New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
A broader range of people will be eligible to be tested for COVID-19 from today, after a national panel of medical experts urged the expansion of the current criteria. At a Wednesday night meeting of the National Cabinet, comprising Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders, testing criteria were extended beyond those who had returned from overseas or had direct contact with a confirmed case. Now tests can be undertaken on patients suffering from fever or acute respiratory infection in vulnerable occupations and demographics such as: health, aged, and residential care workers; residents of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; inmates of detention facilities where cases have been reported; residents of hotspots; and hospital patients at the discretion of clinicians. State governments can expand further if they have capacity.
The National Cabinet also agreed to suspend all non-urgent elective surgeries across the country. One consequence will be that 1000 Australians waiting for a kidney transplant must remain on dialysis. The move comes as Guardian Australia reports that not-for-profit hospital network St John of God Healthcare, which runs 24 hospitals and healthcare centres across the country, ceased all non-urgent surgeries this week partly because of depleted stocks of personal protective equipment. The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s chief executive, Alison Verhoeven, said equipment supplies were insufficient for hospital needs even before COVID-19 added to demand. “The response is going to be import, local manufacture and triaging of patients so that those most in need get it,” she said. At a virtual meeting with G20 leaders today, Morrison will push for ($) international supply chains to remain open to allow for the “flow of vital medical supplies”. Meanwhile, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Chinese property giant Greenland Group was sending medical supplies to China in bulk earlier in the year when the COVID-19 crisis was concentrated around Wuhan.
University of Sydney modelling of how COVID-19 could spread in Australia indicates it could be controlled within 13 weeks if at least 8 out of 10 Australians stay home as much as possible. The analysis, yet to be rigorously peer-reviewed, indicates that if this number drops to even 7 out of 10, then the virus will continue to spread exponentially. The news comes as New South Wales police are granted the power to issue $1000 fines to people breaking social distancing guidelines. A 68-year-old Queensland man became the ninth person to die from COVID-19 in Australia, with the number of cases rising to 2431 across the country. A member of an expert panel advising the Government's response to COVID-19 has warned Australia should implement an immediate but short lockdown to curb the rise in cases.
The COVID-19 death toll in Spain has overtaken that of China, with a further 738 more fatalities in a 24-hour period taking the country’s total to 3434. The country’s health workers are taking legal action to force authorities to provide suitable protective equipment. In Madrid, an ice rink has been converted into a temporary morgue to cope with demand. Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID-19, but is only displaying mild symptoms.