China’s dystopian move as plan to lift COVID-19 lockdown revealed
Australia's Chief Medical Officer has detailed how COVID-19 lockdown restrictions will be eased, as he called on more Australians to download the Federal Government's coronavirus tracing app.
Professor Brendan Murphy said authorities were "seriously looking" at what lockdown measures could be relaxed, and would make recommendations to National Cabinet over the course of next week.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) will meet next week to establish guidelines for easing social distancing and other coronavirus measures ahead of Friday's National Cabinet meeting.
The reopening of university campuses will also be considered.
The extent to which measures will be eased will in part rely on the percentage of the country's 16 million adults who have downloaded the COVIDSafe tracing app.
So far, almost 4.5 million Australians have downloaded and signed up for the app.
Prof Murphy said there would most likely be a staggered approach to lifting restrictions, warning that some countries had eased them too quickly and experienced a second wave of infections.
He said each stage would be reviewed for a number of weeks before a decision was made on whether to relax lockdown measures further.
"This virus is still in our community, it's still with us, we are... in a much better position than just about any other country in the world, but we have to be careful as we chart the next couple of months," Prof Murphy said.
He said there had been an increase in movement which was consistent with decisions by some jurisdictions to ease lockdown measures.
Prof Murphy said he did not want to see people using saliva to shine cricket balls even after the coronavirus threat has passed.
He said that was one of many unhygienic practices he thought should be dumped from Australians behaviour entirely moving forward.
"In so many parts of our society, hygiene practices need to change," Prof Murphy said
"We, as a first-world, very wealthy country, have probably become a bit relaxed about hygiene and I think its time that we focused on those things and have learned from those measures.
"I don't think using saliva to shine cricket balls is a very good thing at all."
Prof Murphy said there was 6,801 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, an increase of 18 cases in the last 24 hours.
There was still evidence of low-level community transmission of the virus, with small outbreaks detected in Victoria and NSW.
Australia has now recorded 95 deaths, the latest being an elderly woman in Western Australia and another person at the Anglicare-run nursing home, Newmarch House, in western Sydney.
WA Premier Mark McGowan on Sunday announced the death of the 83-year-old who died at home on April 30.
ROBOTS AND CAMERAS: CHINA'S SCI-FI QUARANTINE WATCH
Robots delivering meals, ghostly figures in hazmat suits and cameras pointed at front doors: China's methods to enforce coronavirus quarantines have looked like a sci-fi dystopia for legions of people.
Authorities have taken drastic steps to ensure that people do not break isolation rules after China largely tamed the virus that had paralysed the country for months.
With cases imported from abroad threatening to unravel China's progress, travellers arriving from overseas have been required to stay home or in designated hotels for 14 days.
Beijing loosened the rule in the capital this week - except for those arriving from abroad and Hubei, the province where the virus first surfaced late last year.
At one quarantine hotel in central Beijing, a guard sits at a desk on each floor to monitor all movements.
The solitude is broken by one of the few visitors allowed near the rooms: A three-foot-tall cylindrical robot that delivers water bottles, meals and packages to hotel guests.
The robot rides the elevator and navigates hallways on its own to minimise contact between guests and human staff.
When the robot arrives at its destination, it dials the landline phone in the room and informs the occupant in an eerie, childlike voice: "Hello, this is your service robot. Your order has arrived outside your room." Its belly opens and the guest takes the delivery items before the robot turns and rolls away.
Doctors in hazmat suits go from room to room daily reminding occupants, including an AFP journalist who had been in Hubei, to take their temperatures with the mercury thermometer provided at check-in, and to ask if any are experiencing symptoms.
People under home quarantine elsewhere in the city have had silent electronic alarms installed on their doors.
Officials put up a notice on each quarantined household's door asking neighbours to keep an eye on the confined inhabitants.
In one Beijing residential compound, officials told AFP that people under home quarantine must inform community volunteers whenever they open their doors.
Friederike Boege, a German journalist, began her second quarantine in Beijing this year on Sunday after returning from Hubei's capital Wuhan.
Her building's management installed a camera in front of her door to monitor her movements.
