understanding during this unprecedented time,” Mr King said.
NURSES STOOD DOWN IN QLD, NSW
More than 600 nurses have been stood down in the midst of the worst health crisis facing Australia in a century.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) said more than 600 private hospital nurses have been stood down over the past 24 hours, casualties of the Federal Government’s “bungled” ban on non-urgent elective surgery during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Nurses employed by Healthe Care, the third largest private hospital operator in the state, behind Ramsay Health Care and Healthscope, were notified by letter that they would not have work for the next four weeks the union said.
“We’ve now got a situation where more than 600 nurses are being forced to take accrued leave, or are scrambling to find another job elsewhere, before needing to join the queue for benefits,” NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said.
Nurses at Forster Private Hospital on the Mid North Coast have been stood down and also nurses at Hirondelle Private Hospital at Chatswood on Sydney’s Lower North Shore, he said.
“With little time to negotiate logistics around the distribution of any resources to the public hospital sector, private hospital employers have taken the drastic step of laying off their highly skilled, lifesaving workforce in the middle of a global health crisis. It’s unspeakable,” he said.
“We are calling on the Federal Government to fix the mess it has made, there needs to be a sustainable plan to maintain the private hospital system capacity, so they can work continuously and support public hospitals in response to the evolving COVID-19 crisis.”
Australians returning from overseas from midnight tomorrow will be quarantined in hotels and other accommodation facilities to enforce the 14-day self-isolation period.
With some travellers still making their way home from other countries, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the measure was crucial to prevent further spread of the virus from overseas.
The national cabinet agreed this afternoon on the extraordinary measure, which will be policed by state governments.
The Prime Minister showed the card Australians have to fill out when they return home and warned of penalties if they don’t comply with isolation rules.
He said states and territories will be quarantining all arrivals through airports in hotels and other accommodation facilities for the two weeks of their mandatory self-isolation before they are able to go home.
“If their home is in South Australia or in Perth or in Tasmania and they have arrived in Melbourne, they will be quarantining in Melbourne. If it’s in Sydney, it will be if Sydney. If it’s Brisbane, and so on,” he said.
Defence Force members will also be deployed to assist in new regime.
Mr Morrison said the country was in “two fights” – the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus.
“Both will take lives. Both will take livelihoods,” he said.
“No decision that we’re taking on the health front that has these terrible economic impacts is being taken lightly.”
“Every day that someone is in a job, for just another day, is a day worth fighting for.”
Mr Morrison thanked Australians for how they had responded so far to the “significant changes” made to people’s lives.
He said the movement of people in Sydney and Melbourne had fallen by 80 per cent over the last two weeks.
“Keep doing it – you’re saving lives and you’re saving livelihoods,” he said.
“We might have to keep our distance but we don’t have to disconnect from each other … No Australian should have to go through this alone.”
“This weekend, the challenge will be there again. Let’s keep saving lives, let’s keep saving livelihoods.”
He said he would rather be in Australia now “with the way we are dealing with this together” than anywhere else.
“I promise you we will be doing more,” he said.
“We will not take these decisions lightly. We will not take them for a matter of convenience.
“Because every decision we are taking has very real personal impacts.”
Mr Morrison said the national cabinet was also briefed about the economic impact of the virus.
He said he and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg would have “more to say” in coming days about the third phase of the government’s economic response.
This is expected to focus on helping businesses to “hibernate” through the next six months when they are forced to close.
“This will be a very innovative approach,” Mr Morrison said.
“We want those businesses to start again.”
He said the package was designed to reduce the weight of debts and liabilities on businesses during the crisis.
“That will include support by states and territories on managing the very difficult issue of commercial tenancies,” Mr Morrison said.
He added states will make their own arrangements with schools between now and the end of term.
“At the end of the say it needs to be sorted out in each state and territory,” he said.
On childcare, he said they are working on a plan to deal with the premises around the country. “They are an essential part of keeping the economy running for those who are still part of it and for those who are still going to work,” he said.
