Restrictions are beginning to be eased in Spain after thousands of deaths. (AP:Manu Fernandez)
The city of Wuhan, where the global coronavirus pandemic began, says there are no remaining cases in its hospitals, as China reports no COVID-19-related deaths for the 11th day in a row.
In Australia, some states are easing stay-at-home restrictions after a sustained period of low or no new cases, as the Federal Government launches its contact tracing app.
This story is being updated regularly throughout Sunday. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Sunday’s key moments:
Australia launches contact tracing app
The Prime Minister has dubbed the app essential if Australia is to ease coronavirus restrictions. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)
Australia’s coronavirus contact tracing app, COVIDSafe, has been released in a bid to boost efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
It is not compulsory, but the Government is encouraging all Australians to download and use the app.
Smartphone users can download the app for iPhones and Android but will be unable to register their information until after 6:00pm AEST.
People who download the app will be asked to supply a name (which can be a pseudonym), their age range, a mobile number and post code.
Using Bluetooth technology, the app “pings” with another user when they come within approximately 1.5 metres of each other, and then logs this contact and encrypts it.
If a person with the app tests positive for COVID-19, they’ll be asked for consent to share their information, which would then be sent to a central server where the relevant state or territory health authority can access it.
Users will be notified if they have come into contact with another user who tests positive and consents to sharing their information with the server.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the app would provide quicker contact tracing, an essential step in containing the spread of the virus.
“There are over 500 cases in Australia where we never found the original source,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
“It may be that two people have been standing in a line and one of them had accidentally been a little bit close. It may have been on public transport.
“Their names are not known and you would not be able to find that person and notify them that they were at risk.”
Responding to privacy concerns, Mr Hunt said the app’s safeguards were “the strongest ever” and emphasised that the data collected by the app could not legally be used for any other purposes.
However, some concerns about privacy remain, and several have questioned the effectiveness of the app on iPhones.
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Wuhan has no coronavirus cases left in hospitals
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global coronavirus pandemic began, now has no remaining cases in its hospitals.
The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan and first emerged in December before spreading quickly worldwide.
“The latest news is that by April 26, the number of new coronavirus patients in Wuhan was at zero, thanks to the joint efforts of Wuhan and medical staff from around the country,” National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said.
The city had reported 46,452 cases, more than half of China’s total cases. There have been 3,869 deaths in Wuhan, which account for 84 per cent of the national death toll.
Wuhan and the province of Hubei were put in lockdown near the end of January, with roads sealed, trains and planes cancelled and residents unable to move freely for more than two months. The city is still testing residents regularly despite relaxing the restrictions.
The focus has since shifted to the north-east border province of Heilongjiang, which has seen large numbers of imported coronavirus cases entering from Russia.
Australia records more COVID-19 deaths
Australia has recorded 83 deaths from coronavirus.
Two men aged in their 90s died in hospitals in Tasmania and Victoria overnight, while an 82-year-old man died in New South Wales.
Tasmania has recorded 11 deaths, Victoria has had 17 and 36 in NSW.
Queensland and Western Australia set to lift some restrictions
Premier Mark McGowan says the relaxation around gatherings is aimed at ensuring friends and family can stay connected. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)
Two Australian states have announced they will begin easing some coronavirus restrictions this week.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said people had done “a terrific job of flattening the curve” and small steps at easing restrictions could begin.
“We really need the public to 100 per cent cooperate because if we do see mass gatherings, I will not hesitate to clamp back down,” she said.
From midnight on Friday, Queenslanders will be allowed to leave their homes for recreational purposes like going for a drive, some non-essential shopping or having a family picnic with members of the same household. National Parks will also reopen.
People will need to stay within 50 kilometres of their home and social distancing restrictions still apply.
In Western Australia, indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed from tomorrow.
The state’s Premier Mark McGowan described the move as a “cautious relaxation” of some COVID-19 restrictions, aimed at “[ensuring] family and friends can stay connected during the pandemic”.
Western Australians can now also leave home for non-contact recreational activities, such as private picnics in the park, fishing, boating, hiking or camping.
There were three new COVID-19 cases recorded in Queensland over the last day and zero in WA.