"It's quite scary how you get used to such things," she told AFP. "Apart from the camera I do believe that the guards and the cleaner on the compound would denunciate me if I were to go out," Boege said.
During her previous quarantine experience in March after returning from a trip to Thailand, she was reported to building management by a cleaner for going downstairs to take out the trash.
FRUSTRATION LED TO ATTACK ON ANDREWS: TEHAN
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has withdrawn remarks over Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' leadership, conceding frustration over schooling in the state during the coronavirus crisis led to his extraordinary attack.
On ABC television's Insiders program on Sunday, Mr Tehan lashed Mr Andrews' handling of the controversial issue of opening schools during the COVID-19 crisis, which federal Labor has described as "bullying".
"The question to Dan Andrews is, sure, take a sledgehammer to defeating the coronavirus but why are you taking a sledgehammer also to your schools system?" an unusually heated Mr Tehan had said.
He said Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory hadn't had to quash their education system to fight the virus and have a 70 per cent attendance at their schools.
Pressed several times on the prime minister's previous advice to parents about listening to their premiers, Mr Tehan said the government's advice was that parents should listen to the medical experts.
"It's safe for schools to be open and it is safe for teachers to be in the classroom when the right protocols are in place," Mr Tehan insisted.
Several hours later, Mr Tehan issued a statement saying he had expressed his personal frustration that more schools weren't starting more in-class learning in his home state.
"It was this frustration that led me to overstep the mark in questioning Premier Andrews' leadership on the matter and I withdraw," Mr Tehan said.
"I will continue working constructively with my state counterparts as they run their state school systems to support them with the best medical and education expert advice the federal government can offer."
The attack had come before state health minister Jenny Mikakos reported a teacher had tested positive to COVID-19 at the Meadowglen primary school in Melbourne, which will be closed for three days for cleaning. Mr Andrews has been adamant in not opening schools for fear of spreading the virus, while Scott Morrison has urged all schools to open.
CORONAVIRUS SURGE IN BRAZIL BRINGS A COFFIN SHORTAGE, MORGUE CHAOS
In Brazil's bustling Amazon city of Manaus, so many people have died within days in the coronavirus pandemic that coffins had to be stacked on top of each other in long, hastily dug trenches in a city cemetery. Some despairing relatives reluctantly chose cremation for loved ones to avoid burying them in those common graves.
Now, with Brazil emerging as Latin America's coronavirus epicentre with more than 6,000 deaths, even the coffins are running out in Manaus.
The national funeral home association has pleaded for an urgent airlift of coffins from Sao Paulo, 2,700 kilometres away, because Manaus has no paved roads connecting it to the rest of the country.
The city of about two million people carved from the jungle has been overwhelmed by death in part because it's the main site where those from remote Amazon communities can get medical services, according to Lourival Panhozzi, president of the Brazilian Association of Funeral Service Providers.
As of April 30, Brazil's Health Ministry said that there were over 5,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Amazonas state and 425 deaths, although there are concerns that inadequate testing for the virus has meant that the numbers may be much higher.
Before the outbreak, the city of Manaus, the capital of the state, was recording an average of 20-35 deaths a day, according to the mayor. Now, it is recording at least 130 a day, data from the state's health secretary show.
People in the region also have been widely ignoring isolation measures. There also are signs in the much larger cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo that suggest authorities may not be able to handle a huge increase in the death toll.
A field of fresh graves that was dismissed in April by President Jair Bolsonaro as excessive has since been filled.
Authorities in Sao Paulo dug hundreds of graves last month in anticipation of a rise in deaths. Bolsonaro has likened the coronavirus to "a little flu" and insists that sweeping state measures to close all but essential business are more damaging than the illness.
On April 2, he questioned whether photos by The Associated Press of the new graves were "fake news" or "sensationalism."
By Thursday, all those graves were filled with the dead, as were dozens of other new ones, according to images by the AP photographer who took the original photos and revisited the site on Sao Paulo's eastern region.
Refrigerated trucks to hold overflows of bodies are now seen outside hospitals and cemeteries.