HOUSE PASSES STIMULUS
Acting with exceptional resolve in an extraordinary time, the House rushed President Donald Trump a $US2.2 trillion ($A3.73 trillion) rescue package Friday, tossing a life preserver to a US economy and health care system left flailing by the coronavirus pandemic.
The House approved the sweeping measure by a voice vote, as strong majorities of both parties lined up behind the most colossal economic relief bill in the nation’s history. It will ship payments of up to $USD1200 ($A1950) to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small and flush billions more to states, local governments and the nation’s all but overwhelmed health care system.
“Today we’ve all acknowledged our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The decision follows President Donald Trump’s calling for a Republican congressman to be kicked out of the party after he threatened to hold up the vote.
The president blasted Congressman Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, for threatening to call a roll call vote on the measure, delaying its passage and requiring Congress to return to Washington, potentially risking their health.
“Looks like a third rate Grandstander named @RepThomasMassie, a Congressman from, unfortunately, a truly GREAT State, Kentucky, wants to vote against the new Save Our Workers Bill in Congress. He just wants the publicity. He can’t stop it, only delay, which is both dangerous & costly,’ Mr Trump complained on Twitter.
“Workers & small businesses need money now in order to survive. Virus wasn’t their fault. It is “HELL” dealing with the Dems, had to give up some stupid things in order to get the “big picture” done. 90% GREAT! WIN BACK HOUSE, but throw Massie out of Republican Party!,’ he added.
“By empowering the Radical Left Democrats, do nothing Kentucky politician @RepThomasMassie is making their War on the 2nd Amendment more and more difficult to win (But don’t worry, we will win anyway!). He is a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky!,’ he wrote.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry said he agreed with Mr Trump.
“Breaking news: Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an a**hole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity. He’s given new meaning to the term #Masshole. (Finally, something the president and I can agree on!),” he tweeted.
“Never knew John Kerry had such a good sense of humor! Very impressed!,” Mr Trump tweeted back to him.
However, Republican Chip Roy of Texas defended Mr Massie, telling the president to ‘back off.’’.
“@RepThomasMassie is one of the most principled men in Congress & loves his country. He is defending the Constitution today by requiring a quorum. There’s nothing 3rd rate about that, @realDonaldTrump. I may miss vote if he forces roll call (flights) but it will pass. Back off,’ Mr Roy tweeted.
Mr Trump also lashed into General Motors over a critical shortage of lifesaving ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic — tweeting, “FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”
In a series of tweets, the president accused the auto-maker and its CEO Mary Barra of slow-walking and threatened to use the Defense Production Act which would allow him to compel private companies to retool their factories to meet demand.
“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, “very quickly”. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar,” he wrote, before upbraiding Barra as “a mess.”
“General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”
The tweet followed a New York Times article reporting that the White House called-off a $US1 billion deal with General Motors which would have allowed the auto-maker to build as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators.
ITALY BECOMES SECOND COUNTRY TO PASS CHINESE VIRUS TOTAL
Italy has become the second country to overtake China in coronavirus infections, reaching 86,498 cases on the same day it recorded its single biggest leap in coronavirus deaths, with 969 more victims.
The gruesome milestones nevertheless came on the day that Italian health officials said they were seeing a slight slowing down in new positive cases, two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.
Italy has recorded more virus-related deaths than any other country in the world, and on Friday reported a further 9134.
FOUR DIE ON CRUISE SHIP
Four passengers have died onboard a cruise ship anchored off the coast of Panama and two people onboard the ship have tested positive for coronavirus, the cruise line says.
Holland America Line said in a post on its Facebook page that more than 130 people onboard the Zaandam had reported flu-like symptoms.
“Holland America Line can confirm that four older guests have passed away on Zaandam,” the statement said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time.” The ship was receiving medical supplies and medical personnel from another Holland America ship, the Rotterdam, and the company planned to begin transferring healthy passengers to that ship.
