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Coronavirus: What we know today, July 4

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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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Refresh this page for updates – scroll down for links to official health information.

KEY POINTS

No new cases in SA as Victoria records over 100 in a day

No new virus cases were reported in South Australia on Saturday, with only three active cases in the state, all of them repatriated Australians who arrived in Adelaide last weekend.

According to SA Health, there have been 160,000 tests undertaken in SA.

Victoria however recorded another 108 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, as outbreaks in Melbourne continue to escalate.

The number is the second biggest recorded since the pandemic reached the state.

Nine public housing towers in Melbourne will be completely locked down for the next five days, with residents not permitted to leave.

Of the cases, 69 are under investigation, 14 are linked to known outbreaks, and 25 are from routine testing.

About 10,000 residents in those suburbs have declined to be tested, with Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos saying it was worrying many of these people appear to think the virus is a conspiracy.

She revealed on Friday that a “super spreader” is potentially behind the spread of the virus through Melbourne’s lockdown suburbs, but this is yet to be confirmed.

“There seems to be a single source of infection for many of the cases that have gone across the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne,” she told reporters.

The Victorian opposition has called the hotel quarantine program “a complete disaster” and a failure of government.

The peak body for hotels has rejected criticism for any wrongdoing in the quarantine program, saying the hotels involved had been turned over to the government and did not deserve blame.

It comes as The Age reports that parties involved in Victoria’s hotel quarantine system warned Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton of major problems with the scheme in April, more than a month before the first outbreak was detected.

Meanwhile, a Central Coast high school student is among six new infections of COVID-19 reported in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday, although it is no longer an active case.

The five other cases reported on Saturday are all returned travellers currently in hotel quarantine, NSW Health said.

More travellers enter hotel quarantine

A flight from Kuala Lumpur arrived in Adelaide this morning, with 120 Australians heading into hotel quarantine after COVID-19 testing at the airport.

They will spend two weeks in quarantine at the Playford Hotel, where they will be tested again for the virus, reports the ABC.

It was the first commercial flight by Malaysia airlines since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.

The travellers will join 350 other people still in quarantine at a city hotel, including about 100 defence force personnel.

It comes after confirmation on Friday that a security guard monitoring returned travellers in South Australia’s hotel quarantine system had been taken off the job for breaching safety protocols.

SA Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the guard wasn’t wearing a mask while working and was dismissed by police.

Failures by security guards to meet safety protocols were linked to Victoria’s recent surge in cases.

International arrivals in Sydney are being capped at 450 a day in a bid to ensure the hotel quarantining system is not stretched to breaking point, with travellers seemingly avoiding Victoria and Queensland.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said some returning travellers appeared to have changed their plans and decided to head to NSW in light of Victoria’s spike in COVID-19 cases and the Queensland government now charging for accommodation.

“It is crucial that the volume of returning passengers not overrun the capacity of NSW Health to meet and assess every international passenger at Sydney Airport and not exhaust Health, Police and ADF resources to manage our quarantine hotels,” Mr Hazzard said on Saturday.

Up to 50 people will be allowed per incoming flight under the new federal government limits, which come at the request of the NSW government and kick in from midnight.

Screening is also operating on domestic flights and interstate trains originating in Melbourne.

Volunteers enlisted to boost ambulance capacity

The South Australian government on Saturday launched a plan to retrain emergency service workers as volunteer ambulance personnel, in case of further COVID-19 outbreaks.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the move will boost ambulance operational resilience, particularly in regional areas, through training volunteers in ambulance driving skills, CPR and other capabilities.

SA Ambulance Service, Chief Executive Officer, David Place, said the service was meeting its day-to-day demand requirements but inter-agency support would assist in maintaining regional service delivery, if impacted by a further outbreak.

Expressions of interest are also being sought from County Fire Service volunteers to provide similar support if required.

It comes as a new $1.6 million service to strengthen the management of South Australian ambulance triple zero calls goes live.

It allows for experienced paramedics to provide clinical assessments over the phone and recommend alternative care options for non-emergency patients.

Access to a wider range of options, like ambulance transport to hospital, home-based care from a paramedic or locum doctor, or referrals to patients GPs, will also be streamlined.

SA to maintain border closures

South Australia will enforce border restrictions with NSW and Victoria until officials are absolutely sure both states “have got their act together” on the movement of people from COVID-19 hotspots, Premier Steven Marshall says.

SA on Friday maintained its requirements for people from the two states and the ACT to quarantine on arrival in SA in response to the surge in coronavirus cases in Melbourne.

Marshall says he’s pleased with the way the ACT and NSW are travelling in suppressing the virus, but health officials continue to monitor the movement of people between NSW and Victoria.

“We are moving as a nation towards the management of hotspots,” the premier said.

“But this is a new arrangement so what we need to be 100 per cent sure about is that Victoria and NSW have got their act together, making sure that people from hotspots do not leave their home state.

SA will next consider the issue of borders at a meeting of the transition committee on Tuesday.

Police also revealed on Friday that two men had twice been caught crossing into South Australia from Victoria in breach of the border restrictions, the second time after their car became bogged on a dirt road.

Adelaide vaccine trials begin

The first potential COVID-19 vaccine developed in the southern hemisphere is set to begin human trials in Adelaide, with volunteers praised for their efforts.

Australian company Vaxine will use a clinical trial unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital to test the COVAX-19 vaccine.

Forty volunteers aged between 18 and 65 will be given two doses three weeks apart and will then have blood tests to measure protective antibody and their responses.

Vaxine research director Nikolai Petrovsky says COVAX-19 uses a type of technology that mirrors previous work on vaccines for the SARS coronavirus.

He says that is believed to provide the most certain and reliable results.

Known as the recombinant spike protein approach, it seeks to induce a hormonal and cellular immune response.

“As early as January 2020, our modelling identified that COVID-19 as a major pandemic threat that could potentially cause millions of deaths globally,” Professor Petrovsky said.

“Unfortunately, our early predictions were spot on.”

Vaxine business manager Sarah Pringle said the company had been working for 18 years to develop a successful pandemic vaccine platform.

“Pandemic research is not something you can turn on and off like a tap,” she said.

“People should not think that short-term funds, no matter how large, can deliver instant pandemic solutions after a crisis hits; it will always be too little, too late.”

Mutation in third of COVID-19 samples

Almost 30 per cent of genome sequencing data from samples of the COVID-19 virus collected by the World Health Organisation have shown signs of mutation but there is no evidence this has led to more severe disease, a top WHO official says.

“I think it’s quite widespread,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told Reuters on the sidelines of a briefing held by the UN journalists’ association ACANU in Geneva.

The UN agency has so far collected 60,000 samples of the disease, she said.

Scientists at Scripps Research this month found that by April the mutated virus accounted for 65 per cent of cases submitted from around the world to a major database.

The genetic mutation in the new coronavirus, designated D614G, significantly increases its ability to infect cells and may explain why outbreaks in northern Italy and New York were larger than ones recorded earlier in the pandemic, they concluded in a study.

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, said at Friday’s briefing the mutated strain had been identified as early as February and had been circulating in Europe and the Americas.

“So far, there is no evidence it leads to more severe disease,” she said.

Global coronavirus cases have exceeded 11 million, according to a Reuters tally.

The number of cases is more than double the figure for severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, reports the World Health Organisation.

Many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus while making extensive alterations to work and social life that could last for a year or more until a vaccine is available.

Some countries are experiencing a resurgence in infections, leading authorities to partially reinstate lockdowns, in what experts say could be a recurring pattern into 2021.

The United States reported more than 55,400 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a new daily global record as infections rose in a majority of the country’s states.

Several US governors halted plans to reopen their state economies in the face of a surge in cases.

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

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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