Government says mobile tracking app won’t be mandatory after all
The government has scrapped plans to force Australians to download a tracking app onto their mobile phones to trace coronavirus in the community.
The Prime Minister has conceded the government won’t force Australians to download tracking software after it was viewed by many as a draconian measure to trace coronavirus cases in the community.
On Friday, Scott Morrison said he wanted to make the app compulsory if enough people didn’t sign up for it because at least 40 per cent of the population needs to be on board to make it effective.
But in a tweet this morning, he confirmed it “will not be mandatory”.
“We will be seeking the co-operation and support of Australians to download the app to help our health workers, to protect our community and help get our economy going again,” Mr Morrison tweeted.
Mr Morrison had spruiked the need to make the app compulsory in an interview on Triple M yesterday, likening the use of tracing software to national service.
“I know this would be something they might not normally do at an ordinary time but this is not an ordinary time,” he said.
“If you download this app you’ll be helping save someone’s life.”
Better contact tracing is one of three main benchmarks the government wants to meet before strict restrictions can be lifted. The other two are a broader testing regime and a greater capacity to respond to local outbreaks.
Mr Morrison says the app won’t be used by police as evidence to prosecute people for breaching social distancing requirements.
- COVID-19 cases in Australia
- COVID-19 deaths in Australia
NSW 2946(26 deaths)
VIC 1319 (14)
QLD 1007 (6)
WA 541 (7)
ACT 103 (3)
SA 435 (4)
TAS 184 (8)
NT 28 (0)
- The global death toll from coronavirus has passed 153,000.
- There are more than 2.2 million known cases of infection but more than 568,000 people have recovered, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally
- NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard sent a stern warning to younger people flouting COVID-19 restrictions, with 42 per cent of positive cases in NSW now people under the age of 40.
- The World Health Organisation defended China’s revised death toll in Wuhan, saying many countries will also be reviewing their own records when the peak of their outbreaks has passed
- US President Donald Trump has urged voters to “liberate” several key swing states governed by Democrats
- A UN body estimates 300,000 Africans will die as a result of the coronavirus pandemic
Thanks for joining me. Handing the blog over to Laura Chung now, who will continue our coverage of the health crisis into the evening.
Here’s a recap of this morning’s events:
- The global death toll from coronavirus has passed 153,000. There are more than 2.2 million known cases of infection but more than 568,000 people have recovered, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally
- In Australia, the COVID-19 death toll stands at 68 after the deaths of three people were announced today.
- NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has sent a stern warning to young people flouting COVID-19 restrictions, with 42 per cent of positive cases in NSW now people under 40.
- NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Karen Webb has given an update on the Ruby Princess, with the chance of the ship leaving Sydney tomorrow as originally planned “remote”.
- The Queensland government is offering to put $200 million towards a national package to save national carrier Virgin Australia from falling victim to the novel coronavirus downturn.
- US President Donald Trump has estimated the nation’s death toll to reach 60,000 to 65,000 as a result of COVID-19.
- The first warning of the devastation that the coronavirus could wreak inside U.S. nursing homes came in late February when residents of a facility in suburban Seattle perished as families waited helplessly outside.
TOKYO (AP) – Hospitals in Japan are increasingly turning away sick people as the country struggles with surging coronavirus infections and its emergency medical system collapses.
In one recent case, an ambulance carrying a man with a fever and difficulty breathing was rejected by 80 hospitals and forced to search for hours for a hospital in downtown Tokyo that would treat him. Another feverish man finally reached a hospital after paramedics unsuccessfully contacted 40 clinics.
The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine say many hospital emergency rooms are refusing to treat people including those suffering strokes, heart attacks and external injuries.
State Liberal frontbencher Tim Smith has stepped up his attack on Victoria’s Chief Health officer, with the shadow planning minister accusing Professor Brett Sutton of peddling “bullshit” in his COVID-19 health advice to the government.
Mr Smith went online on Friday evening to allege the Chief Health Officer was basing his advice on instructions from Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and that Victoria’s social distancing rules were “punitive” and some of them “ridiculous”.
We don’t care about your views, we want to know about the science that underpins your advice. Show us your evidence as to why various individual sporting pursuits are banned in Victoria but no other state in Australia ?
