Aussie death toll rises as 'new Wuhan' emerges

 

A man and woman both aged in their 80s have died from COVID-19 in Victorian hospitals.

Their deaths bring the state's toll to 26 and 110 nationally.

Australia hit the grim milestone on Tuesday after Victoria recorded 270 new cases of coronavirus.

The state's total now stands at 4200 cases.

More than 240 of the new cases were still under investigation, while 28 had been linked to known outbreaks. There are 1803 active cases in Victoria.

Melbourne CBD as the city enters a second lockdown. Picture: NCA NewsWire /Ian Currie
Melbourne CBD as the city enters a second lockdown. Picture: NCA NewsWire /Ian Currie

It comes after a raft of changes were issued across Australia's states to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Queensland has shut its borders to residents of two Sydney suburbs after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk declared them coronavirus hot spots.

The local government areas of Liverpool and Campbelltown will be barred from crossing the border, along with all of Victoria.

Queen Street in Campbelltown, Sydney, Australia. Picture: Getty
Queen Street in Campbelltown, Sydney, Australia. Picture: Getty

Health authorities are continuing to face an uphill battle containing community transmission with more than 640 cases from an unknown source.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has urged the public to adhere to lockdown laws or risk an extension to stage four restrictions.

Victoria's chief health officer, Professor Brett Sutton, said he is expecting that "a couple of hundred individuals at least" will be hospitalised in Victoria in the next few weeks.

Premier Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement announcing a total capacity for ADF members in Victoria to help with the coronavirus fight.

Macquarie Street in Liverpool, Sydney, Australia. Picture: Getty
Macquarie Street in Liverpool, Sydney, Australia. Picture: Getty

There would be 335 members, which is the number of ADF members already in Victoria.

The 1000 ADF members announced earlier are in addition to this.

It states Victoria will have an "open Request for Assist model" in place, which means their role can be changed and adapted by Victorian authorities.

It comes as South Australia will not open its border with NSW and ACT.

"The superspreader event is now of great concern, we don't have the details of exactly how many people have been infected," South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said.

"We need to see those results before we lift the borders will NSW and the ACT."

The state's borders were due to open to the rest of the country, except Victoria, on July 20.

In NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said pubs and clubs will officially have a cap of 300 patrons, while venues with a capacity of more than 250 people to have a full-time marshal to enforce a coronavirus safety plan.

Queensland police check cars at the border. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Queensland police check cars at the border. Picture: Nigel Hallett

A coronavirus safety monitor will also be required in smaller capacity venues during peak times and all hotels and pubs must take every customer's contact details.

As of midnight on Thursday night, all pubs in NSW must download a COVID-19 safe plan and register with Service NSW.

Anyone flying into Western Australia from Victoria will now be automatically tested for COVID-19 when they land at Perth airport.

Health Minister Roger Cook told reporters they were "adding another layer of caution and safety".

FLORIDA 'THE NEW WUHAN'

With more than 2000 patients hospitalised and hundreds in Intensive Care Units, "Miami is now the epicentre of the pandemic," one infectious disease expert said, comparing the South Florida metropolitan area to Wuhan where the novel coronavirus originated.

All of Florida is struggling. On Tuesday, state health officials reported 132 COVID-19 related deaths from Monday, breaking the state's record for most deaths in a single day due to coronavirus. The previous record was 120 deaths reported July 9.

Florida is now routinely recording between 10,000 and 15,000 new cases every day.

"What we were seeing in Wuhan - six months ago, five months ago - now we are there," Lilian Abbo, with the Jackson Health System said.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the coronavirus crisis, went into a 76-day lockdown in late January after a deadly outbreak infected and killed thousands.

The first known cases of the virus were detected in the city in December and by mid-April officials reported more than 50,000 infections.

Florida's Miami-Dade County has recorded more than 64,000 infections so far, according to state data.

In the past 13 days, Miami-Dade County has seen staggering increases in the number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalised (68 per cent), in the number of ICU beds being used (69 per cent) and in the use of ventilators (109 per cent), the Miami-Dade County Government reported.

Forty-eight Florida hospitals, including eight in Miami-Dade, have reached their ICU capacity, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

"We need your help as media communicators to help the community understand that we're just not repeating the same thing over and over just to give you trouble, we really need your help," Ms Abbo said, directing those comments to reporters.

