China reopens roads as Australia announces new virus measures


According to Xinhua, 1117 of 1119 closed expressway entrances and exits nationwide has reopened at the weekend, along with 549 blocked national, provincial, country and townships roads.

A majority of the health and quarantine stations – 11,11198 of 12,028 – have been removed as well.

A total of 28 provinces resumed inter-provincial road passenger transport on March 1, and 126 prefecture-level cities and 192 county-level cities resumed ground public transportation operations.

Xinhua reported, of the 41 cities which have opened urban rail transit, 36 cities are operating rail transit normally.

These cities include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzen.

Up to 78 million migrant workers have returned to work as well.

China’s update comes as Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, bans international cruise ships from arriving at the nation’s ports for 30 days and introduces a host of social distancing measures.

Travellers to Australia from overseas are also now required to self-isolate for two weeks.

Mr Morrison said the measures were part of the “targeted action phase”.

“To help stay ahead of this curve. We will impose a universal compulsory self-isolation requirement on all international arrivals to Australia effective from midnight tonight,” he said on Sunday.

“The Australian Government will ban cruise ships from foreign ports from arriving at Australian ports after an initial 30 days and that will go forward on a rolling basis.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly. Picture: Joel CarrettSource:AAP

“The national cabinet also endorsed the advice of the HPPC to further introduce social distancing measures.”

Mass gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned, whereas previously the government had only recommended they not take place.

This will occur from Monday but does not apply to schools, workplaces, universities, supermarkets or public transport.

Strict social distancing measures such as staying 1.5m away from people, not shaking hands and limiting close interactions are now also recommended to everyone.

Schools and universities will remain open for the time being, with that being one of the key issues that the new national cabinet will consider when it meets on Tuesday evening.

The cabinet will also consider changes to aged care visitation, the issues facing remote communities further restrictions to gatherings.

Mr Morrison said the government was planning for the coronavirus to have an impact on the country for six months and slowing the rate of transmission was top priority.

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“Slowing the spread, you free up the bed,” Mr Morrison said.

“That’s what happens when you get this right.”

Mr Morrison echoed a comment Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told media early Sunday.

He said Australians who had not recently returned from overseas or been in contact with a coronavirus case can still shake hands, go on public transport or visit the cinema. However, the advice was likely to change.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy added health officials were not suggesting people should stop using public transport at present.

Sunday’s meeting came as the number of virus cases rose above 300 in Australia, with the death toll remaining at three.

More than 150,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 5600 deaths.

QANTAS CREW MEMBER TESTS POSITIVE FOR VIRUS

Health authorities are seeking to make contact with passengers who was on board a flight from the UK with a Qantas flight attendant who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

A Qantas International crew member is in self-isolation after testing positive to COVID-19 after returning from overseas.

The crew member flew from the UK to Australia as a passenger recently and sought medical advice after experiencing mild symptoms.

Qantas said in a statement on Sunday health authorities would make contact with those seating in close proximity on the flight as was standard procedure for all confirmed Coronavirus notifications.

Qantas said the team member was not symptomatic when operating as crew on any Qantas flights.

The announcement comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Queensland rises to 61, a public health emergency has been declared in South Australia and six locations at the University of Sydney campus are being intensively cleaned after a student was diagnosed with coronavirus.

NSW Health and the university released a joint statement on Sunday confirming a was in hospital “recovering and doing well” after feeling ill and testing positive for COVID-19 on the weekend.

“NSW Health and the University of Sydney have identified around 80 people who were close contacts with the student while on campus, who have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days,” the statement said.

“Staff and students are asked to be vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19 which include fever, cough, runny nose or shortness of breath and phone ahead to their GP.”

In the past 24 hours, the number of confirmed cases in NSW has jumped by 22, taking the total number of infection people in the state to 134.

On Sunday, SA’s total rose by one to 20 confirmed cases; Victoria’s rose by eight to 58, with eight having recovered, and Tasmania suspended all cruise ship visits to its ports after the island state recorded its sixth coronavirus case.

