Covid-19: 100 days no community transmission

There has been 100 days of no detected community transmission of Covid-19 in New Zealand. All the new cases since the beginning of May have come into the country and been contained in isolation or quarantine.

As at 9 August:

  • Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand: 1,219
  • Number of probable cases: 350
  • Number of confirmed and probable cases: 1,569
  • Number of deaths: 22
  • Number of active cases: 23
  • Number of cases currently in hospital: 0

Over the last week there has been 3-5000 tests done a day with no positive results from the community.

This has been a very successful management of Covid here due to the actions of the Ministry of Health and the Government, due to a mostly compliant population, and due to some luck.

While some states and territories in Australia have also managed to restrict Covid very well Melbourne and Victoria have had a bad month after Covid got out into the community and spread rapidly, and the death toll has nearly trebled to 295.

Yesterday’s daily update in Victoria:

  • As of 9 August 2020, the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Victoria is 14,659 with 394 new cases diagnosed since yesterday.
  • Of the new cases, 49 are linked to outbreaks or complex cases and 345 are under investigation.
  • There are 2,758 cases that may indicate community transmission, an increase of 174 since yesterday’s report.
  • 634 people are in hospital, including 43 patients in intensive care.  
  • Sadly, there have been 17 new deaths reported since yesterday. To date, 210 people have died from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria.
  • There are 7,854 cases currently active in Victoria. 6,378 people have recovered.
  • More than 1,801,300 tests have been processed – an increase of 41,416 since yesterday.

That looks grim for Victoria, and a concern here – like many Kiwis I have relations living there.

Opening trans-Tasman borders looks some time off at best. I doubt I will be able to get my planned Australian visit in this year.

Worldwide there are still major problems with Covid, with total cases nearing 20 million and 726 thousand recorded deaths.

As at the end of 8 August GMT here are the worst 20 countries (Worldometer):

A quarter of total cases (now over 5 million) and over a fifth of total deaths (165 thousand) have been in the United States.

Brazil has also been bad (now over 100 thousand deaths), and Mexico and India are having increasing problems

Europe had had major problems but Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and the UK seem to have mostly got things under control.

But as resurgences in Victoria and some US states have shown, it is easy for Covid to get put of control.

The impact of Covid is likely to continue at least for the rest of the year and probably well into next year.

I’m very grateful that Covid is under control here, but I’m aware that it is far from over, and the economic impact is likely to increase from September after wage subsidies run out this month.

Melbourne goes into level 4 lockdown

Covid has got out of control in Melbourne and Victoria, with record numbers of new cases and many hundreds of cases with no known source, meaning community transmission is happening on a significant scale.

Yesterday there were a record 723 new cases reported in Victoria. Total cases and total deaths in Australia have doubled in the last month, most of the increases in Victoria.

There are 760 ‘mystery’ cases, active cases where the source of the infection is not known.

The state government has now moved Melbourne into a drastic level 4 lockdown, and the wider state into a level 3 lockdown. a sttate of emergency has also been imposed.

ABC: Victoria has introduced a curfew and stage 4 coronavirus restrictions for Melbourne, and stage 3 restrictions for regional Victoria. Here’s what that means

Premier Daniel Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton have introduced a stricter set of rules designed to rein in coronavirus infections, which have been spreading disastrously over the past month.

Key changes:

From 6:00pm on Sunday, metropolitan Melbourne will come under stage four restrictions.

Melburnians will only be allowed to shop for food and necessary supplies within 5 kilometres of their home.

Exercise will be limited to one hour once per day, within 5km of home.A curfew will apply from 8:00pm to 5:00am each night.

From Thursday, regional Victoria will return to stage three “stay at home” restrictions, while Mitchell Shire will remain on stage three restrictions.

ABC: Police have been given greater powers under Victoria’s state of disaster. Here’s what that means

Six months after Victoria declared a state of disaster to deal with the summer’s fires, the dramatic legislation has again come into effect to deal with the “public health bushfire” of coronavirus.

It came into effect at 6:00pm on Sunday and can be in place for at least a month.