South Australia records fourth coronavirus-free day
As GPs urge people to continue showing up for regular appointments for chronic health conditions, South Australia has recorded its longest stretch of COVID-19-free days in about seven weeks.
Doctors have reported a 78 per cent decrease in the number of patients presenting for general consults across the state.
While the number of new COVID-19 is low, authorities are concerned about the drop in presentations to GP clinics.
“We are very concerned about the impact of chronic disease through the COVID-19 crisis,” SA Health’s general practitioner liaison officer Emily Kirkpatrick said.
“We don’t want you sitting at home worrying about your diabetes, or your high blood pressure, when you could consult with your GP.
“Give them a call, have a telehealth consultation, and make sure that you’re receiving the care you need during this really difficult time.”
Cuba sends thousands of nurses and doctors to help with coronavirus in South Africa
Cuba has sent 216 healthcare workers to South Africa, the latest of more than 20 medical brigades it has sent worldwide to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The Communist-run country has sent around 1,200 healthcare workers largely to vulnerable African and Caribbean nations, but also to rich European countries such as Italy that have been particularly hard-hit by the novel coronavirus.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has urged nations not to accept Cuba’s medical missions, arguing it exploits its workers, which Cuba denies. But overwhelmed healthcare systems have largely welcomed the help.
Cuba, which has confirmed 1,337 cases of the virus at home and 51 deaths, has one of the world’s highest number of doctors per capita.
“The advantage of Cuba is that they are a community health model, one that we would like to use,” South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said earlier this month.
South Africa has recorded 4,361 cases, including 86 deaths, with 161,004 people tested for the virus.
The country has a special relationship with Cuba, which supported the fight against apartheid.
Navy hospital ship prepares to leave New York
The Navy hospital ship sent to relieve stress on New York City hospitals at the height the pandemic is discharging or transferring its last 12 patients this weekend as it prepares to leave.
The USNS Comfort, docked at a Manhattan pier since March 30, will soon leave for its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, where it will restock and be readied for another possible assignment, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said. He did not specify when the ship would leave NYC.
The 1,000-bed hospital ship has treated 182 patients. It was originally deployed to care for patients without COVID-19, but started accepting them as the city’s hospitals became overrun.
Mr Hoffman said the ship’s impending departure was “a sure sign of modest progress in mitigating the virus in the nation’s hardest-hit city”.
A temporary hospital set up at a Manhattan convention centre has also seen lower-than-projected patient volume, having treated a total of about 1,100 patients, with 125 still receiving care. There is no official closing date for the facility.
New York City has reported more than 155,000 cases of COVID-19 so far, accounting for 16 per cent of the cases in the United States. But its 17,000 dead make up almost a third of the country’s coronavirus-related deaths.
Travel to NZ likely to re-open first: Dutton
New Zealand is likely to be the first international destination Australians will be able to visit. (ABC News: Dean Faulkner)
New Zealand will likely be the first country Australians will be able to visit after COVID-19 restrictions are eased, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has announced.
International travel is banned under the Federal Government measures to prevent new cases of coronavirus coming to Australia from overseas.
Mr Dutton said the United States and United Kingdom had too many cases to re-start travel with them, but he told Sky News that trans-Tasman travel could re-open over the short or medium term.
“You could look at an arrangement with New Zealand given they’re at a comparable stage as we are in the fight against this virus,” Mr Dutton said.
“You could look at other nations in our region if they’ve enjoyed the same success, but New Zealand might be the natural partner.”
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Pollution levels drop across China, no new deaths for 11th straight day
Figures show air quality improved in cities across China during winter, official says. (AP: Mark Schiefelbein)
More than 300 Chinese cities have recorded improvements in air quality during winter while the country battled the coronavirus outbreak.
China’s smog-prone northern province of Hebei met its air quality targets by a big margin, vice-head of the provincial environmental body He Litao said.
Mr He said the drop was due to a concerted effort to tackle emissions and did not mention coronavirus-related factory shutdowns.
Average PM2.5 concentrations over the October-March period dropped 15 per cent from a year earlier to 61 micrograms per cubic metre, while sulphur dioxide also fell by a third.
Most experts have attributed the significant decline in air pollution throughout China in the first quarter to the coronavirus outbreak and tough containment measures, which saw cities and entire provinces locked down and sharply reduced traffic and industrial activity.
