Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: June 9

By Chris Woods

Tuesday June 9, 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.

New Zealand moves to Level 1, records no active cases

As of midnight last night, New Zealand has moved to COVID-19 Alert Level 1 and subsequently removed all internal restrictions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that there are currently no active cases in the country, after the country recorded 40 days since their last case of community transmission, 22 days since that person finished self-isolation, and almost 40,000 tests in the past 17 days with no positive results.

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“At Level 1 we become one of the most open economies in the world and now we must seize our advantage of going hard and early to beat COVID-19 and use the same focus and determination we applied to our health response to rebuild our economy,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now, but elimination is not a point in time – it is a sustained effort. The world will remain in the grip of a global pandemic for some time to come and we will see cases here again, which we must remain prepared for.”

What’s actually changing?

According to covid19.govt.nz/, residents can return without restriction to work, school, sports and domestic travel, and can meet with as many people as they want.

Border controls will remain for anyone entering New Zealand, including health screening and testing for all arrivals along with mandatory 14 day managed quarantine or isolation.

The government has also called to maintain basic hygiene measures — including washing hands, coughing or sneezing into elbows, and staying home/avoiding public transport if sick — and for residents to maintain diaries in the event of a second wave.

Businesses have been asked to help customers keep track of where they’ve been by displaying the NZ COVID Tracer QR code poster. According to the New Zealand government’s website, businesses can also create a contact tracing register with a paper register or with scanned membership cards, and collect people’s:

  • full name;
  • phone number or email or other effective means of communicating with them;
  • date of entering the business;
  • time in and out; and
  • signature.

The website also includes guides for creating and downloading QR posters, templates for paper registers, and privacy guidelines for businesses i.e.

  • keep your contact tracing register secure for two months. When records are two months old, they must be destroyed;
  • only share your register with the ministry of health or district health boards;
  • not use the information you collect for any other purpose, for example, marketing or customer surveys;
  • explain why you’re collecting someone’s personal information;
  • make sure customers cannot see anyone else’s personal information; and
  • retail businesses, such as shopping malls, supermarkets, marketplaces, takeaway food and retail stores, do not need to record details of their customers.
Source:New Zealand’s non-retail business templates.

Additionally, civil defence minister Peeni Henare announced yesterday that the country’s National Transition Period — a system that came supported the move from an emergency response under the State of National Emergency into an initial recovery phase from on 13 May, which also provided the National Recovery Manager and others access to special powers designed to assist with recovery — was terminated at 1:53PM, 8 June 2020.

Finally, according to Ardern’s announcement, Reserve Bank analysis suggests the country’s economy under Level 1 could operate just 3.8% below normal levels; this improves on 8.8% below normal under Level 2, 19% below normal under Level 3, and 37 percent under Level 4.

BP to cut 10,000 jobs following crash in oil demand

According to the BBC, oil giant BP intends to slash 10,000 jobs — or around 15% of the company’s global workforce — after the pandemic led to a crash in demand for oil.

The company has paused redundancies amidst COVID-19’s peak, but, pointing the finger directly at the period of mass quarantines that saw oil prices literally go negative, chief executive Bernard Looney told staff yesterday that 10,000 of them will go by the end of 2020:

“The oil price has plunged well below the level we need to turn a profit.

“We are spending much, much more than we make – I am talking millions of dollars, every day.”

Oil prices fell from US$66 a barrel at the start of the year to less than $20 during the pandemic’s peak — a dip that saw BP announce plans to pay a $0.11 per share dividends to shareholders — and have now partly recovered to $42 a barrel.

The company’s global workforce currently sits at 70,000, including around 15,000 people in the UK and, according to AAP, more than 5700 employees in Australian offices spanning every state and territory. Reportedly, redundancies will largely affect BP’s office-based workers — specifically senior roles — but not retail staff.

Looney, who took over as the boss of BP in February, notes that the company was already working to transition to “a leaner, faster-moving and lower carbon company;” as AAP notes, the company aims to offset all carbon emissions from both its operations and sold oil/gas by 2050.

“To me, the broader economic picture and our own financial position just reaffirm the need to reinvent BP,” Looney said in the staff email.

“While the external environment is driving us to move faster – and perhaps go deeper at this stage than we originally intended – the direction of travel remains the same.”

As Mandarin Premium reported last week, the news comes after Looney voiced support for a demand under the World Economic Forum’s new ‘Great Reset’ initiative to end fossil fuel subsidies.

