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Coronavirus Live Updates: Victoria records 17 new cases, a dozen partygoers fined, COVID-19 hurts global firefighting

So this is what it looks like, when it all starts to fall apart.

The political consensus behind Victoria’s tough COVID-19 social distancing rules lies shattered by the hand grenades lobbed by opposition frontbencher Tim Smith at Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton via Twitter on Friday night.

Smith’s position is crystal clear: he thinks at least some of Sutton’s “independent” medical advice is dictated to him by Premier Daniel Andrews.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.Credit:Joe Armao

The Kew MP won’t accept a word the health officer says unless it’s accompanied by the scientific background work that underpins the advice.

Sutton’s position is not hard to understand either; it’s that Smith and his colleagues wouldn’t be questioning the need for a hard line on social distancing if they were amid the carnage the virus is wreaking on New York, London or Madrid.

The intervention by Smith and his friends on Friday and Saturday leaves Liberal leader Michael O’Brien looking awkward in his attempts to be the responsible opposition in a time of crisis.

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The beleaguered Ruby Princess cruise ship will likely remain at Port Kembla until late next week, with authorities yet to deem the vessel’s crew healthy enough to travel after more than 160 tested positive for coronavirus.

Despite the NSW Police chief last week saying he had “drawn a line in the sand” for the stricken ship to leave on Sunday, his colleague yesterday suggested the chances of that occurring were “remote” given the health of those left aboard.

Ruby Princess Cruise Ship docked in Port Kembla.

Ruby Princess Cruise Ship docked in Port Kembla. Credit:Louise Kennerley

Thirteen crew members of the Ruby Princess – which controversially sailed into Sydney Harbour last month laden with scores of passengers carrying COVID-19 – have now been taken off the ship for medical treatment.

A further 162 of the ship’s more than 1000 crew left on board have tested positive for coronavirus.

With almost all those left aboard the Ruby Princess having been tested for COVID-19, NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Karen Webb indicated on Saturday that authorities weren’t yet confident its crew were well enough to travel.

“I think the chance of it leaving tomorrow is remote … I wouldn’t like to speculate but certainly I would say it’s towards the end of next week but that’s just an estimate at this stage,” she said on Saturday.

“We are putting the health of the crew first.”

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UPDATED: Police have fined Western Bulldogs’ youngster Bailey Smith for breaching the stay at home restrictions in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus and given his teammate Billy Gowers a warning as the club continues to gather details surrounding Lachie Hunter’s car accident on Thursday evening.

In a statement on Saturday, Victoria Police confirmed that “a 23-year-old South Yarra man has been given a warning” and “a 19-year-old Malvern East man has been served by post with a fine for breaching the directions issued by the Chief Health Officer”. The fine for breaching COVID-19 restrictions is $1652.

The Bulldogs were taking a methodical approach to their investigation of the incident, liaising with the AFL’s integrity unit, and were not expecting to arrive at a conclusion on Saturday as they continued to discuss the situation internally.

The club is hoping to determine sanctions soon after the conclusion of their investigation, with the board – which now includes former ruckman Luke Darcy as a football director – needing to ratify their decision.

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Washington: President Donald Trump incited insurrection on Friday against the duly elected governors of the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia.

Just a day after issuing guidance for reopening America that clearly deferred decision-making to state officials – as it must under our constitutional order – the president undercut his own guidance by calling for criminal acts against the governors for not opening fast enough.

Hundreds of protesters gather outside the Minnesota Governor's official residence in St Paul.

Hundreds of protesters gather outside the Minnesota Governor’s official residence in St Paul.Credit:AP

Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” followed immediately by “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and then “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

This follows Wednesday’s demonstration in Michigan, in which armed protesters surrounded the state capitol building in Lansing chanting “Lock her up!” in reference to Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and “We will not comply,” in reference to her extension of the state’s coronavirus-related stay-at-home order.

“Liberate” – particularly when it’s declared by the chief executive of our republic – isn’t some sort of cheeky throwaway. Its definition is “to set at liberty,” specifically “to free (something, such as a country) from domination by a foreign power.”

We historically associate it with the armed defeat of hostile forces during war, such as the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control during World War II. Just over a year ago, Trump himself announced that “the United States has liberated all ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq.”

In that context, it’s not at all unreasonable to consider Trump’s tweets about “liberation” as at least tacit encouragement to citizens to take up arms against duly elected state officials of the party opposite his own, in response to sometimes unpopular but legally issued stay-at-home orders.

Washington Post

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NSW Police have charged four people under the public health act and issued 19 coronavirus-related penalty infringement notices for offences within the past 24 hours.

In once instance, police attended Dawson Mall in Mount Druitt and spoke to five people drinking alcohol. Four of them were issued warnings while a 28-year-old man was issued a $1000 fine after previously being warned by police.

Officers returned to the mall almost three hours later and found a 29-year-old man drinking alcohol. He was issued a $1000 fine after previously being warned.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Karen Webb said police were working around the clock to identify people who breaking the public health order and directions.

