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Covid-19 Updates: Live

United States President Donald Trump declares National Emergency.

United States President Donald Trump has declared a National Emergency and ordered every state to set up emergency operation centres, effective immediately.

The emergency orders will allow the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to waive applicable rules and regulations to give doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.


Peter Dutton diagnosed with Covid-19

The Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has been diagnosed with coronavirus Covid-19.

In a statement posted to Twitter Dutton announced that he tested positive to Covid-19 after waking up this morning with a temperature and a sore throat.

The Minister is currently in hospital but says he feels fine and will provide an update soon.

Read the statement below:

Elsewhere, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau has also tested positive to the virus. 

Updated at 6:02pm AEDT on 13 March 2020.


NBL and Swimming Australia take decisive action, but NRL opts to wait a week for restrictions

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s advice to avoid gatherings of 500 people or more starting Monday has been followed to the letter by the NRL, with games to proceed as normal this weekend but fans will not be allowed at matches starting next week.

The announcement is in contrast to a decision by Cricket Australia to hold matches this weekend with no fans in attendance.

The National Basketball League (NBL) has also taken a strict approach to its upcoming games.

“After consultation with local, state and federal authorities as well as our clubs, we have made a decision that the remainder of the Hungry Jack’s NBL Grand Final Series presented by MG between the Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats will be closed to the general public,” says NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman.

“The health and well-being of our players, staff, officials and fans is paramount. As a family sport we felt this was the only decision to make.

“We commend the Kings, Wildcats and their ownership groups for supporting this move despite being a difficult commercial decision for all concerned. But they were just as resolute as us in regard to prioritising the welfare of players, staff and everyone else concerned ahead of commercial considerations.”

Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell has also announced upcoming swimming championships in Perth that were due to take place later next month have been cancelled.

“We understand that there will be significant disappointment for our swimmers who have put in so much time and effort to be in peak condition for this event, but these are unprecedented times and the welfare and safety of our athletes, coaches, staff, technical officials, members and their families is paramount and at the centre of our decision-making,” says Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell.

“This is a constantly evolving situation and we are already seeing substantial and widespread event cancellations and postponements worldwide.

“We appreciate that there are families that have made or are needing to make travel arrangements to head to Perth, so we wanted to give them as much time as possible to amend these plans if possible and provide certainty.”

Updated at 5:59pm AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Cricket Australia takes steps against Covid-19 contagion

Cricket Australia has cancelled a South African women’s team tour of South Africa in response to the Covid-19 health threat, while it is also monitoring the situation regarding future future international matches.

For the Australian men’s team, the organisation has taken a leaf out of the Italian Serie A football league’s playbook by banning fans from Australia’s three-match Gillette One-Day International series against New Zealand.

The trans-Tasman contest will still go ahead as scheduled on March 13 and 15 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, as well as March 20 at Blundstone Arena.

All fans who purchased public tickets are eligible for a full refund and will be contacted directly by Ticketek.

Media with current accreditation will be admitted into the venues and a precautionary perimeter will be established around players and staff during media engagements.

The four remaining games of the Marsh Sheffield Shield will proceed as scheduled, and a decision will be made in due course regarding Australia’s three-match Twenty20 International tour of New Zealand, which are set to take place from March 24-29.

“We have taken strong action today in the face of an unprecedented public health issue,” says Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts.

“We believe this is the right decision to minimise the risk of public exposure to the coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic on Thursday.

“We understand that these changes to our schedule will impact many, but we hope our community will understand that the public health and safety issues caused by the coronavirus must take priority over sport at this time. This is not an issue specific to cricket.”

Updated at 5:40pm AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Sydney Royal Easter Show cancelled

Organisers of one of the country’s most longstanding events have heeded the government’s advice to avoid mass gatherings of 500 people or more.

As an event that has been running since 1823 and has never been interrupted since the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919, the 2020 Sydney Royal Easter Show has been cancelled.

