Virus testing to get a boost as Australia’s COVID-19 transmission rates fall

NSW is planning to test more people to help stamp out coronavirus before it takes hold.

NSW is planning to test more people to help stamp out coronavirus before it takes hold. Photo: AAP

Testing for COVID-19 will be scaled up in NSW to include people with mild respiratory symptoms in a bid to squash community outbreaks.

From Friday up to 8,000 people a day will now be tested in Australia’s worst-hit state, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced.

Ms Berejiklian called on anyone with mild symptoms or who was concerned to come forward, even if they were not considered high-risk.

“We want to see the number of tests go up above 8000 every day,” she said on Friday morning.

It comes as the nation’s coronavirus transmission rates fall, with only 12 new cases recorded in the 24-hours to Thursday afternoon, to the point the federal government is considering whether to ease restrictions.

NSW has had 2,967 cases, followed by Victoria 1337, Queensland 1026, Western Australia 546, South Australia, 438, ACT 104 and the Northern Territory 27.

NSW’s COVID-19 death toll reached 34 with the passing of a fourth resident at a western Sydney nursing home where more than 40 people have been infected with coronavirus.

The 79-year-old woman died at Anglicare’s Newmarch House early on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the Ruby Princess cruise ship began to make its way out of Australia on Thursday afternoon after leaving Port Kembla where it had been moored for more than a fortnight following a COVID-19 outbreak.

The ship, so far linked to 21 coronavirus deaths and up to 600 infections across Australia, was led out of the Wollongong port about 4.30pm, bearing a banner with the words: “Thank you Illawarra.”

The ship now has about 500 crew members on board.

Penthouse sale to fund virus research

Research into coronavirus treatments has been boosted by an unlikely benefactor – an 82-year-old great-grandfather who is selling his multi-million dollar beachside penthouse to fund national drug trials.

The four-bedroom, three-bathroom Maroochydore home – complete with a rooftop pool, sauna and media room – goes under the hammer on Friday to raise money for the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Coronavirus Action Fund.

It is hoped the apartment will bring in around $4 million, and real estate agent Mark Lawler has forfeited his commission on the sale to make sure each cent goes to the foundation.

The money raised will go towards the expansion of national trials to test the effectiveness of two drugs in treating COVID-19, and to supporting other virus-related medical research.

Keith Drake didn’t have to work hard to convince his wife Glenda to sell their penthouse. Photo: ABC

Owner Keith Drake said when he saw RBWH researcher David Paterson interviewed about the trials on the news, he knew what “had to be done”.

“It all happened in a rush, it didn’t really take much deciding,” he said.

“I’m 83 in a few weeks, I think this is by far the most serious thing I can remember living through.”

Even convincing his wife of 58 years, Glenda, was easy.

“She said, ‘You know, why not? It sounds like a good idea to me, it’s for a good cause. Let’s do it.'”

It’s hoped the penthouse on the Sunshine Coast will fetch $4 million. Photo: MySaltyLife Photography

The auction date for the home, which was bought for $2.75 million in 2006, was set after a flurry of meetings with lawyers, the foundation and real estate agents.

“I reckon that if Shane Warne’s baggy green can generate more than a million for bushfire relief there will be people willing to put their hand up to support efforts to find treatments for COVID-19,” Mr Lawler said in a statement this week.

RBWH Foundation CEO Simone Garske said the organisation was incredibly grateful for the Drakes’ generous sacrifice.

Tasmania outbreak ‘likely’ from Ruby Princess

Australia’s chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy says a deadly COVID-19 outbreak in north-west Tasmania likely originated from a Ruby Princess passenger and is a lesson of how easily the virus can spread.

The region has been told to brace for an extension of tough restrictions as authorities try to contain the outbreak, which accounts for more than half of the island’s 205 cases.

There were no new virus cases recorded on Thursday, the first time since March 31.

The first three of the state’s eight virus deaths were passengers aboard the ill-fated cruise ship.

Two were patients at the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie, which has since been closed alongside its private counterpart, forcing 1200 staff into quarantine.

The outbreak prompted tough retail restrictions, which could be lifted on Sunday night.

NRL claims Queensland govt didn’t want return plan

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged the NRL to submit details of its proposed return, claiming the state’s chief medical officer was open to considering the league’s position.

Given its border are closed, Queensland’s three teams will be forced to relocate to NSW with the NRL aiming for a May 28 restart.

Ms Palaszczuk claimed the NRL, which is hopeful border restrictions could ease by the time the game returns, had been working only with the NSW government.

Earlier this week she said she was open to State of Origin being played in Brisbane later in the year.

“There is no detailed plan. I call on the NRL to submit that detailed plan and I will immediately forward it to [chief medical officer] Dr (Jeannette) Young for her consideration and to report back to me,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“There are some Queensland teams here, so let’s see what can happen.”

NSW aged-care home facing 50 days of COVID-19

Anglicare’s chief executive says it is likely the organisation will be dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak at Newmarch House in western Sydney for about 50 days.

It follows the death of a fourth resident, a 79-year-old woman, on Thursday morning and a total of 44 people – 29 residents and 15 staff – being infected.

Anglicare said it takes staff at least five times longer to deliver care to residents because of the need to dress in full personal protective equipment, continue strict hygiene, and maintain social isolation.

Five new cases of COVID-19 were reported in NSW on Thursday for the second consecutive day, taking the state’s toll to 2976 with 21 people in intensive care.

Up to 8000 people will be tested for COVID-19 each day.

Among the five new cases in NSW on Thursday were an ambulance paramedic in south-west Sydney and a nurse at the Sydney Adventist Hospital.

-with AAP

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