10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

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Good morning, team. Hope you’re all maintaining social distancing while responsibly returning to a level of economic productivity commensurate with a business as usual approach. Or whatever it is the government wants us to be doing right now. As usual, if you have any tips, stories or rants you think Business Insider should know about, email me at [email protected].

1. More grim economic news. Australian retail sales suffered their biggest monthly fall on record, dropping 17.9% in April. The supermarket splurge seen in March did not last, and spending on clothes, footwear, cafes and restaurants halved on last year’s levels. Just take a look at these charts.

2. Safe Work has revised its social distancing guidelines for lifts in Australian offices, facing the possibility of massive lines at every building in the country during business hours. Now, there is “no requirement to provide four square metres of space per person in lifts”, though it still recommended people take every effort possible to maintain some distance in lifts and waiting areas. Maybe you should still take the stairs.

3. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a four-day workweek could help the country save its faltering economy after the coronavirus downturn. People could use the extra day to travel across New Zealand and spend money on local economies, Ardern said in a Facebook Live on Monday. “If that’s something that would work for your workplace … it certainly would help tourism all around the country,” she said.

4. There’s a spat developing between various state premiers on reopening borders, with WA Premier Mark McGowan accusing NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian of bullying other states on the issue. Berejiklian denied that, saying state and territory leaders should be considering the global advantages of opening their borders, given Australia’s management of the virus. “And I think we’re all adults and we should be able to have this conversation,” she said.

5. The economy may be in freefall, but you wouldn’t know it looking at Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Coles has opened an extraordinarily bougie ’boutique’ store in the elite enclave of Rose Bay which offers produce from local providers, an ice cream parlour, and… a pick-and-mix bar for dogs. The local store concept was trialled in Melbourne earlier, but one assumes it is in Rose Bay where it finds its ultimate customer.

Coles

6. Some of the world is moving into a coronavirus recovery phase, but the virus itself obviously hasn’t heard about it. The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday that it had logged a record number of daily new coronavirus cases: 106,000 worldwide. “In the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 cases reported to WHO, the most in a single day since the outbreak began,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters during a teleconference from Geneva. Case numbers are highest right now in the US, Russia, and Brazil.

7. Share trading platform eToro has cut its commission to zero for Australians trading US stocks, which the company has described as “a generational opportunity”. It has also introduced fractional investing, allowing Aussies to buy fractions of a share in US companies like Amazon which typically carry a prohibitively high share price. “Given what we’ve seen with COVID-19, there is a lot of interest right now in investing and for a lot of young people, this is a generational opportunity,” Australia general manager Robert Francis told Business Insider Australia.

8. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at China for deploying barley tariffs against Australia amid the ongoing fight about the coronavirus. “The Chinese Communist Party chose to threaten Australia with economic retribution for the simple act of asking for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus,” Pompeo said at a media briefing in Washington on Wednesday.

9. The retail sector is taking as much of a pounding abroad as it is here. Victoria’s Secret announced it will permanently close 250 stores in the US and Canada as the pandemic hastens the crippling of its business. The news comes just weeks after L Brands confirmed that a deal to sell a majority stake in the company to the private-equity firm Sycamore Partners had fallen through.

10. The UK government is seeking to buy 16 million hydroxychloroquine tablets in case the drug proves to be an effective coronavirus treatment. President Donald Trump claimed this week that he regularly takes the drug, despite it not being proven to either prevent or treat, the virus. Scientists have warned that the anti-malarial drug could have adverse effects if self-administered.

BONUS ITEM

The world of air travel has obviously changed massively over the past couple of months. Take a look at some photos from around the world at what the airport and airplane experience is like these days. Spoiler alert: it’s somewhat grim.

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