“Priority for the first guests to transfer will be given to those on Zaandam with inside staterooms and who are over 70,” the statement said. There are 1243 guests and 586 crew onboard the Zaandam.
The Zaandam departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7.
The ship was trying to get to Fort Lauderdale in the US after being denied permission to dock at its original destination of Chile a week ago. The Rotterdam rendezvoused with the Zaandam on Thursday evening. “It is only authorised to do ship-to-ship manoeuvres. No one aboard is allowed to come ashore,” said Panama’s Maritime Authority Administrator Noriel Arauz. The Zaandam had planned to pass through the Panama Canal en route to Florida, but after being inspected by Panamanian authorities, the request to use the canal was denied, said canal Administrator Ricauter Vasquez. The Health Ministry “did not give permission,” Vasquez told reporters on Friday. “The ship is in territorial waters but has to remain isolated.”
NAVY HOSPITAL SHIP HEADS FOR NYC
Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is set to dock in New York on Monday for urgent coronavirus relief after Donald Trump “kisses it goodbye” from Virginia, the President said on Thursday.
The 1000-bed hospital ship will set sail for New York on Saturday to provide relief to the city’s overwhelmed and under-resourced hospitals at the epicentre of the nation’s coronavirus crisis.
Ahead of its departure, Trump told reporters at the White House briefing: “I think I’m going to go out and I’ll kiss it goodbye.
“I will go and we’ll be waving together, because I suspect the media will be following.”
The White House then announced that Trump would indeed be travelling to the Norfolk Naval Station on Saturday to “bid bon voyage to the hospital ship,” a release to the press said.
The trip will mark the first time since the president has left Washington since March 9.
Trump has been trying for days to determine how to contain the economic fallout of the guidelines issued by his administration as well as local leaders to slow the tide of infections.
He initially announced that hospital ships Comfort and Mercy would be used during the pandemic on March 18 – an endeavour that was estimated to take two weeks, Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said.
However, Trump said that the Comfort will depart four days ahead of schedule.
“So it’s going to be leaving on Saturday instead of three weeks from now,” the president said.
The ships won’t be used for patients who have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but will instead provide beds for other sick patients to clear room in the cities’ hospitals.
The USNS Mercy is sailing to Los Angeles from Naval Station San Diego and is expected to arrive Friday.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said deploying the hospital ships could “take the pressure off of civilian hospitals when it comes to trauma cases to open up civilian hospital rooms for infectious diseases.”
NEW YORK EPICENTRE
New York state governor Andrew Cuomo sought to add another 4000 temporary hospital beds across New York City and ordered schools closed statewide for two more weeks on Friday, warning of hard days ahead in the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is going to be weeks and weeks and weeks,” Cuomo told National Guard members working at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre.
A new temporary hospital at the Javits Centre is part of the state’s plan to quickly bring hospital capacity up from 53,000 beds to 140,000 beds.
More temporary hospitals are planned in the suburbs and a Navy hospital ship is due to arrive Monday in New York City, a global hotspot of the outbreak.
There are already more than 6000 hospitalised COVID-19 patients in New York, with almost 1600 in intensive care.
The state has logged a nation-high of 519 deaths, and has more than 44,000 confirmed cases.
Fearful of still falling short of hospital beds if the outbreak peaks sharply in April, Cuomo is seeking authorization from the Trump administration to add 4000 beds spread among the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
The hospitals would be constructed at a horse track complex, a city college, an expo center and a cruise ship terminal.
“Were looking far and wide, very creative, aggressive and finding all the space that we can possibly find,” Cuomo said.
The governor also ordered schools in New York state to remain closed for another two weeks until April 15.
New York City schools are closed through April 20, though officials say the city closure could last the rest of the school year.
About half of the cases of coronavirus in the nation have been identified in New York state, with New York City claiming 385 deaths at the epicentre of the outbreak.