Or are your ‘views’ what Daniel or Jenny told you to say ? https://twitter.com/victoriancho/status/1251075354187362305 …
Chief Health Officer, Victoria
My view on golf? You can’t play it. There are only four reasons to leave home: food and supplies, medical care and caregiving, basic exercise, and work or education. There are limits on sport and certain recreational activities to protect us all.
The Kew MP’s twitter tirade came after Professor Sutton was forced to step in and correct a directive from a health department staffer who told another Liberal state MP’s office that playing golf was allowed under Victoria’s tight lockdown rules.
Read more here.
Waverley [in Sydney] mayor Paula Masselos has disputed claims from the opposition that council is looking to reopen beaches in the eastern suburbs.
Ms Masselos said this was “not the case” and that council was simply “looking at ways” to provide access to the water for ocean swimming and surfing for exercise.
“The Council has been looking at ways to manage restrictions at our beaches ever since they were closed on 21 March due to limits on public gatherings introduced by the state government,” she said. “Any plan to provide access to the water needs to be carefully developed so that we can provide safe access for our residents.
“The Council will let the community know when any further decisions have been made. As of this point, there is nothing further to report.”
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has sent a stern warning to young people flouting COVID-19 restrictions, with 42 per cent of positive cases in NSW now people under 40.
Mr Hazzard said people aged 20 to 29 were the most represented group “by a longshot”.
“For those of you that think you can’t get COVID-19 because you’re younger, well the answer is you absolutely can,” he said. “You’ve got to get the message guys, that this is actually not the time for partying.”
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Karen Webb has given an update on the Ruby Princess, with the chance of the ship leaving Sydney tomorrow as originally planned “remote”.
There is now 162 crew onboard who have tested positive for COVID-19, an additional nine from yesterday.
“We are still working through getting the results and testing all the crew, so we are yet to get to the point that we can say the crew are well enough to travel,” she said. “We are putting the health of the crew first.”
Ms Webb said towards the end of next week was a more likely timeframe.
There is now 13 crew members in health facilities across NSW.
Two more people have died overnight in NSW, bringing the state toll to 26.
An 83-year-old man died in Royal Prince Alfred after travelling on the Celebrity Eclipse.
A 58-year-old woman also died in Tamworth Hospital yesterday, bringing the national toll to 68.
NSW also saw 10 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 2946 across the state.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard also sent a stern warning to young people flouting COVID-19 restrictions, with 42 per cent of positive cases in NSW now people under 40.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton: believes the coronavirus pandemic is five times larger than the officially recorded 2 million infections.CREDIT:SIMON SCHLUTER
Forget going to MCG, concerts or overseas travel until 2021: health chief
Victorians should forget about going to football, cricket or travelling overseas for ‘some time’, says state’s health chief.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has warned Victorians that large live sporting events such as football and cricket are likely to remain closed to spectators until at least 2021, and Australia’s borders could remain shut until a COVID-19 vaccine is obtained.
Professor Sutton warned on Friday , in an interview with The Age, that any lifting of the current stage-three restrictions would be gradual and there would be no return of the public to pubs, restaurants, concerts or “MCG-type” gatherings “for some time”.
Despite the continued low levels of new infections of COVID-19 in Victoria, with just one new case diagnosed on Thursday from 2700 tests, Professor Sutton warned that one case in Wuhan was enough to spark a global pandemic. He also said he believed that pandemic was five times larger than the officially recorded 2 million infections.
Victoria has now had 1302 coronavirus diagnoses, with 14 Victorians losing their lives to the virus, and 32 cases being treated in hospital, including 13 in intensive care.
The social-distancing restrictions will be reviewed on May 11 when the current state of emergency expires, but Professor Sutton warned that Victorians should not expect any sudden or dramatic changes, rather a gradual peeling-off of “layers” of restrictions.
“It might be three or four or five or six layers peeled off over some months,” the Chief Health Officer told The Age on Friday.
“But there’ll be something in place that constrains us until there’s a vaccine.
“That might be gatherings, MCG-type gatherings and maybe we can hold it back if we can get everything else right in terms of testing and hand hygiene and cough etiquette.”
Professor Sutton said it was unrealistic to expect large crowds of sports fans or concert-goers to be allowed to gather again this year or for the nation’s borders to open in the foreseeable future.
“International travel coming back, I think that’s the thing that is going to be constrained for a long time,” he said.
