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News & Analysis

CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Here’s what you need to know on Tuesday

- March 17, 2020 9 MIN READ
It's ok to drink Guinness at home alone today, OK? Photo: AdobeStock
Hello and welcome to St Patrick’s Day.

We’ll be buying a Guinness and drinking it at home today. Just to be sure, to be sure.

As Australia and New Zealand grapple with the global coronavirus pandemic, we’re publishing this new daily update to keep the startup/tech community informed.

We’ve split things into five sections: Advice, Business, Cancellations, Global, Response, to help you find what you’re looking for, with the latest news in each section at the top. Today we’re adding “And also“. We figure if Tom Hanks is in danger of a Vegemite overdose, you should know about it.

Hanx has been discharged from hospital. His wife, Rita Wilson, remains under observation.

 

Here’s how things sit on Tuesday

  • Overseas arrivals to Australia must self-isolate for 14 days
  • The national number of coronavirus cases hit 369 nationally. 171 are in NSW.
  • The ASX had its worst trading day since 1987, with the market falling 9.7%
  • The local cruise industry has been shut down for 30 days
  • Most schools remain open for now
  • Aged care facilities are going into lockdown to protect residents, with many stopping visitors
  • Anzac Day services have been cancelled, amid a widespread cultural shutdown. 
  • The US stock market crashed again overnight

 

OK, let’s do this for Tuesday. Check back for updates throughout the day as things unfold.

Response

The Dept of Foreign Affairs is recommending Australians abroad thinking about heading home before it’s too late.

“As more countries close their borders or introduce travel restrictions, overseas travel is becoming more complex and difficult,” DFAT said in advice issued on Tuesday evening.

“You may not be able to return to Australia when you had planned to. Consider whether you have access to health care and support systems if you get sick while overseas. If you decide to return to Australia, do so as soon as possible.”

DFAT said: “We now advise all Australians to reconsider your need for overseas travel at this time”.

Australian doctors want a lockdown. The ABC reports that the country is in a worse position than Italy, and that by April 4, there could be 10,000 infections a day. They urge the government to follow the example Asian nations such as China, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan with strick social distancing and lockdowns to halt the spread of the virus. More than 3500 doctors have signed the letter.

Today’s infection figures hit new highs. NSW had 39 more cases, a new record, and more than half of the national total of 77 new cases today. There are now 455 infections.

Catholic schools want to close. Sydney Catholic Schools are pushing for closures, replaced by online lessons “as a matter of urgency”.

Private schools have taken various actions, with some ending the term early, others are already having years taking turns for online lessons from home.

Pymble Ladies College is moving to online lessons from home on Thursday, but will keep the campus open.

When parliament returns next week, around 40% will be missing as PM Scott Morrison looks to cap how many people are allowed in, according to Sky News.

The PM is trying to cut a deal with Labor leader Anthony Albanese to “pair” (ie. a convention where an MP from one side of politics excuses themself from a vote when an MP from the another side is absent) for 30 MPs (60 in total) to reduce the House of Reps to 90 MPs.

The news comes as Minister Peter Dutton was released from hospital after his caught coronavirus. Liberal senator Andrew Brag revealed today (see below) he has the disease, one of several similarly diagnosed from being at the same wedding 11 days ago.

Parliament is due to return on Monday.

The tech sector #leadsboldy. Canva’s Mel Perkins published an open letter to Australian leaders, co-signed by her co-founders, Atlassian’s Scott Farquhar and many others to do their bit to #StoptheSpread and reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Perkins is encouraging other business leaders to put their name to the open letter. You can sign on here.

Kiwi Stimulus. New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden has gone early and very very hard in a government stimulus package that amounts to 4% of Aotearoa’s GDP. The NZ$12.1 billion stimulus program – in Australia that would be equivalent to $80bn – includes covering and/or subsidising wages, along with $25 a week more for people on welfare.

Any business that sees its revenue fall by more than 30% on a year-on-year basis will be able to apply for wage subsidies to keep staff on in a NZ$5.1 billion program.

$2.8bn is for tax changes for business, including interest charges waived for some late tax, greater deductions on low-value assets, a higher provisional tax threshold and deprecation deductions for commercial and industrial buildings.

There’s also NZ$500m for healthcare, including greater efforts to trace any cases. The country currently has eight infections.

