End of the day summary
We’re clocking off the live blog for tonight, but it’s been a day. News days in the time of coronavirus feel like 12 in one.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what happened today:
- There are 709 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, 141 more today than yesterday. Five deaths recorded still. NSW is at 307 cases, followed by Victoria on 149, Queensland 144, WA 52, SA 42, Tasmania 10, ACT 4, NT 1.
- Australia will close its borders to non-residents from 9pm on Friday.
- The Reserve Bank of Australia announced an emergency interest rate cut to 0.25% – saying the rate will stay at that level for a long time – plus other economy-boosting measures.
- The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has said it will be at least six months of these conditions as he prepares to announce a second stimulus package that will likely include Newstart payments for those who lose their jobs during the pandemic.
- The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said banks were working on their own package that could potentially include a freeze on mortgage repayments for those out of work.
- Qantas announced it would stand down 20,000 employees, or two-thirds of its workforce. Employees can job-share, take leave, access Newstart or attempt to find other jobs in the meantime.
- Tasmania announced it would force anyone arriving in the Apple Isle to self-isolate for 14 days with limited exceptions.
- The federal government will place restrictions on the amount of over-the-counter medicine, such as Ventalin and paracetemol, to try to stop the panic buying that is clearing the shelves at the moment.
- A Serco immigration detention centre guard in Brisbane tested positive for coronavirus.
- The emergency management minister, David Littleproud, attacked eBay and Facebook for allowing people to sell staple items at very inflated costs, while the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, thinks there is a criminal element behind all the panic buying.
- There is concern for Australians trapped in Peru attempting to get home.
We’ll be back tomorrow to keep you updated with everything that’s happening. Until then, stay safe.
On staff being forced onto leave, Joyce says some staff will share jobs, others will take leave and have a lot of leave built up so could be paid for months still.
He said those without leave can take four weeks paid negative leave. Outside of that, he says they will have access to Newstart, and could potentially shift to jobs at Coles or Woolworths (despite Coles saying it had around 36,000 applications for 5,000 jobs yesterday).
Qantas has been widely criticised for forcing this on its staff, saying they’re effectively bailing out the company, but Joyce said it’s designed so they can come back to the job when the economy kicks back into gear.
“We’re not making people redundant and we’re trying this mechanism to make sure we can get through and survive and they have a job at the end of the day.”
Now it’s Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, after he announced two-thirds of the Qantas workforce would be stood down today.
He said he is working on a “strategic network” to ensure Australians can still get home from overseas after the borders close.
He wouldn’t rule out grounding the domestic fleet, but says the airline is in a good position.
“We have to be flexible to adapt to whatever circumstances we see and take dramatic action to make sure that we’re the last man standing, we’re the healthiest airline in the world and have one of the best balance sheets and have a lot of liquidity and making sure we have dramatic action to allow us to survive for whatever length of time this virus issue is out there.”
Are we going to go into a recession or a depression?
Too early to say, according to Frydenberg, but will fall in this quarter.
“Well, of course this continues to evolve but it’s a massive 1 in 100 year event and the economic impact is huge, not just for us here in Australia, but globally. I can only take the best advice from Treasury, as well as the RBA. Both have said in the March quarter, the quarter we’re currently in, we’ll see half a per cent fall as a result of the coronavirus.”
Banks working on a package
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is on ABC’s 7.30 program and he was just asked about whether banks could freeze mortgage payments, and he said the banks were working on a package around that.
“The answer is they can and they have been working on a package. This is a team Australia moment. Whether you’re an energy company or a landlord or a bank, you need to fully understand the predicament in which your customers are finding themselves, through no fault of their own. We need to build that bridge to the recovery phase and there’s an alignment of interests here, Leigh, between the small businesses and their banks because both parties want to succeed.”
Zoos Victoria has set up live cams of its animals for people who can’t get to the zoo right now. There doesn’t appear to be much happening on there right now but here’s the link if you want to take a look.
The zoos are still open, but limited to 2,000 visitors a day, all the talks and events have been cancelled, and indoor areas have been closed.
We’ve been trying to figure out why Crown Casino in Melbourne has been allowed to stay open when so many other venues across the state have been forced to close under the new restrictions.
According to Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, the reason is that the chief health officer has placed conditions on Crown and Crown is complying with that.
Crown has halved the number of poker machines in operation on the gaming floors but that’s still almost 1,400 machines, my colleague Ben Butler reports.
Andrews said yesterday he would be “more than happy” to provide the advice from the chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton, but so far his office has not provided the conditions set by Sutton.
Thank you so much for joining me tonight.
I’ll be handing you over to Josh Taylor for the final stretch.
Wash your hands and take care of you.
Since the RBA announcement and the government border close announcement, we have had a lot more happen. So a quick run through of that:
The border closure could last six months. At least.
The second stimulus package will focus on Australians who may lose their income in the coming days, weeks and months.
Everyone is very, very stressed.
A recession is unavoidable.
Penny Wong wants more done to get Australians who are in far off places, like Peru, home.
WA has recorded 17 more Covid-19 cases, including two health care workers.
Josh Frydenberg also tells Patricia Karvelas on ABC radio that the second package of measures will focus on those people who may lose their income.
He says he is staying awake at night worrying about the same things other Australians are – health, family and friends, the economy
“These are unprecedented times, but I know that I can’t lose my head, because as the treasurer of Australia, I have a responsibility to help steer Australia through it. It is not about me.”
On the question of how long the travel ban will be in place, Josh Frydenberg can’t say for sure. But he says the prime minister said it would be six months “at least”.
Patricia Karvelas: How long will the borders be closed?
Again, we need to listen to the best possible medical advice. The prime minister said this will go for six months or more and they won’t be lifted until it is safe to do so, until we are on the other side of this very, very challenging period.”
PK: Could it last for six months at least?
The travel ban will last as long as the medical experts tell us that we need to prevent the spread of the virus and one way to do that is through the steps we have announced today.
PK: So it could be closed for this six month period?
You are asking me to put a date on something that not even the medical experts can put a date one.
PK: The PM said six months, that is the time period.
To be fair to him, he actually said six months at least.
PK: Does that mean it could be longer?
Again, as your listeners would expect us to do, we will follow the medical advice and not even the medical experts know how long the spread of the virus will continue and the date upon which a vaccine will be found.
On whether or not Australia will be entering a recession, Josh Frydenberg says:
I think it will be very hard to avoid.
“This is a massive hit to the Australian economy. This is an external event, beyond our control. The work that we have done to be able to get the budget back in shape to make these major announcements … that is what’s going to matter in the end, that is what is going to lead us to recovery.
… It’s a team effort, it’s a team Australia moment.”
Josh Frydenberg, speaking to Patricia Karvelas won’t put a figure on the unemployment predictions, but says it will rise “substantially”.
Australian borders likely to be closed for six months
Over on ABC radio, Josh Frydenberg has said the unprecedented Australian border closures are likely to remain in place for six months.
17 more Covid-19 cases in WA
The West Australian health minister, Roger Cook says there have been another 17 people diagnosed with Covid-19 since the last update.
That includes two health workers. A nurse, who returned from overseas (they self-isolated as soon as they returned from Australia) and a mental health doctor.
The mental health doctor developed symptoms on 16 March and isolated immediately. The physician had contact with people who had been diagnosed with the virus – the WA authorities are working to contact anyone the doctor may have come into contact with.
That brings WA’s total to 52.
Penny Wong says there needs to be more done to help get stranded Australians home, given the looming airline groundings.
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