The event’s organisers said the decision was “distressing and disappointing”.

“The safety and well-being of our patrons and visitors is paramount and out of precaution, and in consultation with NSW Health, The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW has decided this is the best course of action,” they said.

“We appreciate that the cancellation of the Show is a huge disappointment for our Show community, particularly exhibitors and visitors from rural and regional NSW who love attending the Show to catch up with friends and celebrate with us every year.

“We are implementing a number of measures to deal with ticket and entry fee refunds and will be in contact with ticket holders and exhibitors regarding this process within the next five working days.”

Another major event coming up is the Byron Bay Bluefest, due to take place from 9-13 April, but in light of the Prime Minister’s statements today organisers are awaiting an “official requirement” from Federal and State authorities on Monday before making a further update.

Updated at 5:18pm AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Coronavirus impacts Ardent Leisure guidance

Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure (ASX: ARG) has decided to withdraw its FY20 earnings for Main Event, a bowling-based entertainment business operating across 17 states in the US.

On 21 February, the company had lifted the revenue forecast for Main Event by half a percentage point to a range of 1.5-2.5 per cent, however uncertainty around Covid-19 has resulted in the reduction in attendance and revenue at its 43 US centres.

The impact of the outbreak is also now expected to continue for longer than initially anticipated.

“Both Main Event and Theme Parks are pursuing a range of mitigating actions in response to the downturn in guest attendance,” the company said.

“These include adjusting operating costs, deferring non-essential capital investment, and reviewing other non-critical business activities and discretionary expenses. The Theme Parks division will continue to focus marketing efforts on the domestic market in the short to medium term.”

The company says the uncertain nature and duration of COVID-19 means it is not possible to provide any further meaningful guidance on the impact to the group’s earnings for the rest of FY20.

“The Group will continue to monitor the preventative actions taken by governmental and regulatory bodies closely in markets that we operate in and their potential impact on the business in this rapidly evolving situation,” the company says.

Updated at 4:57pm AEDT on 13 March 2020.

All Australians need to reconsider overseas travel

The Government’s Smart Traveller page has advised all Australians to reconsider the need for any non-essential travel, regardless of their destination, age or health.

This represents an upgrade to Level 3 Travel Advice.

“This is a global advisory in light of the widespread nature of the COVID-19 outbreak and the significant measures in place to curb it,” the page advises.

“Individual country advisories may not yet display a ‘reconsider’ advice level. You should nevertheless reconsider your need to travel to all destinations.

“These country pages will be updated and remain an essential of source of information on country-specific risks and contact information.”

Smart Traveller also says Australians who are overseas and can’t or don’t want to return to Australia should follow the advice of local authorities.

The advice was made for two principal reasons:

  1. You may be more exposed to contracting COVID-19 while travelling overseas. You may come in contact with more people than usual, including during long-haul flights and in crowded airports. Health care systems in some countries will come under strain and may not be as well-equipped as Australia’s. If you’re sick, you may not have your normal support networks.

  2. Overseas travel has become more complex and unpredictable. Many countries are introducing entry or movement restrictions. These are changing often and quickly. Your travel plans may be disrupted. You may be placed in quarantine or denied entry to some countries, and you may need to self-quarantine on return to Australia. Think about what this might mean for your health, and your family, work or study responsibilities.

Contact your airline, travel agent or insurance company to discuss your travel plans and options for cancelling or postponing current bookings, or to arrange flights back to Australia.

Adelaide Airport has also just released its passenger numbers for February, and international travellers have been on the decline.

International passenger numbers through Adelaide Airport reduced by approximately 11 per cent in the month of February, and the Airport says the level of reduction has accelerated further into March.

Domestic passenger numbers reduced 0.5 per cent in February but further reductions have been forecast by Virgin and Qantas.

Updated at 4pm AEDT on 13 March.

PM recommends avoiding mass gatherings, but not until Monday

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has advised Australians to take precautionary measures by advising against attending mass gatherings from Monday.

