Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Sixth Queenslander dies from COVID-19

Another Queenslander has died from COVID-19 after travelling on a cruise liner, while eight people have tested positive for the disease overnight.

April 18, 2020

A sixth Queenslander has died after contracting the coronavirus while onboard a cruise ship as the state’s infection rate continues to creep forward.

The tragic news comes as the Palaszczuk government boosts support for senior citizens and offers a financial lifeline to ailing airline Virgin Australia.

The 83-year-old man died while quarantining in Sydney after he was a passenger on the Celebrity Eclipse, Health Minister Steven Miles says.

“That means there is a family in Queensland today grieving for the loss of a loved one,” he told reporters on Saturday.

There were eight new COVID-19 cases diagnosed overnight, bringing the total number of people infected in the state since the crisis began to 1014. Of those, 738 people have recovered.

More than 270 people remain ill with the virus, with 22 in hospital. Nine people are in intensive care, seven on ventilators.

“As tragic as the loss of another life is, it reminds us of the effort we are all going to has already saved the lives of dozens of Queenslanders,” he said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said there will be no early end to the state’s lockdown restrictions, which authorities fear could lead to a rapid spike in infections.

Border checkpoints will also remain in place with a warning they could be tightened even further.

Earlier, the Queensland government announced it had offered $200 million to help rescue Virgin Australia.

The cash-strapped airline suspended trading in its shares to continue talks on financial aid and restructuring after its request to the Australian government for $1.4 billion in loans was rejected.

State Development Minister Cameron Dick said it is important Australia continues to have two airlines to support tourism, jobs and regional investment

He called on the Morrison government to also step in and provide help.

“Queensland can’t do this on its own,” he said.

Mr Dick said support was conditional on debt restructuring, and shareholders and bondholders doing their bit.

The airline’s headquarters would also need to remain in Brisbane, where about 5000 people are employed, and regional flights would need to continue.

“We want to keep the air fair. We know on routes where there is only a single carrier, the cost of flights can be 20 per cent to 25 per cent more,” he said.

Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Kate Jones said the potential loss of Virgin Australia was critical for the state’s tourism industry.

“Everyone who has been around for a while knows what it is like to have a monopoly in the skies,” she said.

“It will be so much harder for the tourism industry to rebuild if we only have one airline in our country.”

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack welcomed Queensland’s offer to help Virgin, saying the Morrison government was also exploring avenues to keep two airlines in the air.

“Sustaining Australia’s aviation industry is critical to protecting livelihoods and saving lives,” he said.

He said the federal government would continue to monitor Virgin’s situation.

“But the best solution for the airline would be a market solution,” he said.

Meanwhile, senior citizens isolated by the coronavirus can expect more support after Uniting Care Queensland joined the 25,000 volunteers who have enlisted in the “care army”.

They have been matched with 350 community organisations and begun helping about 2000 senior citizens, Ms Jones said.

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