Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 19 March.
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus has passed 200,000, with new infections across Europe increasing sharply: more than 1,000 in France in the past 24 hours and an additional 676 in England. The global death toll has risen above 8,000, with Italy approaching 3,000 after a jump of 475 deaths overnight – the largest daily increase in one location yet recorded. UN agencies have confirmed that refugees will no longer be able to be safely settled as travel restrictions freeze resettlement programs globally, while both Bangladesh and Burkino Faso have reported their first fatalities as the disease spreads across south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
In Australia, the Morrison government is finalising a second round of economic stimulus as the Reserve Bank contemplates a significant rate cut and quantitative easing from Thursday. Amid warnings of a “dire” downward spiral including job losses across the country the federal government has flagged income support measures as well as financial assistance to businesses. Labor has urged the federal government to introduce measures to support essential service workers including healthcare professionals should schools close, while with unemployment tipped to rise to 7% and household debt now at 186%, the only economic certainty from the fallout from the coronavirus is that it’s going to be brutal, Greg Jericho writes.
More than 250 million Europeans are in full or partial lockdown as Belgium and Germany join Italy, Spain and France in closing schools and most shops. In England, schools, colleges and nurseries are to join those in the rest of the UK in closing on Friday “until further notice”. As cases spread to all 50 states of the US, Donald Trump has announced the closure of the US-Canadian border to all “non-essential traffic” while pledging a $1tn fightback package in expectation of economic downturn. The International Labour Organisation has predicted nearly 25m jobs could be lost due to the pandemic, with optimistic assessments suggesting at least 5 million workers losing their positions.
Global supplies of Covid-19 testing kits are failing to meet demand but Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, has said the shortage of testing materials is only temporary. Graham Readfearn explains how the tests work, and how quickly you can expect a result.
The Victorian government has pledged $10m for a stolen generations redress fund, with Daniel Andrews saying: “It’s never too late to do the right thing.” The scheme will involve counselling services, a funeral or memorial fund, as well as payments for survivors.
The British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has not been released from jail in Iran, despite 85,000 prisoners being temporarily released amid fears the coronavirus could sweep through the nation’s overcrowded prisons.
The former Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion rejected a funding grant for an Aboriginal elders group in Tasmania on four occasions, despite his own department recommending that the group be supported. Its chairman, Clyde Mansell, says the group, which provides support to elders, including meals and transport, is “struggling to keep the doors open”.
New Zealand has passed a landmark bill to decriminalise abortion, with parliament confirming that the procedure would become a health matter not a criminal act. Previously, abortion had carried a jail term up to 14 years but that has changed after a four-decade campaign.
Joe Biden has moved closer to securing the Democratic presidential nomination, winning three key primaries in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, and building a nearly insurmountable lead of delegate votes. Calls have increased for his opponent, Bernie Sanders, to drop out to help the Democratic party unify and target Donald Trump.
The International Olympic Committee is facing increasing scrutiny over its ongoing plans to stage the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, despite the cancellation of major events including Euro 2020, Copa América and the French Open. Athletes and administrators have condemned the idea of proceeding as “insensitive and irresponsible”.
Katy Perry has won a $2.8m plagiarism suit against the Christian rapper Flame after a judge reversed a previous jury decision that the US No 1 hit Dark Horse had not plagiarised Perry’s song Joyful Noise.
If there is one cohort uniquely prepared for both working from home and going into isolation – it is writers. From Ernest Hemingway to Haruki Murakami, Brigid Delaney examines the habits of the great writers, to see how those who are new to working from home can pick up some handy tips. And, if being stuck inside all day gets a bit dull, these dogs working from home will cheer you right up.
It’s normally parents who worry about their children but in the age of the coronavirus that’s reversing. ‘“Mum is going to a reunion today,” my sister texted me. “And I’m annoyed,”’ writes Josephine Tovey. With reports of higher morbidity rates from Covid-19 among elderly people, the sometimes cavalier attitudes of our parents makes for an anxious role-reversal. “The younger adults I know who are embracing distancing and isolation are demanding to know about their baby boomer parents’ social activities. Who are they spending time with? Where are they going?”
The science of Covid-19. Right now, the medical community is racing to understand how coronavirus spreads and what it does to the body. In this episode of Full Story, Guardian Australia reporter Graham Readfearn and the specialist respiratory physician Tom Kotsimbos break down what it’s like to get Covid-19, and what emerging research tells us about this virus.
The AFL season gets under way tonight in unprecedented circumstances – Richmond play Carlton at an empty MCG, having been given the green light by the league, as the coronavirus continues to impact Australian sport. Follow every goal with our live blog from 7.20pm AEDT.
The remainder of the women’s competition has also been affected by the outbreak, with the final two rounds of the AFLW regular season cancelled and the competition to go straight into finals, starting this weekend. The new schedule will be released today.
And for something not-coronavirus related, check out these stunning pictures from the Nikon surf photography awards.
Sydney swimmers and fishers could be at risk from cancer-causing chemicals, with thousands of tonnes of toxic sludge to be dug up during the construction of the Western Harbour Tunnel, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Big banks could be pressed to offer loan repayment “holidays” to small and medium-sized firms facing collapse due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reports the Australian. And the Queensland parliament is eyeing a six-month suspension as the Palaszczuk government looks to focus on the threat from coronavirus, writes the Courier-Mail.
The Reserve Bank of Australia will make announcement on responding to the coronavirus pandemic today.
And if you’ve read this far …
He was a pianist who once jammed with Chuck Berry, BB King and Jerry Lewis, but for Daryl Davis a chance encounter changed his life’s purpose. Meet the black musician who befriended a Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard, and made it his life’s purpose to fight racism through re-education.
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- Substantial undocumented infection facilitates the rapid dissemination of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) – Science Magazine
- England coronavirus testing has not risen fast enough – science chief – The Guardian
- Coronavirus Tests Science’s Need for Speed Limits – The New York Times
- Trump Falsely Distorts New York Times COVID-19 Science Story – FactCheck.org
- This is the brightest supernova ever seen – Science Magazine
- Coronavirus Today: Science will save us – Los Angeles Times
- Italians stuck at home are measuring light pollution for ‘science on the balcony’ – TechCrunch
- ‘Oumuamua might be a shard of a broken planet – Science News
- College of Arts and Science converts thriving academic programs to departments – Vanderbilt University News