Coronavirus Government Global Briefing: June 15

By Chris Woods

Monday June 15, 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.

Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and ACT update roadmaps to recovery

Following Scott Morrison’s update from Friday’s national cabinet meeting, multiple state and territory leaders have outlined the next stage of their governments’ roadmaps to recovery.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews yesterday announced a series of updates — specifically that, from next Monday 22 June, venues and businesses can host up to 50 people — that will again will be subject to advice from the the state’s chief health officer.

Monday, 22 June

  • Pubs and clubs will be able to host up to 50 seated patrons, with no requirement to purchase a meal with drinks;
    • However, patrons will need to provide contact details, and table service and density restrictions will still apply i.e. four square metres per customer
  • Cinemas, concert venues, theatres and auditoriums can open, also with up to 50 people per space;
  • Libraries, community centres, religious ceremonies and halls will be able to open to 50 people;
  • The same increased limit will apply to galleries, museums and amusement parks;
  • Standalone TABs will also be able to reopen in line with rules on retail businesses, while TABs in pubs will need to observe density and patron limits that apply to those venues;
  • All sports training and competition will resume for those 18 and under. Non-contact sports competition can also begin across every age group;
  • Indoor sports centres and physical recreation spaces like gyms will be able to open to 20 people per space, with a cap of up to 10 per group for those over the age of 18;
  • Clubs and community facilities will also be able to reopen their change-rooms;
  • The same will apply to holiday accommodation and camping sites, with communal spaces like showers and kitchens soon to be available to visitors; and
  • Ski season and ski accommodation will also open.

Monday, 13 July

  • Local footy teams, soccer clubs and other contact sports will be able to resume training for over 18s.

Monday, 20 July

  • Electronic gaming areas at pubs, clubs and the casino will be reopened with strict distancing, cleaning and hygiene requirements; and
  • Full competition for contact sports can begin.

Tasmania

Secondly, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein brought forward a number of changes on Friday after the state hit zero active cases.

These were announced as COVID-Safety plans coming coming into effect today, and, in consultation with the aged care sector, the government will this week look toward further easing of visitation restrictions.

From noon, Wednesday 17 June (where venue capacity and space allows and subject to final public health advice)

  • 20 visitors to a home in addition to household members
  • 80 attendees at gyms and other indoor sports facilities
  • 80 in outdoor sporting activities, boot camps and personal training
  • 80 attendees at a pool
  • 80 attendees at community facilities
  • 80 attendees in libraries
  • 80 attendees at auction premises and real estate services
  • 80 attendees at amusement parks, arcades, play centres or similiar if primarily an outdoor space
  • 80 attendees in hospitality venues
  • 80 people at religious services and weddings
  • 80 attendees per cinema
  • 80 attendees at concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums, with an additional number of people specified for performers
  • 80 attendees at zoos
  • 80 attendees at museums, national institutions, historic sites and galleries
  • Beauty services are open and maximum density limits apply
  • Markets will continue to be for fresh food and produce only

Friday, 26 June

  • Caps on public gatherings will no longer apply, however, social distancing rules and the one person per 4 square meter rule will apply indoors;
  • Community and competitive sport will be able to resume and crowds of up to 500 will be able to attend; and
  • Subject to public health advice and the state of play regarding the virus in other jurisdictions, the government will also confirm a date to lift border restrictions — this is likely to be later in July.

New South Wales

Yesterday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced an updated list of restrictions to ease from Wednesday, 1 July.

These come on top of previously-announced changes to allow adult community sport and kids sport for those aged 18 and under:

  • The number of people allowed inside indoor venues will be determined by the ‘one person per 4 square metre’ rule, with no upper limit. This includes function centres. All activity must be seated only;
  • Cultural and sporting events at outdoor venues with a maximum capacity of 40,000 will be allowed up to 25 percent of their normal capacity. Events must be ticketed and seated and follow strict guidelines;
  • On compassionate grounds, restrictions on funerals will immediately be eased to allow the four square metre rule to apply; and
  • All other restrictions including 20 guests inside the home and 20 for outside gatherings remain the same.

Australian Capital Territory

Finally, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced that, with the one person per four square metre rule in place, community and business activities will be able to commence from noon this Friday, 19 June, with a maximum occupancy limit per enclosed space of 100 persons.

Changes mean:

  • Cafes, restaurants, bars and other licenced venues can seat up to 100 people per enclosed space, and will be able to serve alcohol without a meal to seated patrons;
  • Gyms, health clubs and fitness centres will have greater flexibility to reopen free weight rooms and conduct circuit training under supervision and regular cleaning;
  • Local theatres, cinemas and concert venues will also be able to reopen and the maximum occupancy at places of worship will increase to 100 people for facilities that can manage the one person per four square metre rule; and
  • Contact sports can start full training from the 19 June, to start their transition back to competitions from the 10 July.

As part of Canberra’s recovery plan, the government also signalled a new campaign to encourage Canberrans to support local businesses over the coming months.

Lancet editor launches COVID book eviscerating the UK response

That the British government has failed to manage their outbreak, at this point, is nothing new.

Even observing its response play out here from Australia, we’ve known since March that the Johnson government’s early, ill-conceived “herd immunity” approach was both a gamble and a global outlier. Subsequent reports have since exposed:

Now, in the new short book, ‘The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again’, we hear from someone who’s been yelling in the UK government’s ear since as early as February, Lancet editor Richard Horton.

It was The Lancet, on January 24, that first published clinical warnings from Chinese researchers of “an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown cause” spreading throughout Wuhan in late 2019.

