NSW Health has apologised after Sunday night plans were thwarted for millions of people across NSW as a technical glitch shut down the state government app used to check into venues for COVID safety.
NSW Health confirmed the app was back on board at around 9pm, but it is understood the outage affecting the MyServiceNSW app was due to a technical issue that started earlier on Sunday afternoon and is being investigated.
“We can confirm the app is back up,” a statement said.
“We apologise for any inconvenience and are continuing to monitor the app to ensure it’s stable.”
NSW residents attending pubs, restaurants and other venues on Sunday night were being told to check-in digitally via the ServiceNSW webform instead.
“It’s vital that customer contact details are still collected digitally,” the department said.
“Customers and businesses are encouraged to use the Service NSW check-in webform for all check-ins. The webform was not impacted by the outage.”
Affected residents have flooded social media expressing outrage at the technical glitch, which has also left them unable to redeem the NSW government’s $100 Dine and Discover vouchers.
In addition to COVID-related services, the app is used to manage digital driver’s licences and vehicle registrations.
Dine and Discover vouchers were introduced by the NSW government to encourage residents to visit hospitality, entertainment and cultural venues across the state.
Under the scheme, NSW residents aged 18 and older can apply for four $25 vouchers for a total of $100 on the MyServiceNSW app.
There are $25 vouchers to be used at restaurants, cafes, bars, wineries, pubs or clubs and they can be redeemed from Monday to Thursday, and two $25 experience vouchers to be used for entertainment and recreation, including cultural institutions, live music, and arts venues on any day of the week.
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The actor who played Jesus in the 2004 film Passion of the Christ has sparked outrage after promoting a QAnon conspiracy theory that suggests thousands of children are being murdered in order to have their adrenal glands harvested for the compound adrenochrome.
Jim Caviezel appeared at a right-wing convention called Clay Clark’s Health and Freedom Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The conference looked to be for attendees to complain about COVID restrictions while claiming that it was part of overall government overreach in forcing people to obey by the restrictions.
But the conference suddenly took a turn during a seminar on the issue of child trafficking when Caviezel, who was promoting his forthcoming film about the subject, Sound of Freedom.
Caviezel portrays Timothy Ballard, a former special agent for the Department of Homeland Security whose group, The Nazarene Fund, works to ‘liberate the captive, to free the enslaved, and to rescue, rebuild and restore the lives of Christians and other persecuted religious and ethnic minorities wherever and whenever they are in need.’
Caviezel recounted a conspiracy theory suggesting that elites were drinking the blood of the children in order to benefit from the ‘rejuvenating’ chemical.
‘They’re pulling kids out of the darkest recesses of hell right now, in dumps and all kinds of places. The adrenochrome-ing of children, look …’ Caviezel said.
Caviezel was then asked to explain further by the MC about adrenochrome and gave more details on what he had heard people were doing to children to retrieve the chemical, but had never actually witnessed it first hand.
‘Essentially, you have adrenaline in your body,’ Caviezel explained. ‘And when you are scared, you produce adrenaline. If you’re an athlete, you get in the fourth quarter, you have adrenaline that comes out of you. If a child knows he’s going to die, his body will secrete this adrenaline. And they have a lot of terms that they use that he takes me through, but it’s the worst horror I’ve ever seen. The screaming alone, even if I never, ever, ever saw it, it’s beyond — and these people that do it, umm, there will be no mercy for them.’
The conspiracy theory, a cornerstone of QAnon dogma, holds that a network of politicians and celebrities are torturing and murdering thousands of children to harvest their adrenal glands for compound adrenochrome, which they can then use as an elixir of life as well as a recreational drug.
QAnon believers think that adrenochrome halts and even reverses the aging process.
Caviezel’s comments drew outrage online.
‘This makes me sad. He was such a good actor. I think instead of acknowledging that he’s stupid and insane, I’ll just tell myself he is a fading actor in need of financial assistance who accepted money to pretend he’s lost his mind,’ wrote one Twitter user.
