As Victoria, Australia, has just announced new cases in the hundreds, the state’s health minister Jenny Mikakos has moved to reassure people that the health system is prepared for the ongoing struggle to contain the virus.
With 216 new cases confirmed overnight, Mikakos said; “As a government we have never hesitated to put in the resources that are needed to support our efforts in this pandemic”.
“Our hospitals are well prepared,” she said.
They have been working since January to respond to this pandemic. Even when the numbers came down, they never paused in their efforts. They are well-resourced and well trained to respond. We have ventilators in our warehouse. We have medical equipment in our warehouse and being distributed to our health services all the time, and personal protective equipment… 32 million masks are sitting in our warehouse as we speak.
I take this opportunity to reassure the community that our hospitals remain safe for them to visit. They should not hesitate to present to our emergency departments if they need that support or to call for an ambulance… Please do not put off your regular [health] screenings. If you get contacted by one of our cancer services for your biannual, regular checkup, please continue to take up those opportunities. It’s very important people do not defer medical treatment.
Just to reiterate, it is permissible to leave your home to seek medical care or healthcare, and that includes to present for testing for coronavirus.”
216 Covid-19 cases in Victoria, Australia
The premier of the state of Victoria, Australia, has announced 216 new cases of Covid-19 and one death as the state grapples with a second wave of the virus as the rest of the country has the virus largely contained. The man who died in hospital was in his nineties.
Premier Daniel Andrews just told reporters; “This is not an ordinary weekend. It is anything but that. You’ve got to be in your home if you are in the metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire areas, and only for those four reasons.” Those reasons are for healthcare and other essential services like groceries, exercise, work and study [if they can’t be done fro home], or childcare.
It comes as the state of New South Wales closed its border with Victoria last week for the first time in a century in a bid to contain the virus. Other measures taken in the past few days to stop the spread beyond Victoria have included placing a cap the number of incoming flights allowed in Australia.
The change means at least 4,000 fewer Australians will return home each week. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, acknowledged the change meant “it will be more difficult” for Australians to return home. States and territories will also begin charging Australians for their mandatory 14 day hotel quarantine when they do return.
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Seven new cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in the Australian state of New South Wales overnight, bringing the total number of cases there since the pandemic began to 3,285. Of the new cases, five are returned travellers in hotel quarantine. The other two cases are the man who visited Casula’s Crossroads Hotel on 3 July and the traveller from Melbourne reported on earlier in this blog.
NSW Health is urging anyone who visited the Crossroads Hotel, Casula on the evening of Friday 3 July to immediately self-isolate, come forward for testing and monitor for symptoms. A pop-up clinic has been operational in the carpark of the hotel from 5pm last night and is opened today until 4pm.
Extended-hours testing is also available at Liverpool, Campbelltown and Fairfield Hospitals at these locations: https://www.swslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/mediacentre/coronavirus/clinic_factsheet.pdf. Testing is also available through GP clinics.
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Queensland, Australia, has two new cases of Covid-19 as authorities engage in a balancing act, trying to let hordes of visitors into the newly reopened state while keeping Covid-19 out.
The new confirmed cases were people returning from overseas, according to premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
This brings the number of active cases in Queensland to three. The latest cases come as the Sunshine State opened its borders on Friday to interstate travellers, except those from Victoria, for the first time since March 25.
It meant carloads of tourists were bumper to bumper as police scanned thousands of border passes on the Gold Coast. Authorities are taking an educational rather than an enforcement approach at border checkpoints, Gold Coast chief superintendent Mark Wheeler said.
“We’re trying to balance the need to get people into Queensland, but also to keep Covid-19 out of Queensland,” he said.
But anyone travelling from Victoria, which recorded a record number of new cases on Friday, must prove they left the state more than two weeks ago. Wheeler said a Victorian caravanner who had been in NSW for three weeks could use an accommodation receipt as proof.
Queensland’s airports are also teeming with interstate arrivals keen to soak up the sun and warmer weather, with another 4500 expected to touch down on the weekend.
On Friday there had been almost 314,000 downloads of the week-long border pass that is needed to enter the state.
Anyone who experiences symptoms within two weeks of their arrival in Queensland must get tested or face a AUS$4004 fine.
US welcomes the World Health Organization’s probe into the origins of virus
US ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Bremberg, has told reporters in Geneva that he welcomes the World Health Organization’s probe into the origins of the novel coronavirus in China.
