Friday, March 13, 2020

Call to ban public gatherings

Medical professionals are urging the Morrison Government to ban large public gatherings in response to COVID-19, as organisers of the Australian Grand Prix agree to call off the event. West Australian president of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Miller, said the Federal Government needed to announce details on when events will be banned. “It's beyond time for the government to tell us what the plan is, what date they're going to do this, depending on how many cases they see,” he said. Health Minister Greg Hunt said he was following the advice of Australia’s chief medical officer in holding off on a ban. The call comes as a majority of teams involved in the Melbourne Grand Prix decided in meetings overnight that they did not want to continue with the race and organisers reportedly agreeing to cancel, with the entire Formula 1 season now in doubt. North America’s National Hockey League is the latest major competition to suspend its season, following in the footsteps of the National Basketball Association.

First wave: NSW authorities are preparing for as many as 1.5 million people in the state to be infected in the first wave of COVID-19, noting that although the majority of cases will be mild the health system will come under significant strain. Guardian Australia reports that homelessness advocacy organisations in Victoria and New South Wales are calling for more temporary housing, with people without secure housing ‘“particularly vulnerable”. On Thursday evening Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to remain calm in his address to the nation, saying “we all have a role to play”.

Stock market crash: Global stimulus efforts have failed to arrest a worsening stock market crash, with Wall Street halting trade twice in the same day. Airlines were left reeling after United States President Donald Trump’s announcement of a ban on travel between the US and Europe. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is self-quarantining “out of an abundance of caution” with his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau undergoing testing for the virus. Meanwhile, China claims the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in the country has passed, reporting the lowest number of new infections in seven weeks.

Woolworths underpayments: A Retail and Fast Food Workers Union submission alleges Woolworths “deliberately” provided rosters to the Fair Work Commission that disguised how workers would be significantly underpaid under a proposed new pay deal. The Age reports that the deal left tens of thousands of workers underpaid by as much as $1 billion. A Woolworths spokesperson said the allegations are “unsubstantiated and we reject them.”


“A few months after last year’s Christchurch mosque shootings, Raf Manji was asked to recommend how the newly formed Christchurch Foundation should distribute the $12 million donated in the wake of the terror attack … The months that followed were ‘relentless’, Manji says. He met with more than a hundred victims, listened to their stories and asked them what they needed. ‘It quickly became clear to me that this was not under control,’ he says.”


“As one of the world’s leading astrophysicists, Professor Jo Dunkley has researched both the mass of the tiniest particle and the size of the universe. Here, she speaks about the thrill of discovery and the untold stories of women in science. ‘I started off being intent on just writing about the science, but then I realised the stories of the scientists would be just as interesting. Now I’m fascinated about all the people that must be out there who have never been credited.’”


“I’m in a cafe called Mother, in a village just outside Ubud, and the man seated next to me is gyrating gently and eating from a bag of snacks called Mystic Protein. When the waitress delivers his smoothie bowl, a lush rainbow cornucopia of fruits and grains, he plucks out his AirPods, thanks her with prayer hands and says ‘terima kasih’ in an accent that is not quite placeable. Is he from Los Angeles? Italy? Israel? And what is mystic protein, anyway?”


“The $25,000 income tax write-off for businesses with turnover of less than $50m is effectively a cash payment for all small and medium businesses with staff. The wage subsidy for apprentices should provide an incentive for businesses to keep on their younger workers, those that are otherwise most vulnerable to losing their jobs in a downturn.”


“Grants to keep small businesses operating amid the coronavirus crisis have been welcomed but concerns remain about how the $17.6 billion stimulus package might help Australia's 1.5 million sole traders … more than three in five businesses in Australia don't employ anyone other than the owner. In the rock lobster and crab industry — which has been singled out by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a sector hit particularly hard by the coronavirus — just 516 out of 1638 businesses have any employees.”


“As people around the world canceled their trips because of fears of the new coronavirus, Ashley Henkel booked three. Henkel, 20, is taking advantage of cheap flights to see North America. She lives in California's Central Valley, but this summer she'll be in Vancouver, New York City and Portland, Oregon … ‘I feel like if the coronavirus would get even more serious and like wipe out a large amount of people, I might as well be somewhere having fun,’ Henkel told NBC News in a message.”

Max Opray
is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.