The states are beginning to roll out their own stimulus investment to keep jobs and bolster

Tassie’s $420m stimulus is offering one-off, emergency payments for casuals and low-income workers of $250 and $1,000 for families forced to self-isolate. $20 million is for interest-free loans for hospitality, tourism, seafood and export businesses, who will also be exempt from payroll tax until the end of FY2020.

Among health initiatives there’s $1 million for frontline workers needing accommodation if family are unwell so their can continue to work family members are unwell, to ensure the workers can continue their health sector jobs.

The government is also fast-tracking $50 million for public building maintenance.

NSW announces a $2.3 billion stimulus package, with a majority, $1.6 billion, allocated to economic stimulus, including on payroll tax relief for small businesses.

The remaining $700 million is for extra health funding, including ventilators, respiratory clinics, intensive care beds, and more testing.

Waiving payroll tax for businesses with a payroll under $10 million for the next 3 months is worth $450 million, and other fees and charges on an already hammer hospitality sector will save them $80 million. $250 million will be spend on extra cleaning – with extra employees – to cleanse public facilities. NSW is also bringing forward $750 million worth of capital works and infrastructure maintenance, including on public housing.
Queensland is setting up a $500 million loan facility for businesses. The state has also extended its six-month deferral (but not not waived) on payroll tax payments to all companies. Around 300 SMEs have already asked for the deferral, Qld treasurer Jackie Trad said.

The loans for up to $250,000 are interest free for a year.

Western Australia’s $607 million stimulus package includes a freeze on household fees and charges for more than 15 months until FY21, worth $402 million.

Alas Sandgropers still have to pay their power and water bills and car registration, but planned increases to those bills have been called off, along with rises to public transport fares and the emergency services levy.

An estimated 7,400 WA businesses with a payroll bill between $1-4 million will get a one-off $17,500 grant, worth $114 million in total. Raising the payroll tax threshold to $1 million will be brought forward to July 1 this year.

WA public sector will also receive 20 days of paid COVID-19 leave.

The Dept of Foreign Affairs is recommending Australians abroad come home because they make not be able to return if borders are closed.

Coles limits stockpiling. The retailer has put a two-pack limit on range of products, including frozen vegies, fresh pasta and eggs. Aldi is also introducing purchase limits.

Researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity have been looking at how the human immune system fights coronavirus and have concluded its the same way the body fights the flu. The ABC has more here.

We hesitate to mention this, but NSW Police have suspended random breath testing. Please don’t use that as an excuse to be a bloody idiot and threaten more lives.

Business

Qantas cuts deeper. The national carrier will cut international capacity by around 90% until at least the end of May 2020, a massive jump from the 23% reduction announced last week. Domestic capacity will be cut by around 60% too, another large jump on the previous 5% reduction. Qantas says that represents the grounding of around 150 aircraft, including almost all of the wide-body fleet.

“Previously announced cuts in place from end-May through to mid-September remain in place and are likely to be increased, depending on demand,” the airline said.

Route-by-route details for Qantas and Jetstar will be announced in coming days. The airline didn’t outline the impact on jobs beyond saying “the precipitous decline in demand and resulting cuts to flying mean that the Qantas Group is confronted with a significant labour surplus across its operations. Travel demand is unlikely to rebound for weeks or possibly months and the impact of this will be felt across the entire workforce of 30,000 people.”

The airline previously announced booking waivers and credits for customers wanting to suspend their travel plans.

Rex in a trading halt. ASX-listed regional airline Rex went into a trading halt this morning, pending an announcement by Thursday. The country’s third biggest airline emerged out of the crash of Ansett in the wake of 9/11.

Wall Street had its biggest fall since the 1987 crash as the market headed in the opposite direction to US Federal Reserve’s hopes when it cut interest rates to zero and pumped US$700 billion into the market through quantitative easing (QE) (aka “printing money” by buying bonds). Australia’s Reserve Bank looks set to take similar measures later this week.

The Dow Jones index fell 12.9% – 2,998 points – with the tech-focused Nasdaq plummeted 12.3%. The ASX looks set to fall 4% on opening today.

The US market now has limit down handbrakes for dramatic falls, so for the fourth time in a week, trading on Wall Street was halted.

Some good news? Oil is now below US$30 a barrel, it’s lowest price in four years.

