Aussie virus cases jump to 116


There are now 116 cases of coronavirus across the country after more cases were confirmed in NSW and Queensland. More than 9000 people have been tested in NSW alone, the country's worst affected state with 61 cases. Three Australians have died so far as Sydney proves a hotspot.  

The Morrison government has approved a $2.4 billion response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The health package, which was revealed on Tuesday night, will allow Australians to bulk-bill phone hook-ups with GPs to diagnose coronavirus symptoms.

Health authorities will also establish up to 100 "pop-up" clinics, with each expected to handle 75 patients a day.

It comes as Australians are now being advised to reconsider all travel to Italy, after the entire country was plunged into an extraordinary lockdown on Tuesday.

More than 10,100 people have now been infected with the deadly COVID-19 disease in Italy, and at least 631 have died.

Australia has more than 100 confirmed cases, with the death toll steady at three.


Live Updates

6m agoMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Doctor says virus testing 'challenging and frustrating'

Stephanie Bedo

The vice president of the Australian Medical Association in NSW says messaging around coronavirus testing has been confusing.

"In NSW it's becoming increasingly challenging and frustrating to know what to do on the ground," Dr Danielle McMullen says.

"We've seen conflicting media reports over the past few days about who to test, when to test them, how to test them and where to test them.

"We really need a path forward to really let doctors and the general public know who's at risk and when and why they should be tested or should self-isolate."

Sydney doctor Jiang Li said the misinformation was worse than the virus.

The country's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy tried to clear up some of the confusion yesterday, saying people with acute cold and flu-like symptoms should not be tested unless they are a returned traveller or have been in contact with a confirmed case.

  14m agoMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Worry regular flu season still months away

Stephanie Bedo

An intensive care unit nurse says the most worrying thing for her - aside from having to venture somewhere else to get toilet paper - is that the regular flu season is still months away.

The anonymous Sydney nurse penned a piece for The Guardian about the coronavirus and what medical staff think of its impact so far.

She said they weren't too fussed because it was just like the flu, but what was concerning was the actual flu season hadn't hit yet.

"Most of the talk about Covid-19 around the tea room is how ridiculous the general public are about toilet paper," she said.

"One nurse told me overnight that this is the first time she noticed how collectively stupid people are. But hysteria will do that to humans."

  30m agoMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

AFL prepares for games without fans

Stephanie Bedo

The AFL is preparing to play games without fans due to the global coronavirus outbreak but round one of the premiership season will go ahead as planned.

League chief executive Gillon McLachlan spoke to reporters yesterday after the Victorian government warned that large gatherings will likely be impacted in the future as measures are taken to stop the spread of the virus.

"If mass gatherings are suspended we will play games in stadiums with no crowds," McLachlan said.

"We are also working on other protocols to protect not only players and staff but also members and supporters."

McLachlan revealed a working party had been set up to advise clubs and staff on the issue.

The league is braced for the financial impact playing games in empty stadiums would have.

"Our game is strong," McLachlan said.

"Over the past few years we've worked hard as an industry to build a strong balance sheet with a future fund that has enabled us to invest in revenue- generating assets.

"That strategy will allow us to work through whatever challenge is ahead of us and our clubs to support the game.

"We will continue to take the advice of governments and make preparations based on that advice.

"We have planned and, while it might get complicated, our game always finds a way."

The AFL premiership season gets under way when Richmond host Carlton at the MCG on Thursday, March 19.

  33m agoMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Cleared footy player hits the beach

Stephanie Bedo

What do you do when you get out of isolation?

Head to the beach, of course. That's what Fremantle forward Sam Switkowski did after he was cleared of having coronavirus.

Switkowski was tested on Monday after coming down with flu-like symptoms after being in contact with a friend who had been to China.

He can return to training today.

  40m agoMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Man denied access to cruise ship

Stephanie Bedo

A man with a high temperature who recently arrived in Australia has been denied access to a cruise ship docked in WA.

The man was trying to board the Carnival Australia-owned Sun Princess.

A Fremantle Port spokesman said a red flag was raised after the man presented with a high temperature and "flu-like symptoms".

He was taken to hospital for further checks.

  1h agoMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Prisoner awaiting test results

Stephanie Bedo

A Melbourne prisoner is expected to find out today if they have coronavirus.

The Melbourne Assessment Prison inmate is in isolation after being in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

No other prisons have been affected, Corrections Victoria said.

The prison is reportedly in lockdown.

  1h agoMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

University closes

Stephanie Bedo

Two university campuses have closed amid coronavirus concerns.

Southern Cross University's Gold Coast and Lismore campuses have been shutdown so they can be thoroughly cleaned after an international staff member tested positive for coronavirus yesterday.

It's understood about 45 people may have come into close contact with the man.

He was giving lectures and workshops last week and returned home to the Philippines on Sunday.

He then felt unwell and tested positive for the virus yesterday.

  1h agoMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Victorians warned of pandemic measures

Victorians have been told all their schools may be closed and entire sectors forced to work from home when the coronavirus reaches a pandemic phase.

