Almost 100,000 coronavirus testing kits due to land in Australia to bolster diminishing stocks

By political reporter Nour Haydar Almost 100,000 coronavirus testing kits are on the way to Australia as the Federal Government prepares to announce tougher restrictions on social gatherings to stall the spread of the virus.

Key points:

  • A shipment of 97,000 COVID-19 tests will reach Australia this week to bolster diminishing stock levels
  • More than 81,000 tests have been undertaken so far
  • Defence personnel will help make supplies such as surgical face masks, sanitiser and goggles
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to unveil the stiffer rules on indoor crowds today, after convening back-to-back meetings of the National Security Committee and the National Cabinet late last night.
The agenda also included deliberations on the latest advice from the nation's chief medical officers on what additional measures are required to protect elderly people in residential aged care facilities and remote Indigenous communities.

More tests boost stock levels

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said 97,000 tests will reach Australian shores this week to bolster the nation's diminishing stock levels.
"Our best scientists and medical experts are working around the clock to secure the supplies we need to test for and tackle the coronavirus epidemic," Mr Hunt said.
So far, more than 81,000 tests have been undertaken with 414 Australians returning positive results.
Mr Hunt said alongside importing more internationally manufactured kits, the Government is focused on expanding the use of alternative tests recently developed in Australian laboratories.
"The aim is to have more tests and more types so we can avoid any disruption in the large-scale testing regime we have in place in Australia," he said.
The Doherty Institute in Melbourne has created an in-house testing method made from different components to the international commercial testing kits, which the Government hopes to roll out to other labs.

Defence to help manufacture essential supplies

Late on Tuesday, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds also revealed members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) would be used to help ramp up domestic production of fast-depleting medical equipment.
Around a dozen ADF personnel will assist the Victorian manufacturer Med-Con to make supplies including surgical face masks, sanitiser, goggles and gowns.
"These skilled soldiers are with the company's existing staff on production, maintenance and warehousing tasks," Senator Reynolds said.
"The Defence support will fill a short-term gap while Med-Con Pty Ltd recruits and trains supplementary staff."

Economist: Time for interest-free loans

ANU Professor of Economics Warwick McKibbin argues the second round of stimulus must include zero-interest "income-contingent loans" for households and businesses.
"When people go to university, they can borrow against the government and pay it back when their incomes rise; we should be doing that in this case right across the economy," he said.
A $17.6 billion economic stimulus package was announced less than a week ago, however, rapidly changing domestic and global circumstances have prompted the Government to begin crafting a second package.
Professor McKibbin says the prospect of a depression cannot be ruled out and sensible policy choices are necessary to prevent businesses from permanently shutting down.
"It's not the amount of money that's being spent that matters, it's how it's allocated," he said.
"The next round has to really focus on this idea that we need the Government to provide income to everybody in the economy to keep spending, moving, but also to keep production continuing."
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March 17, 2020
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