With millions staying at home, concentrations of PM2.5 particles fell by nearly 15 per cent in more than 300 Chinese cities in the first three months of 2020.
Shanghai saw emissions fall by nearly 20 per cent in the first quarter, while in Wuhan, where the pandemic originated, monthly averages dropped more than a third compared to last year.
It came as China reported no COVID-19 deaths for the 11th straight day, and only 11 new cases.
Five of the cases were imported while the other six new cases were from domestic transmission, five in the country’s north-east and one in the south.
Official numbers indicate there have been more than 83,000 cases of the virus since the outbreak in Wuhan. More than 4,600 people have died from the virus in China, while 78,000 have recovered.
UK hospital death toll passes 20,000, as Johnson prepares to return to work
Boris Johnson spent three nights in hospital after contracting COVID-19. (Reuters: Henry Nicholls)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to return to work on Monday after recovering from coronavirus.
Boris Johnson tweets: It is hard to find the words to express my debt to the NHS for saving my life.
Mr Johnson, 55, spent three nights in intensive care with COVID-19 this month after contracting the virus.
The announcement came as the UK’s tally of hospital deaths among people with the virus has topped 20,000, making it the fifth country to reach the grim milestone.
The overall toll is thought to be much higher, as the 20,000 figure doesn’t include deaths in nursing homes, which are likely to number in the thousands.
There are signs the UK outbreak has peaked, with the number of people hospitalised with the virus declining. But the Government says it is too soon to ease a nationwide lockdown imposed on March 23 and extended to May 7.
The UK Government is meanwhile facing criticism as Mr Johnson’s most senior aide, Dominic Cummings, was seen taking part in meetings of a scientific panel that has shaped the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Guardian newspaper reported.
Mr Cummings, who is not a scientist, is a particularly polarising figure in British politics and his involvement in the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) drew immediate criticism from opposition parties who said it undermined the group’s credibility.
The UK is the fourth European country after Italy, Spain and France to reach 20,000 deaths. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Mr Johnson’s office said Mr Cummings and another government adviser attended to improve Government understanding, and that they occasionally asked questions or offered help when scientists mentioned problems within the Government’s administrative machine.
“SAGE provides independent scientific advice to the Government. Political advisers have no role in this,” a spokesman for Mr Johnson’s office said.
“The scientists on SAGE are among the most eminent in their fields. It is factually wrong and damaging to sensible public debate to imply their advice is affected by government advisers listening to discussions.”
New York opens up testing to pharmacists, will begin antibody screening of frontline workers
Frontline workers, such as bus drivers, police and medical personnel will be tested for coronavirus antibodies, which will indicate if the virus has presented asymptomatically. (AP Photo/ Frank Franklin II)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says New Yorkers will soon be able to get tested for coronavirus through independent pharmacists, widening the availability of tests throughout the city.
New York has conducted more than 770,000 tests since the beginning of the outbreak, of which more than 150,000 have returned a positive result.
Mr Cuomo also announced healthcare workers would be tested for coronavirus antibodies, with transit and law enforcement workers to follow soon after.
Antibody testing is a way of determining if a person has been infected even if they had not shown symptoms.
Hospitalisations across the state have fallen to the same level as 21 days ago, Mr Cuomo added, the latest sign the crisis was subsiding.
“Only in this crazy reality would 1,100 new cases be relatively good news … But 1,100 new cases again we’d like to see that down into the two, three, 400 new cases per day,” Mr Cuomo said.
More than 16,000 people in New York have died as a result of COVID-19.
‘No evidence of children infecting teachers’: NSW Health report
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly said children should be able to return to school because the risks of transmission are low. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
A report into the spread of COVID-19 in Australian classrooms indicates the disease has very limited transmissibility between students, and from students to teachers.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy cited the report on Friday during a press conference with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who stressed that social distancing measures did not need to be followed in schools.
The study, led by NCIRS director Kristine Macartney and soon to be peer reviewed, analysed the tests of 863 close contacts of the infections, interactions that occurred between early March and April 21.