‘Why hasn’t the “adrenochroming of children” resulted in a rash of missing children reports or panic at hospital maternity wards? I’m so confused… also, “adrenochroming” isn’t a real word. How do we make the qrazy stop?’ added another.
‘Do they imply in the film that American elites are harvesting the blood of these children so they can appear youthful ? Because we know human trafficking is a huge problem in the world, but it’s ludicrous to think elites and celebrities are harvesting the blood of these victims.’ asked Matty online.
‘I love how they always know exactly what horrible atrocities other people are doing. I’ve yet to see any evidence of those accusations…anywhere,’ wrote Philippe.
‘Those empty seats behind him are a metaphor for his bleak and lonely ride down the rabbit hole. This is not a mentally sound person. If you believe absurdities, you can commit atrocities,’ tweeted Alex Cole.
The conference which featured a host of far right speakers across the weekend including Michael Flynn, Lin Wood, Sidney Powell and the My Pillow Guy, Mike Lindell is set to end on Saturday night with an event titled ‘It’s Time to Burn Those Masks,’ during which attendees will burn face masks.
The coronavirus pandemic still kills thousands of Americans each week and is seeing a new surge in cases in the U.S. with many states requiring masks to be worn both indoors and outdoors in an even to curb the spread of the disease.
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A group of taxpayer-funded aged care homes funnelled $31 million back into the coffers of one of Australia’s largest churches, an ABC investigation has found.
The homes include St Basil’s in Melbourne, where 45 residents died in Australia’s deadliest COVID outbreak.
In the past eight years, St Basil’s paid more than $22 million in rent and fees to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese while receiving federal government funding.
A commercial real estate agent told Background Briefing this was double the rental market rate.
Towards the end of that period, the church was funding the lavish lifestyle of its newly appointed Archbishop, including the purchase of a $6.5 million Sydney apartment with harbour views.
Archbishop Makarios, who oversees the church’s schools, parishes and aged care homes, arrived on Australia’s shores in the middle of 2019 to much fanfare.
He was swamped by thousands at his enthronement in Sydney and photographed meeting the Prime Minister along with other political and business leaders.
“Until the end of my life, I belong to Australia,” he declared, choking back tears.
But as he toured the country in his first months in charge, some in the church noted his lifestyle seemed excessive for a man who had taken a vow of poverty.
He was arriving at parishes in a black Holden Caprice with dark tinted windows, a flag and a personalised number plate ordered just for him: ARCHBM.
They were a stark departure from the conservative black cotton garments worn by his predecessor, the late Archbishop Stylianos.
Then in December 2019, the church bought him a new official residence in Millers Point, a luxurious apartment with sweeping views of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.
It provoked outrage among the faithful, so in mid-2020 the Archdiocese issued a statement denying the Archbishop was living in the apartment.
But Background Briefing has observed Archbishop Makarios’s Caprice entering and leaving the apartment complex.
The Archdiocese has now confirmed he moved in earlier this year.
Sources say before he moved in, a $3 million renovation was carried out.
The church said the renovation was paid for by a private donor.
The Archdiocese dismissed questions about the Archbishop’s lifestyle as “discourteous and ill-founded”, but concerns persist that funds from the Greek Orthodox Church’s aged care homes are helping to pay for it.
Background Briefing has uncovered an extensive network of residential and commercial properties around Australia owned by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and overseen by the Archbishop.
But assets don’t equal liquid cash.
The Archdiocese also owns 15 aged care homes dotted around Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia, which receive aged care funding from the federal government.
Some of the church’s aged care homes are passing money directly back to the church, with a total of $31 million transferred in the past eight years, often while homes are posting operating losses.
“One thing that pops out immediately on the St Basil’s filings is the amount of rent paid to the church,” said Jason Ward, an aged care expert from the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research, who examined St Basil’s financial disclosures for the ABC.
“There are other operating expenses which are never explained or classified. What is disclosed is that a portion of that is fees to the Greek Orthodox Church.