It’s the most deaths in a single state in the country.
Faced with an infection rate that is five times that of the rest of the country, health workers are putting themselves at risk to fight a tide of sickness thats getting worse by the day amid a shortage of needed supplies and promises of help from the federal government that have yet to fully materialize.
One hospital in Queens saw 13 patients die in the space of 24 hours, NYC Health + Hospitals spokesperson Christopher Miller told WNBC.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says Elmhurst Hospital is “holding its own” but is in “race against time”, and needs immediate help amid COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Yesterday, de Blasio cautioned around half of all New Yorkers may get coronavirus.
“We are concerned about how many people are contracting the disease. I mean, I’ve been honest with New Yorkers – probably before this is over, half of all New Yorkers, if not more, will contract this disease,” de Blasio told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned hospitals may be soon overwhelmed and, together with de Blasio, asked for additional masks, ventilators and medical supplies as the city prepares for a massive increase in COVID-19 cases in already tight hospital quarters.
About 15 percent of cases in the state require hospitalization, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Based on the large number of hospitalised patients on ventilators, the number of deaths is expected to continue to increase, Cuomo said.
The US is now third globally in terms of the number of people infected by the virus – behind only China and Italy – and has seen at least 1070 deaths.
The World Health Organization echoed similar thoughts, saying it was seeing a “very large acceleration” in coronavirus infections in the United States which had the potential of becoming the new epicentre.
Over the past 24 hours, 85 per cent of new cases were from Europe and the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters.
Of those, 40 per cent were from the United States.
NYC PRISON RELEASES INMATES AMID COVID-19 THREAT
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 200 inmates were being released from prisons around the city in an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking at a press conference, de Blasio said the decision was a “major, major milestone” and added that another 175 inmates would be released by the end of the night.
According to the mayor, the city’s jail population is now below 5000 inmates for the first time since 1949.
Vice reported that there were 4906 prisoners in New York City as of Thursday.
Mayor de Blasio announced on Tuesday that he was releasing 300 inmates from Rikers Island. Those released are criminals who have committed non-violent or minor felonies and who have less than a year remaining on their sentence.
Less than a week ago, Mayor de Blasio released 40 low risk inmates from facilities in a bid to prevent coronavirus spreading in the jails.
De Blasio said he was trying to strike a “humanitarian balance” while “being mindful that there are real public safety concerns here.”
“’We’re pained by both sides of the equation. That is a situation where I know broadly what I’d like to see happen… I also know there’s a lot of extenuating circumstances,” he said.
Last week, an inmate at Rikers Island tested positive for the coronavirus and shortly afterwards, 80 cases were confirmed at the facility.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Jail released 1700 inmates on Tuesday — amounting to 10 per cent of the entire Los Angeles prison population — amid the fear of coronavirus running rampant in the jail.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that all 1700 inmates were non-violent offenders and had less than 30 days remaining of their sentences when released.
ISOLATED AUSSIES GIVEN MEDICATION LIFELINE
Islolated Aussie’s will soon be able to get medication delivered to their door under a new partnership between Australia Post and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
From Monday, the Pharmacy Home Delivery Service will be rolled out nation-wide to help the country’s most vulnerable through the coronavirus crisis.
The service will allow chemists to offer free drop-offs to customers who are self-isolating due to COVID-19 and those over the age of 70 who are considered at-risk.
It will only apply for prescription medication and other essential items and is limited to one delivery per month.
The announcement comes after the national government allocated $25 million to fund home
medicine amid the coronavirus pandemic.
AusPost CEO, Christine Holgate, said the move was essential in the current climate.
“We know so many people rely on their local pharmacy for essential medication, particularly the vulnerable and elderly who may not be able to visit their local store. Making delivery to people’s home is critical at this time,” Ms Holgate says.
