jacinda ardern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

New Zealand has recorded two new imported cases of COVID-19 after a brief stint of being virus-free. An anti-inflammatory drug may save us all. But as always, prevention is the best method so here’s how to flush the toilet.

Could a common steroid save the day?

A common, cheap and widely-available steroid cut deaths by a third in COVID-19 patients on ventilators, the University of Oxford in the UK has found — though, of course, we’ve been burned by hopeful headlines before. 

This study, however, was a controlled experiment. 2104 were patients given a low dose of dexamethasone and their results compared to 4321 patients who received usual care.

Along with reducing deaths among patients who required ventilators, the drug also cut deaths by one fifth in patients receiving oxygen. It had no effect on those who didn’t need respiratory support. 

The World Health Organisation has welcomed the initial clinical results. 

Did New Zealand celebrate too soon? 

After celebrating being virus-free just last week, New Zealand has imported two cases of COVID-19 from travellers from the UK. 

The two women were visiting Wellington to attend a parent’s funeral. They travelled via Doha and Brisbane.

The duo had been granted compassionate dispensation leave — meaning they were able to circumvent the 14-day quarantine rule — to travel. New Zealand has since changed its rules so anyone granted leave must first return a negative COVID-19 test result. 

Officials say the pair were unlikely to have spread the virus further as they rented a car and had little contact with others. 

Your poo is dangerous

A new study has found flushing the toilet releases a huge plume of particles flying above the toilet seat, leading to large-scale virus spread. The virus particles then settle on surrounding surfaces. 

Coronaviruses, including the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus, are spread not just by oral particles — but by fecal particles too. So every time an infected person uses the toilet, the bowl becomes more dangerous.

The moral of the story is simple — shut the lid before you flush, and don’t flush for others.

Disinformation dominates Payne speech

In her first major speech since the pandemic, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has lashed out at China and Russia for spreading disinformation. 

The speech, made at the Australian National University last night, was responded to a report by the European Commission, which found foreign actors and countries led by Russia and China carried out disinformation campaigns. Their aim was to create confusion and undermine democratic debate. 

Twitter has suspended 32,000 accounts allegedly linked to state-run propaganda operations in China, Russia and Turkey.

In response to criticism that Australia should stay quiet — lest we feel the wrath of another barley tariff retaliation from China — Payne said Australia needed to make difficult decisions and prioritize sovereignty.  

Extra supports for COVID-19 

The Victorian government has pledged an extra $23 million to support Aboriginal Victorians throughout the pandemic, including $10 million for local organisations to develop coronavirus responses, and $13 million for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, including health and homelessness organisations. 

NSW also plans to announce a $13 million package aimed at boosting overseas sales. Small and medium regional exporters will be given a $10,000 grant to help establish e-commerce channels to sell products abroad.