The plea echoes the requests from other leaders in the state and across the country who have seen new cases spike as people flocked back outside following weeks of lockdowns.

When states began lifting restrictions, images quickly emerged of pool parties, packed beaches, reopened bars and holiday celebrations with no social distancing or face masks. Health officials warned then of what they're now reporting: clusters of infections that are often traced back to people who didn't heed reopening guidelines.

More than half of US states have now halted or rolled back their reopening plans in hopes of preventing further spread.

The end of the pandemic is nowhere near in sight, the country's leading infectious disease expert said Monday, but that doesn't have to mean a new wave of shutdowns - as long as communities follow the rules.

"You don't necessarily need to shut down again, but pull back a bit," Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a webinar with the Stanford School of Medicine.

WHO'S NEW WARNING

It comes as WHO warned the world will not return to the "old normal" anytime soon.

Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there was a "road map" for struggling countries to get the virus under control.

A record 230,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported to the WHO on Sunday, as total infections approach 13 million worldwide.

About 80 per cent of the new cases were reported from 10 countries, while 50 per cent came from the US and Brazil - the two worst-hit countries in the world.

"Let me be blunt: Too many countries are headed in the wrong direction," Dr Tedros said.

"The virus remains public enemy No. 1, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this.

"If the basics aren't followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go. It's going to get worse and worse and worse."

He said countries must focus on reducing mortality and suppressing transmission and promote communities where people behaved in the best interests of each other.

Meanwhile, Catalan government officials mulled action after a Local Court blocked a lockdown order confining 160,000 people to homes in a virus-hit area of northeastern Spain.

Faced with a rapidly rising number of infections in Segria, around 150 kilometres west of Barcelona, the Catalan government on issued a stay-at-home order in and around the city of Lerida.

It was the first such order since Spain's state of emergency ended on June 21.

The area, home to more than 200,000 people, had already been subjected to restrictions on July 4 after cases started to rise, but it didn't help and Catalan officials ordered the confinement of 160,000 residents.

Within hours, the order was overturned by a judge who ruled it "contrary to law", saying such restrictions can only be imposed by the central government.

Although the decision can be appealed, it triggered a showdown with regional authorities as Catalan president Quim Torra said he would "not accept" it.

"We are looking at how we can resolve this matter legally," Catalan health Minister Alba Verges told Catalonia Radio.

NEW VACCINE HOPE

On a better note, drug maker CSL says it will produce millions of doses of Australia's experimental vaccine as it undergoes testing.

"We anticipate producing tens of millions of doses during 2021, which would be made available subject to safety and efficacy data generated by trials as well as regulatory approval," a company spokesman told The Australian.

"Initially, CSL will manufacture vaccine from its biotech manufacturing facility at Broadmeadows (in Melbourne). Further scale-up of production to hundreds of millions of doses will be achieved in partnership with a contract manufacturer.

"To this end, we are in early discussion with global manufacturers regarding production."

FIVE MILLION MASKS TO BE RELEASED

Health Minister Greg Hunt has revealed five million masks will be released from the national medical stockpile.

Mr Hunt announced the masks will be distributed from the national medical stockpile to support Victoria.

One million will go to primary health, and four million will go to the aged care system and the home care system.

"These are very important distributions to allow for greater use of PPE to make sure that all of the needs are met," he said.

"We are getting ahead of the curve, and this will be fundamental. We know that our aged care homes are an area of risk."

Mr Hunt said there are currently 92 people with COVID-19 in hospital across Australia as the state's coronavirus numbers have climbed by 177 cases overnight.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced more masks for community use.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced more masks for community use.

HUMAN TRIALS START ON AUSSIE VACCINE
Australian scientists started human trials of a vaccine to treat coronavirus.

Volunteers started to receive the University of Queensland immuniser for the first time in Brisbane on Monday.

Scientists put out a call for 120 volunteers for the phase-1 clinical trial, but were overwhelmed when more than 4000 people put their hand up.

The vaccine is among 180 in the world to reach the point of human trials and, if proven safe and effective, could be ready by the end of the year.

Professor Paul Young, one of the lead researchers, said the participants will be given two immunisations four weeks apart.

The aim of the trial is to assess the vaccine's safety and immune responses.

