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Covid-19 News Updates


New Zealand pauses travel bubble with Victoria as new cluster rises to nine cases

New Zealand pauses travel bubble with Victoria as new cluster rises to nine cases

Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Victoria has been paused while investigators search for the source of a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne's north.

It comes as the Whittlesea City COVID-19 cluster grows to nine cases today, with the ABC reporting Victoria has recorded another four new COVID-19 infections this afternoon. Several more exposure sites have also been listed by Victorian health authorities, including stores at the Highpoint Shopping Centre.

The four are in addition to a man in his 60s who tested positive and was linked to the first case reported yesterday. Victorian health officials introduced new COVID-19 restrictions in response to the growing cluster, including mandatory mask wearing indoors and limits on home gatherings.

The ABC reports this afternoon's four new cases are all family contacts of the man in his 60s.

The travel bubble pause, enforced by New Zealand health authorities, will come into effect from 7.59pm NZT and be in place for 72 hours initially.

"While the case announced today is not unexpected as a contact of a case announced yesterday, New Zealand officials have assessed that the most cautious option is to pause the travel bubble with Victoria as there are still several unknowns with the outbreak," the New Zealand government said.

"The Government understands the disruption this will temporarily cause affected passengers. It was a close call but the correct one given the current unknowns. The decision follows the travel bubble framework."

Health authorities across the ditch are concerned that an epidemiological link has not yet been established connecting some of the recent cases in Melbourne.

"Whole genome sequencing has identified that the cases reported yesterday are closely linked to a previous case identified in the community in Wollert on 11 May after leaving managed isolation in South Australia," the New Zealand government said.

"An epidemiological link has yet to be determined between these cases and there is currently no known link between people in the current outbreak and any of the exposure sites from Wollert."

Anyone in New Zealand who has been at a location of interest in Melbourne at the specified time should contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 as soon as possible for advice on isolating and testing. 

Further, anyone who has visited Melbourne since 11 May should monitor for symptoms and seek advice from Healthline if any symptoms develop.

New Zealand put a pause on the travel bubble with New South Wales earlier this month due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney in order to give authorities time to search for a missing link of infection.

That pause lasted for just three days after New Zealand health officials determined the risk to public health from NSW travellers was low. 

More exposure sites listed

Victorian health officials have updated the list of Tier 1 and Tier 2 exposure sites in Melbourne, including a number of stores at Highpoint Shopping Centre, a McDonald's in Clifton Hill and an ALDI in Epping. 

The new exposure sites are as follows:

  • McDonald's Clifton Hill - 22 May from 6-7pm (Tier 1)
  • ALDI Epping - 23 May from 6-7pm (Tier 2)
  • Chemist Depot Epping, Pacific Epping Shopping Centre - 23 May from 11.15am-12pm (Tier 2)
  • Smiggle, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 5.55-6.30pm (Tier 1)
  • Kidstuff, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 5.20-5.55pm (Tier 1)
  • Ishka, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 5.45-6.20pm (Tier 1)
  • Lush Cosmetics, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 6.05-6.35pm (Tier 1)
  • Toyworld, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 5.30-6.20pm (Tier 1)
  • Bamboo House, Melbourne - 21 May from 11-11.50am (Tier 1)
  • Adams Reserve Playground, Preston - 23 May from 2.15-3.45pm (Tier 2)
  • ALDI Preston South - 23 May from 3.45-4.25pm (Tier 2)

The new exposure sites are in addition to already announced locations including:

  • Futsal Brunswick - 23 May from 9-10am (Tier 2)
  • Nando's Epping (Dalton Rd) - 19 May from 8:30-9:20pm (Tier 1)
  • Epping North Shopping Centre - 22 May from 4:45-5:50pm (Tier 2)
  • House and Party (store) - 22 May from 5:15-5:50pm (Tier 2)
  • Woolworths Epping North - 22 May from 4:45-5:45pm (Tier 1)
  • Urban Diner Food Court, Pacific Epping Shopping Centre - 23 May from 1:15-2:30pm (Tier 2)
  • Shell Coles Express Reservoir - 18 May from 3:15-4:15pm (Tier 2)
  • B.T. Connor Reserve - 21 May from 8-11:30pm (Tier 2)

Updated at 3.19pm AEST on 25 May 2021.

