COVIDSafe app downloads hits six million
Six million Australians have downloaded the COVIDSafe app less than a month after being launched to help health authorities across the nation trace coronavirus infections.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the app is playing a significant role in Australia's response to the pandemic and several countries have expressed interest in learning from its positive impacts.
"Australia continues to be a world leader in testing, tracing, and containing the coronavirus and I would encourage all Australians to contribute to that effort and download the COVIDSafe app today," Mr Hunt said in a statement on Sunday.
Only state and territory health officials have access to contact information from the app which is triggered when people come in close contact with someone who has the virus - that is 1.5 metres or less for a duration of 15 minutes or more.
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said the take up of the COVIDSafe app was downloaded faster than any other Australian government app and has consistently remained in the top three apps in Australian app stores. "Millions of Australians are doing their bit as part of our health response," he said.
JOBKEEPER ERROR 'VERY GOOD NEWS': MINISTER
The federal government insists the $60 billion "reporting error" in its Jobkeeper scheme is "very good news", but is showing little sign of wanting to use the unspent money to extend or broaden the program.
The government admitted on Friday its JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to assist business and workers through the COVID-19 pandemic will now be $70 billion rather than $130 billion and will now only cover 3.5 million people rather than 6.5 million that had been forecast.
"It means that businesses are in better shape than we might have anticipated when those original forecasts were put in place. It does mean that we're in a better position as we work our way towards recovery," government minister Angus Taylor told Sky News on Sunday.
China, the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, has reported no new cases in the past 24 hours - the first time it has registered zero cases since the outbreak began and infections were recorded, in January.
On local time Saturday China also reported no new deaths, suggesting that the country has emerged from the epidemic that originated in the central city of Wuhan.
China has confirmed 84,000 cases of COVID-19 but has slipped well behind the United States and ranks 13th as the country with the most cases, with the US being number 1 with 1.6 million cases.
It comes as experts from the UK predicted that some days in June will see no coronavirus deaths in the country, according to The Sun.
Professor Carl Heneghan from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University said: "I think by the end of June we'll be looking at the data and finding it difficult to find people with this illness, if the current trends continue in the deaths.
His finding echo those of scientists in Singapore who predict that the US could be free of the coronavirus by late September - and the whole world could expect to put the pandemic behind it in December.
SINGAPORE SCIENTISTS PREDICT GLOBAL VIRUS END DATE
According to the New York Post, a mathematical model created by the Singapore University of Technology and Design is allowing the scientists to predict the future of the virus using data from already confirmed cases and deaths around the world.
Based on "a predictive-monitoring" technique, the model inputs global data which is converted to a bar chart. A curve over the top of the chart displays the trajectory of the disease. At the end of April, predictions showed that the US would be virus-free by Sept. 20 and the UK could see the end of the coronavirus by Aug. 27.
Scientists at the university cautioned that their dates were not exact and that the predictions should not lead to hasty ends of lockdowns around the world.
"Over-optimism based on some predicted end dates is dangerous because it may loosen our disciplines and controls and cause the turnaround of the virus," they said.
ALBANESE CASTS DOUBT OVER MORRISON'S ECONOMIC ABILITY
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says the Morrison government's massive multi-billion JobKeeper mistake raises questions over how it will manage the economic recovery coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Albanese raised the issue as Australia recorded its 102nd COVID-19 death after a man in his 60s died in a Victorian hospital.
The government admitted to a $60 billion reporting error to its much-heralded JobKeeper program on Friday.
Rather than costing the budget $130 billion, the wage subsidy program to assist business and workers through the crisis has been slashed to $70 billion, and is now forecast to assist 3.5 million employees instead of 6.5 million.
"If they can't manage a program like JobKeeper to the tune of a mistake of $60 billion, and three million people … then there has got to be a great question mark over how they'll manage the economic recovery," Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.
TRUMP: THERE WILL BE NO SECOND LOCKDOWN
US President Donald Trump says if a second wave of the coronavirus was to hit the nation he would not attempt to shut it down again.
