South Korean soldiers spray disinfectant in Seoul (Image: EPA/JEON HEON-KYUN)

Outside Australia, the virus is spreading faster than ever, women bear the majority of the economic pain (and shouldn’t expect government help), and could the worldwide protest movements cause another outbreak?

The good news is there is no good news

As attention shifts to massive upheavals in the US and Hong Kong, our own new cases slow to a trickle, and the number of infections appears to be retreating in the hardest-hit countries early on, you could be forgiven for thinking the worst is over.

As it happens, the worst is happening right now. The New York Times reports that more than 100,000 new cases are being recorded worldwide each day, the most of anytime during the pandemic.

Hot spots are emerging in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to Times.

Bangladesh now has more than 55,000 reported cases, and last month Cyclone Amphan tore through densely-populated communities under lockdown in the Bay of Bengal, creating conditions for the spread to worsen. (Although thanks to a largely successful evacuation, it could have been far worse.)

Brazil’s death toll passed 30,000 this week, while Egypt now has nearly 30,000 cases.

You need Jesus

Meanwhile, South Korea’s new virus cases spiked again this week, thanks to a cluster of infections tied to religious gatherings in the greater Seoul area.

After the country eased social distancing guidelines in early May, the country has reported more than 100 cases from church gatherings.

This is not the first time religious gatherings have been blamed for an outbreak in South Korea, the first major hotspot outside of China.

Back in February, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention identified a 61-year-old member of fringe Christian group Shincheonji Church (which believes founder Lee Man-Hee to be the second coming of Christ) as being at the centre of the outbreak.

Known as “Patient 31”, she initially refused to be transferred to a hospital to be tested and had attended several church gatherings before testing positive. It’s believed that members likely infected one another at services in the country’s south-east and then fanned out around the country.

What about the protesters?

While against police brutality and racism in the US and Chinese interference in Hong Kong continue, there is a question percolating in the background — will these vast congregations set off another wave of coronavirus infections?

Public health officials in the US have already expressed concern, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said protesters had a “civic duty” to be tested for the Virus.

Ahead of similar protests in Australian this weekend, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has urged people not to attend. “Let’s not do anything that potentially spreads the virus,” he said, concerned, we’re sure, with public health matters and nothing else.

Gendered impacts on the road out

While much has been made about the absurdity of the government’s HomeBuilder stimulus package — aimed at renovations, rather than social housing — there has been little focus on the specific gender priorities it represents.

As Georgie Dent points out in Women’s Agenda, the package could barely have picked a more male-dominated industry: at least 82% of construction workers are men and the average salary for a construction worker in Sydney is around 32% higher than the national average. The few women who are in the sector earn 17% less than the men they work alongside.

All this is particularly hard to stomach given women have both suffered the majority of job losses during the crisis, and dominated the frontlines of Australia’s battle against the virus.