The PM says the Government advises against organised, non-essential gatherings of 500 people or greater.

By non-essential gatherings the PM is not referring to places like university, school or airports.

Ultimately, the advice is just a recommendation, which Morrison describes as a “scalable response”.

“These are things that will be scaled up in the weeks ahead,” says Morrison.

“Parliament is essential, school is essential, going to work is essential.”

The PM has also urged Australians to reconsider the need to travel overseas at this time, irrespective of location.

“Only essential travel should be considered if you’re going overseas from this point forward,” says Morrison.

Fox Sports reports NRL clubs are due to hold a call at 4pm AEDT to prepare for a potential shutdown.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has confirmed the Brisbane Broncos vs North Queensland Cowboys will still go ahead tonight, and the Canberra Raiders vs Gold Coast Titans will also proceed as planned.

The AFL is also due to start next weekend, but the league now says “there’s a lot up in the air”.

“A decision on whether games will be played in front of no fans or whether the season will be postponed has not been made yet,” the AFL said in its latest update.

Despite a broad share market fall this morning, the All Ordinaries rebounded after the Prime Minister’s press conference and is now up 4 per cent.

Updated 3.30pm AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Government advised to ban mass gatherings

The Federal Government has reportedly been advised by the country’s chief medical officer that mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled.

The country’s leaders are currently considering that advice and a decision is yet to be made regarding a potential ban.

If enacted, mass gatherings like sporting events, concerts, and festivals could be completely shut down as Australia attempts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Updated at 12.59pm AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Download Festival Australia cancelled

Music festival Download has made the decision to cancel the event one week out from the Melbourne leg.

The organisers have made the “reluctant” decision to cancel the festival after headliner My Chemical Romance pulled out today.

“Given that this announcement has come barely 8 days prior to Download Australia we will not be able to secure an alternative headliner as there is insufficient time to secure visas and arrange the other relevant logistics that are required prior to the festival,” says Download.

“As we are unable to deliver a complete line-up to meet the standard that Download fans both expect and deserve, we have very reluctantly made the decision to cancel Download Australia 2020.”

Promoters are working with both My Chemical Romance and co-headliner Deftones to schedule separate shows in Australia in 2020.

All ticket purchasers will receive a full refund including booking and payment processing fees.

My Chemical Romance also released a statement regarding the band’s decision to pull out from its Australian and New Zealand tour. Read the statement below:

“To our dearest friends

It is with heavy hearts that we have decided to postpone our performances in Australia and New Zealand. We felt this was the right decision for our fans, our band, our crew, and our families given the current global situation. We apologize to our fans, but please know that we didn’t come to this decision lightly. Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to being with you all again as soon as we can.  In the meantime, please be good to each other.”  My Chemical Romance

Updated 10.53am AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Flight Centre guidance withdrawn, 100 stores to close

Flight Centre (ASX: FLT) shares were down 11 per cent at the time of writing after the travel agency suspended guidance due to coronavirus uncertainty.

The company had previously forecast underlying profit before tax (PBT) between $240-$300 million.

Although total transaction value (TTV) is in line with trends for the half, the virus’s spread and the subsequent increase in travel restrictions have made it more difficult to predict the full-year impact or a timeframe for recovery.

The announcements coincided with Flight Centre’s (ASX: FLT) decision to close 100 underperforming stores, with plans to transfer transactions and staff to other shops while investing in new models.

Managing director Graham Turner says Flight Centre will draw on its experiences with SARS in 2003 and during the Global Financial Crisis in 2009 by seeking to stimulate demand, while also implementing sensible cost reduction strategies to maintain its balance sheet strength.

“While people are still booking travel in February, our TTV actually increased slightly globally compared to the same month last year we are now seeing significant softening and expect this to continue into April at least,” says Turner.

