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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Scott Morrison addresses South Korea travel ban as Sydney school closes due to infected student

One of Australia’s largest rice producers, SunRice, has warned the sharp spike in demand due to coronavirus-induced panic buying has left the company struggling to keep up, with purchasing levels “exceeding supply capability”.

A spokesperson for the company, which grows and packages rice in New South Wales, said coronavirus concerns had led to product shortages in recent days. Yesterday, Woolworths imposed a purchasing limit of one 2kg pack of rice per person.

SunRice chief executive Rob Gordon.

SunRice chief executive Rob Gordon.Credit:Louie Douvis

“The SunRice Group is producing stock as quickly as possible from its rice processing and packing facilities in the Riverina of NSW, however, demand for products is currently exceeding supply capability,” the spokesperson said.

“This temporary demand spike has exacerbated shortage of supply of Australian rice products which SunRice has already been experiencing as a consequence of ongoing drought conditions in the Riverina, and the impact of those conditions on Australian rice production.”

The company is looking to international sources to beef up its local supply, the spokesperson said and would continue to monitor the situation as it developed.

SunRice is a major exporter of food in Australia and is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. It produces popular varieties of rice including long-grain, jasmine, and Riviana basmati rice which is sold in bulk 5kg bags.

Unless people who live in regional or remote Australia have recently travelled to a coronavirus hot-spot, any cold symptoms are probably just that, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia says.

While people in remote indigenous communities and those with underlying conditions are at higher risk of complications, RDAA president Dr John Hall said at this stage the risk of COVID-19 to rural Australians was quite low.

“If you feel unwell and are coughing and sniffing, then the most likely outcome is that you just have a regular, but still unpleasant, cold or flu,” he said.

“If you have been working on your farm and seen no one but your family and your livestock or tractor – you really probably don’t have coronavirus,” he said.

Dr Hall repeated the message of chief medical officers that surgical masks should only be worn by people who are ill.

“The overuse of masks will mean supplies are not there when they are genuinely needed,” he said.

The Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand has cancelled its annual conference that was scheduled to start tomorrow in Sydney due to the potential risks of COVID-19.

Almost 1000 urologists and other medical specialists, nurses and allied healthcare workers were due to attend, as well as international speakers from Europe, Asia and North America.

USANZ President, Dr Stephen Mark said that with the evolution of information, particularly in the last 48 hours, the Board met again this morning to consider the situation.

“All risks were considered including community health, personal risk of healthcare workers, other individuals involved in the meeting and financial risk,” he said.

“The safety of every individual was paramount in reaching the decision.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith announced on Friday that hourly employees will continue to paid their regular wage during the COVID-19 lockdown, including cafe workers, shuttle drivers and other on-site vendors.

"We recognize the hardship that lost work can mean for hourly employees": Microsoft President Brad Smith

“We recognize the hardship that lost work can mean for hourly employees”: Microsoft President Brad SmithCredit:Alex Ellinghausen

“We recognise the hardship that lost work can mean for hourly employees,” he wrote on the company’s website.

“As a result, we’ve decided that Microsoft will continue to pay all our vendor hourly service providers their regular pay during this period of reduced service needs. This is independent of whether their full services are needed.”

Almost 3000 Queenslanders have been issued voluntary notices to self-isolate by health authorities since the global outbreak of novel coronavirus.

Queensland’s most senior health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said she had “no concerns” about people failing to comply with voluntary isolation in the state.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.Credit:AAP

A 20-year-old Chinese man became Brisbane’s first confirmed case of coronavirus after testing positive on Tuesday.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had “some concerns” about the veracity of overseas isolation, but it was a matter for the federal government to examine any quarantine loopholes.

Fifteen staff at Brisbane’s Mater Private Hospital were placed in quarantine after the student inadvertently exposed emergency department staff to the virus.

Public hospitals are limiting visitor numbers in a bid to keep patients free from coronavirus.

In a press conference earlier on Friday, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said she was asking visitors to be kept to one or two a day in order to minimise the risk.

“When you enter our facilities you’ll see a variety of options for hand washing, please take use of those,”: Dr Kerry Chant.

