Two parents from prestigious private schools have tested positive and travellers arriving from overseas into Melbourne must self-isolate for 14 days. Courtesy: Herald Sun

Schools in Victoria will remain open unless they have a local outbreak, the PM announced. Meanwhile, two parents from prestigious private schools have tested positive and travellers arriving from overseas into Melbourne must self-isolate for 14 days.

Schools in Victoria will remain open this week as new measures to tackle coronavirus were announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The news comes after prestigious Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak told families a parent had tested positive for the virus and a secondary student was awaiting results.

As a precautionary measure, the school will close on March 16. In a message to parents, principal Dr Susan Stevens said Monday would be a student free day for St Peter’s ELC, Rathfarnham and Years 7 to 12.

A parent from Wesley College in Glen Waverley has also tested positive and their Year 12 student is not attending classes, but the school has chosen to remain open.
Principal Nick Evans in an email said the parent had tested positive after returning from a trip to the US.

“The parent concerned was feeling ill, was tested for COVID-19 and diagnosed as positive on Wednesday 11 March,” he said.

“As a result, the Year 12 student, who has no symptoms, was collected from school.

“There are no other members of the family who have tested positive and the family remains in self isolation.”

The school is still operating but a parent told the Herald Sun many Chinese families had pulled their kids out and the school was like a “ghost town” as a result.

All people arriving in Australia – including into Tullamarine and Avalon airports – will be told to self isolate for two weeks from midnight tonight, all international cruise ships have been banned and a host of social distancing measures have been introduced by the federal government.

Mr Morrison said the measures were part of the “targeted action phase”.

These include people being told to avoid handshakes and stay 1.5m away from other people.

Australians have been asked to respect the new travel ban, with states and territories in charge of enforcing the measures.

“There will be no more handshakes,” Mr Morrison said.

“If your mate has been to Bali and they come back and they turn up at work and they are sitting next to you, they will be committing an offence.”

Mr Morrison said the government was planning for coronavirus to have an impact on the country for six months and slowing the rate of transmission was a top priority.

“Slowing the spread, you free up the bed,” Mr Morrison said.

“That’s what happens when you get this right.”

Mass gatherings of more than 500 people will be banned from tomorrow.

“To help stay ahead of this curve … we will impose a universal compulsory self-isolation requirement on all international arrivals to Australia effective from midnight tonight,” Mr Morrison said.

“The Australian Government will ban cruise ships from foreign ports from arriving at Australian ports after an initial 30 days and that will go forward on a rolling basis.

“The national cabinet also endorsed the advice of the (chief health officers) to further introduce social distancing measures.”

Schools and universities will remain open for the time being, with that being one of the key issues that the new national cabinet will consider when it meets on Tuesday night.

The government is also considering changing visitation processes to aged care homes, how remote communites will be impacted and further restrictions on public gatherings.

Mr Morrison also said national cabinet meetings will be held more via conference calls, rather than meeting in person, as a precaution.

“The cabinets itself will now be meeting more regularly by video conferencing rather than all cabinet members being in the one place,” he said.

The national cabinet today met through a secure audio conferencing facility.

TRAVELLERS RELIEVED

“Relieved” is the overriding sentiment for travellers arriving back in Melbourne before Scott Morrison’s travel ban hits.

The Australian Prime Minister announced earlier today that travellers returning to Australia were required to quarantine for 14 days upon touching down.

For Abbotsford local Aaron Jensen, he said it “was good to scrape in” after returning from Auckland.

“If I had been on a later flight or changed plans slightly I could have been self-isolating myself,” Mr Jensen said.

“I’m feeling healthy and still with it and I sort of miss work and routine so I’m hoping to get back to the office tomorrow.”

However, the 43 year old also came back with a much sought after commodity in tow – a value pack of New Zealand brand toilet paper.

“As a bit of a joke, I brought these back to show their journey from New Zealand back to Australia,” Mr Jensen said.

“I have been posting on my Facebook it’s journey from checking it in, to on to the carousel,

“Some people on my Facebook are saying do you need a security guard to come with you?”

Arnika Fredricson, 18, has returned from New Zealand and said “she’s feeling alright” since touching down.

“I can understand why some people are worried, but I think I’ll be okay because of my age,” Miss Fredricson said.

“I’m thinking about what might happen if uni closes.”

CAREY STUDENT AMONG LATEST VIRUS CASES

A Year 10 student at Carey Grammar has been diagnosed with coronavirus after being in contact with a teacher who previously got the disease, the school’s principal confirmed today.

The school now has three known cases, including another teacher.

The number of people in Victoria diagnosed with coronavirus has increased by eight to 57 as of this morning.

