Staying informed is more important than ever as the situation unfolds with Covid-19. Stay tuned here for our live updates, and be sure to let us know what your business is doing to face this unprecedented challenge.

Covid-19 News Updates

WA border to VIC and NSW to open completely from 8 December

WA border to VIC and NSW to open completely from 8 December

The imposition of two weeks self-quarantine on arrival in Western Australia will no longer be in place for those travelling from Victoria and New South Wales from Tuesday 8 December.

Announced today by Premier Mark McGowan, both VIC and NSW will be classified as "very low risk" states, meaning travellers can enter WA without needing to quarantine for a fortnight from 12.01am next Tuesday.

The move comes after VIC went 28 days with no locally acquired cases of COVID-19 last Friday, with NSW expected to reach that milestone this coming Friday.

It brings the two states in line with other jurisdictions already classified as "very low risk" including the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.

"It has been a remarkable effort from Victoria, in particular given the position they were in just a few months ago," WA Premier McGowan said.

"It's an outstanding achievement unrivalled around the world.

"Western Australia's border controls have been highly effective in reducing the number of potential cases of COVID coming into WA."

Though travellers from NSW and VIC will no longer have to complete 14 days of self-quarantine on arrival, they will still be subject to a number of restrictions at the border.

These include arrivals undergoing a health screening and temperature test at the border, potentially completing a COVID-19 test if required by WA authorities, and completing a declaration that they do not have symptoms of the virus and detailing which jurisdictions they have been in.

As WA still has a hard border arrangement in place with South Australia, arrivals from NSW and VIC must not have been into SA for 14 days before arrival and must not have knowingly mixed with anyone from SA.

Travel into WA from SA remains prohibited until at least 11 December according to McGowan.

"The controlled interstate border is a careful and cautious approach. It faced its first test only the day after it came into effect due to the concerning outbreak in South Australia," McGowan said.

"I always said we would not hesitate to reinstate the hard border if the health advice recommended it, and that's what we did within hours in response to the situation in South Australia."

WA has also further eased restrictions today, with places of worship now exempt from the one person per two square metre rule.

WA recorded three new cases of COVID-19 today - all returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

It has been 233 days since WA last recorded a locally acquired case of COVID-19.

Updated at 12.33pm AEDT on 1 December 2020.

JobKeeper recipient numbers fall by two million

JobKeeper recipient numbers fall by two million

Green shoots of recovery can be seen in the Australian economy as the number of Australian businesses requesting an extension of wage subsidy JobKeeper fell below forecasts in October.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced preliminary data shows around 450,000 fewer businesses and around 2 million fewer employees qualified for JobKeeper in October than in September.

The data comes from a re-test of business eligibility for the second phase of the scheme, involving the processing of applications from around 500,000 entities covering more than 1.5 million employees or eligible business participants.

"These preliminary October JobKeeper figures suggest an improvement on the 2020-21 Budget assumption of 2.2 million recipients for the December quarter, with around 700,000 fewer employees/eligible business participants covered by the Payment in October due to their employer no longer meeting the required decline in turnover test," says Frydenberg.

"The lower-than-forecast take-up of the JobKeeper Payment extension in October is further evidence that Australia's recovery from this once-in-a-century pandemic is well underway.

The Federal Government made nearly $70 billion in payments for the 13 JobKeeper fortnights to 27 September 2020.

Treasurer Frydenberg highlights recent economic data shows outside Victoria employment has recovered to be less than one per cent below March levels, with some 650,000 jobs created in the past five months nationwide.

"The Reserve Bank of Australia has recently updated its forecast for the unemployment rate, which it now expects to peak at around 8 per cent, down from its earlier forecast of 10 per cent," he says.

"The effective unemployment rate decreased from 9.3 per cent in September to 7.4 per cent in October, with around 80 per cent of those who lost their job or stood down on zero hours now back at work.