“Within this uncertain environment, our priorities are to reduce costs, while also ensuring that we and our people are ready to capitalise when the steep discounting that is underway across most travel categories starts to gain traction and as the trading cycle rebounds.

“As we saw with both SARS and the GFC in Australia, the rebound can be relatively fast and strong after a fairly significant downturn in international travel.”

Updated 10.50am AEDT on 13 March 2020

Australian Grand Prix cancelled

The Australian Grand Prix scheduled to run this weekend in Melbourne will no longer go ahead because of coronavirus concerns.

The cancellation of the annual event follows confirmation that a driver from the McLaren Racing Team tested positive for Covid-19 according to a statement issued by F1, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.

“Following the confirmation that a member of the McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for COVID-19 and the team’s decision to withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix, Formula 1 and the FIA convened a meeting of the other nine team principals on Thursday evening,” says the trio.

“Those discussions concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead.”

“We appreciate this is very disappointing news for the thousands of fans due to attend the race and all ticket holders will receive a full refund and a further announcement will be communicated in due course.”

F1 says the decision was made to ensure the safety and health of drivers, crews, attendees and the wider community.

Updated at 10:40am AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Apollo and Corporate Travel Management suspend guidance

Apollo Tourism & Leisure (ASX: ATL) and Corporate Travel Management (ASX: CTD) have joined Webjet (ASX: WEB) and Helloworld (ASX: HLO) in suspending profit guidance for FY20, as the coronavirus continues to take its toll on the travel sector.

Motorhome company Apollo was previously expecting a similar profit result to its FY19 figure of $14.7 million, but the US Government’s ban on European flights for 30 days has thrown a spanner in the works of North American RV travel; a major source of its revenue.

The group notes there is a risk the ban could be extended and there could be further border closures.

With Europeans making up a significant portion of Apollo’s USA guests, Apollo expects cancellations to materially increase for USA travel over the next 30 days, although the USA high season is not until June to September.

While Apollo has, as expected, experienced softness in booking intake and a small increase in cancellations over recent weeks, it now anticipates cancellations to be more significant and booking intake may also be impacted.

Apollo is taking steps across the global business to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and is working with guests who need to cancel or postpone their journeys.

“In the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak we are carefully reviewing operating and capex spend as well as fleet lifecycles across the globe,” says Apollo managing director and CEO Luke Trouchet.

Meanwhile, Corporate Travel Management (ASX: CTD) has withdrawn its guidance as well.

In February the company said it was tracking at the lower end of its previously issued full-year guidance of between $165-175 million, and copped flak from short seller VGI Partners which claimed it blamed poor performance on the coronavirus.

Corporate Travel Management says the impact being felt now is worse than previous assumptions due to further actions from governments to close numerous borders and suspend travel to and from countries and regions.

At the same time, some companies are also deciding to ban or limit travel, leading to “flow-on erosion in client activity across all regions”.

“CTM has actioned several plans to manage costs against the reduced corporate travel activity, including staff leave, shorter working weeks on proportionate pay and leave without pay, which apply across the executive team and all of our staff,” the company said.

“Additional measures include a freeze on all non-essential recruitment, reduction of all discretionary expenditure and delaying non-client facing project work.

Non-executive directors and the Managing Director will take a 20% reduction in their fees and fixed remuneration respectively for the remainder of this financial year.”

ATL and CTD shares were down 18.42 per cent and 4.19 per cent respectively in morning trading. 

Updated at 10:38am AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Virgin reduces capacity further

Virgin Australia (ASX: VAH) will cut its flight capacity in line with the deterioration of the global travel industry due to the spread of Covid-19.

Across the group, domestic capacity will be cut by five per cent for 2H20 which will increase to 6.2 per cent in 1H21.

While the airline is primarily an Australian domestic service, the group says it has observed increasing weakness in international forward bookings.

As a result, Virgin will reduce international capacity by eight per cent in 2H20 to meet expected demand.

