Coronavirus update: People suspected of carrying COVID-19 could be detained under Australia’s biosecurity laws as experts warn world ‘in uncharted territory’


Morrison talks coronavirus, recession

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on 7.30 live just a little earlier, and coronavirus was one of the first topics mentioned.

Host Leigh Sales asked the PM if the combination of the coronavirus and bushfires would drive Australia into a recession — but there was no “yes” or “no” at this stage.

“I am not getting ahead of these issues,” Mr Morrison said.

“What we have done on the coronavirus is focus very much on the health challenge and that is what we always have to put first and that health challenge is a very serious one.

“But, at the same time, we know that this global health crisis around the coronavirus is going to have very significant and very real economic impacts which we are already feeling here in Australia and is being felt in many other countries, in most I should say, all around the world.

“So, we will see how that plays out.”

Australia’s confirmed cases rise to 38 (and other quick stats)

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia has risen to 38 on Tuesday, up from 33 with four new cases in NSW and one in QLD.

Here’s some more quick updates from around the world (thanks to Reuters):

  • Coronavirus has spread to more than 60 countries
  • There’s been more than 80,000 confirmed cases in China, and over 8,700 outside China (this number is rising)
  • The global death toll is now over 3,000 — most of those within China
  • More than 66 people have died of the virus in Iran, with six reported deaths in the Seattle area in the US
  • MoroccoAndorraArmeniaCzech RepublicIceland and Indonesia have all confirmed their first cases
  • More than 2,000 cases have been reported in Italy, and the death toll jumped from 34 to 52 in one day this week

Ryde Hospital doctor diagnosed

One of the people diagnosed with coronavirus in NSW on Monday has been revealed as a Ryde Hospital doctor.

The 53-year-old was one of the first person-to-person transmissions of coronavirus in Australia.

NSW chief medical officer Kerry Chant said he had been working with a “diverse range of patients” — the patients are being contacted.

Staff who worked with the man have been put on leave.

To mask or not to mask

People who are unwell are encouraged to wear face masks, as they provide a barrier against “respiratory droplets” from coughing or sneezing.

But regular surgical masks don’t provide a seal around the face, and therefore don’t filter viral airborne particles.

So for healthy people, are they really going to prevent coronavirus?

Well, not really.

UNSW infectious disease epidemiologist Abrar Chughtai told us surgical face masks aren’t designed to provide respiratory protection.

“Sick people should use face masks. For healthy people … at the community level, there is no use for face masks,” Dr Chughtai said.

For health care workers though, it’s a different story — face masks are strongly recommended.

“They are in direct and close contact with patients … so they should use face masks or respirators,” Dr Chughtai said.

People are keen to stay up to date

Coronavirus has been all over the news for weeks now, but people are still looking for as much info on it as they can.

Google’s top trending related search terms over the past week say it all:

  • Coronavirus symptoms adults
  • N95 masks Australia
  • Launceston coronavirus
  • Coronavirus Bali update
  • Coronavirus vaccine update
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Coronavirus Gold Coast
  • France coronavirus
  • Coronavirus Germany
  • Smart traveller Italy

Read more about the most-Googled coronavirus questions (and answers from the experts!) here.

Jump in cases ‘inevitable’ but not alarming

Associate Professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, Sanjaya Senanayake, told Afternoon Briefing that he’s not surprised or alarmed by a rise in the rate of infections.

Professor Senanayake said the thought of travel bans for countries like Italy was “uncharted territory” — and it may not even have the desired effect.

“If we’re trying to stop the outbreak getting to Australia, I don’t think it would work,” he said.

“It might delay the level of transmission we’re seeing in Australia, if some bans were instituted on countries with high levels of coronavirus transmission.

“But within a day or two, that could be a lot more countries than we’re seeing right now.”

Canberra Hospital infectious diseases physician & microbiologist Peter Collignon also told the ABC more coronavirus cases in Australia are “inevitable”.

“If you look at the data coming from China, this is less infectious than I would have expected,” Professor Collignon said.

“I think it is inevitable that we will see more cases given what has happened all over the world but I don’t think it is inevitable that we will see widespread uncontained cases through the community.”

There’s still a lot of people panic buying

More and more photos are emerging of empty supermarket shelves around the country, with things like toilet paper, basic medicines like paracetomol and cold and flu tablets, and packaged foods the first to go.

University of Queensland virologist Ian Mackay says a little bit of preparation can help people feel in control, but it’s not about “panic buying”, it’s more about making smart purchases.

“We can get in a bit of stock foods, dried foods, dried fruits, some medicines — if you have any prescriptions it’s good to get those filled now,” he told the ABC.

“We can be a little bit ahead of that curve and we’ve still got plenty of time because the virus isn’t spreading widely here yet.”

