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10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning.

1. The UK is now in total coronavirus lockdown. People will only be allowed to leave their home to do essential work, exercise or buy food or medicine. All non-essential shops, premises and places of worship will be closed down, with weddings and baptisms banned – and these rules will be enforced by police. The announcement comes as the latest data suggests the UK is just two weeks behind the level of crisis seen in Italy.

2. Australia has told its athletes to prepare for an Olympic Games in 2021, in effect pulling out for this year. It comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally admits it is looking relatively likely the Games will be delayed. The situation "isn't adequate", in his words, which is an understatement at titanic scale.

3. An absolute debacle yesterday at Centrelink offices around the country, as scores of newly-laid off people queued for the recently boosted JobSeeker payment. The MyGov website crashed too, as it did not have the capacity to handle the surge of concurrent users. Eventually, the government – which seems like it didn't plan a step ahead after announcing the new payments – told people they could apply and do an ID check over the phone.

4. The NRL finally called off its season yesterday, being one of the last leagues in the world to do so. “The paramount consideration in all our decision making has always been the safety and the health of our players," said Australian Rugby League (ARL) Commission chairman Peter V’landys. "Unfortunately, that has taken a dramatic turn today." The decision followed mounting restrictions imposed by state and federal governments – including a Queensland border closure.

5. The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) told Business Insider Australia the forced coronavirus closures have had a “devastating impact” on the hospitality industry. “A lot of the operators have made a very difficult decision today … of actually telling a lot of the staff that they have been stood down and that will be for the next six months," John Green, director of liquor and policing at the Australian Hotels Association NSW said. “A number of venues obviously will be able to survive but there will undoubtedly be venues that cannot sustain waiting until we get through this crisis and there will be doors shut."

6. Jewellery seller Michael Hill has become the first major Australian retailer to shut its doors over the coronavirus. The ASX-listed company will shut 300 stores indefinitely, putting the jobs of thousands of workers at risk. In a statement, the company said the new social distancing guidelines were "not consistent with the day-to-day conduct of our business".

7. Australian pharmacies are reporting a 130% spike in online orders in recent weeks. Pharmacies including Amcal, Blooms and TerryWhite chemists have seen Panadol orders double over recent weeks, topping the list of over-the-counter medications in demand. Pharmacists have issued a call for calm to ensure those who need medication most can find what they need.

8. Where are we with the coronavirus, numbers-wise? In Australia, as of this morning, we have 1,717 confirmed cases and 7 deaths – a low mortality rate likely aided by our relatively extensive testing. Worldwide, there are 372,563 confirmed cases and 16,381 deaths.

9. Spain has emerged as a major coronavirus hotspot. The death toll there has more than doubled in just 3 days, with more than 2,000 people now dead. That toll was 1,002 on Friday. It is now the hardest-hit country in Europe outside of Italy.

10. It didn't take long, but the debate about when the world can get the economy chugging again has begun over in the US. Several Republican officials and conservative media personalities have joined calls to reduce social distancing and stay-at-home orders so that workers in key industries can start going back to work and give the economy a boost. Public health experts are warning leadership that sending Americans back to work too soon would be disastrous. Expect to see a lot more of this debate everywhere.


This is interesting – and will no doubt be reflected here in Australia.