Good morning, this is James Murray bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Tuesday 31 March.
The Australian government has announced an unprecedented $130bn wage subsidy package to help businesses retain staff during the Covid-19 crisis. Up to 6 million workers could be eligible for wage subsidies of $1,500 a fortnight, which the Australian Taxation Office will pay directly to businesses that have suffered sharp drops in turnover. Here’s how to find out if you are eligible for the payment. This is a benefit for those in employment but the unemployed were told last week that they could take money from their super funds to help them through this period. The Reserve Bank has been quietly working out ways it could establish a government-backed facility to help the funds likely to be hardest hit by withdrawals. If you’re wondering how the Coalition went from holding a tight rein on the purse strings, to becoming a fiscal firepower, Guardian Australia’s political editor, Katharine Murphy, explains the almost-overnight transformation.
A Guardian Essential poll reveals that Australians are now much less likely to view the response to coronavirus as an overreaction. Only 18% of people now share that view, whereas 53% say they are now very concerned. Meanwhile, a family placed in a hotel to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in Australia say they are being treated no better “than criminals”. Not allowed to leave their rooms or open the window, Paula Lemmon and her family have been given plastic containers of “unidentifiable food”. Lemmon, who has food allergies, says she has been given nothing to eat other than tomato and cucumber in a 24-hour period. Thousands of Australians caught overseas are desperate for help to get home. Ben Doherty finds stranded Australians on cruise ships, in Peru and even in the foothills of the Himalayas.
In Europe, Italy recorded 812 daily deaths, reversing two days of declines in the daily rate. The death toll there now stands at 11,591 but there was a slight decrease in the number of new infections, which rose by 4,050, the lowest since 17 March. In the UK, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has announced a £75m package to fly stranded Britons home. Tens of thousands of people will be flown home by airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Titan Airways on chartered planes. Raab is standing in for Boris Johnson, who has Covid-19. Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings has also developed coronavirus symptoms after the prime minister tested positive at the weekend. Sweden is the last country to hold out against a lockdown in Europe. The country has recorded 3,700 cases and 110 deaths, but has taken a much more relaxed approach to the disease than many others. Scientists there worry the government’s approach is “leading us to catastrophe”.
Donald Trump has lashed out at his critics amid warnings that infections in Detroit and New Orleans could be “about to take off”. Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News that smaller cities were also about to be affected. Nancy Pelosi warned Trump at the weekend that his failings would cost lives; he has responded by calling her a “sick puppy”. Despite the braggadocio, Trump extended the period of physical distancing by a month, saying his “open by Easter” comments were only aspirational. His new goal is to limit deaths in the US to 100,000.
After years of drought, water has reached parched Menindee, the town in far western NSW that was the site of mass fish deaths in 2019. The site has received significant inflows and the lower Darling River will finally reconnect with the Murray.
An Aboriginal man has died in custody after his “condition deteriorated” in a regional Victoria police station last week. The man, aged 30, was arrested on Thursday in Horsham, north-west of Melbourne, for allegedly breaching a court order.
Two streets in Paris are stuck in a timewarp of the Nazi occupation after they were returned to 1942 for a film set. The film-makers abandoned the set when France went into lockdown, leaving the streets with fake facades for corset shops and tailors, and dotted with war propaganda and signs in German.
The UK has been told to extend the Brexit transition period by years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The European People’s party says it hopes “common sense will prevail over ideology”.
US scientists have developed artificial intelligence that can turn human brain activity into text. Experts say it could eventually aid communication for patients who are unable to speak or type, including those with locked-in syndrome.
Moscow’s 12.5 million residents woke up to a mandatory lockdown on Monday. The restrictions are some of the most severe in the city’s history.
Many of us are trying to find ways to make the most of being in lockdown: whether it’s getting ‘quarantoned’ with Jonathan Ness or discovering new video games. The artist in you may want to try the Getty Museum challenge, recreating some of the world’s masterpieces using stuff just lying round the house. If you are trying to make your supermarket shop last a few extra days, try these eight cheap eats recipes. And if you’d rather wait out the virus in front of the TV, take a recommendation from our Stream Team. Today they recommend the play We’re Gonna Die, by the playwright Jean Lee, available on Vimeo.
In our opinion section Melanie Tait returns home to help her parents run their shop in the small regional town of Robertson. The first weekend conversations are light-hearted, and Tait feels embarrassed for wearing gloves. But by the second week the mood has shifted as fears about coronavirus shift from the city to the countryside.
And in Berlin the usually bustling streets are deserted as people stay home. The Reuters photographer Fabrizio Bensch has captured before-and-after photos from famous Berlin landmarks, from a remaining section of the Berlin Wall to the Brandenburg Gate, he documents the now-familiar scenes of deserted urban spaces.
Today’s Full Story podcast looks at ventilators and the essential role they are playing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Countries that have been hit hardest by the disease have found their supplies of ventilators placed under serious strain. In this episode, reporter Graham Readfearn and an anaesthetics professor explain why ventilators are so important in treating the latter stages of the virus.
Full Story is Guardian Australia’s news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.
England’s cricket captain, Joe Root, says he expects his team to take a pay cut due to coronavirus. With the season now due to start in late May, it’s now almost certain that the ECB will have to move the date back further.
Sports gambling companies are turning to obscure competitions to ride out the pandemic, with almost all sport called off around the world. The Belarusian Premier League is huge right now and internet pages are awash with blogs, tips and previews on Slutsk v Dynamo Brest.
The Morrison government’s huge jobkeeper package dominates the news agenda, with the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, the Australian and ABC News all running prominent stories. The SMH has a warning for optimists though, with a series of experts warning that Australia should not get too excited about news it may be flattening the curve. Tim Elliot at the Age writes that the scariest thing about the coronavirus crisis is the speed in which it has changed our lives. And the Courier-Mail worries about the “fun police”, as people are encouraged to inform authorities about parties and picnics.
And if you’ve read this far …
Spare a thought for Dr Daniel Reardon, the hero the coronavirus pandemic didn’t know it needed. The astrophysicist took time out from his usual studies to try to invent a machine that buzzed loudly if you touched your face. A noble cause thwarted only when Reardon ended up with four magnets stuck up his nose. “I was still a bit bored, playing with the magnets,” he said. “I clipped them to my earlobes and then clipped them to my nostril and things went downhill pretty quickly when I clipped the magnets to my other nostril.”
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