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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Donald Trump to halt US WHO payments as global COVID-19 cases surpass 1.9 million, Australian death toll stands at 63

A surfer at Manly Beach.

A surfer at Manly Beach.Credit:Nick Moir

A practically deserted Opera House forecourt on Wednesday.

A practically deserted Opera House forecourt on Wednesday.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Cronulla Beach is closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Cronulla Beach is closed due to the coronavirus lockdown. Credit:Rhett Wyman

A group of Coalition backbenchers has called for a review of Australia’s funding to the World Health Organisation following Donald Trump’s decision to halt US financial support to the global body over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma says Australia should join with other countries in reviewing the performance of the WHO.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma says Australia should join with other countries in reviewing the performance of the WHO.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The US President has announced a freeze on all payments to the WHO pending a review, accusing the United Nations offshoot of being too close to the Chinese government and “severely mis-managing and covering up” the threat.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday didn’t rule out reviewing the WHO’s performance once the pandemic was over, saying Australia did not rely on the world health body’s advice in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Australia shared some concerns about the WHO’s management of the crisis.

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A new database could be the key to determining in which suburbs the NSW government could relax its social distancing measures and where to exercise greater control to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The interactive dashboard created by University of Sydney researchers combines NSW Health and ABS data to identify the neighbourhoods most vulnerable to outbreaks: postcodes with a high proportion of people aged over 60, and socio-economically disadvantaged families.

The Sydney university database.

The Sydney university database.

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Strengthening the World Health Organization is one of the best investments, Germany’s foreign minister said on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump on Tuesday halted funding to the Geneva-based organisation.

Trump made the move over the WHO’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, drawing condemnation from infectious disease experts as the global death toll mounted.

“Apportioning blame doesn’t help. The virus knows no borders,” Heiko Maas said on Twitter.

“We have to work closely together against #COVID19. One of the best investments is to strengthen the @UN, especially the under-funded @WHO, for example for developing and distributing tests and vaccines.”

Reuters

Queensland’s peak business body has called on the state government to assure companies will not be hit with bigger payroll tax bills if they sign to the federal government’s JobKeeper scheme.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland says with the payment coming in higher than some employees’ wages, some businesses will have to pay higher payroll taxes when the state relief package lifts.

“This would be a direct disincentive for businesses not to take up the job saving, JobKeeper stimulus, causing further stress to employees and businesses alike,” the chamber’s general manager of advocacy and policy, Amanda Rohan, says in a statement.

“It could force employees who want to stay with their employer the unnecessary risk of going on the Centrelink JobSeeker program, which is in direct contrast to the federal government’s hibernation strategy.”

The wage subsidy of $1500 a fortnight for each eligible employee is intended to help businesses and not-for-profits keep workers on the payroll as turnover drops.

Ms Rohan said the government should not undo the “good work” already announced in their payroll relief package, which contained a two-month rebate on the taxes, a three-month freeze and further deferral period of six months.

“We urge the government not to … put businesses at risk of racking up a bigger than normal bill after the freeze is lifted,” she said.

While sport remains halted, for the most part, several of the world’s best footballers are getting together for a virtual tournament on the popular football video game, FIFA 20.

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold will participate in the 'Stay and Play Cup'.

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold will participate in the ‘Stay and Play Cup’.Credit:EA Sports

The tournament will be broadcast on ESPN or BeIn Sports across most of the world, as well as on YouTube and video game streaming site, Twitch.

Named the ‘Stay and Play Cup’, the matches will take place starting from Thursday April 16th, with the final on Monday April 20th.

The players involved include Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, Real Madrid youngster Vinicius Jr, and Chelsea captain Cezar Azpilicueta.

The Department of Health has today reported five new cases of COVID-19 overnight, bringing WA’s total to 532.

Three cases are cruise ship related, on from the Artania and two from the Costa Victoria.

The other case is a close contact of a confirmed case while the fifth is still under investigation.

There are currently 33 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Perth metro hospitals, 11 of whom are in ICU.

338 Western Australians have recovered from the disease and 24081 people have tested negative.

The company’s Chinese operation said it had closed a restaurant in Guangzhou for a half-day of diversity and inclusion training after an investigation confirmed social media reports and images of signs showing it was barring “black people”.

“We apologise unreservedly to the individual and our customers. The restaurant has been ordered to stop immediately such actions,” McDonald’s China said.

The episode underscores the complexity of Beijing’s challenge to manage the fallout from a disease first discovered in December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. China has dispatched medical supplies and shared expert advice to assist Africa, where Beijing’s fiscal and infrastructure support has long been a source of both praise and criticism.

In today’s episode of Please Explain, national editor Tory Maguire and deputy business editor Supratim Adhikari discuss the federal government’s plan to track the spread of coronavirus through your mobile phone.

The group president of Princess Cruises, the owner of the Ruby Princess, has said that the world “had a common enemy” with COVID-19 and would willingly participate in all government inquiries around the ship’s docking in Sydney.

“It is heartbreaking and distressing to know that coronavirus has had, and continues to have, such a terrible impact on so many people across the world, including some of our guests, crew members and their families. Our hearts and thoughts go out to everyone that has been affected,” group president of Princess Cruises Jan Swartz said.

“This commission of inquiry is an opportunity for all to learn from this tragic event. Princess welcomes the inquiry and appreciates the Premier’s statement of an independent inquiry that will leave no stone unturned.

“There are no doubt important lessons to be learned as we seek to understand how the virus works and continue to adapt to a world with COVID-19,” she said.

Ms Swartz said the cruise line was still working alongside NSW Health, Australian Border Force, the ABF’s contractor Aspen Medical and NSW Police while the Ruby Princess remained at Port Kembla.

“What happened on Ruby Princess reflected what was happening in the world,” she said. “Even at the time the ship left Sydney, international flights were coming to Australia, the borders were still open and major sporting events were still being played to packed stadiums.

“This was an unprecedented global situation and everyone involved was no doubt making the best decisions they could at the time.

“I want to acknowledge the many decent people involved at this operational level who remain committed to the care and wellbeing of our crew, including those who were seriously ill.

“This will be a difficult period for all involved but we have a shared responsibility, along with all of society, to learn from these events.”

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