In the United Kingdom the government announces that Friday the 20th schools will shut down in the UK. This follows several countries on the continent already having done so.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson in comparison to other European nations seems more intransigent talking about herd immunity and not taking action as early as some.
This announcement though puts my sister and her husband, both teachers, at home safe taking care of their young daughter. It is also ahead of the USA and Australia who still have their schools open.
The World Health Organisation reports 2,630 cases in the UK that day with a daily increase of 676. The death toll almost doubles that day with a daily increase of 43 taking the total past 100 to 103.
In Australia some major announcements were made regarding travel. At this point there were 510 cases with a daily increase of 96. The death toll rose by one that day to a total of six.
Australia had been fairly early with some of its travel restrictions as far back as the 1st of February when the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade denied entry to those travelling from China directly with the exceptions of Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families.
DFAT also advised Australians not to travel to China due to the escalating threat and those who have returned to self isolate for 14 days. Those travelling on a visas who arrived after the restrictions were put in place were not asked to do anything. They were put in quarantine.
In a 24 hour period this had a significant effect with the Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram advising “In Melbourne, we were expecting about 5,000 scheduled passengers to arrive from China, and we’re now expecting about 700 over that 24-hour period. So a significant downturn. In Brisbane, we were expecting 220, and we’re now only expecting about 97.”
You could come into the country if you had stayed somewhere for 14 days after leaving China before arriving in Australia which as my previous diary entry revealed did not stop a local student coming back with the virus.
On the 1st of February the World Health Organisation reported 11,821 cases in China with a daily increase 2,101. The death toll was recorded as 259 with a daily increase of 46.
On the 29th of February the ban included Iran. On the 29th of February the WHO reports 593 cases in Iran with a daily increase of 205. The death toll is recorded as 43 with a daily increase of nine.
Days later on the 5th of March South Korea was added to the list of countries. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 5,766 cases in South Korea with a daily increase of 438. The death toll in South Korea is 35 with three new deaths that day.
Those returning to Australia from Italy were also to face more screening questions and having their temperature taken. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 3,858 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 769. The death toll in the country is 148 with a daily increase of 41.
Then on the 11th of March Italy joined the list. On the 11th of March, the WHO reports 12,462 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 2,313. The death toll in six days had risen to 827 with 196 deaths recorded that day alone.
On March 18, the Australian government issued its highest travel advice level (level 4), advising Australians to avoid all travel regardless of destination, age and health.
The Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference announcing new restrictions which included only two visitors to aged care homes and a ban on indoor gatherings of 100 people or less with certain exceptions like schools, supermarkets and exceptions.
The words restrictions, exceptions, bans, gatherings were being heard more and more these days.
His occasional bulldoggish demeanour started to come to the fore when he advised “Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful, and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis”.
This for me is no small thing and not a negative observation. After being critical of the Prime Minister during the national bushfire crisis only weeks earlier – here was a turning point.
In the days ahead I would often note to friends “For lack of a better term, this crisis suits him better.”