St Basil’s has received nearly $73 million in taxpayer funding over the past eight years.
According to one source who spoke to Background Briefing on condition of anonymity, the Archdiocese views its aged care homes as “fat children” and itself as a “starving mother”.
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The fear of increased Covid risk prompted Sachdanand Dabral, another resident, to petition the court last year, asking to know how the state was prepared in case of a Covid surge. Mr Dabral blamed the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat for the rise in cases, for allowing people in to the state unchecked. The BBC was unable to reach Mr Rawat for comment.
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AsianScientist (Apr. 16, 2021) – Throughout history, human civilization has encountered numerous infectious disease outbreaks and emerged with new understanding and lessons for the next one. The first use of quarantine is attributed to the time of the plague, which hit Europe from 1347, when incoming sailors were placed in isolation by officials of a Venetian-controlled city for 40 days, or quarantino in Italian.
Today, as we move closer to a full year since COVID-19 emerged from Wuhan, China, nations may be best served by drawing lessons from others’ actions in past pandemics as well as the current pandemic. In particular, countries in East Asia, many of which were disproportionately affected by the SARS epidemic in 2003, have fared relatively well through COVID-19.
Among the most successful and under-the-radar efforts have come out of Vietnam, which in the initial 100 days after reporting its first COVID-19 case recorded only 270 cases and no deaths. As of December 31, 2020, Vietnam has recorded a total of just over 1,400 cases and 35 deaths (see below), and is the only ASEAN economy predicted to grow and avoid a recession in 2020.
On paper, the odds appear to be stacked against Vietnam. While the country has experienced remarkable economic growth over the past few decades, it remains a low-middle-income country with limited resources—having spent just under US$130 on health per capita in 2017 compared to over US$2,600 in Singapore and over US$10,200 in the US, according to World Bank data.
Vietnam also has the fifteenth largest population globally and a large aging population. What’s more, it shares a 1,400-km northern border with China—the origin of several disease outbreaks in recent history. What can explain its success against COVID-19, and what can other nations learn from Vietnam’s experience?
So far, countries that have seen success against COVID-19 in the region have relied heavily on technological interventions like tracking apps or expensive mass testing. Vietnam’s strategy, on the other hand, has mainly been focused on the more low-cost route of strictly and effectively implementing tried-and-tested public health strategies.
Kidong Park, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Vietnam, attributes the country’s success to three main factors: an early and timely response; strong government leadership and vision coupled with a rapid mobilization of resources; and wide and accurate communication. The effectiveness of these concerted efforts was born through the culmination of years of investment in the country’s health infrastructure and preparedness strategies, and lessons learned from experience dealing with past public health crises.
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A popular Victorian tourist town has been left devastated after a huge fire destroyed a shopping strip, just as it tried to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown.
Fire crews were called after the blaze broke out on Collingwood Street in Apollo Bay about 3.17am on Wednesday after it started in a restaurant and rapidly spread to neighbouring businesses.
45 people were evacuated from the motel and firefighters were ducking for cover as gas bottles exploded.
The owner of the Chinese restaurant where the fire started is heavily invested in her businesses catering for tourists in Apollo Bay.
“I feel really sad and shocked,” Michelle Chen told 7NEWS.
The restaurant shutdown in March 2020 with the COVID pandemic stopping tourists from going to the town.
She said she had plans to reopen in the coming months.
Flames also spread to the Bluebird shops next door and hardware shop, destroying both.
“We’ve been through enough and to have this happen is quite devastating,” former owner of Bluebird, Lyn Munro, said.
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When Andy Bading took his seat on a plane for the final leg of a journey home after a family holiday in Vanuatu, he didn’t know he would be touching down in a state about to be changed dramatically by coronavirus.
Tasmania’s first case of COVID-19 was detected in Launceston on March 2, 2020
The detection of coronavirus in the state led to rapid changes for all Tasmanians
Business owners say support from the local community helped keep them afloat during restrictions
Mr Bading and his wife, Mel, learned from media reports that his seat had been close to a man who, on March 2, 2020, became the first person to test positive to COVID-19 in Tasmania.
