Australia has passed its 200th case of coronavirus, while Apple announced it would be closing its retail stores worldwide and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed self-isolation for everyone entering the country.
This story was updated throughout the day on Saturday. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Saturday’s key moments
Spanish Government to put country under lockdown
The Spanish Government will call for all Spaniards to stay home except to buy food or drugs, go to hospital, go to work or other emergencies, according to a draft decree seen by Reuters.
The draft decree confirms reports by local media that the Government was to put the country under lockdown as part of its earlier announced two-week state of emergency measures meant to combat the coronavirus.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says it cannot be ruled out that the country will see more than 10,000 cases next week. (Reuters: Sergio Perez)
Health authorities in Spain said that coronavirus infections have reached 5,753 people, half of them in the capital, Madrid.
That represents a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez acknowledged on Friday (local time) that the number of infections could reach 10,000 in the coming days.
Mr Sanchez said on Friday that Spain would “mobilise all resources”, including the military, to contain the sharp rise in cases.
Spain has followed Italy’s path in implementing a similar lockdown after both European countries failed to contain the virus in regional hotspots.
Australia passes 200 confirmed cases
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said there would be more cases announced every day. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)
Three new confirmed cases in Western Australia, 11 more in Queensland, 20 in NSW and another 13 in Victoria today pushed the total number of cases in Australia past 230.
The current numbers are:
- 112 in NSW
- 49 in Victoria
- 46 in Queensland
- 19 in South Australia
- 17 in Western Australia
- 5 in Tasmania
- 1 in ACT
There have been three coronavirus-related deaths in Australia so far.
At his daily press conference, chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said there had been “early evidence of community transmission”, mainly in New South Wales, so they decided to move early on social distancing measures to get ahead of the curve.
The Federal Government yesterday announced it was advising all non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people should be suspended from Monday.
“Social distancing is a very important measure to [slow] the spread,” he said.
As of Saturday afternoon, there have been 140,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 worldwide.
Super Rugby to be suspended after Sunday’s games
The Brumbies will play the Waratahs in the final game before the competition is suspended. (Brumbies Rugby)
The Super Rugby competition will be put on hold at the completion of this weekend’s matches due to the coronavirus outbreak.
SANZAAR, which run the Southern Hemisphere club competition, said on Saturday it “has no option but to suspend the 2020 Super Rugby tournament” for the foreseeable future after the ACT Brumbies host the New South Wales Waratahs on Sunday.
The decision comes after the New Zealand Government issued a directive requiring travellers entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days.
SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said the safety and welfare of the public were paramount and the competition was always going to abide by government instructions.
“Given the complexity of our competition structure [and] the multiple geographies that we cover, we have no other option but to align with such directives,” he said.
The 15-team rugby union competition features clubs from Argentina, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia — including the Waratahs, Brumbies, Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels.
New jury trials suspended indefinitely in Vic
Victoria will suspend all new jury trials following the confirmation of another 13 cases of coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to 49.
The new cases include 11 men and two women aged between 20 and 69.
All cases are recovering at home in isolation, except for one person who is stable in hospital.
The suspension will come into effect on Monday, March 16, until further notice.
Permits to travel to remote NT communities has been suspended
The Northern Land Council (NLC) has suspended permits for non-essential travel to remote communities in the NT’s Top End.
No permits for non-essential travel will be granted until further notice.
“The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people in their communities who are very concerned about the spread of COVID-19,” chief executive Marion Scrymgour said.
The council had said earlier this week that all non-essential travel to remote communities should be avoided.
Apple closes stores worldwide. But there’s some good news
Apple will close all its retail stores worldwide for the next two weeks — except for those in greater China, which have recently reopened.
The company’s chief executive Tim Cook announced the news in a tweet:
@tim_cook: In our workplaces and communities, we must do all we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Apple will be temporarily closing all stores outside of Greater China until March 27 and committing $15M to help with worldwide recovery
Apple reopened all 42 of its branded stores in China on Friday.
The Federal Government is rolling out its advertising blitz
A coronavirus advertising blitz is being rolled out across television, radio, newspapers, social media, billboards and bus stops around the country tonight.
The Government has been criticised for a delayed broad public information campaign, for which $30 million was allocated last week.
Strong emphasis has been placed on the need for good hygiene in the advertising campaign, with simple hand-washing front and centre.
People who have recently returned from overseas, or who have been in contact with those who have coronavirus, and are experiencing cold and flu-like symptoms are the only ones being urged to get tested at this stage.
