Coronavirus Australia Government Cases Latest News Updates Deaths Quarantine Cure Travel Australian Capital Territory Queensland Northern Territory
Spike in Australian coronavirus cases, cruise with sick passengers denied entry
Australians began living under strict new lockdown rules on Monday as coronavirus cases topped 1,600 and authorities denied entry to a cruise ship carrying hundreds on board complaining of respiratory illnesses.
As new restrictions closing non-essential services came into effect, there were clear signs of economic and social stress with long queues forming outside offices of the main welfare agency across the country.
After reporting only a gradual spread in January, the number of COVID-19 cases in Australia now appears to be tracking much sharper increases seen elsewhere, with the most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria recording the fastest rises.
“I will not allow what happened in Sydney to happen here,” West Australian Premier Mark McGowan said. “We will not allow passengers or crew to wander the streets.”
A spokesman for MSC Cruises did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
‘Toughest year of our lives’
New measures designed to minimise the spread of the virus mean many non-essential services, including pubs, clubs, cinemas, gyms and houses of worship, were closed on Monday.
“There will be no more going to the pub after work, no more going to the gym in the morning, and no more sitting down for brunch at a cafe,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament on Monday.
Morrison said the immense health and economic challenges of the global pandemic would be the “toughest year of our lives” and warned Australians to prepare for shutdowns that could last six months.
Despite warnings to practice social distancing, thousands flocked to Sydney’s Bondi Beach and frequented bars and restaurants over the weekend.
Morrison said the new measures were needed to enforce social distancing, and more draconian measures could be enacted down the line.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, freight and retail will continue to trade, while cafes and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway and delivery services.
The economic fallout of the crisis was visible on the streets on Monday with hundreds of Australians lining up outside government offices in Sydney and Melbourne to register for social security payments. Many tried to practice social distancing as lines stretched around the block.
The website for government welfare services crashed on Monday, overwhelmed by an “unprecedented” number of online queries.
The benchmark index fell more than 4% on Monday, a day after the government pledged an extra A$66.4 billion ($38.06 billion) to combat the impact of the disease.
The economic stimulus package was passed by Australia’s lower house of parliament on Monday. It now just requires the approval of Australia’s senate.
Meanwhile, Rex Patrick, an independent senator, said he has been diagnosed with coronavirus, becoming the fourth federal lawmaker to become infected.
Coronavirus Australia Cases
The new measures come after large crowds gathered Saturday on Sydney’s beaches. including world-famous Bondi Beach, flouting social distancing advice.
“What happened in Bondi was unacceptable, and the local council must take steps to stop that from occurring,” said Greg Hunt, Australia’s health minister, according to Sky News
Morrison said federal and state governments decided to act because Australians were not obeying health guidelines, according to the BBC.
But he added: “We are not putting in place lockdowns that put people in and confine them to their homes. That is not a measure that has been contemplated at this point.”
Australia now has at least 1,315 coronavirus cases — a number has risen sharply over the last few days.
New South Wales, home to Sydney, has the most cases with 533, the BBC reported. Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, has 296 cases.
Coronavirus Australia Map
Scenes of crowded beaches in defiance of social distancing guidelines have spurred Australian officials to take tougher steps to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Australia’s prime minister has ordered a shutdown of all non-essential services as coronavirus cases spike in the country, according to a report Sunday.
Pubs, clubs, gyms, movie theaters and places of worship have been ordered to close as of midday Monday, while restaurants and cafes will have to switch to take-out only, the BBC reports.
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Coronavirus Australia travel
Greg Butler was rushed to hospital with COVID-19 within days of getting home to self-isolate after being allowed off the Ruby Princess cruise liner in Sydney, one of more than 130 passengers who tested positive in Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
One of them, a woman, died earlier this week.
The 56-year-old Butler had been holidaying with his partner, Robin Russ, who remains in isolation.
“I tested negative and he tested positive,” Russ said over the telephone from the apartment they moved to for quarantine.
After disembarking at Sydney Harbour on March 19, the couple journeyed home – including on public transport – to the town of Tamworth, some 400 km (250 miles) north.
Butler developed a “funny cough” the next day and soon tested positive, said Russ. Days later he fainted and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Coronavirus Australia lock down
Most states have now closed their borders to travellers from other parts of the country and effected their own lockdown laws, in addition to the national curbs announced on Sunday.
Western Australia on Monday banned passengers on board the Swiss-owned MSC Magnifica cruise ship from disembarking.