It also follows a report from the International Energy Agency that found renewables were the only energy source to increase in demand amidst the crisis, as well as financial think-tank Carbon Tracker’s new analysis that suggests the pandemic has only accelerated peak demand for fossil fuels and, consequently, recommends accelerating transition pathways for fossil fuel workers and economies.

Source: Carbon Tracker’s 4 June, 2020 report, ‘Decline and Fall: The Size & Vulnerability of the Fossil Fuel System‘.

On the home front: Western Australia’s $444 million housing blitz

On Sunday, the Western Australian government announced a $444 million housing package designed to support about 4,300 jobs and develop both residential and social housing projects during the state’s recovery.

The plans includes:

  • A $125 million Building Bonus package aimed at creating 2,600 jobs and consisting of:
    • $117 million for $20,000 Building Bonus grants provided to homebuyers who sign up before December 31, 2020. The plan, which is not means tested and has no cap on the property value, is open to buyers either building new houses or purchasing a new property in a single tier development (such as a townhouse) prior to construction finishing; and
    • $8.2 million to expand the 75 per cent off-the-plan transfer duty rebate, capped at $25,000, until December 31, 2020 to include purchases in multi-tiered developments already under construction.
  • a $319 Social Housing Economic Recovery package designed to support and create about 1,700 jobs — with 780 in regional WA:
    • $97 million to construct approximately 250 social housing dwellings and purchase off-the-plan units for supported housing programs;
    • $142 million to refurbish 1,500 existing social housing dwellings; and
    • $80 million for targeted maintenance programs for 3,800 regional social housing properties — including remote Aboriginal communities’ stock and subsidised housing for regional government workers.

Packages are scheduled for immediate rollout, and will run into 2020-21. Off-the-plan pre-sales opportunities will be acquired through a time limited call for submissions process issued by the department of communities and expected to open in mid-June.

Unlike the federal government’s home buyers’ scheme, both Western Australia and Tasmania’s infrastructure schemes have included funding for social housing. Interestingly, however, a subsequent explainer on the WA’s Social Housing Economic Recovery package appears to have brought the regional jobs’ figure from 780 down to 430.

Queensland launches intrastate ‘You’re Good to Go’ tourism campaign, puts benefit at $1 billion

On Sunday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk launched a new intrastate tourism campaign, ‘You’re Good to Go’, which will run across newspapers, TV and social media from June until August.

Along with “flow on effects” into the September school holidays, Tourism and Events Queensland suggests residents could spend over 9 million nights amidst the campaign, which Palaszczuk says “would produce a $1 billion in overnight expenditure for tourism operators.”

“Every year, 3.2 million Queenslanders spend nearly $10 billion holidaying interstate and overseas,” Palaszczuk said.

“This campaign will help us to tap into that market to support our tourism operators.”

In a subsequent announcement, transport and main roads minister Mark Bailey said Queensland Rail will reinstate reduced and suspended long-distance train services under a staggered timeframe from June 13 — with discounts aimed at saving travellers up to 60% on the price of a ticket for long-distance train travel — with most services fully restored ahead of the school holidays.

On Sunday, Palaszczuk announced $11 million from the previously-announced $50 million tourism package will go to help Gold Coast groups Village Roadshow, Ardent Leisure and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary retain staff while they wait for other support from banks and the Federal Government.

State wrap: it’s camping/gas season!

In other major state announcements from the long weekend:

  • As state camping restrictions begin to ease, the Victorian government announced $18.9 million to maintain and upgrade public visitor sites and infrastructure — including recreation reserves, camping spots and picnic facilities — as well as more than $2.5 million dollars in grants for 25 campground and caravan park projects. Victoria’s health minister Jenny Mikakos also announced almost $850,000 in health and wellbeing funding for frontline healthcare workers.
  • Queensland launched more than 400 free business training courses — run with Logan-based digital training company GO1 — through two new portals: the Queensland Small Business Skills Hub, for small businesses and employers; and Skills Focus Queensland, for prospective and impacted employees. Citing the state’s Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs plan, Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Anthony Lynham opened up 1500 square kilometres of south-west Queensland gas country; the government also released the Petroleum Royalty Review.
  • Finally, the Tasmanian government announced an explorer support package to support the mining sector through:
    • Suspension of rental payments for exploration licences for the next six months.
    • Exemptions from licence work conditions for up to six months, with fees for these applications waived.
    • Application fees for the surrender or extension of term of exploration licences waived for six months.

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

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