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What you need to know about COVID-19 today, Monday May 11.

Kids start returning to school.

Students in NSW and Queensland will start heading back to school today.

In Queensland, children enrolled in kindy, prep, and years one, 11 and 12 will be the first cohorts to return to school.

It is proposed students from years two to 10 will return to school from May 25, but the state government will reassess this on Friday.

NSW students will return for one day of face-to-face learning per week from today, with attendance to increase over the course of the term.

The government has urged parents to be vigilant about their children’s health and to keep them away from school if they exhibit any symptoms of coronavirus.

Social distancing guidelines will be maintained in classrooms and extra health measures will be in place, including additional cleaning and health equipment in sick bays.

Lunch breaks will also be staggered.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it is not compulsory to send children to school and parents would not be penalised for keeping them at home.

Mamamia’s daily podcast The Quicky explores ‘re-entry anxiety’. Post continues after podcast. 

Businesses urged to stagger work start times.

Businesses are being urged to stagger the times employees start and finish work, ahead of a planned easing of COVID-19 restrictions over the coming months.

Authorities have begun planning for the resumption of normal trading, with the Commonwealth and state governments readying for the associated influx of people on public transport.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday mapped out the National Cabinet’s planned three-step easing of restrictions, and set an aspirational July target for the return of most employees to their workplaces.

National Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says authorities will convene a meeting on Monday to discuss the gradual return of commuters to public transport.

He said increased numbers on buses and trains would create challenges around maintaining social distancing.

“One of the most important things is to reduce the density,” Professor Murphy said on Sunday.

“Social distancing is not possible when you are crowded. We are very keen, for those who are working from home to continue working from home for the time being.”

Public transport agencies have already introduced COVID-19 safety measures, including increased cleaning of carriages, and Prof Murphy said hand sanitiser would need to be supplied for commuters.

He said the government was looking at ways to spread out passengers.

“But we are also keen for employers and employees to look at staggered start and finish times,” he said.

“I think we have to think about a very different way of people may be starting at work, some starting at seven o’clock, some starting at 10 o’clock and people finishing at different times.

“We have to think differently about that so there is a lot of planning going on in the meantime.

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“The message – go back to work. But if it works for you and your employer, continue to work from home.”

Government considering changes to JobKeeper.

MORRISON-FRIDAY
Image: Getty.

Scott Morrison is considering slashing the $1500 JobKeeper payment or phasing it out faster than expected, news.com.au reported.

The government reportedly fears the fortnightly payment is creating "zombie" companies that would be unable to exist without the wage subsidy.

News.com.au reported options to end the one-size-fits-all approach of paying $1500 a fortnight to businesses for each employee, regardless of the size of the business or whether the employees were part-time, full-time or casual workers.

The JobKeeper scheme was announced by the government in March and is legislated to end on September 27.

New options being considered by the government include reducing the $1500 subsidy, targeting it at smaller businesses, or limiting it to particular industries that are hardest hit by COVID restrictions.

Queen to withdraw from public life.

Queen Elizabeth will withdraw from public duties for months, in what could be the longest absence of her 68-year reign.

The 94-year-old will remain at Windsor Castle indefinitely as COVID-19 continues to spread across the UK.

Her usual London residence, Buckingham Palace, will also be closed to the public for what is believed to be the first time in 30 years.

The Sunday Times reported the monarch's diary of engagements into autumn is also on hold, and a state visit to South Africa in October is up in the air.

Events including Trooping the Colour, the Order of the Garter service, and her summer garden parties, have already been cancelled, while Royal Ascot, which the royal family attend annually, will only take place behind closed doors, if it goes ahead at all.

Trump fires back at Obama.

United States President Donald Trump has criticised the Obama administration's handling of the 2009 swine flu pandemic, after it was revealed his predecessor had described his approach to the coronavirus as an "absolute chaotic disaster".

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"We are getting great marks for the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, especially the very early BAN of people from China, the infectious source, entering the USA," Trump tweeted.

"Compare that to the Obama/Sleepy Joe disaster known as H1N1 Swine Flu. Poor marks, bad polls – didn’t have a clue!"

Obama's comments came during a Friday call with 3000 members of the Obama Alumni Association, people who served in his administration. Obama urged his supporters to back his former vice president, Joe Biden, who is trying to unseat Trump in the November 3 election.

"What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy - that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, we're seeing that internationally as well. It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty," Obama said.

"It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset - of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else' - when that mindset is operationalised in our government," he said.

Trump has consistently defended and boasted of his response to the virus, saying that travel restrictions from China and Europe, as well as social distancing guidelines, have prevented far greater damage.

"I think we saved millions of lives," he said earlier this week.

The United States has, by far, the most coronavirus cases with close to 1.4 million, and 80,546 deaths.

Around the world.

As many families around the world marked Mother's Day in a time of social distancing and isolation, leaders balanced optimism about loosening restrictions against the threat of a second wave of infections.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a modest easing of lockdown, saying those in industries like construction or manufacturing that can't be done at home "should be actively encouraged to go to work" on Monday.

He set a goal to begin reopening schools and shops on June 1, if the UK can control transmission. It has now recorded the most virus deaths in Europe, with close to 32,000.

France has registered 70 new deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the country's lowest daily toll since its strict lockdown began in mid-March.

Italy also recorded its lowest daily death toll since March 9, with 165 in the past 24 hours, bringing its total to 30,560, the third highest in the world.

In China, there are fears about a new wave of infections in the northeast of the country, with the city of Shulan being reclassified as high-risk, after 11 new cases were confirmed in the city on Saturday.

-With AAP.

Feature images: Getty.

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