"In Victoria, as restrictions have eased, the effective unemployment rate has fallen from 14 per cent to 10.5 per cent."

Updated at 11:20am AEDT on 30 November 2020.

Quarantine breach sparks new public health alerts for Adelaide businesses

Quarantine breach sparks new public health alerts for Adelaide businesses

A number of public health alerts have been issued for businesses like Big W, Kmart and Foodland in Adelaide after a positive COVID-19 case breached a quarantine order.

The man was a casual contact of a COVID-19 case and was ordered to self-quarantine, but he breached the direction and later tested positive for the virus.

As such SA Health has asked anyone who attended the below locations to seek testing immediately, even those without symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Big W Brickworks, South Rd, Torrensville - Sunday 22 November 12.15pm to 12.50pm
  • Flinders University Sturt Campus, Bedford Park - 13 November to 28 November
  • Foodland, The Parade, Norwood - Sunday 22 November 1.20pm to 2.00pm
  • Kmart, Anzac Hwy, Kurralta Park - Sunday 22 November 2.45pm to 3.10pm 

SA Health has established a new pop-up testing clinic near Brickworks in Torrensville.

The clinic, at the Thebarton Community Centre, will be upon from 8am to 8pm, and no bookings or referrals are needed.

SA recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, but there are still 17 active cases of the virus in the state.

Updated at 9.23am AEDT on 30 November 2020.

South Australia to ease COVID-19 restrictions from next Tuesday

South Australia to ease COVID-19 restrictions from next Tuesday

COVID-19 restrictions on venues and gatherings in South Australia will ease from next Tuesday 1 December with an aim to get the state back to "a sense of normality" by Christmas.

The changes will benefit hospitality and venue operators in the state with gathering caps increased, and will stay in place for two weeks so SA Health can monitor the situation.

On the same day all border restrictions with Victoria will be lifted, letting people cross into SA for the first time in months.

From 1 December patron caps on all general trade in licenced premises will be removed, conditional on individual premises deploying SA's new QR code check-in system.

However, the one person per four square metres rule will apply for all indoor activities in venues, and alcohol can only be consumed while seated.

The one person per two square metre rule will come back into play for outdoor spaces at venues, and consumption of alcohol while standing up will be permitted.

A total of 150 people will be allowed to attend funerals, weddings and private functions.

People will be allowed to drink standing up inside at private functions in venues, and dancing will be allowed at weddings.

Home gatherings sizes will remain capped at a maximum of ten people, and gatherings of more than 1,000 people and at nightclubs must have a COVID management plan in place.

Community sport will be able to resume, and masks will be required where physical distancing is not possible.

Internaitonal arrivals suspension extended

A suspension of international arrivals into SA has been extended by a further week until Monday 7 December, but the state's Premier Steven Marshall says he remains committed to the Federal Government's repatriation plan.

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 reported in SA today after a massive 12,322 tests were done yesterday.

"I want to thank every single person in the state for the outstanding effort and contribution," Premier Steven Marshall said.

"This is really a combined effort to do every single plausible thing we can to get back to a sense of normality by Christmas this year."

There are currently 31 cases linked to the Parafield outbreak which sent SA into lockdown for three days last week.

Further, there are just 23 active cases in SA, a reduction on yesterday after SA Health determined a number of infected people had recovered from COVID-19 and were no longer displaying any symptoms.

An air-conditioned pop-up testing clinic has been established at Adelaide's Showgrounds today as the state swelters through a heatwave.

Chief health officer Dr Nicola Spurrier has encouraged South Australians to come forward and get tested if they feel unwell.

"The one thing that every South Australian needs to do in the coming weeks, even if you have only mild respiratory symptoms, is go and get tested," she said.

"If you've already had a test and then a couple of weeks later you start to feel unwell again, go and get another test."

There have been 599 total cases reported in SA since the beginning of the pandemic.

Updated at 12.00pm AEDT on 27 November 2020.