SHRIMP SELLER LINKED TO COVID-19
A shrimp seller at the infamous wet market in Wuhan where coronavirus is said to have started has been revealed as one of the first infected.
Wei Guixian said she started to feel sick on December 10 and visited a small local clinic believing she had a cold before returning to market to serve customers.
“I felt a bit tired, but not as tired as previous years,” she told Chinese news outlet The Paper.
“Every winter, I always suffer from the flu. So I thought it was the flu.”
Eight days later she was critically ill in hospital becoming one of the first confirmed cases in a pandemic which has swept the world killing over 22,000 and infecting nearly half a million.
Ms Wei, who has recovered after leaving hospital in early January, believes she might have become infected via a toilet in the market she shared with wild meat sellers.
She says vendors on either side of her also contracted COVID-19 as well as others in her family including one of her daughters and niece.
Doctors finally quarantined her in late-December after establishing the link between the crippling respiratory illness and the Hua’nan market.
The Chinese government did not publicly confirm the outbreak until January 9 after allowing a New Year celebration banquet in Wuhan to go ahead.
Ms Wei said if authorities had acted sooner “a lot fewer people would have died.”
The mysterious ‘Patient Zero’ remains a mystery although according to the government of Wuhan the first confirmed case was a person surnamed Chen who began showing symptoms on December 8.
Chen, who has fully recovered, denied visiting the wet market.
Theories around the outbreak include the virus originating in a bat before jumping to human via a wild animal, either living or dead, sold at Hua’nan.
Experts who have studied the data believe the killer bug could have jumped from a creature to a person as early as October or November.
What is known, is that by the second week of December several workers at the wet market were showing symptoms including fever, aching limbs and coughing.
WORLD PREPARES MAKESHIFT CORONAVIRUS HOSPITALS
With the number of global cases of coronavirus surpassing 500,000, governments around the world are rushing to build field hospitals to treat the growing number of patients.
Countries most affected such as Iran and Italy have instigated help from the military to help build and organise the large medical centres.
The Iranian army has launched a 2000-bed hospital at the permanent venue of Tehran International Exhibitions, as the country struggles to keep the deadly virus contained.
The country has more than 29,000 confirmed cases with 2,389 recorded deaths.
The Community of Madrid and the UME (Spanish Emergency Army Unit) are installing the specific hospital to fit 5500 beds and an intensive care unit.
Spain had recorded 655 deaths in the past day, bringing the total to ,089.
London’s ExCel convention centre is currently being turned into a 5000-bed hospital for patients across the capital.
The coronavirus Super Hospital will be renamed NHS Nightingale and it will initially provide up to 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen.
Italy remains the hardest-hit country with a total of 8165 deaths.
A number of field hospitals have been set up across Italy including in Bergamo, where the virus hit the hardest.
US CASES OVERTAKE CHINA
America has reached a grim milestone as the number of deaths linked to coronavirus passed 1000, taking the total number of cases to more than 82,000 — overtaking those in China.
The numbers, collated by John Hopkins University in the US, also show the reported deaths associated with the disease in the US was at least 1050.
It comes as global cases passed 500,000 and China closed its borders to foreign nationals to prevent a resurgence of the deadly pandemic.
The situation in New York, which is now the epicentre of the virus in the US, is at breaking point, as the death toll rose to 385 (as of Thursday midday, local time) with more than 37,000 cases confirmed in New York, an increase of more than 7000 over a 24-hour period.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the number of people infected in the city could be as many as four million of New York’s eight million inhabitants.
Fiorello “Fred” Santoro, 83, a former Bronx homicide detective, told News Corp Australia that he had “never known anything like it”.
“I’ve seen a lot of things, but this is worse than 9/11, worse than Hurricane Sandy,” Mr Santoro, a native New Yorker, said. “It’s bad, really bad. And de Blasio is a moron. But Cuomo’s been great.
Mr Santoro’s sentiments echoed those of many New Yorkers who have slammed the performance of Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio, during the crisis, praising instead Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has become the face of the crisis in the struggling city.
