There’s more news this morning of job losses in the childcare sector following a drop in attendance and funding during the Covid-19 crisis.
Uniting NSW.ACT, which provides community services on behalf of the Uniting Church, has announced it is standing down 45 workers across its early learning services. This decision is effective from Monday and will apply for an initial period of four weeks, although the group will keep the workers on its books and hopes they can come back in the near future.
Rod Nadwie-Smith, the group’s head of early learning, said it was “heartbreaking to have to stand down some of our talented and committed team of educators”.“What we need right now is certainty of funding so we can keep the remainder of our team engaged and employed and continue to provide our quality services to the 4,500 children and essential workers who rely on us,” he said.
The organisation employs 850 people at 56 early learning services across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory but is not eligible for the jobkeeper wages subsidy because it provides a range of other services that have not been as badly affected. A week ago, Nadwie-Smith told Guardian Australia the organisation had “held on” and sought to keep its centres open without standing down staff or closing services, but that was becoming increasingly difficult because of a projected $3m loss over the next three mont
New Zealand Warriors given clearance to fly into Australia
In NRL news, the New Zealand Warriors will arrive in Tamworth on Sunday and be able to train despite a 14-day isolation period, after receiving clearance from Border Force. They received final approvals today.
The latest green light was crucial for the NRL’s ambition of a return by 28 May, AAP reports.
NRL chairman Peter V’landys said the Warriors would join every club in a mandatory education day on Monday to ensure players toed the line during the coronavirus pandemic.
The approval comes after Friday’s crucial move from Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, confirming borders would be open for the state’s three NRL teams to play in NSW. It means North Queensland, Brisbane and the Gold Coast will not need to enter isolation camps in Sydney and can remain at home with their families.
AAP reports that petrol prices have crept up in Queensland, where people are venturing out of their homes for the first time after being confined for weeks of semi-lockdown. The report says:
Fuel pumps across Brisbane have bucked recent record low prices, jumping as high as $1.19 on Saturday morning, as people head outdoors for picnics and retail shopping following an ease on restrictions.
However, some southern suburbs are still selling for as little as 82.9c at the end of a week where the state recorded just eight new diagnoses for Covid-19.
All Queenslanders are restricted to staying within 50km of their home and must continue to practise social distancing.
Meanwhile, about 150 extra police will be out questioning Queenslanders as they enjoy their first weekend under eased restrictions which means they can leave their home for recreation. Queenslanders can have a picnic, shop for non-essential items, and the distance they can travel has also been extended. Some national parks are also open.
You can read an explainer of the lockdown restrictions and rules in each state and territory here.
In overseas developments it seems the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has reemerged after being absent for almost three weeks, if reports from South Korea’s Yonhap news agency are correct
Conjecture about Kim’s health had grown since his conspicuous absence from the 15 April celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. But he attended a fertiliser factory completion ceremony, state media reported on Saturday, his first public appearance after 20 days of absence that sparked rumours about his health.
Yonhap news reports: “The official Korean central news agency [KCNA] reported that Kim cut the tape at the ceremony marking the completion of Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang.”
However … KCNA has not released photos of him or the ceremony.
Guardian Australia’s editor Lenore Taylor writes that after listening to the experts to successfully curb the spread of Covid-19, Australia should do the same thing when it comes to climate change. In this note from the editor, she says:
We’re already being swamped with ideas about “reforms” needed to recover from the pandemic crisis. But the word reform is like gift wrap – a handy cover for any offering, thought-through or otherwise.
Perhaps we should ditch the word entirely, and with it the forest of feelpinions about what governments “must” do to advance an author’s previously-held ideological positioning in the post-corona world.
Imagine if we took just two lessons from the way Australian governments responded to the coronavirus: that good decisions are made when they consider the evidence and the best available expert advice; and that policy-making can accommodate reasonable differences of opinion, without becoming a “war”.
Think, as Laura Tingle did in a piece for the ABC’s 7.30 this week, of the difference it would make if interviewers and commentators allowed room for discussion of complex and competing ideas, before demanding that politicians rule them “in” or “out”, or before finding a backbencher who will say they might cross the floor on a policy that conflicts with their ideological prejudice – even if that policy hasn’t yet been outlined.
Now consider if those principles were applied to climate policy in Australia.”
On Thursday, the Northern Territory government announced a multi-staged approach to lifting restrictions after successfully containing the virus.
As of noon yesterday, simple and safe outdoor activities where physical distancing can be maintained were once again allowed. It means personal gatherings including outdoor weddings and funerals can recommence, and playgrounds, parks and campgrounds outside biosecurity areas can reopen.
Public swimming pools, lagoons and water parks are also open. Outdoor sports where physical distancing can be maintained including golf and tennis as well as training outdoors are back on. Fishing, boating, and sailing with other people is also allowed.
Northern Territory chief health officer Dr Hugh Heggie was very excited about the developments, while urging people to still be responsible with hygiene and physical distancing.