Ardern imposes self-isolation for everyone entering NZ
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says travellers entering the country from midnight Sunday must self-isolate for 14 days.
People from small South Pacific island countries, which currently have no reported cases, will be exempt.
All cruise ships will also be told not to come to New Zealand until June 30.
Ms Ardern said these were “far-reaching and unprecedented” measures to tackle a global pandemic.
New Zealand has six confirmed cases and has not recorded any deaths.
Cricket postponed after travel restrictions
Australia’s one-day international cricket series against New Zealand has been postponed after one game, following the New Zealand Government’s announcement of a tightening of border restrictions.
The Black Caps side played the first of three scheduled ODIs against Australia at the SCG on Friday night.
By Saturday it was decided that the team would return to NZ immediately.
Offices scrubbed clean after Peter Dutton tests positive
Cleaners in full protective gear have been spotted disinfecting parts of the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in Sydney, where Peter Dutton attended a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Last night, the Home Affairs Minister announced he had tested positive for coronavirus and been admitted to hospital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the chief medical officer had advised him that he did not need to self-isolate or be tested because he was not in contact with Mr Dutton in the 24 hours before he showed symptoms.
But Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said the advice for the general public was that anyone who came into “close contact” with a coronavirus case should self-isolate for 14 days, and he has questioned why the Government was taking a different approach.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said it was “extremely unlikely” Mr Dutton would have infected his Cabinet colleagues.
On Saturday morning, Mr Dutton tweeted that he was “feeling much better”.
@PeterDutton_MP: I’m feeling much better this morning – thank you to everyone for your well wishes. I was really disappointed to see comments by @Bowenchris seeking to make political advantage.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
Europe is the new epicentre
Director-General of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says Europe is now the epicentre of coronavirus. (Reuters: Denis Balibouse)
The World Health Organisation says Europe has become the new epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic.
The death toll in Italy has reached 1,266, with 250 deaths recorded there in the last 24 hours and a total of more than 15,000 cases of COVID-19.
Spain, the next worst-affected European nation with 5,753 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 120 deaths, has declared a state of emergency.
France has recorded more than 2,800 cases, Germany 2,300 and nearly 800 in the United Kingdom.
“Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of world combined apart from China,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Christchurch memorials cancelled over coronavirus concerns
New Zealand has cancelled tomorrow’s national remembrance service for victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks because of concerns about COVID-19.
The Government said it was taking what it called a “precautionary approach” because the event was expected to attract a large crowd with many travelling from around New Zealand and from overseas.
“This is a pragmatic decision. We’re very saddened to cancel, but in remembering such a terrible tragedy, we shouldn’t create the risk of further harm being done,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“March 15 now becomes an opportunity for every New Zealander to reflect in their own way on the events of a year ago. I encourage everyone to take time on Sunday to remember and to recommit to the values of inclusion and love demonstrated so clearly a year ago.”
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
US Masters postponed, Premier League off
Patrick Reed places the green jacket on Tiger Woods at the 2019 Masters tournament. (Reuters: Brian Snyder)
The US Masters golf tournament and the English Premier League have been postponed, joining a long list of sporting events either cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19.
Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said the Masters and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur would be held at a later date, with some predicting that could be in September.
“Ultimately, the health and wellbeing of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision,” he said in a statement.
It is the first interruption to the Masters since World War II, when the tournament was cancelled from 1943-1945.
The decision this morning came after the English Premier League released a statement on Friday evening Australian time that it would postpone the season — and all major lower leagues such as the Championship — until April.
Last night, game two of the NBL finals series was played behind closed doors in Perth, with only a crowd of about 250 close friends and family of the players allowed in the 14,000-capacity Perth Arena.
Donald Trump declares national emergency
US President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency over the fast-spreading coronavirus, opening the door to providing about $US50 billion ($75.2 billion) in federal aid to fight the disease.
Mr Trump made the announcement at a White House Rose Garden news conference as he battled to show Americans he was aggressively addressing the virus after appearing to play down the threat for weeks.
President Donald Trump has urged every US state to set up emergency centres to help fight the virus (Reuters: Carlos Barria)
The President said he was declaring the national emergency in order to “unleash the full power of the federal government”.
“It could get worse the next eight weeks will be critical,” Mr Trump said.
He urged every state to set up emergency centres to help fight the virus.
Mr Trump said there would be about 5 million coronavirus tests available but doubted that many would be needed. He urged Americans to only seek out the test if they felt they needed it.
