Britain records 19,790 more Covid cases and 151 deaths – more than DOUBLE last Sunday’s total of 67


Britain has recorded a further 151 Covid-19 deaths today – more than double last Sunday’s total.

Some 19,790 people tested positive for coronavirus in the UK today, marking a rise of just 16.5 per cent on the 16,982 cases reported last Sunday.

However, today’s daily death toll has skyrocketed by 125 per cent compared to the 67 deaths reported this time last week.

The 151 Covid-19 deaths across all settings – including hospitals, care homes and the wider community – reported today is the highest Sunday death toll since May 24.

Figures on Sunday are usually smaller due to a delay in processing over the weekend. 

It comes after a record 26,680 cases were reported on Wednesday, while the highest number of daily deaths last week was 241 on Tuesday.

There is usually under-reporting on weekends, however, so any decline in infections or deaths today compared to the last week must be viewed with caution. 

It comes amid tightened restrictions across the United Kingdom, particularly in Wales which has imposed a 17-day full lockdown with people only allowed out of their homes for essential items and exercise.

The number of new fatalities was at roughly 125 percent on the same day in the previous week

The number of new infections increased by around 17 percent today

The number of new infections increased by around 17 percent today

A member of the public passes the Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester, England, Thursday

A member of the public passes the Nightingale Hospital North West in Manchester, England, Thursday

In Northern Ireland a four-week tightening of restrictions, such as on household mixing, was introduced on Friday, while in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has outline five levels of coronavirus rules, similar to the English three-tiered system.

But hope was earlier delivered from across the Atlantic, as senior Donald Trump adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said that a ‘safe and effective’ vaccine could be ready by the end of next month. 

It comes as an email sent by an NHS Trust chief revealed the health service has been told to have a staff vaccine scheme ready to go by early December.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Dr Fauci confirmed a claim from US President that a vaccine was nearly ready to go.

The United States has donated $1bn toward the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, securing 400million doses, as human trials of the vaccine started in the States last month. 

The UK Government has pre-ordered 100million doses of the trial’s vaccine, should it be safe to use.  

Dr Fauci told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ‘We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, the beginning of December.

Speaking on BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, Dr Fauci said a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year, but most of the public would not have access to it until late 2021

Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, Dr Fauci said a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year, but most of the public would not have access to it until late 2021

Plans are being drawn up for frontline NHS staff to receive a coronavirus vaccine within weeks, as the Government moves to accelerate the timetable for a mass roll-out. An email sent by an NHS Trust chief to his staff, seen by The Mail on Sunday, reveals the Health Service is preparing for a national vaccination programme before Christmas. (Above, the memo, sent by Glen Burley, chief executive of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire)

Plans are being drawn up for frontline NHS staff to receive a coronavirus vaccine within weeks, as the Government moves to accelerate the timetable for a mass roll-out. An email sent by an NHS Trust chief to his staff, seen by The Mail on Sunday, reveals the Health Service is preparing for a national vaccination programme before Christmas. (Above, the memo, sent by Glen Burley, chief executive of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire)

‘But the question is, once you have a safe and effective vaccine, or more than one, how can you get it to the people who need it as quickly as possible?

‘The amount of doses that will be available in December will not certainly be enough to vaccinate everybody, you’ll have to wait several months into 2021.’

Dr Fauci’s comments come after it was revealed that the Government has introduced new laws that would allow the UK to bypass the EU approval process if a safe and effective jab is ready before the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 31.

The move will boost optimism that a ‘game-changing’ vaccine will soon allow Boris Johnson to relax the social restrictions which have crippled the country since March.

A memo from Glen Burley, chief executive of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire, suggested NHS staff would be receiving a vaccine before Christmas. In a memo to staff, he wrote: ‘Our Trust, alongside NHS organisations nationally, has been told to be prepared to start a Covid-19 staff vaccine programme in early December. 

‘The latest intelligence states a coronavirus vaccine should be available this year with NHS staff prioritised prior to Christmas.’

He said healthcare workers will likely be prioritised first for any vaccine, as well as people considered at increased risk of complications.

Dr Fauci's comments came after it was revealed that the Government has introduced new laws that would allow the UK to bypass the EU approval process if a safe and effective jab is ready before the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 31

Dr Fauci’s comments came after it was revealed that the Government has introduced new laws that would allow the UK to bypass the EU approval process if a safe and effective jab is ready before the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 31

Dr Fauci was asked for his thoughts after Donald Trump, speaking at a US presidential debate earlier this week, Mr Trump said a vaccine would be ready ‘by the end of the year’. 