Carey principal Jonathan Walter said in an email to parents that the school would stay shut until at least March 20.

“We realise this presents many challenges for families and staff, however the health and safety of the community is our first priority,” he said.

Mr Walter said the school was being thoroughly cleaned and a timetable had been set up to allow students to collect books and other devices for learning at home.

Staff will have access to the school on Monday, while students will be able to visit the Kew and Donvale campuses at set times on Tuesday.

Victoria’s chief medical officer Brett Sutton said this morning the increase in the number of Victorian virus patients was within the expected range and that most had recently returned to the state from overseas.

The cases include six men and two women, aged from their teens to their 60s.

“Almost all are overseas acquired, one case is in contact of a previously reported case, a teacher at Carey (Baptist Grammar).

“That individual was not infectious at school, but the remainder of that class is self-isolating.

“It is in line with the expected trajectory of this pandemic.”

FUTURE FOR SCHOOLS AND VIRUS TEST SHORTAGE

Asked about school closures at this morning’s coronavirus media briefing, Premier Dan Andrews admitted that it is “almost certain” that schools will be affected because of the pandemic.

“At this stage, and I’ve had a discussion with the chief health officer again this morning and last night, the advice of health expects is not to close schools at this stage,” he said.

“However, I want to be very clear that it’s almost certain that we’ll get to that point.

“When exactly, frustratingly, I can’t tell you when that will be.

“But it is more than a likelihood that we will have disruption to schools. We’ve already seen schools close.

“All of that will be based on the best health experts advice to protect public health.”

Mr Andrews added: “If I get advice to close schools from our health experts, I will not hesitate to do that.

“But if and when it comes, and it’s much more likely to be when rather than if, we will act swiftly.”

Mr Andrews said that parents won’t be punished if they chose to keep their kids at home before a decision was made on school closures.

“I think if parents exercise that judgment, they’re not going to be punished for that. An abundance of caution is never a bad thing,” he said.

Mr Andrews said this morning a state government $100m health fund would help speed up 7000 elective surgeries before the peak of the outbreak hits, with $30m to allow new beds to be opened early in a new tower at Casey Hospital.

More than $60m will be for public and private hospitals to bring forward additional surgery such as thyroid, prostate, hernia and gynaecological surgeries.

A $10m funding injection would also allow for extra supplies including 100 million extra gloves, 1.5m additional gowns and 10 million more masks for health staff.

“We are doing everything we can to flatten the curve,” he said.

“If we don’t our health system will simply be overrun with COVID-19 patients.

“If we allow this to run and don’t do everything we can to mitigate its spread, to flatten this curve, we won’t have the capacity in our healthcare system.

“Our hospitals are busy places today and every day regardless of this pandemic.

“It’s about protecting all of us.

“We will get through this but we should not underestimate the challenge we face.”

A shortage of COVID-19 testing kits means that Victorian doctors are being forced to restrict how many patients they screen for the virus.

More than 1000 people a day are tested for the condition across the state and despite demand from worried members of the public, that number will not be increased due to a global shortage of testing supplies.

Chief Health Officer Mr Sutton said: “There are limits to those who come through the screening sites, including how many swabs they can do in one day.

“They are, as we have directed, focusing on those who are most at risk and so not everyone who has a cold, which could be 250,000 in Victoria on any one day, can get tested.

“That’s appropriate that not everyone who has compatible symptoms but isn’t necessarily an at-risk group gets tested.”

He added: “We can still do over 1000 tests a day but we need to be mindful of how long that will last for. We don’t want to scale up to 10,000 tests a day and to be finished in a month.”

Mr Andrews said that a shortage of tests was why the government had imposed restrictions on large events and advising social distancing.

“You need to be able to reserve capacity to test health workers and those who are critically important to providing care,” he said.

“If you go testing people for peace of mind and nothing else, especially given that for the vast majority of people the symptoms are mild and they will fully recover at home, we just wouldn’t have the kits when we need them most.

“That then means that if you’re not testing everyone, just relying on test results can’t be the determining factor for your policy settings.”

MORE CHAOS FOR MAJOR SPORTS

Suspension of the A-League appears inevitable, at least in the short term, after the government introduced strict new quarantine requirements on all arrivals in Australia from midnight Sunday in response to the coronavirus crisis.

With Wellington Phoenix hosting Melbourne Victory on Sunday afternoon, both teams look certain to be isolated for a fortnight once they fly into Australia – ruling out Wellington’s games in Sydney on Wednesday and Newcastle on Sunday, as well as Victory’s home game with Brisbane the same day.

While the AFL was forced to respond to a report the league was looking to shift the AFL Women’s Grand Final in a bid to crown a premier amid fears coronavirus concerns could shut down the season.

