Hospital staff across the country are bracing for an "enormous" surge in coronavirus cases amid warnings that private hospitals could shut down.
This week the government banned non-urgent elective surgery - a huge source of revenue for private hospitals. That has already led the system to stand down hundreds of nurses. In all, the system employs more than 100,000 people.
It also accounts for more than a third of Australia's intensive care beds.
Private hospitals are pushing for governments to guarantee their viability.
More than 3600 cases of COVID-19 have now been confirmed across Australia, with 1617 in New South Wales, 685 in Victoria, 625 in Queensland, 287 in South Australia, 278 in Western Australia, 71 in the ACT, 58 in Tasmania and 15 in the Northern Territory.
Fourteen people have died, including eight in New South Wales, 3 in Victoria, 2 in Western Australia and 1 in QLD.
'Tsunami' looms for hospitals
Hospital staff in Sydney are doing everything "humanly possible" to prepare for a surge of coronavirus patients. They just don't know how big the "tsunami" will be.
"I liken it to this enormous tsunami coming - we can't quite see how big it's going to be yet," Campbelltown Hospital paediatrician Dr Andrew McDonald has told The Daily Telegraph.
"But the troops are ready, they're locked and loaded, and they've done all the preparation they can, and it will all come down to the size and how quickly things happen."
Their job could be made infinitely harder if private hospitals across the country are forced to close, as they have warned might happen.
The government's ban on non-urgent elective surgery - a huge source of revenue for these hospitals - starts on April 1. It has already led the private system to stand down hundreds of nurses. In all, the system employs more than 100,000 people.
Just as importantly, reports News Corp's Sue Dunlevy, more than a third of Australia's intensive care beds are in private hospitals.
Those hospitals anow want governments to guarantee their viability.
"The hospitals are now faced with the very difficult decision to stand down staff and furlough services as a direct result (of the ban), just when the entire health system is bracing itself for the surge in COVID-19 patients," said Michael Roff, head of the Australian Private Hospitals Association.
"The states don't seem to understand the urgency of reaching a deal this weekend. If they don't do that, the beds they need in a few weeks' time may no longer be available."
Brett Holmes, General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association, put the situation in fairly bleak terms, criticising the private hospitals for standing down staff.
"There doesn't seem to have been a lot of forethought of the consequences of sending people on leave and laying them off and, when the s*** has hit the fan in four weeks' time, relying on them coming back into what will be a pretty daunting situation," Mr Holmes said.
2h agoMarch 29, 2020
Quarantine of travellers starts
Thousands of people flying into Australia have started to be shuttled to makeshift quarantine facilities across the country.
With two-thirds of our coronavirus cases from or closely linked to overseas travellers, vacant hotels and other accommodation services are being used to ensure no more travellers have a chance to spread the disease.
As we mentioned earlier, NSW Police have urged friends and families to stay away from Sydney Airport, saying those being quarantined would not be able to see or communicate with their loved ones.
Returned travellers will live out their 14 days of quarantine in state-funded hotel rooms, with doors guarded by state police, defence personnel or private security guards.
In Sydney alone, 3000 people are expected to land on Sunday.
"We will treat these people with absolute respect and dignity but we will need their support," NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.
"The 14 days, I am sure, will be a challenge for them and perhaps the food is not up to standard or they feel that the bed is not as comfortable as their own.
"They need to understand that we are trying to protect the community of NSW."
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the compulsory quarantine was supported by the "very best" medical evidence.
"Realistically, a vaccine for the coronavirus is many months away. In the meantime, Australians can be reassured we are constantly monitoring COVID-19 developments - both domestically and abroad - and adapting what we do to minimise its spread," Dr Kelly said yesterday.
He said that a "blanket lockdown" hadn't been implemented in Australia because "unlike countries such as Italy, Spain and Iran, and cities such as Wuhan in China, we have remained ahead of the curve".
2h agoMarch 29, 2020HIGHLIGHT
Government to cover wages
The federal government is reportedly planning to offer income relief for the masses of suddenly unemployed Australians through a fiscal package covering a large portion of the wages for companies haemorrhaging business during the coronavirus-induced downturn.
Hundreds of thousands of workers have been stood down after the economy was crippled by social distancing measures introduced to control the spread of the deadly pandemic.
But Treasury is constructing a payment to subsidise cashflow shock fort those earning up to a middle income, according to the Australian Financial Review, believed to be similar to schemes introduced in the United Kingdom, Canada and Denmark which cover about 80 per cent of an employee's wage.
RELATED: Government to pay wages of workforce
The package is expected to be announced as early as today, and comes after leading economists and commentators had criticised the current stimulus measure.
Previously announced packages involve tax relief being gifted at the end of the financial year but many have questioned how the suddenly unemployed will be able to afford basic essentials in the immediate short term.
12:19 amMarch 29, 2020HIGHLIGHT
Don't greet returning loved ones
Police have issued a warning to friends and family who may be planning to greet their loved ones as they fly back into Australia.
In a statement published on Saturday night, NSW Police said all travellers returning to Sydney International Airport from 6am on Sunday 29 March 2020 would not be able to see or physically communicate with loved ones upon their arrival.
"The travellers will be processed discreetly before being taken to their nominated hotels," the statement said.
"They will then be able to get in touch with family and friends."
Officers said they understood it was an "unprecedented" step, but it was vital to help "stop the spread of COVID-19".
12:08 amMarch 29, 2020HIGHLIGHT
Medical professionals ignored orders
Dozens of medical professionals ignored police orders to quarantine and jumped on domestic flights home after flying into Sydney Airport from South America on Friday.
Twenty-seven people skipped the mandatory 14 days in isolation and flew interstate after returning into the country, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
They will now be served with public health orders.
Another six were located at the domestic terminal and sent back into quarantine, a NSW Police spokesperson said.
"Disappointed to hear medical professionals chose to ignore rules in place to save lives and protect the most vulnerable in our community. No-one is above the law," Police Minister David Elliot said.
The Herald reported the medical professionals had flown into Australia from Santiago in Chile after attending a health convention onboard two Antarctic cruises.
Originally published as 'Enormous tsunami' of cases coming