Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of emergency. (Image: AAP/David Crosling)

It’s been a big weekend with coronavirus cases skyrocketing, as the federal and state governments introduce measures to slow the spread.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Cases keep climbing

Australia’s death toll rose to five over the weekend, following the deaths of two women (aged 77 and 90) in NSW. Australia currently has 299 confirmed cases of coronavirus — 135 of them are in NSW.

Notable cases include actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Nine’s entertainment editor Richard “Dickie” Wilkins, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

TV viewers will have to get used to either awkward silence or canned laughter as the ABC, Nine and Network Ten put a ban on live studio audiences for certain shows. 

Italy’s death toll rose by 25% yesterday to 1441 with the entire country still in lockdown. Heartwarming videos of residents singing from their balconies have gone viral. 

A newborn baby has tested positive for the virus in London, making them the youngest case yet. It’s unknown whether the baby caught the virus in the womb from their mother, or after making its way into the world. 

Mass gatherings are out

Gatherings with more than 500 people will effectively be banned from today, following advice from Scott Morrison and health officials. Many questioned why the ban, announced on Friday, only came into play today.

On the same day the ban was announced, Morrison said he would head to the Cronulla Sharks first NRL match as “it might be the last game I get to go to for a long time”. After some pretty swift backlash, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said he would no longer be going to “avoid any unnecessary confusion about his attendance”.  

Meanwhile schools and universities are to remain open, with Education Minister Dan Tehan saying closing schools would do more harm than good. A ban on visiting nursing homes may come into play tomorrow. Foreign Minister Marise Payne also said a general lockdown has not been ruled out.

A state of emergency has been declared in Victoria, which gives authorities the ability to enforce the ban on gatherings as well as a mandatory 14 days of self-isolation for anyone arriving in Australia from overseas. Shortly after Victoria’s announcement, the ACT declared a public health emergency.

Window shopping

As China comes through the other side of its coronavirus peak, shoppers have hit the stores, queuing for grooming, bubble tea and brand names. 

Meanwhile, the Aussie dollar has dropped to a 12-year low this morning of 61.1 US cents.

Woolworths has cancelled home deliveries in some areas under immense demand, and has launched a dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and disabled.

Tests and vaccines

Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has advised GPs to only test patients if they have returned from abroad, or been in contact with an infected person and have symptoms. Our stockpile of tests and swabs is running low.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has tried to get the US exclusive access to a coronavirus vaccine, offering a German medical company “large sums of money” in an aggressive takeover bid.

There are about 35 companies racing to find a vaccine. But, by the time one has been developed, tested, and made in large quantities, the virus may have already peaked and declined. 

Peter Fray

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