NO CONCERN FOR WATER SUPPLIES

More people washing their hands due to coronavirus fears will not lead to water shortages, according to the industry.

Water Services Association of Australia executive director Adam Lovell said: “Even with an increase in water use with extra hand washing, strong hygiene is the priority now and handwashing is not the major use of water at home.”

“A lot of water is used in showers – around 40 per cent of water used in the home. While we need to follow all advice about hand washing we can still do our bit by taking shorter showers to help reduce our water use.”

Mr Lovell said people should also be careful about what they flushed down the toilet.” Many people may have purchased different types of cleaning wipes recently – none should be put down the toilet,” he said.

SHOPPERS URGED TO AVOID STOCKPILING GOODS

Supermarket giants have urged shoppers to “shop as they normally would” and not panic buy to help stop the stripping bare of shelves across the country.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world shoppers nationally are flocking to supermarkets in droves and filling their trolleys to the brim.

It comes as large queues continue to form at supermarkets across Melbourne and Victoria and shelves stripped bare, including a rush at Docklands Costco this morning as soon as the doors opened.

WHAT PRICE SHOULD YOU PAY FOR PETROL?

Petrol prices are still cheap across Melbourne but some outlets are charging up to 50c a litre more.

RACV senior vehicle engineer Nicholas Platt said world crude oil prices had tumbled after a downturn in manufacturing and global air travel due to coronavirus.

“Since fuel retail is so competitive and price sensitive, prices are often clustered within a few cents between retailers,” he said.

“At the moment, 85 per cent of fuel retailers are selling for $1.20 or below, but we are seeing variations between stations of up to 50c per litre.”

Chris Kable, from petroleum industry research outfit Fueltrac, said the current trend was part of the normal pricing cycle, with some retailers testing the market.

“It’s likely prices will go up, but then they’ll come down again,” he said.

The RACV urged motorists to get the cheapest prices by using a comparison app or website, such as the RACV fuel finder.

COULD WE FACE A LOCKDOWN?

Australian authorities have not ruled out placing every Australian citizen in lockdown, as the coronavirus pandemic evolves.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt said the new national cabinet was formed to deal with extreme measures like that, with all options being considered.

“There are no options that are off the table,” Mr Hunt told the ABC today.

“The paramount goal and the Prime Minister said this to me at the outset is protecting health.”

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said lockdowns had proven successful overseas and would be considered here.

“Everything is up for consideration,” Professor Murphy said.

“The premiers and the Prime Minister said to us, the health advisers, ‘give us your fearless advice and we will take it’.”

Professor Murphy took a swipe at the Victorian chief medical officer’s advice to stockpile a fortnight’s worth of staples.

“I think that that’s a little bit premature at the moment,” he said on Insiders.

“We don’t want to encourage major panic buying at the moment. We’ve seen that with the supermarket chains.

“I think it is probably sensible to have a few days of supply.”

Mr Hunt and Professor Murphy said handshakes were OK for the time being.

At least 250 Australians have tested positive for the virus so far.

When questioned whether Australia should be following New Zealand by imposing mandatory self-isolation for all travellers, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said it will be discussed by the national cabinet today.

“It’s a little difficult to explain why say China, who have very few new cases, there are travel bans there but the United States are free to travel when we’re seeing many new cases, indeed the majority of Victoria’s new cases, are connected to those who have travelled from the United States,” he said.

“I think that arrangement similar to New Zealand will absolutely be on the agenda to be discussed today (at the national cabinet meeting) as they should be.

“We need to do everything we can do to flatten this curve and I think there is more we can do in terms of travel.”

– Tamsin Rose and Sharon McGowan

ADVICE FROM BRETT SUTTON, VICTORIA’S CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER

Starting from Monday, Australians are being asked not to hold non-essential mass gatherings of 500 people or more.

This is an important step to take if we are to slow the sharp rise of COVID-19 cases that we have witnessed in some other countries.

We have also seen other countries that have been able to stop a quick spread in the number of people with COVID-19.

Taking action – based on the best advice locally and internationally – is the best way we can protect people from the risks attached to this virus.

There will be more confirmed cases of COVID-19.

But by taking these measures, we can help prevent a sharp spike in the number of infections – reducing the pressure on our health system and ensuring that everyone gets access to the care they need.

We know in mass gatherings like sporting events, concerts and music festivals that spread of COVID-19 becomes more likely, putting more people at risk of contracting it.

This action is designed to avoid harm to the community, particularly for those people who are more vulnerable to this virus – our elderly and those with chronic illnesses.

For the moment, if you are well and free of symptoms, you can continue catching the train if it’s essential, going to work, sending your kids to school and going to your local shops.

