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Iraqi workers spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus in the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, Iraq, Sunday, March 8, 2020. Photo: AP Photo/Anmar Khalil

Third Australian dies, Australian cases hit 100: Coronavirus UPDATE

This story was updated 10 March at 9.15 am.

A third Australian has died from the coronavirus COVID-19, as the total number of cases in NSW reaches 55 and the number of cases across Australia now sits at 100.

According to data from the various state health departments; 55 in New South Wales, 15 in Queensland, 7 in South Australia, 2 in Tasmania, 15 in Victoria and 6 in Western Australia.

Globally there have been 109,577 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 3809 deaths as of 9 March.

The third Australian victim of the virus was a resident of the Sydney Aged Care facility at the centre of an outbreak last week. The 82-year-old man was confirmed to have the virus last Wednesday, and contracted it from an aged care worker in her 50s. Another resident, a 95-year-old woman, was the second Australian to die, following a 78-year-old Western Australian man.

The latest victim died in hospital on Sunday, said chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant.

Feeling the pinch

The COVID-19 outbreak is starting to bite in Sydney, with schools bracing for temporary closures and fears of lasting economic damage.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Monday said rolling school closures were "likely to be the new norm".

"If a child or a staff member or any other person within a school is found to have the COVID-19 virus, then effectively a breather will be taken and a day out will be the immediate requirement," he told reporters.

Nationally, The Qantas Group, has announced further cuts to international passenger numbers, reducing capacity by almost a quarter for the next six months and its chief executive Alan Joyce has announced he will forego payment for the next six months.

Australians ignore advice to self-isolate

There are also growing concerns that people are refusing to head advise to self-isolate while sick.

A student in Hobart went to two nightspots and to work at a hotel after he had been told to stay home while waiting for results of tests.

The student, aged in his 20s, arrived in Hobart on February 26 after travelling from Nepal and Singapore, and suffered cold-like symptoms in the days following.

He was tested on Friday and advised to self-quarantine while awaiting the results.

That night, he went to nightspots Cargo and Obar before working a shift at the Hotel Grand Chancellor the next day.

“The risk to diners is low but we do want them to be aware and be vigilant for symptoms in the two weeks after they were dining,” state director of public health Mark Veitch said.

The man returned a positive reading for the coronavirus late on Saturday.

“It’s our belief that he did understand the (self-isolation) requirements,” Dr Veitch said.

“It is unacceptable to continue activities in public or attend work while waiting for the coronavirus virus test results.”

A Victorian GP is also said to have ignored advice despite symptoms and treated up to 70 patients.

Dr Chris Higgins, the father of singer Missy Higgins, aged in his 70s, had a mild cold after returning from the USA on February 29 which had almost resolved two days later, so he decided to go to work.

National association president Tony Bartone said Dr Higgins acted with informed clinical judgment to test himself despite not being required to under the guidelines.

“At the time that he returned to Australia, the guidelines did not require him to be tested,” Dr Bartone said on Sunday.

“When he did have the test, he still not did need to be tested, and indeed … those guidelines still do not require that anyone returning from the USA to be tested.”

Victoria’s health minister Jenny Mikakos scolded Higgins, saying she was “flabbergasted” a doctor with flu-like symptoms had continued to treat patients. This has angered the medical profession and Dr Bartone wants the minister to apologise to Dr Higgins.

“I believe that an apology is appropriate in the circumstances,” Dr Bartone said.

“I believe you have taken a cheap opportunity for political grandstanding and would appreciate an apology,” Dr Higgins posted online.

Instead of apologising, Ms Mikakos said everyone has to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We understand the pressure they (healthcare system workers) can feel to turn up to work when they are feeling unwell,” she said in a statement on Sunday.

“All of us have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent the spread of this virus.”

It is understood Ms Mikakos has spoken with Dr Higgins but did not apologise.

War chest announced

The Morrison government has made an agreement with states and territories to bear the health costs of tackling the coronavirus on a 50/50 basis, which could end up costing $1 billion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a standalone arrangement, with $100 million put down upfront, and not linked to any other funding arrangements.

“This is about dealing with the coronavirus, and making sure that the states, as they are leaning forward and responding we are leaning forward and responding with them,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

The commonwealth will contribute $500 million while the states make up the rest.

“It could be more, but we at least have to enter into these arrangements having some sense of the scale of what we’re dealing with here,” Mr Morrison said.

Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said meetings are taking place with key health department officials on Friday, looking at vulnerable communities within Australia, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people with disability.

The government is also expected to announce a $10 Billion-dollar stimulus package to assuage the effect the virus is having on an already struggling Aussie economy.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus says the package must include provisions for the 3 million plus casual workers in retail, hospitality, health and aged care in Australia, who may lose work over ill health during the crisis.

Casual workers who need to self-isolate must be given paid sick leave McManus said.

In comparison to global outbreaks in recent memory, COVID-19 is causing more havoc, taking a human and economic toll, which Scott Morrison has compared to the GFC.

In a speech to Australian Financial Review conference in Sydney, Morrison urged employers to keep workers on in these tough times as they will need the workers again once the virus abates.

Business Council of Australia president Tim Reed says the government should provide temporary tax relief for small business, so they can retain staff

"If we can get businesses investing right now, they will come out stronger on the other side," he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

When COVID-19 emerged in China a few weeks ago, many economists envisioned something like what happened when SARS hit China and Hong Kong in 2003: A short-lived interruption of Chinese economic growth, one that left the global economy largely unscathed.

Yet the new virus has spread far faster and more widely than expected. Between November 2002 and early August 2003, SARS infected 7400 people in 32 countries and territories and killed 916.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development this week slashed its forecast for global growth for this year to 2.4 per cent from 2.9 per cent.

Stock markets plunged on Monday, shedding about $155 billion as a looming oil price war added to fears about the coronavirus.

Virus takes hold globally

Governments around the world are becoming increasingly desperate to control spread of the virus and today, Italy has taken the extraordinary step of locking down the entire country. An originally planned exclusion zone including the Lombardy region – a quarter of the population – has been changed as the outbreak worsens and now 60 million Italians have been asked to stay home.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says a new government decree will require people throughout the country of 60 million people to demonstrate a need to work, health conditions or other limited reasons to travel outside the areas where they live.

The restrictions will take effect on Tuesday and, like those already in place in northern Italy, will last until April 3, he said.

"There won't be just a red zone," Conte told reporters referring to the quarantine order he signed for a vast swathe of northern Italy with a population of 16 million over the weekend.

"There will be Italy" as a protected area, he said.

Italy registered 1,807 more confirmed cases as of Monday evening, for a national total of 9,172. With those numbers, Italy again overtook South Korea as the country with the most cases outside China. The number of people with the virus who died increased to 463.

  • The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has risen to 277, up from 209 a day earlier, and the biggest one-day increase so far.
  • More than 23,500 people in Britain have been tested for the virus, the government said.
  • So far, five patients who have tested positive for coronavirus have died in Britain.
  • Ireland has cancelled all St Patrick's Day parades to try to control the spread of the virus
  • Global oil prices suffered their worst percentage losses since 1991, and US stocks plunged so quickly after markets opened it triggered a 15-minute halt in trading
  • China reported 40 new cases of the virus, its lowest number since January 20
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