“We view the scientific investigation as a necessary step to having a complete and transparent understanding of how this virus has spread throughout the world,” Bremberg said.
AFP reports that it was an unexpected endorsement, given that the World Health Organization has faced fierce US criticism over its handling of the coronavirus crisis.
On Friday, an epidemiologist and an animal health specialist from the World Health Organization left for China to try and identify the animal source of the new coronavirus pandemic as part of a team in Beijing for the weekend as they lay the groundwork for a wider mission aimed at identifying how the virus jumped from animal to humans.
Mexico’s health ministry on Friday reported 6,891 new confirmed Covid-19 infections and 665 additional deaths, bringing the total in the country to 289,174 cases and 34,191 deaths.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
Former NZ prime minister says vaccine may be 2.5 years away
Guardian reporter Eleanor Ainge Roy writes that the former prime minister of New Zealand Helen Clark has been told a vaccine for Covid-19 may be years away;
This isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I am told by informed sources in Geneva that it will be at least two-and-a-half years until there could be a widely available vaccine – at least. That’s not very encouraging really.
I’ve made it clear in accepting it that it will be virtual for the foreseeable future – which could be quite a long time.”
Clark sat down with WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva in mid-February. She said he felt “helpless” to stop the pandemic.
I think when we replay the record, most of the world sort of sat by and watched with almost a sense of detachment and bemusement. China was locking down Wuhan and Beijing and thinking back to January and early February it was kind of like that’s happening over there. Dr Tedros said to me, ‘There is a very narrow window to avoid a pandemic – but it’s closing fast’. And he said ‘I don’t know what else I can do – I am screaming every day but no one is listening’. That really chills me … this is the health nuclear accident.”
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My colleague Christopher Knaus has written about how Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest used his Chinese connections to help secure a remarkable quantity of diagnostic equipment for Australia.
But problems soon emerged, Knaus writes;
The tests were to be used by public health units, who would use them throughout 2020. The tests and associated platforms would also be deployed in 11 private pathology laboratories.
The uptake, certainly among public health pathology, was patchy at best.
Watching on in shock was the rest of Australia’s diagnostics industry.
Not long before the announcement, Pathology Technology Australia, the peak body, handed the government an audit of Australia’s existing testing technology to conduct the kind of nucleic acid testing used for Covid-19 detection.
“We had determined there was more than enough technology already in the field to significantly ramp up testing,” Dean Whiting, the PTA chief executive, said.
The introduction of BGI tests brought in a new technology mid-pandemic, without any real sense of how it would fit into Australia’s existing laboratory structures.
Experts warned the busiest pathology providers simply would not be able to use the devices.
Read more about the saga here:
Julia Carrie Wong
Texas governor Greg Abbott has warned residents of the US state that “the worst is yet to come” after a week that saw new coronavirus diagnoses exceed 10,000 new cases per day on Tuesday and total people in hospital with the virus surpass 10,000 on Friday.
The governor who oversaw one of the US’s fastest attempts to reopen is now urging residents to wear masks and warning that he might impose a new lockdown.
“Things will get worse,” Abbott told a local television station. “The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”
The premier of Victoria, Australia, Daniel Andrews, will hold a press conference at 11am AEST as the state grapples a second-wave of Covid-19.
A record new 288 new cases were reported in the state on Friday – the single highest daily rise in any Australian jurisdiction since the pandemic began. Andrews warned that those numbers were likely to increase in the coming days. They are particularly concerning given all were acquired in the community, rather than being cases in travellers returned from overseas.
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Remdesivir provisionally approved in Australia for hospital use
Australia’s drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration [TGA], has granted provisional approval for the drug remdesivir to be used as the first treatment option for Covid-19. It has received provisional approval for use in adults and adolescent patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms in hospital.
“Remdesivir is the most promising treatment option so far to reduce hospitalisation time for those suffering from severe coronavirus infections,” the TGA said. “Remdesivir offers the potential to reduce the strain on Australia’s health care system. By reducing recovery times patients will be able to leave hospital earlier, freeing beds for those in need. Remdesivir will not be available to Australians unless they are severely unwell, requiring oxygen or high level support to breathe, and in hospital care.”
While this is a major milestone in Australia’s struggle against the pandemic, it is important to emphasise that the product has not been shown to prevent coronavirus infection or relieve milder cases of infection.