“As upsetting as it is to be in New York right now, I’m thankful we have a real leader in Andrew Cuomo who is doing his f***ing job,” New Yorker Sean Singer told News Corp Australia. “He’s at the frontline and he’s making decisions for us and letting us know what’s going on. Where’s de Blasio?”
MILLIONS OUT OF WORK IN THE US
Meanwhile, nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week – more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982 – amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus.
The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is doing to the economy. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of lay-offs.
The pace of lay-offs is sure to accelerate as the US economy sinks into a recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theatres, gyms, and airlines. Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have close factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they’re cutting jobs to save money.
As job losses mount, some economists say America’s unemployment rate could approach 13 per cent by May. By comparison, the highest jobless rate during the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, was 10 per cent.
The economic deterioration has been swift. As recently as February, the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low of 3.5 per cent. And the economy was growing steadily if modestly. Yet by the April-June quarter of the year, some economists think the economy will shrink at its steepest annual pace ever – a contraction that could reach 30 per cent.
Many people who have lost jobs in recent days have been unable to file for unemployment aid because state websites and phone systems have been overwhelmed by a crush of applicants and have frozen up. That logjam suggests that Thursday’s report on filings for unemployment benefits actually understates the magnitude of job cuts last week.
With layoffs surging, a significant expansion of unemployment benefits for the millions who will lose jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak was included in an economic relief bill which passed through Congress and goes to the House for final approval.
One provision in the bill would provide an extra US$600 ($A1000) a week on top of the unemployment aid that states provide. Another would extend 13 additional weeks of benefits beyond the six months of jobless aid that most states offer.
Separate legislation passed last week provides up to US$1 billion ($A1.65 billion) to states to enhance their ability to process claims. But that money will take time to be disbursed.
The bill, expected to top $2 trillion ($A3.3 trillion), also bails out businesses, hospitals and local governments.
The package authorises US$1200 ($A2000) cheques for all adults who earn up to $US75,000 ($A125,000) and creates enormous loan programs for businesses.
A generous boost of US$600 ($A1000) per week in unemployment pay led to a final road bump when a group of Republicans sought unsuccessfully to change the bill so the unemployed could not get more than 100 per cent of their prior pay.
The package creates a $500 billion loan program run by the Treasury Department to assist businesses struggling to stay afloat. Loans to President Donald Trump’s businesses and those of members of Congress, other officials and their families are banned.
CHINA CLOSES BORDERS
It comes as China closed its borders to foreign nationals to prevent a resurgence of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, reports the New York Post.
The move signals an attempt by officials in China, the point of origin of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, to avoid having foreigners with visas or residency permits reintroduce the deadly bug into the Asian nation, just as cases there wane, Axios.com reported Thursday.
“The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, Axios reported.
“China will stay in close touch with all sides and properly handle personnel exchanges with the rest of the world under the special circumstances,” the statement said. “The abovementioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly.”
In January, Chinese officials suspended all travel in and out of Hubei province, home to Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated. The move grounded the nearly 60 million people who call the province home.
But on March 19, health officials reported no new cases in a 24-hour period for the first time since the outbreak began. While China still leads the globe with more than 81,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the number of cases there has since levelled off.
The country has also been critical of the way the pandemic has been handled by other countries, primarily the US.
“The US is the most developed country in the world, with leading medical technologies and top-class healthcare professionals,” the Chinese newspaper Global Times said in an editorial Thursday.
“But it has missed the best timing to contain COVID-19 due to the Trump administration’s slow move, driven by political reasons.”
In a Twitter post, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin, took another swipe at the US.
“The US government has made three mistakes,” Xijin wrote. “1, Slow response, which led to the US likely becoming the new epicentre. 2, Not assuming responsibility as a superpower; giving no substantial aid to allies such as Italy and Spain. 3, Undermining global security.”
