- ‘I owe them my life’: Boris thanks hospital staff
- Doctor’s drug gamble to save COVID-19 patients
More than half of the 6335 Australians who have contracted COVID-19 have fully recovered, Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed.
Fewer than 250 Australians are in hospitals nationwide, with 81 in ICUs and 35 on ventilators.
Mr Hunt said he was pleased the national figures had “reduced and now stabilised”, meaning all seriously sick patients would get the care they needed.
He also praised Australians after only 13 per cent of normal traffic was recorded from Thursday to Saturday.
The data for Easter Sunday has yet to be released but Mr Hunt said Australia was “now beginning to see a consolidated flattening of the curve.”
“I couldn’t be more impressed, more honoured, and more heartened by the work of Australians over the Easter weekend and in the weeks before. This has a real consequence in the best sense,” he said.
“We are now seeing consolidation of the flattening of the curve.
“The latest data shows we have had consistent growth in new cases of below two per cent a day.”
His comments come as he announced $3 million for two projects to assist with research and treatment of patients.
One million dollars will go to the University of Sydney to lead a project which will use CT scanning, in particular to help with early diagnosis of those patients who are most at risk of proceeding to intensive care to ventilation.
“This will allow for early treatment, better treatment, better recovery, and better outcomes. It’s about saving lives,” he said.
Two million dollars will go to the Appriase Network led by the Doherty Institute to assist with preparing for better, earlier, more rapid diagnosis of patients in aged care and support for patients in intensive care.
Mr Hunt also confirmed Australia’s blood reserves are “strong” but urged Australians to continue making blood donations to keep reserves high.
Blood plasma in particular has been identified as a potentially potent weapon against COVID-19 as health authorities work to treat patients who are most ill.
“Over the coming months, we want to ensure they continue to be strong,” he said.
“And so I would encourage Australians to continue doing what they have been doing and donating blood.
“Ring ahead, make an appointment. It can be any time in the next two months.”
VIRUS CLAIMS LIFE OF 18TH RUBY PRINCESS PASSENGER
Australia’s death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 61 following two deaths overnight, Chief Medical Officer professor Brendan Murphy said.
A 74-year-old woman succumbed to COVID-19 at the John Hunter Hospital along with a 76-year-old man at the Northern Beaches Hospital. Both hospitals are located in NSW.
Professor Murphy said there were only 33 new cases of the virus confirmed overnight as well.
However, he warned this was likely due to a downtrend in testing at the weekend with general practitioners closing for Easter.
On Sunday, Mr Murphy said Australia was “in a good place” in its fight against COVID-19.
He said there was “no place in the world I would rather be than Australia at the moment”.
Mr Murphy said people in the community were still transmitting the virus so it was necessary to “keep our pressure on and make sure we don’t end up like countries in the world that you have all seen on the news”.
Meanwhile, about 5000 people have been forced into quarantine in northwest Tasmania as health authorities battle a COVID-19 outbreak at two hospitals.
The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie shut early Monday, with patients being transferred elsewhere.
Of 144 coronavirus cases in Tasmania, 60 are linked to the hospital outbreak and 42 are healthcare workers at the facilities.
About 1200 staff from the hospitals have been ordered to quarantine for two weeks along with their households – equating to about 5000 people in total – Premier Peter Gutwein said.
“Never before has a premier had to ask a community to do this,” he said.
“I’ve got to admit, the responsibility rests heavy on me in having to make these decisions. But I would ask you work with us.
“This is the best way we can get on top of this, we can stop the spread of this insidious disease.”
The two hospitals will undergo a deep clean by specialist teams.
Health workers will arrive in the state this week from the Australian Medical Assistance Team, plus members of the Australian Defence Force, to boost resources, Mr Gutwein said.
STRANDED AUSSIES ARRIVE HOME
It comes as hundreds more Australians stranded overseas during the coronavirus pandemic returned home on chartered flights.
A flight from India has arrived in Melbourne and another from Cambodia landed in Sydney.
Australians flying home from Peru are expected to touch down in Brisbane Monday afternoon.
A special Singapore Airlines flight from Phnom Penh carrying 184 Australian passengers landed in Sydney at 6.30am AEST on Monday.
They will now begin 14 days of mandatory quarantine in city hotels.