It gives police and emergency services much broader powers to enforce new coronavirus restrictions, including the Melbourne-wide curfew every night.

It also gives authorities the ability to suspend Acts of Parliament and take possession of properties.

Under the Act, the Emergency Services Minister can “control and restrict entry into, movement within and departure from the disaster area of any part of it”.

In this case, that means all of Victoria.

The Minister can also delegate the Emergency Management Commissioner — who is currently Andrew Crisp — “or any other person” any of her powers or functions.

This means police and other emergency services will get the power to enforce the new restrictions.

These measures have been announced to be in place for 6 weeks.

This is obviously bad news for Melbourne and Victoria, which has a population of about 6.3 million, a bit more than New Zealand.

What is happening in Victoria will impact on all of Australia, which travel restrictions in place.

It will also impact on New Zealand. Many of us have family living in Victoria. And a trans-Tasman travel bubble now looks a long way off.

Australian Covid statistics:

  • 17,923 total cases
  • 208 total deaths
  • 687 new cases in the last 24 hours
  • 408 hospitalised
  • 3,506 locally acquired cases in the last 7 days
  • 31 overseas acquired cases in the last 7 days

In New Zealand we continue to have a trickle of cases coming into the country at a similar level to overseas acquired cases in Australia. The obvious difference is the flood of locally acquired cases.

We have been successful here in containing Covid, partly by good management, partly by luck.

It is going to take an ongoing effort and months at least of isolation from thje world to keep Covid under control here.

What has happened in Victoria shows how quickly and easily it can get out of control.

Total COVID-19 cases and deaths by states and territories

This table shows the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in each state and territory since 22 January 2020. State and territory totals reflect where a person has been tested and undergoing public health management, this may differ from their normal place of residence.

JurisdictionTotal confirmed casesNew cases in last 24 hoursDeaths
Australia17,923687208
ACT11303
NSW3,7841250
NT3300
QLD1,08516
SA45324
TAS229013
VIC11,557671123
WA66919

Source: Department of Health, States & Territories Report 2/8/2020

Australia begins shut down

Things are moving towards lockdowns in Australia, with Victoria and NSW the first states to move.

Victoria: State to progressively shut down non-essential activity over next 48 hours

Victoria will be shut down over the next 48 hours, with only essential services to remain open.

All schools will be shut from Tuesday, as 67 new coronavirus cases were confirmed overnight.

This is the largest one-day increase yet, and brings the state’s tally to 296 cases, at least three of which were acquired through community transmission.

When questioned about suggestions Victoria was pushing for a total lockdown including all non-essential businesses next Tuesday, the Prime Minister said any further restrictions would be discussed this afternoon at a meeting of a medical expert panel with all states participating.

Berejiklian to push for a full lockdown of non essential services in NSW

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she will push for a full lockdown of non-essential services over the next 48 hours with schools expected to close from Tuesday.

“Tonight I will be informing the national cabinet that NSW will proceed to a more comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services. This will take place over the next 48 hours,” she said.

“Supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics, and home delivery will be among the many services that will remain open.

A decision on the closure of NSW schools needs to go to state cabinet, which will be brought forward to tomorrow morning. Ms Berejikllian will then make an announcement.

South Australia to close borders in response to coronavirus pandemic

Declaring a “major emergency”, South Australian authorities have announced tough new measures which will see the state close its borders to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Steven Marshall said the measures, which would be in place from 4pm on Tuesday, were being taken in the “interest of … public health”.

The State Government will establish 12 border crossings where travellers will be required to sign a declaration about their health and ability to undertake mandatory self-isolation for two weeks.

Northern Territory is also closing their border on Tuesday.

Meanwhile in New Zealand: Doctor group – raise threat level now or risk becoming like Italy

A group of doctors and other health workers say the Government has just days or hours to prevent New Zealand from following the path of Italy.

They’ve begun a petition, urging the Government to raise New Zealand’s covid-19 threat to the highest possible level, effectively locking down the country.

