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Coronavirus: What we know today, July 5

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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

AMA calls for halt to easing of restrictions as Victorian cases surge

The COVID-19 resurgence in Victoria has prompted the Australian Medical Association to call for a temporary halt to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the country.

“These new outbreaks send a strong signal that the other states should rethink the pace of easing of their COVID-19 restrictions until community transmission in Melbourne is under control to avoid the risk of a similar situation playing out in their own communities,” AMA president Tony Bartone said in a statement on Sunday.

“Before rushing back to the pub, the footy crowds, or the big weddings and parties, Australia should pause and play it safe.”

The nation’s top medical officials held an emergency meeting on the weekend in response to the rising number of cases in Victoria.

Victoria on Sunday reported 74 new cases, following on from 108 cases on Saturday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews defended a controversial decision to impose a hard lock down of nine housing towers for at least five days as necessary to to quell the state’s COVID-19 resurgence.

Residents were given no notice and are not allowed to leave their homes for any reason.

Andrews warned the outbreak was unlikely to be contained soon, making it necessary to introduce strenuous measures.

“We are going to see some big days, big numbers in the days ahead,” he told reporters on Sunday.

The premier said the hard lock down was about safety for the residents of the towers – where there have been at least 30 cases – as well as the wider state.

“This is about protection for you and your loved ones and then, by extension, it’s about protecting the entire state and we don’t make those decisions lightly.”

Residents in the locked down buildings are among the state’s most vulnerable with many having fled war or family violence and dealing with mental illness, disability and low income.

The government said it would arrange the delivery of food and medical supplies to all homes.

However, residents with urgent needs have told AAP no one has yet asked them what they need.

Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt, whose federal electorate covers some of the estates, said his office had been alerted to a lack of pandemic information in the buildings and had approached the health department in March about getting mailroom access to post leaflets in 13 different languages, but nothing was done.

The inner-Melbourne public housing blocks are being locked down for at least five days for testing of the 3000 residents who will be monitored by 500 police, while stay-at-home orders have been issued for a further two postcodes.

All international flights are being diverted from Victoria while the troubled hotel quarantine program is put on hold for a fortnight.

According to the Herald Sun, Qantas and Jetstar staff are being used to replace private security contractors in Melbourne’s quarantine hotels.

At midnight, international arrivals in Sydney were capped at 450 a day in a bid to ensure the hotel quarantining system was not stretched to breaking point.

Returning travellers are likely to avoid Queensland, where the state government is now charging for accommodation.

On Sunday the Northern Territory announced that strict quarantine measures will be implemented across the Northern Territory upon the reopening of borders.

From July 17, entrants to the NT will need to complete a border arrival form and declare if they have travelled to or through a coronavirus hotspot in the last 28 days.

If any entrant to the NT has been in a hotspot, self-isolation for 14 days in a regional centre at their own expense is mandatory.

No new cases in SA

No new cases were recorded in South Australia on Sunday, according to SA Health.

There have been a total of 443 cases reported in SA, with the three currently active all from returned travellers in quarantine.

There have been more than 161,000 tests undertaken across the state.

NSW reported 14 cases on Sunday, and all were returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

Six people who returned to Western Australia on a flight from Dubai have also tested positive, with authorities examining their contact with other passengers.

They are in hotel quarantine, along with the other passengers from the flight.

Sick South Australians not getting tested

An SA Health survey has found close to three-quarters of respondents unwell last month did not get a COVID-19 test and did not plan to.

The Wellbeing SA June survey of 1621 people found almost a fifth had reported symptoms such as a cough or runny nose.

Of those unwell, 72 per cent did not test and said they did not plan to do so, a fifth did get a test, and a further 7 per cent planned to do so.

Authorities recommend anyone with symptoms to get a test, including if they have a sore throat, cough, fever, runny nose, or loss of smell or taste.

More travellers arrived in Adelaide on Saturday, with 120 Australians beginning a mandatory fortnight of hotel quarantine in the city on Saturday night as they await test results, after flying in from Kuala Lumpur.

They will join 350 other people still in hotel quarantine, including about 100 defence force personnel.

On Friday it was confirmed that a security guard was sacked for failing to wear a mask while working in South Australia’s hotel quarantine system.

Similar breaches have been linked to Victoria’s spike in cases.

Other states are taking measures to reduce the number of travellers arriving, with New South Wales introducing a limit overnight of a maximum of 50 people allowed per incoming flight and international arrivals in Sydney capped at 450 a day.

Meanwhile, the South Australian government on Saturday launched a plan to retrain 24 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.

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

New Zealand quarantine escapee hops the fence

The New Zealand government won’t be upping security at border isolation quarantine facilities despite an escapee fleeing her hotel in a dangerous security breach.

A 43-year-old woman, who arrived from Brisbane last month, escaped from her 14-day mandatory isolation at the Pullman Hotel in central Auckland on Saturday night.

She was apprehended by police a few blocks away, two hours later.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said “it was a climbing the fence situation”.

The woman had previously tested negative to COVID-19, but her walkabout has necessitated a contact tracing effort.

Woods said police are considering charges.

“If she was to be charged under the COVID Act, then the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment or a $4000 ($A3766) fine,” she said.

The breach hasn’t forced Ms Woods into a rethink of security.

“We will have robust procedures, but at the end of the day we’re asking individuals to follow the rules,” she said.

Health authorities announced new three cases of the deadly virus on Sunday, all of whom are in the border regime.

New Zealand currently has 21 active cases of COVID-19, with one in hospital.

Scientists issue warning over aerosol transmission

More than 200 scientists from 32 countries have penned an open letter to the World Health Organisation accusing the United Nations agency of failing to issue appropriate warnings about the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19.

The World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that only two types of transmission are of concern: inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected person in the immediate vicinity or – less common – touching a contaminated surface and then one’s eyes, nose or mouth.

But the open letter contends that particles known as aerosols can hang in the air for long periods and float for several metres, making poorly ventilated rooms, buses and other confined spaces dangerous even when people stay 1.8 metres from one another.

“We are 100 per cent sure about this,” said Lidia Morawska, a professor of atmospheric sciences and environmental engineering at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

Experts said that aerosol transmission appears to be the only way to explain several “super-spreading” events, including the infection of diners at a restaurant in China who sat at separate tables.

WHO officials have acknowledged that the virus can be transmitted through aerosols but say that occurs only during medical procedures such as intubation.

Dr Benedetta Allegranzi, a top WHO expert on infection prevention and control, said in responses to questions from the Los Angeles Times that Morawska and her group presented theories based on laboratory experiments rather than evidence from the field.

In weekly teleconferences, a large majority of a group of more than 30 international experts advising the WHO has “not judged the existing evidence sufficiently convincing to consider airborne transmission as having an important role in COVID-19 spread”.

The proponents of aerosol transmission said masks worn correctly would help prevent the escape of exhaled aerosols as well as inhalation of the microscopic particles.

But they said the spread could also be reduced by improving ventilation and zapping indoor air with ultraviolet light in ceiling units.

The World Health Organisation meanwhile has reported a record increase in global cases, with the total rising by 212,326 in 24 hours.

The biggest increases were from the United States, Brazil and India, according to a daily report by the body.

The previous WHO record for new cases was 189,077 on June 28.

Deaths remained steady on Saturday at about 5000 a day, according to official counts.

Global cases exceeded 11 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

The spike in COVID-19 cases cast a pall over Independence Day celebrations in the US on Saturday, with officials and health authorities warning people to take precautions or stay home.

In Britain on Saturday, some signs of normalcy returned with pubs and barbers re-opening for the first time in months.

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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