 

One new case in Melbourne as more exposure sites listed

One new case in Melbourne as more exposure sites listed

UPDATE [4.17pm AEST 25 May]: The Whittlesea City COVID-19 cluster has since grown by four more cases. Read more here.

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino has advised of a fifth case in the latest Whittlesea City COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne's north - a man in his 60s who has also been linked to the first case reported yesterday.

"Importantly, he reports being symptomatic before case one developed symptoms, meaning this could be a possible source case," Merlino said.

"But of course a full investigation and interview process is underway - it has to run its course.

"Following early investigations, this case, like the four that we announced yesterday, has not identified any link to any of the exposure sites from the Wollert case two weeks ago."

However, the acting Premier explained genetic sequencing for this outbreak has been completed and in that sense it is closely related to the Wollert outbreak, which occurred with a returning traveller who became COVID symptomatic after completing quarantine in Adelaide.

In response to the situation and on the advice of health officials, from 6pm tonight private gatherings in Greater Melbourne will be limited to a maximum of five visitors, public gatherings will be capped at 30 people, and face masks will be required indoors.

These rules will also apply to people leaving Greater Melbourne to other parts of the state. Schools and workplaces will remain open.

Melburnians and travellers who have been in Greater Melbourne recently are encouraged to keep an eye on the official list of exposure sites, which following interviews with the latest case is expected to grow.

Since Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong and 'Jump! Swim Schools' at Bundoora were added yesterday afternoon, more venues and locations have been added including:

  • Futsal Brunswick - 23 May from 9-10am (Tier 2)
  • Nando's Epping (Dalton Rd) - 19 May from 8:30-9:20pm (Tier 1)
  • Epping North Shopping Centre - 22 May from 4:45-5:50pm (Tier 2)
  • House and Party (store) - 22 May from 5:15-5:50pm (Tier 2)
  • Woolworths Epping North - 22 May from 4:45-5:45pm (Tier 1)
  • Urban Diner Food Court, Pacific Epping Shopping Centre - 23 May from 1:15-2:30pm
  • Shell Coles Express Reservoir - 18 May from 3:15-4:15pm (Tier 2)
  • B.T. Connor Reserve - 21 May from 8-11:30pm

Anyone who has been to a Tier 1 site at the stated times must get tested immediately and quarantine for 14 days from exposure, while anyone who has attended Tier 2 sites at the listed times needs to also get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result. 

Updated at 10:17am on 25 May 2021.

Shopping centre and swim school listed as new Melbourne COVID-19 exposure sites

Shopping centre and swim school listed as new Melbourne COVID-19 exposure sites

One of Australia's largest shopping centres and a swim school in the suburb of Bundoora have been listed as Tier 1 exposure sites for COVID-19, as further positive cases have been reported in the Victorian capital.

Following this morning's news of two likely coronavirus-positive cases in Melbourne's north, tests of family members - one adult woman and a child - have also come back positive, taking the number of new locally-acquired cases to four. 

The epicentre of locations has moved slightly south from Epping where the majority of previous venues were concentrated, with a case having Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong on 20 May from 5pm to 8pm, as well as 'Jump! Swim Schools' at Bundoora on 21 May between 8:55am and 10:15am.

Both locations have been given a Tier 1 designation but with different conditions attached.

Anyone who visited the swim school at the stated times must get tested immediately and quarantine for 14 days from exposure.

Those who visited the shopping centre must also get tested, however they have been directed to isolate until further notice rather than going into quarantine.

"I can advise that one of the individuals lives within the wastewater catchment areas that produced the strong detection that we reported last Friday," Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said.

"There is as yet no indication that these individuals are linked to any exposure sites from the previous alert case, but investigations are ongoing.

"I do indicate there are likely to be more sites as further investigations continue."

In response to the evolving situation, NSW Health has issued a health alert for Melbourne, urging people who have attended the listed exposure sites at the stated times to contact the agency immediately on 1800 943 553

People arriving in NSW from the Greater Melbourne area are reminded that they must complete a declaration confirming they have not attended one of these venues of concern.

"Declaration forms can be completed within the 24-hour period prior to entering NSW, or on entry to NSW," NSW Health said.

"People who have been in the Whittlesea Local Government Area should not visit residential aged care facilities, or hospitals unless seeking medical attention.

"The Whittlesea LGA includes the suburbs and rural localities of Beveridge, Donnybrook, Doreen, Eden Park, Epping, Humevale, Kinglake West, Lalor, Mernda, Mill Park, South Morang, Thomastown, Whittlesea, Wollert, Woodstock and Yan Yean."

The Queensland Government has declared anyone already in the state or arriving before 1am on 26 May, who has been at the Melbourne Tier 1 exposure sites at the stated times, must quarantine at their home or other suitable accommodation until 14 days have passed since their exposure.

Anyone who has been to the relevant sites and the listed times and arrives in Queensland after 1am on 26 May, will need to enter Queensland Government-arranged quarantine accommodation.

Meanwhile in Tasmania, any recent arrivals into the state from Victoria who have been at any of the listed exposure sites must immediately self-isolate and contact the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 to organise testing.

Further, anyone who has been to any of the locations of concern will not be permitted to enter Tasmania unless approved as an essential traveller.

Updated at 4:48pm AEST on 24 May 2021.

Victoria reports two likely COVID-19 cases in Melbourne's northern suburbs

Victoria reports two likely COVID-19 cases in Melbourne's northern suburbs

Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is conducting a full investigation into two likely positive COVID-19 cases in Melbourne's northern suburbs, around two weeks after the state's last outbreak began.

The department was made aware of the issue this morning, and it is currently understood that both individuals are connected.

"A full investigation is underway into these results, and initial public health actions are being put in place while both individuals isolate and are urgently tested," the DHHS said in a statement.

"We will communicate any specific public health actions the community needs to undertake as soon as possible when investigations and case interviews are complete."

The announcement follows an intensification of testing in the Epping area after authorities realised they had posted Woolworths Epping as an exposure site, when a case earlier this month had in fact visited the Woolworths at Epping North.

Authorities have not confirmed whether the latest cases can be traced back to the earlier case, whereby a man in his 30s left quarantine in South Australia but developed symptoms and ultimately tested positive to the virus while in Melbourne.

Click here for an updated version of Victoria's exposure sites, and anyone with symptoms is encouraged to get tested.

Updated at 11:28am AEST on 24 May 2021.

Have researchers developed an effective COVID-19 treatment? Maybe, but we need human trials

Have researchers developed an effective COVID-19 treatment? Maybe, but we need human trials

The world is now 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and we've yet to find a single drug that can stop the virus. At best, we can treat the effects of the virus through oxygen therapy for those who can't breathe, and with drugs that reduce the inflammation associated with the infection.

But an Australian-United States research team, led by Griffith University's Menzies Health Institute, have shown promising results in their mouse trials of a new treatment for COVID-19.

The technology is based on "short interfering RNA", which prevents the virus from replicating inside human cells. They found a 99.9% drop in the number of virus particles in the mice they studied.

The researchers hypothesise the drug could be injected into patients daily for up to five days, for example for sick patients in hospital, or as a once-off if someone has just been exposed to the coronavirus; however, there's no data on this specifically, so it's speculative for now.

While the results are very promising, the technology has only been tested in mice. Human clinical trials will take some time to complete before we know whether a drug will be approved by the government.

How viruses work

Viruses are tricky to treat because they are biological molecules made of the same types of materials as the human body. Virus particles are just packets of information on how to make more virus, encoded in a molecule called "ribonucleic acid" or RNA (although some contain DNA instead) within a protein coating.

Once a virus particle penetrates into a cell, it either hijacks the machinery of the cell to make copies of itself, or in some cases, has its RNA copied into the host cell's DNA. Either way, the cell becomes a manufacturing facility making hundreds and thousands of copies of the virus.

So the best way to stop a virus is to stop its RNA information being copied and transcribed by the cell.

We already have drugs capable of doing this for specific viruses. A drug called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is available as a prophylactic against infection with HIV and the development of AIDS. A prophylactic can prevent a disease before it takes hold in the body.

The PrEP medicine works because the two active ingredients it contains, tenofovir and emtricitabine, block a molecule called reverse transcriptase which the virus needs to be replicated. Unfortunately, neither drug works to block COVID-19.

Short interfering RNA

Unlike PrEP, the new technology is particularly clever because it uses a molecule called short/small interfering RNA or "siRNA" to prevent the reading and copying of the virus information. This siRNA was specifically designed to recognise a sequence of the coronavirus' own RNA that is common across COVID-variants.

This means the siRNA can seek out and lock onto the viral RNA because it perfectly complements it, regardless of the COVID-19 strain. When it locks with the virus RNA, the viral information becomes trapped and can't be copied, or it causes the RNA to be cut and degraded.

At this point there is no virus production, and our immune system can just mop up the small number of virus particles floating around the body.

To prove their technology, the researchers enclosed their siRNA in lipid nanoparticles, which are essentially tiny fat-like particles. Without this protective coating, the siRNA would be destroyed in the blood stream before it could lock onto the virus. Lipid nanoparticles are also used in the formulation of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

With the protective nanoparticle shell, the siRNA could then be delivered via a water-based injection into veins.

When the researchers administered the siRNA to mice that had been infected with COVID-19, they found the mice didn't lose as much weight when compared with untreated mice. Weight loss was an indicator of how sick the mice were.

The researchers also found a 99.9% drop in the number of virus particles in the mice.

On occasion, when biological molecules are injected into the blood stream, this can trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Importantly, the researchers found their siRNA didn't trigger an immune response in the mice, and therefore will be unlikely to cause anaphylaxis.

So as well as being effective, the technology appears to be relatively safe.

Will this drug be available soon?

As promising as the results are, we shouldn't get our hopes up that a drug will be available any time soon. Data derived from animal tests doesn't always translate to success in humans. Often, the way an animal's body processes a drug can be different from the human body, and it ends up being ineffective.

Also, animal tests are just the first step in a long regulatory process to prove a drug works and is safe. Even with accelerated clinical trials and fast-tracked assessment from governments, an approved drug is still a year or more away.

Nial Wheate, Associate Professor of the Sydney Pharmacy School, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Experimental antiviral COVID-19 therapy developed at Griffith University

Experimental antiviral COVID-19 therapy developed at Griffith University

An international team of scientists has developed an experimental antiviral therapy to treat COVID-19 which has been shown to reduce the viral load by 99.9 per cent and improve the rate of survival in mice.

Developed by researchers from the Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ) at Griffith University and the Beckman Research Institute in Los Angeles, the next-generation approach to antiviral therapy has been designed to treat the original virus that causes COVID-19 and any new variants that may arise in the future.

It builds on existing antiviral treatments like Tamiflu, zanamivir and remdesivir that reduce symptoms of COVID-19 and help people recover earlier.

The therapy uses gene-silencing RNA technology called siRNA (small-interfering RNA) to attack the virus' genome directly, which stops the virus from replicating, as well as lipid nanoparticles designed at Griffith and the Beckman Research Institute's City of Hope centre to deliver the siRNA to the lungs - the critical site of infection.

 

 

"Treatment with virus-specific siRNA reduces viral load by 99.9 per cent. These stealth nanoparticles can be delivered to a wide range of lung cells and silence viral genes,'' MHIQ co-lead researcher Professor Nigel McMillan said about the team's research published in scientific journal Molecular Therapy.

"Treatment with the therapy in SARS-Cov-2 infected mice improved survival and loss of disease. Remarkably, in treated survivors, no virus could be detected in the lungs.''

Co-lead researcher from both City of Hope and Griffith University Professor Kevin Morris said the experimental treatment is able to adapt to new COVID-19 variants and can be stored at room temperature.

"This treatment is designed to work on all betacoronaviruses such as the original SARS virus (SARS-CoV-1) as well as SARS-CoV-2 and any new variants that may arise in the future because it targets ultra-conserved regions in the virus' genome," Professor Morris said.

