Morning mail: Coronavirus getting stronger, aged care wait blowout, Barty triumphs

Helen Sullivan
Photograph: Betsy Joles/Getty Images

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 27 January .

Top stories

Coronavirus’s ability to spread is getting stronger, China’s health commission minister has suggested. New and tougher restrictions on movement and the trade in wild animals are to be imposed in China to try to contain the pneumonia outbreak caused by a new coronavirus, the country’s health commission minister Ma Xiaowei has announced, warning the virus was showing greater potential to pass from one person to another, possibly before symptoms show. “The transmissibility shows signs of increasing,” said Xiaowei on Sunday, but he added that much was still unknown about the virus.

Australia’s chief medical officer has warned there will likely be more coronavirus cases confirmed in the country, as the federal government explores plans to evacuate Australian citizens from the pandemic’s epicentre in central China. Foreign affairs minister Marise Payne said her department was “working closely with Chinese authorities and international partners to consider possible assistance with travel for Australians from areas that are affected by Chinese travel restrictions”. Four cases of the virus have been confirmed in Australia, while NSW Health said on Sunday afternoon another person had tested positive, according to their preliminary test results, though more follow-up was needed.

It takes 152 days on average for senior Australians to be admitted to residential aged care, an increase in wait times of about a month in just the last year. According to the latest report on government services statistics, published by the Productivity Commission, about 40% of senior Australians are now waiting nine months or more to be admitted into aged care. Labor has seized on the statistics, citing the fact average wait times have blown out by almost 300% from 40 days in 2012-13, when the Coalition was elected to federal government, to 152 days in 2018-19.

Australia

Protesters march during the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne on 26 January. Photograph: James Ross/EPA

Thousands gathered for Invasion Day rallies across the country to protest against 26 January celebrations and to call on Australians to “pay the rent”. Organisers collected donations at the protests to help First Nations families pay for funeral costs.

Anthony Albanese has warned Australia cannot treat unprecedented bushfires as “business as usual” and Scott Morrison extended eligibility for the national emergency medal as the bushfire crisis coloured national celebrations on Sunday.

Former Australian of the year Rosie Batty said she is “dismayed” by a decision to award an Australia Day honour to Bettina Arndt, a controversial writer and media commentator.

The world

A farmer looks back as she walks through swarms of desert locusts feeding on her crops, in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

Kenya is suffering from the worst outbreak of desert locusts for 70 years, which has seen hundreds of millions of the insects swarm into the east African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. Those two countries have not had an infestation like this in a quarter century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger.

Donald Trump demanded the dismissal of Marie Yovanovitch, then US ambassador to Ukraine and now a key figure in the president’s impeachment trial, according to a video recording released to the media.

At seven months detained, seven-year-old Maddie Hernandez is the longest-held child currently in family immigration detention across the US, her attorneys say. On 17 January, she turned seven years old at Berks county residential centre, a controversial detention facility in Pennsylvania where she has spent roughly 8% of her life.

British Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey has called for greater powers for Scotland and Wales, suggesting the Scottish and Welsh parliaments to be put on an equal footing with Westminster instead of being “servile” satellites.

Recommended reads

The death of Dee Bliss on Neighbours was merely one in a long and agonising history, writes Clem Bastow. The Australian television deaths that broke the hearts of viewers nationwide began with the demise of ringleader Judy in Seven Little Australians. There was Stingray, nodding off for good at his mum’s birthday party on Ramsay Street. The godly Patrick from Offspring, surviving a car accident only to die before the birth of his and Nina’s baby. Leukaemia-stricken Molly, A Country Practice’s beloved farmer, drifting away into a fade-out as she watched her family play. And in perhaps the most devastating of recent memory, Love My Way’s Lou falls off her scooter, never to wake.

When you think of the northern rivers, you probably think of Byron Bay. Yes, the town has surfing, whale watching and even now a Hemsworth among its attractions. But others towns in the region, including Murwillumbah, Brunswick Heads and Cabarita, have all of Byron’s charm – with less traffic. From spirits (the drinking kind) and spirituality, crystals and candles to wilderness areas, beautiful beaches and one of the country’s favourite museums, there’s something for all, whether you’re day-trippers from Queensland, weekenders from Sydney or visiting for longer from further afield.

Listen

On today’s episode of Full Story: an update on some of our biggest stories of 2019, including Angus Taylor’s political scandals, the religious freedom bill and the legal battle over robodebt.

Sport

Ash Barty celebrates during the Australian Open. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Ashleigh Barty has survived an alarming form wobble to see off the determined American Alison Riske 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, writes Kevin Mitchell, as Roger Federer survived a scare to set up an Australian Open meeting with Tennys Sandgren.

Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, has reportedly died in a helicopter crash. He was 41. TMZ initially reported the news, and said Bryant was on board the helicopter along with four others when it crashed in foggy weather near Calabasas in California.

England have set South Africa a target of 466 to win the fourth Test, writes Vic Marks, with a potent mix of flamboyant batting and superbly disciplined bowling. At the end of a day that began under a blanket of grey cloud and ended in bright sunshine, South Africa were in a terrible mess on 88 for six, trailing by 312 runs.

In football, games – even seasons – can turn on the tiniest of incidents, writes Richard Parkin. Robbie Fowler’s Roar seize on football’s fortunes demonstrates just this.

Media roundup

The Australian leads with the news that 100 Australian children are currently stuck in Wuhan, with diplomats working to repatriate Australian citizens currently stranded in the city – ground zero for the coronavirus. An Australian artist has lost both her legs in a freak subway accident in New York, the Sydney Morning Herald reveals. News.com.au reports that a woman has died while swimming at Short Point Beach in Merimbula, on the NSW south coast.

Coming up

Nick Kyrgios will play Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the Australian Open at 7pm tonight.

And if you’ve read this far …

If you’re a married woman in Jersey and you want to discuss your tax affairs with the government, better ask your husband’s permission first – thankfully the “only husbands talk tax” rule is up for debate in February with proposals to overhaul women’s taxation and bring in changes next year.

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