Going Viral – Hatch’s daily blog and updates on the coronavirus

The coronavirus COVID-19 has created a global crisis. (Photo: Prachatai/Flickr)

Like many firms and institutions Macleay College’s student reporters will work remotely and in isolation to stay healthy and help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Here they blog about life under lockdown and the daily release of news on COVID-19 and it’s spread across Australia and around the world.


Latest: Australia 5,550 infected; 30 deaths.

April 4, 2020: A tale of two cities… Here’s a salient example from 1918 of how Philadelphia stuffed up while St Louis ‘flattened the curve’ in their different approaches to dealing with the Spanish Flu. It relates to today’s coronavirus crisis, but also worryingly warns of a second wave.

T’was a dark and stormy virus… How many books will be written about the coronavirus outbreak? We’ve probably all got at least one in us. Check out this very satisfying Twitter thread to see how a few of them might begin (Spot on Alex Leo).

Not in the pink… Singer Pink has revealed she tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago but has now recovered. She joins dozens of well-knowns who have caught coronavirus, including Idris Elba, Tom Hanks, Placido Domingo, Boris Johnson, Prince Charles, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Jackson Browne, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Durant.

Ship of fools… NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard sounding a bit like Donald Trump at his press conference, defending the disembarkation of the Ruby Princess passengers, he says: “The experts who made the decision were the best in the world.” According to who? Brad. Both he and NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant both (stunningly) defend and try to mitigate the decision to disembark 2,700 passengers from the cruise ship despite NSW Health knowing there were possibly coronavirus cases onboard. So far, and counting, 662 people from the RP have tested positive and seven have died. So far, this is the most wrong-headed defence of a stuff-up we’ve heard in a long time. The opposition called for Hazzard’s resignation and he responded with the defence: “I didn’t know anything about the Ruby Princess.” Damning!

Morning brief… Donald Trump tells Americans they should start wearing masks as new research suggests that both a large percentage (at least a third of people) show no symptoms and the virus can be transmitted through the air just from speaking to someone, rather than by coughing or sneezing; Questions raised in the Washington Post about whether the death toll in China has been massaged by authorities – based on orders for funerary urns in Wuhan, the source of the global outbreak, the paper estimates over 40,000 may have died in that one city alone.

April 3, 2020: Keeping the virus out… Like we saw when the outbreak started in China, small villages barricading roads to prevent possibly infected outsiders bringing the virus into their community, so too the same response is now being seen in Britain.

Can Bondi please get its head out of its arse… Despite all the bad press about the denizens, or daytrippers, at Bondi ignoring social gathering laws there have been numerous reports that it’s still going on in Bondi, Manly and other nearby beach suburbs.

Same old same old… Check out this footage from a parade at the time of the Spanish Flu 102 years ago.

A debacle we can’t allow to be covered up… Channel Nine has come into some emails between NSW Health and the supervising doctor onboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship which shows a request for an urgent hospital transfer for two passengers with upper respiratory tract infections. They and 12 others were tested for flu onboard and returned negative results. Despite all the world knew about the coronavirus cases aboard the Diamond Princess in Tokyo the health department emailed back: “The NSW Health expert panel has assessed the Ruby Princess as not requiring on-board health assessment in Sydney. We could, however, ask you to send the 15 samples to our lab for COVID testing. You are free to disembark tomorrow.” Result: Seven dead (so far), over 600 infected and the virus spread to every state as the 2,700 passengers allowed to disembark made their way home. Heads must roll, probably Brad Hazzard’s. FULL STORY

Kiwi link… Meanwhile, The Ruby Princess is now being linked to outbreaks in New Zealand, where it stopped before going on to Australia. It’s clear the ship was already a giant COVID-19 incubator by the time it reached Sydney’s Circular Quay.

Where’s Kerbox?… Bondi Rescue is taking on a new meaning as the popular beach becomes the focus of coronavirus containment in Sydney.

