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10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

James Hennessy

Good morning. As you might expect, I have a number of coronavirus-related updates for you to ponder.

1. Australia isn't waiting for the World Health Organisation, and is basically set to call the coronavirus a pandemic. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the last day has fundamentally altered the government's response to the COVID-19 virus. "While the World Health Organisation is yet to declare the nature of the coronavirus and its move towards a pandemic phase, we believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us," he said. Emergency measures have been triggered at hospitals, schools and aged-care facilities.

2. Markets globally continue to take a coronavirus-related pounding. Over in the US, all the major equity indexes plunged more than 4.4% on Thursday, with each entering correction territory. The Dow plunged 1,191 points while the S&P 500 posted its worst day since 2011. The Stoxx Europe 600 also entered correction territory on Thursday, down more than 10% from its February 2019 high.

3. Coffee giant Starbucks has announced that 85% of its stores in China are now open for business, following temporary closures due to the virus. "With the number of new cases in China slowing, we are seeing the early signs of a recovery in the region," CEO Kevin Johnson wrote in a letter to employees. Not sure if you consider Starbucks wanting to make a bit of dosh in China to be a relevant signal, but there you go.

4. Now to a less positive signal. A tour guide in Japan has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus for a 2nd time, less than a month after recovering. The patient is a tour guide in Osaka prefecture, and first caught the disease from being on a bus with tourists from Wuhan, China, where the virus first broke out, local media said. Health experts have said that it is possible that the immune system’s ability to fight coronavirus after one infection is not strong or long-lasting.

5. On the morbid – but perhaps reassuring, depending on where you are – side of things, here's the mortality rate for each age bracket for the coronavirus, based on available evidence. A study of more than 44,000 coronavirus patients showed that patients older than 80 have a 15% chance of dying. It goes down from there, with only 0.2% of people in their 20s dying from the virus.

6. Some Australian universities are paying Chinese students to circumvent the government's travel ban, as they risk losing $2.8 billion to the coronavirus. Melbourne University is offering students support packages worth up to $7,500 to return, while students enrolled at Western Sydney University are eligible for up to $1,500. The travel ban requires visitors to spend at least 14 days outside of China.

7. Virgin Australia and Tiger are cutting more flights, as the coronavirus and falling demand are expected to cost the airlines up to $75 million. Virgin is cutting 3% of its total flights, whereas Tiger is withdrawing five of its existing domestic flight paths.

8. Microsoft says it won't meet its sales forecast for its third quarter because of the impacts of the coronavirus. The “uncertainty related to the public health situation in China” has affected Microsoft’s Windows and Surface hardware businesses, the company said. Meanwhile, Microsoft could move the production of its Surface devices out of China because of the virus, according to a report from Nikkei Asian Review citing unnamed sources.

9. The ban on cash purchases of over $10,000 is set to become law despite concerns. According to the Nine papers, the Morrison government is set to win support from Labor for the legislation, with One Nation and the Greens opposing. The bill, which is ostensibly supposed to crack down on crime syndicates, has faced opposition from tradespeople, small business owners, pensioners and ethnic communities.

10. Facebook COO Sheryl told NBC’s Dylan Byers she worries about the threat posed to the company by TikTok. “They’re huge, they’re growing really quickly, they have gotten to bigger numbers faster than we ever did,” she said. The Chinese-owned app hit 1.5 billion downloads in November last year and was the third most-downloaded non-gaming app of 2019, outperforming both Facebook and Instagram.


We probably need a moment of levity after all of that. Here you go: