Good morning, this is James Murray bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 16 March.


Covid-19 continues to cause havoc across the world with deaths in Europe from the virus leaping overnight. In Spain, 288 people have now died and more than 8,000 people have tested positive. One week ago there were just 10 deaths and 589 cases. Spain is now the second-hardest hit country in Europe after Italy, where the death toll increased by 368 in just one day. The Spanish government has instigated a near-nationwide lockdown to try and stem the spread of the disease. There is chaos in the French Alps after the French prime minister, Édouard Philippe, announced that the country must close all non-essential locations, including cafes, restaurants, cinemas, nightclubs and shops from midnight. Some 30,000 UK tourists have to be repatriated. Outside of Europe, there was good news in China, where the number of imported coronavirus cases now exceeds locally transmitted new infections for the first time. And there are fears that coronavirus will start to spread throughout India. The world’s second-most populous country now has 102 cases.

In Australia, the opposition has questioned why the federal government took more than a month to launch its public health campaign, following the first case to be reported in Australia. Labor’s shadow health minister, Chris Bowen, told Guardian Australia: “They should be doing more, sooner.” Morrison also announced a 30-day ban on cruise ships on the weekend and strict new requirements for all people arriving in Australia to self-isolate for 14 days, with substantial fines for those ignoring the advice.

Meanwhile, schools in NSW will remain open but bring in social distancing measures. The secretary of the NSW department of education, Mark Scott, said excursions, assemblies, travel, concerts and other events would be cancelled to limit exposure. There were also cancellations throughout the sporting calendar, although the AFL and NRL leagues have controversially decided to persevere with their seasons.

In the US, president Donald Trump has reportedly offered a German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive access to a coronavirus vaccine. The German government is trying to fight off what it sees as an aggressive takeover bid by the US, the broadsheet Die Welt reports, citing German government circles. Trump has faced considerable domestic criticism for his lax approach to the disease, but has recently instigated travel bans to US for Europe and the UK, with disastrous effects for the strained global airline industry. Washington reporter David Smith’s analysis asks whether Covid-19 is the “acid test” for Trump’s presidency.

And if you’re suffering from the effects of the virus, it may be advisable to stick to paracetamol. The French government have advised that anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may worsen the disease. Anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system.


Independent MP Zali Steggall has launched an ad campaign to support the climate change bill. The three-week campaign will kick off today and feature images of the destruction wreaked by the summer bushfire season.

March 15 was the anniversary of the massacre in Christchurch, where 49 Muslims were murdered at two mosques. Labor has used the anniversary to call for a review of the criteria Australia uses to judge terrorist organisations, citing the fact no rightwing extremist groups are listed.

NSW MPs have reacted with dismay at NSW Forestry Corporation’s decision to log unburnt forest in the aftermath of the state’s bushfire crisis. The forest is habitat for some of the most imperilled species.

The world

hong kong protest

Fear of infection has diminished crowds in Hong Kong, however the coronavirus has also sparked protests against the authorities’ response to the virus. Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images

Democracy protests in Hong Kong could resume now the coronavirus is under control. In Hong Kong the coronavirus has only infected about 130 people, following a comprehensive response to the disease.

Israeli political parties have backed the opposition leader, Benny Gantz, to form a government, in a shocking blow to Benjamin Netanyahu after he appeared to come out ahead in an election held earlier this month. The dramatic news came as a Jerusalem court postponed the prime minister’s corruption trial due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UK ministers have been told they can no longer say there have been “no successful examples” of Russian interference in the country’s election system. Boris Johnson refused to allow a report on Russian infiltration in the UK to be published before the 2019 general election.

Donald Trump is considering a pardon for Michael Flynn, the national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with the Russian ambassador. Flynn, who has not yet been sentenced, cut a deal as part of the Mueller investigation.

The Western Sahara liberation movement has taken New Zealand’s superannuation fund to court over investments in farms that use illegally mined phosphate. New Zealand is one of the few remaining countries – and last western nation – that accepts imports from the contested territory in West Africa.

Recommended reads


Truganini in 1866. A new book tells her story of survival and at times unimaginable physical endurance. Photograph: Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

“Too many prominent Indigenous figures are recalled in popular myth and history as supposedly having slipped between traditional and European worlds,” writes Paul Daley in his comment piece on Truganini. Storied incorrectly as “the last of the Tasmanian Aboriginal race”, Truganini was a Nuenonne woman from one of the Earth’s most beautiful realms – the paradise off the south-east coast of Tasmania that became Bruny Island. Her life has been distilled into a convenient three-act tragedy: an idyllic early life and European disruption; her dispossession from country; and third, her 1876 death and the later display of her remains in a cabinet at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. But in Cassandra Pybus’s book we learn much more – that she was a fabulous swimmer and a lover of children, and a skilled possum trapper, all of the things in fact that turn her from an exhibit in a museum into a fully rounded human being.

Ryan Bradley reports on an organic spray that extends the shelf-life on fruit and vegetables and asks whether it could be the answer to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Apeel Sciences chief executive James Rogers describes how one company using the spray has been able to ditch all plastic packaging. With his company backed by tens of millions of dollars in venture capital, and gaining hundreds of employees each year, Rogers hopes to solve the world’s food waste problem. America wastes 40% of the food it produces and imports.


Today’s Full Story podcast looks at life on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak. Do doctors have the equipment they need? Is the right information getting to the public quickly enough? The team head to south Sydney, where a GP tells them what it’s like treating patients in the early stages of the pandemic.

Full Story

Coronavirus: on the frontline of the outbreak


Our wrap of the A-League looks back at an extraordinary weekend, with many games disrupted by coronavirus. “If this had been a routine round of A-League action this column would be all about the 69th minute of Melbourne City’s 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers,” writes Jonathan Howcroft.

Media roundup

The West Australian reports large numbers of Australians still taking international flights despite the government’s new requirement to self-isolate for 14 days after travel. More than 700 people left Perth for Bali on the same day of the announcement. ABC News reports on the Australian man with with Covid-19 who flew to New Zealand while awaiting the results of a coronavirus test. New Zealand director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said he was disappointed by the man’s actions. The Sydney Morning Herald says that people living in 70% of Sydney suburbs have experienced a blowout in commute times over the past five years despite billions of dollars being spent on roads and transport.

Coming up

The William Tyrell inquest continues.

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