Nonetheless, China also came under fire earlier this week when it was revealed that the country donated less than 3 per cent to the World Health Organization’s $675 million coronavirus fundraising drive.
A senior White House official called that “shocking and a disgrace.”
STRANDED AUSSIES GETTING A LIFELINE HOME
Hundreds of Australians stranded in South America due to the coronavirus pandemic could be flown home within days.
More than 260 Australian nationals and permanent residents are expected to be on a fully booked commercial charter flight scheduled to depart Lima, Peru, within days, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.
The flight is subject to final approval to depart by Peruvian authorities. Another flight is expected to leave Montevideo in Uruguay in coming days with Australians from the Ocean Atlantic cruise ship and any others in the area who want to come home.
“Further facilitated flights are already being planned for Australians in South America, due to particular challenges with transport out of the region,” Mr McCormack and Senator Payne said in a joint statement just after midnight on Thursday.
“Australian embassies in Lima and Buenos Aires are working with local authorities in Peru and Uruguay to ensure all arrangements are in place for the flights to Australia, which has required careful and consistent negotiation.” They said the government was supporting the flights after discussions with Australian travel company Chimu Adventures, which will manage the charter operations out of Lima, Montevideo and Cusco.
The government had provided vital assurances to make the flights happen, including indemnity and underwriting unforeseen costs.
“As the Government stated yesterday, we understand many Australians overseas face great difficulty getting home,” the statement said.
“We have agreed to consider, on a case-by-case basis, supporting commercial airlines to operate non-scheduled services to less central locations for Australians.” Australians who can travel home by commercial means are urged to do so as soon as possible.
More than 3000 Australians are stuck on board cruise ships across the globe, with more than 30 vessels scattered off South America, Europe, the United States and further afield.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has had more than 18,500 requests for assistance from Australians stranded overseas since March 13. Australians have now been banned from travelling overseas as authorities try to contain the coronavirus.
ARMANI TO MAKE OVERALLS FOR HOSPITAL WORKERS
Iconic Italian fashion brand Armani said on Thursday it would start making single use medical overalls for hospital workers at all its Italian factories.
The group – whose brands include Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani – said they would be used for “the individual protection of healthcare workers engaged in the fight against the coronavirus disease.” Founder Giorgio Armani has donated 2 million euros ($A3.65 million) in recent weeks to hospitals around Italy, including Bergamo and Piacenza in the hard-hit north, the company said.
It was not immediately clear how many factories the company operates in Italy. Like many other fashion brands, Armani has in recent years moved much of its production out of Italy to other countries where labour costs are lower.
WORLD LEADERS UNITE TO FIGHT VIRUS
World leaders on Thursday promised $US5 trillion ($A9 trillion) to stave off global economic collapse from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 21,000 people and shut down huge swathes of the globe.
From New York to Paris to New Delhi life has ground to standstill with some three billion people confined to their homes as governments scramble to halt the disease’s deadly march across the world.
The death toll spiralled upward again in Europe, as fatalities in the United States shot past 1000 and cases in Africa continued to multiply, and already-stretched healthcare systems readied for the worst.
Fears are mounting the virus could cause an even greater shock than the Great Depression, with the latest unemployment figures out of the US breaking records as businesses across the world’s biggest economy are pinched by the pandemic.
Leaders from the G20 most industrialised nations held crisis talks by video link on Thursday (local time), pledging a “united front” to fight the outbreak — along with an enormous financial injection to prop up the economy.
“The virus respects no borders,” the leaders said in a statement. “We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic.” They also pledged “robust” support for developing nations, where it is feared coronavirus could next take hold after ravaging China and then Europe.
But the unity pledged by the G20 has been in short supply with China and the United States trading barbs over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The outbreak first emerged in China late last year but has spread relentlessly. Globally, infections are nearing half a million worldwide.
Europe is now the hardest hit continent, clocking over 250,000 infections and more than 15,000 deaths.