Data from 45 countries show containing COVID vs saving the economy is a false dichotomy

Data from 45 countries show containing COVID vs saving the economy is a false dichotomy

There is no doubt the COVID-19 crisis has incurred widespread economic costs. There is understandable concern that stronger measures against the virus, from social distancing to full lockdowns, worsen its impact on economies.

As a result, there has been a tendency to consider the problem as a trade-off between health and economic costs.

This view, for example, has largely defined the approach of the US federal government. "I think we've learned that if you shut down the economy, you're going to create more damage," said US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in June, as the Trump administration resisted calls to decisively combat the nation's second COVID wave.

But the notion of a trade-off is not supported by data from countries around the world. If anything, the opposite may be true.

Data from 45 nations

Let's examine available data for 45 nations from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, using COVID-19 data and economic indicators.

The COVID-19 statistics we'll focus on are deaths per million of population. No single indicator is perfect, and these rates don't always reflect contextual factors that apply to specific countries, but this indicator allows us to draw a reasonably accurate global picture.

The economic indicators we'll examine are among those most widely used for overall evaluations of national economic performance. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is an index of national wealth. Exports and imports measure a country's international economic activity. Private consumption expenditure is an indicator of how an economy is travelling.

Effects on GDP per capita

Our first chart plots nations' deaths per million from COVID-19 against the percentage change in per capita GDP during the second quarter of 2020.

The size of each data point shows the scale of deaths per million as of June 30, using a logarithmic, or "log", scale a way to display a very wide range of values in compact graphical form.

Log(deaths per million) by percentage change in Q2 2020 GDP per capita.

If suppressing the virus, thereby leading to fewer deaths per million, resulted in worse national economic downturns, then the "slope" in figure 1 would be positive. But the opposite is true, with the overall correlation being -0.412.

The two outliers are China, in the upper-left corner, with a positive change in GDP per capita, and India at the bottom. China imposed successful hard lockdowns and containment procedures that meant economic effects were limited. India imposed an early hard lockdown but its measures since have been far less effective. Removing both from our data leaves a correlation of -0.464.

Exports and imports

Our second chart shows the relationship between deaths per million and percentage change in exports.

If there was a clear trade-off between containing the virus and enabling international trade, we would see a positive relationship between the changes in exports and death-rates. Instead, there appears to be no relationship.

Log(deaths per million) by percentage change in Q2 2020 exports.

Our third chart shows the relationship between deaths per million and percentage change in imports. As with exports, a trade-off would show in a positive relationship. But there is no evidence of such a relationship here either.

Log(deaths per million) by percentage change in Q2 2020 imports.

Consumer spending

Our fourth chart shows the relationship between deaths per million and percentage change in private consumption expenditure. This complements the picture we get from imports and exports, by tracking consumer spending as an indicator of internal economic activity.

Log(deaths per million) by percentage change in Q2 2020 private consumption.

Again, no positive relationship. Instead, the overall negative relationship suggests those countries that succeeded (at least temporarily) in suppressing the virus were better off economically than those countries adopting a more laissez-faire approach.

National wealth

As a postscript to this brief investigation, let's take a quick look at whether greater national wealth seems to have helped countries deal with the virus.

Our fifth and final chart plots cases per million (not deaths per million) against national GDP per capita.

Log(GDP per capita) by log(cases per million).

If wealthier countries were doing better at suppressing transmission, the relationship should be negative. Instead, the clusters by region suggest it's a combination of culture and politics driving the effectiveness of nations' responses (or lack thereof).

In fact, if we examine the largest cluster, of European countries (the green dots), the relationship between GDP per capita and case rates is positive (0.379) the opposite of what we would expect.

Read more: Vital Signs: the cost of lockdowns is nowhere near as big as we have been told

It's not a zero-sum game

The standard economic indicators reviewed here show, overall, countries that have contained the virus also tend to have had less severe economic impacts than those that haven't.

