Update 2 June
This will be the final blog in this series of coronavirus updates. The series has fulfilled its purpose. It was created to give you meaningful snapshots when rapid-fire information was flying at us and changing our world at a dizzying rate.
Official updates on ‘normal’ Australian matters are becoming more common than coronavirus updates. That tells me we’re on a more even keel. The frameworks for the new normal have been created. Now it’s mostly left foot, right foot, as we walk out the plans on this road to recovery.
My Parting Health Snapshot to You
Australia – you’ve done incredibly well from all reports. While the Chief Medical Officer keeps emphasising that we still need to be careful, he confirms we are on track with our health recovery plans.
When’s the Vaccine Coming?
We wait now, as the world waits, for a vaccine to end this thing once and for all. So how’s that all going?
Around the world there are more than 100 vaccine projects on the go. The last stage of development is testing on people, and that has already begun in 9 projects. But there’s still a long way to go before we get the green light. Dates being thrown around by experts are between January and July next year. That’s like – still a YEAR away. (For a reminder on why making a vaccine takes so long, check out my blog on 1 May.)
The proudly Australian news is that the University of Queensland remains in the spotlight. They’ve reached the stage just before human testing and earned themselves another $2 million from the federal government to keep up the good work. England’s Oxford University has begun testing on 500 people, and could have a useable result by September.
Other contenders include biotech companies like Moderna and Inovio. Lots of pharmaceutical companies are pulling out all the stops too. Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi are two of those. The Wuhan and Beijing Institutes of biological products, are also making good progress.
My Parting Economic Snapshot to You
Unless there is an outbreak of the virus, the government’s laser focus is now on job creation. In fact, National Cabinet will now have the sole agenda of creating jobs.
The National Cabinet, birthed in response to the pandemic, has worked so well it’s going to keep going. ScoMo is shaking up federal government structures to improve the country’s governance for the economic recovery. ScoMo said the regularity of meetings between heads of state via teleconferencing has meant they’ve been able to keep a clear mission and a good pace in finding solutions together. Because they operate under federal cabinet rules, they can make decisions without the formalities and “theatre” that previous meeting formats held. And they even ‘hang out’ together before meetings.
So it’s out with the old COAG (Council of Australian Governments) and in with the new. But they won’t be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Councils and important task forces that sat under COAG, like women’s safety and closing the indigenous gap, will be reset and continue.
During the COVID-19 period, National Cabinet will continue meeting online fortnightly. In future, it’ll be once a month. The treasurers of states and territories will also meet regularly with them and take responsibility for funding agreements.
- Tasmania’s most exciting easing news is allowing one visitor to hospital patients between 2 and 6pm.
- Queensland fast-forwarded their Step 2 to start yesterday, allowing gatherings of 20 people.
- New South Wales is now permitting 20 people at weddings, 50 at funerals and 50 at places of worship, venue size considered.
- Western Australia has moved on to Phase 3 of their 4 phases, now allowing gatherings of up to 100 people.
- The Australian Capital Territory has also moved onto the next step, allowing 20 – 150 dining patrons at a venue depending on the size.
Travel: State border closures for leisure travel remain an agenda item, despite the federal government providing no advice to maintain these. Queensland is hanging onto their decision to keep borders closed. Western Australia has lifted restrictions for specific regional travel within the state. (Meanwhile, federal government is moving towards opening a
safe travel zone between Australia and New Zealand. ) South Australia launched a ‘Welcome Back’campaign to boost same-state travel and has seen a 77% increase in Airbnb bookings compared to the same week last year.
Infrastructure: Construction projects are being turbo-boosted nationwide in the quest for job creation. New South Wales has multiple large projects underway, including airport and rail construction. Victoria is fast-tracking building works for community sport.
The arts: New South Wales is providing a Rescue and Restart package for struggling art and cultural organisations, recognising how the arts can be “a place of refuge and a source of inspiration in these challenging times”. In Victoria funding has been given to multicultural media outlets which “have been particularly crucial as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic,” according to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
Globally, on 11 May we reached 4 million COVID-19 cases.
By 23 May we reached 5 million.
Yesterday we reached the 6 million mark, having tragically lost more than 370,000 people to the virus.
Globally, the curve is still rising and this pandemic is far from over.
Conversely, in Australia stats continue to show recovery.
There have been 7,204 cases of COVID-19
- 6,619 have recovered
- Sadly, there have been 103 deaths
- There now are only 3 people with COVID-19 in ICU
- Approximately 30,000 tests are being conducted each day, with a 0.5% positivity rate
- There were 6.1 million downloads of the CovidSafe app as at 29 May
Hope Over Fear
Snapshots of a Healing World
- Staying at home has made more smokers want to quit smoking. Between January and May this year, 310% more people than last year downloaded the My Quitbuddy app.
- A survey of 11,000 people in 11 countries revealed people are eating more healthily in lockdowns – more fresh, frozen and canned food in place of ready meals, more meal planning, more time spent on food preparation, less waste overall.
There have been multiple reports of animal life returning to areas that have quietened down as a result of lockdowns, and here’s a particularly lovely one: flamingos flocked to lakes in Mumbai, India. Still in India, the peaks of the Himalayas can be seen from the Punjab city area, after decades of their visibility being obscured by air pollution.
- A 92-year-old piano teacher, also a Holocaust survivor, had to stop lessons due to lockdowns in Denver, USA. Not for long. Dr Cornelia Vertenstein, known affectionately as “Nellie”, used Facetime on her iPad. She not only continued, but also held her spring recitals online.
- British Captain Tom Moore, who I mentioned in my blog on 16 April, went on to be knighted for his extensive fundraising for the NHS (National Health System) during the pandemic. When he also successfully turned 100 years old, he received more than 125,000 birthday cards, filling a school hall with them. You can watch the heartwearming video clips here.
Your Tip for Today
We Like to Move It, Move It.
As Australia gets back to work, one place that is difficult to socially distance yourself, is public transport. The AHPPC has just provided some advice on remaining as COVID Safe as possible on public transport:
- Plan the shortest possible public transport route to limit time spent on it.
- Don’t use public transport if you are not feeling well. Unless it’s an emergency. And if you reeelly, reeeelly have to use it while you are not well, wear a mask and cough into your elbow.
- Wash your hands before and after travelling. Maybe keep some sanitiser or wipes on you.
- Distance yourself as much as possible from others, and avoid contact.
- Check operator’s requirements – like using tap and go passes, cashless payment or any seating restrictions.
- Download the COVIDSafe app to help with tracing in case you’re unknowingly exposed to someone with COVID-19.
- Adjust your work hours if possible, so you can travel in off-peak times that are less crowded.
What About You?
- What signs of our healing world have you noticed?
- Have you used public transport since restrictions eased?
I’d love to hear your stories. Last chance.
It’s been real. Thanks so much for reading.
Minister of Health on Vaccine – 2 June
Healthline: Vaccine Development – 26 May
Gavi: Vaccine Tracker – 11 May
Prime Minister’s Media Release on National Cabinet – 29 May
Prime Minister’s Press Release on National Cabinet – 29 May
WHO Situation Reports – Global stats – 1 June
WHO Situation Reports – other dates
Health Minister – Smokers want to quit – 1 June
Good News Network – Healthier Eating – 31 May
Elle: Flamingos in India and 92-year-old piano teacher – 21 May
CNN – Himalayas visible – 9 April
AHPPC Advice for public transport – 2 June