“We freaked out, obviously. We have a child who has immunodeficiency disorders and things like that, so first concern was that,” Mr Bading said.
“But the biggest concern was public health didn’t contact us, we had to contact them, and they didn’t know what to tell us. It was very confusing.”
Mr Bading self-isolated at home, but quickly developed a high temperature and drove to the Launceston General Hospital to be tested for COVID-19.
“They instantly isolated me and they put me in a room and they wore the whole dark suit and everything like that with the signs on the door.”
Testing revealed Mr Bading had not contracted COVID-19, but instead had swine flu.
When he recovered he returned home to Hadspen and transitioned to working from home as harsh coronavirus restrictions were introduced around the state.
While the harshest restrictions have since been lifted, Mr Bading said life in Tasmania has yet to return to pre-COVID normality.
“Obviously you don’t shake people’s hands or give them a cuddle,” he said.
“The other main difference is no travel. And we’re looking forward to doing that again, because we love cruises.”
“I wanted to protect everybody”
The Launceston General Hospital’s head of infectious diseases, Katie Flanagan, was driving her daughter to a rowing competition when she got a phone call telling her there was a likely COVID case at the hospital.
The roadside phone call began 12 months of intense work to ready the hospital to safely treat patients with the virus.
Professor Flanagan’s team was in charged of managing the first case, a man who had flown from Iran to Launceston, via Malaysia and Melbourne.
“At that point we had absolutely nothing set up in the hospital in terms of how we would manage a large number of COVID patients coming through,” she said.
“What it did was kick us into action,” Professor Flanagan said.
Professor Flanagan oversaw the creation of a COVID-19 ward and an escalation plan at the hospital.
“My close colleagues and staff, we had this terrible fear because you could see what was happening in certain countries around the world where hospitals became overwhelmed, and we had to prepare for that scenario,” she said.
“I wanted to protect everybody as well as I could.”
Cleaner planned to isolate in garage
Hospital cleaner Jason Beck had been keeping up to date with international media reports about COVID-19 and wasn’t surprised when it appeared in Tasmania.
Two members of Mr Beck’s family have pre-existing medical conditions.
Fearing he might be exposed to COVID-19 at work, he bought his own PPE and a supply of N-95 masks.
“Because two people would be at risk here, and I work at the hospital in high volume areas, with critical patients, I thought that was the best way to approach it, because I obviously don’t want to make anyone sick,” Mr Beck said.
He and his family decided if the situation worsened, Mr Beck could live in the garage under their house.
“I had a workshop and downstairs area where I could go and be isolated down there,” he said.
A year after Tasmania’s first COVID case, Mr Beck was excited about the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.
“Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel, I think, and before the vaccine you just didn’t know what was going to happen, you couldn’t plan anything,” he said.
But he said the community was still wary of future coronavirus outbreaks.
“With health things, it’s usually two weeks later everyone forgets and we go back to normal life. I really feel that is not the case this time,” he said.
“People had that fear going on”
After Tasmania’s first COVID case, work at the Launceston General Hospital changed dramatically for registered nurse Stephanie Lee.
Within months she was caring for COVID patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
She and her colleagues also began to worry about a change in the way community members reacted to seeing health care workers in scrubs outside of the hospital.
“Being a nurse we’d always been the most trusted profession and all of a sudden people were seeing us and sort of had that fear going on,” Ms Lee said.
Ms Lee and other nurses stopped wearing their uniform to and from work.
Ms Lee believes some parts of her life and work changed by COVID will remain that way.
“I think there’s some things that won’t ever go back to the way that they were,” she said.
Community support kept shops and cafes afloat
A year after Tasmania’s first case of COVID-19, Daniel Alps’s supermarket and cafe is still doing things differently than 12 months ago.
“Before COVID we never used to do deliveries or any of those types of things — our business model changed,” Mr Alps said.