"We have also shown that these nanoparticles are stable at 4°C for 12 months and at room temperature for greater than one month, meaning this agent could be used in low-resource settings to treat infected patients."

The results suggest that siRNA-nanoparticle formulations can be developed as a therapy to treat COVID-19 patients, as well as used for future coronavirus infections by targeting the virus' genome directly.

"These nanoparticles are scalable and relatively cost-effective to produce in bulk," Professor Morris said.

"This work was funded as an urgent call by Medical Research Futures Fund and is the type of RNA medicine that can be manufactured locally in Australia."

Updated at 12.20pm AEST on 18 May 2021.

Australia orders 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Moderna

Australia orders 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Moderna

Biotechnology company Moderna (Nasdaq: MRNA) has entered into a new supply agreement with the Australian government for 25 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, serving as the foundation of the nation's booster and variant strategy.

The order includes 10 million doses of the original jab against the ancestral strain (mRNA-1273) to be delivered in 2021, and 15 million doses of Moderna's updated variant booster vaccine candidate to be delivered in 2022.

Purchase of the 25 million doses is subject to Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval, and Moderna says it will submit an application to the regulator shortly.

The deal comes after the US-based biotech announced plans to scale its commercial network and open a subsidiary in Australia this year where it would manufacture messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.

"We appreciate the partnership and support from the government of Australia with this first supply agreement for doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and our variant booster candidates," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said.

"As we seek to protect people around the world with our COVID-19 vaccine and potentially our variant booster candidates, we look forward to continuing discussions with Australia about establishing potential local manufacturing opportunities."

Moderna's COVID-19 jab is an mRNA vaccine co-developed by the biotech and investigators for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' (NIAID) Vaccine Research Centre.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says securing the 25 million doses serves two purposes for Australia.

"Firstly, as a reserve supply for this year if other elements of the supply chain were to run into any challenges," says Hunt.

"Secondly, they are our foundation of a booster and variants strategy. Moderna is, on the advice that we have, the most advanced of the vaccine products with relation to the capacity to adapt to booster or variant requirements.

"So today is the next stage of future proofing and preparing for the future."

Department of Health secretary Professor Brendan Murphy says the supply agreement gives Australia additional redundancy.

"Whilst we know we have more than enough vaccine already ordered to cover our primary vaccination program this year this provides some additional redundancy which we've always sought and also provides the capacity now for us to develop a strategy for following years where boosters and varying cover may be required," says Professor Murphy.

"The evidence, as you all well know, is that this virus has shown some variance over the course of the last year, and whilst we think all of the vaccines are likely to be highly effective at preventing severe disease, even with variants, even with the vaccines we're rolling out now, we do need to be prepared and be in a position where if we need boosters against variants or different strains of the virus we're in a position to have those orders in place.

"This is a highly effective vaccine in clinical trials, highly effective in preventing severe disease and likely to be very effective at preventing transmission, so this is an exciting development."

The government remains in discussions with Moderna in relation to establishing a manufacturing facility in Australia for mRNA vaccines, noting onshore manufacturing would ensure a secure and long-term supply of the biotech's inoculations including booster jabs.

The Morderna shot is the second mRNA vaccine to be purchased by the government after the Pfizer jab.

To date, the Moderna vaccine has shown overall efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 of 94.1 per cent, and 100 per cent efficacy against severe COVID-19. It has also shown strong protection of 90 per cent efficacy against COVID-19 for at least six months after the second dose.

It has been approved by leading regulatory authorities across the world and is being used successfully in the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Singapore.

A complete course of Moderna's vaccination is likely to be two doses given 28 days apart.

Updated at 9.38am AEST on 13 May 2021.

The pressure is on for Australia to accept the coronavirus really can spread in the air we breathe

The pressure is on for Australia to accept the coronavirus really can spread in the air we breathe

More than a year into the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and US Centers for Disease Control finallychanged their guidance to acknowledge SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can be transmitted through the air we breathe.

In Australia, we've just had the latest leak from hotel quarantine, this time in South Australia. Investigations are under way to find out whether a man may have caught the virus from someone in the hotel room next to his, before travelling to Victoria, and whether airborne transmission played a role.

These examples are further fuelling calls for Australia to officially recognise the role of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Such recognition would have widespread implications for how health-care workers are protected, how hotel quarantine is managed, not to mention public health advice more broadly.

Indeed, we're waiting to hear whether official Australian guidelines will acknowledge the latest evidence on airborne transmission, and amend its advice about how best to protect front-line workers.

The evidence has changed and so must our advice

At the beginning of the pandemic, in the absence of any scientific studies, the WHO said the virus was spread by "large droplets" and promoted handwashing. Authorities around the world even discouraged us from wearing masks.

A false narrative dominated public discussion for over a year. This resulted in hygiene theatre scrubbing of hands and surfaces for little gain while the pandemic wreaked mass destruction on the world.

But handwashing did not mitigate the most catastrophic pandemic of our lifetime. And the airborne deniers have continually shifted the goalposts of the burden of proof of airborne spread as the evidence has accrued.

What does the evidence say?

SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus that multiplies in the respiratory tract. So it is spread by the respiratory route via breathing, speaking, singing, coughing or sneezing.

Two other coronaviruses the ones that cause MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory sydrome) and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) are also spread this way. Both are accepted as being airborne.

In fact, experimental studies show SARS-CoV-2 is as airborne as these other coronaviruses, if not more so, and can be found in the air 16 hours after being aerosolised.

Several hospital studies have also found viable virus in the air on a COVID-19 ward.

Established criteria for whether a pathogen is airborne scores SARS-CoV-2 highly for airborne spread, in the same range as tuberculosis, which is universally accepted as airborne.

A group of experts has also recently outlined the top ten reasons why SARS-CoV-2 is airborne.

So why has airborne denialism persisted for so long?

The role of airborne transmission has been denied for so long partly because expert groups that advise government have not included engineers, aerosol scientists, occupational hygienists and multidisciplinary environmental health experts.

Partly it is because the role of airborne transmission for other respiratory viruses has been denied for decades, accompanied by a long history of denial of adequate respiratory protection for health workers. For example, during the SARS outbreak in Canada in 2003, denial of protection against airborne spread for health workers in Toronto resulted in a fatal outbreak.

Even influenza is airborne, but this has been denied by infection control committees.

What's the difference between aerosols and droplets?

The distinction between aerosols and droplets is largely artificial and driven by infection control dogma, not science.

This dogma says large droplets (defined by WHO as larger than 5 micrometres across) settle to the ground and are emitted within 2 metres of an infected person. Meanwhile, fine particles under 5 micrometres across can become airborne and exist further away.

There is in fact no scientific basis for this belief. Most studies that looked at how far large droplets travelled found the horizontal distance is greater than 2 metres. And the size threshold that dictates whether droplets fall or float is actually 100 micrometres, not 5 micrometres. In other words, larger droplets travel further than what we've been led to believe.

Leading aerosol scientists explain the historical basis of these false beliefs, which go back nearly a century.

And in further evidence the droplet theory is false, we showed that even for infections believed to be spread by droplets, a N95 respirator protects better than a surgical mask. In fact airborne precautions are needed for most respiratory infections.

Why does this difference matter?

Accepting how SARS-CoV-2 spreads means we can better prevent transmission and protect people, using the right types of masks and better ventilation.

Breathing and speaking generate aerosols. So an infected person in a closed indoor space without good ventilation will generate an accumulation of aerosols over time, just like cigarette smoke accumulates.

A church outbreak in Australia saw spread indoors up to 15 metres from the sick person, without any close contact.

Masks work, both by preventing sick people from emitting infected aerosols, and by preventing well people from getting infected. A study in Hong Kong found most transmission occurred when masks weren't worn inside, such as at home and in restaurants.

Coughing generates more aerosols

The old dogma of droplet infection includes a belief that only "aerosol generating procedures" such as inserting a tube into someone's throat and windpipe to help them breathe pose a risk of airborne transmission. But research shows a coughing patient generates more aerosols than one of these procedures.

Yet we do not provide health workers treating coughing COVID-19 patients with N95 respirators under current guidelines.

At the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where many health worker infections occurred in 2020, understanding airflow in the COVID ward helped explain how health workers got infected.