"We are going to put out the fires, we're not going to close the country, we're going to put out the fire," Trump said on Thursday, referring to a second wave. "Whether it's an ember or it's a flame we're going to put it out," he added during a tour of a Ford car plant in in the midwestern state of Michigan. The statement comes as all 50 US states have eased lockdown restrictions to some extent, with Republican-led states largely pushing for quicker reopenings and Democratic-led ones taking a more cautious approach.
Public health officials have warned that easing lockdown measures too quickly could lead to a second wave of the virus.
Concerns are rising among public health officials that there will not be the political or public will to reinstate lockdown measures if needed. Despite Trump's statements, the economic shutdowns that shuttered most of the country were implemented by state and local authorities, who would be responsible for reapplying lockdown orders.
UK CURBS VITAL MEDICAL IMPORTS FROM CHINA
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed civil servants to make plans to end UK's reliance on China for vital medical supplies and other strategic imports in light of the coronavirus outbreak, The Times newspaper reports.
The plans, which have been code named 'Project Defend', include identifying Britain's main economic vulnerabilities to potentially hostile foreign governments as part of a broader new approach to national security, the newspaper said.
It added that the efforts are being led by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Two working groups have been set up as part of the project, according to the report, with one source telling The Times that the aim was to diversify supply lines to no longer depend on individual countries for non-food essentials.
Mr Johnson told lawmakers he would take steps to protect Britain's technological base, with the government review also expected to include personal protective equipment and drugs, the report added.
The development comes as Beijing has been tackling mounting international criticism over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which began in China before spreading to the rest of the world.
GLOBAL CORONA CASES TOP FIVE MILLION
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world reached 5 million on Thursday, reaching the grim milestone with the global death toll standing at 328,172, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Europe has been the hardest hit with 1,954,519 cases and 169,880 deaths, while the US has 1,551,853 cases and 93,439 deaths.
The statistics represent only a fraction of the exact total of cases because many countries test only the most serious infections.
The latest numbers come as the spread of the deadly illness across the world shows no signs of slowing down.
Even as outbreaks in China - where the novel coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan - and other countries appear to have abated, the pandemic has picked up speed across other parts of the world.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation said the number of newly reported cases hit a daily record this week with more than 100,000 new cases over the last 24 hours, according to CNBC.
Almost two-thirds of the cases were reported in just four countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference in Geneva.
"We still have a long way to go in this pandemic," he said.
The majority of new cases are coming from the Americas, followed by Europe, according to the WHO's daily report.
The US reported 45,251 new cases on Tuesday, while Russia had the second-most reported cases with 9263, according to the agency.
WHO officials have warned against easing coronavirus restrictions and reopening economies too fast, saying it could lead to a "vicious cycle" of economic and health disasters as cases resurge and strict lockdowns become necessary again.
In the US, several states are beginning to reopen businesses even as models suggest it will lead to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Meanwhile, Latin America has overtaken the US and Europe in the past week to report the largest portion of new daily cases, according to Reuters.
Latin America accounted for about a third of the 91,000 cases reported this week, while the US and Europe each accounted for just over 20 percent.
A new study from Columbia University has also indicated that 54,000 US lives might have been saved if lockdown had commenced a couple of weeks earlier.
Data also showed that if social distancing measures and other methods to bring the virus under control had been implemented one week earlier, New York City would have avoided 210,000 confirmed cases and 17,500 deaths and the US as a whole would have avoided 704,000 cases and 36,000 deaths.
'17 PER CENT OF LONDONERS INFECTED'
About one in six people in London and one in 20 elsewhere in England have already contracted the coronavirus, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says, citing a recent study.
Data gathered from an antibody surveillance study led by the Office for National Statistics suggests 17 per cent of people in London and about 5.0 per cent in England have tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus, Hancock said on Thursday.
