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Has Victoria reached its peak?

In Victoria, the daily case numbers remain stubbornly high, and there’s now a real prospect of the state’s current lockdown lasting longer than the six weeks initially proposed.

Are there any silver linings out there for Victoria? For one, as The Age, reports, some epidemiologists advising the state government say this current wave may have peaked.

That’s because while fluctuating case numbers are scary, what we need to watch is the effective reproduction number, and make sure that stays under one. Yesterday, Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said, very tentatively, that it may have been the peak.

And, according to UNSW epidemiology professor and World Health Organization adviser Mary-Louise McLaws, the speed of transmission in Melbourne has slowed.

There was some slight relief in yesterday’s numbers, confirmed this morning: 384 new cases, down from the previous day’s high. Six more people have died, though, and four of those were in aged care.

In NSW, 14 new cases were confirmed, all linked to known clusters.

Second wave imminent?

Around the world, second waves continue to remind us that normal won’t be coming back any time soon.

After five days of new cases in triple digits, Hong Kong has closed restaurants and mandated mask wearing. On Sunday, China recorded its highest number of new cases since March.

Vietnam, one of the world’s most impressive performers in handling the virus, just evacuated 80,000 people from the city of Danang after recording its first community spread since April.

In Europe, a return to lockdown could be on the cards in Belgium, which had one of the deadliest first waves in the world. France and Germany are nervously watching their own trajectories. 

Vaccine watch

In the US, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci is a vaccine optimist.

He says we could have a working vaccine by October or November. On Monday, a candidate being developed by US company Moderna entered a phase three human trial.

And according to some researchers, a mutation which has made the virus more infectious could actually make it more vulnerable to a vaccine — an increased number of “spikes” could give a vaccine more targets to neutralise the virus.

Underestimating virus deaths?

Australia’s COVID-19 death toll could be higher than we think.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows an above average number of deaths from pneumonia and influenza between mid-March and mid-April, leading researchers to conclude some virus deaths were misdiagnosed.

During the same period, flu was at historically low levels, because of social distancing and other measures taken to combat the virus. 

Gold more than worth its weight

The price of gold is higher than it’s ever been — at $US1944 an ounce, it beats an earlier record price from 2011.

Apparently, this is partially because of inflationary pressure unleashed by pandemic-related monetary stimulus around the world.

But it’s also a sign of the market acknowledging the wildly dystopian state of things. Gold is seen as a safe asset for investors during turbulent times.

Fears about the state of the global economy, uncertainty about when we’ll be able to move on from this pesky virus, and a deteriorating US-China relationship have all driven investors toward gold.