Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: June 12

By Chris Woods

Friday June 12, 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.

Japan to allow 250 visitors a day from Australia, NZ, Thailand and Vietnam

According to government sources speaking with Japan Today, Japan is planning to introduce a quota of around 250 foreign travellers per day from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam sometime over the next three months.

The plan, which is currently being developed by a government taskforce, would reportedly prioritise businesspeople, including executives and engineers, and then students and tourists.

“We will continue to carefully consider ways to partially resume (international travel) in steps, while taking care to prevent infections from spreading,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary committee.

Those four countries were reportedly chosen both for having their outbreaks under control and their strong economic ties with the country; Japan will consider expanding the list to other countries, such as China, the US and South Korea, as outbreaks unfold.

Sources also expect that the easing of travel restrictions will be mutual, and note governments are currently discussing safety arrangements, for example how freely travellers will be able to move and how many people will be allowed per individual country.

Preventative measures

According to the sources, travellers in Japan will be required to:

  • hand in negative results from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests taken both before their departure and after their arrival in Japan;
  • submit an itinerary detailing the hotel they are staying at and places they intend to visit;
  • refrain from using public transportation; and
  • potentially keep GPS data on their smartphone to better enable contact tracing efforts.

As some countries begin reopening their borders, the sources note Japan is also considering setting up stations to conduct PCR tests on people leaving the country.

Source: FT analysis of data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the Covid Tracking Project.

Geopolitical wrap

  • According to POLITICO, the Trump administration is indicating that it will not disclose 4.5 million US businesses that received bailout funds through the US$500+ billion (AU$726.6 billion) Paycheck Protection Program, with the Small Business Administration currently withholding requested loan data and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin alleging that the recipients of taxpayer funds constitutes “proprietary” and “confidential” information.
    • That news comes as The LA Times reports that about 1.5 million more laid-off workers sought unemployment benefits last week.
  • In a new piece at the World Economic Forum, Rockefeller Foundation’s Sara Farley and EcoAgriculture Partners’s Sara Scherr unpack how global food systems are failing the pandemic’s “stress test”, and suggest three systems of reform: re-think supply chains for a diverse and healthy diet; build strong connections between environment and food policy; and strengthen, democratise and localise food systems planning.
  • WIRED has explored how Georgia, and multiple other US states, are failing to run elections amidst the pandemic (i.e. hour long wait times, limited in-person polling sites etc).
  • Amidst Europe’s economic crash, a new report at the Centre for European Policy Studies outlines economic impacts on Europe’s carbon market and calls for a review of the emissions trading system’s supply mechanisms.
  • The UN Development Programme launched ‘COVID-19 and Human Development: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery’, which, using statistical modelling simulations under the UN’s Human Development Index, forecasts the pandemic will create levels of deprivation not seen for 40 years. Suggested reforms include:
    1. examine responses through an equity lens;
    2. focus on people’s enhanced capabilities (to both reconcile apparent tradeoffs between public health/economic activity and help build resilience for future shocks); and
    3. follow a coherent multidimensional approach considering interconnected issues (health, economic and several social aspects, decisions on the allocation of fiscal resources that can either further lock-in or break free from carbon intensive production and consumption) rather than focusing on sector-by-sector solutions.
Source: ‘COVID-19 and Human Development: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery’.

On the home front: NSW eases home, food court restrictions from Saturday

Yesterday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that further restrictions will be lifted from Saturday to allow food courts to reopen, the number of visitors in homes to increase from 5 to 20, and the size of outdoor gatherings to lift from 10 to 20.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard also noted the state’s record set Wednesday of two full weeks without recording a single case of recent community transmission.

Food courts must have a COVID safe plan in place when they reopen on Saturday, to include:

  • Abiding by the 4 square metre rule;
  • A maximum of 50 people per separate seated eating area; and
  • Enhanced hygiene and cleaning processes.

Elsewhere, the state government announced a new support package for independent brewers “hit by drought, bushfire and COVID-19”, to include funding of $135,000 for one year’s annual membership funds through the Independent Brewers Association.

NT launches tourism voucher scheme

The Northern Territory government yesterday announced a tourism voucher scheme to encourage residents to explore the Territory and support local tourism until borders can re-open to interstate visitors.

More than 26,000 vouchers worth $200 in matched spending will be available at www.territoryvoucher.nt.gov.au from 1 July, Territory Day, for Territorians to put towards a tourism experience, tour, accommodation, hire car or recreational fishing charter before 31st October 2020.

The $5.2 million voucher initiative will also be supported a marketing campaign “Never have I ever…” (#NeverHaveIEverNT), and has been developed in partnership with Northern Territory Regional Tourism Organisations, Tourism Top End and Tourism Central Australia.

Victoria to resume licence testing

Yesterday, the Victorian government announced that learner permit and licence testing including drive tests will progressively resume from Monday 15 June.

As part of the resumption, more than 200 new staff will be hired to help work through the postponed appointments as quickly as possible, with testing to resume at all VicRoads testing locations as well as six new, temporary licence testing sites to commence operation in the coming months.

The chief health officer has outlined a range of measures to allow drive testing to commence safely, including:

  • appropriate cleaning of vehicles;
  • proper comprehensive hygiene for applicants, instructors and testing officers;
  • the use of disposable seat covers, particularly if the customer is using their own vehicle; and
  • advice not to participate for anyone feeling unwell.

In related news, reforms to Tasmania’s testing regime will see the streamlining of L1 and L2 into one Learners state — which was introduced as a COVID-19 assistance measure — become permanent.

State wrap

  • Western Australia’s State Recovery Advisory Group convened for a major workshop yesterday to develop input for the state government’s draft impact statement, with representatives from business, industry, not‑for‑profit organisations, UnionsWA, the public sector, local government and the community sharing perspectives on the priority impacts of the pandemic on their respective fields;
  • The Queensland government announced legislative amendments enabling supermarkets and essential businesses to restock their shelves 24 hours a day will now be in place until 31 October 2020; and
  • The ACT government will expand their fast tracked suburban infrastructure program with $8 million allocated to new projects and a $2 million extension to early planning and design work.

Canberra Theatre Centre launches [email protected]

Finally, the Canberra Theatre Centre announced ‘[email protected] on Wednesday, a digital season of free streamed performances including family content, literary readings, music, drama and a headlining variety show with Chris Endry.

All performances will feature Canberra artists, speakers and personalities, and stream via Facebook on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting on Monday 15 June. Videos will also be available to watch after sessions have ended, for those who are unable to watch during the scheduled times.

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

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