Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Virgin Australia bailout rejected

The board of Virgin Australia has agreed to ($) put the airline into voluntary administration today, after the Morrison government rejected a late bid for support. International shareholders signed off on the move on Monday night, reports The Australian, throwing the future of 16,000 direct and indirect Virgin jobs into doubt. A rejected request for a $100 million grant would have been a short-term salve, with the company seeking a $1.4 billion package. Billionaire founder Sir Richard Branson warned of the danger of a Qantas monopoly as he called for government intervention, and separately offered his private island in his tax haven home of the Virgin Islands as collateral to secure a British government loan for Virgin Atlantic. Deloitte is set to undertake the administration role for Virgin Australia, with private equity firm BGH and a consortium involving Etihad Airways both interested in the airline. The state governments of NSW and Queensland governments had both tabled competing offers to save the airline. 

State and federal leaders will today discuss whether to lift a ban on elective surgeries at a national cabinet meeting, as Australia’s COVID-19 infection rate continues to drop. Australia's deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth suggested low-risk surgeries with high benefits for patients be considered first. “We recognise that there are Australians out there who are in pain, have disability, can't be in the workforce, need to take very potent pain medication that need their elective surgery done,” he said. The meeting will also consider isolation zones for at-risk remote indigenous areas, allowing elders to be closer to their communities. The news comes as Guardian Australia reports Indigenous residents of locked-down remote communities are risking prosecution under biosecurity laws to go into neighbouring towns to buy food.

The World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned “the worst is yet ahead” in the COVID-19 outbreak. Speaking at the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva on Monday, he warned against complacency as governments begin to ease lockdown measures. Although the virus has killed more than 166,000 people, early results from sero-epidemiologic surveys suggest that a relatively small percentage of the global population may have been infected so far. Tedros also defended against criticism from United States President Donald Trump over an alleged lack of transparency, noting that US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staffers have been seconded to work with his agency from “day one”. 

A late night email from a disgruntled club chief executive to Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’landys was the “final straw” that prompted the resignation of National Rugby League chief executive Todd Greenberg yesterday, reports The Daily Telegraph. Greenberg was already under pressure following criticism from the league’s broadcast partner Channel Nine, a falling out with club powerbrokers and disruption of the competition due to COVID-19 restrictions. The news comes as the World Players Association warns NRL that its planned competition restart on May 28 is “very ambitious”.


“‘During COVID-19, it is important hospitals have adequate resources to deliver services effectively,’ the memo said. ‘To assist in this, investigations for the safe decontamination and reuse of P2 masks and the refilling of alcohol hand gel bottles are being undertaken … All used, undamaged and unsoiled P2 masks are to be collected in a clear plastic bag in each department.’ It was an alarming message because, as hospital staff knew, P2 masks are single use. No health policy recommends reusing disposable masks.”


“Cardinal George Pell (we must resume his proper title now) is out of prison and is seeking asylum at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney. But his real protectors are the loyalists who never believed he was guilty, and are now running a fierce campaign effectively asking for his immediate canonisation.”


“Mental health experts are warning the trauma caused by the lockdown, employment loss and anxiety associated with the pandemic could be far higher than the physical health impacts of the virus itself, with younger people particularly vulnerable … the early promise of extraordinary outcomes with psychedelic-assisted therapy has been rekindled by some of the world’s leading universities and hospitals.”


“The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its first survey today looking at the household impacts of COVID-19. It collected information from 1059 people via telephone between March 31 and April 6. According to the survey, a staggering 98 per cent of Australians said they had been practising social distancing … The survey also found about 88 per cent of those surveyed were avoiding public spaces and public events, and about 87 per cent had cancelled personal gatherings.”


“Australia has recorded its lowest daily increase in cases since early March. Three states – Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia – have recorded no new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours. Victoria recorded just one new case overnight, while New South Wales recorded six new cases, the lowest daily total in five weeks. The Australian Capital Territory recorded one new case.”


“‘You can trust us to use the data from the coronavirus tracking app appropriately,’ says a government which secretly directed taxpayer funding towards marginal seats in order to win an election and later lied about its involvement in the scheme. The Prime Minister – who oversees a government that bought millions of dollars of water rights from a company that was chaired by a government minister – said Australians could depend on the government to do the right thing.”

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