I’m taking a short break to refill the coffee cup before I return to take you through the rest of the afternoon. In the meantime I’m handing the blog over to my colleague Lisa Cox in Sydney.
To recap events so far:
Australia’s drugs regulator has granted provisional approval for the drug remdesivir to be used as the first treatment option for Covid-19. Australia is the one of the first regulators to authorise the use of remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19, following on from recent approvals in European Union, Japan, and Singapore.
New cases of Covid-19 rose by nearly 69,000 across the US on Friday. Meanwhile, the US has welcomed the World Health Organization’s probe into the origins of virus.
The premier of the state of Victoria, Australia, has announced 216 new cases of Covid-19 and one death as the state grapples with a second wave of the virus as the rest of the country has the virus largely contained.
Two Covid-19 cases in New South Wales, Australia, a man and a woman, have been linked to the same pub. Three people who have had close contact with the man have also contracted coronavirus.
Serbia announced a record Covid-19 death toll for a single day on Friday, with prime minister Ana Brnabic saying the Balkan state recorded 18 fatalities and 386 new cases over 24 hours in what she described as a “dramatic increase”.
France has become the sixth country to report a death toll of more than 30,000.
The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Friday, with the total rising by 228,102 in 24 hours.
Updated at 4.05am BST
In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), no new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the past 24 hours, leaving the territory’s total at 113. There are five active cases in the ACT.
ACT chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman reminded those in Canberra that given the situation in Victoria, the ACT is likely to have more cases and everybody has a responsibility to minimise their potential exposure:
It’s important to acknowledge that while we are in a very strong position in the ACT that this pandemic is still ongoing.
Canberrans should take appropriate steps to reduce the spread of the virus when they are out and about. That means keeping 1.5m away from others where possible, washing or sanitising their hands regularly, avoiding touching their face, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or into the crook of their elbow.
Coleman also reminded people who have been in Victoria within the past 14 days that they must notify ACT Health before returning to the ACT, and encouraged them to do so now if they hadn’t already. Non-ACT residents should not be travelling to the ACT. Those who have an exceptional need to do so must apply for an exemption.
Updated at 4.02am BST
Fourth day of virus protests in Serbia as virus cases spike
Thousands have protested for a fourth day across Serbia over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as officials condemned the demonstrations and announced a record jump in cases.
Some demonstrators threw firecrackers and chanted nationalist slogans, according to AFP journalists. The protests were held as the Balkan nation announced a record daily death toll from Covid-19.
Prime minister Ana Brnabic said on Friday the Balkan state recorded 18 fatalities and 386 new cases over 24 hours in what she described as a “dramatic increase”.
At the same time, Brnabic condemned as “irresponsible” protests held in Belgrade and other cities on Thursday, after demonstrations in the capital on the previous two days had spilled over into violence.
“With regard to the demonstrations, there is no more irresponsible behaviour right now,” said Brnabic. “We shall see the results of the protests in three to four days,” she said and called on people to respect measures to restrict the spread of the virus.
President Aleksandar Vucic condemned the actions of demonstrators who had blocked the main road into the second-largest city of Novi Sad as “pure terrorism”, speaking on national TV:
We are in this situation because of the irresponsibility of those who are calling for people to be on the streets.
I am begging people not to protest because they will end up seeking medical help.
Vucic also said the demonstrations were unlawful.
Protesters have given vent to their frustration with Vucic, who is seen by many as having facilitated a virus second wave by lifting an initial lockdown so that elections could be held on 21 June and which his Serbian Progressive Party largely won.
The first demonstration on Tuesday was triggered after Vucic announced the return of a weekend curfew to combat a second wave of coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed hospitals in Belgrade.
Updated at 4.10am BST
New cases of Covid-19 rose by nearly 69,000 across the United States on Friday, according to Reuters, setting a record for the third consecutive day as Walt Disney Co. stuck to its plans to reopen its flagship theme park in hard-hit Florida.