Dr Kelvin Ward, an urgent care physician in Wellington, handed the first lot of signatures to the Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield after the his daily press conference announcing the number of new Covid-19 cases.

“It’s not hyperbolic to say we have only hours to prevent the inevitable horrors we see in countries that waited too long.”

“Over 2200 people from the medical community have banded together to inform this hardworking government that New Zealand has only a short time to avoid disaster on the scale of Italy’s coronavirus epidemic – that’s how fast this virus spreads,” he said.

Medical Professionals to PM Ardern: 4 measures to protect NZ from COVID19

Let’s stand together as experts of the medical community and call for the New Zealand Government to immediately follow the examples of Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which resulted in successful containment.

Specifically there should be immediate:
1.     Quarantine (not self-isolation) of COVID-19 positive patients
2.     Extensive testing and contact tracing
3.     Self-isolation of all asymptomatic contacts
4.     Mandatory social lockdown

Currently 3,828 signatures.

A few minutes later (5:32 pm) it’s 4,193

Now it’s 38.840 (9:41 pm)

Aussie bushfires continue, record temperatures

The weather here in southern New Zealand over the last few weeks has been very variable and mostly cool for summer – some will see it as crappy weather.

But it is much easier to deal with than the heat (record temperatures yesterday) and bushfires that continue to force evacuations and wreak havoc, especially in the south east in Victoria and New South Wales.

ABC News:

Fires in NSW, Victoria and SA still burning out of control

Bushfires are threatening dozens of communities in Victoria, a southerly cool change is fanning problems in NSW, and more than a third of Kangaroo Island has burned in South Australia.

The blaze that devastated Corryong was pushed back towards the town, and was also impacting Walwa, Tintaldra and Towong, where officials fear properties have been lost.

It comes after a day of searing temperatures in the region.

All-time heat records were broken at Albury Airport (41.6 degrees Celsius), and at Rutherglen (45.6 degrees Celsius).

NSW fires likened to ‘atomic bomb’, Sydney records hottest day ever

Authorities say at least 15 properties have been destroyed during a horror day — in which a new temperature record for the Sydney Basin was set — with fears of further “damage and destruction” from fires through the night.

During the worst of the day there were 13 emergency warnings across the state, while the mercury in Penrith, in Sydney’s west, reached 48.9 degrees Celsius — a new record temperature for the Sydney Basin.

NSW residents were urged to reduce their power usage after bushfires took out transmitters in the Snowy Mountains.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has received preliminary reports of at least 15 properties lost across the fire grounds — including in the towns of Batlow and Talbingo in the NSW Snowy Mountains, and in Manyana on the South Coast.

Fire and Rescue NSW said it responded to reports of 20 people trapped at the caravan park in nearby Bendalong and was able to free them after extinguishing fires in three homes in the suburb.

Heat records continue to be reset around the country

Heat records around Australia continue to tumble, with the ACT today reaching its highest-ever recorded temperature and Penrith reaching a sweltering 48.9 degrees Celsius.

We are grumbling about 15 degrees here but I’d much rather deal with that than temperatures in the forties.

Army choppers evacuate Victorians huddled on sports ground as six remain missing

Army helicopters are used to help dozens of people escape the fierce fire threat in Victoria, where more than 100 properties have been razed and towns remain at risk.

‘Our worst nightmare’: Video shows luxury resort gutted by fire

The Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island was once a luxury resort, but has now been largely reduced to a charred wreck. It is one of many sites of devastation caused by the island’s bushfire disaster.

Two people have died in fires on Kangaroo Island.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been under fire in a different way – his handling of the crisis continues to be criticised.

He returned from Hawaii last week when criticised for holidaying while Australia burns. A couple of days ago news showed him being jeered when visiting fire affected areas – twice he bizarrely forced handshakes with people who were obviously not wanting physical contact with him. Now:

‘Like being sold to at a funeral’: Morrison slammed for running political ads during fire crisis

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been lambasted for releasing videos on social media advertising his Government’s response to the country’s current bushfire crisis.

His mishandling of a crisis is a big contrast to Jacinda Ardern’s empathy and understanding.

