Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: June 1

By Chris Woods

Monday June 1, 2020

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:

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  1. 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;
  2. 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
  3. 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.”

Click here for WHO’s complete decision tree flow chart for mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19.

In other highlights from WHO’s situation report Saturday:

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.”

Source: Reuters Graphics.

Geopolitics wrap

  • 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.

The Roadmap to easing access restrictions for Queensland’s remote communities depends in part on federal approval to remove Queensland’s remote communities from the Biosecurity Determination.

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.

State wrap

For health department updates: Federal, NSW, Victoria, QueenslandACTSouth AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern Territory and Western Australia.

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