A total of eight US states – Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin – also reached records for single-day infections.
In Texas, another hot zone, governor Greg Abbott warned he may have to impose new clampdowns if the state cannot stem its record-setting caseloads and hospital numbers through masks and social distancing.
“If we don’t adopt this best practice it could lead to a shutdown of business,” the Republican governor told local KLBK-TV in Lubbock, adding it was the last thing he wanted.
Melissa Davey Melissa Davey
Readers from around the world have been contacting me quite interested in the lockdown now in place of most of Victoria, Australia, where I live. While a concerning number of cases of Covid-19 were announced in the state today, the premier Daniel Andrews began introducing lockdowns in targeted areas at the end of June when new cases were in the double-digits, before the much broader lockdown was announced last week and took effect on Thursday. Strong measures were taken long before we got to this point.
But we are seeing cities around the world reporting hundreds or even thousands of new cases each day that are persevering with reopening. And while it seems most Australians support lockdowns as authorities deem necessary, elsewhere, such as in the US, the worst-affected country with more than 3.1 million diagnosed cases and at least 134,000 deaths, some people are outraged by even wearing a mask, seeing it as impacting on their freedom rather than a health protection measure.
I asked Victorians how they are coping returning to lockdown for the second time as the state works to contain the spread, and as other Australian jurisdictions work to keep the virus out. Here are some of the responses:
It is what it is. We must follow the rules and make the best of it. The better we adhere, the more likely that this will come under control, so I’m feeling more hopeful now that we are acting.
July 11, 2020
Emotionally flattened. Very concerned for people’s mental health. There’s going to be a huge mental health crisis that will play out for years because of all this. This is the silent pandemic
July 11, 2020
Much more prepared this time than last time. Online ordered masks, groceries, coffee beans and beer at the start of the week, when it looked like we were heading for a lockdown. But feeling the guilt of privilege, knowing others are doing it much tougher than us.
July 11, 2020
And a public service announcement:
Woolworth’s have @benandjerrys 25% off so I brought 2. No regrets.
July 11, 2020
Updated at 3.40am BST
More on the two infected Covid-19 cases who went to the same pub in New South Wales, Australia. The pair were not known to each other, but visited the Crossroads Hotel on the same day, 3 July. The pub/hotel is located in Casula, about 35km south-west of the Sydney central business district and has now been closed for deep cleaning.
Three new cases have been identified in household contacts of one of those infected people who went to the pub. A pop-up clinic has set up in the pub/hotel’s carpark and will be open until 4pm Saturday.
NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said:
There’s been recent community transmission of Covid-19 in NSW and so we’re at a critical point in the fight to contain the virus.
Dr Jeremy McAnulty provides a #COVID19 update for Saturday 11 July 2020https://t.co/KqOiU88yAy
July 11, 2020
Updated at 3.20am BST
Queensland, Australia, has two new overseas-acquired cases of Covid-19, bringing the total cases there since the epidemic began to 1,070.
Both cases recently returned from overseas and have been in isolation since arrival. They are therefore not currently considered be a risk to the public. As of 11 July, Queensland has three active Covid-19 cases. A previous case announced on 7 July has now recovered.
Melissa Davey Melissa Davey
The chief health officer of Victoria, Australia, Prof Brett Sutton, was just asked whether Victoria has enough supply of the drug remdesivir, after Australia’s drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, granted provisional approval overnight for the drug to be used as the first treatment option for Covid-19. It can now be used in adults and adolescent patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms in hospital in Australia.
But in June the US bought up virtually all the stocks of the drug for the next three months, leaving none for most of the rest of the world.
“The US really went very hard in gobbling up the entire global supply almost,” Sutton said.
I looked into how this would affect Australian supply a couple of weeks ago. The Australian government told me US pharmaceutical giant Gilead has donated a supply of remdesivir to Australia’s national medical stockpile. The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, told me there will be enough of the drug to meet Covid-19 patient demand.
