(Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

Australia’s 100th death

Australia’s COVID-19 death toll reached 100 yesterday after a 93-year-old woman in western Sydney’s Newmarch House nursing home died.

It’s a grim milestone which shows how the country has slowed the outbreak. The first confirmed case on January 25 was 115 days before the 100th death. The same gap was around 58 days in the United States, and 47 in the United Kingdom.

At its peak, the pandemic has killed thousands per day in both those countries.

Work, holidays, set for resumption

So with our cases down — and despite fears about a possible second wave — Australia continues its slow reopening.

From June 1, NSW will allow travel to the regions. Art galleries, museums and libraries will open. 

Qantas, meanwhile, announced its health guidelines in anticipation of air travel resuming. To the dismay of infectious disease experts, there will be no social distancing required on flights, or any requirement for passengers to wear masks.

Australia gets its probe, but at what cost?

Last night the World Health Assembly backed a motion establishing an independent review into the coronavirus.

The review, pushed for by Australia and the European Union, passed unanimously — even China signed on as a co-sponsor.

But Australia’s staunch advocacy for a probe long before it had broad international consensus may have put its relationship with Beijing through the ringer.

China has repeatedly tried to downplay Australia’s role. Yesterday its embassy called Canberra’s attempts to take credit a joke, and this week it confirmed huge tariffs on Australian barley after suspending imports from four Australian abattoirs.

A sign of an increasingly frosty relationship to come. 

Africa fears being left behind

So far wealthy Western countries have been seemingly hit hardest by the pandemic.

But health experts have always feared even more disastrous impacts when the virus takes hold in parts of Africa, where health resources are underdeveloped and social distancing is difficult.

The United Nations says an outbreak in the continent could push 30 million people into poverty.

And while we’re yet to see truly devastating outbreaks (that could be down to a lack of testing) there’s still plenty of room for concern. Yesterday the presidents of Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Niger claimed the West was failing the continent by providing insufficient financial and medical aid.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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