Update 19 May
Attention WHO and China:
Independent Inquiry Pending
At the World Health Assembly, member states make decisions regarding the World Health Organisation. Held yesterday and today, this time the EU proposed an inquiry for WHO’s performance during the coronavirus pandemic. And naturally, that means – you guessed it – China would be investigated. This motion, also pushed for by the US and Australia, was backed yesterday by 116 countries in total.
WHO’s take on it:
In the WHO Director-General’s opening remarks he welcomed “… a step-wise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation.” He acknowledged that in past epidemics, reviews had resulted in new frameworks and regulations. He said, however, that the world didn’t need new plans, systems or organisations – it simply needs to implement and strengthen those already at our disposal.
China’s take on it:
President Xi Jinping said China would cooperate, but he slipped in a few conditions. He stated that the inquiry should happen “after it [the pandemic] is brought under control” and that it should be “led by the WHO.” Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, had made it clear in the motion that Australia wanted the investigation to be by an external body.
It seems that the WHO’s independent oversight advisory body will suffice for the inquiry, as long as WHO doesn’t escape scrutiny of itself.
What Happens When Mental Health Goes Mad?
When your country anticipates mental health taking a big hit, you make a unified, national response plan. Last Friday, Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission, outlined the Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Plan that National Cabinet has endorsed. After talking to lots of people two main needs surfaced: supports for a diverse range of situations; and needs of particularly vulnerable groups being met.
What has already been done?
Mental health service delivery has become far more agile and innovative during the pandemic, with digital services meaning that more people have been able to engage help.
What’s still being worked on?
- Getting good data. So that we know what is actually going on with people’s mental health, what we can expect and where services are most needed. Like the fact that there have not actually been more suicides, and whether that changes in future, or not.
- Reaching people within their own communities, especially those who have disconnected from services.
- Providing the actual help that’s needed, when it’s needed.
So if we follow Japan’s trend, and suicides actually decrease because of COVID-19, better data might help to explain why. Are the risk factors what we think they are? What exactly are the silver linings of COVID-19 that have protected people from suicide? Being at home? Stopping to take care of ourselves? Or having more lifelines just a phone call away?
With the plan in play, hopefully, we’ll find out.
Travelling Across Australia – Are We There Yet?
ScoMo suggested in his last press conference that we could start looking forward to moving around the country more widely. In fact, if we do that, we’ll be helping tourism get back on it’s feet.
But it might not be so easy when Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have movement restrictions across their borders, while New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory do not.
As restrictions ease, many from Australia’s cooler climates would relish a trip to sunny Queensland during the July school holidays. But rather than entertaining the idea of borders reopening, the Premier of Queensland’s simple message to Queenslanders today was: “Get out and explore your own state.” And another $50 million is being granted to the QLD tourism industry to help keep businesses afloat.
Sorry guys, Great Barrier Reef holidays are reserved for Queenslanders only right now. (Needless to say, tour operators are not too happy.)
The Stats for Australia
We’ve reached the 7000 mark: there have been 7060 cases of COVID-19 in Australia.
- 6389 people (90%) have recovered
- Sadly, 99 people have died
- 12 people are currently in ICU
Over 1 million tests have now been conducted in Australia, showcasing our top-notch testing ability, which is one way we stay COVID-safe.
5.7 million Australians have already downloaded the COVIDSafe app, but we still need more people to participate.
Hope Over Fear
It’s National Volunteer Week
The most recent survey showed that 3 in 10 (about 6 million) people volunteer in Australia, and COVID-19 brought a new surge. Simply stated, Australians are good at rallying when help is needed.
A Surge of Volunteers
Meals on Wheels lost many of their usual older volunteers when COVID-19 restrictions ramped up. But others who had been stood down from their jobs and received JobKeeper or JobSeeker decided to use their time to give back. Meals on Wheels were grateful to be able to continue the human connection with those they support, especially those living on their own.
Backpackers Provide Welcome Farm Relief
International backpackers like Ben working in the fitness industry and Lucie working as an au pair were about to be sent home due to COVID-19 restrictions, when they were provided with an alternate option. Blaze Aid recruited them as volunteers to help restore farms affected by the bushfires.
Right now these backpackers camp out in the Tooma showgrounds on the edge of the Snowy Mountains, with an Argentinian volunteer chef ensuring they eat well. During the day they rebuild fences and help with other farm repairs.
The result? They’re enjoying making a big difference while getting to know true Aussie culture, as they’re welcomed by farmers who are only too happy to have the help.
Your Tip for Today
How can I know if I’ve had COVID-19 or not?
Some people have really mild symptoms, or none at all. So how do you know if you’ve fought COVID-19 and gained immunity?
The only way to know is to get tested.
There are 2 types of tests:
- The PCR test.
Cells on a swab taken from your nose and throat, or other body fluids are grown in a petri dish. Then they’re tested for any genetic material from the virus.
- The Serology test.
Quicker and cheaper than the PCR test but not as accurate. It tests for antibodies which your body produces when it fights the virus. It can miss the virus if you’ve only just caught it and your body’s immune response has not yet kicked in.
More work is being done on developing new tests.
If I’ve had COVID-19, can I get it again?
It’s unlikely. You probably have immunity for at least a year, if not for life. While there have been reports of apparent re-infection, most of these second positive tests were done 7 – 14 days after recovery. It is likely that the PCR tests, which cannot distinguish between a ‘live’ vs ‘inactive’ virus, picked up the excretion of the non-infective genetic material. In Australia patients currently have to test negative for the virus twice before being released from isolation.
If I think I may have had it, am I ethically obligated to tell the people I came in contact with?
It’s up to every individual to do what they think is right, but advice is – yes – to alert people. Especially it if was in the last 14 days, as they would know then if they had been exposed enough to get sick.
What About You?
- Are you hoping to travel interstate for the July school holidays?
- Have you, or are you volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Have you had the experience of a PCR or serology test for COVID-19?
I’d love to hear your stories.
World Health Assembly opening speech by Director-General – 18 May
President Xi Jinping’s speech for the World Health Assembly – 18 May
Prime Minister’s Press Conference with Christine Morgan – 15 May
NSW Govt – Border Restrictions
QLD Govt – Tourism – 19 May 2020 http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2020/5/19/queensland-tourism-boost-to-unite-and-recover-from-covid19
ABC News – Surge of volunteers – 28 April
ABC News – Backpackers help Restore Fire-devastated Farms – 16 may
Lab tests online (supported by the Australian Govt – Therapeutic Goods Administration)
The Guardian – Have I already had coronavirus?
Australian Govt – Department of Health – Information for Clinicians: FAQs