If you’re unwell, you should be at home.

We’re also asking Victorians to think about buying a small amount of extra food and other essential supplies for themselves, for their pets, and for others they may be caring for.

That does not mean stockpiling – but planning sensibly as you shop.

Thinking about what extra items you’d like in your pantry and by shopping accordingly – for food such as non-perishables like dried fruit and nuts, canned foods and vegetables, beans, coffee, cereal, and pasta.

You don’t need too much, just a two-week supply of food and a 60-day supply of

prescription medication. Businesses also need to think about what they should do, in the workplace and for staff wherever they are.

Employers can take steps now to prepare their workforce. If the option exists, working from home is preferable.
Staggering work hours to avoid public transport congestion is another important option.

And, of course, with widespread illness, businesses will need to plan for people being away, their return to work and hygiene measures for staff.

These are the conversations that everyone should be having now at home with family, friends and work colleagues. You should particularly talk to elderly friends and family and support them to plan to stay safe.

For now, we advise:

If you are ill, stay at home. If you think you need medical attention, phone your GP or the hotline first and they’ll tell you what to do.

Practise good hand hygiene – wash your hands regularly. It really does make a difference. And employ good cough etiquette by coughing into your elbow.

Other measures should include not touching your face, and instead of your fingers, using your knuckle, a pen or an ID card to activate lift buttons.

We’ve already said that wearing masks is not the best preventive measure. They play a role if you’re unwell and you need to be out and about, but if you’re well they’re not a great use of a resource in high demand.

And please continue to exercise, eating healthy food, drinking water and getting adequate sleep.

Have no doubt, COVID-19 in Australia will present challenges across every sector and in every community.

But if we listen and act on health advice, we can help protect our most vulnerable – older Victorians and those with chronic conditions such as heart and lung disease.

Our best public health advice tells us COVID-19 will be with us for a while.

But by preparing and protecting ourselves and others – we can and we will get through this together.

The COVID-19 hotline is available on 1800 675 398.

– Brett Sutton, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer

LATEST EVENT CANCELLATIONS ACROSS VICTORIA

The Sheffield Shield is the latest casualty of coronavirus.

Cricket Australia announced the final round had been cancelled to reduce travel.

The Victoria v Tasmania game on March 19 will not be played.

A decision on the final, to be played March 27, had not been made.

A raft of events across Melbourne and Victoria, including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Run for the Kids, have been cancelled.

DONALD TRUMP TESTED FOR CORONAVIRUS

US President Donald Trump says he took a coronavirus test on Friday night local time and had his temperature taken on Saturday.

At a press conference, Mr Trump revealed he had taken the test and would get the results in a day or two.

Mr Trump and US Vice-President Mike Pence attended an afternoon news conference at the White House, and Mr Trump said he had his own temperature taken before speaking to reporters.

“It was totally normal,” Mr Trump said. “If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been here.”

The test came back negative.

PREMIER’S SHOUT OUT TO TIRELESS RETAIL STAFF

Retail staff working around the clock to keep Victorian shelves stocked with toilet paper and pasta have received support from Premier Daniel Andrews.

He took to Twitter this morning to ask Victorians to be kind and think of others amid the coronavirus panic.

“I know people are feeling stressed but before you react to an empty shelf or lack of loo roll, remember this,” he said.

“Our retail staff are doing their absolute best.

“They’re working round the clock to keep things going and a little bit of kindness goes a long way right now.”

He asked people stocking up ahead of potential isolation to buy enough for their family, but not go overboard.

“Once you’ve got some supplies in the cupboard, please stop stocking up,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s a good idea to have a few extra staples on hand.

“But beyond that, stockpiling is making things very difficult for everyone – especially the most vulnerable members of our community.”

– Tamsin Rose

MORE BEDS AS CASES INCREASE

An extra 140 hospital beds will be opened in Melbourne amid the growing coronavirus crisis, boosting the state’s capacity to deal with the pandemic.

The Labor Government will on Sunday announce $30 million for a new inpatient tower at Casey Hospital, including four wards with 34 beds each and a 12-bed intensive care unit.

The Sunday Herald Sun understands the extra beds, which are part of the hospital’s $135 million redevelopment, will be available in the next two to three weeks, ahead of when the virus is expected to peak.

It comes as the state’s cases jumped on Saturday, with 13 new people testing positive for coronavirus. A total of 49 people were confirmed to have the virus in Victoria and the national tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew from 199 on Friday to 249.

The new beds will not exclusively treat COVID-19 patients but will take the pressure off the system as a whole.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the move would ensure the healthcare system was well prepared.

Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos, said: “Our hospitals have been planning for this pandemic to ensure they have the capacity to deal with an influx of patients with COVID-19 and ensure the continued safety of staff”.

The federal government is set to open 100 pop-up clinics in areas of need across Australia, taking the pressure off major hospitals which have been inundated with potential patients in recent days.

The government will also stop reporting possible exposure sites after testing found a very low risk of transmission. More than 1000 “casual contacts” have been tested in Victoria without positive findings.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said hospitals were well equipped.

“If we did have a large outbreak in this country probably 80 per cent of people would be treated at home,” he said. “But those who might need hospital, we’ve got plans to stop elective surgery, expand and open beds, find extra workforce … so I think we have a very well-prepared health system.”

– Alanah Frost

YOUR CORONAVIRUS HEALTH QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Experts reveal what Australians must do to avoid catching coronavirus including who is most at risk, how we can test for it and how to stay healthy during the pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know, from who is most at risk, to how to avoid infection to what the signs are you may have the virus.

DEMONS FANS URGED TO STICK WITH CLUB

Melbourne Football Club has pleaded with members to stay with the club amid the “significant financial challenge” of the coronavirus scare.

The club said it had put in place stringent strategies to protect its people from the spread of COVID-19.

“These measures included separating our staff and players into four different locations and implementing working from home arrangements, where possible, to best safeguard our people,” the club says in a letter to members.

“We also asked our staff and players to make significant lifestyle changes to ensure that our teams remain as healthy as they can amid the current pandemic.

“We are confident our measures are as good as any.

“They will give us the best chance of keeping our people safe, and will enable us as a Club to continue to perform at a high level.

“What will be so very important during these times is your continued loyalty, support and commitment to the Club and the players we all love.

“What we would like to ask is for you to maintain your loyalty, to support us like never before and to retain your membership, while encouraging others to do so. The harsh reality is that we really need your support during this time of significant financial challenge.”

– John Masanauskas

CORONAVIRUS CLOSES GEELONG GRAMMAR

Geelong Grammar School will end the term early due to coronavirus.

The school on Saturday to “bring term 1 to an early close”, as a precautionary measure.

More independent and Catholic schools may follow suit, while speculation is growing that public schools won’t reopen after the Easter holidays.

In a notice to families on Saturday, Geelong Grammar principal Rebecca Cody says: “By 5pm on Wednesday, March 18, all classrooms, grounds and boarding residences will close for student learning and activities until further notice. Given we currently remain an infection-free site, this decision gives families time to prepare calmly for collection of their children.”

Remote learning would be available with digital resources and interactive lessons.

Ms Cody said it had not yet been decided when students would return.

Michelle Green, chief executive of independent Schools Victoria, said the situation was evolving rapidly, “in ways that are challenging and frustrating for everyone involved in education — principals, teachers, students and parents”.

“Given government announcements over the past week, and the fact that some independent schools have already been forced to close temporarily, schools are planning for the high likelihood of further and more widespread closures,” she said.

Meanwhile, Deakin University confirmed it was moving to online learning as a result of the crisis.

“Over the next week, we will progressively transition from in-person student attendance at large classes in lecture format to online forms of delivery in our Cloud Campus,” vice-chancellor Professor Iain Martin said in an email to students.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Herald Sun has been told lengthening the term break is a probable option to protect students and teachers from the virus.

Term one is scheduled to finish on March 27, with students due to return on April 14.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, said he did not think full school closures were close.

“At this stage we don’t think school closures are on the horizon. They are certainly something that could be considered if there’s community outbreaks,” he said.

But the minister for major events, Martin Pakula, said further announcements would be made over the next 24 hours.

– Mandy Squires

INSIDE MELBOURNE’S STRIPPED-BARE SUPERMARKETS

Shoppers are flooding supermarkets creating lines that stretch outside stores before they are even open.

Desperate Victorians, eager to be the first to grab non-perishable goods, are stripping shop shelves across the state.

About 150 people waited outside the Watervale Woolworths store in Taylors Hill from 6.30am on Saturday.

And they are not just hunting toilet paper, sanitiser, tissues and paper towels. Staples such as flour, rice, pasta, sauces, canned vegetables and pet food, as well as nappies and washing powder, are flying out of supermarkets as soon as fresh stocks arrive.

Aisles in supermarkets across Victoria are increasingly bare as pandemic panic takes hold.

In Queensland, one shopper buying fruit was photographed wearing a fume mask, protective helmet and gloves.

As Australians stockpiled toilet paper at home, Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci told customers by email that loo roll “won’t be available for pick-up orders for the time being … Limits are now in place on toilet paper, wipes, paper towels, serviettes, rice and some other items”.

