man wearing mask crossing tram tracks
(Image: AAP/James Ross)

Silver lining in Victorian shutdown

Victoria has recorded another 439 new COVID-19 cases overnight, and 11 more deaths. All the deaths were linked to aged care homes.

Yesterday, Premier Daniel Andrews revealed the detail of new business restrictions that will leave an additional 250,000 Victorians stood down. 

Throughout the last week, the daily number of new infections has been bouncing around, leaving health officials frustrated at the lack of a clear, downward trend.

But, a brief silver lining is evidence that the lockdowns have worked to avert a far bigger catastrophe. 

New research in the Medical Journal of Australia indicates that between July 2 and July 30, Victorian lockdowns averted between 9000 and 37,000 additional infections. 

NSW holds the line

NSW is still “on a knife edge” — the same metaphor that has been used for weeks to describe that state’s handling of outbreaks of coronavirus that spilled over the Victorian border.

12 cases were recorded overnight, and over the past month daily new case numbers have remained between six and 20 a day.  For the time being, Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s government maintains that a lockdown is a matter of last resort.

There are growing calls for people to mask up — Berejiklian wants people to keep one in their pocket for when social distancing becomes impossible, while Labor are demanding the Premier make masks mandatory. 

Uluru blockade

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has been temporarily closed, after the local Aboriginal community threatened to blockade the entrance to stop visitors who’d just arrived from Brisbane entering the community.

The Northern Territory has declared Brisbane a hotspot, but had not required all passengers on the Jetstar flight, which arrived yesterday, to go into quarantine.

The Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation (MCAC) told the ABC it was concerned about COVID-19 being brought into Central Australia.

The MCAC said they began the blockade at one of the entrances after Parks Australia refused initial requests to close the park. Parks Australia has now agreed to temporarily close the park. 

Old killers return

The fight against COVID-19 may have undermined attempts to curb diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria.

TB, the world’s deadliest infectious disease, kills 1.5 million people a year. But as health resources have been directed to limit the spread of COVID-19, lockdowns and supply chain pressure have limited access to drugs, and disrupted public health programs.

By one analysis, a lockdown of three months, and slow 10-month recovery, could lead to an additional 6.3 million cases of TB and 1.4 million deaths in the next five years.

Summer food shortages on the cards?

The pandemic could cause a food crisis in Australia, as seasonal migrant labour dries up, The Guardian reports. Most agricultural work in Australia is done by a workforce of 32,000 backpackers on working holiday visas, and 8000 seasonal workers from the Pacific.

While it’s not yet clear by how much, those numbers are certain to have fallen this year, leaving big holes in horticultural supply chains.

As Crikey reported in May, there’s also a large workforce of undocumented migrants working on Australian farms, prompting fears that their lack of healthcare and poor living conditions could leave them particularly vulnerable to a coronavirus cluster.

There are also concerns that without working holidaymakers, our reliance on undocumented migrants, who are often underpaid and badly treated, could be deepened. COVID-19 has led to a stark drop in overseas migration, and the regions could be particularly badly whacked.

Iran cooks the books

Iran’s coronavirus death toll is three times higher than what the government claimed, a BBC investigation has found. While the country’s health ministry reported 14,405 deaths, leaked data put that figure at over 42,000. Iran, still the worst hit country in the Middle East, has seen cases rise again over the last two months.