Think about it. Airborne deniers tell us infection occurs after a ballistic strike by a single large droplet hitting the eye, nose or mouth. The statistical probability of this is much lower than simply breathing in accumulated, contaminated air.

The ballistic strike theory has driven an industry in plastic barriers and face shields, which offer no protection against airborne spread. In Switzerland, only hospitality workers using just a face shield got infected and those wearing masks were protected.

In hotel quarantine, denial of airborne transmission stops us from fixing repeated breaches, which are likely due to airborne transmission.

We need to select quarantine venues based on adequacy of ventilation, test ventilation and mitigate areas of poor ventilation. Opening a window, drawing in fresh air or using air purifiers dramatically reduce virus in the air.

We need to provide N95 respirators to health, aged-care and quarantine workers who are at risk of high-dose exposure, and not place them in poorly ventilated areas.

It's time to accept the evidence and tighten protection accordingly, to keep Australia safe from SARS-CoV-2 and more dangerous variants of concern, some of which are vaccine resistant.The Conversation

C Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity, NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, Head, Biosecurity Program, Kirby Institute, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Qantas delays planned resumption of international flights to late December

Qantas delays planned resumption of international flights to late December

With the exception of flights to and from New Zealand, Australians will not be hopping onto regular Qantas (ASX: QAN) flight services overseas until at least late December 2021 after the airline delayed its planned resumption of international travel today.

The update comes after the Federal Government last night revised its anticipated timeline for the completion of Australia's vaccine rollout to end-2021 and its timeline for significantly reopening our international borders to mid-2022.

As such, Qantas has scrapped an end-October 2021 goal to get international flights back up in the air.

"We remain optimistic that additional bubbles will open once Australia's vaccine rollout is complete to countries who, by then, are in a similar position, but it's difficult to predict which ones at this stage," says Qantas.

"This planning assumption will allow the Qantas Group and Australia to be ready to take advantage of pockets of tourism and trade opportunity as they emerge in a post-COVID world.

"We will keep reviewing these plans as we move towards December and circumstances evolve."

Any customers with a booking between 31 October 2021 and 19 December 2021 will be contacted by the airline.

"In the meantime, the Qantas Group will continue to provide critical repatriation and freight flights overseas, and support the recovery of travel at home," says Qantas.

"The resurgence of domestic travel remains the most important element of the Group's recovery."

Shares in Qantas are down 3.43 per cent to $4.50 per share at 3.27pm AEST.

Updated at 3.50pm AEST on 12 May 2021.

Melbourne COVID-19 exposure sites include CBD restaurant, three Epping locations

Melbourne COVID-19 exposure sites include CBD restaurant, three Epping locations

Update: since this story was published Victorian authorities have clarified the Woolworths exposure site was in Epping North, rathern than Epping as previously reported.

Melbourne's first local case of COVID-19 in months visited one CBD restaurant and two stores in Epping while infectious, according to a list of exposure sites published by Victorian health authorities this afternoon.

A second test has confirmed the man in his 30s - who returned to Victoria from hotel quarantine in Adelaide on 4 May - does indeed have the virus, but tests for his three primary household contacts have all come back negative.

Officials have released four tier 1 exposure sites, and anyone who visited these locations at the times mentioned will need to get tested and quarantine for 14 days from the exposure:

  • Pact Retail Accessories (until recently called TIC Group) front office in Altona North on 6 May, 12:01am-11:59pm
  • Indiagate Spices and Groceries, Epping on 6 May, 5-6pm
  • Curry Vault Indian Restaurant & Bar in the CBD on 7 May, 6:30-9:30pm
  • Woolworths Epping North on 8 May, 5:40-6:38pm

The following venues have been listed as tier 2, meaning anyone who visited at the indicated time will need to get tested urgently and isolate until they receive a negative result.

  • Pact Retail Accessories (until recently called TIC Group) warehouse section in Altona North on 6 May, 12:01am-11:59pm
  • 7-Eleven Epping on 6 May, 6:30-7pm
  • 7-Eleven Epping on 8 May, 11:10-11:40am

Updated at 3:58pm AEST on 11 May 2021.

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