Australia is the one of the first regulators to authorise the use of remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19, following on from recent approvals in European Union, Japan, and Singapore.
Provisional approval, which is limited to a maximum of six years, was made on the basis of preliminary clinical data, as there is the potential for substantial benefit to Australian patients. The manufacturer of the drug, pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Pty Ltd, may apply for full registration when additional clinical data — required by the TGA to confirm the safety and efficacy of the medicine – are available.
Coronavirus cases are rising across the US, some regional hospitals are filling up and some of America’s most populous places are seeing record deaths as the pandemic surges.
At the same time, as some states reverse reopening plans, public health interventions such as encouraging people to wear public face coverings and closing schools have become increasingly politicised and divisive.
Sunbelt states such as Arizona, Florida and Texas have been especially hard-hit after pushing to reopen their economies earlier in the pandemic. Cases a day have nearly doubled in Florida, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 40 hospitals across the state maxed out their intensive care unit capacity, NBC News reported.
“We’re putting ourselves at risk and other people aren’t willing to do anything and in fact go the other way and be aggressive to promote the disease,” Dr Andrew Pastewski, said.
Two Covid-19 cases in New South Wales, Australia, linked to the same pub
There are now 47 people in hospital in Victoria, including 12 in intensive care as the state announced a record 288 new cases Friday. The vast majority of those cases have now been locally acquired.
By comparison, New South Wales reported just 14 new cases on Friday, with 12 of those in returned travellers now in hotel quarantine. A newly diagnosed man was at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula while he may have been infected, authorities say. It’s concerning because another recently confirmed New South Wales case — a woman from South Western Sydney — also visited the Crossroads Hotel on the same day, 3 July, though the two people aren’t known to each other.
The Hotel has been closed for deep cleaning while contacts are traced.
New South Wales chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant is urging anyone who visited the Crossroads Hotel on the evening of 3 July to self-isolate, monitor for symptoms and come forward for testing should they develop even the mildest of symptoms.
Meanwhile, another newly confirmed New South Wales case is in a traveller from Victoria. The man drove from Melbourne and entered the state on 7 July, and has reported minimal contact with anyone in New South Wales apart from his partner and two friends. The man subsequently tested positive and is in hotel isolation and the three contacts are in quarantine. His partner has tested negative.
Chant urged the community to be extra vigilant at this critical point following the closure of the Victorian/ New South Wales border on Wednesday. The border will remain shut for at least six weeks as part of an effort to stop the virus spreading to other states.
Hello and welcome
Good morning and welcome to our coverage of the latest Covid-19 news from around the world. Here is a summary of the latest events over the last 24 hours or so;
- The majority of Victorians are waking up this morning to their first weekend back in lockdown, which came into effect on Thursday. Bordering states — especially New South Wales – are on high alert after the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a record new 288 cases on Friday – the single highest daily rise in any state since the pandemic began. He warned those numbers would increase in the coming days.
- By comparison, New South Wales reported 14 new cases on Friday, with 12 of those in returned travellers now in hotel quarantine. The state remains on high alert following the closure of the New South Wales/ Victoria border last week. They don’t want spread into the state, after a traveller from Victoria entered New South Wales on 7 July, and subsequently tested positive. He is now in hotel isolation.
- Australians will now have to cover the costs of their own two-week compulsory hotel quarantine if they return from overseas. The national cabinet decided to cap the number of incoming flights allowed in Australia. The change means at least 4,000 fewer Australians will return home each week.
- One of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the US has created a humanitarian crisis at San Quentin state prison, where almost 1,500 people have tested positive for Covid-19 and seven have died. Guardian reporter Abené Clayton has written about the crisis here, and California has announced a plan to release up to 8,000 people from the state’s prisons.
- Serbia announced a record Covid-19 death toll for a single day on Friday, with prime minister Ana Brnabic saying the Balkan state recorded 18 fatalities and 386 new cases over 24 hours in what she described as a “dramatic increase.
- France has become the sixth country to report a death toll of more than 30,000.
- The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Friday, with the total rising by 228,102 in 24 hours.
Melissa Davey here with you in Melbourne, Victoria, to take you through the morning from lockdown. The suburb I live in was one of the “hotspot suburbs” identified by the state government on 30 June, so I’m among a few hundred thousand Victorians who have had a head-start in this latest lockdown.
Share your lockdown tips [please don’t suggest bread-baking] and let me know if I miss anything over on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org
at 7.36pm EDT