protesters with signs and aboriginal flags outside sydney town hall
Protesters participate in a Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney (Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

State against state

After Australia’s deadliest weekend of the pandemic, relief could be some way off for Victoria. The state recorded 15 deaths over the past two days, and overnight recorded another record number of cases in one day — 532, and another six deaths.

One of those who died over the weekend was a man in his 40s, more evidence that the virus can be brutal regardless of age. 

It’s a different story in NSW, where in spite of community transmission bubbling away for a couple of weeks now, ministers are, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, “quietly optimistic” that the state’s contact tracers could have the current COVID-19 spot fires under control.

But there’s also some disagreement in Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s cabinet over what to do if those numbers tick up — some ministers are reportedly willing to live with 250 new cases a day before returning the state to lockdown. 

In the past day, NSW has recorded 17 new cases — eight in hotel quarantine and the remainder linked to known clusters.

The aged care alarm

One of the most worrying aspects of Melbourne’s current outbreak is the numbers of cases in aged care.

The virus has now been linked to 38 aged care facilities, with more than 250 residents and 250 staff infected. The mortality rate for people in aged care is about one in five, leading experts to suggest there could be 50 deaths in the next two weeks in Victoria. 

There’s also been increasing focus on how a lack of preparedness, funding and oversight in the aged care sector got us here. Stocks of personal protective equipment were inadequate. The family of a dying resident wasn’t given proper information on his condition. There are now calls for the military to be brought in to help manage outbreaks in the sector.

How does Victoria stack up?

Victoria isn’t the only place to be suffering a virus second wave. In mid-May, Israel had new case numbers in the single digits. Now, after people were told to go and have fun once the lockdown lifted, there have been more than 1000 new infections nearly every day for the past three weeks.

In Europe, as tourism kicks off again, infections are rising too.

Spain, which was one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, is seeing cases surge again after restrictions were lifted. On Friday, it recorded 2255 new cases. Around 900 of those were in Catalonia, a region with a population only slightly bigger than Victoria’s.

And as always, the numbers in the United States put our situation into some perspective. Florida, with a population less than all Australia, recorded over 12,000 new cases and 125 deaths on Saturday.

Black Lives Matter debate continues

Yesterday, the NSW Supreme Court, in effect, prohibited a Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally planned for Tuesday.

But the protest, organised by the family of David Dungay Jr, a Dunghutti man killed in police custody in 2015, could still go ahead. The organisers are appealing the court’s verdict, and say they’ll still take to the streets, unless SafeWork NSW and the Department of Public Prosecutions investigate Dungay’s death.

BLM rallies have been vigorously opposed by police in NSW.

Last week, commissioner Mick Fuller claimed the rally could set the state’s recovery back by a decade. But despite claims made by Fuller, and some fairly desperate reporting in the News Corp papers, there’s no evidence BLM rallies in June had any connection with Victoria’s current outbreak.

And in Fuller’s own state, where there were also substantial protests, there were no cases connected to the rallies.