Hancock made the announcement as the government worked out a deal with pharmaceutical firms for delivery of 10 million antibody tests. There was no evidence of increased infection from the coronavirus among front- line National Health Service and care staff, according to the ONS. Hancock said certificates are being considered for people who test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
"It's not just about the clinical advances that these tests can bring. It's that knowing that you have these antibodies will help us to understand more in the future if you are at lower risk of catching coronavirus, of dying from coronavirus and of transmitting coronavirus."
He also announced a trial of a rapid 20-minute test to tell people if they currently have COVID-19.
There has been criticism that people have been waiting days or weeks for test results.
England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, told the briefing the total number of deaths from all causes was now down to the rate in an average winter.
"So, we are essentially having a winter in health terms, in terms of mortality, but in late spring and early summer."
He also said care home deaths have peaked.
The United Kingdom's death toll from confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose by 338 to 36,042, the health ministry said on Thursday.
SECOND WAVE IN EUROPE 'INEVITABLE'
A seoond wave of coronavirus is inevitable in Europe because so few people are immune to the bug, a top expert has warned.
The EU's disease control chief said a second bout of the virus was inevitable, and also warned that people are starting to ignore lockdown rules.
Dr Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control urged EU leaders to prepare for resurgence in coronavirus cases, as she warned that a lack of immunity could mean the second wave is worse than the first.
The disease expert said that only between two per cent and 14 per cent of the populations of European countries had been infected with coronavirus.
People are believed to be immune to coronavirus once they have caught it once.
Dr Ammon said the low infection rate would leave around 90 per cent of people still vulnerable to catching the disease in a second wave.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announced that 17 per cent of people in London had been infected by the disease, and only five per cent nationwide.
In an interview with The Guardian, Dr Ammon said it was a matter of "when and how big" the second wave would be.
She said: "Looking at the characteristics of the virus, looking at what now emerges from the different countries in terms of population immunity- which isn't all that exiting, between two per cent and 14 per cent, that leaves still 85 per cent to 90 per cent of the population susceptible - the virus is around us, circulating much more than January and February."
She continued: "I don't want to draw a doomsday picture but I think we have to be realistic. That it's not the time now to completely relax."
As of today, there have been 159,172 COVID-19 deaths confirmed in the EU and the UK.
Italy has the highest death toll in the EU at 32,330, followed by France with 28,132 and Spain with 27,888.
Dr Ammon also said that the lockdown measures imposed by European leaders were starting to unravel.
She said: "I think it's beginning to strain. What we see is that, on the one hand, the economic part for small and medium-sized businesses but also the experience of people not being able to exercise all the freedoms that we normally have: to go where we like, to be with whom we want to be.
"And this is quite fundamental change to our normal way of life.
"And especially now when it is clear [infections] are going down, people think it is over.
"Which it isn't, which it definitely isn't."
It comes as Matt Hancock confirmed tonight that the Government has sealed a huge deal for pharmaceutical giant Roche to supply 10 million antibody tests to see if people have been infected by the virus.
The Government said it will start by rolling out the tests across the health service in from next week.
But Mr Hancock stressed that the Government was "not yet in a position to say that those who test positive are immune" to getting the virus again.
HERD IMMUNITY FAILS IN SWEDEN
Sweden's public health authority has confirmed that only 7.3 per cent of people in Stockholm had developed coronavirus antibodies by late April. The figures are roughly similar to other countries and fall well short of the 70-90 per cent needed to create herd immunity in a population.
Sweden enforced only very light restrictions on its citizens, a decision that most of the public seemed to accept, though 2000 experts signed a petition in April for the government to adopt stricter policies.
The lax approach seems to have had a devastating effect -- Sweden's death toll on a per capita basis is now among the highest in the world and was the highest of any country in the seven days that ended Wednesday.
Sweden has now had 32,172 cases and 3871 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
TRUMP CLAIMS TO HAVE WORN MASK
President Donald Trump said on Thursday he'd finally overcome his aversion to wearing masks against the coronavirus -- but didn't want be photographed.