Of 1,700 passengers on board the ship, more than 250 have complained of respiratory illnesses. It was due to dock at Fremantle port as early as Monday evening.
That decision comes days after 2,700 passengers disembarked from the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney harbour, with 48 on board subsequently testing positive for the virus.
Coronavirus Australia News
Health authorities had classed the Ruby Princess as low risk, given it had sailed from Sydney to New Zealand, and the Border Force issued a notice instructing the 2,700 passengers that they could travel home in the normal manner, but should self-isolate for 14 days.
Like the Diamond Princess, the liner held in quarantine off Japan last month, and the Grand Princess which was denied entry to its home port of California earlier this month, the Ruby Princess is owned by a unit of Carnival Corp, the world’s largest cruise operator.
The incident has sparked outrage among Australians who have questioned why those on board were permitted to disembark, and federal and state officials have clashed over who is to blame.
“If we had known we would not have gotten off the boat,” said Russ. “Why would they let you off and put so many lives in jeopardy? People have gone all over the world.”
“People are saying ‘we hope you die’,” she said.
According to Russ, passengers saw a woman being carried out by stretcher from the Ruby Princess before dawn on March 19.
“That’s when we all started panicking,” she said.
Passengers who spoke to Reuters said they were suspicious about the speed they were rushed off the ship, with “no checks” of bags or passports by officials.
Princess Cruises parent company Carnival Australia said in a statement on Wednesday it complied with protocols and it was most likely “the illness was introduced unwittingly to the ship following embarkation in Sydney”, on March 8.
“THEY GOT US OFF THAT SHIP SO FAST”
Sitting in her cabin, Janet Dixon-Hughes, travelling with her 95-year-old mother and daughter, was apprehensive about returning to Sydney where shoppers were panic buying food and toilet paper.
“We felt safe on the ship. We thought there was no sickness,” she said.
Dixon-Hughes said passengers weren’t told of any illness, but the night before docking were informed their arrival would be moved forward to 2 a.m. When her family arrived at the gangway at 9.10am, she said they were hurried off with no checks.
Coronavirus Australia Precautions
“We were running to keep up with the guy who had Mum in a wheelchair. Out the door and on the street waiting for a cab was six to eight minutes. They got us off that ship so fast,” she said.
Now in isolation, Dixon-Hughes is angry that passengers were not told about the suspected cases, and also at the lack of screening on arrival.
“The company had a terrible experience with the Diamond Princess,” she said. “They should never have sailed. They knew the risks. The average age on the cruise was 70.”
Coronavirus Australia Pandemic
After stepping off the Ruby Princess, Butler and Russ travelled on public transport to Sydney’s Central station where they took a train to the coastal town of Tuggerah and then completed their journey by car.
Another couple who flew from Sydney to Darwin have since tested positive for coronavirus, while an American woman and her husband caught a flight to San Francisco.
On Wednesday, Australia’s Border Force Commissioner said the New South Wales (NSW) health department bore responsibility, and that it had been notified by the ship’s doctor of 13 passengers with flu-like symptoms who had been isolated.
The state health department said the passengers were allowed off because it had been assessed as “low risk” and tests conducted in New Zealand returned negative for COVID-19.
Coronavirus Australia Quarantine
Carnival Australia said in its statement: “It now appears clear that when Ruby Princess began its cruise on March 8 in Sydney, the incidence of COVID-19 in the general community was higher than might have been apparent at the time.
“Based on our own experience and on knowledge of the behaviour of the virus, the most likely explanation is that, in such a dynamic and rapidly evolving environment, the illness was introduced unwittingly to the ship following embarkation in Sydney. This would help to explain the subsequent identification of positive cases.”
Carnival Australia, along with other cruise operators, has suspended cruise operations and has supported government arrangements “to immediately bring Australian-based cruise ships back to Australian ports for the disembarkation of passengers.” (Reporting by Kirsty Needham and Kate O’Donnell-Lamb; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
Coronavirus Australia Symptoms
Several states have implemented strict measures to combat the outbreak, with Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia tightening domestic border controls, while the school term was cut short in Victoria.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said measures to contain the virus would be intensified, with all schools closed from Tuesday and non-essential services shut in the next 48 hours.
Ardern said the country had a “unique window” to “break the chain of community transmission”.
In the neighbouring Pacific islands, where experts fear under-developed healthcare facilities could easily be overwhelmed, a state of emergency was declared in Papua New Guinea after the country recorded its first case of the virus.
On Monday, the tiny island of Guam, a U.S. territory in Micronesia, recorded the region’s first coronavirus fatality.