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10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning.

1. The Australian government has pulled the trigger on a coronavirus emergency response plan, foreshadowing what the Sydney Morning Herald lists as "fever clinics, fast-tracked vaccines and severe pressure on hospitals, blood banks, medical supplies and mortuaries". The document outlines a strategy if the coronavirus continues to barrel towards a pandemic situation. "The novel coronavirus outbreak represents a significant risk to Australia," the document reads. "It has the potential to cause high levels of morbidity and mortality and to disrupt our community socially and economically."

2. File this one under 'not particularly comforting'. Iran's deputy health minister has announced he has the coronavirus, not long after he appeared at a press conference clearly displaying symptoms of something. Iran is struggling to cope with the outbreak, with at least 15 deaths recorded so far, according to state media. One local news agency alleges up to 50 deaths in the city of Qom alone.

3. Could the Olympics be cancelled due to the coronavirus? It's a live possibility. Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee, estimates there's a three-month window to decide the fate of the event. But he also told athletes they should keep training. "All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual," he said in an interview with the Associated Press. "So keep focused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation." Of course, the internet being how it is, people are less focused on the possibility of inclement pandemic than the name Dick Pound.

4. ASX futures were down 2.5% this morning. Alarm is mounting in global markets after a halcyon period of undervaluing the impact the coronavirus was likely to have. Tech stocks in the US lost $200 billion of market value in a single day, with Apple, Google-parent Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook all feeling pain.

5. I'm prattling on a lot about the coronavirus this week, but it really is unfurling into a pandemic situation. 1,000 tourists on a Spanish island are quarantined in their hotel after one of them tested positive for coronavirus. It's raising questions about whether Europe – and perhaps the West more generally – are ready to handle the situation if it gets out of hand.

6. A brief moment of levity, as a salve to all of that apocalyptic news. A few baboons escaped the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital campus yesterday afternoon in Sydney. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the trio of baboons were arriving at the facility when the lock on their vehicle door failed."Last I heard they'd had a good look around the precinct and ended up in the carpark where they were behaving far better than what we’d expect of baboons," he said.

7. Disney has a new CEO, and his name is also Bob. The entertainment behemoth announced that Disney parks, experiences, and products chairman Bob Chapek will succeed Bob Iger as CEO of the company, effective immediately. "With the successful launch of Disney's direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO," Iger said in a statement. "I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney's multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the Company's creative endeavours."

8. Also in CEO news: Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block steps down, with cofounder Marc Benioff returning to sole CEO role. His departure comes as a surprise, as many industry watchers saw him as a potential successor to Benioff one day. It comes as Salesforce released quarterly earnings that beat Wall Street estimates. The stock fell some 2 per cent in after-hours trading in the wake of the announcement.

9. Air New Zealand has announced it wants to launch the first-ever plane bed for economy passengers. The sleep pods, called the Skynest, would offer lie-flat beds for some economy passengers who pay extra for access to it. There would only be six on each plane – Air New Zealand’s long-haul planes typically carry at least 200 economy passengers. So is it still really economy at that point? I'll leave you to decide.

10. The ‘Netflix of gaming’ is coming, and video game companies are worried that their business could meet the same fate as music and movies. Microsoft’s Game Pass and Apple Arcade are leading the charge, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. “What happened with the other industries is big checks were written for a while until the platforms didn’t need the content creators anymore,” one game publishing executive said. “This check might feel good now, but it might not feel so good in five years.”


I have absolutely no idea what a javelina is, but a video of one absolutely hurtling through a residential area in Tucson, Arizona is doing the rounds today. I got a real kick out of it. Enjoy.