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Coronavirus: What we know today, June 17

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Follow this post for rolling updates on the impact of the coronavirus in South Australia, the nation and the world.

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New arrival tests positive

A man arriving at Adelaide Airport has tested positive for COVID-19, despite being released from quarantine after a positive coronavirus test in Melbourne.

Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier today revealed the first South Australian coronavirus case in more than three weeks – but said the case would be counted towards Victoria’s total caseload, after testing positive in that state on June 9.

It is three weeks since SA recorded its last new case on May 26, and two weeks after that case was no longer deemed active.

“We have actually had someone come through Adelaide Airport who in fact did test positive for COVID-19 – it’s a person who’s done quarantine in Victoria,” Spurrier told reporters this afternoon.

The 35 year-old Australian resident had recently returned from Pakistan and quarantined in Melbourne according to national guidelines.

While in quarantine, he tested positive to COVID-19, having shown symptoms of the disease since May 26.

Ironically, the positive test allowed him to leave isolation earlier than he would have otherwise, with Spurrier insisting the requirement allows people to travel 10 days after symptoms first appeared and three days after symptoms disappear.

However, he was tested again on arrival in SA, later returning a positive test.

“We’ve good really quite good border controls – one of our nurses was at the border here and did the ‘PCR’ testing,” Spurrier said.

“We did a risk assessment to make sure we haven’t overlooked any risk at all… I’m very happy there’s absolutely no risk to anybody in SA.”

She said the man landed in Melbourne on June 6, was tested three days later while quarantined “and unfortunately this gentlemen did test positive”.

However, she said she was relaxed about him being allowed to enter SA witohut a further test, insisting “the way we determine if someone can come out of isolation is if it’s been 10 days since onset of symptoms, and no symptoms for three days”.

“If the person’s symptom free they can come out of isolation,” she said.

“That person has come back to SA, we have our nursing staff [at the airport and] a nurse has seen that this person had travelled internationally and took a PCR test and it’s come back positive”.

“We do have people who can test positive for a long period of time, it can be 7 or 8 weeks,” she said.

“So we would not count this as a new case.”

Some SA borders now open

South Australia has moved early early on lifting some COVID-19 border restrictions, allowing people to travel from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania as of midnight on Tuesday.

Premier Steven Marshall says the change means people from those states will no longer be required to stay in quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in SA.

He says people who recently arrived from those states and are currently in isolation, are also free to move into the wider community.

All interstate border restrictions, including Victoria, NSW and Qyeensland, are due to be lifted on July 20.

South Australia on Tuesday recorded 21 days straight of no new COVID-19 cases, according to SA Health.

More than 127,000 tests have now been undertaken across the state.

Victorian Premier has crack at SA as local cases spike

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew has hit out SA’s decision to exclude Victoria from its opened borders, saying: “I don’t want to be offensive to South Australians, but why would you want to go there?”

It came after Victoria today recorded 21 new coronavirus cases in a single day, the biggest increase in more than a month.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos confirmed the state’s infection tally had increased to 1762, with 15 of the new cases returned travellers in mandatory hotel quarantine.

Andrews said he couldn’t understand why Victorians would want to go to SA in any case.

“Why would you want to go there? Holiday here,” he said.

“Victorians I think will be very keen to stay close to home these school holidays, over this period [and] I welcome that, because every dollar we can invest as local tourists will be good for jobs.”

He told Victorians: “Don’t get too distressed that they won’t let you in to Adelaide – why would you really want to go there?”

Asked about Victorian residents being unable to visit family in SA, Andrews said: “They need to speak to the SA Government about the decision they’ve made – I can’t control that.”

He said he was not critical of SA’s moves to safeguard its borders, but said “we’re a different place”.

SA “crazy” to exclude NSW: Premier

NSW has recorded just one new COVID-19 case, prompting its premier to criticise domestic border closures and her state’s “crazy” exclusion from South Australia’s travel bubble.

The case recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm Tuesday involved an overseas traveller in hotel quarantine after 12,000 tests were carried out.