RUSSIAN VIRUS CASES RISE BY RECORD AMOUNT
Russia recorded its highest daily rise in confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday with 10,633 new infections, bringing the total to 134,687, with more than half of cases and deaths in Moscow.
But the mortality rate has slowed in recent days and remains much lower, in relative terms, than many other countries.
Russia has said its lower mortality rate was because the Russian outbreak occurred later than in many other countries which gave the authorities more time to prepare.
Russia's nationwide death toll rose to 1280 on Sunday after 58 people died in the last 24 hours, Russia's coronavirus crisis response centre said on its website.
Russia has been in partial lockdown since the end of March to curb the spread of the virus. People in Moscow can leave home to visit the nearest food shop or chemist, walk their dog or throw out rubbish but need special passes for other activities.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered the nationwide lockdown to remain in place until May 11 inclusive, when Russia finishes celebrating its Labour Day and World War II Victory Day holidays.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin urged residents on Saturday to continue to strictly self-isolate over the long holidays.
Sobyanin said there had been progress in expanding testing, allowing the authorities to treat those in need more quickly.
But he said the number of critically ill patients was rising, albeit not as steeply as worst-case scenario projections. He said he thought 2 per cent of Moscow, with a population of 12.7 million, had been infected, a much higher figure than official statistics show.
BIGGEST DAY JUMP IN INDIA
India on Sunday reported the biggest one-day jump in coronavirus cases as the country of 1.3 billion enters the 40th day of a nationwide lockdown.
The confirmed infections have neared the 40,000-mark and the death toll has reached 1,301, including 83 deaths in the last 24 hours, which also saw 2,600 new cases.
The six-week lockdown, which was supposed to end last Monday, has been extended another two weeks, with a few relaxations. The lockdown has slowed the spread of the virus, but has come at the enormous economic cost.
The Indian Air Force on Sunday conducted fly-pasts and showered flower petals on hospitals across cities, including New Delhi, as part of efforts to thank medical and police personnel for being at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic.
NEW YORK SUNBATHERS SHUN SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES
Cops had to remind New Yorkers of social distancing rules over the weekend after they came out in force to soak up the spring rays in Central Park.
On resident dubbed the police presence "Orwellian," as officers handed out masks and reminded people to stay six feet apart.
According to New York state government: "Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced," while individuals should remain at least six feet apart.
It's also required time outside the home should be limited, and any outdoor activities should be "non-contact".
But on Saturday, the hottest day in New York since March 20, city-dwellers fled their homes and congregated in green spaces, with flocks heading to Central Park.
While The New York Post reports sun-bathers were observing social distancing rules and remaining six feet apart, officers were seen reminding people of the need for social distancing and handing out protective face masks.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered last month citizens must wear masks when social distancing "is not possible" for instance, when using public transport or grocery shopping.
However, residents reported feeling unnerved by the heavy police presence.
One 26-year-old Chinatown resident told the New York Post: "It's an overwhelming feeling. I understand they are keeping us safe, but do we really want to become China, where they're recording you when you come out of your building?"
The state has been one of the worst affected places in the world, as coronavirus has killed almost 20,000 people.
Gov. Cuomo described the terrifying number as "obnoxiously and terrifyingly high" and "bad news".
Despite the death toll, New Yorkers were seen playing contact sports, and spending prolonged periods of time outside.
As officers broke up one soccer game a player told law enforcement: "I mean, we wanted to play. It's nice outside."
Another angry resident described the police presence as prison-like.
He said: "In the house it's like jail. I don't want to come to the park and feel like I'm in jail...We're all going to die of something."
Gov. Cuomo has previously slammed people for soaking up the sun during lockdown.
Last month he upped fines for rule-breakers to $1,000 as instances increased due to good weather.
At the time he told New Yorkers: "What right do you have to act irresponsibly [when it] could get you sick or someone else?"
Since, he's encouraged residents to enjoy the sunshine and "go for a walk, but respect the social distancing and wear a mask."
Originally published as China's dystopian move as plan to lift COVID-19 lockdown revealed