Donald Trump COVID-19

Australian trials of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine are (mostly) on pause following a damning study, it’s a mixed bag for the environment, and Indonesia may be facing a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak.

Hard to say, harder to swallow

(Some) Australian researchers have caught up with the World Health Organisation’s advice on anti-Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure (or prevention) for coronavirus.

The drug has long been pushed by US President Donald Trump as an anti-coronavirus treatment — he recently attributed the fact that he keeps testing “positively toward negative” to his consumption of the drug. Australia’s Aldi Trump Clive Palmer joined him, taking out full-page ads in several newspapers early this month claiming he’d bought 33 million doses of it to aid the fight.

However, hydroxychloroquine was subject to a study in medical journal The Lancet which found it could cause heart problems and death. In response, WHO suspended testing earlier this week. There were at the time two major trials in Australia — one looking at the drug as treatment for COVID-19, one as prevention — both of which initially said they would push on.

Yesterday, the Doherty Institute announced it would be pausing its trials. However, the lead researcher for the second study — a trial known as COVID-SHELD looking at the drug’s preventative properties — told The Australian the group was “entirely comfortable” continuing with its trial.

The shifting climate

The pandemic has prompted the United Nations to delay until late 2021 the COP26 climate summit which had been scheduled for Britain this year.

The summit was supposed to have prodded governments to commit to more aggressive emissions-cutting goals, and had been billed as the most important climate change summit since the 2015 talks that produced the Paris Agreement.

After the revelations that even an unprecedented lockdown — with it’s sharp reductions in consumption and travel — wasn’t going to get us near the emission reduction levels we need to avert climate change related catastrophe, we have seen a contrast in how various levels of government are dealing with the structural changes going forward.

The Australian government has continued to back fossil fuels (up to and including stacking the opaque, hand-picked National COVID-19 Co-ordination Commission with a couple of fossil fuel figures). State governments have used the distraction to pass environmentally dodgy moves. However, local governments appear to be stepping up.

Melbourne’s Yarra Council has announced a Climate Emergency Plan which — pending state government sign off — would require all new development to have zero net emissions to gain approval.

This is not over

While Australia continues to ease lockdowns, our northern neighbour Indonesia is showing potential signs of a runaway outbreak.

The spread of COVID-19 in the world’s forth most populous country — home to just over 12% of the world’s Muslims — was initially slow, due to the sprawling nature of the archipelago.

However, since gatherings of hundreds of thousands for Ramadan, experts fear a major outbreak is emerging. Cases in the country have already doubled to 24,000 since early May. A random sampling of 11,555 people in Surabaya, the country’s second largest city, found 10% had antibodies for the coronavirus.