Key changes are:

  • Reducing the daily Brisbane to Haneda service to three times per week from 29 March until 3 May.

  • Reducing the daily Sydney to LA service to five times per week from early May to early June.

  • Further reducing Trans-Tasman services from a 2.6 per cent reduction to a six per cent reduction for 2H20, including the strategic reduction of frequencies on Auckland-Melbourne to daily from May and a temporary reduction on Auckland-Sydney services.

Additionally, Virgin will exit the Auckland-Tonga service on 1 May and the Auckland-Rarotonga on 21 July.

Click here for a more in-depth story on Virgin’s capacity reduction.

Updated 10.15am AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Brisbane Greek festival cancelled

Brisbane’s Paniyiri Greek Festival announced overnight that it has cancelled the 2020 edition of the beloved cultural event scheduled to take place on May 23 and 24.

“After close consultation with the World Health Organization, Queensland State Government and Queensland Health, the decision has been made to cancel the 2020 event for the safety of everyone involved,” said Paniyiri Greek Festival on Facebook.

“We take the health of our community very seriously and are doing all we can to minimise the risk of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this has meant having to cancel our beloved Paniyiri for the first time in 44 years. We share in the disappointment that is being experienced.”

Updated 9.46am AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Queensland confirms four new cases

Four new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Queensland overnight.

Speaking to the ABC Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk said there are now 31 cases in Queensland, four more than confirmed on late Thursday.

Palaszczuk says the cases are confined to the south-east corner of the state.

Updated 9.43am AEDT on 13 March 2020.

Brisbane Airport numbers fared relatively well in February

The impact of a travel ban from China appears to have been less pronounced at Brisbane Airport than in Sydney or Melbourne during February, with the latest numbers showing a 7.7 decrease in international passengers.

This compares to a 17 per cent drop for Melbourne Airport and a 16.8 per cent fall in international passengers for Sydney Airport (ASX: SYD).

Brisbane Airport reports it had 34,000 fewer people flying internationally compared to the same period last year, and 19,000 fewer domestic passengers passing through representing a decline of 1.5 per cent.

Melbourne Airport had a 5.2 per cent decline in domestic travellers, while Sydney Airport’s numbers fell by 4.5 per cent.

For the first nine days of March, provisional data shows Sydney has witnessed a 25 per cent reduction in international passenger traffic and a 6 per cent decrease domestically.

Chinese nationals, who were previously the second-largest traveller group to pass through Sydney Airport, fell to fifth place behind Australians, Americans, New Zealanders and Brits. 

The latest data from Brisbane Airport shows the downturn in March is expected to be more significant.

“For the first week of March, international passengers are already down 16.3 per cent compared to the same period last year, while domestic passengers are down 1.8 per cent,” a spokesperson said.

“Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) continues to monitor the situation very closely. With the situation changing daily, it is possible more flight reductions are to come, as the coronavirus spread globally.

“BAC is working closely with our airlines, government and industry on future impacts and recovery plans.”

Updated at 5pm AEDT on 12 March 2020.

Nine cordons off parts of HQ after Covid-19 case

Nine has closed off part of its Sydney headquarters in Willoughby after a Today studio guest was diagnosed with Covid-19.

The decision was made after it was revealed US actor Rita Wilson, who appeared as a guest earlier this week, had contracted the virus along with her husband Tom Hanks.

“Nine today has taken action in line with our crisis response plan around a visit to our studio by Ms Rita Wilson on Monday this week, for an appearance on Today Extra with David Campbell and Belinda Russell,” a Nine spokesperson said.

“Our actions are in line with the guidelines set out by the Government and Health Authorities. Those who were in prolonged contact with Ms Wilson have been tested and are self-isolating for 14 days.”

The premises are currently being thoroughly cleaned in all areas Wilson visited, and all employees have been encouraged to monitor their health and practise good hygiene.