Dance your troubles away… There has been no better coronavirus meme, yet, than Melbournian Jeff van de Zandt’s TikTok lip sync of the Scott Morrison v Andrew Proven presser last week. For posterity here it is…

Morning brief… The number of infected people around the world passes the 1 million mark, and the number of deaths goes past 51,000; the number of new cases in NSW has stabilised but there are more new cases from unidentified sources; NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, in her morning press conference, echoes Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying we are in this for at least six months; PM makes childcare free during crisis; Australian passengers, numbering 130, on the Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships allowed to dock in Florida after being one of the hundreds of cruise ships worldwide stranded at sea to be flown home in the next 24 hours; NRL players get 71 per cent wage cut during five-month coronavirus shutdown of rugby league season; In NSW 13 fines have been issued for infringements of social gathering rules; 6.6 million Americans now applying for unemployment benefits; New York hospitals to run out of ventilators in the next six days.

April 2: They walk among us… One in four coronavirus carriers show no symptoms at all according to researchers in the US. Dr Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was a case for everyone wearing masks as those who show no symptoms were still spreading the virus. Even worse, in Iceland as many as 50 per cent of people testing positive apparently showed no symptoms. In Australia, of course, where testing has largely been limited to those with the exact symptoms or who had contact with a carrier, hardly anyone is wearing a mask and schools are still open.

Indigenous news… The Australian Federal Police are sending 102 officers to remote Aboriginal communities, which are more susceptible to coronavirus, in the Northern Territory to keep the bug out. READ THE FULL STORY HERE

But questions are being raised about how much practical help the government has been giving remote Aboriginal communities after this video was shown on NITV.

Fur and away… Cats in Shenzhen are breathing a sigh of relief (as opposed to just sighing, which cats seem to do plenty of) after the city became the first in China to ban eating cats and dogs. There isn’t a lot of cat and dog eating in Shenzhen anyway, at 13 million China’s fifth largest city, but after the coronavirus shutdown of wild animal markets animal welfare campaigners see it as another step in the right direction.

Fake a look at me now… Here’s Hatch reporter Juliane Lehmayer’s attempt at a fake Phil Collins lockdown radio station. Well, we are all bored out of our skulls…

Music news… The Fountains of Wayne songwriter Adam Schlesinger has died of coronavirus in upstate New York. Schlesinger, who was only 51, won Grammy awards with the band and Emmys for his work on TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for the title song in the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do.

More silliness… A woman has been charged with intentionally causing physical harm after deliberately coughing on several passersby in the Snowy Mountains. The 41-year-old was refused bail and will appear in Wollongong local court today. Good! Get with the program. FULL STORY HERE

Literary escapism… If you’ve had your fill of Netflix binging on Contagion and The Walking Dead, check out Hatch reporter Erin Christie’s list of the best doomsday books to fuel your imagination.

Morning brief… Police commissioner Mick Fuller says the laws on social gatherings will be enforced for at least three months; 200 Australian soldiers returning from the Middle East to go into quarantine; a 67-year-old woman has died in Orange, the 23rd person to die in Australia; a cut-down version of parliament will return to ratify the government’s $130 billion coronavirus subsidy package; the military will be used to test infected crew and passengers on cruise ships stranded off the Australian coast before ferrying them to safety.

April 1, 2020: Rapid transmission… A man caught speeding at 160kmph in his Lamborghini to get to Westmead Hospital for a COVID-19 test has been fined and had his license suspended. A motorcycle cop pulled the 35-year-old driver over in a 90kmph zone on the M4 at Lidcombe, in Sydney’s west. FULL STORY HERE

Love in the time of coronavirus… Apparently everyone’s libidos have gone to hell because we’re cooped up and can’t see anyone or are too preoccupied worrying about the future. But if you were feeling in the mood would any of these lines work for you?

Extra muscle… NSW Police has released pics of their officers out and about this morning in Sydney’s inner city with Australian Defence Force personnel conducting Public Health Order checks at homes and businesses and enforcing self-isolation requirements. Keep ’em honest!

Think I better dance now… Coronavirus giving you the blues? Well, we’ve come up with a feelgood playlist to lift your self-isolation spirits. Thanks @gillelandliam for compiling!

Morning brief... A fifth person from the Dorothy Henderson nursing home in Sydney has died from the coronavirus, the latest a 95-year-old woman; NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian at her morning press conference says the state has now tested 120,000 people and is doing more general testing to identify and isolate more people (why weren’t they doing this weeks ago? Hang on, it is April Fool’s Day today); she also urges Australian businesses to start making medical supplies because international supply chains are so pressured NSW can’t get enough of what it needs (some anticipation of this by our fearless leaders would have been nice); Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says cops have yet to issue an infringement for breaking social gathering laws and are using their ‘powers of discretion’; a pop-up clinic has been set up at Bondi where a significant outbreak of COVID-19 was detected among backpackers; America now has double the number of infections as China, but a comparable rate of deaths.

