Australia has recorded at least 6727 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 84 people have died. NSW has the most cases with 3009 recorded as of Tuesday.
More than 3 million cases of the virus have been confirmed worldwide, and more than 207,000 people have died from it.
Here is what is happening with coronavirus around Australia today:
1. NRL’s Response To Players Breaking Lockdown: ‘Nothing To Do With Culture Or Race’
NRL players Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, and Tyronne Roberts-Davis have been issued fines from the National Rugby League for “bringing the game into disrepute” by gathering at a camping trip amid coronavirus restrictions.
Penrith Panthers player Nathan Cleary has also copped a breach notice for having a group of women at his house on ANZAC day.
The NRL said the penalties proposed reflect the severity of each player’s alleged breach. South Sydney Rabbitohs player Latrell Mitchell has copped a fine of $50,000 fine with 60% suspended for the remainder of the season.
The rest of the fines can be seen here.
Mitchell on Monday apologised for flouting social distancing rules at the weekend and called the “cultural gathering” a “little bit of a slip up.”
With the NRL season suspended due to the coronavirus, Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr camped at Mitchell’s farm near Taree, on NSW’s mid-north coast, with Addo-Carr posting photos of the trip on social media.
“I will not make a comment on everyone’s perception of what is appropriate from a culture perspective but I will say this, the matters have been treated on the action of the individual and this has nothing to do with culture or race,” acting NRL boss Andrew Abdo said on Tuesday.
“This has to do with what is expected of all of our players, the standards that we need to adhere to for our fans and for the community and culture is not a factor in determining the appropriate sanction”
2. NSW Eases Social Restrictions, Allows 2 Adult Visitors To Another Home
From Friday, two adults will be able to visit another household in NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.
“From May 1, on Friday, two adults will be able to go and visit anybody else in their home on the basis of care... and everybody’s mental health,” she told reporters.
“I’ve used the word ‘adults’ to say obviously if you have young children, it’s OK to take them with you. But a maximum of two adults will be able to visit anybody else.”
Those visiting anyone over 70-years-old or someone with a co-morbidity must still practice social distancing with the premier stressing that people who feel even slightly unwell should stay home.
NSW has recorded just five new coronavirus cases overnight.
Berejiklian added she expects to see a spike in cases in May due to easing restrictions but the health care system is ready to accomodate more cases.
“We will see more cases and that’s because when you increase activity, when you see people move around more frequently, you will see more cases,” she explained.
“But the health system will be able to cope with that because we’ve used this time during April to build up the capacity get the extra PPE and to make sure that we’re ready.”
3. Increased Retail Activity
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday encouraged retail outlets to reopen their doors.
“We encourage people to buy what they need and want, but please make sure that when you’re in those shops, when you are shopping, that there’s good social distancing,” she said.
She said all shops must adhere to social distancing rules and provide hand sanitiser for customers.
4. More Than 2 Million Australians Download COVID-19 App
More than 2 million Australians have downloaded an app to trace contacts of COVID-19 patients hours after its release, the government said on Monday, as states set out plans to expand testing for the infection.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said more testing and widespread use of the CovidSafe phone app - which has angered some privacy campaigners - are among the main conditions for easing nationwide lockdowns.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the tracing app launched late on Sunday had been downloaded by more than 2 million people - about 8% of the population - as of 7pm on Monday.
The government has said it wants that proportion to reach 40%. “This effort will help protect ourselves, our families, our nurses and our doctors,” Hunt said in an emailed statement.
The app, which is based on Singapore’s TraceTogether software and uses Bluetooth signals to log when people have been close to one another, is meant to help medics trace people potentially exposed to infections.
Civil liberties groups have raised fears that apps being considered and used by a number of governments could invade privacy. But Canberra says its software does not record people’s location and has safeguards built in.
5. Asymptomatic Testing Ramped Up
With very low new cases recorded in Australia over the past few days, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said officials will expand testing to start tracing asymptomatic cases - people who have caught the infection without showing symptoms.
Daniel Andrews, premier of Australia’s second most populous state, Victoria, said staff would open pop-up testing sites in shopping centre car parks and test people in their homes and offices.
Queensland and Western Australia have already said they will ease some restrictions this week, as both have had new cases in the low single digits in recent days.
6. PM’s Popularity Up
Scott Morrison’s handling of the pandemic has helped his popularity soar, according to a Newspoll survey conducted for The Australian newspaper that was released on Monday.
His approval rating has risen 27 points since the first week of March to 68% - the best for a leader since the end of 2008, the poll showed.
Morrison has pledged spending worth more than 10% of GDP, including a $130 billion subsidy to employers to keep staff they might otherwise have let go.
Still unemployment is expected to top 10%, and the head of Australia’s central bank last week said the country would suffer its biggest economic contraction since the 1930s in the first half of this year due to the containment measures.
Morrison has also antagonised China, Australia’s largest trading partner, with calls for an independent investigation into the global spread of coronavirus.
China’s ambassador to Australia on Monday hinted locals may shun Canberra’s goods because of Morrison’s remarks, though Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne cautioned against “economic coercion”.
Swati Pandey of Reuters contributed to this report.