NSW has become the first state to allow pokies venues to reopen as coronavirus restrictions eased today, in a call deemed risky by industry members.
While other states and territories have said they’re in “no hurry” to reopen the venues, in NSW businesses will now be allowed to open their gaming rooms with poker machines, as long as there is 1.5 metres between patrons.
But Alliance for Gambling Reform executive director Tony Mohr says the state is going against federal government advice, which recommends high-touch and high-density activities – such as gaming rooms – should be among the last to reopen.
“This is really about money before public health, I think it’s that plain,” Mr Mohr told AAP on Saturday.
“A lot of these clubs and pubs have become so dependent on poker machines, they want to turn the cash cows back on.”
The gambling reform activist says pokies are used more by older Australians and that demographic is “much more vulnerable to COVID-19”.
But, a ClubsNSW patron said the venues will “enforce social distancing measures, including the implementation of queuing systems and directional signage, and a requirement to remain seated unless placing an order”.
The number of patrons allowed at cafes and restaurants in NSW will increase to 50 today. Victorians will be able to have up to 20 people at their home, and hospitality venues can serve 20 customers. In South Australia, up to 80 people will be allowed at cafes, pubs, cinemas and gyms, as long as people attend in groups of 20 or less.
Australia has recorded a total 7202 cases of COVID-19, with 3098 in New South Wales, 1653 in Victoria, 1058 in Queensland, 440 in South Australia, 589 in Western Australia, 228 in Tasmania, 107 in the Australian Capital Territory and 29 in the Northern Territory. The death toll stands at 103.
5:19 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
Russia to roll out virus ‘game changer’
Russia will start administering its first approved antiviral drug to treat coronavirus patients next week, its state financial backer has announced, in a move it describes as “a game changer” that should speed a return to normal economic life.
Russian hospitals can begin giving the drug to patients from June 11, with enough to treat around 60,000 people per month, the head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund told Reuters in an interview.
There is currently no approved vaccine for the coronavirus, and no consensus within the global scientific community about the efficacy of medication, which is registered under the name Avifavir.
RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev said clinical trials involved 330 people and showed the drug successfully treated the virus within four days.
“We believe this is a game changer. It will reduce strain on the healthcare system, we’ll have fewer people getting into a critical condition, and for 90 per cent of people it eliminates the virus within 10 days,” he said.
“We believe that the drug is key to resuming full economic activity in Russia. People need to follow social distancing rules, and of course we need to have a vaccine, but it’s a combination of those three levers.”
Mr Dmitriev said the new drug, which comes in tablet form, would allow people to spend less time in hospital and reduce the time they are contagious.
With more than 405,800 cases, Russia has the third-highest number of infections in the world after Brazil and the United States.
4:33 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
Green light for Victoria’s most iconic attractions to reopen
Some of Victoria’s most iconic cultural attractions will reopen their doors in time for the winter school holidays, Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley announced this morning.
From Saturday, June 27, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks, State Library of Victoria and parts of Arts Centre Melbourne will be back in business and officially open again to the public.
“While today marked the easing of restrictions under strict guidelines for many entertainment and cultural venues across the state, Melbourne’s key cultural institutions have largely remained closed,” Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC) Chief Executive Felicia Mariani said.
“While the virtual experiences offered by these attractions have been thoroughly enjoyed by many, it’s exciting to know that we can get back to exploring these fascinating places to their full potential.”
Victoria’s visitor economy, previously worth $31 billion and responsible for employing over 232,000 people, has greatly suffered during the COVID pandemic.
– With AAP
4:11 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
Queensland tourism industry ready for holiday boom
Lifting the limit early on how far Queenslanders can travel will flush tourism towns with cash and get the sector back on the move after months of COVID-19 lockdown, industry chiefs predict.
With the state’s borders still closed to interstate travellers, Tourism Tropical North chief executive Mark Olsen has welcomed the government’s announcement on Sunday that internal travel is back.
“It’s going to inject an extra $50 million into this economy,” he declared today.
“Our industry is ready to go, we are here, ready to receive the calls.”
Phones have been ringing non-stop over the past 24 hours with hopeful travellers from the southeast corner confirming accommodation and activities, Mr Olsen added.
To them he said: “Jump in the car. We look forward to welcoming you here in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.”
They will face stiff competition from the Gold Coast, where businesses have been hit hard by a border closure that blocks southern neighbours seeking warmth during winter.
However, Destination Gold Coast chair Paul Donovan said he supports the border being reopened only when it’s safe to do so.
“Just up the road we have more than two million people in Brisbane who we know are looking for a break – they’ll be our first target market,” he said.
A marketing campaign that has laid dormant will now get into full swing to coax Queenslanders to tourism pockets across the sunshine state.