March 31, 2020: Bug evolving… Genome mapping researchers at Next Strain, which provides realtime tracking of pathogen evolution, have identified eight variants of COVID-19 that have mutated during the outbreak, although none more virulent than the original. It’s also got this nifty mapping tool, showing the global spread of the virus in timelapse.

Here’s Hatch reporter Matt Gordon’s TikTok take on panic buying.

Morning brief… NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says the state’s residents should be in lockdown in their primary residence and not to travel to other places or holiday homes (urging people to only go out to go to the doctor’s or to get food); Spain, Italy the USA and France top daily fatality tolls, with Spain nearing 1,000 deaths a day and no sign of abatement; Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant reveals a coronavirus outbreak among Bondi backpackers has been identified and authorities are trying to trace people they were in contact with.

March 30, 2020: Start spreading the news… The US is steeling itself for as many as 200,000 deaths as the country’s infection rate soars well past all other countries. In New York’s Central Park a field hospital has even been set up by a Christian charity to deal with overflow patients from Manhattan hospitals.

Know your symptoms… It can be tricky knowing whether that seasonal sniffle you’ve got, might actually be the dreaded rona bug. Here’s a simple chart the good folk at Yahoo knocked up to put you at ease… or not.

Shelf-ish behaviour… A supermarket worker has let off steam about the long hours and toxic customers to deal with during the panic buying pandemonium. Check out Hatch’s report by Liam Gilleland.

Victoria premier Daniel Andrews (rapidly becoming the only politician worth listening to in this crisis) in his morning press conference doesn’t mince words: “Stay at home!” He adds there are only four reasons for going out: medical care, work, self-distanced exercise and buying bare essentials. “This is not just about grandma this is about all of us,” he adds. “If you don’t want to be burying an elderly relative, or your best mate, or your parents, stay at home. Do the right thing or people will die.”

Victoria premier Daniel Andrews lays down the law at his morning press conference. (Photo: ABC screenshot)

Blue Monday… Former PM Julia Gillard, who is the chairman of mental health charity Beyond Blue, says one in three calls they are now getting is about coronavirus stress. They are setting up a dedicated virus hotline.

Morning brief… Government to announce a wage subsidy today with businesses expected to receive $1500 per staff member each fortnight to keep them employed; all people over 70 are urged to self-isolate (they should have said this three weeks ago); comes after last night’s announcement of a six month moratorium on rental evictions due to hardship, the closure of outside gyms and playgrounds and a ban on gatherings of more than two people (excluding family and housemates).

March 29, 2020: Super news… Coles has employed 7,000 people in two weeks and is looking for another 5,000! This is better than Little Shop. SEE FULL RELEASE.

Women at risk… The peril of domestic violence is increasing with lockdowns and self-isolating families. Here’s Hatch reporter Charlie Bullis’ story on it before the announcement of $1.1 billion in funding for DV, Medicare and mental health to come into effect today.

Wage subsidies… Scant information from Mathias Cormann, Finance Minister, on ABC’s Insiders this morning. Says announcement will be made in next few days about supporting jobless and businesses. Refuses to confirm David Speers question that up to 70 per cent of income will be guaranteed. Says it will be income tested, but light on detail. Come on SloMo, get it together!

Border farce… The growing scandal of the Ruby Princess, which is starting to look like Australia’s ground zero for the spread of the virus. So far 293 people of the 2700 allowed to disembark and wander around unchecked have tested positive for COVID-19. An additional 203 came from other cruise ships according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.

Morning brief… The government is set to announce today a significant relief package similar to the UK’s which would guarantee a large portion of the wages of sacked staff, according to The Australian Financial Review; US president Donald Trump is on the verge of a complete lockdown of New York City, the epicenter of America’s coronavirus outbreak; Infections in Australia rose by 257 over the past 24 hours and there was one death.

March 28, 2020: Terminal times… There will be no more family greetings of international arrivals at Australian airports from tomorrow. Because many people ignored directions to self-isolate, authorities say anyone flying in will be immediately ferried to nominated hotels by police or the armed forces to quarantine for 14 days. And they’ve warned their family members not to show up at the airport. They must be losing so much money on those overblown parking fees!