VIRUS COULD PUSH AUSSIE HOSPITALS TO BREAKING POINT
By Thursday next week Australia’s hospital system could be unable to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak and the death rate from the virus will soar, Macquarie University modelling shows.
It comes as a cruise ship passenger in his 70s died of COVID-19 in Western Australia, taking the national coronavirus toll to 13 on Thursday afternoon.
Two researchers Hamish Meares and Michael Jones modelled what would happen in a standard Australian hospital that saw an increase of 20 COVID-19 patients a day with just one of those patients requiring admission to an intensive care bed.
Each patient that required an intensive care bed would be in hospital for at least 10 days.
“Australia’s ICU capacity will be exceeded at around 22,000 COVID-19 cases sometime around the 5 April, 2020,” the authors say in a paper published online in the Medical Journal of Australia.
“Other sources have suggested that Australia could cope with up to 44,580 COVID-19 cases, but even if this is true it only grants a three-day extension to the 8 April, 2020,” the paper said.
Under the scenario a single hospital requires 31 ICU beds on Day 7, and almost 200 on Day 14.
When there are not enough intensive care beds to deal with demand the death rate from the virus will soar.
“We found the mortality rate among hospitalised averaged 8.8 per cent from Day 1 to Day 14 and was essentially steady but from Day 15, the mortality rate dramatically rises with an average mortality of 22.7 per cent from Day 15 onwards,” the study said.
“These data imply that the eventual mortality rate of COVID-19 may be much higher than currently estimated because once the system reaches breaking point and there are insufficient ICU beds, mortality rises dramatically,” the authors say.
The researchers say while the inputs into their model can be debated, “it does appear to represent a realistic clinical scenario, is consistent with international data and suggests the conclusion that the impending demand for ICU beds could overwhelm capacity in even the largest Australian hospitals in the near future”.
“Australia must immediately take all available measures to rapidly decrease the rate of new cases and radically increase the number of ICU beds otherwise we may face the same fate as Italy, or worse,” they said.
THE BACHELOR AUSTRALIA HALTED
Production on The Bachelor Australia has been suspended due to COVID-19.
Channel 10 and production company Warner Bros made the decision “after considering all available options”.
“Although we have been employing extra precautions on set for some time, it is no longer practical to continue with production,” a statement read.
“The health and safety of our participants and crew members is our number one priority. These are extremely difficult times for all Australians and for our industry, and the full extent of those difficulties will not be known for some time to come.”
Production will resume as soon as it is safe to do so.
“While this decision is disappointing, we remain committed to keeping our audiences entertained and connected in these challenging times,” the statement continued.
“We are also committed to ensuring the television industry remains in as strong a shape as possible so we can continue to bring Australian viewers local content.”
DRONES COULD HELP DETECT THE INFECTED
A ‘pandemic drone’ invented by University of South Australia researchers could be employed to scan crowds and workplaces and detect people infected with COVID-19.
The University of South Australia team, led by Defence Chair of Sensor Systems Professor Javaan Chahl have previously invented drones that uses a computer vision system which can distinguish survivors from deceased bodies on battlefields in Afghanistan from four to eight metres away.
As long as the upper torso of a human body is visible, the cameras can pick up the tiny movements in the chest cavity, that indicate a heartbeat and breathing rate.
Now they have fitted drones with a specialised sensor and computer vision system that can monitor temperature, heart and respiratory rates, as well as detect people sneezing and coughing in crowds, offices, airports, cruise ships, aged care homes and other places where groups congregate.
The University of South Australia team will work with North American drone technology company Draganfly Inc to immediately start integrating commercial, medical and government customers.
Algorithms for measuring temperature and detecting coughing and sneezing movements are still being optimised at their lab in Adelaide, South Australia.
“There’s a lot of engineering going on right now but the aspiration is to have this in some sort of initial capability within six months,” Professor Chahl said.
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