Health authorities fear a second wave, with thousands of Australians expected to attend solidarity protests over the long weekend.
Victoria’s chief health officer has urged people not to attend a Black Lives Matter gathering in Melbourne in the middle of a pandemic.
It comes as details were revealed on the number of police fines issued to people caught breaking social distancing restrictions.
More than 40,000 people have registered their interest to attend the Melbourne rally on Saturday following the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of US police.
Participants will gather outside Parliament House before marching down Bourke St and are being urged to wear face masks, use hand sanitiser frequently and maintain social distancing as much as possible.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said there was pain and anguish about Aboriginal deaths in custody, but now was not the time to take action in the streets.
“We are concerned about the potential for a second wave,” Ms Mikakos said, urging protesters to contact their MPs instead.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has given the green light for people in her state to take to the streets but urged demonstrators to maintain social distancing.
Queensland is also hosting a Black Lives Matter protest in Brisbane’s King George Square on Saturday.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to 20 in each of those states.
Social distancing fines
As protesters are urged to keep their 1.5m gap, it has been revealed Victoria Police issued 509 fines for breaking social distancing rules in Melbourne between March 21 and May 17, according to a report submitted to state parliament on Thursday.
It showed the bulk of the $1652 infringements in Melbourne were issued across culturally diverse and low socio-economic areas.
Most of the fines were slapped on people breaking the rules in Greater Dandenong, with 297 in Frankston and 287 within the City of Yarra.
Outside of metropolitan Melbourne, Greater Geelong had 193 fines, there were 203 along the Mornington Peninsula and 104 in Greater Bendigo.
Victorians have been fined for breaking coronavirus rules at almost triple the rate of other states and territories, with almost 6000 fines compared to 2069 in Queensland and 1290 in NSW.
Victoria recorded eight new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 1678. Just 73 are active.
One new case has been linked to Rydges Hotel raising that outbreak to 13.
Six are returned travellers in hotel quarantine and one was found in community testing.
First drug treatment
The anti-viral drug remdesivir has been recommended for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Australia.
The medication, which was originally developed for ebola, is the first treatment encouraged by the National Covid-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce.
Clinical trials have shown remdesivir may improve recovery time for people with moderate to critical COVID-19 symptoms however it is not licensed for use in Australia and may be in short supply.
Taskforce Executive Director, Associate Professor Julian Elliott, said while it’s early days this was a significant step forward.
“This is the first information we have that a drug has a beneficial effect as a treatment for COVID-19,” he said.
“However, we do not yet have definitive information that remdesivir will reduce the risk of dying from the disease.”
Long weekend travel
The NSW government is urging caution over the June long weekend after the lifting of restrictions on intrastate travel.
Following the easing of travel restrictions on Monday, the state government on Thursday encouraged travellers over the coming long weekend – the first opportunity for many to leave their home towns since February – to take care.
They would need to continue adhering to social distancing measures.
“We’re probably doing better than we anticipated at this stage of the pandemic, however we have to be cautious, we have to be vigilant, we have to be safe to make sure that even the mildest symptom means we get tested,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Meanwhile, two new COVID-19 cases were recorded in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, both returned travellers in hotel quarantine, making it the eighth straight day the state has recorded no cases of community transmission of the virus.
The state has recorded 3106 cases to date and one person remains in intensive care.
Queenslanders are also on the move with unlimited intrastate travel and overnight stays.
The state government has less than a week to prepare its defence against two challenges to its constitutional right to keep the state’s borders closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The High Court in Brisbane on Thursday ordered the government’s lawyers to submit their case by Monday before two June 12 directions hearings for the challenges.
They have been made by outspoken billionaire businessman Clive Palmer and Travel Essence, which is understood to be a consortium of six plaintiffs.
Currently, school students, workers and freight drivers can enter the state without an issue, but Queensland is closed to anyone else because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has previously refused to buckle to pressure to reverse her decision to keep the borders closed, saying she’s keeping Queenslanders safe.
She has flagged a potential September re-opening, however, this is under a monthly review and could be pushed forward.
Meanwhile Western Australia’s Kimberley region is again open to intrastate travel after weeks of suffering by tourism-dependent businesses, but there are no regrets, with the regions free of COVID-19.
Restrictions in WA’s north were stricter than other parts of the state as a cluster of cases emerged and authorities moved to protect the large indigenous population.
That proved successful, with no positive cases reported in remote Aboriginal communities, which remain off limits.
Virus statistics update
Australia has recorded 7229 cases of coronavirus, with only 491 still active and three people in intensive care.
The national death toll is 102: NSW 50, Victoria 19, Tasmania 13, Western Australia nine, Queensland six, South Australia four, ACT three. (Two QLD residents who died in NSW have been included in the official tolls of both states).
On Thursday, Australia officially sunk into a recession, ending 29 years of economic growth after the economy shrank by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned the decline is only going to get worse, with most of the pain packed into the current quarter.
A new report predicts one in six Australian charities – and 200,000 jobs – could go within six months as their small margins fail to cushion the virus’ impact.