No one should be misled into believing there is zero-sum choice between saving lives and saving the economy. That is a false dichotomy.

If there is anything to be learned regarding how to deal with future pandemics, it is that rapidly containing the pandemic may well lessen its economic impact.The Conversation

Michael Smithson, Professor, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Queensland rolls out the welcome mat to Victoria

Queensland rolls out the welcome mat to Victoria

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced her state will finally be open to Victorians after the southern state went 28 days without community transmission of COVID-19.

The Queensland border was first completely closed to Victorians on 10 July on fears of an outbreak of COVID-19 that eventually resulted in Melbourne being locked down for months.

Speaking to ABC News Breakfast this morning Palaszczuk welcomed Victorians back to the Sunshine State for the Christmas period.

"I congratulate Daniel Andrews, their chief health officer, and all Victorians because this is just such fantastic news," she said on the program.

"So it means on the 1st of December Victorians can also come to Queensland and, of course, Queenslanders could go to Victoria as well."

The announcement comes one day after the Queensland Government announced those in Sydney would be allowed to cross the border north from 1 December.

Victoria again reported no new cases of COVID-19 and no active cases of the coronavirus in the state today.

The easing of border measures means Victorians will no longer need to complete 14 days of quarantine on arrival, unless they have recently been in a COVID-19 hotspot.

Border restrictions with South Australia are still being considered as the Parafield cluster remains a concern to Dr Young.

Updated at 9.18am AEDT on 25 November 2020.

Queensland to open to Sydneysiders on 1 December

Queensland to open to Sydneysiders on 1 December

Update: Since publication Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced Queensland will also reopen to Victorians from 1 December. Read more.

A long-awaited Queensland border opening to Sydney residents will soon be a reality after the State Government announced closures would be lifted from 1 December.

A 28-day streak without any unlinked cases in Greater Sydney gave the Sunshine State's chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young the confidence to make today's call, just in time for the busy Christmas period.

Following Queensland's opening to the rest of New South Wales on 1 November, the latest update means no visitors from the neighbouring state will need to complete two weeks of quarantine, unless of course they have been in a hostpot area recently.

"New South Wales, we welcome you to Queensland from the 1st of December. We know how tough this has been on families; this is a great day, it's exciting news, and it has met the requirements that Dr Young has set," Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

Victorians may be able to travel to QLD in December too, with a decision on that border to be made tomorrow morning.

"Tomorrow is the day that Victoria will meet that threshold as well, so I will update everybody again tomorrow morning," the Premier said.

"I've advised also Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews that if they reach that 28 days tomorrow, then they too will be open on the 1st of December.

"We're in contact with the airlines - we know how important it is that the airlines are able to plan. People are able to plan for their holidays as well, and Queensland is good to go. We absolutely want to see our tourism industry continue to flourish and prosper."

Border restrictions with South Australia are still being considered as the Parafield cluster remains a concern to Dr Young.

The QLD border has been closed to Sydney since 1 August when cases of community transmission began reappearing in the NSW capital, making it a COVID-19 hotspot in the eyes of QLD's authorities.

QLD reported just one new case of COVID-19 today - a person in hotel quarantine. It has been 70 days since QLD reported a locally acquired case of the coronavirus.

"We are seeing more and more cases in hotel quarantine, and that's to be expected as we see the case numbers elsewhere in the world continue to rise," Dr Young said.

"The important thing to recognise is that this virus is circulating throughout the world, that the case numbers are increasing - we're very safe here because of our international border restrictions, but it could happen at any time.

"It was so unexpected when they got that case in South Australia, and their hospital system down there is to be commended that they picked up that case so quickly to present it to one of their emergency departments."

In order for Queensland to have that first line of defence by tracing the virus successfully, Dr Young reiterated the need for the public to be tested if they have any symptom, no matter where in the state they may be.