Scott Morrison says he won’t be distracted after being abused, snubbed by bushfire survivors

The extent of Saturday’s damage won’t be known until after daylight arrives today in Australia.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said the true extent of the damage would not be known until daylight on Sunday.

“Southerly winds have come through, [and there are] a lot of reports of property loss. They won’t know the full extent until tomorrow (Sunday),” he said.

“Predicted weather conditions lived up to prediction; it’s been awful. We’ve seen fires down in the Snowy Mountains that got so big they were putting lightning out 20 to 30 kilometres ahead of the main fire.”

A cold front has moved through but that was the cause of worsening conditions yesterday.

What makes a horror fire danger day?

The extent of the fires:

https://myfirewatch.landgate.wa.gov.au/

Fires in Victoria

Major bushfire problems in Australia again, following their hottest summer on record.

One report from last night: Bunyip bushfire locals told to stay put and seek shelter

Out-of-control blazes are raging in Victoria’s east with communities being told it’s too late for them to leave tonight in what is being described as the state’s worst bushfires since Black Saturday a decade ago.

In Crooked River, southeast of Omeo, communities of Cowa, Crooked River, Gibbs, Hawkhurst, Howittville, Shepherdson, Talbotville, Winchester and Wongungarra were told it is too late to leave and to shelter indoors immediately, the Herald Sun reports.

The fire is travelling towards Howittville and could hit anytime in the next hour.

Several communities 7km northwest of Dargo, have been placed on the “watch and act list”, with VicEmergency saying leaving now is the safest option.

Black Snake Creek, Cowa, Dargo, Hawkhurst, Miowera, Peter the Swede are affected.

South of Morwell, a bushfire remains out-of-control near Yinnar South.

Worrying times for many people.

I know someone who lives in the region (about 60km from Bunyip) and asked them how it was there.

There is another fire out of control just a couple of kms South of work , burning southward. Hope the wind doesn,t shift.

The M1 has been closed since friday so we are now cut off from Melb. Most of the birds have disappeared. I saw 4 crows on the way to work. it is eerily silent.

Ash and blackened chunks of vegetation have been dropping out of the sky at home and now at work from Bunyip fire.

The sun was a bright red most of today. Was covered by smoke haze. I probably won,t get much sleep tonight.

We are fortunate to have a Vic emergency website which keeps us up to date and he local ABC radio station. has updates every 30 mins.

A photo from 8:30 Sunday  morning:

My son was nearly caught in a fire in WA about three years ago, he got away from a danger zone five minutes before it was too late. Four people travelling on a road there were caught out and died.

The fires can move very quickly. Very scary.

 

Victoria, Wellington

Victoria University is considering a name change, it says to avoid confusion with similarly named universities in other parts of the world (including in Victoria University in Melbourne).

It has been suggested it be renamed University of Wellington with some te reo tacked on.

Stuff: Victoria University of Wellington looking to change name to avoid overseas confusion

Victoria University could be renamed the University of Wellington as the tertiary institute tries to eliminate confusion for potential overseas students.

Vice-chancellor professor Grant Guilford said a name change was on the cards to provide “clarity” and avoid other universities taking credit for work done at the Wellington campus.

Hutt South MP and Victoria University alumni Chris Bishop said he initially opposed the idea. However, he understood the university’s reasons for a name change having copped years of confusion while competing overseas with the debating team.

“There’s an emotional connection to the place. There will be people who say that you’re giving up the 100-plus years of a brand and the integrity and credibility behind it.”

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, who was consulted with on the idea, said it was a good strategic move that he wholeheartedly supported.

Victoria University alumni Ian McKinnon said the name meant “a great deal” to him but he would not stand in the way of change that was supported, and in the best interests of the institute’s future.

Any name change will be put before Education Minister Chris Hipkins to gazette the changes. Hipkins said he could not comment on the potential name change.

It has been pointed out the while ‘Victoria’ is dated and largely irrelevant in modern New Zealand, so is Wellington.

Te Herenga Waka, which translates to the hitching post for your canoe, has been suggested.

That seems like an odd choice.