The President, who on Wednesday (local time) ordered citizens from 26 European nations not to enter the United States for 30 days as of midnight Friday, said his administration “may be adding” the United Kingdom and a couple of other countries.
Ivanka Trump worked from home after meeting with Dutton
Ivanka Trump met with Peter Dutton last week before he tested positive for COVID-19. (Reuters: Leah Millis )
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who confirmed yesterday that he had been infected with coronavirus, was in the US last week meeting with high-level members of the Trump administration.
Mr Dutton met with Ivanka Trump, Attorney-General William Barr and officials from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance on March 6, according to a Twitter post from Australia’s embassy in the United States.
US deputy press secretary Judd Deere released a statement saying the White House was aware Mr Dutton had tested positive for COVID-19.
“He was asymptomatic during the interaction,” the statement said.
“Exposures from the case were assessed and the White House Medical Unit confirmed, in accordance with CDC guidance, that Ivanka is exhibiting no symptoms and does not need to self-quarantine.
“She worked from home today out of an abundance of caution until guidance was given.”
Closing schools could spread virus more: NSW Education Department
The current advice from the Government is for all schools to be kept open across the country, and Mark Scott, secretary of the NSW Department of Education, says that may be for the best.
While parents and staff wait for government instruction as to how to combat the spread of the virus in schools, Mr Scott suggests sending kids home could do more harm than good.
“If you just shut the schools, the kids are all down at the shopping centre or at the playground or at the movies, or perhaps being minded by grandparents or others — that may not actually be helping to limit the speed of the spread of the virus in the community,” he said.
Mr Scott did reiterate that any sick children should be kept at home.
“If your child has a heavy cold, cough, fever, and respiratory, flu-like symptoms, then this is not the time to solider on,” he said.
“Many a parent has looked at a child who’s been a little bit marginal … and they’ve said ‘come on, off you go’ … this is not the time for that now.”
EU calls for unity over coronavirus ‘shock’
The European Union will launch a 37 billion Euro ($65 billion) investment initiative as part of a package of measures to cushion the bloc’s economies from the impact of coronavirus, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said on Friday.
Other steps the EU’s executive would take included giving member states flexibility on budget deficits and state aid, Ms von der Leyen told a news conference, in a move meant to grant full spending flexibility to Italy, the European country so far most affected by the crisis.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says each EU member state needs to be “determined, coordinated and united”. (Reuters:Johanna Geron)
The EU would also use 1 billion euros of EU money to guarantee up to 8 billion euros in loans to 100,000 virus-hit firms in tourism, retail, transport and other ailing sectors, Ms von der Leyen said.
“I am convinced that the European Union can withstand this shock,” she said.
“But each member state needs to live up to its full responsibility and the European Union as a whole needs to be determined, coordinated and united.”
Ms Von der Leyen did not provide details on where the pledged money would come from. On Tuesday she announced a 25-billion-euro ($45 billion) investment plan based exclusively on existing EU funds already committed to EU states.
Iran’s security forces to empty city streets
Iran’s security forces will empty the streets of its cities in the next 24 hours in a drive to fight the spread of the virus, state television reported on Friday.
Iran is one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic outside China, with a combined death toll of 514 by Friday, and 11,364 diagnosed infections.
“Our law enforcement and security committees, along with the interior ministry and provincial governors, will be clearing shops, streets and roads … This will take place in the next 24 hours,” state TV cited Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri as saying at a meeting about the virus.
The move came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Iran needed to do more to contain the disease.
Meanwhile, preparations for the upcoming Persian new year on March 20, usually an occasion of widespread celebration have been overshadowed by the rapidly spreading outbreak.
Canada’s Parliament to shut down for a month
@JustinTrudeau Busy day ahead, working from home. Meetings with my cabinet, the country’s premiers, national Indigenous leaders, and more. Staying focused on you. Talk soon.
Canada’s Parliament agreed on Friday to shut down for more than a month while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau governed remotely from his home, in self-imposed quarantine after his wife tested positive for coronavirus.
Canada’s House of Commons voted to shut down for at least five weeks to help ensure lawmakers do not contribute to the spread of the virus.
The move comes a day after Mr Trudeau’s wife tested positive. The Prime Minister himself has been in self-imposed quarantine.
All parties in Parliament agreed to the suspension, which means lawmakers will miss two weeks of sessions since they had previously planned to be away next week and two weeks in April. The House is scheduled to next meet on April 20.
Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said the House of Commons could come back sooner if an emergency requires a meeting.
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