Welcome to Coronavirus Government Global Briefing, Mandarin Premium’s morning update on everything in local and global government responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.
WHO publishes guidance on mass gatherings
Over the weekend, the World Health Organisation published key planning recommendations for host governments, health authorities and national/international organisers of mass gatherings on containing transmission risks.
The body recommends that risk assessment should be undertaken by local and national public health authorities and event organisers with input from other relevant authorities (emergencies, transport, safety and security etc), based on the following considerations:
- Normative and epidemiological context in which the event takes place — the host country’s existing
regulations on public health and social measures (PHSM) to control spread of COVID-19, which reflects the intensity of transmission in the area;
- Evaluation of risk factors associated with the event — appraisal of the likelihood that the event may contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and that the health services capacity may be exceeded by such spread; and
- Capacity to apply prevention and control measures — the ability to implement actions that can reduce the risks associated with the event. Actions here are broken into planning, operational and post-event phases.
The document outlines a range of criteria under each consideration — for example, under risk factors, “The expected interactions among participants occurring during the event (closeness of contact, etc.)” — and, on the determination of mass gathering’s overall risk, cites earlier tools developed by WHO that assign a 0-5 numerical scores for risk factors and control measures.
“Generally, events associated with a low or very low risk of COVID-19 transmission and low strain on the health system may be considered sufficiently safe to proceed. Events with a moderate, high, or very high level of risk might not be sufficiently safe to proceed and would require a more thorough application of prevention and control measures. If the risk of spreading COVID-19 remains significant after application of all control measures, postponing or cancelling the planned event should be considered.”
In other highlights from WHO’s situation report Saturday:
- After publishing a UN-WHO policy briefing on mental health requirements throughout the pandemic, the WHO published an article on managing Switzerland’s mental health fallout. The body has also published guidelines for communities and a children’s book;
- An article released by WHO Regional Office for Europe explains recently-published technical guidance on preventing and managing the COVID-19 pandemic across longterm care services; and
- WHO released a decision-making framework for conducting mass vaccination campaigns in the context of COVID-19.
Reuters launches lockdown tracker
In yet another interactive graphic that might be worth a bookmark, Reuters has launched ‘The lockdown lift’, a chart that tracks national and US state lockdowns according five criteria: schools, shops, bars and restaurants, public transport and international travel.
The chart, which notes exceptions to general rule where significant, focuses on the countries and US states with the highest number of infections along with territories whose economies are “regionally important” — Australia, for example, does not make the cut. The graphic will be updated as “more governments announce measures to reopen their economies, or if they go too far and have to pull back.”
- Professor of Policy Policy at Cambridge Diane Coyle has published a call to arms at Nature on the need for global economists to share data on the pandemic’s fallout through “light-touch peer-review outlets” such as the European Economic Association’s COVID-19 resource.
- In a new East Asia Forum article, Manila-based political scientist Robert Joseph Medillo explores how Taiwan’s COVID-19 response could bolster its international reputation through greater access to multilateral platforms — “especially those that tackle human security challenges”; increased direct and public-private cooperation with neighbour countries; and greater legitimacy within ASEAN over the government’s New Southbound Policy.
- Science has unpacked how Yemen’s five-year-long civil war has impacted the country’s capacity to respond to the pandemic.
- For example, while the Imperial College London projects the virus will infect half of Yemen’s population and kill an estimated 30,000-40,000 people, this toll could increase dramatically if the United Nations — which, facing funding shortfalls as member countries focus on their own outbreaks, has seen spending drop from $4 billion in 2019 to just $700 million half-way through 2020 — cannot refill their funding and maintain relief initiatives.
- Chile has announced free life insurance for health workers (Eldiario).
- In a new report at the VOX CEPR policy portal, economists Lucie Gadenne and Maitreesh Ghatak argue that, in order to reform itself in the face of new pandemics, the WHO needs a narrower focus, the capacity to sanction countries that do not follow its rules, and a budget adequate to the task.