In WA, there have been 18 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 5424 negative tests and one death from the virus.

THOUSANDS OF AUSSIES TO WORK FROM HOME

Thousands of Australians will be asked to work from home for the first time this week in what is likely to be the biggest test of the National Broadband Network so far.

But telecommunications industry experts warn some workers would be much better off than others, and called on NBN Co and Government to “flick the switch” on faster speeds for all users during the coronavirus crisis.

Several firms in Australia including Telstra, Dropbox, and Twitter are not only offering the option to work from home but will be mandating it for all employees who can work off-site this week.

On Sunday there were reports Melbourne’s Deakin University’s online portal was down due to the influx of users.

Telstra spokeswoman Alex Badenoch said the move, which would affect more than 20,000 staff members, was taken as a precaution rather than a reaction to a COVID-19 infection.

A usually very busy Sydney Harbour is now quiet and without tourists. Picture: David Swift

A usually very busy Sydney Harbour is now quiet and without tourists. Picture: David SwiftSource:News Corp Australia

“This unprecedented situation requires decisive action and it’s important we are flexible and ready to adapt to this evolving situation,” she said.

“Getting ahead of things now will mean we are prepared should the issue escalate quickly.”

University of Melbourne infectious disease epidemiologist Dr Kathryn Snow commended moves to temporarily change the workforce, saying “these types of social distancing measures” had helped stem infections in other countries.

But veteran telecommunications analyst Paul Budde warned having so many people working from home, participating in video teleconferences, and watching lifestreams would put “extra stress” on the NBN in what could be its biggest test.

He predicted NBN fibre-to-the-premise users would fare well but said those using HFC, copper, satellite and fixed wireless NBN connections could suffer from slower speeds due to congestion and downtime.

“Some parts of the network will fare better than others,” he said.

“Those people who have been connected to the NBN and have not encountered any problems will have the best chances of maintaining a good quality service.

Empty seats during the Round 6 AFLW match between the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle Dockers at Whitten Oval in Melbourne. Picture: Natasha Morello

Empty seats during the Round 6 AFLW match between the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle Dockers at Whitten Oval in Melbourne. Picture: Natasha MorelloSource:AAP

“Those who have been struggling on fibre-to-the-node networks might see things getting worse if there are significant increases in traffic in their area.”

Mr Budde said the flood of new remote workers would also highlight problems with the pricing structure of the NBN, where connections were artificially slowed down depending on how much users were willing to pay, and called on the Morrison Government and NBN Co to deliver faster speeds for the duration of the health emergency.

“In a crisis like this, they should make all the services available at least 50 megabits per second,” he said.

“They can do that with the flick of a switch.

“They can make the network more affordable during a crisis situation that might last two or three months. That would also give us an even better test of the network.”

A woman arriving at the Brisbane International Airport, wearing a face mask. Picture: Attila Csaszar

A woman arriving at the Brisbane International Airport, wearing a face mask. Picture: Attila CsaszarSource:News Corp Australia

Professor Reg Coutts, president of telecommunications body TelSoc, said this week’s test of the NBN, as well as new telehealth demands during the coronavirus pandemic, should highlight the need to plan infrastructure upgrades.

“Eventually, the NBN’s out-of-date technology will need to be replaced right across the network,” he said.

“Given the needs of the medical profession right now, it would make sense for the government to instruct NBN Co to make doctors, health centres, and hospitals its top priority for a technology update.”

Mr Budde also warned that having so many employees and students working from home for the first time could also unearth unforeseen problems for business and universities.

“There won’t be any time for proper assessments, training and finetuning,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see what the fallout of the many mishaps will be once the virus recedes.”

EUROPE ACTION TO STOP CORONAVIRUS

Spain has gone into lockdown, France has joined some parts of Germany in closing restaurants, cafes and cinemas, and Norway has closed its airports.