Premier Daniel Andrews has warned the measures are laid out in the state's COVID-19 pandemic plan, released yesterday.

Another three cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Victoria, including the first locally transmitted.

They bring the total number of coronavirus cases to 18.

Mr Andrews says it is not a matter of if but when Victoria will move into a pandemic phase with rapid transmission of the virus.
"We will need to ask Victorians to do things we have never asked them," he said.

The plan includes the "inevitability" all schools will close for some time and entire sectors or workforces will have to work from home, he said. Big events will also have to be called off.

"Now's not the time for those things but that time will come and it's appropriate, just like fire - to be frank with people."

Of the latest cases, two are men in their 70s, one who returned to Melbourne from Singapore on flight EK404 on Friday, and the other from Los Angeles on flight VA24 on Sunday.

A woman in her 50s is also now isolated at home, after being in the same household as a confirmed case who returned to Melbourne on flight UA60 from the US on February 28.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said it is the first case of local transmission with more expected.

The woman works at Carey Baptist Grammar School in Kew, which was closed yesterday after she developed symptoms.

Seven COVID-19 screening clinics are now open in Victoria, including one at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where lines of people in masks could be seen awaiting tests on Tuesday.

One Melbourne doctor - former Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal - has resorted to screening patients in cars outside his Altona North practice.

Victoria's dedicated COVID-19 phone line and the Nurse-On-Call Hotline both crashed yesterday due to an influx of calls.

Another 50 staff will be brought on deck for the coronavirus helpline on Wednesday, with an additional 100 by week's end.


  2:40 amMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

What's in the government's virus response?

Free telehealth services and pop-up coronavirus clinics will form part of the government's $2.4 billion response.

The government released the details of its health package on Tuesday night, promising further measures are on the way.

From Friday, Australians will be able to bulk-bill phone hook-ups with GPs to diagnose coronavirus symptoms.

Health authorities will also establish up to 100 "pop-up" clinics, with each expected to handle 75 patients a day.

The government hopes the clinics will divert people with coronavirus away from hospital, with two of the country's peak medical bodies to help identify suitable locations.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy says unlikely people can catch the new coronavirus twice. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy confirmed there were 100 cases of coronavirus in Australia, with more than half already cleared.

Three Australians have died so far as Sydney proves a hot spot.

Professor Murphy also said it was highly unlikely people would catch the virus twice.

Across the world there are an estimated 114,000 cases in 107 countries, with 1000 recorded deaths.


  2:31 amMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

NT preparing for remote virus cases

The Northern Territory's health authority says it's ready to deal with a coronavirus outbreak among tens of thousands of Aboriginal people living in remote areas with limited medical resources.

There are no known cases of the potentially deadly COVID-19 in the Territory's disadvantaged remote indigenous communities, which are home to nearly 60,000 people.

But Aboriginal people were massively over-represented during the 2009 swine flu pandemic because of that disadvantage, comprising 11 per cent of cases.

Labor-turned-independent MLA Scott McConnell said last week indigenous constituents based in the bush had contacted him with worries about COVID-19 affecting their families and the only clinics in their communities.

Professor Dianne Stephens says the NT is prepared. Picture: News Corp Australia

NT deputy chief health officer Dianne Stephens said a "remote public health plan" was released on Monday night and sent to all major health networks including the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory.

"We are having an exercise on Thursday with a lot of stakeholders from the remote and rural health centres in order to work through the very real and challenging logistics there are in remote health communities from isolating and home quarantining people to testing them," she told reporters.

The leadership of the NT's indigenous communities would make the ultimate decision about whether to isolate or evacuate people at risk after being given all of the information, Professor Stephens said.

The NT confirmed its first case of coronavirus last week after a 52-year-old Sydney man tested positive after flying into Darwin.

NT Health tracked down two people sitting near him on the plane, who were on their way to a fishing trip in remote Arnhem Land. They have been placed in two weeks of isolation at Maningrida.
Remote Aboriginal communities in the APY lands near the NT border have started asking visitors to sign statutory declarations to say they have not been exposed to the virus or returned from high-risk countries.

A pandemic clinic was opened for testing at Royal Darwin Hospital on Tuesday with more to come in Alice Springs and other towns.


  2:11 amMarch 11, 2020HIGHLIGHT

New travel advice for Italy

Alle McMahon

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has updated its official travel advice for Italy.

It now recommends Australians reconsider their need to travel to Italy overall and do not travel to Lombardy and other provinces in the north, which include Milan and Venice.

Police patrolled around the closed Colosseum in Rome on Tuesday. Picture: AFP/Alberto Pizzoli

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday warned the government would be reconsidering its advice to the country, after it was placed in a nationwide lockdown.

"There is a very large outbreak in Italy. That's prompted the Italian authorities to take some fairly significant measures," Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said.

"They've extended their controls beyond just the northern outbreak region and they've taken a lot of measures - the sort of measures that a country should take to try and contain and delay further spread."

More than 10,100 people have now been infected with the deadly COVID-19 disease in Italy, and at least 631 have died.