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Coronavirus In Australia: Chief Medical Officer Not Confident In Global Numbers, ScoMo Addresses Housing

Plus five other things to know about Covid-19 in Australia today

At least 5,307 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Australia and 28 people have died.

The virus has killed more than 51,000 people worldwide and more than one million are infected.

Here is what is happening in Australia today:

1. Australia Not Confident In China And US Numbers

Meanwhile Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy remained coy when asked if he believes the Covid-19 statistics coming out of China.

“The only numbers I have total faith in are the Australian numbers,” he told media.

“I think China is in a really difficult position. They did clamp down incredibly hard and they stopped transmission. But their population is not immune.”

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy 
Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy 

Professor Murphy said he believes China is “trying very hard to prevent second waves”.

“I think they have been pretty transparent but as I said, I’m only confident about our numbers.

“I’m certainly not confident that even the numbers out of the US aren’t much higher than being reported because nobody else in the world has been doing testing like we have.”

2. Death Toll Rises

Victoria has recorded its seventh death. A man in his 80s died in intensive care in hospital, the state’s Chief Medical Officer Brett Sutton confirmed.

NSW health authorities also confirmed a 74-year-old woman with Covid-19 died overnight in Albury. The state also recorded another death.

Western Australia authorities confirmed a man in his 60s, not from Australia, died after leaving the Artania cruise ship.

This takes Australia’s Covid-19 death toll to 28.

3. Real Estate Agents Under Fire

Many people have received emails overnight from real estate agents suggesting they dip into their superannuation amid struggles to pay rent.

This has prompted ASIC to issue a stern warning to real estate agents informing them they’re not qualified to issue such financial advice or suggestions.

Shadow Housing Minister Jason Clare said he was appalled by this, saying “this is not on” and that tenants need to be adequately looked after.

Shadow Housing Minister Jason Clare
Shadow Housing Minister Jason Clare

“We need to make sure that tenants who have lost their job and cannot pay the rent do not get thrown out on the street,” he told media on Friday.

“Secondly, we need to look after landlords, we need to look after the homeowners that rely on the rent to pay the bills, to pay the mortgage, to put food on the table for their own family.”

On Friday afternoon Prime Minister Scott Morrison said an industry code for commercial and retail tenancies was still in the process of being finalised by the government.

Morrison said he wants landlords and tenants to come together in the same room and discuss what “allows them to get to the other side” after this crisis.

“The banks will need to come to the party as well,” he said.“Banks are already moving to provide new facilities and arrangements, and we could expect those to be very supportive of the agreements reached by landlords and tenants working under this mandatory code.”

4. PM Tells Visitors To Go Home

The Prime Minister has told international visitors in Australia it’s time they returned to their usual place of residence.

“As lovely as it is to have visitors to Australia, it is time – as it has been for some while – to make your way home,” the PM said in a press conference on Friday. More details here.

5. Increase In State Border Controls

State border controls were bolstered on Friday, with water barriers and checkpoints preventing all non-essential travel into Queensland, which shares a border with NSW.

Several states have introduced border controls in recent days for the first time since the Spanish flu epidemic 100 years ago.

Tasmania is all but isolated, while Western Australia is enforcing a “hard border close” from Monday.

Western Australian authorities are also restricting access to and from the northern Kimberley region, an area with a large and often remote indigenous population where services are limited and health metrics generally trail the rest of the country.

The Ruby Princess cruise ship has been linked to more than 400 cases of coronavirus. 
The Ruby Princess cruise ship has been linked to more than 400 cases of coronavirus. 

Australia also has to decide what to do with more than a dozen cruise ships it has banned from docking at its ports. The issue has been a source of public angst in the country after hundreds of infections were traced to cruise ship passengers and returning travellers.

NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller said on Friday that five Royal Caribbean ships off the country’s east coast will depart for their port of origin after refuelling and restocking on the weekend.

Two Carnival Cruise ships have left New South Wales waters, the one remaining is the Ruby Princess which has been linked to more than 400 cases of coronavirus.

6. Australian Cruise Passengers To Return From Florida

There are 130 Australians preparing to return home within 48 hours after their two Holland America vessels docked in Florida. They will be expected to quarantine for 14 days in a government-provided hotel.

“If all things go according to plan those passengers should be back in Australia and, of course, spending 14 days hearing quarantine,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne told ABC.

“We are grateful to the cruise line which has been working hard to achieve an outcome. Grateful to US authorities and to our consulate team and diplomatic team on the ground in the United States.”

7. NSW In Lockdown For Six Months

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said NSW lockdown laws will remain for at least six months after the state’s police commissioner previously said social distancing restrictions would be lifted after 90 days.

“The time in which these restrictions apply is completely dependent on health advice,” the Premier told media on Friday. “I’m hoping as best case we don’t go beyond what we have now.

“We’re in it for at least six months,” she said. “Until there is a cure, until there is at least a vaccine, this crisis is something we need to deal with. All of us have to come to terms with that.” More details here.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks about the NSW coronavirus lockdown on Friday.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks about the NSW coronavirus lockdown on Friday.

With additional reporting by Reuters.

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