A spokesman for Hunt told me:
The Australian government has received from Gilead a donated supply of remdesivir to the national medical stockpile, which will be available for use in eligible patients prescribed by a medical practitioner. Australia currently has sufficient supply of remdesivir to meet current patient needs on the basis of our expert medical advice.
However given the ongoing rise in Victorian cases this will be worth keeping an eye on over coming weeks.
US secures world stock of key Covid-19 drug remdesivir
Updated at 3.08am BST
World Health Organization director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has launched the ‘Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco,’ which aims to help the world’s 1.3bn tobacco users quit during the pandemic.
Smoking kills eight million people a year, but if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive. Evidence reveals that smokers are more vulnerable than non-smokers to developing a severe case of Covid-19.
In the past 12 hours the world recorded 12m Covid-19 cases, he said. In the last six weeks cases have more than doubled.
Updated at 3.09am BST
Victoria had more outbreaks in aged care than any other Australian jurisdiction
The chief health officer of Victoria, Australia, Prof Brett Sutton, has just said it is getting harder to quickly identify which new cases are linked with known outbreaks, and which are new clusters. He said there have been “single cases with staff members in aged care facilities”. However, unlike aged care outbreaks in other states, which saw the virus spread within homes with tragic repercussions for elderly residents, Victoria has so far managed to contain the virus within those aged care homes.
That’s the workforce that we have to be really mindful of. The response in each and every aged care facility is to going to lockdown for those residents and all staff to be tested and for them to go into a quarantine period of 14 days and to have that testing before that quarantine is lifted for all residents and staff members. But it flags the dangers in aged care facilities. Victoria had more outbreaks there than any jurisdiction, but we haven’t had an aged care facility that has had a substantial outbreak. I think that’s in large part because we had the early robust response in terms of testing everyone and going into lockdown.
Meanwhile premier Daniel Andrews won’t be drawn into debates about whether his state or the federal government should have done, or should be doing, more:
If I need something, I ring the prime minister, the answer is ‘yes’. That’s how it works. If he needs something from me, that’s the same thing, that how it works, that’s the nature of our partnership.
Updated at 3.11am BST
As Victoria, Australia, has just announced new cases in the hundreds, the state’s health minister Jenny Mikakos has moved to reassure people that the health system is prepared for the ongoing struggle to contain the virus. The virus is largely contained in other Australian jurisdictions, where most new cases, when there are any, are from returned travellers from overseas who go straight into mandatory hotel quarantine.
With 216 new cases confirmed in Victoria overnight, all due to community transmission, Mikakos said: “As a government we have never hesitated to put in the resources that are needed to support our efforts in this pandemic.”
“Our hospitals are well prepared,” she said.
They have been working since January to respond to this pandemic. Even when the numbers came down, they never paused in their efforts. They are well-resourced and well trained to respond. We have ventilators in our warehouse. We have medical equipment in our warehouse and being distributed to our health services all the time, and personal protective equipment … 32m masks are sitting in our warehouse as we speak.
I take this opportunity to reassure the community that our hospitals remain safe for them to visit. They should not hesitate to present to our emergency departments if they need that support or to call for an ambulance… Please do not put off your regular [health] screenings. If you get contacted by one of our cancer services for your biannual, regular checkup, please continue to take up those opportunities. It’s very important people do not defer medical treatment.
Just to reiterate, it is permissible to leave your home to seek medical care or healthcare, and that includes to present for testing for coronavirus.
Updated at 3.13am BST
216 Covid-19 cases in Victoria, Australia
The premier of the state of Victoria, Australia, has announced 216 new cases of Covid-19 and one death as the state grapples with a second wave of the virus as the rest of the country has the virus largely contained. The man who died in hospital was in his 90s.
Premier Daniel Andrews just told reporters:
This is not an ordinary weekend. It is anything but that. You’ve got to be in your home if you are in the metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire areas, and only for those four reasons.