The flight, with Singaporean airline SilkAir, was arranged in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen late on Thursday ordered cross-border restrictions on any travel between provinces.
“The plane has successfully departed Phnom Penh,” a spokesman for the Australian embassy in Cambodia said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne also confirmed the flight, tweeting “Australia’s Embassy in Cambodia (and) DFAT in Canberra have worked together to assist 184 Australians & families to depart Phnom Penh today. We are grateful for all the good work that made this happen.”
It comes as the global death toll from the virus passed 112,000 with more than 20,000 in the US alone and 10,000 in the UK.
The Australian Embassy said in a statement 164 Australian citizens, plus 20 permanent residents and family members, boarded the flight as regular commercial options “were drying up fast”.
“So we decided to facilitate this one-off non-scheduled flight to a transit country, which then connected to a scheduled flight on the same plane to Sydney,” it said.
“Passengers paid for economy and business seats.”
Cambodia has been criticised for its slow response to the coronavirus pandemic; however attitudes have hardened recently and Prime Minister Hun Sen early on Tuesday cancelled next weeks’s annual Khmer New Year celebrations.
Heavy travel restrictions were also imposed between provinces which added a sense of urgency for the flight, with Australians living in the countryside told to make a speedy trip to the capital to avoid being locked out of the airport.
The embassy said it took “a lot of work to make this happen” in “challenging circumstances”, adding this would also help relieve pressure on Cambodia’s healthcare system, which Australia continues to support through its aid program.
“Great to have been able to help Aussies reconnect with loved ones back home through this flight,” ambassador Pablo Kang said on his Twitter feed.
“We thank all involved, including the government, for their assistance, and our passengers for their patience and understanding.”
GERMANY’S INFECTIONS RISE BY 2537
Germany’s number of confirmed coronavirus infections has risen by 2537 to 123,016, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases shows.
The figure repoted on Monday was lower than a 2821 increase reported on Sunday, and marked the third decline after four days of increases.
The reported death toll has risen by 126 to 2799.
CHINA REPORTS 108 NEW VIRUS CASES
Mainland China has reported 108 new coronavirus cases on Monday, up from 99 a day earlier and marking the highest number of daily infections in more than five weeks amid a continued rise in patients entering the country from overseas.
The National Health Commission said in a statement on Sunday the mainland reported 98 new imported cases, a record high and up from 97 a day earlier, and another 61 new asymptomatic patients.
Total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 82,160, while the death toll rose by two to 3341.
US COULD EASE RESTRICTIONS NEXT MONTH
The United States may be ready to start gradually reopening next month, the government’s top infectious diseases expert said on Sunday (local time), as signs grew the coronavirus pandemic is peaking.
US President Donald Trump had earlier wanted the world’s largest economy to be “raring to go” by Sunday (local time) but most of the country remained at a standstill and churches took Easter celebrations online to halt the spread of the virus which has killed more than 20,000 people in the US.
Mr Trump has cast the decision on when to ease the lockdown as the biggest of his presidency as he faces competing pressures from public health experts and businesses along with some conservative allies who want a swift return to business as usual.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the veteran pandemic expert who has quietly sought action to stem infections, said in a televised interview part of the country could begin easing restrictions next month — but was cautious.
“I think it could probably start at least in some ways maybe next month,” Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on US TV.
“We are hoping by the end of the month we can look around and say, okay, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on?” Dr Fauci said.
“If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down.”
Dr Fauci said regions would be ready at different times rather than the United States turning on a “light switch.”
Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said it was premature to say the country would reopen on May 1.
“We’re hopeful about that target, but I think it’s too early to be able to tell that,” Mr Hahn said in a TV interview.
The United States has been recording nearly 2000 deaths a day from the coronavirus, disproportionately older people with weakened immune systems and ethnic minorities with less access to health care and teleworking.
Dr Fauci said he was “cautiously optimistic” as admissions into hospitals and intensive care had begun to decline even in worst-hit New York.
There are sign the outbreak “not only has flattened, it’s starting to turn the corner,” he said.
On Sunday the United States, which has 4.25 per cent of the world’s population, account for almost a fifth of the world’s nearly 110,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the disease first emerged in China late last year.
Dr Fauci, who has advised six successive presidents, acknowledged that the United States could have saved lives by shutting down public spaces when the disease’s seriousness became clear early in the year.