He said adapting to changing coronavirus rules by temporarily switching to takeaway-only service and extending commercial kitchen-level hygiene practices to the entire cafe had been challenging, but support from local customers remained strong throughout.
Homewares retailer Lindi McMahon watched from her shut shop as foot traffic in Launceston’s city centre quickly dwindled under Tasmania’s initial lockdown.
“We basically had our website, so we were selling online. We were lucky that we already had that in place,” Ms McMahon said.
“We did local deliveries as well. So we would take things to people’s homes, so that they could still shop with us.”
After 12 months of living with COVID, Ms McMahon said Tasmanians had altered their shopping habits.
“I think the fact that people can’t travel internationally and things now, we find that there’s more people shopping locally, which in way has been a bonus for local businesses,” she said.
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The world’s first mRNA vaccines – the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – have made it in record time from the laboratory, through successful clinical trials, regulatory approval and into people’s arms.
The high efficiency of protection against severe disease, the safety seen in clinical trials and the speed with which the vaccines were designed are set to transform how we develop vaccines in the future.
Once researchers have set up the mRNA manufacturing technology, they can potentially produce mRNA against any target. Manufacturing mRNA vaccines also does not need living cells, making them easier to produce than some other vaccines.
So mRNA vaccines could potentially be used to prevent a range of diseases, not just COVID-19.
Remind me again, what’s mRNA?
Messenger ribonucleic acid (or mRNA for short) is a type of genetic material that tells your body how to make proteins. The two mRNA vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, deliver fragments of this mRNA into your cells.
Once inside, your body uses instructions in the mRNA to make SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. So when you encounter the virus’ spike proteins again, your body’s immune system will already have a head start in how to handle it.
So after COVID-19, which mRNA vaccines are researchers working on next? Here are three worth knowing about.
1. Flu vaccine
Currently, we need to formulate new versions of the flu vaccine each year to protect us from the strains the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts will be circulating in flu season. This is a constant race to monitor how the virus evolves and how it spreads in real time.
Moderna is already turning its attention to an mRNA vaccine against seasonal influenza. This would target the four seasonal strains of the virus the WHO predicts will be circulating.
But the holy grail is a universal flu vaccine. This would protect against all strains of the virus (not just what the WHO predicts) and so wouldn’t need to be updated each year. The same researchers who pioneered mRNA vaccines are also working on a universal flu vaccine.
The researchers used the vast amounts of data on the influenza genome to find the mRNA code for the most “highly conserved” structures of the virus. This is the mRNA least likely to mutate and lead to structural or functional changes in viral proteins.
They then prepared a mixture of mRNAs to express four different viral proteins. These included one on the stalk-like structure on the outside of the flu virus, two on the surface, and one hidden inside the virus particle.
Studies in mice show this experimental vaccine is remarkably potent against diverse and difficult-to-target strains of influenza. This is a strong contender as a universal flu vaccine.
Read more: A single vaccine to beat all coronaviruses sounds impossible. But scientists are already working on one
2. Malaria vaccine
Malaria arises through infection with the single-celled parasite Plasmodium falciparum, delivered when mosquitoes bite. There is no vaccine for it.
However, US researchers working with pharmaceutical company GSK have filed a patent for an mRNA vaccine against malaria.
The mRNA in the vaccine codes for a parasite protein called PMIF. By teaching our bodies to target this protein, the aim is to train the immune system to eradicate the parasite.
There have been promising results of the experimental vaccine in mice and early-stage human trials are being planned in the UK.
This malaria mRNA vaccine is an example of a self-amplifying mRNA vaccine. This means very small amounts of mRNA need to be made, packaged and delivered, as the mRNA will make more copies of itself once inside our cells. This is the next generation of mRNA vaccines after the “standard” mRNA vaccines seen so far against COVID-19.
