Australia’s COVID-19 cases jumps 25.7pc; Interest rates at record low

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Key Points

  • Australia’s confirmed COVID-19 cases increased 25.7 per cent yesterday to 710
  • Interest rates are at a record low 0.25 per cent
  • ASX expected to rise this morning

US could reach 200,000 cases in 20 to 30 days

Timothy Moore

A Morgan Stanley modelling of how widespread the coronavirus outbreak will be in the US forecasts that about 200,000 confirmed cases will be reached in 20 to 30 days.

The base call requires the US to escalate nationwide containment to a level similar to that of China, South Korea, Italy, and Spain by March 22.

“In this scenario, the US would more closely resemble the dynamics in Italy where strict measures lagged the exponential growth of new cases. This scenario results in about 200,000 cumulative cases with a peak in about 20-30 days.”

Read the full story here.

Need to know

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This pandemic will profoundly change how all Australians live their lives and reshape the modern, globalised world.

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Bank announcement expected

Phillip Coorey

Treasurer Joshua Frydenberg told Sky News this morning that the banks are working on another package of “significant initiatives” to relieve pressures on the bank’s customers.

“I was in discussions late last night with the banks as well as the prudential regulator and there will be an announcement later today,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“Everyone is in there together and I think the banks will be making a very important announcement.”

The government’s second stimulus package is expected to be announced on Sunday.

“This second package is more about cushioning the blow for those Australians who may find themselves out of work as well as continuing to support small businesses because we want them to meet the fixed costs, whether that’s rent, wages bill that they will still have to meet,” Mr Frydenberg said on ABC News this morning.

Qantas staff could work at , CBA or Woolworths

Qantas has said his workers could be redeployed to work at Telstra’s call centres, work at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or stack shelves at Woolworths.

Yesterday Mr Joyce announced two-thirds of Qantas workers would be temporarily stood down because there was no work left for them, following a and drops in domestic travel.

“It’s up to big business to work together,” Mr Joyce said on ABC’s Radio National this morning.

Mr Joyce said Qantas staff could help at Telstra call centres, which have been inundated as the Australian workforce moves en mass to work from home.

‘A lot worse than the GFC’

Qantas boss Alan Joyce says temporarily standing down two-thirds of his workforce is “one of the worst decisions I’ve ever had to make” but has said the coronavirus is the worst threat to the industry in living memory.

“This is a lot worse than the GFC, September 11. This is the biggest crisis the industry’s ever been in,” Mr Joyce said on ABC’s Radio National this morning.

Frydenberg says nationalisation not on the cards – for now

Treasurer Joshua Frydenberg says the government is not focusing nationalising private companies but has acknowledged companies such as airline Virgin Australia are essential.

Earlier this week the Spanish government nationalised all private hospitals to cope with the epidemic.

“Look, obviously, the economic situation has got worse and we want Australian companies to get through this,” Mr Frydenberg said on ABC News this morning.

“We’ve announced a number of significant measures designed to support the small and medium-sized business sectors, the wave of apprentices and the like and we will have a second package designed to support the economy.”

“But also yesterday’s announcement, and you don’t want to understate how significant yesterday’s announcement was, we’ll do what it takes to support Australian jobs and businesses.”

News presenter asked Mr Frydenberg whether a company, such as Virgin, was deemed essential it would be nationalised.

“Well, you’re absolutely right, Virgin is essential to the Australian community and their ability to move domestically and internationally.

“That’s why we announced a package for the aviation sector which involved lower fees and in fact rebating fees that have already been paid. That was done not on a company-specific basis but on a sector-wide approach.”

Brace for ‘massive economic impact’ says Frydenberg

Treasurer Joshua Fryenberg has appeared on ABC News this morning.

Mr Frydenberg hasn’t directly responded to questions by news presenter Michael Rowland about whether Australia is “headed for a full scale depression” but has said we are facing a “massive economic impact.”

“We make no apologies for the health measures we’ve taken, whether they’re border protection or social distancing rules. They’re all designed to protect the Australian community but they also have a massive economic impact,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“Australia is not along here, Michael. You’ve seen what’s happened in Italy … and we just don’t know how long this will go. has prepared the Australian people by saying that this will go for at least six months and we will, of course, continue to work day and night to support the economy and to support the public.”

Good morning

Welcome to The Australian Financial Review‘s live blog, where we’ll be bringing you breaking news about the COVID-19 outbreak as it happens.

Here’s what you need to know this morning:

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Australia jumped a record 25.7 per cent yesterday, with 144 new cases bringing our tally to 710 people.

Globally, the number of cases has reached 236,420. A total of 9790 people have died but 84,962 have recovered.

Italy’s death toll from coronavirus overtook China yesterday. A total 427 deaths were registered in Italy over the past 24 hours, bringing the total nationwide tally to 3405. China has recorded 3245 deaths since early January.

In a bit of good news, the Australian sharemarket is expected to make a recovery this morning, with ASX futures up 3.1 per cent at 6.50am.

That could be because yesterday the Reserve Bank of Australia slashed interest rates to a record low of 0.25 per cent, bond buying program as well as a fresh $90 billion line of credit to banks with incentives to pass on cheap rates to small and medium sized businesses.

The government has provided $15 billion to small banks and non-bank institutions to help with their funding.

To find out what happened overseas in while you were asleep, head to our overnight blog here.

To catch up on how the pandemic has affected foreign markets overnight, you can read Before the Bell here.

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