“But there was a lot of push back about shutting things down back then,” Dr Fauci said, without naming Mr Trump who has been criticised for not reacting.
Mr Trump had been hoping to campaign on a strong economy as he seeks re-election in November.
Instead, some 17 million people have lost their jobs in a matter of weeks and his presumptive Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has been hammering him for not doing more to stop the virus.
NY’S CURVE FLATTENING BUT DEATH TOLL ‘TERRIBLY HIGH’
Meanwhile, hard-hit New York State is seeing a “flattening” of the rate of new coronavirus cases and fatalities, but the death toll is still “at a terribly high level” — with another 758 dying overnight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday (local time).
It was the sixth straight day the state’s death toll remained in the 700s — and the governor warned the virus was on the move to the suburbs and rural areas of the state, reports the New York Post.
“I think you will see more growth in less populated places,” Gov. Cuomo said.
As for the general current figures, the governor said at a press conference “you’re not seeing a great decline in the numbers, but you’re seeing a flattening.”
Gov. Cuomo said of the new deaths, “you’re seeing a recurrence of the terrible news, which is the lives lost.”
The new figure was slightly down from the 783 coronavirus deaths recorded overnight Friday into Saturday.
A total of 9385 people have now died from the contagion in the state — or more than three times the number of victims, 2735, on 9/11, the governor added.
Another 8236 people tested positive for the contagion, leaving the new state total at 188,694. New York City made up the bulk of the number, or 103,208, with 4900 overnight.
Still, Gov. Cuomo said the number of additional beds needed for coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours was 53, “which is the lowest number since we started doing these charts.
“The change in total number of hospitalisation is down again. This is the number that we have been watching because the great fear for us was always overwhelming the hospital system,” he said.
There are now 18,700 people hospitalised with the virus, Gov. Cuomo said.
The number of people on ventilators “ticked up” by 110 — and “most people who are intubated will not come off a ventilator,” Cuomo said, “so that’s not good.”
Asked by a reporter at the presser what he would do if he came down with the virus, Gov. Cuomo responded, “My plan is to do this from home.”
JOHNSON RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL
Virus-stricken British Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked medics for saving his life after he left hospital on Easter Sunday as billions around the world marked the holiday from lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic death toll steadily climbed worldwide.
More than half of humanity is confined to their homes as governments scramble to contain the disease’s deadly march across the globe.
Fatalities soared past 109,000 at the weekend, with more than 1.7 million infected; though there was a shred of hope in some hard-hit countries as numbers started levelling out.
Europe has so far shouldered the burden of the virus: more than 80 per cent of all deaths have been on the continent, mostly in hard-hit Italy, Spain, France and Britain.
Britain passed its own grave threshold on Sunday too as its death toll topped 10,000.
Mr Johnson said Britain would beat the pandemic as he thanked his medical staff in a candid video message after he was discharged from a state-run National Health Service (NHS) hospital.
“I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way,” 55-year-old Mr Johnson said, who was
diagnosed with the virus at the end of March and admitted to hospital last Sunday where he spent three days in intensive care.
He said he was discharged after “a week in which the NHS has saved my life, no question”, speaking in a suit and tie but looking visibly worn.
The leader is expected to rest up at a country estate before returning to work.
Meanwhile, Prince William said Britain was at its best in a crisis, in the latest in a series of messages from the royal family seeking to galvanise the nation during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think Britain is at its best when faced with a crisis,” the Queen’s grandson said during a call with a community charity in northern England which runs a food bank and has been delivering hot meals to isolated people.
“We all pull together and that community spirit comes rushing back quicker than anything else,” he said on the call, according to his office at Kensington Palace.
Prince William has become the patron of the National Emergencies Trust for 2020, the palace said.
Created in 2019, the NET seeks to co-ordinate with not-for-profit organisations to direct public donations to specific appeals and to distribute funds fairly and efficiently.
The NET’s Coronavirus Appeal in March, launched by Prince William last month, has raised millions of pounds.
EMPTY CHURCHES AMID VIRUS LOCKDOWN
From the Vatican to Panama and the Philippines, there were unprecedented scenes of empty churches as the world’s two-billion plus Christians celebrated Easter from the confines of their homes.
Speaking from a near-empty Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Pope Francis offered prayers for the ill and urged European “solidarity” to fight the outbreak.