Meanwhile, Coles expanded its “one pack per customer” rationing of toilet paper to rice, pasta and other items.

CEO Steven Cain said staff had been working “as hard as possible” to get more products on shelves.

“As the situation continues to develop, we believe that everyone in the community should have access to their share of grocery items, particularly the elderly,” he said.

Several shelves in Woolworths at Airport West’s Westfield Shopping Centre were bare on Saturday afternoon as Tullamarine parents Jess and Jason Tsoleridis and their baby son, Harrison, were doing their weekly shop.

They had no plans to stockpile food and toilet paper, but were concerned by how difficult it was to get their hands on essential baby products.

“Things like nappies and wet wipes — things that we need for Harrison — are sold out, too,” Ms Tsoleridis said.

“I have friends (with babies) who have been stocking up on baby formula because it’s flying off the shelves.”

Mr Tsoleridis described people who were overbuying in a panic as “selfish”.

“People are running in and picking everything up, when there are old people or people who are disabled who need to buy stuff, too,” he said.

Coburg mother of two Brooke Spedding also had trouble finding nappies at her local supermarket.

“The staples that we buy regularly that get us by are what everyone is buying at the moment,” Ms Spedding said.

“I needed to buy nappies and there were none, which is really horrible because I know a lot of people need them. Quite a few mums in the supermarket looked quite distressed.”

Ms Spedding said she was concerned for older shoppers who relied on shopping in-store.

“There were older people wandering around the supermarket looking devastated because they couldn’t get basics for themselves,” she said. “It’s just chaos.”

An IGA store in Werribee was filmed selling individual toilet rolls.

– Mandy Squires

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ANZAC DAY?

The Anzac Day march is under review as the RSL considers televising the Dawn Service without a crowd for the first time.

Stakeholders will meet this week to decide whether smaller community services should go ahead, and if elderly veterans can safely attend.

RSL Victoria chief executive Jamie Twidale confirmed the march to the Shrine of Remembrance would likely not run, but the Dawn Service could be held without the public in attendance.

“We are not aware of a time it hasn’t gone ahead,” he said of the march. “But we will do something.”

Mr Twidale said it was possible a small contingent of up to 30 veterans could march on April 25, but not the full procession.

He said it didn’t matter if Victorians reflected on the sacrifice of Australia’s servicemen and women from home, or at the Shrine of Remembrance.

“Anzac Day is more than a service and a march — it’s about embodying that line, ‘Lest we forget’,” he said.

A meeting will be held midweek between RSL Victoria, the Shrine, health officers and the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

It comes as the Gallipoli dawn service and other overseas Anzac Day service are unlikely to run next month due to the coronavirus.

Last week the Morrison Government said it expected services in Turkey and France to go ahead as planned but the rapidly spreading virus has put overseas services in doubt.

JURY TRIALS SUSPENDED

Criminal trials will grind to a halt as the Victorian courts move to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In an unprecedented move all Supreme Court and County Court trials will be suspended from Monday indefinitely.

It is understood to be the first time in the history of the Victorian courts that this has occurred.

The move, and indefinite measure, is set to cause significant delays in the justice system.

Several significant trials were expected to get underway over the next month, but will now need to be pushed back.

There were eight trials, due to be empaneled Monday.

Six criminal trials at the County Court, and one civil trial at each of the Supreme and County courts.

Between the courts there are currently 15 active trials.

Dozens of trials are expected to impacted over the first two weeks across both courts.

Those delays could cause a backlog of cases like the Victorian justice system has never experienced before.

It could also see a rush of accused criminals on remand in prison apply for bail citing delays in their case being heard as a reason for release back into the community.

In extreme cases some people set for trial could potentially seek a stay of proceedings because of inordinate delays.

The decision was made following a Court Councils meeting on Friday.

“We’re sailing into uncharted waters. It’s a bit scary,” one senior justice figure said.

Trials already underway will continue and all courts will continue hearing other matters.

According to Juries Victoria every year about 25,000 people attend court for jury service in Victoria, with approximately 6500 serving as jurors on about 600 trials.

Juries are selected of large jury pools of about 150 people that attend court on any given day.

Because of the large number of people involved there are concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said she was confident the move was in the best interests of the Victorian community.

“This precautionary decision was made after consideration of the latest expert health and government advice and recognises that members of the community may hold concerns about attending court in large groups,” she said.

“The courts are developing plans to minimise the disruption during this period and exploring alternative methods of managing the jury process.

“We will provide further information on these plans as they develop.”

Juries Victoria is in the process of contacting people who have received a summons to attend for jury service on Monday to advise they should not attend Court.

