Thursday, March 26, 2020

Testing criteria expands nationally

A broader range of people will be eligible to be tested for COVID-19 from today, after a national panel of medical experts urged the expansion of the current criteria. At a Wednesday night meeting of the National Cabinet, comprising Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders, testing criteria were extended beyond those who had returned from overseas or had direct contact with a confirmed case. Now tests can be undertaken on patients suffering from fever or acute respiratory infection in vulnerable occupations and demographics such as: health, aged, and residential care workers; residents of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; inmates of detention facilities where cases have been reported; residents of hotspots; and hospital patients at the discretion of clinicians. State governments can expand further if they have capacity.

The National Cabinet also agreed to suspend all non-urgent elective surgeries across the country. One consequence will be that 1000 Australians waiting for a kidney transplant must  remain on dialysis. The move comes as Guardian Australia reports that not-for-profit hospital network St John of God Healthcare, which runs 24 hospitals and healthcare centres across the country, ceased all non-urgent surgeries this week partly because of depleted stocks of personal protective equipment. The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s chief executive, Alison Verhoeven, said equipment supplies were insufficient for hospital needs even before COVID-19 added to demand. “The response is going to be import, local manufacture and triaging of patients so that those most in need get it,” she said. At a virtual meeting with G20 leaders today, Morrison will push for ($) international supply chains to remain open to ­allow for the “flow of vital medical supplies”. Meanwhile, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Chinese property giant Greenland Group was sending medical supplies to China in bulk earlier in the year when the COVID-19 crisis was concentrated around Wuhan.

University of Sydney modelling of how COVID-19 could spread in Australia indicates it could be controlled within 13 weeks if at least 8 out of 10 Australians stay home as much as possible. The analysis, yet to be rigorously peer-reviewed, indicates that if this number drops to even 7 out of 10, then the virus will continue to spread exponentially. The news comes as New South Wales police are granted the power to issue $1000 fines to people breaking social distancing guidelines. A 68-year-old Queensland man became the ninth person to die from COVID-19 in Australia, with the number of cases rising to 2431 across the country. A member of an expert panel advising the Government's response to COVID-19 has warned Australia should implement an immediate but short lockdown to curb the rise in cases.

The COVID-19 death toll in Spain has overtaken that of China, with a further 738 more fatalities in a 24-hour period taking the country’s total to 3434. The country’s health workers are taking legal action to force authorities to provide suitable protective equipment. In Madrid, an ice rink has been converted into a temporary morgue to cope with demand. Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, Prince Charles has tested positive for COVID-19, but is only displaying mild symptoms.


“While the world battles the Covid-19 outbreak, there is another spread scientists and health officials are concerned about – what some are calling the first information pandemic. When SARS broke out in 2003, the first truly global social networking site, MySpace, was still months away from existence. There was no Facebook, no Twitter. But today, as novel coronavirus cases climb past 200,000, with more than 8000 deaths, there is a unique storm of access and information.”


“Klein’s take on our leader’s response to catastrophe has a decidedly biblical bent. ‘I think it’s relevant that Morrison is the evangelical Protestant who has a world view that basically says that the world’s going to end, the chosen few will be taken to this gated golden city in the sky, and the sinners will perish,’ she says. ‘What I think they’re doing is creating that narrative, down here on Earth. These are Rapture policies that they are introducing. How else can we see [American venture capitalist] Peter Thiel buying land in New Zealand?’”


“Names that are also short stories: Darcy Fort, Henry Playfair, Eddie Betts, Angelica Gogos, James Harmes, Daisy Pearce, Wayde Twomey.”


“Coronavirus Aus Gov msg: To stop the spread, stay 1.5m from others, follow rules on social gatherings, wash hands, stay home if sick.”


“This message is for all of New Zealand. We are depending on you. Follow the rules and STAY HOME. Act as if you have Covid-19. This will save lives. Remember: Where you stay tonight is where YOU MUST stay from now on. You must only be in physical contact with those you are living with. It is likely level 4 measures will stay in place for a number of weeks. Let's all do our bit to unite against Covid-19. Kia Kaha.”


“The coronavirus lockdown may have unintentionally sparked a wave of awkward conversations within new relationships, after the government told couples who do not cohabit that they must either not meet at all, or else rapidly move in together. The clarification came from Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer ... ‘I’m clearly going to start a new career here in relationship counselling, so I will tread very carefully as I work through this answer,’ Harries began.”

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.