As coronavirus cases climb to more than half a million worldwide, several Australian states have signalled a total lockdown, following the lead of New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the Australian and US economies are, like the rest of the world, taking a huge hit as NSW police hand out fines for those disobeying isolation rules.

G20 leaders pledge $8.2 trillion

This morning world leaders, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, met via videoconference to commit $8.2 trillion to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies and other goods across borders and to resolve supply chain disruptions.

The UK promised more money for researching a vaccine, while Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping both called for countries to lift sanctions and stop trade wars. 

States ready to break rank

NSW and Victoria are pushing for stage three lockdowns, meaning everyone would have to stay at home and outdoor activities, aside from grocery shopping, exercise and going out for medical needs, would be banned. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed the state will have to “go further” unless the spread of the disease slows, with the ACT signalling it would follow suit. 

Australia’s death toll has climbed to 13, with seven deaths in NSW, three in Victoria, two in WA and one in Queensland. 

First ABS survey shows hit to businesses

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the results of the first Business Impacts of COVID-19 survey, showing 49% of Australian businesses have reported an adverse impact between March 16 and 23, with 86% expecting to be hit in coming months.

The most common impact was a drop in local demand. Food and accommodation service businesses were the most heavily affected with 78% already reporting troubles and 96% expecting future negative effects.

The least affected so far were professional services (21%), utilities like gas and water supply (34%) and mining (37%).

US is now a coronavirus-record holder

The US now has more known cases than any other country as infection rates surge past both China and Italy. There are at least 81,321 people infected with the virus. 

The country is preparing to vote on a US$2 trillion stimulus package — the highest in its history — as more than three million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. 

Clive Palmer endorses non-cure

Clive Palmer has donated $1 million to a coronavirus action fund to develop a Covid-19 treatment using hydroxychloroquine, announcing his donation in a bright yellow, two page spread in The Australian

The antimalarial drug has been spruiked by Donald Trump, though has deadly side effects if used inappropriately. Clinical trials of the drug have been too small to be relevant or inconclusive. 

Developers stripped Australia of supplies

Two major Chinese developers shipped medical supplies out of Australia and into Wuhan as the crisis escalated, potentially contributing to the shortage of products here.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that Risland, one of China’s largest property developers, sent a chartered plane with 90 tons of protective coveralls and medical gloves to Wuhan on February 24, while another Chinese company Greenland Australia directed employees to put their work on hold and source bulk supplies. It had sourced three million protective masks, 700,000 hazmat suits and 500,000 pairs of protective gloves, along with thermometers, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitisers, and paracetamol from around the world.

NSW starts handing out fines

Fines introduced by NSW this week have already been handed out, with police issuing a $5000 fine to a massage parlour owner for continuing to operate, along with $1000 fines for its three staff members. Another $1000 fine was given to a Lake Macquarie resident for disobeying isolation rules after travelling abroad.

Peter Fray

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