NEWS
19/03/2020 1:49 PM AEDT | Updated 20/03/2020 9:09 AM AEDT

Things You Need To Know About Coronavirus In Australia Today - Thursday 19 March

Australia shuts its borders to non-residents and the AFL to go ahead.

Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
People pass signs for a COVID -19 Clinic at St Vincent's hospital on March 18, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.

Coronavirus is dominating the headlines as the number of cases surge each day.  

At least 565 people in Australia have tested positive for COVID-19, while six people have died. There have been 111 new cases since 6.30am Wednesday.

The virus has killed more than 8,200 people worldwide with infections reaching the 200,000 mark.

Here are the latest updates out of Australia: 

1. New Travel Ban For Non-Residents 

On Thursday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia will implement a travel ban on all non-residents and non- Australian citizens coming into the country.

The restrictions will be in place Friday evening at 9pm. 

“We have already seen a significant reduction in the travel to Australia by non-citizens in residence,” the PM told media at a press conference in Canberra.

“It is about one-third of what it would normally be at this time of the year and we have seen reductions, even in the last few days, when we put in place the bans which require people to self isolate for 14 days.

“And on that decision, the traffic has reduced quite significantly... and we believe it is essential to take a further step to ensure we are now no longer allowing anyone, unless they are a citizen or resident or direct family member in those cases, as is applied, to all the other travel bans put in place previously.”

International arrivals to Australia must self-isolate for 14-days or face hefty fines.

 

2. Qantas Temporarily Stands Down 20,000 Staff

Australia’s flagship airline said it was temporarily laying off 20,000 employees, about two thirds of its workforce, as it suspended all international flights and slashed domestic services by almost two thirds until at least the end of May. 

Qantas, like other airlines around the world, has been severely impacted as several countries have closed national borders to try halt the spread of coronavirus. 

“Sadly there’s no work for most of our people,” Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said, adding that it was inevitable some staff would have to take unpaid leave.

“They will maintain their jobs and they will have an opportunity to come back to Qantas.”

Although there could be an opportunity for Qantas staff to work at Woolworths until Qantas is back in the air. 

Joyce said Brad Banducci, the chief executive of Woolworths, contacted him earlier in the week about the possibility of a staff secondment.

“With all of the demand in supermarkets right now it is a good opportunity for our people,” Joyce told reporters.

 

3. Tasmania Demands Visitors Self-Isolate For 14 Days

Meanwhile Tasmania on Thursday imposed its own state of emergency, ordering people who arrive from mainland Australia to self-isolate for 14 days.

4. AFL To Go Ahead

The AFL will go ahead with the round one opener on Thursday night with Richmond playing Carlton at the MCG. 

The stadium will be empty after the AFL banned spectators after government advice. 

“Today’s inflection point has been reached with wide consultation including conversations with the Australian chief medical officer,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said. 

“Our 17-round season becomes a 153-game journey. We have to be agile and flexible. The games will be shortened. Quarters will be 16 minutes plus time on.”

5. Olympics Still Happening, For Now

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) says there’s no doubt Australian athletes want to compete in the 2020 Toyko Olympics, but as travel and mass gathering bans kick in, it’s unclear whether plans for the July sporting event will go ahead. 

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, AOC’s CEO Matt Carroll said he’s waiting for advice from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the coronavirus crisis continues 16 weeks ahead of the opening ceremony. 

“We remain focused on the planning and preparation of the Australian team to the Tokyo Games, for 14 July opening in four months’ time,” he said. 

“The AOC put questions to the IOC centred wellbeing and health of athletes which will be answered in coming weeks. We want to get them there safely and get them home safely.”