pile of surgical face masks
(Image: Adobe)

Australia watch

While new daily case numbers are back below 300 for yesterday, aged care continues as the epicentre of the outbreak in Melbourne. There were 295 new cases confirmed this morning, but another nine deaths — seven of whom are connected to aged care homes.

Victoria is desperately trying to get people out of aged care facilities, and has enlisted the help of the Australian medical assistance team, dubbed the “SAS of the medical world” by Health Minister Greg Hunt.

But the crisis is starting to upend the entire health system in Victoria — yesterday Premier Daniel Andrews suspended most elective surgery as part of a plan to free up hospital beds. 

In New South Wales, community transmission remains low: 19 new cases were recorded yesterday. Two were in hotel quarantine, and the rest were linked to known outbreaks.

But there are concerns about clusters emerging in higher density areas. The virus has now made it to the affluent inner-east locale of Potts Point, as NSW Health links cases at its Thai Rock and Apollo restaurants.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia — home of the Sydney-Hobart yacht race — in Rushcutters Bay has also been closed for cleaning after a board member, vice-commodore Noel Cornish, tested positive. He’d dined with his partner at the Thai Rock and Apollo.

Germans told to mask up

Europeans treating themselves to summer holidays have, unsurprisingly, coincided with a rise in cases across the continent.

Now health officials in Germany, one of Europe’s success stories, are alarmed by a rise in cases: more than 3000 in the past week. Germans are being asked to wear masks where they cannot physically distance.

In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has extended a state of emergency until October. Eastern Europe and the Balkans are faring badly after avoiding the worst of the spring wave — Romania is recording more than 1000 new cases a day.

America is a hellscape

But nowhere is truly as cursed as America.

Here are a collection of anecdotes that highlight the hellishly dystopian state of things:

  • Despite recording more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases a day, President Donald Trump falsely claims much of the country is “corona-free”. Meanwhile his campaigning continues like the pandemic isn’t happening 
  • A federal report urged 21 “red zone” states — where the numbers are growing — to impose more restrictions. In Texas the virus is ripping through communities, leaving funeral homes swamped
  • Trump, who has consistently undermined health officials, is praising the work of a “doctor” who believes endometriosis is caused by people having sex with demons and witches in their sleep, and that alien DNA is being used in medical treatments. Unfortunately every word in that sentence is true. But never fear, at least Disney World is open for business.

How COVID attacks

Why is COVID-19 so nasty? New research from Nature Communications sheds some light on how it is so effective at invading cells.

The virus is a master of disguise — it’s able to mimic a human cell’s messenger RNA, so our cells can’t distinguish between it and the virus’s RNA.

It’s that deception that makes the virus so difficult to beat back. But according to the researchers uncovering this feature could be crucial in developing potential antiviral treatments.