The AFL says it could resume its suspended season as early as July, with games played behind closed doors. The National Rugby League is also keen to restart its stalled championship as soon as possible without fans in the stands.
But Professor Sutton believes large sporting crowds will be too risky until a vaccination is found or unless a political decision is taken to abandon the current strategy of limiting the spread of the virus and “let it go” through the community.
A continued international travel ban would make large international sporting events like the men’s T20 cricket World Cup, scheduled for October and November, and January’s Australian Open tennis very unlikely.
For everyday Victorians, any relaxation of the current restraints, if the rate of infection allows, would be likely to allow more time outside their homes for reasons other than work, exercise, shopping or medical treatment.
“You could probably go out for other things where you haven’t got that gathering of people, other activities where you can keep that distance,” Professor Sutton said.
He also pushed back against those arguing that the continued low levels of new infections justified the rapid opening up of the economy.
“We’re only here because of what we’ve done,” Professor Sutton said.
“We’ll only continue to be here by having some measure of what we’ve done continue.
“It only took one infected person in China for the 2 million cases we’ve got today — there’s probably 10 million — and we will head in that direction if we take the brakes off.”
Professor Sutton said he was “quietly satisfied” reading the current daily numbers of new infections and he would be surprised if more than 10 were recorded on a single day.
It is a sharp contrast to his feelings earlier in the pandemic with Victoria “teetering on the brink” with more than 100 cases identified in one day and when the threat of mass fatalities “horrified” him.
“I couldn’t sleep, I was emotionally fragile and I was desperate,” Professor Sutton said.
“I just needed to convince myself that I had done everything within my power to stop what was happening in Europe and northern Italy because I could see how it would go if it got away from us.”
But he also needed political backing, particularly when making some of the biggest calls, like his advice to ban crowds at the Australian Grand Prix, which was subsequently abandoned.
“I had made the case very strongly to the Premier and the minister and … they both said ‘public health advice, we will back it, whatever you say’,” the Chief Health Officer said.
“With the grand prix, I thought: ‘Have I cost the state 50 million bucks?’
“They said: ‘Just make the decision and we will back you’.”
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, in Zanzibar in 1991.
The 50-year-old found himself making some of the most momentous decisions in Victoria’s recent history just a year after being officially confirmed in the role of the state’s top doctor.
Professor Sutton came to population health after 10 years in emergency medicine, working in emergency departments from London to Sydney to regional Victoria and Tasmania and various suburban hospitals in his native Melbourne.
But working in the developing world, in Afghanistan, Timor Leste, Kenya and Ethiopia showed Professor Sutton the power of what public health could achieve, with projects capable of saving thousands of lives.
It is a lesson that applies to the present pandemic.
“We’ve got the potential of thousands of lives lost and, I think thousands of lives saved, thus far,” Professor Sutton said.
“That just reinforces the power of population health.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has flagged the possibility of even tighter border closures than those now in place, despite the federal government talking about reviewing restrictions in a month.
Queensland recorded a further six COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the state’s total to 1007.
Queensland principals have expressed concern for overcrowding as schools are set to re-open Monday and social distancing measures may mean some children get turned away.
About half of those people have since recovered, while more than 77,700 tests have been conducted across the state so far.
Further south, Victoria recorded one new case overnight and in NSW a further 29 people have been infected with the virus.
While most cases in Queensland are linked to people returning from overseas, 20 of NSW’s 29 new cases were contracted locally.
Queensland’s encouraging numbers come as Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested the strict movement restrictions in place across the country could be reviewed in four weeks if the numbers stayed low.
“We need to tread very carefully. Our border measures have been working, but we need to make sure that we get this right,” she said.
“The virus is here and we need to understand that.”
Responding to questions about what else she could do on top of the current measures in place, the Premier said there was still room to tighten restrictions further if there was an increase in transmission of the virus in other states.
“We’re not looking at that at this stage, but I’m not ruling that out in the future. It can get a lot tougher,” she said.
A Cairns Hospital employee who works at an internal lab tested positive to the virus, causing dozens of co-workers to go into self-isolation.
State Health Minister Steven Miles said the pathology worker had contact with another known case and it was “very unlikely” they became infected when testing coronavirus samples.
Mr Miles said the worker was in isolation, colleagues were in quarantine and the laboratory was closed until a deep clean was completed.