Global Intelligence Briefing March 13, 2020: Coronavirus management

By Chris Woods

March 13, 2020

Welcome to Global Intelligence Briefing, Mandarin Premium’s morning update on everything in local and global government responses to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Italy and Korea: comparing approaches

Reuters has published an in-depth comparison of Italy and South Korea’s differing strategies to tracking, addressing and containing the disease.

“Italy started out testing widely, then narrowed the focus so that now, the authorities don’t have to process hundreds of thousands of tests. But there’s a trade-off: They can’t see what’s coming and are trying to curb the movements of the country’s entire population of 60 million people to contain the disease.”

When and where will the $17.6b go?

After the government outlined its full $17.6 billion stimulus package yesterday, it’s worth diving into when, and for how long, the money will flow according to each key area: business investment, employer support, stimulus for households, and regional support.

Treasury’s dedicated website, which includes both a general overview of the program and area factsheets, notes that a package of bills will be introduced in the final autumn sitting week, from March 23-26, for urgent consideration and passage.

From then, money will flow according to the following:

In related federal news, Labor has criticised the government’s plan to rollout 100 clinics by May as far too slow, The Guardian reports that the government will waive the sickness allowance wait time, and The Conversation has unpacked how the new telehealth system will operate.

The government’s latest health alert provides a run down of the WHO’s pandemic warning — which the organisation issued yesterday after the number of cases outside China increased 13-fold over the past two weeks, and the number of affected countries tripled — state figures, ongoing programs, and travel restrictions and warnings.

What are governments doing for the homeless?

While there have been plenty of articles on how people experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable to the virus — weakened immune systems, close proximity to others, lack of hygiene, communication and quarantine infrastructure — there’s been little in the way of on policy responses.

ABC News and Al Jazeera explore a few policy options — from providing houses to upgrading shelters to dedicated quarantine zones to even just portable toilets and hand-washing stations — but there’s little evidence of uptake; in one of the more, frankly, upsetting counterexamples, San Francisco has declared the city will continue to “confiscate” homeless people’s belongings despite direct warnings from health authorities the practice increases vulnerability.

Where will Australia ban next?

With travel bans to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea extended another week, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the government’s top health advisors have advised against a Europe-wide ban akin to Donald Trump’s.

In a candid interview with ABC Radio, physician and journalist Dr Norman Swan called for an America ban; the country, for some context, hit over 1,300 cases yesterday according to John Hopkins’ real-time dashboard of cases; has reports of people begin charged US$10,000 to try and fail to be tested; and, according to a Science interview, has a hospital system woefully unprepared for mass testings after the CDC’s faulty test delayed rollouts.

For an interesting contrast, science communicator Ketan Joshi has knocked up an interesting comparison of contagion points vs Australian travel ban:

Mass quarantines, but without the authoritarianism

For those governments looking to enact swift public health measures while avoiding full-blown authoritarianism, the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law has published ‘Coronavirus and Civic Space: Preserving Human Rights During a Pandemic’.

The paper primarily focuses on implementing lawful, legitimate and proportionate social distancing measures within the framework of the UN’s right to peaceful assembly, while also touching on non-discrimination, freedom of information and right to participate. Recommendations stress clear communication, consultation, time-frames and legislative oversight of any and all measures.

In contrast, The Atlantic’s article on voluntary, self-imposed social isolation ‘Cancel everything’ trended on Twitter yesterday, while Buzzfeed’s published a highly readable, GIF-friendly explanation of why everyone, even the young and healthy, should pretty much start self-isolating as much as possible.

On the home front…

Victoria’s Grand Prix has been cancelled out of the concern large gatherings may facilitate the spread of the disease. Earlier McLaren Racing withdrew from the event following a positive test for a team member.

Further north, the The Guardian reports that NSW health workers have been told to prepare for 8,000 deaths and a “first wave” of the virus that could last for up to 22 weeks. The state’s supreme court also announced changes to sitting procedures encouraging telephone and video link where possible for Registrars’ and Judges’ Lists, to take effect from Monday, 23 March. 

Elsewhere, WA Health Minister Roger Cook announced that negative results will be sent via text and that the Peel Health Campus emergency department upgrade has been delayed in order to accommodate potential patients.

For information on the states recording new cases, check out the following press releases:

Communication fail of the day

In another easy but fairly important example of how not to communicate policy responses, US President Donald Trump has made exactly three false statements in a national address that the White House has since had to correct. Which would be faintly funny if, as The Atlantic notes, it didn’t come with a concerted effort by elements of the Republican party to censor, downplay, and, in some cases, racially weaponise the virus.

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