“Tracy Grimshaw is not hosting ACA tonight as a precautionary measure since she had minor surgery last week.  Karl Stefanovic will host in her place,” the spokesperson said.

“Arrangements for hosts for Today Extra are still being confirmed.”

Updated at 4:30pm AEDT on 12 March 2020.

ATO to provide assistance to business affected by Covid-19

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has announced it will implement administrative measures designed to assist Australians and businesses experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan says businesses impacted by the coronavirus should contact the ATO to discuss relief options.

Options available to businesses impacted by Covid-19 include:

  • Deferring by up to four months the payment date of amounts due through the business activity statement (including PAYG instalments), income tax assessments, fringe benefits tax assessments and excise

  • Allow businesses on a quarterly reporting cycle to opt into monthly GST reporting in order to get quicker access to GST refunds they may be entitled to

  • Allowing businesses to vary Pay As You Go (PAYG) instalment amounts to zero for the April 2020 quarter. Businesses that vary their PAYG instalment to zero can also claim a refund for any instalments made for the September 2019 and December 2019 quarters

  • Remitting any interest and penalties, incurred on or after 23 January 2020, that have been applied to tax liabilities

  • Working with affected businesses to help them pay their existing and ongoing tax liabilities by allowing them to enter into low interest payment plans.

The ATO will also work with individuals experiencing financial hardship and will apply tax relief measures for serious and exceptional circumstances, such as where people cannot pay for food or accommodation.

Those impacted by Covid-19 are advised to contact the ATO to request assistance on 1800 806 218.

Updated at 4.20pm AEDT on 12 March 2020

Covid-19 travel ban extended

The Morrison Government has extended its coronavirus travel ban by an extra week following the WHO’s classification of Covid-19 as a pandemic.

As reported by the ABC, foreign nationals who have been in Italy, South Korea, China or Iran will not be allowed into Australia for 14 days from the time they left those countries.

Citizens and permanent residents will be able to enter Australia from those countries on the condition that they self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.

The ABC reports the Prime Minister has asked health officials to consider extending the travel ban to all travellers from Europe.

The extension follows US President Donald Trump’s announcement that all foreign nationals travelling from Europe will not be able to enter the country for 30 days.

American citizens are exempt from restrictions but will be directed to a limited number of airports where screening for Covid-19 can take place.

Updated at 3.50pm AEDT on 12 March 2020

PM announces business support package

The Morrison Government today announced a $17.6 billion economic plan to assist Australian businesses and individuals as Covid-19 hits the economy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the economic stimulus package will assist up to 6.5 million Australians and 3.5 million businesses.

“Our plan will back Australian households with a stimulus payment to boost growth, bolster domestic confidence and consumption, reduce cash flow pressures for businesses and support new investments to lift productivity,” says Morrison.

“Australia is not immune to the global coronavirus challenge but we have already taken steps to prepare for this looming international economic crisis.”

Delivering support for business investment

  • $700 million to increase the instant asset write off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expand access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020. For example, assets that may be able to be immediately written off are a concrete tank for a builder, a tractor for a farming business, and a truck for a delivery business.

  • $3.2 billion to back business investment by providing a time limited 15 month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions. Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct an additional 50 per cent of the asset cost in the year of purchase.

“These measures start today and will support over 3.5 million businesses (over 99 per cent of businesses) employing more than 9.7 million employees or 3 in every 4 workers,” says the Morrison Government.

“The measures are designed to support business sticking with investment they had planned, and encouraging them to bring investment forward to support economic growth over the short term.”

Cash flow assistance for businesses

  • $6.7 billion to Boost Cash Flow for Employers by up to $25,000 with a minimum payment of $2,000 for eligible small and medium-sized businesses. The payment will provide cash flow support to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million that employ staff, between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020. The payment will be tax free. This measure will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people. Businesses will receive payments of 50 per cent of their Business Activity Statements or Instalment Activity Statement from 28 April with refunds to then be paid within 14 days.

  • $1.3 billion to support small businesses to support the jobs of around 120,000 apprentices and trainees. Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for up to 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to a new employer that employs that apprentice.

Updated at 2.45pm AEDT on 12 March 2020.

Tom Hanks contracts Covid-19, Baz Luhrman’s film production cancelled

Hollywood actor Tom Hanks told the world today that he and his wife Rita have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches. Rita had some chills and that came and went. Slight fevers too,” he said on Twitter and Instagram.

“To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive.”

Hanks has been on the Gold Coast filming Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic.

Sources close to the production claim it has been cancelled and will not resume until further notice.

Updated at 1:15pm AEDT on 12 March 2020.

US suspends travel from Europe

US President Donald Trump has announced a 30-day travel ban from Europe to the United States for foreign nationals, but the BBC reports his “strong but necessary” restrictions will not apply to the UK.

“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” Trump was quoted as saying.

“The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight.”

The restriction applkies to foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen Area, 26 countries in Europe with open border agreements, in the last 14 days.

American citizens are exempt from restrictions but will be directed to a limited number of airports where screening for Covid-19 can take place.

The New York Times reports Trump mentioned health insurance companies had agreed to extend insurance coverage to cover coronavirus treatments and waive related co-payments.

Trump has also announced an economic assistance package to support businesses and workers who have been impacted by the coronavirus.

The package includes a loan program to businesses affected by Covid-19, and the President has instructed the Department of Treasury to defer tax payments for certain individuals and businesses. 

The announcement was made after the WHO declared a pandemic for the virus

Updated at 12:30pm AEDT on 12 March 2020.

Melbourne Airport figures show sharp drop in passenger numbers

Melbourne Airport has attributed a 17 per cent drop in international passenger numbers for February to the unprecedented bushfire season and the early stages of the global COVID-19 health emergency.

Around 150,000 fewer travellers flew internationally than during the same month of 2019, with the reduction sparked by travel bans put in place for mainland China as well as similar travel restrictions enacted by other countries.

Domestic traffic declined 5.2 per cent year-on-year.

Melbourne Airport chief executive Lyell Strambi forecasts ongoing challenges as the global aviation industry adapts to the constantly changing status of the COVID-19 epidemic.

“These are unprecedented circumstances buffeting our customers, and we are keenly aware that all our airline customers are hurting as a result of diminished passenger demand,” says Strambi.

“That’s why we are working with every single airline to understand how we can best support them at this time.

“February’s drop in passenger numbers was significant, but we expect that to be amplified even further in March and possibly again as we head towards the Australian winter.”

Strambi emphasises airlines are one vital part of a much greater industry, and for every passenger they lose that impact is felt many times over throughout the sector.

“Right here at the airport, we feel the loss of every passenger several times over,” he says.

“Airport operators charge agreed fees to airlines on a per-passenger basis, meaning that airlines don’t pay landing or terminal fees on any empty seat.

“The passenger who doesn’t fly, also doesn’t catch a SkyBus, or an Uber, or a taxi. They don’t buy a coffee or a book, grab a meal or pick up a souvenir.”

He says airports can play a stabilising role throughout the current health crisis, enabling the global travel sector to rebound quickly when the time is right.

“We’ve seen major disruptions to the travel industry many times before, from the loss of Ansett to 9/11, from SARS to the Global Financial Crisis,” he says.

“In every case, travel takes a hit, and in every case – once the immediate crisis has passed, the industry comes back stronger than it was before.”

Updated at 12:30pm AEDT on 12 March 2020.

NSW cases increase to 77

NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant announced this morning the number of Covid-19 cases in the state rose from 65 to 77 overnight.

The surge represents 250 per cent growth in the number of cases since March 4.

Elsewhere in the state, Southern Cross University has closed its campus in Lismore, as well as further north in Queensland with its Gold Coast campus shut down.

Updated at 12:30pm AEDT on 12 March 2020.

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