Good evening, and welcome to our daily roundup of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. These are the main stories on Sunday 5 April.
NSW police launch criminal investigation into Ruby Princess fiasco
The NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, confirmed on Sunday that there will be a criminal investigation into the Ruby Princess debacle that will look at the actions of every agency involved as well as the cruise ship operator.
“There is clear evidence that [Covid-19] has been brought off that ship,” Fuller says. There’s clear evidence now when it stopped in New Zealand Covid-19 has come off that ship and at least 10 people have died in Australia from Covid-19. The only way I can get to the bottom of whether our national biosecurity laws and our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation.”
Three of the four latest deaths in NSW were passengers on the Ruby Princess.
Health officials ‘hopeful’ curve is flattening
Health authorities in Australia have expressed cautious optimism that Australia may be able to limit the domestic coronavirus outbreak but have warned against complacency or relaxing social distancing rules too early.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, said the number of cases in Australia rose by 139 on Sunday, to a total of 5,687 cases. About 2,000 of those cases are of people who have completely recovered. Australia’s death toll now stands at 34.
“That is probably the lowest rise we’ve had for a few days and it does tend to continue the trend we’ve seen of flattening of the curve,” Murphy said.
More casuals could receive jobkeeper payment
The government has opened the door to allowing more of the casual workforce to access wage subsidies, as it vowed to press ahead with legislating the $130bn jobkeeper scheme this week.
Christian Porter, the attorney general, said the government was aiming to be “as inclusive and reasonable as possible” on the issue of casuals and he hoped to have draft legislation ready on Monday. Parliament is due to return on Wednesday – with limited numbers of MPs attending – to consider legislation to enable as many as 6m workers to access wage subsidies of $1,500 per fortnight. The secretary of the ACTU, Sally McManus, said the union movement had been raising concerns publicly and privately with the government.
Western Australia border to close at midnight
The WA premier, Mark McGowan, has told people outside the state to “come home by midnight tonight” before strict new entry rules come into effect.
“No one from over east will be allowed entry into Western Australia unless you’re an approved exempt traveller … People can go to the government website to get the latest information and download the necessary forms. Checks will be occurring. If you’ve lied on an exemption form to get into our state, there’s every chance you’ll get caught and be forced to face the consequences.”
Free hotel rooms for Victorian frontline workers
Victoria’s frontline health workers will have free hotel stays if they need to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis, as the state recorded 20 new cases overnight.
The state government will provide $20m to buy hotel rooms, enabling up to 8,000 frontline workers who may test positive for Covid-19 or have unexpected and unprotected contact with a suspected patient, to self-isolate, away from family and flatmates, at no cost. The service will be available to healthcare professionals and other workers such as cooks and cleaners who directly engage with patients.
People warned against travelling over Easter holidays
Authorities in several states have warned people against travelling over the coming Easter holiday period, urging them to adhere to social distancing rules. The NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, was asked if police will be doing random checks on IDs to see that people have not gone on holidays and responded, “we will be stopping people and if you don’t have a good reason to be where you are, you could face a $1,000 fine.” Tasmania will toughen restrictions to stop people heading to their holiday homes or taking boating trips over the Easter break, the state’s premier said on Sunday. Peter Gutwein said many elderly people lived in these areas, and they needed to be protected, as the state’s confirmed cases rose to 82.
Police issue scores of fines at Queensland car rally
Police issued 58 infringement notices at a car rally in the Brisbane suburb of Rochedale last night where people were flouting social distancing directives. Deputy Queensland police commissioner Steve Gollschewski, who is also the state disaster coordinator, has professed himself disappointed and frustrated and said the behaviour of people at the rally was “inexcusable”.
“This is all about safety. About saving lives. About stopping the spread of Covid-19,” he said. “It is inexcusable what happened at Rochedale last night and such blatant disregard for the lives of Queenslanders will not be tolerated.”
A man was also charged in Tasmania for allegedly disobeying isolation requirements after returning to the state from Victoria, police said. The man had been staying at a government facility for his period of isolation but had breached conditions, police say.
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