“Businesses are grateful that they can open their doors again,” Mr Donovan said.
“Many have already started taking bookings from visitors throughout Queensland who are keen to come and visit the Coast.”
The premier says it is now up businesses to decide how quickly they’ll take advantage of travel restrictions being lifted.
“There’s so much to explore, I don’t know where to begin,” Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
Qantas says it will be watching bookings on intra-Queensland routes closely, putting on more flights where needed.
It currently operates at least two return flights per week to Queensland’s regional towns and cities.
The enthusiasm from tourism businesses comes as the state celebrates a fourth consecutive day of zero coronavirus cases.
– Sonia Kohlbacher, AAP
3:41 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
Flu symptoms in Australia ‘dramatically down’ this year
ABC analyst Casey Briggs has revealed Australia’s “tremendous success” at flattening the coronavirus curve has had “other positive side-effects”.
Mr Briggs said other infectious diseases like the flu and gastro are “dramatically down” this year compared to normal.
“We are seeing big drops in what you would normally see at this time of year,” he explained.
“The same with chickenpox. A huge drop in the number of infections, and the same with chlamydia.”
Mr Briggs said it was the second month analysts had seen the positive trend, following on from data in April.
3:36 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
AFL coach warns more players could get injured
Coach of the Brisbane Lions, Chris Fagan, fears more players may break down with injury when the AFL season resumes, after being restricted to only a handful of full-contact sessions.
Mr Fagan said it had been frustrating working under training protocols put in place before the AFL restart on June 11 next week, namely the limited contact sessions.
This week teams will be restricted to two full-group contact sessions; next week, they’ll only have one.
Asked if there could be player wear and tear due to limited preparation he said injury rates “could go up”.
“We are all hoping it doesn’t. We are doing as much as we can in our programs to mitigate that, allowing good recovery time between sessions, making sure we progress the load gradually and not too fast.”
– With AAP
2:33 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
Thousands of extra services added to Sydney’s public transport network
An extra 3300 train and bus services will be added to Sydney’s public transport network in a bid to maintain social distancing, the NSW government announced today.
As Sydney residents return to work, the extra services will increase train spaces by 59,000 and 37,000 on buses each week, according to the government.
Transport for NSW (TfNSW) Chief Operations Officer Howard Collins said the train network is running, on average, at about 30 per cent capacity.
Currently, buses can only carry a maximum of 12 people, with big green stickers informing passengers where they can and cannot sit.
TfNSW have previously urged customers to “avoid peak hour on public transport and consider other ways of getting around”.
1:33 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
One new case in WA
There has been one new case recorded in WA, and a second historical case which has been added to the state’s total.
“The one new case is a woman in her 30s who has returned from overseas from the Middle East, and she has been in isolation since her arrival home, which was a few days ago,” said Premier Mark McGowan. “So she’s in one of our hotels currently.
“Secondly, there is an historical case, a man in his 40s who got tested. He was in the Kimberley.
“He was cleared in Prince of Wales in April, but testing has shown that he was positive back at some point in time in the past, most likely back some time in April.”
12:53 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
Three new cases in NSW
Three new coronavirus cases were added to the NSW tally over the past 24 hours.
All three new cases are travellers in hotel quarantine. The state’s total number of cases is now 3098.
12:28 pm June 1, 2020 Highlight
Zero cases as Queensland opens up
Queensland is celebrating another day of zero coronavirus cases as restrictions continue to ease across the state.
Queenslanders are now able to congregate in groups of 20 in pubs, gyms and even travel intrastate, but the borders remain closed.
The state brought forward the next easing of restrictions by almost two weeks after zero new cases were announced for the third straight day on Sunday.
The changes include 20 spectators being allowed to attend community sporting fields.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said travel restrictions regarding remote and vulnerable indigenous communities remained in place.
Premier Annastacia Palaczczuk said the borders will stay closed despite just five active COVID-19 cases throughout Queensland with a review in two weeks.
“Let me make it very clear, the border will remain closed for the month of June,” she said. The number of positive cases remains at 1058.
10:54 am June 1, 2020 Highlight
Four new cases in Victoria
The total number of coronavirus cases in Victoria is 1,653 – an increase of four since yesterday.
One new case of COVID-19 has been linked to the outbreak at quarantine hotel Rydges on Swanston in Melbourne, with a case in a close contact of a worker bringing the current total of this outbreak to eight.
Thorough cleaning of relevant parts of the hotel has been undertaken, alongside contact tracing, isolation and quarantine of close contacts. A full investigation is underway to review all possible causes of transmission within the hotel, including looking into links between affected staff and contractors.
Of yesterday’s other cases, one was detected in returned travelers in hotel quarantine and two were from community testing.
There are no new cases linked to any other known outbreaks, including the Keilor Downs family and any aged care facilities.