Key Australian developments in the global coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday include:
Sixth death recorded in Australia
New South Wales announced the sixth death in Australia from coronavirus after an 86-year-old man died in a Sydney hospital overnight.
There are now 539 cases of coronavirus in Australia. NSW had its biggest spike in daily cases, with 57 new cases recorded, while Victoria recorded 27 new cases.
New restrictions announced
The national cabinet agreed to restrict gatherings indoors to less than 100 people, adding to the ban on gatherings of over 500 people outdoors.
For the first time, the federal government has advised Australians not to travel overseas at all.
Domestic travel is still allowed, but state governments have been asked to implement strict cleaning rules for public transport.
Anzac Day services have been cancelled, but a televised dawn service will still occur at the Australian War Memorial, without an audience.
New restrictions on aged care facilities will limit visit durations and only allow two at a time per day. Children under 16 are banned except in exceptional circumstances.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has also condemned people panic buying in bulk, stating it was not necessary.
ASX closes down 6.43% after shedding $105bn
The Australian stock market wiped out the gains it made on Tuesday, dropping more than 6% on Wednesday. The ASX has now shed 30% of its value since 21 February.
The Australian dollar dropped to a 17-year low, falling under 60 US cents.
Airlines get $715m support package
The federal government will waive government charges, including fuel excise and air services charges for domestic and regional operations, in a package worth $715m, with $159m to be reimbursed for charges paid since the start of February.
Australian Red Cross needs blood donors
The Red Cross says it needs about 14,000 donors to prevent a shortage as we enter cold and flu season, and the possibility that coronavirus could cause more shortages of the regular supply from donors.
Virgin Australia to ground international fleet, cut domestic flights
The Virgin Australia CEO, Paul Scurrah, announced Virgin would ground its international fleet from the end of this month until mid-June at the earliest, and cut domestic flights by 50% in response to softening demand.
Scurrah said job losses at the airline were inevitable, but Virgin was working through it.
“What we’re working through now is how that impact can be shared, how it can lessen the long-term impact on people and we’re talking with our people directly and the unions to make sure that that impact is minimised,” he said.
“Part of what they have volunteered up is people willing to take leave without pay, people willing to go from full-time to part-time. People willing to job share and that is the incredible people we have working here.”
Churches, cinemas suspend services
In compliance with the new indoor restrictions, a number of religious organisations including the Catholic archdioscese of Melbourne and the Anglican church in Sydney announced they would suspend services until further notice. Palace Cinemas also announced its 17 cinemas would close from tomorrow in compliance with the rule.
The Sydney film and comedy festivals were also cancelled.
RBA to make a major announcement tomorrow
The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to make a monetary policy announcement on Thursday, likely around interest rates or quantitive easing, as Australia is tipped to go into recession as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Second stimulus from federal government expected
The federal government is expected to wait for the RBA’s announcement on Thursday before announcing its second stimulus package, likely before the weekend. The package will be announced before parliament returns (at a reduced capacity) to pass both stimulus packages.
Morrison said the second stimulus would focus on the impact the strict travel and social distancing policies would have on the economy.
“The task of this next set of measures is really about trying to cushion the impact. I can’t understate the significance of the gear change that occurred last weekend. The gear change, when we were moving to far more widespread social distancing and bans on gatherings and all of this, this has a much more profound impact on the economy.”
Northern Territory announces stimulus package
The $65m package includes $10,000 for businesses for shop fitouts; another $10,000 for businesses that match that spend; $5m for immediate works; $50,000 for clubs, community organisations and not-for-profits for renovations; $30m for the return of the home investment scheme; and a suspension on government fees, charges and electricity prices until July 2021.