aged care covid-19
(Image: AAP/James Ross)

Victoria’s deadly numbers

The past 24 hours have been the deadliest of the pandemic in Australia so far, with 19 deaths, beating the previous day’s record of 17 deaths.

Victoria recorded 322 cases, lower than some of the figures we’ve seen over previous weeks. That may be a sign the curve is starting to bend the right way — although given the lag between new infections and deaths, we may see more days like this before things get better.

Promising greater transparency, the state will now release its key numbers every morning on Twitter.

Over the past few weeks, new cases numbers have been selectively dropped to journalists ahead of the official update.

It’s one reason health economist Stephen Duckett argues that Victoria’s COVID-19 communication strategy is “woefully inadequate” — daily press conference only give a daily snapshot of new case numbers, without critical contextual information around contact tracing.

Outside Victoria, states seem to be getting smaller spot-fires under control.

NSW recorded 14 cases overnight, indicating that community transmission remains low. Queensland had another day without new cases, leaving health authorities cautiously optimistic the state had avoided an outbreak.

Across the pond, Kiwis spent the weekend celebrating 100 days without the virus.

More bungles laid bare

Every day, we’re getting more evidence of where it all went wrong. The ABC reports that one reason hotel quarantine failed in Victoria was because Health Department staff tried to “appease” guests, letting some out for longer breaks and relaxing protocols to avoid confrontation. 

Meanwhile, there are reports that 20% of health workers have limited or no access to personal protective equipment. As of the weekend, nearly 1000 health workers in Victoria had been infected with COVID-19.

University pain continues

The University of Technology Sydney could be the latest higher education institution to cut jobs, with vice chancellor Attila Brungs warning up to 500 roles may be axed in the next year.

It comes just a week after the University of Melbourne announced 450 roles would be axed, and follows similar announcements at the University of NSW, Monash, and Deakin. 

Hit hard by the loss of international student revenue, and repeatedly refused access to the JobKeeper package, the higher education sector has struggled through the pandemic.

And as universities cry out for government support, Education Minister Dan Tehan announced a probe into free speech on campus. Never let the pandemic get in the way of some inane culture warring. 

US hits 5 million

Here are some bleak numbers to help put Victoria’s current outbreak into perspective: the United States, which has, in effect, given up on fighting the coronavirus, now has more than 5 million people infected.

Brazil, hamstrung by a far-right, anti-science president has passed 100,000 deaths, a month earlier than experts predicted back in March.

In both countries, shops and restaurants are reopening despite the constant surge of new cases. 

Peter Fray

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