"Please just come forward and get is wonderful to see the large numbers of Queenslanders still coming forward. That is so critical, because if you find the first case in an outbreak, we can get on top of it very quickly and not have to do all those close-downs that no none of us want to see."

Updated at 10.54am AEDT on 24 November 2020.

Victoria eases restrictions as state goes 24 days with no new cases

Victoria eases restrictions as state goes 24 days with no new cases

Capacity limits at venues have increased, community sport has returned, and masks are no longer mandatory outdoors after COVID-19 restrictions eased in Victoria overnight.

The easing of restrictions comes as Victoria goes 24 days with no new cases of COVID-19 this morning, giving the state's Premier confidence to push for a "normal" Christmas.

As such, from 11.59pm last night a number of COVID-19 restrictions eased in Victoria.

The number of visitors to one's home has increased from two to 15 per day. This can be split across different times (eg. ten for lunch and five for dinner) as long as the total never goes beyond 15.

Outdoor gatherings in a public place like parks or beaches can have up to 50 people in attendance.

Weddings are now allowed to have 150 people in attendance, with the same capacity number applying to funerals and other religious ceremonies indoors.

Small venues have seen density limits change to one person per two square metres, with capacity restrictions of up to 50 customers and mandatory QR code record keeping.

For larger venues the density limit will stay the same, but the capacity will increase to 150.

Cinemas, galleries and museums can now host up to 150 people indoors.

Contact and non-contact community club sport has resumed for adults and children, with limits of 150 people indoors with a group size of up to 20 and 500 people outdoors with groups of up to 50.

Masks are no longer mandatory when Victorians are outdoors however they will still be required on public transport and indoors where social distancing is not possible.

A phased return to the office for private sector employees will begin from 30 November where up to 25 per cent of staff can work onsite.

The state plans on easing restrictions further from 13 December, just in time for Christmas.

If case numbers remain as low as they have for the past month the government will permit gatherings of up to 30 at homes from 13 December, with babies under 12 months not counting toward the cap.

"Three months ago, Victoria had 4293 active cases. Today we have one. It's an incredible achievement," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

"Back then, the goal the hope was something a little more 'normal' for Christmas.

"Today, because of the efforts of every Victorian, that's exactly what we've been able to achieve."

Victoria recorded no new cases of COVID-19 today, with just one active case in the entire state.

The easing of restrictions also comes as New South Wales opens its borders to Victoria overnight.

Updated at 10.09am AEDT on 23 November 2020.

South Australia cuts lockdown short, restrictions to ease from midnight Saturday

South Australia cuts lockdown short, restrictions to ease from midnight Saturday

South Australia's lockdown was made on a "false premise" and has been cut short by three days after SA Health determined a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case had lied to authorities.

As such, from midnight on Saturday night the state will return to restrictions imposed earlier this week, meaning stay at home orders will be revoked and venues will be permitted to reopen.

The individual who mislead authorities was a close contact of the case who worked both at the Peppers medi-hotel and at the Woodville Pizza Bar, but it is not yet clear why they lied.

SA's Premier Steven Marshall said he was "fuming" that this could have happened. But today's announcement is positive for many businesses that will be permitted to reopen this weekend, while exercise will be allowed effective immediately within the family unit.

From midnight Saturday hospitality venues will be allowed to reopen with the one person per four square metre rule and a capacity of 100 people at a time.

Funerals will be allowed to have 50 mourners in attendance, weddings will be able to resume with up to 100 guests, but dancing and standing consumption of alcohol will be banned.

Private gatherings at venues will be capped at 50 people, while 10 people will be allowed to gather in private residences.

Masks will still be encouraged but not mandatory, gyms will be allowed to reopen from midnight on Saturday, and schools will return as normal from Monday morning.

The state will revert to restrictions in place before the Parafield COVID-19 outbreak from 1 December, the date SA intends to reopen borders to Victorians.

It comes as SA records three new cases of COVID-19 today, all in quarantine, but the state's chief health officer Dr Nicola Spurrier expects that number to rise over the coming days.