“When you enter our facilities you’ll see a variety of options for hand washing, please take use of those,”: Dr Kerry Chant.Credit:AAP

“This allows us to not have large numbers of people but it also allows staff and nursing staff to monitor visitors and prompt them if they haven’t washed their hands,” she said.

If people do want to visit hospital patients, they should first ensure they are not sick at all, and then make sure they wash their hands both before entering the ward and after they leave.

“When you enter our facilities you’ll see a variety of options for hand washing, please take use of those,” Dr Chant said.

It comes after visitors were banned from seeing people in Sydney Adventist Hospital’s maternity ward.

At Mater, maternity ward visitors were still welcome but the hospital has clear signage up saying people who have any flu-like symptoms should not enter, a hospital spokesman said.

St Vincent’s Hospital has also cut back on non-essential hospital visits from tour groups and schools, a spokesman for Catholic Health Australia said.

Adelaide-based x-ray developer Micro-X has seen a boom in sales on the back of the coronavirus outbreak, with the company telling the market yesterday it had seen an additional $1 million in sales thanks to COVID-19.

The demand is primarily coming from Asia and Europe, the company said, and is for the company’s flagship portable x-ray machine called Nano.

Chest x-rays are an essential part of detecting the severity of the coronavirus.

Chest x-rays are an essential part of detecting the severity of the coronavirus.Credit:Shutterstock

Shares have skyrocketed 25 per cent to 22 cents following the announcement.

“The orders do not specify the end customer use although it is understood that due to the size and urgency of the orders, some of these Nano units are to be deployed in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic,” the company said.

Chest x-rays are an essential part of detecting the severity of the coronavirus. Managing director Peter Rowland said he was pleased the company’s tech could be used to help detect the virus.

“With the alarming state of this growing epidemic, we are pleased that our Nano mobile X-ray units are being used to assist in diagnosis and management of this new respiratory virus,” he said.

Total sales for Micro-X’s third quarter now total $1.8 million, significantly higher than the $200,000 for the December quarter and nearly matching the $1.9 million in sales the company reported for the entire 2019 financial year.

The Mayor of Ryde, Jerome Laxale, said today that curfews would be lifted at the Top Ryde, Macquarie Centre, West Ryde, Eastwood and Marsfield Woolworths stores.

“We’ve all seen the empty shelves and we’ve all had a chuckle and scratched our heads, however there are people who are really impacted by our panic buying, namely those who live on fixed and low incomes do not have the luxury to throw an extra $100 at groceries,” he wrote on Facebook.

“Today I was contacted by Woolworths. They have informed me they have enough stock to restock shelves, but delivery curfews are restricting their ability to get that stock into the stores.”

After consulting with council staff, the curfews have been lifted for the next fortnight.

“These curfews exist for a reason. I’d ask for those impacted by the potential for extra noise to bear with us as we all adapt to this phenomenon,” Mr Laxale said.

In summary, here’s today’s coronavirus news so far:

  • A teenage boy who attends Epping Boys High contracted the virus. The school has been closed down for the day, and NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant on Friday confirmed that the boy’s mother is a healthcare worker at Ryde Hospital. His mother has not displayed any symptoms.
  • Four Australians are among the 3,000 people trapped on a cruise ship off the coast of California. The ship is in limbo because it had previously carried a man who has since died of coronavirus. Passengers still on the ship had been at sea with him.
  • Twenty eight staff and three patients at Canterbury Hospital have been exposed to the virus, after a nurse working at the hospital returned to work after a trip to Iran. She has since been diagnosed with the virus.
  • Another worker at the BaptistCare Dorothy Henderson Lodge, where at least one resident and one other aged care worked have been confirmed to have the disease, has been diagosed with coronavirus. A 95-year-old resident with respiratory symptoms died earlier this week, but tests have yet to establish whether or not she had coronavirus.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $1 billion joint funding deal to the states on Friday, wherein the federal government would provide $500 million and the states would provide the other $500 million.

Mainland China had 143 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Thursday, the country’s National Health Commission has reported, up from 139 cases a day earlier.

That brings the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,552.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China was 3,042 as of the end of Thursday, up by 30 from the previous day.

The central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 29 new deaths. In the provincial capital of Wuhan, 23 people died.

China said 53,726 people have been declared cured and released. Of those sent home, 27,354 were in Wuhan.

Reuters

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