“Our investigation found no evidence of children infecting teachers. One secondary case [in the child in a high school] was presumed to have been infected following close contact with two student cases,” Professor Macartney wrote.
“The other secondary case was presumed to have been infected by a staff member [teacher].”
The report’s release came as more than 2,600 children have been registered to attend Canberra schools for the new term.
The ACT Government has named nine public schools that will be available to students, while classes will also be taught online for students staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Death toll climbs in South America
South America is fast approaching 6,000 deaths from COVID-19, as Argentina extends its lockdown by two weeks.
President Alberto Fernandez announced the move after he received the support of all the country’s governors for his strategy to tackle the coronavirus.
In Chile, Catholic worshipers were pictured flouting physical distancing measures for communion.
Brazil is the worst-affected country on the continent, with almost 1,500 of the country’s 4,000 deaths occurring in the past four days.
Virus restrictions begin to ease in parts of the world
Countries around the world, including India, have begun relaxing the coronavirus lockdown. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
A tentative easing of coronavirus lockdowns has begun in parts of the world.
India has allowed corner shops that many of the country’s 1.3 billion people rely on to reopen. Last week, India also allowed manufacturing and farming to resume in rural areas.
The relaxation of the ultra-strict Indian lockdown comes with major caveats. It does not apply to hundreds of quarantined towns and other hot spots that have been hit hardest by the outbreak.
The US states of Georgia and Oklahoma also began loosening lockdown orders, allowing salons, spas and barbershops to reopen even as the confirmed US death toll from the coronavirus soared past 50,000 and health experts warned that such steps may be coming too soon.
Alaska is also reopening doors, with restaurants to resume dine-in service and retail shops and other businesses to open their doors, all with limitations.
In Belgium, a gradual relaxation of lockdown rules will start in the coming weeks with the resumption of nonessential treatment in hospitals and the reopening of textile and sewing shops so people can make face masks.
Bars and restaurants would be allowed to start reopening in June, although Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes also cautioned that “nothing is set in stone”.
Italy, too, will see restrictions ease early next month, as the Government distributes free protective masks to nursing homes, police, public officials and transport workers in preparation for the millions of Italians who will soon return to work.
France will follow soon, preparing to gingerly ease its strict lockdown starting mid-May
Children in Spain are getting their first breath of fresh air today after 44 days indoors as a total ban on children outside is relaxed.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has partially lifted restrictions in the kingdom but will keep a 24-hour curfew in Mecca.
Italy’s daily coronavirus death toll lowest since March, new cases fall
For the first time in more than a month, Italy has seen a slowdown in the number of coronavirus-related deaths. (AP: Claudio Furlan)
Deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy climbed by 415 on Saturday, the smallest daily tally since March 17.
The number of new infections was also the lowest in five days at 2,357 from 3,021 the previous day.
The total of fatalities now stands at 26,384, the second-highest in the world after that of the United States.
The number of confirmed cases was 195,351, the third-highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain.
For almost a week, there has also been a daily decline in people registered as currently carrying the illness.
Of those originally infected, 63,120 were declared recovered.
Almost 1.2 million people have been tested for the virus, out of a population of about 60 million.
Global death toll exceeds 200,000
The US alone makes up more than a quarter of the global death toll (Reuters: Willy Kurniawan)
The combined death toll of coronavirus across the world topped 200,000 overnight.
More than half of the fatalities have been reported by Italy, Spain and the United States, which alone accounts for more than a quarter of the total toll.
The first death linked to the disease was reported on January 10 in Wuhan, China. It took 91 days for the death toll to pass 100,000 and just 16 days to reach 200,000.
By comparison, there are an estimated 400,000 deaths annually from malaria, one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases.
Immunity passports not recommended by WHO
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will be guided by science when considering immunity passports. (Reuters: Blair Gable)
“Immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” being suggested by some countries for people to return to work or travel may result in less people following public health advice, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.
“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the WHO report stated.
“People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that on this basis, any discussion about introducing immunity passports for Canadians was not a discussion that he wanted to have now.
“It is very clear that the science is not decided on whether or not having had COVID once prevents you from having it again,” Mr Trudeau said.
“It is something we need to get clearer answers to and until we get those clearer answers, we need to … err on the side of more caution.”
What you need to know about coronavirus: