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Coronavirus: What we know today, July 16

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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

New SA case

South Australia has a confirmed new case of coronavirus with a woman recently returned from overseas testing positive for the disease.

Premier Steven Marshall says the woman spent two weeks in quarantine in Victoria where she returned two negative results for COVID-19.

But she has now tested positive upon her return to Adelaide.

Marshall says the result is a “low positive” and the woman is not considered contagious.

However, she will spend another two weeks in self-isolation.

SA to mandate testing for returned travellers or $1000 fine

State Government will enforce mandatory testing for people who arrive in South Australia from Victoria within 24 hours and again on day 12 of quarantine.

The new measures will come into effect from midnight Saturday.

Those who flout the ruling face a $1000 on-the-spot fine.

“We’re sending a very strong message that it is absolutely mandatory to make sure that these tests are undertaken to keep our state safe,” Premier Steven Marshall said.

Another 314 Victorian cases, two deaths

Victoria has recorded another 314 cases – the largest daily increase since the pandemic began.

The state also recorded two more deaths – men in their 80s – taking the national toll to 113.

There are 109 people hospitalised in Victoria including 29 in intensive care.

NSW recorded 10 new cases on Thursday including three more people linked to the Crossroads Hotel cluster in southwest Sydney.

Health authorities are gravely concerned about coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes, while several staff at a children’s hospital have also been infected.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd is watching Victorian case numbers rise each day but says the increase is not too dramatic.

Professor Kidd is also keeping a close eye on the number of people admitted to hospital, particularly those in intensive care.

“And of course we are gravely concerned about the number of residential aged care facilities where we have seen cases of COVID-19,” he said.

Australia should avoid heavy costs of Stage Four lockdown: Hunt

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says avoiding such restrictions should be the fundamental goal in Victoria and the rest of the country.

“Our goal as a country, and whether it’s as a Victorian or a Melburnian, is to avoid having to go to higher levels of lockdown,” Mr Hunt said.

“We know this level has enormous human and economic consequences, whether it’s a single parent in a small flat with young kids, whether it’s a worker who’s been stood down from a particular form of hospitality … the owner of a beautician salon.

“All of these people are doing it tough as it is already. Higher levels of lockdown would mean even greater hardship for individuals, mental health, social isolation, the elderly who’ll be isolated.”

Cluster warning from “stealthy” virus

NSW has been warned to “fully expect” COVID-19 clusters to pop up because of the “stealthy” nature of the virus as the number of cases linked to a southwest Sydney pub continues to grow.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant on Wednesday said there were 34 cases linked to the Crossroads Hotel in Casula, with at least 20 of them patrons.

Two of the 34 cases to date are “tertiary” cases, or contacts of contacts.

Dr Chant said this highlights how rapidly coronavirus can spread, describing it as a “stealthy” virus.

NSW Health also confirmed the “patient zero” of the outbreak was a Melbourne freight company employee who attended the Crossroads Hotel on July 3 for a work party. Six of his colleagues have since caught COVID-19.

The man entered NSW on June 30, before its border with Victoria closed.

Queensland threatens jail for pandemic breaches

Queensland will move to imprison anyone caught breaking rules to prevent COVID-19 flare-ups as new cases surge in Victoria.

Terms of up to six months behind bars will be introduced to state parliament on Thursday under a legislative amendment designed to act as a deterrent.

Fines for individuals have not been enough to stop them from testing the public health directions issued by chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young.

Elimination strategy proposed

Eradicating coronavirus in Australia is conceivably possible providing the country goes into lockdown to stop superspreaders perpetuating the illness, a university mathematician says.

Medical practitioner and mathematician Dr David Kault says research shows eliminating superspreaders is the key to winning the war against COVID-19.

The adjunct senior lecturer at Queensland’s James Cook University says Australia has a 50-50 proposition of eliminating the disease, but that any win comes with personal and financial sacrifice.

Dr Kault said a policy of suppression without elimination leads to an eventual increase in infections, which is what is occurring in New South Wales and Victoria.

“We are seeing the consequences of opening up too soon,” he said.

“We can still eliminate it, but we need to lockdown again now. We can’t get complacent because numbers are low. Mathematically, going the extra mile to lock down for a few extra weeks is worth it.

“Elimination on an island continent is possible.”

Tokyo on highest alert

Tokyo has raised its coronavirus alert to the highest “red” level, alarmed by a recent spike in daily new cases to record highs, with Governor Yuriko Koike describing the situation in the Japanese capital as “rather severe”.

The resurgence of the virus in Tokyo could add to the growing pressure on policymakers to shore up the world’s No.3 economy, which analysts say is set to shrink at its fastest pace in decades this fiscal year due to the pandemic.

“We are in a situation where we should issue warnings to citizens and businesses,” Koike told a press conference on Wednesday, urging residents to refrain from unnecessary travel.

The infection rate in Tokyo is at stage “red”, the highest of four levels in the metropolis’ system, Koike said, citing the analysis by health experts who cautioned earlier in the day that infections were going up quite a bit and “exceeding peaks”.

Infections among young people and asymptomatic cases are rising in Tokyo, health experts have noted.

US confident of vaccine by 2021

Leading US expert on infectious diseases Anthony Fauci has predicted the country will meet its goal of a coronavirus vaccine by year’s end.

Fauci is unmoved by the prospect that China will get there first, and said while there were no guarantees, “I feel good about the projected timetable”.

His comments follow promising early stage data for the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, released on Tuesday, that was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci directs.

Many experts see a safe and effective vaccine as the only way out of the pandemic that has infected millions and killed more than 575,000 people worldwide.

Fauci said Moderna’s results were especially promising because the vaccine appeared to offer the type of protection seen in a natural infection.

In vaccine development, “one of the things that you hope for is that your vaccine induces a response that’s comparable to a natural infection, because theoretically, the best vaccine you could possibly ever get is a natural infection”.

Moderna’s candidate, which is set to enter the last stage of testing on July 27, is just one of more than a hundred vaccines in development globally.

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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