(Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

Stricter rules have been announced over the weekend, with business leaders and politicians alike sticking to the “war-time” analogy.

Meanwhile, Australia’s isolation measures may be working as a third stimulus package is due to be announced today.

Factory shutdowns would be ‘virtue-signalling’

Closing Australia’s steel making factories to protect workers would be nothing but a symbolic gesture, Tony Shepherd, former Business Council of Australia president and chair of Tony Abbott’s 2014 commission of audit, has said. 

Quoted in The Australian, Shepherd warned shutting down vital economic sectors without evidence of coronavirus transmission was “virtue-signalling on a scale that’s unbelievable”. He has also written a column in the Daily Telegraph urging leaders to “keep a cool head” and keep plants open.  

“We want to feel like we’re all doing the right thing, but we need a fact-based approach,” he told Crikey. “It’s virtue-signalling”.

“Don’t close it down just for the sake of it — after one case, shut it down, test everyone and get it going again once that person is isolated,” he said. 

“There’s a risk, of course there’s a risk … but we’re at war and you have to take some risk. Manufacturing, we need it to survive. Who is going to make ventilators without these [manufacturing] plants?” 

War-time measures

As hospital workers stress about a severe shortage of personal protection, with doctors claiming they are being asked to reuse coronavirus face masks, Health Minister Greg Hunt has said the country is producing masks on a “war-time scale”.

“That’s ramping up and industry is stepping up. The army is helping with the production of those masks,” he said on ABC’s News Breakfast this morning.

Another cash splash

The “single largest measure” to support workers and the economy will be announced today, with a wage subsidy expected to provide up to $1500 a fortnight for full-time workers. Parliament will need to be recalled to legislate the package. 

New rules and police patrols

Strict new advice was announced on Sunday night by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, limiting gatherings from 10 people to two. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state will implement the rules from midnight tonight, enforced by a heavy police presence. 

Morrison said shopping centres are yet to remain open to purchase essentials… you know, things like toilet paper, groceries and jigsaw puzzles. Federal public servants have also finally been given the go-ahead to work from home.

Meanwhile, all foreign investment will be subject to approval by the Federal Investment Review Board, who will assess if it is in the “national interest” to protect Australian assets. 

It comes as Australia’s curve shows signs of flattening, with the rate of increase in cases falling from 25-30% a day to 13-15%. 

There’s an app for that

Following weeks of mixed messages and confusion around rules and procedures, the Australian government has released an official app to provide information, press releases and updates. A WhatsApp chat has also been established to provide information on the latest coronavirus data figures and restrictions. 

First-class quarantine

Thousands of travellers returning to Australia have been shuttled into five-star hotels including Melbourne’s Crown Promenade and the InterContinental and Novotel Darling Harbour in Sydney for 14 days in quarantine. 

Despite the five-star accommodation, travellers have complained of living in “quarantine hell” with no fresh air, no UberEats delivery, security guards roaming the halls and no laundry service. Reportedly, there was also no sparkling water on tap and the braised pheasant was overcooked (though, to be fair, reports of toddlers and diabetics missing meals isn’t great).

But they have a pretty sweet deal compared with travellers returning from Wuhan in February. Evacuees were held on Christmas Island. WA cruise ship passengers are to be quarantined on Rottnest Island, living among the quokkas. 

Urns in Wuhan tell a different story

Photos of stacks of urns in Wuhan have emerged on social media, putting the Chinese government’s official fatality rate in question. One funeral home shipped in 5000 urns across two days, with another ferrying 3500 urns. 

Just over 3000 deaths have been recorded in the Hubei province as photos of life returning to normal in China flood government media sites. 

Problems plague Queensland elections 

Queensland’s local government and state by-elections went ahead, despite social distancing rules. Thanks to technical issues, results are yet to be finalised with more than half a million people voting via mail to avoid leaving their homes amid the pandemic. 

United State’s worrying statistics

Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’s leading expert on infectious diseases and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has warned between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans will die from COVID-19.

Cases have risen dramatically around the country, with more than 137,294 confirmed cases and 2,436 deaths. 

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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