daniel andrews in front of TV screen showing melbourne postcodes
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (Image: AAP/James Ross)

Victoria’s drastic measures to curb the continuing increase of COVID-19 cases. A new test offers a glimmer of hope. The UK city going back into lockdown. And chaos continues to reign in the United States.

Flight diversion 

Victoria’s cases have surged so quickly the state has overtaken Italy for infections on a per-capita basis (though Italy’s curve has flattened). 

Victoria confirmed 64 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 75 cases on Monday. Italy was an early epicentre for the pandemic, and has had over 240,000 cases and almost 35,000 deaths. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a judicial inquiry into the operation of the hotel quarantine program. Staff breached infection control protocols, with reports they had received limited expert advice on how to use personal protective equipment, before spreading the disease to the community. 

Andrews has also asked for repatriation flights to be diverted to other cities for the next two weeks while the quarantine program is “reset”. 

As of midnight tonight, 10 postcodes linked to outbreaks will go into local lockdown until at least July 29. The stay-at-home order extends to 36 suburbs and affects around 311,000 people. Police will be patrolling these areas issuing on-the-spot fines for those leaving their homes without a valid reason.

Victoria’s lockdown is in stark contrast to the rest of the country: yesterday Queensland announced it will reopen its borders to everywhere except Victoria on July 10, and recorded no new cases today. And NSW today moves to the next stage of reopening, with no limit on the number of people allowed in indoor venues so long as there are four square metres per person. 

Australia is now on the European Union’s list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to visit — though it does a fat lot of good given Australian citizens aren’t allowed to leave Australia without a valid reason.

Hope in new test

Another new test offers hope for fast diagnosis of not just COVID-19, but of multiple viral, bacterial or fungal infections. This is good news given the speculation about another pandemic, after a flu carried by pigs was discovered in China. 

The test, called c-Find, hopes to detect infections within minutes from blood, mucus or saliva using a portable point-of-care device. It is being developed by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

UK local lockdowns

Victoria isn’t the only place experiencing a resurgence in infections — Leicester in the UK is also set to go into local lockdown after a surge in cases. 

While the rest of the country is set to reopen this Saturday, non-essential stores in Leicester will have to close up shop. The area has three times more daily cases than the next highest city and accounts for 10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week.

United States of chaos

The US isn’t faring so well either, with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr Anthony Fauci warning the daily surge in coronavirus cases in the US could more than double to 100,000 a day. 

Videos have emerged on social media of Americans delaying flights and being kicked out of stores after refusing to wear face masks, with some arguing wearing masks impede liberties.

US President Donald Trump has refused to endorse masks or wear them publicly, going so far as to suggest they could be counter-productive.  

Victoria’s clusters have revived calls to make face masks mandatory. In NSW, as restrictions ease, there are calls to require masks to be worn on public transport.

The Australian government currently does not advise the use amid low community transmission rates and fears of shortages for healthcare workers.

Peter Fray

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