"We will be seeing some early data probably by the end of September," Prof Young told reporters on Monday.

Prof Young said their partner CSL, which can manufacture the vaccine, will handle further clinical trials of the vaccine later this year.

Asked about the safety of the vaccine, Prof Young it's a protein-only vaccine so he is "very confident" the trial is safe.

Should clinical trials be successful, a vaccine could be available mid to end of next, with the initial phase of large-scale production planned to take place at CSL's biotech manufacturing facilities in Melbourne, he said.

LOW-INCOME AUSSIES RECEIVE SECOND ROUND OF CASH BONUS

A second wave of coronavirus stimulus payments of $750 each will begin flowing to around five million Australians this week.

Pensioners, veterans and carers will be among low-income households to receive the cash bonus.

"The second $750 economic support payment will inject $3.8 billion into the economy and provide an economic lifeline to millions of Australians at a time when they need it most," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

The first round was made automatically in March and April to welfare recipients and eligible concession card holders who do not get the fortnightly coronavirus JobSeeker or JobKeeper payment as part of their current payment.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said if eligible, people would see the $750 payment arrive in their bank account from July 15 until the end of the month.

WIFE OF AUSSIE NBA STAR TESTS POSITIVE

It comes as Australian NBA player Ryan Broekhoff has not joined the Philadelphia 76ers on the eve of the NBA season restart after he announced that his wife has tested positive to coronavirus.

Katie Broekhoff has an auto-immune disease and is at-risk to the virus.

"I am not with the 76ers right now in Orlando because my wife who is high risk tested positive for COVID," Broekhoff wrote via on Twitter on Sunday (local time).

"We have a young son and my focus needs to be with my family at this time.

"I appreciate the 76ers for their support."

Australian Ryan Broekhoff (left) during a game with the Dallas Mavericks will not be able to join his new 76ers teammates after his wife tested positive for COVID-19. Picture: AP
Australian Ryan Broekhoff (left) during a game with the Dallas Mavericks will not be able to join his new 76ers teammates after his wife tested positive for COVID-19. Picture: AP

Broekhoff signed with the 76ers earlier this month and was scheduled to leave his family and join the team in the "bubble" at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for the restart of the NBA season.

If the 76ers make it to the NBA finals he would have to be separated from his family for three months.

The basketballer's family situation was something he spoke about after signing with the franchise.

"I have a wife and a one-year old son, and my wife has an auto-immune disease, so she's at high risk for the COVID," Broekhoff said.

The Melbourne-born three-point gun said he spoke with 76ers' general manager Elton Brand and coach Brett Brown about his family circumstance and described signing with the team in a pandemic as not "an easy decision by any means".

"It's taken a lot for us to be able to get to this point where we signed," he said.

"We spoke to Elton Brand and spoke to coach and just wanted to get some more information of how the bubble would be down in Orlando, and if anything happens at home, what are my options to get back and take care of my family."

Broekhoff was waived by the Dallas Mavericks in February.

GORILLA TESTED FOR VIRUS

Meanwhile, a 200kg gorilla in Miami has been tested for the coronavirus after he developed a fever, according to the zoo where he lives.

Shango, a 31-year-old lowland gorilla, received the tests - which came back negative - while getting medical treatment for a bite wound, according to Zoo Miami.

The massive primate was injured by his 26-year-old brother, Barney, when the gorillas wrestled, zoo officials said.

He was taken to an animal hospital, where he received X-rays, vaccines, ultrasound and other tests, the zoo said.

Shango the gorilla is tested for coronavirus in Miami. Picture: Zoo Miami
Shango the gorilla is tested for coronavirus in Miami. Picture: Zoo Miami

Though his bite wounds appear "quite deep," there was no indication that there would be permanent damage, officials said.

He has since been returned to the gorilla area where he will be closely monitored as he continues to recover, reports the New York Post.

There has been no decision around when Shango will be reintroduced to his younger brother, the zoo said.

Shango the gorilla is tested for coronavirus. Picture: Zoo Miami
Shango the gorilla is tested for coronavirus. Picture: Zoo Miami

Shango and Barney were both born at the San Francisco Zoo and arrived at Zoo Miami in May of 2017.

The zoo said that scuffles between adult male gorillas are not uncommon, but most consists of a lot of posturing and rarely result in serious injuries.



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