Europe has been taking unprecedented steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus after it has become the “epicentre” of the pandemic.

The United States has extended its Europe travel ban to include the UK and Ireland, and France started sweeping shutdowns of businesses across the county on Sunday.

Northern Ireland was considering shutting schools for 16 weeks, while Britain has been slammed for its plan to go for “herd immunity” – effectively hoping 60 per cent of the population get the virus to stop it coming back in the UK winter.

An empty parking lot in a shopping area in San Sebastian de los Reyes, the outskirts Madrid, Spain. Picture: Bernat Armangue

An empty parking lot in a shopping area in San Sebastian de los Reyes, the outskirts Madrid, Spain. Picture: Bernat ArmangueSource:AP

But Italians who have been in forced locked down for a week have been getting creative with ways to keep themselves entertained, with outbreaks of balcony dance parties and rooftop phone calls.

However the country’s hospitals are in crisis, with only 20 spare intensive care beds in the hard hit Lombardy region, according to the La Repubblica newspaper, and the death toll there climbed by 175 to 1441 on Sunday.

Italy’s 60 million people are effectively housebound until at least April as the country frantically tries to slow its devastating coronavirus spread.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the closure of restaurants, cafes and non-essential businesses from 9am AEDT on Sunday as the country’s death toll hit 91 from 4500 cases.

A woman selling disinfectant gel as a preventive measure in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, in Guatemala City. Picture: Johan Ordonez/AFP

A woman selling disinfectant gel as a preventive measure in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, in Guatemala City. Picture: Johan Ordonez/AFPSource:AFP

“I have decided to close all non-indispensable locations, notably cafes, restaurants, cinemas, nightclubs and shops. We must absolutely limit our movements,” he said.

Meanwhile, Syria, which has not had any reported cases, has postponed elections in the war torn country.

Spain will follow Italy’s lead, locking down the entire country from 10pm AEDT Sunday for 15 days as the country’s confirmed cases exceed 10,000, with 193 people dead.

Some flights from the UK to Spain were turned around midair as non-essential travel was strongly discouraged.

Qatar and Dubai were planning to stop issuing visas, while Jordan cancelled all international flights.

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Norway announced it was closing its airports from 10pm AEDT Sunday, while Greece has shut schools and shops and banned all flights from Italy until March 23.

Berlin and Cologne have closed bars, shops and restaurants, with each regional area in Germany responsible for making decisions about its restrictions.

Footage from Italians show residents all standing on their balconies and partying together.

In one viral video from Naples in Italy’s south, a man is seen panning around his neighbourhood, showing dozens of people dancing on roofs and balconies to a DJ spinning “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” from his own balcony.

Just above the DJ, an elderly man still in his dressing gown played along with his guitar.

Despite being stuck inside, neighbourhoods have come alive as Italians are forced to stay inside, choosing to use their balconies as places to socialise instead.

In another video taken from Rome, dozens of people stand on their balcony and clap along to opera ringing out across the neighbourhood.

“Since the 1.5 years I’ve been living in this neighbourhood, this is the most vibrant I have seen this street,” Yemi Adeyeye said.

Doctors and nurses have also been praised with Italians across the country giving standing ovations to anyone walking around in scrubs.

Italy introduced further crackdowns this week, including closing all shops except for supermarkets and pharmacies.

There have been long lines for supermarkets, with customers only allowed to enter one at a time.

The UK saw another massive jump in its coronavirus cases to 1,140 people. Ten more people also died in 24 hours, pushing the UK’s death toll up to 21.

The government’s chief medical adviser said the patients were all in “at-risk” groups from across England.

The UK continues to be slammed for its response to coronavirus as other countries around Europe close schools and universities in a bid to slow the spread.

In an open letter sent to the British government, a group of 198 academics in maths and science urged for a greater response to coronavirus.

“Going for ‘herd immunity’ at this point does not seem a viable option, as this will put NHS at an even stronger level of stress, risking many more lives than necessary,” the letter read.





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