Australia ‘well-prepared’ to manage an outbreak

Professor Lyn Gilbert from the University of Sydney’s Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity Institute had a chat with ABC News 24 earlier.

She said as soon as experts became aware of coronavirus, existing pandemic plans were constantly being updated with the most up-to-date information.

“The evidence is that it will probably spread within the community, but it will do so slowly and in a way that we are well prepared to manage,” she said.

Professor Gilbert said while it will take a lot of effort to make sure the situation is well-managed, it can be done.

“It will depend on people taking the advice to stay at home when they are sick, to be careful with their hand hygiene and their cough etiquette, and to make sure that they take some personal responsibility for both protecting themselves and, if they do get sick, protecting others as much as possible,” she said.

First traveller from Singapore tests positive in NSW

New South Wales has confirmed four new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday.

They include a 53-year-old man who recently travelled to Singapore.

It’s the first case in NSW to date that appears to have come from Singapore, with 13 cases confirmed in the state so far.

A 39-year-old man who travelled from Iran and two women in their 60s who recently returned from South Korea and Japan also tested positive.

We’ve got more details on the situation in NSW here.

Wash your hands and don’t touch your face

Two of your greatest defences against catching COVID-19 (and many other illnesses) are simple soap and water. Here’s how to make sure you’re using them as effectively as possible.

  • Use clean, running water
  • Use soap — liquid soap is less likely to harbour germs than bar soap, but either is better than nothing
  • Give yourself at least 20 seconds to get the job done (sing “Happy Birthday”* to yourself twice through to keep track, if you don’t mind the odd sideways glance from your fellow hand-washers)
  • If you don’t have access to a sink, a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol is the next best thing

In order to make you sick, coronavirus needs to get into your respiratory system via your mouthnose or eyes.

It’s possible to pick up the virus from touching a contaminated surface, such as a doorknob or bench, but you won’t get sick if the virus doesn’t go any further than your hands.

You won’t only be protecting yourself against coronavirus either — you’ll also help yourself and those around you avoid coldsflu and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Uni student, 20, diagnosed in Queensland

A 20-year-old student from China has been confirmed as Queensland’s latest case of coronavirus.

The University of Queensland student travelled to Dubai for at least two weeks last month, and he’s now in isolation in hospital.

His housemate, also a UQ student, is being tested as a precaution but isn’t feeling unwell right now.

UQ released a statement saying it was providing support to the student, and that authorities don’t believe he visited any UQ campuses after he arrived in Australia.

Queensland has ten confirmed cases to date.


Reserve Bank slashes interest rates

The Reserve Bank has slashed interest rates to a record low of just 0.5 per cent in an attempt to contain the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Following a summer of bushfires, which Treasury expects to knock around 0.2 percentage points from Australia’s economic growth, coronavirus threatens to cause even greater economic fallout.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the Prime Minister urged banks to “do their bit” by passing on any cut in full to support the economy.

Read the full story.

How might Australia’s biosecurity laws affect COVID-19 patients?

Attorney-General Christian Porter says Australians can be detained or forced into treatment in a last-ditch effort to halt the spread of coronavirus by the activation of rarely used Commonwealth laws that were introduced in 2015.

At the most extreme end of the spectrum, someone either showing symptoms of, or having been exposed to coronavirus, could be detained and forced to undergo treatment or decontamination if they refused to comply with directions from health authorities.

A control order may include:

  • Quarantining at home
  • Wearing protective equipment such as gowns or masks
  • Undergoing examination by health professionals
  • Giving samples for diagnosis
  • Forcing vaccinations or other treatments

Specific areas could also be locked down or isolated. The Diamond Princess cruise ship is an example of one of these zones.

Read more about the biosecurity laws.

Compulsory isolation raises human rights questions

Isolation is one of the key pillars of the containment strategy for COIVD-19, but there is a legal question about whether isolation — at home or in a hospital — is compulsory and what the consequences might be for those who refuse to comply, writes medical law expert Morgan Shimwell.

Any powers that detain people and force the sharing of health information interfere with the most basic human rights: the right to liberty and the right to privacy, he notes.

And if people must be detained, their rights and wellbeing need to be respected.

Read Mr Shimwell’s full analysis here.

Victoria preparing for ‘tens of thousands’ of cases

Victoria has allocated an extra $6 million for research and flagged possible delays to elective surgery as it prepares for a potential scenario where tens of thousands of people will need care.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the Government was not yet implementing changes to the hospital system but future changes could include delaying non-urgent care or procedures if the virus began spreading in the local community.

Nine people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Victoria so far.

The State Government’s $6 million injection for Melbourne’s Doherty Institute to work with the Burnet Institute and other experts to fast-track new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 comes on top of a $3.2 million donation for the institute announced on Tuesday by the Jack Ma Foundation.

Read the full story.

Source: ABC


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