Update 8 April 2020
Experimenting with Drugs. Medical Drugs, Of Course.
You thought it was only in the movies that they experimented on people?
You were right, kind of. It seems we’re coming close to finding the right antivirals to treat COVID-19, to the extent that some of these drugs are being prescribed (overseas?), but we have not got the all clear from the AHPPC yet.
The AHPPC outlined five drugs that are currently undergoing clinical trials. Some are known drugs, others are new. It must be a hard decision when they know people are dying, but they have stated that these are not yet safe to recommend, and correct dosages are not yet known, which could result in toxicity.
In the meantime, we stick to Plan A which is symptomatic treatment, supplemented oxygen where required, and mechanical ventilation if necessary.
New Finger-Prick Test
The Australian government purchased large quantities of finger-prick serological tests for identifying COVID-19 cases. The AHPPC has confirmed that these are not useful in acute (beginning) phase of the disease, but could be helpful for those whose symptoms are a week to 10 days in, when standard testing methods are more difficult. The new test may also help in future to predict immunity and establish that it is safe for individuals to be exposed to the virus and not at risk of exposing others.
Track Them Down
At the moment the loose cannons in the spread are the approximately 500 COVID-19 cases of unknown origin. They don’t know who they got the virus from, and their pre-symptomatic contact with others could result in ‘sleepers’ who have it and are also spreading it. Fortunately, social distancing is slowing this cohort down.
From a health perspective, the number one goal now is to find the cases of community transmission. That mission to mop up all cases of those who may have been exposed is happening through tracing possible sources, and testing.
Cases from overseas travellers are now well controlled. In the case of the Ruby Princess, all those aboard were quarantined within 12 hours of the disembarking the cruise ship, and their contacts traced and tested. Where there have been outbreaks around their suburbs, broader testing has occurred, to the extent that most cases linked to that were already known about and monitored.
Until each of those community transmission cases are tracked down, it could take just one beach party or house party where 30 people are infected, to create the risk of an outbreak affecting hundreds or thousands of people. That is why the measures of handwashing and social distancing remain so important, despite the flattening curve.
Recap on Australia’s Pandemic Response – The Path In
In his address to parliament today ScoMo outlined the many actions that have taken place in the last three weeks to protect the welfare of the Australian people.
He thanked the Australian people for doing the right thing, saving lives and saving livelihoods.
Here’s the summary:
Regarding the health crisis:
- Overseas travellers now have to self-isolate for 14 days in a designated facility.
- Tightened restrictions on public gatherings.
- We have one of the most comprehensive and highest testing rates in the world, with some 313,000 tests conducted across Australia.
- COVID-19 testing expanded to include people with fever or acute respiratory infection.
- Medical indemnity rules have changed to encourage health workers to return to practice.
- Up to 20,000 nurses are receiving online training to better prepare them to deliver care.
- An historic partnership with private hospitals has secured an additional 30,000 beds and 105,000 skilled workers.
- The Government has guaranteed the viability of 657 private and not-for-profit hospitals through this time.
- Non-urgent elective surgery has been suspended to preserve critical resources, while general medical services continue.
- Medicare-subsidised telehealth care services have been expanded, with incentives to health practitioners to stay open for face-to-face services where needed.
- $123 million is available for targeted measures to assist Indigenous communities and businesses.
- Australians with disabilities are supported through the NDIS.
- Action is being taken against those seeking to profiteer through the crisis by selling medical equipment at big mark-ups or overseas.
- $150 million has been committed to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence.
- We continue to build our National Medical Stockpile.
Regarding the economic crisis – the biggest lifeline in Australia’s history:
- More than 200,000 additional JobSeeker claims finalised.
- Thousands of extra workers recruited to move through outstanding claims as quickly as possible.
- $130 billion JobKeeper package to keep people in jobs, and keep businesses in business now and in the future. It is estimated this will benefit six million eligible workers, and already over 700 000 businesses have registered for this support.
- Extended partner pay income test for those on JobSeeker.
- Business continuity payments to support child care services to stay open, and facilitating free child care. This complements $1 million of expected JobKeeper payments to the industry.
- Relaxing visa conditions for seasonal workers and the Pacific Labour Scheme to enable a stay for up to one more year. This is to boost the agricultural sector, which is, for the first time in a long time, seeing rain.
- Temporary changes to foreign investment to protect Australia’s national interest, will all foreign investments now requiring approval.
- Moratorium on evictions for six months, legislated by states and territories.
- A Code of Conduct for commercial tenancies, with good faith leasing principles.
- $200 million to vulnerable Australians and $60 million to older Australians, to help with food and essential items
- Mobilised the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission with Nev Power to enable the government and private sector to problem-solve together.
- There have been 5,956 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and sadly, 45 have died.
- There are 92 people in intensive care, and 36 on respirators
- 2547 people have recovered
Hope Over Fear
Pollution Levels at an All Time Low
Social distancing is good for the earth, it seems. It has caused air pollution to drop in China, the US, the UK and India by as much as one third. One of the cities with the worst air pollution – New Delhi – has had airborne particulates plunge by 71%.
Irish Prime Minister Re-Registers as a Doctor
Leo Varadkar worked as a GP before heading into politics. When his country called for medical staff to rejoin the register, he offered his services. He is reportedly working on phone lines for one session a week.
Your Tip for Today
So none of us can go on holiday this weekend. Aaah.
One way to combat holiday blues is to make a way to do something you love or something completely new.
- Backyard camping is a growing trend. It’s still the same sky, and it’s a way to get out of the house. And who says others can’t join you online? Get your the campfire blazing and share virtual campfire singalongs. Plus, there’s a significant advantage: the toilets are nearby and not shared.
For ‘Genius Backyard Camping Ideas’ check out BuzzFeed’s link.
- Has visiting international museums or zoos previously been a bit out of reach? Check out these zoo and aquarium livestreams, or select one of more tha2,500 of the world’s museums to visit.
- Or as a last resort, how about learning the Morse code? Apparently it can take as few as 15 minutes… Check out the “With Google”website and app
What About You?
I’d love to hear your stories.
- Have you experienced any COVID-19 testing yourself?
- What ideas do you have for the Easter weekend?
I’m keen to see your comments below
Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament – 8 April
AHPPC Statement – 7 April
Prof B Murphy in Q&A after Prime Minister’s statement – 7 April
Health Minister Interview on The Project – 7 April
Health Minister interview with Tom Elliot on 3AW – 7 April
Good News Network – COVID-19 Updates – Pollution
Good News Network – Learn Morse Code
Sky News – Irish Prime Minister Re-Registers as a Doctor