Read more: COVID-19 isn’t the only infectious disease scientists are trying to find a vaccine for. Here are 3 others
3. Cancer vaccines
We already have vaccines that prevent infection with viruses that cause cancer. For example, hepatitis B vaccine prevents some types of liver cancer and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prevents cervical cancer.
But the flexibility of mRNA vaccines lets us think more broadly about tackling cancers not caused by viruses.
Some types of tumours have antigens or proteins not found in normal cells. If we could train our immune systems to identify these tumour-associated antigens then our immune cells could kill the cancer.
Cancer vaccines can be targeted to specific combinations of these antigens. BioNTech is developing one such mRNA vaccine that shows promise for people with advanced melanoma. CureVac has developed one for a specific type of lung cancer, with results from early clinical trials.
Then there’s the promise of personalised anti-cancer mRNA vaccines. If we could design an individualised vaccine specific to each patient’s tumour then we could train their immune system to fight their own individual cancer. Several research groups and companies are working on this.
Yes, there are challenges ahead
However, there are several hurdles to overcome before mRNA vaccines against other medical conditions are used more widely.
Current mRNA vaccines need to be kept frozen, limiting their use in developing countries or in remote areas. But Moderna is working on developing an mRNA vaccine that can be kept in a fridge.
Researchers also need to look at how these vaccines are delivered into the body. While injecting into the muscle works for mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, delivery into a vein may be better for cancer vaccines.
Read more: 4 things about mRNA COVID vaccines researchers still want to find out
The vaccines need to be shown to be safe and effective in large-scale human clinical trials, ahead of regulatory approval. However, as regulatory bodies around the world have already approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, there are far fewer regulatory hurdles than a year ago.
The high cost of personalised mRNA cancer vaccines may also be an issue.
Finally, not all countries have the facilities to make mRNA vaccines on a large scale, including Australia.
Regardless of these hurdles, mRNA vaccine technology has been described as disruptive and revolutionary. If we can overcome these challenges, we can potentially change how we make vaccines now and into the future.
Authors: Archa Fox – Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow, University of Western Australia | Damian Purcell – Professor of virology and theme leader for viral infectious diseases, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
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Queensland Health’s high priority hospital and health services, including Metro North, Metro South, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Torres and Cape York and Cairns must be audited by April 19.
The state’s remaining hospital and health services will need to be audited by April 22.
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) also recommended that if deficiencies were found, an action plan to fix them would need to be provided.
Queensland Health is due to report at a second conference on April 27.
In a statement, QNMU secretary Beth Mohle said she welcomed the commission’s assistance and looked forward to progress being made.
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People arriving back into the UK are using fake GP notes to avoid having to pay for a Covid test, it has been reported.
Border officials are said to have discovered some arrivals using forged letters that claim they are returning for emergency treatment.
It is said that immigration officials have uncovered multiple examples of the faked letters aimed at helping passengers avoid paying for tests or fines under Covid rules.
Under current restrictions, arrivals don’t need to take a test if travelling for an ‘urgent medical treatment or are accompanying someone who is travelling for urgent medical treatment.’
Exemptions also include people with a medical condition meaning a test cannot be taken, and a note from a medical practitioner will need to be presented to Border Force staff.
A borders source told Mail Online : “Forged letters have been uncovered which say the passenger’s coming back for an emergency operation or other emergency treatment.
“When immigration officers phone up the doctors named on the letters, they don’t know anything about it.”
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, reportedly said that borders staff were seeing ‘upwards of 100’ faked Covid test certificates a day.
She said that many of the fakes had classic errors including spelling mistakes, with even the word ‘negative’ spelt incorrectly.
The paper says that most of the fake letters have been used by Brits who are returning to the UK.
Under the new traffic light system for foreign travel Brits returning from “green list” countries this summer will have to take one post-arrival PCR test, on day 2 after they return.
And those returning from “amber list” countries will have to take two post-arrival tests, on day 2 and day 8, as well as quarantining at home.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently admitted private PCR tests are “too expensive” in the UK and costs should be “driven down” to around half what they are now.
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