Still it’s not all grim airside.

The new coronavirus crime… The level of silly behaviour on our streets re. the virus continues, with a woman arrested after coughing and spitting on police and claiming she was COVID-19 positive. This is the second person in three days arrested in NSW for this new form of crime, of which there have been even more reported incidents. FULL STORY HERE

Bet you like this… Are you superstitious and like a flutter? Then check out this story by Hatch’s resident punter Liam Gilleland about an auspiciously named racing dog.

Cop that… A 64-year-old man who was ordered to quarantine for 14 days after returning from Thailand has become the first known person in NSW to be fined $1000 for failing to comply with a direction under Section 7 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW). He was warned by police not to leave his home in Bourke in the state’s west, and was then found wandering down the main street. FULL REPORT

If you choose to put the lives of your community at risk by ignoring a direction, you will be caught and you will be fined.

Central North Police Commander Andrew Hurst

Morning brief… British prime minister Boris Johnson tests positive for COVID-19 and goes into self-isolation; President Donald Trump signs into law a $US2 trillion economic rescue package to keep businesses afloat and support those made jobless; a doctor at Bathurst Hospital has tested positive for the virus; Victoria considering similar bans at beaches to those at Bondi in Sydney; PM says defence forces will be used to enforce isolation rules.

March 27, 2020: Worries ahead for medical workers… Hatch’s Maria Sajulga landed this exclusive interview with Australian Doctors Federation boss Stephen Millgate, warning of supply problems ahead for hospitals.

Desperate times… A man has been arrested by NSW Police over the theft of toilet paper from a number of shops. He is also accused of threatening one shopworker with a knife. Sheesh! FULL STORY HERE

It’s that simple… You have to love NSW Police’s social media team.

Poo joggers… Third jogger in a row with toilet paper !! @nicolachrista in Woolloomooloo

Corona cooking… How’s your cupboard looking? A little bare? Not sure how to cook up those odd items you’ve been reduced to after panic buyers stripped the shelves? Well Hatch’s Abby Seaman has the answer.

Morning brief… United States passes China for total number of infections, as 13 patients die in one New York hospital; Worldwide infections double in a week to over 500,000; NSW and Victoria said to be ready to go to stage-3 lockdown in defiance of the federal government strategy; Woolworths to put on 20,000 jobs.

March 26, 2020: Rate of deaths still nowhere near hot spots… Australia’s rate of deaths from coronavirus has begun to escalate in the past 36 hours but is still only at 0.5 persons per million of population, this compares very favourable to places like Italy (124), Spain (78) or Iran (25). But spare a thought for the tiny Southern European municipality of San Marino. With 22 deaths among a population of 33,344 it has the highest world rate of 619.

More stupid behaviour… An in-uniform assistant nurse is deliberately coughed-on and then punched in the face, while getting takeaway. Has the world gone mad, or just Australia? FULL REPORT HERE

Still no accountability…. Sydney Airport international arrivals. What a joke! @NicolaChrista

The morning brief… Australia’s death toll hits double figures after three more die, including two men in Victoria (the state’s first deaths); Spain surpasses China for virus deaths; Prince Charles tests positive and the 30-minute hairdressers’ rule is relaxed (God, can’t they just get it right the first time and stop changing tack?).

Wash your f****** hands!!!! In the meantime, if you thought you knew how to wash your hands already, check out this vid from potty-mouthed celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. @hyoseopyun

March 25, 2020: Put another fine on the barbie… Police have been given new powers to fine people $1000 or businesses $5000 for ignoring Ministerial directions on COVID-19. That means if you’re holding a backyard barbie, look out! DETAILS HERE

Stupid has new definition… A man has been charged after he allegedly walked into Coffs Harbour police station and deliberately coughed on a 71-year-old NSW Police Force employee while saying he was infected with COVID-19. His friend, meanwhile, was filming it. The whole station was shut down and quarantined as a result. READ FULL DETAILS

Lockdown pt2… Tough new laws are being brought in today after the PM’s stage two announcement last night on banning travel overseas and further limits on gatherings. But is it enough? Here’s what people have to get signed to leave the house in Cyprus at the moment.


