Melbourne's St Mary's Primary School was closed in June due to a student testing positive to COVID-19 (Image: AAP/Michael Dodge)

The numbers game

More than 400 Australians have now died from COVID-19, with Victoria marking another record number of deaths in 24 hours yesterday. The 25 deaths recorded were the worst of the pandemic so far, but there are signs the lockdown is working.

The state recorded 282 new infections in a day, continuing a trend of low numbers that Premier Daniel Andrews suggested could give us “cautious optimism” that restrictions could ease in September. 

NSW recorded just seven new cases overnight. While the state’s contact tracing team has so far been successful at mopping up spot fires, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she is still anxious about undetected community transmission in parts of Sydney.

Schools are emerging as the latest potential challenge in Sydney, after last week’s double digit cluster at Tangara School for Girls. Yesterday, a student at Sydney Girls High School, which has pupils from nearly 150 different postcodes, tested positive.

Ardern delays election 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has postponed the country’s general election until October 17, a month later than planned as Auckland grapples with an outbreak of COVID-19.

Health authorities are investigating a potential Victorian link as they look into how the outbreak started, ending New Zealand’s dream run of more than 100 days without any cases.

Yesterday, there were 69 active cases.

Ardern had been under pressure from her coalition partner Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, as well as opposition parties, to delay the poll, and said the postponement would be integral to the safety of 25,000 election workers. The decision comes with Ardern’s Labour maintaining a “crushing” opinion poll lead over the National Party opposition, which is onto its third leader this year.

Schools are safe? 

How safe are schools? It’s a question that’s caused huge debate among parents, teachers and policymakers all over the world.

Early conventional pandemic wisdom was that children weren’t big spreaders of the virus. That was challenged by a South Korean study, which suggested children aged between 10 and 19 actually spread the virus more than adults. Now, The New York Times reports the research team behind the report is walking back some of the findings, since it’s not clear if the kids or the adults studied were responsible for transmitting the virus.

The initial study was widely cited as evidence school reopenings were unsafe. The latest update highlights the risk of relying on single studies, especially looking at a new and at times deeply baffling virus.

Still, there’s plenty of live evidence that school reopenings can be a terrible idea. Last week, Mississippi defied its health experts and opened schools because Donald Trump said so. There have now been infections at 22 schools across the state, which has the highest COVID-19 death toll per capita in the United States.  

Stop the planes 

Closed borders and quarantine restrictions have made it increasingly tough for Australians to come home. And now, the government is making it difficult for Australians to leave. Three out of four people trying to leave the country have been denied permission, The Sun-Herald reports, because of concerns they will return and spread the virus.

People who’d applied for an exemption to the outbound travel ban also found their details had been sent to Border Force, The Australian reports today, meaning an alarm is triggered at the airport if they try to leave the country.

Australia is the only democratic country with an outbound travel ban of this kind, which will remain in place until late October, despite coming under fire from Liberal MPs.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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