gladys berejiklian
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

A death in Victoria takes the national coronavirus death toll to 103. And as the state’s COVID-19 cases continue to climb, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has resisted calls to close the borders. But she has advised businesses to shun Melbourne customers.

Australians’ trust in the US and China has fallen in the pandemic, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses claims of pork barrelling as he flags extra cash for regional electorates.

Neighbourly feud

Berejiklian has told tourism operators and businesses to turn away Melburians travelling from the city’s six COVID-19 hotspots as community transmission increases. 

A man in his eighties has died from COVID-19 overnight in Victoria, and the state has recorded 20 new cases in the last 24 hours, marking a full week of daily double-digit growth. Most cases are still under investigation, though two are linked to a family cluster in Keilor Downs, which is behind 13 new cases across eight households. 

Just one of the 116 coronavirus cases identified in the past week has been traced through the COVIDSafe app. 

A plan to divert Australian travellers returning from overseas away from Melbourne has been abandoned.

Victoria’s management of hotel quarantine arrangements had been questioned, with reports that hotel workers had limited expert advice on how to use personal protective equipment when escorting guests and delivering food. Clusters have been attributed to hotel workers spreading the disease in the community.

The Victorian government has also been accused of dropping the ball when it comes to managing crisis communication.

The company in charge of sending out mass messages to close contacts of confirmed cases and recently returned travellers was reportedly only told to start translating messages — which ask if people are still in quarantine, their condition, and test results — on Monday. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced officials doorknocking in multicultural communities today will focus on greater cultural and linguistic capability.

Trust in US, China plummets

A Lowy Institute poll has found Australians’ trust in China and the US dropping rapidly. 

Of the respondents, 94% said Australia should “reduce our economic dependence on China”, as trust for China’s President Xi Jinping “to do the right thing regarding world affairs” plummeted to 22% — half of what it was in 2018.

Confidence in US President Donald Trump sits at 30% — up 5% from last year. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tops the list of leaders with 87% of respondents having confidence in her leadership. Just 60% say the same thing about our PM. 

Meanwhile, trust that the US will act responsibly in the world sits at 51%. 

Perhaps the lack of confidence in Trump has something to do about his repeated jokes about wanting to slow testing down to limit recorded coronavirus cases.

Extra cash for electorates

Scott Morrison has said regional areas may be able to receive the JobKeeper wage subsidy longer than the planned cut-off in late September, arguing many are dependent on tourism.

Morrison made the announcement while campaigning in the NSW south coast electorate of Eden-Monaro, which is set to hold a byelection in less than two weeks. He rejected claims of pork barrelling. 

Extra grants worth $86 million have also been made available for primary producers hit hard by the bushfires. 

Speaking of cash, it turns out we’re turning away from it: there is virtually no demand for coins following the pandemic. Tens of millions of coins may never make it into circulation as Australians turn to cashless transactions. 

The Reserve Bank of Australia had been forced to produce around $2.5 billion when the pandemic first started as people rushed to withdraw their savings, though this has not offset the overall waning demand for cash.

Peter Fray

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