Touring a Ford auto factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where workers have converted to building respirators and other medical equipment for fighting COVID-19, Trump held up a mask and claimed to have covered his face earlier.
"I had one on before. I wore one in this back area but I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," he told reporters and photographers covering his visit.
Nearly everyone at the Ford factory was wearing a face covering, in line with company policy and government recommendations on curtailing the highly contagious virus.
Trump, pushing to get Americans to put the pandemic behind them and reopen the faltering economy, has never worn a mask in public. He previously has said that he doesn't consider the look fitting his perception of himself as a world leader.
On Thursday, he said the mask "was very nice, it looked very nice." Skepticism about the need for masks is rife among right-wing Americans who support Trump.
In more extreme circles, demands by local government or private businesses for the public to wear masks has been interpreted as a conspiracy against constitutional freedoms
MYER TO REOPEN ALL STORES NEXT WEEK
Major department store Myer will reopen the rest of its stores across Australia next week, as retailers get back to business amid COVID-19.
The bulk of the retailer's 60 stores will all be open on Wednesday after almost two months without customers inside the shops.
All Victorian Myer stores, including at Chadstone and Bourke St, will be among those to reopen.
Some shoppers will get instore sooner with trial stores including in NSW's Blacktown, Eastgardens and Charlestown opening on Friday.
Several Myer stores in NSW, Queensland, WA and South Australia have already opened in line with governments' COVID-19 measures.
Over in WA, the Karrinyup store will open a little later next Saturday as refurbishment works are under way.
The retail giant has ramped up safety and cleaning measures in its stores, and suspended some close contact services like shoe fittings.
While Myer was shut, supermarkets were inundated as Australians headed out for essential shopping.
Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings are among the retailers which reduced shopping hours during the pandemic.
Kmart has been among the retailers to stay open with strict social distancing measures in place.
Workers across the country in various sectors have been sacked as businesses shut to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra previously said retail activity was key to economic recovery.
"Public health and safety is the priority and that will ensure a sustainable recovery rather than a false start," Mr Zahra said.
"Each state is on a slightly different recovery path and those decisions will be based on local data and expert advice."
The announcement comes as a leaked draft of the National COVID-19 Commission manufacturing report has detailed the key industries Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been advised to target "immediately" to unlock billions of dollars to save Australia from economic ruin.
The interim taskforce report - obtained by Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clennell - reveals the gas and manufacturing industries will be the coalition's major focus.
"We need to be decisive and begin immediately to create an Australian gas market that delivers globally competitive results," the report said.
The report also calls for the creation of a "competitive domestic gas market", including removing barriers to supply, building the bridge of supply in the near term, lowering the cost of pipelines, completing then network of pipelines to markets.
Focusing on the energy industry is predicted to create up to 170,000 well paid direct jobs and up to 800,000 indirect jobs which the report predicts could generate between $10-20 billion in direct GDP.
It would also help "support the reskilling of many of those affected by current pandemic" and diversify the economy.
By 2030, up to 412,000 new jobs could be created by boosting gas alone.
The report also mentions the need for a new Manufacturing Board to be set up under the Industry Minister to develop a 10-year policy plan on manufacturing for annual review.
Industry Minister Karen Andrews's office told Sky News the new taskforce could "stimulate the sector" and grow domestic manufacturing.
"The National Covid Coordination Commission established a manufacturing taskforce to develop ideas that could stimulate the sector," she said.
"Any suggestions made by this Taskforce are to the NCCC for consideration and not from the government. Any final suggestions from the Taskforce may feed into the work being done across a range of portfolios, led by the Industry Minister, to grow Australian manufacturing."
WA Premier Mark McGowan likened NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to a bully for calling on states to scrap travel restrictions.
"It's odd. NSW is saying don't catch public transport in Sydney yet they're saying why can't NSW people fly to WA? The message is totally inconsistent," Mr McGowan said.
"We're not going to give in to that sort of bullying by the NSW premier or anyone else."
Originally published as Wuhan bans bat meat as Trump rules out second lockdown