Those reasons are for healthcare and other essential services like groceries, exercise, work and study [if they can’t be done fro home], or childcare.
It comes as the state of New South Wales closed its border with Victoria last week for the first time in a century in a bid to contain the virus. Other measures taken in the past few days to stop the spread beyond Victoria have included placing a cap the number of incoming flights allowed in Australia.
The change means at least 4,000 fewer Australians will return home each week. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, acknowledged the change meant “it will be more difficult” for Australians to return home. States and territories will also begin charging Australians for their mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine when they do return.
Updated at 3.15am BST
Seven new cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in the Australian state of New South Wales overnight, bringing the total number of cases there since the pandemic began to 3,285. Of the new cases, five are returned travellers in hotel quarantine. The other two cases are the man who visited Casula’s Crossroads Hotel on 3 July and the traveller from Melbourne reported on earlier in this blog.
NSW Health is urging anyone who visited the Crossroads Hotel, Casula on the evening of Friday 3 July to immediately self-isolate, come forward for testing and monitor for symptoms. A pop-up clinic has been operational in the carpark of the hotel from 5pm last night and is opened today until 4pm.
Extended-hours testing is also available at Liverpool, Campbelltown and Fairfield Hospitals at these locations: https://www.swslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/mediacentre/coronavirus/clinic_factsheet.pdf. Testing is also available through GP clinics.
Updated at 2.12am BST
Healthcare systems worldwide need to upgrade to control disease transmission and cope with large numbers of sick people during the coronavirus pandemic as well as future outbreaks, the head of the World Health Organisation’s emergencies program has warned.
Dr Michael Ryan, speaking during a video panel session organised by the International AIDS Society, said world leaders grappling with the current pandemic “need to take a leaf out of the HIV/AIDS activist book” and make sure access to healthcare is equitable and evidence-based.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has not yet peaked in many parts of the world, has exposed weaknesses and left billions of people without reliable and affordable access to essential health services, he said.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, was often a fatal infection when it emerged in the 1980s, but today is considered manageable with antiretroviral drugs. There is no vaccine to protect against HIV, which is highly variable and cannot be eliminated by the body’s own immune response.
But researchers do expect to eventually have vaccines effective against the novel coronavirus, which people can recover from on their own.
The WHO official said the two viruses are “different in scope and nature, but are comparable in so many other ways”, exposing the same inequities and generating similar injustices and denial.
“We cannot become distracted with retrospection and finger-pointing … We need to look ahead,” Ryan said.
Updated at 2.14am BST
Queensland, Australia, has two new cases of Covid-19 as authorities engage in a balancing act, trying to let hordes of visitors into the newly reopened state while keeping Covid-19 out.
The new confirmed cases were people returning from overseas, according to premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
This brings the number of active cases in Queensland to three. The latest cases come as the Sunshine State opened its borders on Friday to interstate travellers, except those from Victoria, for the first time since March 25.
It meant carloads of tourists were bumper to bumper as police scanned thousands of border passes on the Gold Coast. Authorities are taking an educational rather than an enforcement approach at border checkpoints, Gold Coast chief superintendent Mark Wheeler said.
“We’re trying to balance the need to get people into Queensland, but also to keep Covid-19 out of Queensland,” he said.
But anyone travelling from Victoria, which recorded a record number of new cases on Friday, must prove they left the state more than two weeks ago. Wheeler said a Victorian caravanner who had been in NSW for three weeks could use an accommodation receipt as proof.
Queensland’s airports are also teeming with interstate arrivals keen to soak up the sun and warmer weather, with another 4500 expected to touch down on the weekend.
On Friday there had been almost 314,000 downloads of the week-long border pass that is needed to enter the state.
Anyone who experiences symptoms within two weeks of their arrival in Queensland must get tested or face a AUS$4004 fine.