THE CRITERIA NEEDED TO LIFT LOCKDOWN
After guaranteeing that current measures will remain in place for at least four more weeks, the ABC reports that Scott Morrison has outlined three requirements Australia would need to fulfil before the country begins relaxing existing rules:
- Broader testing regime
- Better contact tracing
- Confidence in the healthcare system’s capacity to contain outbreaks
According to The Sydney Morning Herald ($), fresh modelling from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity suggests social distancing measures are keeping the pandemic at a low level, to the point that the virus could be eliminated from mainland Australia in a matter of months.
NOT THE END, NOT THE BEGINNING OF THE END: As optimistic as that sounds, consider a new Science report suggesting that resurgent global waves of the virus, “could occur as late as 2025 even after a prolonged period of apparent elimination” and — in the absence of new treatments or a vaccine — “surveillance and intermittent distancing (or sustained distancing if it is highly effective) may need to be maintained into 2022.”
MILLIONS FOR VIRGIN, QANTAS
Last night, the ABC reported that the federal government will pledge $165 million to underwrite domestic Virgin Australia and Qantas flights to capital cities and around a dozen regional centres, over the next eight weeks.
After suspending domestic flights last week, Virgin Australia will today begin operating 64 return services from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth. This follows existing support for both airlines to maintain international routes to Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong and Auckland.
NATIONALISE THIS: The announcement comes after Greens leader Adam Bandt called for the government to bring Virgin into public ownership rather than let it fall into administration. The Courier-Mail reports over $2 billion in forward flight bookings and billions more in velocity points, there’s basically no capacity from the private sector.
REMOTE TESTING PROGRAM
The Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt yesterday announced $3.3 million to establish a rapid Remote Point of Care Testing Program for remote and rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
There will be 83 testing sites rolled out across at-risk Indigenous communities using the 45-minute Xpert SARS-CoV-2 test, which, as SBS explores in more depth, should come as a relief for communities in areas such as the Kimberley where results can currently take up to 10 days.
LET’S TRACETOGETHER, APART
According to ZDNet, parliamentary discussions have accelerated this week over an Australian version of the TraceTogether app. Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert announced yesterday that, while a local version is still some weeks away from going live, it is in the final stages of a privacy impact assessment, with “very strong cybersecurity assistance” from the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Australian Signals Directorate.
HOW MANY DIFFERENT WORDS THERE SET OFF RED FLAGS? While Robert also went to pains to explain how the app’s combination of Bluetooth and encrypted systems could protect privacy, computing experts at Macquarie University and the University of Melbourne last week explained how the original app provides too much power and too little oversight to the “centralised authority” managing user’s data.
STATE WRAP: RELAXING DONOR DISCRIMINATION, NT STIMULUS PACKAGE & LANDLORD PROTESTS
- NSW is set to relax restrictions on gay men donating blood and redress discriminatory red tape throughout the pandemic (The Sydney Morning Herald ($));
- The NT government will double its “Home Improvement Scheme” stimulus package to more than $60 million, after receiving more than 10,000 applications in under a month (NT News); and
- The Queensland Government has promised to continue consultation on proposed rental protections after the Real Estate Institute of Queensland delivered thousands of angry letters to the Premier’s office within a 24-hour campaign. (The Courier-Mail)
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
This is COVID-19, not COVID-1 folks, and so you would think the people in charge of the World Health Organization, facts and figures, would be on top of that.
“Brendan Murphy is the best-known chief medical officer (CMO) Australia has ever had. But it’s not a tough contest, given most people didn’t even know the role existed. So who is the man with the bushy eyebrows who has stepped out of the bureaucratic shadows?”
“While success in suppressing new infections here has prompted talk of lifting economically crippling lockdown restrictions sooner rather than later, it’s now clear that the US economy is being smashed, in a way that will slow the entire global economy for some time to come.”
“Whatever else you can say about him, Chris Uhlmann sure has a way of getting the crowd on his feet. Two days ago, the headline of his op-ed piece — ‘blah blah grandparent loving embrace blah kill them who are we to stop them?’ — shot around social media, the only public sphere remaining.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Australia now leading the race for a vaccine — Greg Hunt (The Daily Telegraph): “Firstly, in terms of treatments, there are more than 300 trials of treatments under way globally, including several here in Australia. Some involve new drugs. Some seek to use — re-purpose — existing ones. Some are more promising than others.”
Don’t take it out on Asian Australians in the search for a scapegoat for Covid-19 — Jason Yat-sen Li (The Guardian): “Last week, I was one of the signatories to an open letter calling for national unity and rejecting racism signed by Chinese Australians from across the political and cultural divide. We have been watching with growing concern the shift in the public discourse that demands a public intervention, something we have not seen since Pauline Hanson appeared on the national stage in the mid-1990s.”
After 10 days of hell, take it from me: you don’t want to catch this virus — Bevan Shields (The Age): “The days had a grim rhythm before I got sick. As coronavirus tightened its grip on Europe, Spain’s latest death toll would come in mid-morning, France and the United Kingdom would follow mid-afternoon and Italy at 5pm. Thousands would be dead by the time I filed my story before dinner.”