Australia markets closed

10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Morning, team.

1. The World Health Organisation has officially declared the coronavirus a pandemic. What does that mean, exactly? Well, the WHO defines it as “the worldwide spread of a new disease," which sounds pretty straightforward. “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.” It's that potential panic which has made the WHO hesitant to deploy the moniker in past, even as the virus spread around the globe. The novel coronavirus has now sickened more than 121,000 people and killed over 4,300.

2. A salty moment in this obviously quite grim occasion: the WHO's executive director, Dr. Michael J. Ryan, said countries that haven't done enough to combat coronavirus "know who you are". He added that his organisation doesn’t call out individual member countries in public, but rather works with them “constructively” on measures they believe aren’t aggressive or comprehensive enough.

3. The ASX entered a bear market by close yesterday – the fastest one in Australian history. The share market has fallen 20.5% in just 14 days. And we're ready to do it all again today, with ASX futures down 200 points or 3.5% to 5528 near 7am AEDT this morning. It comes amid expectations we're going to see the government's much-vaunted stimulus response today – around which the reports, rumours and speculation are flying thick and fast.

4. The situation is basically the same over in the US. Stock indexes plunged roughly 5% lower on Wednesday as traders waited for new details on the White House's stimulus plan in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The Dow Jones industrial average's plunge saw it close in a bear market, down 20% from recent highs. It marks the official end of the longest US bull-market expansion in history.

5. What's the current coronavirus situation in Australia? We're sitting at 128 confirmed cases right now, with the majority being in New South Wales at 77.

6. Separate to the Australian government's upcoming stimulus effort, an "unprecedented" $2.4 billion support package for the healthcare system to support the coronavirus fight was announced yesterday.T he government committed the money to the country’s hospitals, aged care and research facilities, as well as to further stockpile essential medicines.

7. Italy has been added to the Australian government's coronavirus travel ban, joining China, Iran and South Korea. Australians and permanent residents returning from any of the countries subject to the ban will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine if they wish to return. Non-citizen travellers will have to spend at least 14 days in a third country before travelling to Australia. Italy is the worst-affected nation besides China, with over 12,000 cases and 827 deaths.

8. On Italy: the country's quarantine efforts are ramping up dramatically. It is shuttering all stores except for pharmacies and grocery stores as it expands its country-wide shutdown amid the coronavirus, the country’s premier said via Facebook Live on Wednesday.

9. Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexual assault and rape. The sentence came more than two weeks after a jury convicted him of first-degree criminal sexual act against the former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and third-degree rape against the hairstylist Jessica Mann. He gave a statement in court for the first time on Wednesday, saying he was “confused” and lamenting that “thousands of men are losing due process.” The defence team is appealing the conviction.

10. Obviously the travel industry isn't having a great time with the coronavirus. One signal: Australia's biggest travel agency Webjet has withdrawn its 2020 earnings guidance due to a drop in bookings and an increase in short-term cancellations. In a statement, the company said that while bookings beyond three months are still tracking as expected, cancellations are now happening at short notice before travel, “and therefore reducing visibility on future earnings”.


Prince Harry spoke about “Megxit” and Donald Trump in a phone call with two Russian YouTubers who pretended to be Greta Thunberg and her father. You'd have to call that a pretty successful effort.