Horton, as FT recounts, shortly became “critic-in-chief of the UK government’s” response, labelling it in a March interview with the BBC “a national scandal.”

“We had all of these committees and all of these offices and all of these organisations, but somehow they didn’t connect. We’ve had the biggest science policy failure in a generation,” Horton told the FT in April. On whether the government can be judged in hindsight, he asked:

“How can it be hindsight? It’s there in black and white on January 24, written in a paper from China, telling people, ‘Please act now, this is urgent, there’s a crisis.'”

Now, in Horton’s new, 140-page book, The Guardian reports the editor builds on past editorials to similarly critique the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (for becoming “the public relations wing of a government that had failed its people”) and medical royal colleges — the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Medical Association and Public Health England — for not backing a health emergency warning from the World Health Organisation in February.

With an official death toll of 41,662, the UK was only eclipsed by Brazil (41,715) on Saturday as the worst-hit country behind America (109,090). Source: FT analysis of data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the Covid Tracking Project.

However, as he tells The Guardian, one of Horton’s core issues lies with the UK government’s early disinterest in The Lancet’s January academic papers, and apparent lack of communication with China:

“In several of the papers they talked about the importance of personal protective equipment. And the importance of testing, the importance of avoiding mass gatherings, the importance of considering school closure, the importance of lockdowns. All of the things that have happened in the last three months here, they’re all in those five papers.

“[China’s coordinating officials] are people they could have literally sent an email to, or picked the phone up to, and said, ‘Hey, we read your paper in the Lancet, can it really be as bad as that? What is going on in Wuhan?’ And if they’d done that they would have found out that this was indeed as bad as described.”

For the full excoriating read, ‘The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Stop it Happening Again’ launches in the UK on Wednesday, 18 June. It will also apparently be available for international shipping at Book Depository and Guardian Bookshop.

New Zealand includes testing funds in post-COVID healthcare package

Less than a week since the country declared no active cases, New Zealand’s Health Minister Dr David Clark has outlined a post-COVID healthcare package that includes support for testing labs, pharmacies, midwives, hospices and call centres:

  • $37 million for COVID-19 testing
  • $18 million for 365 critical community pharmacies
  • $5.48 million in funding for midwives
  • $10 million for DHB ventilator and respiratory equipment
  • $7.33 million to support hospices
  • $14.8 million to support the National Telehealth Service

The package, which comes as part of the $59.6 billion tranche of the NZ budget’s COVID-19 Recovery and Response Fund, demonstrates a commitment to maintain testing infrastructure even 45 days after the country recorded their last case of community transmission.

“Our first COVID-19 test was completed on February 1,” David Clark said. “We can now process 12,500 a day and have completed over 300,000 individual tests. That’s an incredible achievement by those working in our medical labs.

“Our $37 million investment in testing today is to continue that work. It will make sure our testing capability remains up to the task of detecting and quickly containing the disease if it re-emerges.

State wrap: Victoria launches targeted testing scheme, extended homelessness package

The Victorian government has announced a new targeted testing program that, on top of existing testing schemes, will focus on Local Government Areas with low testing rates, communities with high case numbers, high-risk workforces and vulnerable groups — particularly culturally and linguistically diverse residents, who may find it harder to access testing information.

The program will be rolled out in four three-week waves across different locations and LGAs until the end of August, with the first starting in Mildura, Kyabram, Dandenong and Brimbank. Other LGAs and areas to be targeted include inner-city Melbourne, Moreland City Council, City of Melton, Colac Otway Shire, City of Whittlesea, Surf Coast Shire, Hume City and Wyndham City.

Elsewhere, Housing Minister Richard Wynne on Saturday announced $9.8 million in funding to keep people experiencing homelessness in their current accommodation and plan their pathway out into more stable long-term housing.

The package will:

  • create additional Housing Establishment Funding (HEF) for agencies to continue placing clients in temporary hotel accommodation;
  • create nine data roles to work within newly created Homelessness Emergency Accommodation Response Teams (HEART); and
  • temporarily boost intake systems with nine extra Initial Assessment and Planning (IAP) workers in areas of highest demand across the state.

HEART roles will help identify driving factors behind a client’s homelessness situation and create tailored support to exit into housing or homelessness programs, while IAP workers will help coordinate with local services to ensure each person in a hotel has the support they need to achieve stable housing, and identify their best housing options, be that private rental, supported accommodation or social housing.

Queensland’s elective surgery blitz

Finally, after non-urgent surgeries were halted in March, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday announced a quarter of a billion dollars in extra elective surgery funding.

As of 1 June, there were 52,240 patients ready for their surgery on elective surgery lists — more than 90 per cent of those were waiting within clinically recommended timeframes. Government modelling, however, indicates that the state could potentially have more than 7,000 people waiting longer than clinically recommended by 1 July 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

Those figures come after the state gradually providing elective surgeries from 1 May, and, as part of the $250 million funding commitment, come as hospitals move to provide non-urgent procedures outside of regular hours.

“Our hospitals are rapidly increasing services – with elective surgery activity at more than 90 per cent across the system,” Queensland Health Director General Dr John Wakefield said. “Each HHS has to consider their current demand, capacity and availability of personal protective equipment.”

“But this $250 million will mean our hospitals will be able to get back to pre-COVID levels of elective surgery much sooner than planned, and we will be able to work through the backlog at a much faster pace. This investment will require us to expand over and beyond our usual levels of activity, plus work in partnership with the private sector.

“It may take up to 12 months to clear the backlog, but could be longer if we have further disruption to our system, such as a second wave of COVID-19 cases.”

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

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