“People are continuing to flout the rules, unfortunately,” she said. “Police give warnings were appropriate but what we have found is that people who have already been warned a number of times are now being detected and they will be and will continue to be fined until they get the message.”

“We are also seeing, because there are fewer people on the roads, that there some very high speeds being detected.

“That is not acceptable.”

Quarantine measures introduced by the league to enable training and AFL games to restart with government approval will become “the bible” for players and officials to follow in 2020, according to AFL CEO Gill McLachlan.

The AFL is working on establishing an extensive set of protocols that will guide players and officials when they ramp up preparation for games to resume in stadiums without crowds.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan says they are working on a set of protocols for the game's return.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan says they are working on a set of protocols for the game’s return.Credit:Getty Images

McLachlan told Fox Footy on Saturday he had examined an initial document relating to quarantine measures that already ran to 15 pages as the AFL’s medical team, led by Dr Peter Harcourt, liaised with government, chief medical officers and international sports in order to take a proposal to the government.

“Resilience measures and the protocols being formed by government and the chief medical officers and others our team are talking to – including international sports – will form a set of protocols that will become the bible which will govern how all our players, officials and our game goes forward,” McLachlan said.

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The 68-year-old was in a bad way. He had COVID-19, and his heart was failing.

Then, amazingly, he recovered. After a few days recuperating, he tested negative to COVID-19.

A little over a week later, he took another test – which came back positive. Back he went to hospital.

Seven days later, tests showed he was negative. Then, four days later, he tested positive again. Back again to hospital.

Novel coronavirus (yellow) emerges from the surface of cells in a culture grown from a patient in the United States.

Novel coronavirus (yellow) emerges from the surface of cells in a culture grown from a patient in the United States. Credit:AP

The unnamed man, reported in a Chinese pre-peer-reviewed study on Wednesday, is among the first to be diagnosed with COVID-19 three separate times. But many other patients have cleared the virus, only to later test positive again.

This has raised concerns among many about the risk of getting reinfected with the dangerous virus – and bigger questions about what it would mean for the development of a vaccine if we did not get a strong and lasting immunity to the virus.

Becoming immune

Generally, when our immune system catches and kills a virus, it keeps a record – a bit like a fingerprint on a police database. As soon as that virus comes around again, the immune system recognises it and quickly kills it.

At least four coronaviruses circulate among humans, where they can cause symptoms associated with a common cold. When we encounter one, our immune systems catches and kill it, and we develop immunity.

But for reasons scientists have not yet unpicked, coronavirus immunity fades over time.

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Coronavirus restrictions have thrown the sharing of international crews and aircraft that proved vital during the summer bushfire crisis into doubt and disrupted some hazard reduction activities.

Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council chief executive Stuart Ellis said travel restrictions and social distancing requirements to curb the spread of the virus had complicated plans to send fire crews to the US.

Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada exchange hundreds of firefighters and operational workers as well as an international fleet of 150 public and privately owned water-bombing and spotter planes in their alternate summer seasons.

“Australia drew on 1000 overseas firefighters last summer … that number hasn’t been as high previously,” Mr Ellis said, adding the “prospect of Australia deploying the same resources to the US which we did in 2017 and 2018, I think that is pretty questionable right now”.

Mr Ellis stressed Australian authorities would do all they could to ensure local resources were available to assist in the US fire season, which is getting under way now.

“The US counterparts I have spoken to gave me a strong reassurance they are going to great lengths to protect their firefighters with social distancing and other measures when they come together to fight fires, but it’s unclear if America would have restrictions on requirements for self isolation,” he said.

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Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has called a Rio Tinto contractor who recently travelled to Bali and has now tested positive to COVID-19 “selfish and irresponsible”.

The worker was tested for virus antibodies by Rio Tinto prior to his return to work, and the test picked up that he had an infection.

Rio Tinto has started using pinprick virus tests for FIFO workers boarding flights to the Pilbara at Perth Airport.

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said the pinprick virus testing was not COVID-19 specific and was only used to determine whether workers needed to undergo further testing.

Rio Tinto identified eight people with antibodies, and the man was the only person positive for COVID-19, Mr McGowan said.

The Premier expressed disappointment and frustration with people who had continued to travel despite knowing about the pandemic.

“It was pretty selfish and irresponsible to have travelled to Bali…during the March period,” he said.

“The people who did that make me angry, that they now come home and cause these problems.”

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WA recorded three new cases overnight, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases up to 544.

The new cases included two people linked to the Artania cruise ship, which departed Fremantle today, and a Rio Tinto contractor who returned to Perth from Bali.

There are currently 149 active COVID-19 cases in WA hospitals, of which six remain in ICU.
Of WA’s 544 confirmed cases, 221 are linked to cruise ships.

So far 388 people have recovered in WA from the disease, including 11 overnight and 45 in the regions.

More than 26,000 people have tested negative for the disease in WA.

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