Teachers in Victoria are divided on the merits of returning to schools before the end of term two, but hope the past month of remote learning will trigger a shift towards more online teaching.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced this morning that students will begin to return to schools on May 26, beginning with students in prep, grades 1 and 2, year 11 and year 12. Students in all other year levels will return on June 9.
The announcement means all states and territories have now outlined a plan to return to classes in term two, after hastily vacating school buildings as the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the community rose in March.
Steven Kolber, a literacy specialist and English teacher at a state secondary school, said he was eager to get back to class, having observed a widening gap between his brightest and most disengaged students during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Secondary school teacher Maryanne Theodosis believes it would have been better for students if schools had pushed through with remote learning until the end of term two.
Most COVID-19 patients in NSW recover in just over two weeks, the state’s first comprehensive surveillance report shows.
The release of NSW Health’s first weekly COVID-19 surveillance report comes as the state recorded its first day with no new COVID-19 cases since February 29.
Among those who tested positive for the virus, more than half recovered within 16 days, the NSW Health report shows. Seventy-five per cent of cases recovered after 23 days and by the six-week mark 95 per cent had recovered.
The report also found that the older the patient, the longer the recovery time. On average, COVID-19 patients under 41 recovered five to seven days faster than patients over 70.
Half of people under 41 recovered in 14 days, compared to 17 days for those aged 41-70, and 19 days for people 71 and older. Seventy-five per cent of people aged under 41 recovered within 20 days, compared to 27 days for patients 71 and older.
NSW Health authorities assess recoveries by interviewing patients three weeks after the onset of their illness. Patients with no symptoms are considered recovered.
Fossil fuel lobbyists are calling for the government to relax environmental regulations due to the coronavirus, arguing the concessions are necessary to rebuild the post-pandemic economy.
Six peak industry bodies representing the mining sector this week made a joint submission calling on the federal government to streamline environmental regulations in an upcoming review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
“Pragmatic reforms to the EPBC Act will help reduce delays in project approvals, stimulate investment and fast-track the major projects needed for Australia’s speedy post-COVID recovery,” said Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable, advocating for changes that would reduce delays in assessment and approval processes of new projects.
A spokesman for Environment Minister Sussan Ley said expressions of interest over the review of the act would be considered, but the review was independent and no decisions had been made.
Former foreign minister Julie Bishop is urging Australia to do more quiet diplomacy behind the scenes to convince China to sign up to an independent global inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus.
Ms Bishop said Australia’s push for a global review also needed to include other countries’ handling of the global pandemic, including the United States and Europe, so it wasn’t squarely aimed at the initial outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Beijing has reacted angrily to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s push for a global review, threatening consumer boycotts and accusing Australia of being a “lapdog” for the United States.
Speaking at a virtual Lowy Institute event alongside former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans, Ms Ms Bishop said Australia now needed to conduct “some very calm and considered diplomacy” behind the scenes, rather than in the media spotlight.
Ms Bishop said she was “surprised” with China’s reaction to Australia’s push for virus probe, but the government needed to convince Beijing that the inquiry would also scrutinise other countries’ response to the virus.
“China is a permanent member of the [United Nations] Security Council, China has a unique responsibility as a permanent member to maintain international peace and security, and without a doubt this pandemic is a threat to international security,” she said.
“China should in fact be leading an inquiry into how this pandemic began.
“It is regrettable that [the call for an inquiry] has now descended into name calling and tensions and inflammatory rhetoric.”
Five COVID-19 patients in intensive care have died in a fire at a hospital in St Petersberg, according to Russian media reports, as the country’s medical system strains under the weight of the epidemic.
The fire started in the sixth floor of the hospital in an area set up to treat Covid-19 patients, and may have been caused by a ventilator short circuit, the Interfax news service reported, citing a person it didn’t identify. About 150 people were evacuated from the building, it said.
The local emergencies ministry reported later that the fire was extinguished. It was the second deadly blaze at a Russian hospital treating coronavirus patients in the last week, after one patient died at a Moscow clinic fire on May 9.
Police in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, have launched a criminal investigation into the fire.
It came as Russia passed the UK on Tuesday for the third-most coronavirus cases in the world with a total of 232,243.
It has among the lowest reported death rates from the disease, with 2,116 confirmed fatalities so far.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is refusing to repeat earlier support for frontline health care workers to be exempt from a public sector pay freeze.
Speaking in the NSW Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Perrottet said no decision had been made on the government’s wages policy.
The easing of the treasurer’s support comes amid a brewing stoush over the decision to give Police Commissioner Mick Fuller an $87,000 pay rise in March, as the Greens announced they would move a motion in the upper house to reverse the decision.
In April, Mr Perrottet said that he would recommend to cabinet that public servants forgo a 2.5 per cent pay rise this year, with the exception of frontline health care workers.
The treasurer, however, declined to repeat the assurance in Question Time on Tuesday, and instead drew a comparison with the private sector which he said was “staring down the barrel” of a recession.
In a tragic reminder of the dangers of spitting and coughing on others during this pandemic, a railway ticket office worker in the UK has died of coronavirus after being spat at while on duty.
Belly Mujinga, 47, was on the concourse of London’s Victoria station in March when a member of the public who said he had COVID-19 spat and coughed at her and a colleague. Within days of the assault, both women fell ill with the virus.
Ms Mujinga, who had underlying respiratory problems, was admitted to Barnet Hospital and put on a ventilator but died on April 5, said her trade union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association.
The union has reported the incident, and British Transport Police have launched an investigation.
The biggest collapse in overseas visitors and foreign student arrivals in the nation’s history is driving up the number of empty apartments and stoking fears for the long-term future of the tourism industry.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show just 307,500 foreign tourists arrived in the country in March, a 60 per cent drop on the year before and the worst monthly number since mid-1995.
The sharp fall is expected to be even worse in April. The full closure of Australia’s borders to non-citizens and non-residents only came into force on March 20 in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The forced 14-day isolation rules for those entering the country were introduced on March 16, following staggered bans over the month for countries such as South Korea and Italy.
The sharp decline in travellers has hit the residential rental market, with holiday homes typically leased through Airbnb being advertised for all tenants. The rise in available properties, combined with job losses in inner-city areas, has led to steep rises in vacancy rates across major capital cities.
Russia is racing up the ugly league table no nation wants to climb. On Tuesday, Russia reported 10,899 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours, bringing the nationwide total past that of Britain to 232,243.
This surge gave Russia the third highest total infections worldwide, after the US and Spain.
The country’s coronavirus response centre said the death toll from the virus rose by 107 people to 2,116.
Russia puts the continued daily rise in cases down to widespread testing, with the country carrying out more than 5.8 million tests.
Liberal and Labor politicians have launched bids to expand the $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy to help workers at companies owned by foreign governments.
The MPs pushed for changes to the federal government scheme on Tuesday out of concern the wage subsidy did not extend to companies such as dnata, an airport services group owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai.
Labor will try to disallow rules that prevent the wage subsidy going to dnata and others, but the move raises the risk that it would also extend payments to other state-owned enterprises, adding to the cost and complexity of the scheme.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly raised the case of dnata in the Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, citing it as an example of a restriction that should be fixed to help more workers in Australia.
Labor also called for changes to stop the JobKeeper scheme leading to pay increases for some who are receiving the full $1500 subsidy per fortnight even when they earned less than this before the coronavirus crisis.