jeannette young standing in front of television mircrophones
Queensland chief health officer and newly announced State Governor Dr Jeannette Young (Image: AAP/Dan Peled)

As Australia’s virus numbers dwindle, another reminder why the lockdown was probably the right course. We could’ve been Sweden, forced to apologise for the deaths of hundreds of old people. Or we could have been Britain, which is finally getting its act together months too late. Plus, more confusion over drug trials and hydroxychloroquine.

Virus numbers dwindle

A very faint silver lining as Australia’s tumble into recession is all but confirmed — the number of new coronavirus infections around Australia has fallen to a trickle.

Victoria and Western Australia were the only states or territories to record new cases yesterday.

The virus hasn’t been eradicated, but Queensland’s chief health officer Jeanette Young doesn’t think a second wave is likely in her state. Ditto University of Queensland virologist Ian Mackay, who said a second wave in Australia would require “a series of really stupid decisions made by public health authorities and chief medical officers”, something we just haven’t done yet.

Of course, Australia’s medical success, coupled with the recession, will only embolden the anti-lockdown contrarians who argue we went too hard too fast and cooked our economy in the process.

But, it’s worth considering Sweden, the darling of the anti-lockdown commentariat, as a sign of what could have been.

Anders Tegnell, the epidemiologist behind the country’s “let it rip” strategy, recently conceded too many old people had died, as did the country’s prime minister. Sweden has recorded 443 deaths per million, the eighth-highest per capita in the world. Australia has four deaths per million. 

Senate continues to inquire

Today, the Senate will hold its latest hearing into the government’s coronavirus response. We’re most eagerly waiting to hear from Nev Power, the former mining boss hand-picked by Scott Morrison to run his COVID-19 co-ordination commission, who has faced concerns about conflicts of interests and his ties to the gas industry. Here’s a list of suggested questions Crikey put together yesterday.

Stop trying to make hydroxychloroquine happen

The anti-malarial drug touted by US President Donald Trump as a miracle cure for COVID-19 just won’t go away.

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO), gave the green light to resume a trial of the drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

The WHO had previously suspended the trial over safety concerns, after a The Lancet study found COVID-19 patients given hydroxychloroquine had a greater risk of death. But this week The Lancet issued an “expression of concern” about that observational study. The New England Journal of Medicine was also issued an expression of concern over a study published in May.

According to a Guardian investigation, both journals had sourced data, which is now under review, from Surgisphere, a small, little-known US company. 

Meanwhile, just to add more confusion, a randomised study of health workers published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week found hydroxychloroquine did not prevent healthy people from getting COVID-19.

Britain finally gets there

As European countries start planning to reopen borders, there’s furious debate in the United Kingdom over whether the government should do something Australia did months ago. Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to impose a 14-day self-quarantine for returning overseas travellers. 

The plan has been met with fury from the airline and tourism sectors, as well as fellow Tory MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May.

Either way, the quarantine, which was first flagged a month ago and won’t come into play until June 8, seems to have been rushed in way too late. Britain’s epidemic wave appears to have passed its peak. Nearly 40,000 people have died.