There are now 25 cases linked to the cluster, and SA Health has reported there are 44 suspected cases of COVID-19.

Additionally, there are 4,500 South Australians in quarantine for a full 14 days as they are close contacts of confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.

Dr Spurrier said she was pleased with the efforts of South Australians over the course of this week, but reiterates SA Health has a number of contacts to trace before restrictions are eased on Saturday.

"We are not out of the woods yet," she said.

"We still have a significant number of contacts and contacts of close contacts because we are doing that double ring-fencing or 'sandbagging' as it were around everybody who is a case."

According to SA's Police Commissioner Grant Stevens the state would not have gone into lockdown if the close contact of a COVID-19 had lied to authorities.

Stevens has denied the decision to place SA into total lockdown was an overreaction, as authorities erred on the side of caution based on the information available to them at the time.

"This person told us they went in and bought a pizza, and you can imagine the difference in the scenario that unfolds from that scenario compared to working several shifts alongside other people and engaging with other people...customers, delivery drivers," Stevens said.

"It changes the situation completely for us, and we now have to place significant efforts in to tie that up.

Stevens said SA now needed to move past this.

"We need to keep doing what we're doing so that we actually crush this particular cluster and get back to where we were before the 15th of November, and aim for the 1st of December where we see ourselves getting ready for Christmas and spending time with our families," he said.

The Police Commissioner said the individual will not be hit with a penalty as it is not an offence to lie to contact tracers.

Dr Spurrier said the state had brought in additional contact tracers to manage the evolving situation in SA, and would deploy the best of the best to get on top of the outbreak.

"One of the things that makes contact tracing interviews most sucessful is when we can develop trust between the person that's doing the interviewing and the person on the end of the phone," she said.

"The absolute majoruty, the vast majority of people that have provided information to us have done it, giving us as complete information as they possibly can and have trusted us with that information."

The news comes as the world has recorded 642,464 new cases of COVID-19 and 10,703 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Updated at 12.21pm AEDT on 20 November 2020.

Mesoblast, Novartis sign commercialisation deal for COVID-19 treatment

Mesoblast, Novartis sign commercialisation deal for COVID-19 treatment

Australian pharmaceutical company Mesoblast (ASX: MSB) has penned an exclusive worldwide licence and collaboration agreement with Novartis for the manufacture and commercialisation of proposed COVID-19 treatment remestemcel-L.

As part of the deal Switzerland-based Novartis will make a US$50 million (AUD$68.7 million) upfront payment to Mesoblast.

Following the initiation of a Phase 3 clinical trial, Novartis will fully fund the global clinical development of the drug.

In addition, Mesoblast may receive a total of US$505 million (AUD$694 million) pending achievement of pre-commercialisation milestones for remestemcel-L and a further US$750 million (AUD$1 billion) based on achieving certain sales milestones.

Mesoblast will retain full rights for the use of remestemcel-L for treatment of graft versus host disease.

Over the course of this year Mesoblast has been developing the drug for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) the principal cause of death for COVID-19 patients.

Mesoblast chief executive Dr Silviu Itescu said the partnership with Novatis will make remestemcel-L available for patients suffering from the condition.

"Our collaboration with Novartis will help ensure that remestemcel-L could become available to the many patients suffering from ARDS, the principal cause of mortality in COVID-19 infection," Dr Itescu said.

"This agreement is in line with our corporate strategy to collaborate and partner with world-leading major pharma companies in order to maximise market access for our innovative cellular medicines."

Remestemcel-L is currently being studied in COVID-19 related ARDS in an ongoing 300-patient Phase 3 study.

Novartis intends to initiate a Phase 3 study in non-COVID-related ARDS after the anticipated closing of the licence agreement and successful completion and outcome of the current study.

MSB shares rose by 12.5 per cer cent to $3.68 each during morning trading.

Updated at 10.53am AEDT on 20 November 2020.