Anglicare issues a statement on Newmarch House
Anglicare has issued a statement following news this morning that two staff members of its Newmarch House aged care home in Sydney have been diagnosed with the infection. The virus has killed 13 residents of the home since April. The statement says the new infections occurred “despite having strict procedures and enforced infection control practices in place”.
We are investigating further as to how this occurred and we continue to work closely with the NSW Public Health Unit on this. Additional positive cases associated with Newmarch House are very distressing for our staff, our residents, and their families.
We are very appreciative of the support being provided by the commonwealth and NSW governments and by the aged care sector more broadly.
We are further improving our pastoral care for residents and their families by offering access to Anglicare Sydney’s counselling and chaplaincy services as well as continuing the successful window visits between residents and families.
Additionally, Anglicare Sydney was relieved to hear that the outbreak of Covid-19 at Dorothy Henderson Lodge has now been dealt with. This gives us great hope that we will overcome this devastating virus at Newmarch House.”
Virus continues to spread at Newmarch House
This virus is proving devastating once it gets into nursing homes. Another two staff members at Sydney’s Newmarch House nursing home have tested positive for Covid-19 following the deaths of 13 residents over the past few weeks. More than one third of the home’s residents have now been infected.
New South Wales Labor leader Jodi McKay last week criticised the state government for not acting sooner on the coronavirus-stricken aged care home, and said families were not always given the choice to transfer Covid-19 positive residents to hospital.
The home began testing for coronavirus on 11 April after a carer who worked part-time at the facility tested positive to Covid-19. The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said the carer had extremely mild symptoms such as a “scratchy” throat and worked five shifts at the home and two at a western Sydney disability service before she realised she was sick. It’s understood she did not have symptoms while still working.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said at a press conference on Wednesday she was concerned at the lack of information given to family members of residents since the beginning of the outbreak
Flinders University this morning published an analysis of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on South Australia. The director of Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Institute Professor John Spoehr says by 2024, some 61,000 people in the state will lose their jobs, notwithstanding the JobKeeper initiative.
“Gross State Product will be 14.8% lower this quarter than it would have been without the Covid-19 restrictions, and recovery will be slow, with GSP remaining 6.4% lower than would otherwise have been the case at this time next year,” he said. “Our earnings from interstate exports will fall 18% and our overseas export earnings will plunge 23.5%.”
Meanwhile two new reports released by the Melbourne Institute assess the scope of the Covid-19 pandemic’s economic impact in Australia at a state-by-state level. The Melbourne Institute Nowcast of Australian GDP report found “Consumer sentiment, which tends to lead consumption, fell dramatically in April. It is now at a similar level to that observed during the global financial crisis”. Its report on State Leading Indexes of Economic Activity says federal government support packages, to a certain extent, may have helped to soften this rising consumer pessimism.
Good morning everyone, Melissa Davey here with you to take you through all the Covid-19 updates for Australia today.
Here’s a quick recap of where we are at, starting with some good news:
- On Friday the Australian Capital Territory became the first jurisdiction in Australia to report no active cases of Covid-19.
- All of this good work flattening the curve led the prime minister to offer Australians an “early mark” to ease Covid-19 restrictions. These will be announced next week. But there’s a catch – return to normality will depend on uptake of the Covidsafe contact tracing app, he says.
- Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest reportedly plans to make a bid for Virgin Australia. The airline went into administration on 21 April and creditors held a meeting by video link on Friday morning.
- An interim report into an outbreak of the virus in north-west Tasmania that saw two hospitals close and health workers placed into lockdown confirmed what was suspected for weeks – the Ruby Princess cruise ship was the root cause of the virus hitting the region. What authorities do not know yet is how the virus then took hold of the hospitals.
- There has been a lot of excitement about experimental drugs to treat the virus given currently, the only treatment patients can receive is supportive care. However, these drugs should not be overhyped or seen as a breakthrough in the absence of rigorous evidence, experts including Australia’s chief scientist have warned.
- It comes as the US pharmaceutical company Gilead is finalising the location of five hospitals in Australia to receive the highly sought-after experimental coronavirus drug remdesivir which made headlines this week after being promoted by the White House.
- ME Bank has slashed the amount an estimated 20,000 customers can redraw from their home loans by thousands of dollars, drawing outrage from borrowers hoping to use the money during the coronavirus crisis.
It seems as we go into the weekend, many are hopeful that we will be seeing some kind of easing of restrictions sooner than anticipated. But the last thing Australian wants is the situation we’ve seen unfolding in Singapore, where after successful containment of the virus which were praised around the world, it experienced record-breaking days of new cases last week. The country has now implemented a lockdown.
This is something we are going to see those countries who are containing the virus increasingly grapple with over the next few weeks. The deputy chief medical officer on Friday described this navigation between a return to normality and avoiding unmitigated virus spread as a “dance”, and it’s something that the national cabinet will be discussing over the coming days.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything throughout the day over at Twitter or at email@example.com . Or feel free to just tell me how you’re coping with all of this. As always, please be nice.