– Shannon Deery

CONSTRUCTION MAY HALT

Construction projects across the state could grind to a halt if coronavirus hits building sites and strikes down tradespeople.

Some Victorian builders are already knocking back new jobs because of difficulty getting supplies, making the futures of subcontractors and apprentices uncertain, the Sunday Herald Sun has been told.

Small builders could also be driven to the wall if they are unable to work and complete projects.

And while it’s business as usual for now on major Melbourne projects, including the Metro and West Gate tunnels, level-crossing removals and the North East Link and other road projects, radical action could be taken if workers are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) director-general Corey Hannett said protocols were in place to manage the potential spread and exposure risks of coronavirus.

“The safety and wellbeing of all our staff is our No.1 priority and we are continuing to monitor current advice and ensure our people and projects are prepared,” he said.

The Sunday Herald Sun understands there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus within the MTIA but the organisation is poised to implement a comprehensive response plan if required.

Workers on the Metro Tunnel project typically work in proximity, making the possibility of disease spread high.

The MTIA said its coronavirus action plan was designed to minimise health risks to all employees and make sure plans were in place if employees were infected or had to be isolated.

It added that it had contingency plans so business operations could continue in the event of an outbreak.

“MTIA is continuing to follow government advice to reduce the risk and spread of coronavirus and has taken proactive and preventive measures to minimise exposure across all our projects,” it said.

Master Builders Victoria said it was urging its members to develop coronavirus response plans “for what is likely to be prolonged disruption”.

Chief executive Rebecca Casson said the response to coronavirus was changing rapidly in the building and construction industry, as it was elsewhere.

“The impact also varies greatly across our membership; some are relatively unaffected so far, while we are hearing reports of some organisations preparing to cease taking on new work due to a lack of supplies,” she said.

“What is now certain is that the effect of the coronavirus will be significant and so we welcome the stimulus packages already announced and any measures that governments can take to minimise the disruption.

“Master Builders Victoria continues to actively engage with our members on this issue and represent their concerns with the state government and other stakeholders.”

It comes as unions demand the federal government guarantee two weeks’ paid special leave for all workers amid the coronavirus crisis.

In a petition to the federal government, Australian Unions said: “Working people need to know they don’t have to make the decision between going to work sick, or self-isolating and not being able to pay their bills.

“The government must ensure that all workers have paid special leave — if you’re sick and don’t have sick leave entitlements or if you’re forced to self-quarantine.”

– Mandy Squires

DUTTON DOING ‘PRETTY WELL’

Coronavirus-infected Peter Dutton has given an update on his condition from a Brisbane hospital bed, saying he’s doing “pretty well”.

“Temperatures down, fever has gone, so I’m feeling pretty good,” he told Triple M.

The home affairs minister tested positive yesterday afternoon, shortly after returning from a trip to Washington where he met with key members of the Trump administration, including Ivanka Trump.

But Mr Dutton said doctors told him he posed no risk to Ms Trump.

“They (doctors) seem to be only worried about contact I’ve had with people from the eleventh of March on, so I was over in US on the 6th or 7th or something like that, so I don’t think there’s any concern there.”

Mr Dutton described his symptoms as a dry cough, sore throat with a temperature and fever.

WHAT DEFINES A MASS GATHERING

Health authorities will soon determine whether the ban on mass gatherings will stretch to Victoria’s schools, courts and work places.

Minister of Major Events Martin Pakula said there will be further announcements over the next 24 hours about the ban on mass gatherings on other public spaces that didn’t cover the major sporting events and festivals already cancelled.

“They as I understand it will this weekend — they met last night — will put some definition around the concept of what is a mass gathering”

The decision would be made before Monday whether the definition extended to “workers in an office, a court or a school “

Asked whether public servants could have asked to work from home next week he said:” Anything is possible but I don’t think that is likely.”

There was no immediate need to close Victorian schools – but it could happen if there are community outbreaks.

He expected major Melbourne shows like Harry Potter would have to make decisions about whether to postpone shows beyond this weekend or to play to reduced crowds.

It was “impossible” to put a dollar figure on the impact coronavirus was having on the Victorian or Australian economy.

“If anyone gave you a figure they would be pulling it out of the sky.”

Mr Pakula said the measures being adopted would undoubtedly impact on the way Victorian lived their lives in the weeks ahead.

“No one knows how long this is going to last.”

The decisions to ban crowds from sporting events was done solely to slow the spread of the virus.

“We have got to try and slow the spread of the virus down. Australia is ahead of the curve and doing the right thing … but these are very difficult times.”

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said he didn’t think closures were “on the horizon”.

“At this stage we don’t think school closures are on the horizon. They are certainly something that could be considered if there’s community outbreaks.”