“For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” he said in a lifestreamed message beamed around the world.
On the outskirts of Rome, one devout follower held a video session with friends to mark the holy day in lieu of being able to gather in church.
“Before lunch, six of us connected online for the Angelus prayer,” said Rosa Mastrocinque, adding that her “spirituality has increased” during her weeks-long confinement.
The pope had earlier urged creativity to mark the holy weekend — a call that was met by many.
ITALY, SPAIN SEE SOME LIGHT
Italy on Sunday recorded the lowest number of new coronavirus deaths in three weeks, saying 431 people died in the past day to bring its total to 19,899.
It was the lowest day-to-day toll since March 19.
For the ninth day running, intensive care admissions were down and hospital admissions overall were down.
More than 4000 people tested positive as Italy began its fifth week under nationwide lockdown, continuing a general flattening in its infection curve.
But officials have noted Italy has also increased its testing capacity in recent days, yielding more positive cases but allowing for more effective quarantine measures for people once they know they are infected.
Italy crossed the one million virus test mark on Sunday (local time), doubling the number of tests since the end of March.
Overall, 156,363 people have been confirmed as positive, although officials note the true number of infected could be as much as 10 times that, particularly in hard-hit Lombardy.
Meanwhile, Italy’s civil protection agency has arranged for rescued migrants to be placed in quarantine to check for coronavirus infections on ships or on land.
Civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said he signed the order after Italy banned foreign-flagged migrant rescue ships from its ports last week.
Mr Borrelli said the new provision would be in effect to provide medical checks and quarantine for the 156 migrants currently aboard the German-flagged charity rescue ship Alan Kurdi. Migrants who reach the Italian territory on their own would be quarantined on land.
Meanwhile, Spain has reported its lowest daily growth in confirmed coronavirus infections in three weeks as it prepares to loosen its strict lockdown measures and let some workers return to their jobs.
Spanish health authorities have reported 4167 confirmed new cases over the past 24 hours. The country’s total is at 166,019, second only to the United States.
Deaths in Spain have reached a total of 16,972, with 619 new fatalities confirmed since Saturday. More than 60,000 patients have recovered from COVID-19 in Spain.
The country on Monday will allow workers in industry and construction to return to work after a two-week shutdown of economic activities other than healthcare and the food industry.
Those who can work from home are strongly encouraged by authorities to continue doing so. Retail shops will remain closed other than supermarkets, fruit stands, bakeries, butchers, newsstands and pharmacies.
AUSTRALIA’S NEW VIRUS DETECTING DEVICE
Meanwhile, Aussie scientists are developing a simple wearable patch able to detect which COVID-19 patients are most likely to develop a severe form of the disease and need a ventilator.
Australian National University researcher Professor Mark Kendall has developed a microwavable sensor which attaches to the patient’s skin and measures fluid in the skin containing markers of disease.
The device would be worn by the patients like a watch.
Patients who become severely ill with COVID-19 suffer when their immune system goes into overdrive releasing inflammatory factors called cytokines, which clog their lungs with fluid.
One of these cytokines IL-6 is very low in healthy people and a German study has found higher levels of IL-6 can predict whether the patient is deteriorating and is likely to need a ventilator.
The device, being developed by the ANU and Brisbane based WearOptimo, will allow real time measurement of IL-6 levels in the patients.
“Real time testing of IL-6 in hospitalised COVID-19 positive patients is the game-changer we need to accurately identify those most likely to require precious ICU resources,” respiratory and intensive care physician Professor Keith McNeil said.
“That will enable more effective planning of the need for and use of those resources, and signal those requiring more intensive early intervention potentially avoiding more severe deterioration.”
It comes as Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, told The Times newspaper she was “80 per cent confident” the vaccine being developed by her team would work and could be available by September.
Human trials of the vaccine are due to begin in the next two weeks.
And the drug which led to the births of thousands of deformed babies, Thalidomide, has emerged as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
Although it is no longer used to treat nausea caused by pregnancy thalidomide is still being used as an anti-inflammatory to treat some lung conditions, skin lesions and throat ulcers in HIV patients and cancer.
Researchers at Wenzhou Medical University are trialling the treatment in combination with several hormones in a randomised trial on 100 patients with COVID-19 with the study due to report at the end of May.
– with AAP
Originally published as More than half of infected Aussies recovered