What about one of the three Māori names for Wellington?

  • Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara – ‘the great harbour of Tara’
  • Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui – ‘the head of the fish of Māui’
  • Pōneke – derived from Port Nick, short for Port Nicholson (refers to the southernmost part of the North Island)

The first two on their own (or tacked on) could also be confusing internationally.

Why not University of Aotearoa?

Currently a Stuff online poll asks: Should Victoria University of Wellington change it’s name?

  • No. It’s sacrilege to change more than 100 years of tradition – 0%
  • Yes. It will stop confusion and focus on Wellington’s global brand – 0%
  • Maybe. But there has to be a better alternative – 100%

But don’t rely too much on online polls, especially when there has been only 1 voter (I had to vote to see the results).

 

 

Victoria Upper House backs assisted dying bill

ABC News:  Voluntary assisted dying bill passes Victoria’s Upper House, state set to make history

Historic voluntary euthanasia laws have passed Victoria’s Upper House after a 28-hour marathon sitting, leaving the state on the brink of becoming the first in the country to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill.

In a dramatic end to days of debate, the Andrews Government’s voluntary assisted dying bill passed — with amendments — 22-18 votes in the 40-member Upper House.

It was a conscience vote for all MPs. Eleven government MPs backed the bill, as did four Liberals, five Greens, the Reason Party’s Fiona Patten and Vote 1 Local Jobs Party MP James Purcell.

Because amendments to the bill were agreed it must now return to the Lower House for ratification before becoming law.

The bill passed in the Lower House last month, with MPs voting 47 to 37 in favour of introducing voluntary euthanasia.

The legislation required amendments to pass the Upper House, including halving the timeframe for eligible patients to access the scheme from 12 months to live to six months to live.

There will be exemptions for sufferers of conditions such as motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis, who will be able to access the scheme in their final 12 months.

Once passed it will give patients suffering intolerable pain the right to choose a doctor-assisted death from 2019.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the law would give terminally ill people dignity at the end of their lives.

Victoria to legalise locally manufacturted medical cannabis

The Victorian Government says they are “committed to making medicinal cannabis legal for use by patients in exceptional circumstances. This includes making changes to Victorian law, facilitating clinical trials, and arranging access to a safe and regulated medicinal cannabis product.”

One of the greatest risks in relation to medicinal cannabis is that there is currently no regulated and standardised product, and no formalised, regulated system for oversight by an appropriate health professional.

Black market products such as oils, tinctures and plant matter can contain unknown ingredients that can put people at risk.  It is also difficult to monitor appropriate dosages, and there are risks in managing and predicting interactions and reactions with other medicines.

Once the laws have been changed, patients will be strongly encouraged to speak with their medical practitioners about the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis, and whether it may be appropriate to treat their medical conditions.

How they will change the law.

The Victorian Government will introduce legislation before the end of 2015 to enable access to locally manufactured medicinal cannabis products for a limited and select group of patients.

The Victorian Law Reform Report on medicinal cannabis, which has been tabled in Parliament, includes extensive recommendations on how Victoria can enable access for people in exceptional circumstances and do so safely and securely, under appropriate medical supervision.

Key issues addressed in the Victorian Law Reform Report include:

  • The cultivation, manufacture and supply of sound quality medicinal cannabis products within Victoria
  • Patient eligibility, and conditions and corresponding symptoms
  • The importance of Commonwealth/State cooperation
  • Appropriate clinical oversight involving specialists, general practitioners, nurses and pharmacists
  • Research and evaluation.

The Victorian Government fully accepts 40 of the Commission’s recommendations, and accepts two recommendations in principle.

The Government will be working as quickly as possible to ensure Victorians in exceptional circumstances can access a safe, secure and reliable source of medicinal cannabis and will introduce legislation into Parliament in December this year.

http://www.health.vic.gov.au/dpcs/medicinal-cannabis

There’s a way to go with this and the extent to which this will apply is yet to be clarified but this is a positive move in Victoria, and if this works out as beneficial it will help New Zealand go down a similar legal path.