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In life before COVID-19, Anna Howard felt guilty when she made excuses to spend time alone to daydream, walk or sew. The rules of lockdown, though, gave Ms Howard permission to escape the burden of obligations, the weight of things she “ought” and “should” be doing.
Ms Howard, who lives in Sydney’s upper north shore suburb of St Ives, said she was a “little sad” that the COVID cocoon was ending.
“For some people, [the lockdown] has been a lovely experience,” said psychologist Michelle Roberts of Barrington Centre in Melbourne.
Ms Roberts, who specialises in trauma, loss and grief, said she’d enjoyed living in a small village, working from home, and only venturing out to patronise local businesses. “Our world shrunk because the big world became unpredictable. When people are dealing with uncertainty and change, they become more introspective and bond more closely,” Ms Roberts said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has worked non-stop since the novel coronavirus emerged, informing its 194 member states of its evolution and providing technical advice, its director-general said on Friday.
“WHO has worked day and night to coordinate the global response at all three levels of the organisation, providing technical advice, catalysing political solidarity, mobilising resources, coordinating resources and much more,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the WHO Executive Board.
“So far almost $US800 million ($1.22 billion) has been pledged or received towards WHO’s appeal for COVID-19 programmes, leaving a gap of just over $US900 million ($1.38 billion),” Tedros told the 34-member board holding a virtual three-hour session.
A second rating’s agency has put Australia’s triple A credit rating – which has sustained a record 28 years – on negative outlook.
It’s raised fears about the size of household and government debt as signs grow the federal budget deficit will approach $75 billion.
Fitch Ratings joined S&P Global in warning of the growing risks to the nation’s credit rating, saying it expects Australian GDP to contract by 5 per cent this year before rebounding by 4.8 per cent in 2021.
The agency expects gross general government debt, currently at 41.9 per cent of GDP, to climb to 58.2 per cent of GDP or more than $1.1 trillion.
Of the world’s three major credit agencies, Moody’s has maintained its AAA rating for Australia with a stable outlook.
Russia’s central bank has room to cut interest rates, with the effect of temporary pro-inflationary factors proving more modest than forecast, Governor Elvira Nabiullina said on Friday.
Nabiullina said earlier this month that the central bank would consider a 100 basis point cut at its next rate-setting meeting on June 19 to limit the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nabiullina echoed comments by finance minister Anton Siluanov on Thursday in saying that there were no plans to amend the current fiscal rule, a tool which allows it to build up a rainy-day fund and maintain macroeconomic stability during periods of low oil prices.
British researchers testing an experimental vaccine against the new coronavirus are moving into advanced studies and aim to immunise more than 10,000 people to determine if the shot works.
Last month, scientists at Oxford University began immunising more than 1,000 volunteers with their vaccine candidate in a preliminary trial designed to test the shot’s safety. On Friday, the scientists announced they now aim to vaccinate 10,260 people across Britain, including older people and children.
If all goes smoothly, the scientists predicted there might be enough positive data about the vaccine’s effectiveness to move forward with mass production relatively soon.
“If the vaccine is shown to work in the months ahead and it’s possible that if there’s enough transmission, that could happen in a relatively short period of time,” said Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group.
“It’s possible as early as the autumn or towards the end of the year, you could have results that allowed use of the vaccine on a wider scale.”
But Pollard acknowledged there were still many challenges ahead, including how long it will take to prove the vaccine works, particularly since transmission has dropped significantly in Britain, in addition to any potential manufacturing complications.
He was unable to provide any initial data from the earlier trial, explaining that the trial was designed to be blinded, meaning the researchers don’t know which volunteers have received the experimental vaccine; those results are shared with a safety and monitoring oversight board. So far, there have not been any indications of worrying side effects.
When the vaccine was tested in monkeys, researchers found it protected them against pneumonia, suggesting that it could help to prevent severe disease in people, Pollard said. He said it was still an open question whether it could make a dent in how the disease is spread between people.
About a dozen different experimental vaccines are in early stages of human testing or poised to start, mostly in China, the U.S. and Europe, with dozens more in earlier stages of development.
Australians will be promised a mammoth investment plan to prevent the coronavirus crisis leaving the nation with a “lost generation” of young people, as the Greens demand more help for those being thrown out of work.
Greens leader Adam Bandt will call for a national push for full employment by pouring money into “nation-building and planet-saving” projects that can be funded in part by repealing income tax cuts for wealthier workers.
In a major speech to party members, Mr Bandt will warn the pandemic is inflicting the greatest economic harm on younger Australians who may struggle to get back into the workforce when and if the recovery comes.
“The history of recessions show us that young people get hit the hardest and for the longest and they are often forgotten about,” he says.
The South Australian government has bowed to pressure and further eased coronavirus restrictions after admitting to causing confusion across the hospitality industry.
New measures came into force on Friday allowing some cafes and restaurants to serve up to 10 patrons indoors as well as 10 outdoors.
But many venues were unsure if the new rules applied to them, with distinctions made according to the type of liquor licence in place.
Premier Steven Marshall conceded this had caused issues for some businesses, and the government had acted to simplify the rules.
“To clear up that confusion we are happy to provide a further relaxation of the arrangements in South Australia,” he said.
“Effective immediately, any establishment with indoor dining can avail themselves of the reduction in restrictions.”
The measures also allow pubs to open immediately, but still rule out front bar service with patrons having to be seated.
The Labor opposition said the government’s handling of the issue had caused more pain for businesses already hard hit by the pandemic.
“South Australians need clear, easily understandable communication about what is allowed to open and what is not,” opposition treasury spokesman Stephen Mullighan said.
“Instead, we’ve seen chaos, confusion and cancellations.”
The changes will remain in force until June 5, when SA will move to stage two, which is likely to result in larger numbers allowed in most venues.
Other businesses including cinemas, theatres and indoor gyms will also be free to open.
Authorities are finalising new provisions which will give individual businesses a role in deciding how they proceed, taking into account the risks involved and their proposed mitigation strategies to keep COVID-19 at bay.
South Australia again reported no new virus infections on Friday.
So far the state has had 439 confirmed cases but none are still considered active.
SA has only had one new coronavirus case over the past 30 days.
Mr Marshall said with the state doing well in containing the virus, the government was happy to trust the common sense approach taken by South Australians over recent months.
“We’ve done extraordinarily well by trusting the people of South Australia and again we’re happy to continue doing that,” he said.
“People have gone about their lives really sensibly, social distancing, making sure that they’ve got good hygiene.
“That has given us the confidence to open up more of our economy.”
Beijing is set to establish new national security agencies in Hong Kong as it attempts to wipe out protests in the Chinese territory.
Hong Kong’s opposition leaders reacted furiously to the surprise move revealed in a late night press conference on Thursday, warning it would be the “end of Hong Kong”, following the protests that engulfed the city throughout 2019.
The late-night move triggered swift reactions around the world. United States legislators are preparing a bipartisan bill to sanction Chinese officials who implement the laws and President Donald Trump threatened to address the issue “very strongly”.
The last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, said it was a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms”.
Netball NSW chief executive Carolyn Campbell is pleading with the state government to give community sports a timeline for restarting their seasons, warning that a failure to prepare will result in job losses.
Sports like rugby league, Australian Rules football, soccer and netball have been given permission to return to training this week, but most remain unaware of when their 2020 season resumes.
Ms Campbell said Netball NSW would only restart this year for a shortened season if they were given a date by the first week of June.