- Finally, in the latest episode of the Lowy Institute’s ‘COVIDcast‘, Director of the institute’s Pacific Islands program Jonathan Pryke speaks with Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, on how the pandemic is affecting health, economics, local communities, climate change, regionalism and geopolitics in the Pacific region.
On the home front: Queensland announces three-stage roadmap to easing access restrictions for remote communities
Following consultation with state Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, the Queensland government has unveiled a three-stage plan to ease restrictions in remote communities.
Key to the unique roadmap will be transitioning remote communities from federal government-designated biosecurity areas to state-based arrangements under Chief Health Officer public health directions.
Stage 1 — 1 June, 2020
- Access to designated areas remain restricted under the Biosecurity Act, however residents will no longer have to quarantine outside of community if they leave, unless they have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Decisions about whether communities can move safely to Stage 2 or Stage 3 will be made by the chief health officer based on public health conditions for each community and in consultation with local leaders. Every community must have a COVID-19 response plan.
Stage 2 — from 12 June, 2020 (subject to the commonwealth removing designated areas from the Biosecurity Direction)
- The Commonwealth Biosecurity Act will be replaced by the Queensland government’s Chief Health Officer Direction – Restricted Access to Remote Communities.
- The new directive will allow residents to travel within a safe travel zone with no requirement to self-quarantine when they return home. If they travel outside a safe travel zone they must quarantine on return, unless the travel was for essential medical treatment.
Stage 3 — When the chief health officer determines it is safe to transition
- Entry and quarantine restrictions no longer apply for communities that are declared by the chief health officer as being in Stage 3.
- Communities in Stage 3 will still be subject to the same provisions as other Queenslanders.
- If an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in a community they may transition back to State 2 and follow the chief health officer directions.
Conditions of entry
- Completed 14 days quarantine unless you have an exemption (essential services workers with an approved human biosecurity management plan)
- No COVID-19 related symptoms in the last 14 days
- No overseas travel in the last 14 days
- Not entering for the purpose of breaking the law
- Not prohibited from entering by any other law
- Have an approved ‘human biosecurity management plan’ (for essential services workers only).
While the federal government emergency provisions of the Biosecurity Act will remain in place until 17 September 2020, the state government will this week ask to remove Queensland’s remote communities from the Biosecurity Determination from 12 June 2020 to enable Stage Two state-based arrangements to commence.
Other roadmap changes: unlimited intrastate travel!
Elsewhere, Queensland announced it will allow unlimited intrastate travel from midday today — excluding those biosecurity or restricted zones for Indigenous communities — and increase capacity for bars, restaurants and cafes from 10 to 20 people.
Both updates follow similar announcements Friday afternoon from Victoria — which intends to solidify the state’s “if you can work from home, you must work from home” rule as a new directive from the chief health officer — and Western Australia, which will move to Phase 3 of their roadmap from Saturday, June 6.
Tasmania eases hospital visitation restrictions
From today, Tasmanian hospitals will allow visits between 2pm and 6pm, with a maximum of one visitor per patient at a time for most areas.
Visitors must complete a screening tool on arrival, and must not visit a hospital, outpatient department or clinic if they have any symptoms. These include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, gastrointestinal symptoms.
People should also not visit if they have been advised to self-isolate, however, as the full list below demonstrates, exemptions will be allowable for certain circumstances on compassionate grounds.
- The NSW government has announced a $3 billion Infrastructure and Job Acceleration Fund — which includes around $800 million redirected from the now-cancelled refurbishment of Stadium Australia — to be used for smaller, shovel-ready projects aimed at creating up to an extra 20 thousand jobs.
- Victoria extended their State of Emergency another three weeks, until 21 June.
- Queensland introduced a target of 25% of all government purchases to come from state small and medium sized businesses from July 1, a target that will be extended to 30 percent by 30 June 2022.
- The Northern Territory announced six artists, arts workers and arts organisations that will share in $200,000 of Strategic Projects and Arts Industry Development grants.
- Tasmania will this week introduce the Building and Construction (Regulatory Reform Amendments) Bill, with the first tranche of reforms to include legislative timeframes for the permit process for energy, water, sewerage services, and some planning processes that are not currently subject to any timeframes.