March 24, 2020: Social distancing… There’s still a real divide between the people who think there’s a problem and the people who think it’s all just hysterical nonsense! @emmagillman3

Help for students… Good news for students who have lost casual work and are struggling to support themselves, as the Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston announces the extension of the coronavirus supplement to students and apprentices.

Instant mass unemployment… Government Services Minister Stuart Robert says “hundreds of thousands, maybe a million” people lost their jobs in the overnight shutdown.

March 23, 2020: Is this the start of a new Great Depression? Huge queues outside Centrelinks everywhere today. This in Bankstown.

On top of this, the MyGov website crashed. Systems overloaded everywhere. What’s next?

Order in, pleeeze… Victoria’s Prem Daniel Andrews, while going against the federal government to announce school closures, gets everyone’s attention with this great dinner party anecdote: “We had a case last week where a group of people, a dozen or so, went to a dinner party. As best we can tell the dinner party started with one person who had the coronavirus. By the end of the dinner party almost everybody at the dinner party had the coronavirus.”

March 21, 2020: Northern exposure… The Territory is closing its borders from Tuesday. If you’re from another state you’ll have to go into isolation for 14 days. The reward is there’s a Darwin stubby on the other side.

The heat is on… Strewth! The state government and police have closed Bondi Beach, Tamarama and Bronte after sun worshippers ignored new safe distancing rules about not holding gatherings of more than 500.

You cruise you lose… More COVID-19 positive passengers were on the Ruby Princess. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard admits (while coughing through his press conference) in “hindsight” he wouldn’t have let loose the 2,700 passengers into the community. A shambles…

Mind your Ps and queues… Social distancing being enforced at Kellyville Woolies this morning: 8.15am. Check out the ‘hospital green’ line. @charliejbullis

March 20, 2020: Toll climbs… A seventh person has died in Australia of coronavirus, as the number of infected people rose to 814.

Exemptions for some… The PM announces a limit in venues of one person per four square metres, although it curiously doesn’t seem to apply everywhere…

No cruise control… The government has had to reach out to the public to try and locate 2700 passengers who disembarked from the cruise ship Ruby Princess at Circular Quay yesterday. Two passengers and a crewman have tested positive for COVID-19. Despite it being known they were sick at sea, everyone else was allowed to go home. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said today: “If you know somebody who came in yesterday from the Ruby Princess, do our community a very big favour and have a chat and make sure that they are given this clear message. Put yourself in self-isolation.”

Glad to see the government’s got the situation under control.

March 19, 2020: Close to home… A confirmed COVID-19 case for a Myer employee at my local shopping centre, Castle Towers, today. The staff member was working there between March 11-17. Members of the public that visited during this time have asked Myer for more information but they won’t release details about what department or area the person was working in. @charliejbullis

Commonsense at last… Children’s panadol to go behind the counter, some medicines rationed to one per person, say Pharmacy Guild.

News for airlines gets worse and worse… Qantas has suspended all international flights, including overseas Jetstar flights from late March, following the government’s most recent advice for Australians to avoid travel. Two-thirds of the staff have been temporarily stood down in the hope of saving jobs in the long term. The majority of these staff members are expected to be stood down until late May. 

Oh for Pete’s sake… Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has urged panic shoppers to “take a deep breath and a cold shower”. He told Australians the only pressure being put on supply chains is “from the stupidity of people themselves”. His message comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on bulk buying “stop doing it, it’s ridiculous, its un-Australian and it must stop”.

Now, how about doing something constructive, like enforcing rationing.

Dog days… Self-isolating from all humans not proving so bad. @SamanthaJurman

Quarantine stress toys. (Photo: Samantha Jurman)

March 18, 2020: Toll rises… Coronavirus claims another life (now six) in Australia as authorities report the highest number of confirmed new cases in a single day – 104 and it’s only 2pm. 

My Bluey heaven… Home with my six-year-old as we both have colds. I’ve watched the entire new series of ABC’s Bluey twice and I’m not upset about it. @charliejbullis

Shelf life… Corona-craziness!! Man assaults elderly women in a Lismore supermarket, when he can’t find any flour to buy. #panicshopping

On the platform… Morning rush hour at St Peters Station in Sydney’s Inner West as remote working takes hold. No chance of being in a big gathering here.

Commuter traffic drops (like a stone) in Sydney. (Photo: Martin Newman)

Main image creative commons licence by Prachatai/Flickr.