South Korea and Kuwait’s central banks have both lowered interest rates.

The size of the contraction in China emerged in trade figures, with retail sales falling 20.5%, while industrial output fell 13.5%.

Air New Zealand is looking to cut 30% of its workforce – around 3000 jobs as the global airline industry grinds to a halt.

 

Global

Norwegian PM Erna Solberg held a kids-only press conference so they could ask her about coronavirus. “It’s okay to be scared,” she said, ending it with the advice that “just because you aren’t at school, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn things”. More here.

US President Donald Trump says brace for recession.

Trump told Americans to educate their children at home, avoid travel and gathering in groups of 10 or more, and to avoid public places for the next 15 days.

“If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus,” he said.

The country’s east coast has shut down bars and restaurants except for takeaway.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people over 70 and anyone with a serious medical conditions to avoid public contact for three months.

The government didn’t introduce bans, but Johnson said: “We need people to start working from home where they possibly can. And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.”

French President Emmanuel Macron says his country is “at war” and has suspended gas, electricity and water bills, as well as rent payments. The country goes into lockdown from noon Tuesday.

The European Union has banned non-essential travel for 30 days. Non EU member will be denied entry to the region unless they have family who are EU nationals or they have long-term residency. Trading has been limited to daytime – 6am-6pm.

Germany has closed its borders and shut bars, clubs, theatres and museums, as well as retailers.

Ireland will offer employers €203 (AU$372) per week as a rebate for every worker they keep in a job.

Russia is closing its borders to non-residents on Wednesday.

Cancellations

The AFL is still thinking about whether Thursday’s opening round match will proceed. In the meantime, the sport has postponed all lower grades, down to Auskick, until at least May 31.

The Bunnings sausage is off. The hardware chain’s boss, Mike Schneider, said the suspensions comes after they spoken to community groups who are struggling to find volunteers and supplies. Bunnings is donating $500 vouchers to the groups instead.

NSW Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who’s chairing the current fintech and regtech inquiry, has cancelled himself for a fortnight after testing positive to coronavirus after he went to a wedding at Stanwell Tops on March 6. Last week Bragg was meant to attend the ACS breakfast launching

 

The NBL’s finals are off, with the Perth Wildcats currently up 2-1 on the Sydney Kings.

 

NSW has won the Sheffield Shield! That’s the states cricket comp, if you’re going huh?! Cricket Australia cancelled the final matches of the season, awarding the title to NSW as ladder leader. CA has advised that all club cricket also wind up for the season.

Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) will close from Wednesday for the “foreseeable future”.

The Sydney Writer’s Festival was cancelled last night.

 

Advice

 

Who knew (no pun intended) we’d be relearning how to wash our hands.

https://twitter.com/WHO/status/1238404251933704193

Transport for NSW is asking commuters to try and travel outside of peak times to help with social distancing. Hopefully we won’t all do it at once…

 

150,000 Australians could die. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly predicted somewhere between 20% to 60% of the population will be infected

“The death rate is around 1 per cent. You can do the maths,” he said. So the lowball is 50,000 people dying with around 5 million infected.

“We need to do what we can to limit the opportunity for the infection to come into aged care,” Prof. Kelly said.

Some estimates put the mortality rate at 3%, so the potential is for the virus to achieve that horrific number even one the best-case scenario.

As Sam Mostyn said on ABC TV’s QANDA last night, this is about we protect the most vulnerable in society. That’s why you need to do your bit.

How to work from home.

How to communicate with your teams as you deal with coronavirus.

We love this from Nextdoor. Print it out for your street.

And also

The show went on with the MSO.

https://twitter.com/MelbSymphony/status/1239438972813635584

 

If you were lucky enough to see New Order on their recent Australian tour, here’s an easy-to-follow guide to washing your hands. Tell me now how do you feel?

https://twitter.com/neworder/status/1239517384916025344

And the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan is doing a stellar job making sense of the crazy. Listen to his comments on the theory of herd immunity – touted in the UK – when it comes to dealing with this virus.

 

 

 

NOW READ:

How to work from home

Zoho makes its remote working productivity suite free to help businesses tackle coronavirus

A coronavirus winter is coming for Australian startups

CABIN FEVER: How to prepare for the social and psychological impacts of a coronavirus lockdown

35 of the most commonly asked questions about coronavirus, answered by experts

 

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