Children were not being impacted by the virus as much as older people.

“The interesting aspect about schools at the moment is that children don’t seem to get either much in the way of infection, or if they do they get very mild infections.

“At this stage we don’t feel that school closures are warranted.”

– Andrew Koubaridi

SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL FLATTEN THE CURVE

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer has backed drastic measures to control the spread of coronavirus, saying they will help the country “get ahead of the curve.”

Professor Brendan Murphy said new social distancing measures, which will come into effect on Monday, will help stop community transmission and widespread cases.

“We do not want to see rapid increases like we have in some parts of the world,” Prof Murphy said on Saturday.

“That’s why we’re moving early.

“It’s very hard to predict … an infection could take some months to go through the community.

“But it depends how it develops.

“If it develops in a number of parts (of the country) it could last for quite a number of weeks.

“At the moment we are just focusing on containing and flattening it.

Prof Murphy said that as of 6.30am Saturday there were 197 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia.

DANGER’S ADVICE TO DUTTON

Cats star Patrick Dangerfield has controversially tweeted coronavirus-infected Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton should be quarantined on Christmas Island with asylum seekers.

In a tweet which he quickly deleted, Dangerfield said “send him to Christmas Island and see how he likes it”.

While some applauded the Friday night tweet, others labelled it “an embarrassment”, “spineless” and “pathetic”.

Dangerfield later tweeted “blank tweets from now on”.

Mr Dutton, 48, woke up on Friday morning “with a temperature and sore throat” and was tested for coronavirus.

“I immediately contacted the Queensland Department of Health and was subsequently tested for COVID-19. I was advised by Queensland Health this afternoon that the test had returned positive,” he said in a statement.

“It is the policy of Queensland Health that anyone who tests positive is to be admitted into hospital and I have complied with their advice.”

“I feel fine and will provide an update in due course.”

It comes as Dangerfield’s club, Geelong, stands to lose up to $1 million per home game following the AFL’s decision to prohibit spectators attending matches in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This is going to be unlike any football season we have ever seen,” Cats president Colin Carter said.

“We have survived a few world wars, quite a few depressions and quite a few pandemics, so we will survive the coronavirus.

“The bad news is that the financial risks are considerable. For games played in empty stadiums the financial hit to all clubs is going to be enormous.”

— Mandy Squires

CATHOLIC CHURCH COULD STOP PUBLIC MASSES

The Catholic Church has flagged stopping public masses in Victoria in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some parishes are already putting plans in place to potentially livestream mass to local communities.

Victoria’s four bishops have written to parishioners to warn them that it is likely the public celebration of mass will be suspended.

For now the church has banned masses of 500 people or more, from Monday, in line with the cancellation of large gatherings announced by prime minister Scott Morrison.

There are no changes to masses this weekend.

“We believe that this is a good and measured decision, and should be understood as a responsible and precautionary step to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially our elderly, the infirm and the very young,” the bishops wrote.

But they warned that as advice was received over coming days, there would likely be further steps taken, “which may include the suspension of public celebrations of Mass and other liturgies”.

Around the world, masses have already stopped with 900 historic churches throughout Rome closed until at least April 3.

The move has been taken to help limit the spread of coronavirus and protect the elderly.

While Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral already streams daily masses live, other parishes are now investigating streaming options ahead of Easter, the most important celebration in the Catholic calendar.

“As Christians, our priority at all times is the care and safety of our people,” the bishops wrote.

“Please keep in regular contact with your family, neighbours and members of your parish communities as best you can.

“We encourage our priests to continue to celebrate Mass for the spiritual good of God’s people.

“We also encourage the clergy to make themselves available to visit individuals, especially those who are unwell and vulnerable.”

In measures already taken by the church priests have been banned from distributing communion wine while congregants have been encouraged not to shake hands during mass.

– Shannon Deery

IVANKA WORKS FROM HOME AFTER DUTTON CONTACT

America’s first daughter Ivanka Trump has not gone into isolation and or been tested after her exposure to Australia’s corona virus-infected Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton.

Ms Trump met Mr Dutton last week in Washington at a child exploitation summit, along with Attorney-General William Barr and other White House staff.

The White House said Ms Trump was working from home and was not planning to go into self-isolation, which is the recommended action from those exposed to someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19.

Ms Trump on Friday worked from home and was following instructions from the White House Medical Unit, according to a spokesman.

“The White House is aware that Mr Dutton tested positive for COVID-19,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.

“He was asymptomatic during the interaction. Exposures from the case were assessed and the White House Medical Unit confirmed, in accordance with CDC guidance, that Ivanka is exhibiting no symptoms and does not need to self-quarantine.