Friday, April 17, 2020

Three-step plan to ease restrictions

Federal Government modelling has detailed how strict control measures have sharply reduced COVID-19 transmission rates, as the national cabinet plans a three-step process to relax social restrictions. The modelling shows that while physical distancing measures are in place, every ten people infected with the virus will infect just five others, but if they were lifted they would spread it to 25 others. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said wider testing for COVID-19, surveillance measures to trace cases, and more capacity to control outbreaks would be needed before restrictions could begin to be loosened, potentially in a month’s time. The national cabinet of federal, state, and territory leaders will meet again on Tuesday to look at easing the ban on elective surgery, as couples struggling to conceive lobby to redefine IVF as an essential service. 

After more than a year detained on Christmas Island, the Biloela family is set to find out today whether the Federal Court will allow their return to Queensland or deportation to Sri Lanka. The decision comes as Buzzfeed News reports that immigration minister David Coleman did not reply to a letter from two human rights commissioners in 2019 accusing him of violating international human rights law in detaining the family. In Sydney, three Villawood Immigration Detention Centre detainees have been arrested after staging a rooftop protest over COVID-19 concerns. Meanwhile, human rights groups fear COVID-19 lockdowns in South East Asia are making it harder for Rohingya adrift at sea to find safe harbour. Bangladesh's coast guard rescued 396 starving Rohingya refugees, with at least 32 believed to have died. The group claimed their boat had been intercepted and turned away by Malaysia, which also turned back another vessel. 

The federal government will spend $165 million over eight weeks supporting domestic flights operated by Qantas and Virgin. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the move was about ensuring routes remained open for essential workers, travellers going back to their home state after returning from overseas, as well as air freight. The flights will service state and territory capitals, as well as some regional areas. Virgin is pushing for a $1.4 billion lifeline, warning it is on the verge of going into voluntary administration.

The Australian Federal Police warned Malcolm Turnbull that Nationals MP George Christensen could be interrogated in the Philippines by local police over payments to women, according to The Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of the former prime minister’s upcoming memoir. “Against the advice of our embassy in the Philippines, he had been staying in seedy hotels in Angeles City, which was not only recklessly unsafe but made him vulnerable to being compromised,” writes Turnbull. In other revelations, he writes on how News Corp works like a political party in its partnerships with the Coalition to influence policy and elections.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has sacked health minister Luiz Mandetta, in the far-right leader’s latest effort to relax social distancing measures for a virus he says is a “little flu”. Mandetta has supported the efforts of state governors to try to slow the spread of the virus, of which Brazil has reported more than 30,000 confirmed cases so far, with more than 1900 fatalities and particular fears for Indigenous populations in the Amazon basin. Two governors and more than 10 members of Bolsonaro's inner circle have tested positive for the virus, yet he has ignored his own government’s health guidelines by greeting supporters with hugs.


“Leaked documents reveal betting giant Tabcorp is asking for a six-month rent holiday from its commercial landlords after the Covid-19 lockdown forced the temporary closure of its 4500 physical betting outlets … Associate Professor Livingstone expects at least some of that revenue to migrate online. He predicts Tabcorp will be looking to build its online business during the crisis and is expecting some aggressive marketing tactics – noting that the online gambling industry is already the third or fourth biggest buyer of broadcast television advertisements.”


“Last week Scott Morrison finally released the government’s modelling regarding its response to the coronavirus pandemic, while assuring us in tones of unshakeable conviction that the data was irrelevant to the current situation in Australia … it looked like a waste of time; the public was seeking explanations, transparency and an insight into the deliberations underlying Morrison’s somewhat confusing strategy. But in fact it was the public who missed the point.”


“When Kate’s nine-year-old daughter, Josie*, started showing signs of a urinary tract infection, the Sydney mother’s first thought was antibiotics. ‘Josie has had UTIs before so, as soon as she started to complain of “a sting”, I knew what was happening,’ says Kate, who is also prone to the bacterial infection. In fact, she was so confident her daughter needed antibiotics that, without consulting a GP, Kate ransacked her medicine cabinet looking for old amoxicillin or an unused script.”


“‘If you think we can grow the economy under the old settings then we need to think again,’ Mr Morrison said … ‘any sense of business as usual when it comes to the policy framework we had before the election will need to be reconsidered on the other side. It will be a different world on the other side of the virus and there will be many challenges.’”


“Tax and industrial relations reform, deregulation, and fast-tracked infrastructure are back in the mix after Scott Morrison said an aggressive pro-business investment strategy must be pursued if the country was to claw its way out of the coronavirus-induced recession ... the Prime Minister left open the option of breaking election promises if need be.”


“You unroll it, let it magically expand into a mattress, and try it out in the comfort of your own home. The best part? Almost all of these companies allow you to return the bed free of charge after 100 nights—or about the same length as one of my academic terms. The con was simple: Try out a new mattress every 100 nights. I’d pick a new company, order a boxed bed, sleep like the Prince of Monaco for three months, and return it to make way for the next one.”

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