(Image: AAP/Steven Saphore)

Union to strike over masks

The Rail Tram and Bus Union’s (RTBU) NSW division has threatened to go on strike next week unless Premier Gladys Berejiklian enforces social distancing and mandates mask-wearing on public transport.

The union says the state government hasn’t met with it or meaningfully addressed bus drivers’ concerns about their safety during the pandemic. The union is now threatening to have bus drivers in three Sydney regions stop work for 48 hours from next Monday. 

The RTBU’s demands come as experts continue to argue for more widespread wearing of masks in NSW.

While NSW recorded just three new cases overnight, health authorities are still concerned about ongoing low levels of community transmission in Sydney.

Victoria wave slows

Victoria recorded 222 new infections overnight, the lowest number in a month. That means the state’s seven-day average continues to fall — it’s now 306, compared to 451 a week ago. 

But it’s still unclear how long the recovery will take. Chief health officer Brett Sutton has said he wanted the state’s reproductive number (R), which was around 0.86 yesterday, to drop to 0.6 before Victoria started to open up.

He also said he wanted daily new cases to remain below 300 for the rest of this week. 

Speaking to the ABC, Melbourne University epidemiologist Nancy Baxter said she thought Melbourne could hover between stage two and three restrictions for the long haul.

She said the new normal could look a little like how Victorians were living in mid-May, with restrictions of 20 in restaurants and 10 people allowed to visit households.

Meanwhile, an inquiry into Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantine system continues today. Yesterday, we learned that 99% of the state’s current cases can be linked back to returned travellers at the Rydges on Swanson and Stamford Plaza hotels. Guards were also advised they did not need to wear personal protective equipment, guidelines labelled inappropriate by health experts.

Can humidity kill the virus?

University of Sydney researchers say drier weather could increase the spread of coronavirus.

The peer-reviewed study, published in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases looked at cases in Sydney between February and May, and found that a 1% decrease in relative humidity correlated with a 7.7% increase in new infections. The findings are consistent with similar studies of other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS in China.

Cruise ships return

Nature is healing. As the pandemic continues to rage, humans are crowding onto giant floating petri dishes for a spot of coronavirus roulette.

Right now, 1000 passengers and 1500 crew members are sailing around the Mediterranean on the MSC Grandiosa, in what will be a big test for the beleaguered industry.

But how beleaguered is it really? Last week, Royal Carribean’s stocks surged 10%, while its rivals Carnival (which owns the Ruby Princess) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings also recorded a share price bump.

According to Royal Carribean’s CEO Richard Fain, the industry was reaping the benefits of holiday-makers’ pent-up demand to get back on the high seas. 

Trump finds new miracle cure

US President Donald Trump wants the US Food and Drug Administration to approve oleandrin, a plant extract, as a COVID-19 treatment.

The extract, currently sold as a dietary supplement, has no proven record treating COVID-19. On the other hand, it’s been promoted by some of Trump’s mates, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and Mike Lindell, the founder of a pillow company who is a Trump donor, Fox News contributor, and recent owner of a stake in the company which produces oleandrin.

Trump has a record promoting junk science and mystery cures. After spending the early days of the pandemic telling reporters the virus would suddenly disappear, he repeatedly flogged unproven hydroxychloroquine as a cure. He also suggested people inject themselves with disinfectant. The election is 76 days away.