Morning mail: British PM in hospital, Ruby Princess investigation, health fund windfall

James Murray
Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

Good morning, this is James Murray bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 6 April.


The UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests after showing persistent symptoms of coronavirus 10 days after testing positive. A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “On the advice of his doctor, the prime minister has tonight been admitted to hospital for tests. This is a precautionary step, as the prime minister continues to have persistent symptoms of coronavirus 10 days after testing positive for the virus.” Johnson on 27 March became the first leader of a major power to announce that he had tested positive. He has been isolating in his Downing Street flat since.

NSW police have launched a criminal investigation into the Ruby Princess cruise ship coronavirus disaster. The ship has been the focus of intense criticism since its 2,700 passengers were allowed to freely disembark in Sydney on 19 March. At least 11 passengers from ship have now died, more than 30% of Australia’s total Covid-19 deaths. NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller said on Sunday the investigation will look at the actions of every agency involved as well as the cruise ship operator. “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,” Fuller said. “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.”

The US surgeon general has told the country to expect a “Pearl Harbour” moment in the next week, as Covid-19 deaths reach unprecedented levels. “It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives, and we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part,” Jerome Adams told NBC News’ Meet the Press. Trump has already said he won’t wear a mask, but Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said on Sunday that he would.

Italy has registered its lowest number of daily deaths from coronavirus in two weeks as the number of people in hospital with the disease decreased for the first time. Italy’s civil protection authority said on Sunday that 21,815 people had so far recovered from the virus, 819 more than on Saturday. There was also some cause for optimism in Spain, where daily Covid-19 deaths declined to 674, the lowest figure since March 26. Meanwhile in the UK, the total number of deaths approached 5,000, amid signs of strain on the country’s National Health Service. A hospital on the outskirts of London is one of the first to say a shortage of oxygen prompted them to consider prioritising which patients would need it most.


NSW Health director of health protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty is hopeful the curve is flattening. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Health officials say the coronavirus curve may be flattening, but warned against complacency or relaxing social distancing rules too early. “We are hopeful that we are starting to flatten the curve. But there is more work to be done and it is important that we all heed those messages,” said Dr Jeremy McAnulty, NSW Health’s director of health protection.

Australia’s private health insurance funds could reap between $3.5bn and $5.5bn due to falls in elective surgery during the coronavirus crisis. Health expert Roy Harvey said that if funds failed to pass on falls in costs, more people will flee the already struggling private health insurance system.

The Morrison government has signalled that more casual workers may be eligible for jobkeeper payments than previously thought. Christian Porter, the attorney general, opened the door to allowing more of the casual workforce to access the wage subsidies – an issue that has been raised by unions, business groups and various MPs.

The Queensland government has been accused of endangering children’s lives after it announced a new “hard line on youth crime” approach that aimed to place more children in detention. The policy means Queensland’s youth detention centres are almost full, and children may have to be “warehoused” in adult watch-houses during the pandemic.

The world

Jacinda Ardern delivers a briefing on Covid-19 on Sunday afternoon. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand’s lockdown has prevented thousands of extra cases, but called for even better compliance. She said there were “still some people I would charitably describe as idiots”, citing a man in Christchurch who filmed himself coughing on people.

Jailed Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been released from prison but barred from reuniting with his wife and son in Beijing. He is being kept in quarantine due to coronavirus 400km from home, and his wife fears it is another excuse to detain him.

Cardboard coffins have been distributed in Ecuador amid coronavirus fears. On Saturday, Ecuador’s health ministry said it had registered 172 Covid-19 deaths.

Maryland lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the niece of John F Kennedy, has said the search for her daughter and grandson has moved from rescue to recovery. The search began on Thursday afternoon after a report of a canoe in the bay that did not return to shore and appeared to be overtaken by strong winds.

Recommended reads

‘We need to temper our responses and restrictions based on the evidence we have and what is occurring in our communities.’ Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

There is no evidence to support the over-the-top laws put in place in NSW and Victoria in response to the coronavirus, infectious diseases physician and microbiologist Peter Collignon argues. “We need everyone to continue to comply with the rules we put in place mid-March and will likely need to do so until at least September. Some states have now put in overzealous rules and ones that give very mixed messages or have little biological plausibility. Not only will this cause unwarranted and increased social, mental and economic harm, we run the bigger risk that a substantial part of our society in a few months’ time might increasingly rebel against many restrictions.”

One of the biggest puzzles of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it routinely hits the oldest hardest, but occasionally it strikes down young, apparently fit individuals, including medical staff exposed to patients with the virus. In some cases, previously undiagnosed conditions are later revealed but in others no such explanations are available, leaving scientists struggling to find reasons for the behaviour of the coronavirus. Robin McKie questions whether our DNA might play a role, or whether some people are subjected to a higher viral load than others.


The Guardian Full Story podcast looks at our experiences with being socially isolated. Whether we’re stuck in a quarantine hotel guarded by police or stuck at home, we’re all dealing with our own forms of isolation. In this episode, Guardian Australia readers phone in and talk through how they’re coping with being apart.

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.


Premier League team Liverpool are under fire after placing staff into the UK government’s furlough scheme. On 27 February Liverpool announced pre-tax profits of £42m, in 2017-18 they posted a world record pre-tax profit for a football club of £125m.

Golfer Shane Lowry talks to Ewan Murray about his desire for more success after winning The Open last year. “I’m not bigging myself up but in this game you are only ever one week away from greatness,” Lowry says.

Media roundup

The Australian has an exclusive poll showing overwhelming support for Scott Morrison’s coronavirus plans. The prime minister has recorded the highest satisfaction rating since Kevin Rudd at the height of the global financial crisis in 2009. The Age has a story about key health staff being unable to access the flu vaccine with almost all of the 15 MyClinic GP practices across Melbourne yet to receive their vaccine. Meanwhile in Queensland, the Courier Mail reports on state plans to house key health staff in hotels to protect their families from Covid-19. The policy could see doctors and nurses isolated from their families for weeks.

Coming up

A NSW court will on Monday rule whether former detective Gary Jubelin broke the law by recording four conversations with a person of interest in the William Tyrrell disappearance.

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