Coronavirus Australia latest: at a glance

By Ben Doherty

Good evening, here is our daily roundup of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. This is Ben Doherty bringing you the main stories on Monday 6 April.

Australia’s death toll reaches 41

Australia’s death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 41, with nearly 5,800 confirmed infections.

Australians aged in their 30s without risk factors are battling coronavirus in intensive care, prompting a wake-up call from health authorities. There are 96 people in intensive care, with 35 on ventilators.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Prof Paul Kelly warned that anyone, regardless of age, could be vulnerable to the virus.

“This is not just an old person’s disease,” he said.

“This is something that can affect the whole of our population and that is why we need the whole of the population to continue to take this seriously.”

Kelly said it was important to note the small cohort of young people had no additional risk factors.

“This is a disease which mostly is mild, but on some occasions we have seen and will continue to see people with severe disease,” he said.

Kelly said increased cases meant a higher chance of younger people without vulnerability contracting a serious infection.

“This is a wake-up call for all of us,” he said.

Supermarkets like nightclubs

Long lines have formed outside supermarkets after Coles, Woolworths and IGA began limiting the number of customers inside stores in a bid to allow physical distancing and keep flattening the curve of Covid-19 infections during the Easter rush.

The Thursday before Easter is traditionally one of the busiest days for supermarkets, as people stock up for the weekend.

However, in an attempt to avoid overcrowding, a number of Australian supermarkets have instituted “one in one out” policies.

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Shane Fitzsimmons to head ‘Resilience NSW’

Celebrated New South Wales Rural Fire Services boss Shane Fitzsimmons has made the “absolutely difficult and deeply personal” decision to step down, and will instead head up a new agency aimed at ensuring the state’s resilience amid major challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic.

The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced the establishment of Resilience NSW on Monday, saying it would ensure the state was prepared and able to respond to crises – “be it Covid, be it cybersecurity, be it a whole range of things we may not foreshadow”.

Cases could drop to zero by July

The prevalence of Covid-19 in Australia could peak in mid-April and new cases reduce to almost zero by July, according to modelling by the University of Sydney.

But the story doesn’t end there: without widespread testing to detect asymptomatic cases of Covid-19, and a firm hold on social distancing measures that remain in place up to four weeks after the person with the last known infection has recovered, the curve will shoot back up.

“That’s pretty much the exit strategy,” said Prof Mikhail Prokopenko, a pandemic modelling expert and the director of the Centre for Complex Systems at Sydney University, who is leading the modelling team. “It must be based in testing.”

The modelling is based on 90% compliance with social distancing rules.

Police-enforced lockdowns ‘unnecessary’

Peter Collignon, professor of infectious disease at Australian National University Medical School writes that some of Australia’s recently introduced restrictions “appear more as a result of panicked political decisions rather than based on biological plausibility or evidence”.

“Some states have now put in overzealous rules and ones that give very mixed messages or have little biological plausibility. Not only will this cause unwarranted and increased social, mental and economic harm, we run the bigger risk that a substantial part of our society in a few months’ time (our winter) might increasingly rebel against many restrictions.

“I hope NSW and Victoria can be persuaded to relax on their overzealous restrictions so recently and unnecessarily put in place.”

UK prime minister in hospital

Globally, there have been 69,498 deaths from Covid-19 (at the time of publishing), and more than 1.25m confirmed infections. The British prime minister Boris Johnson has been hospitalised after showing persistent symptoms of the virus more than 10 days after announcing he had tested positive.

Hydroxychloroquine rush

Donald Trump said the US government had ordered 29m doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria for which testing for its use to treat coronavirus is still under way. The drug has potentially harmful side-effects. Personal protective gear is also being airlifted to US affected states, including millions of masks, gloves, and sterile gowns.

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