Good evening, here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. This is Elias Visontay and it’s Monday 1 June.
NSW and Victoria record new cases as restrictions eased
As restaurants and cafes across NSW welcomed up to 50 diners at any given time on Monday, three additional Covid-19 cases were recorded, bringing the state’s total to 3,098.
In Victoria, authorities announced a further four cases of Covid-19 on Monday, as it also loosened lockdown restrictions.
Victorians are now able to dine out at restaurants with up to 20 patrons at the same time.
This explainer outlines current restrictions around the country in greater depth.
Scott Morrison targets construction projects as stimulus
The federal government has opened the door to providing cash grants for home renovations as part of a new round of economic stimulus aimed at propping up Australia’s construction sector.
The government has also hinted it is looking at helping the struggling arts and entertainment sector, which has been pleading for assistance for months because many workers have missed out on the $1,500 fortnightly jobkeeper wage subsidy.
It is understood the support for home renovations is on the table – but the bigger focus of the forthcoming package is likely to be new construction and larger-scale work.
It comes as the prime minister joined NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian in Sydney on Monday to announce $1.75bn in federal government funding for a metro line to the future airport at Badgerys Creek in the city’s west.
NRL announces review into screening process of cardboard cut-out fans as Matthew Johns apologises for Hitler stunt
Fox Sports and former NRL player Matthew Johns have apologised for a comedy sketch where they used the NRL’s new cardboard cut-outs to put the face of Adolf Hitler into the crowd.
As stadiums are empty, the league has launched an initiative where fans can pay $22 to send in photos and have a cardboard cut-out of themselves sit in the stands. However, multiple people have taken advantage of the scheme to submit childish and offensive jokes.
Over the weekend, a photo of English serial killer Dr Harold Shipman was spotted in the stands – among other potential “joke” cutouts – during the match between Newcastle and Penrith.
Johns then aired a sketch on Fox Sports which showed a cut-out of Hitler in the stands – though this did not actually happen. Another japester made headlines on Friday for submitting a photo of Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummins, who did appear on TV screens.
The NRL has now announced it will review the screening process for the cardboard cut-outs, to deter other people abusing the process for a cheap laugh.
Drug watchdog takes church to court over Covid-19 bleach cure
Australia’s drug regulator has started court proceedings against a “healing church” that promoted a solution containing industrial bleach as a cure for coronavirus, after the church failed to remove advertisements promoting the product from its website.
It comes after the Therapeutic Goods Administration fined the Australian chapter of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing more than $150,000 in May for selling and promoting the solution containing sodium chlorite, a chemical used as a textile bleaching agent and disinfectant.
The product is named Miracle Mineral Supplement and Miracle Mineral Solution on the church’s MMS Australia website, which claimed it could prevent and treat a range of diseases including Covid-19. The TGA said the company had breached multiple advertising laws.
Rugby Australia cuts one-third of its staff as part of ‘incredibly difficult’ restructure
Rugby Australia laid off 47 of its 142 fulltime staff on Monday morning, as it implements “phase one” of a restructure that will save the code $5.5m per year.
The cuts, which will also see 30 contractors and casual workers axed, comes after Rugby Australia reported a $9.4m loss in 2019. All senior staff who remain with Rugby Australia will have their salary reduced by 5%.
In a statement released on Monday, Rugby Australia noted “over 75% of Rugby Australia’s workforce has been stood down, or on significantly reduced hours since April 1, while senior executive staff have continued to work on a fulltime basis with salary reductions of at least 30% since that date.”
Rugby Australia interim chief executive Rob Clarke said “today was an incredibly difficult day for the organisation”.
Coalition gave private pathology companies lucrative Covid-19 contracts
The Australian government handed major pathology companies lucrative Covid-19 contracts through limited tenders, shielded their closed collection centres from takeover, provided large subsidy increases after industry lobbying, waived normal registration fees and promised to provide additional assistance outside jobkeeper.
Guardian Australia has spent the past week examining aspects of the federal government’s response to coronavirus, investigating problems with jobkeeper, the childcare support package, and the potential economic impact of the sudden cessation of stimulus.
A critical part of the government’s response was aimed at helping the highly concentrated and influential private pathology sector.
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