Gladys Berejiklian is baffled at the SA government decision to lift border restrictions on travellers from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania – but not NSW – from midnight last night.

Residents of those states and territories will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in SA for business or holidays.

“None of this makes sense to me,”Berejiklian told reporters on Wednesday.

“Yes, we comprise a number of states and each premier has led their state in a different way or (taken) a different approach, but that’s no reason to have internal borders … I can’t see the logic in it. I think it’s crazy.”

Australians urged to travel locally and spend

With international travel forbidden in the foreseeable future, the government is urging the nearly 10 million Australians who travelled overseas last year to look at their own backyards for their next holiday.

The more than $65 billion they spent in foreign destinations would go a long way to helping domestic tourism operators reeling from the bushfires and coronavirus pandemic.

The tourism and hospitality sectors have been the hardest hit by the virus.

About three in 10 accommodation and food sector jobs have been lost since mid-March, the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows.

Just 750 foreign tourists arrived in Australia in May, compared with nearly 458,000 in the same month last year.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says there’s an enormous potential to replace the vanished overseas travellers with Australians.

“For those Australians who can afford to do so, we want them to feel an almost patriotic duty to get out and support the jobs and small businesses of their fellow citizens by having whatever Aussie holiday they can,” he will tell the National Press Club on Wednesday, according to excerpts of his speech obtained by AAP.

“That could mean instead of the beaches of Bali, it could be the beaches of Byron Bay.”

The closure of state borders has been a sticking point in preventing Australians from holidaying farther afield throughout the country.

Steroid “breakthrough” for COVID-19 patients

A cheap and widely used steroid called dexamethasone has become the first drug shown to be able to save the lives of COVID-19 patients in what scientists say is a “major breakthrough”.

Trial results show dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in diseases such as arthritis, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.

Tuesday’s preliminary results, which have not been peer-reviewed, suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the pandemic disease, the researchers said.

They said they would work to publish the full details of the trial as soon as possible.

Some scientists said they wished to review the evidence for themselves.

Britain’s health ministry wasted no time, saying the drug had been approved for use in the state-run health service, export restrictions had been introduced and 200,000 courses of the treatment had been stockpiled.

Oxford University professor and trial co-leader Martin Landray said dexamethasone would save lives.

“This is a result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost,” he said.

“It’s going to be very hard for any drug really to replace this, given that for less than STG50 pounds ($90), you can treat eight patients and save a life.”

Co-lead investigator Peter Horby called dexamethasone “a major breakthrough”.

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 431,000 people globally.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said Tuesday’s announcement was “the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far”.

The RECOVERY trial compared outcomes of around 2100 patients who were randomly assigned to get the steroid, with those of around 4300 patients who did not get it.

University of Birmingham honorary professor of clinical pharmacology Robin Ferner called for more details.

“We hope the data on which these results are based will be published as soon as possible so that doctors can confidently put the treatment into practice,” Ferner said.

The results suggest one death would be prevented by treatment with dexamethasone in every eight ventilated COVID-19 patients, Landray said.

One death would be prevented in every 25 COVID-19 patients that received the drug and were on oxygen.

New York doctor Thomas McGinn said physicians at Northwell hospitals have been using steroids on a case-by-case basis because they can suppress patients’ immune systems and possibly make them susceptible to other infections.

He said if the data is peer-reviewed and legitimised, it could spread the use of steroids in the sickest COVID-19 patients.

“Across the country now intensivists have been using it based on their judgement calls. If this is legitimate, you may find … instead of say five out of 10 intensive-care COVID patients getting it, maybe everybody would get it,” McGinn said.

OFFICIAL SOURCES OF ADVICE AND INFORMATION

Local updates and resources

State Government central information

SA Health

Mental health support line (8am to 8pm): 1800 632 753.

National advice and information

Australian Government Coronavirus information hotline: 1800 020 080

Government information via WhatsApp: click here

Travel

Australian Government travel advice: smartraveller.gov.au

Check your symptoms

Free, government-funded, health advice: healthdirect.gov.au

– Reporting by InDaily staff, AAP and Reuters

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