Dr Fauci said most Brits would not receive a vaccine until later in 2021.

He said: ‘That could start by the end of this year, the beginning of January, February, March of next year.

‘When you talk about vaccinating a substantial proportion of the population, so that you can have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak, that very likely will not be in to the second or third quarter.’ 

Mr Burley added that the vaccine was ‘expected to be given in two doses, 28 days apart’ and urged his colleagues to have had their flu shot by the end of November so they can qualify for a Covid-19 jab.

Diane Wake, chief executive of the Dudley Group NHS Trust, told a recent hospital board meeting: ‘I’m hoping for a Covid-19 vaccine to be available to healthcare providers some time in December. It has not been confirmed yet but I’m hoping to be able to offer a Covid-19 vaccine to our staff.’

In other developments related to Covid:

  • Elderly Covid patients were denied intensive care during the height of the pandemic. It’s been revealed a triage tool drawn up at the request of England’s chief medical officer stopped over 80s from receiving potentially life-saving treatment in a bid to try and stop the NHS from being overrun;
  • Welsh ministers have admitted a ban on shops selling non-essential items is not working, while threatening to impose another ‘firebreak’ lockdown after Christmas; 
  • Professor Neil Ferguson, the controversial academic whose modelling heavily influenced the national lockdown in March, was accused of scaremongering after saying that people ‘will catch Covid-19 and die’ if families are allowed to mix on Christmas Day;
  • As 1.4 million people across South Yorkshire were plunged into the highest Tier 3 restrictions, another 151 deaths and 16,982 new cases were announced Sunday;
  • Hotel tycoon Sir Rocco Forte called for Matt Hancock to be sacked for his ‘shambolic’ handling of the crisis as a poll found 49 per cent of people think the Health Secretary breached a drinks curfew in a Commons bar, compared with just nine per cent who thought he did not;
  • Rishi Sunak has asked Treasury officials to find ways of illustrating the crippling financial toll of the pandemic and is pushing to publish it alongside the statistics for cases and deaths;
  • Banks faced fury as it emerged Barclays has set aside £745 million for bonuses, more than last year, and Lloyds will let most of its 65,000 employees work from home until at least next spring;
  • Psychologists said Covid-19 may cause birth rates to fall, people to stay single for longer and for women to become more promiscuous;
  • The global death toll exceeded 1,147,000, while police fought with young protesters angry at restrictions in the Italian city of Naples and the Polish president Andrzej Duda revealed that he had tested positive for the virus.
Clinical staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while caring for a patient in the Intensive Care unit (ICU) on May 5 at the Royal Papworth Hospital, operated by the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in Cambridge

Clinical staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) while caring for a patient in the Intensive Care unit (ICU) on May 5 at the Royal Papworth Hospital, operated by the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in Cambridge 

Despite facing continued criticism, Mr Hancock has pushed through new laws to strip the European Medicines Agency of the power to approve the vaccine if it is ready before the end of December. Instead, British watchdogs will be able to fast-track its production.

A health official said: ‘Although we still think it most likely that the vaccine will be ready early next year, Matt wants the freedom to operate if it all moves more quickly.’

The official added that under changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, which took effect on October 16, the UK was ‘no longer beholden to the EU process if a vaccine is developed before 2021 and has strong evidence proving it is safe, high quality and effective’.

They added: ‘Should a vaccine be available before the end of the year, we have put in place robust measures to allow the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to authorise the vaccine for UK patients. This will only happen if there is a strong public health justification and the EU process is taking too long.’

The regulator will have autonomy to approve vaccines for the UK from 2021 in any case.

A senior Government source said: ‘We have made sure that if a vaccine is proven safe and effective we won’t be held back from deploying it by the need for approval from Brussels.’

Despite facing continued criticism, Mr Hancock has pushed through new laws to strip the European Medicines Agency of the power to approve the vaccine if it is ready before the end of December. Instead, British watchdogs will be able to fast-track its production. (File image of an experimental Covid medicine being tested)

Despite facing continued criticism, Mr Hancock has pushed through new laws to strip the European Medicines Agency of the power to approve the vaccine if it is ready before the end of December. Instead, British watchdogs will be able to fast-track its production. (File image of an experimental Covid medicine being tested)

NHS staff are most likely to receive the vaccine being developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which is in the final stages of trials.

The Government has already bought 100 million doses of the drug, which is administered in two doses. Under Government plans, frontline NHS staff and care home workers will be vaccinated first, followed by those aged over 80.

Human trials of the Oxford vaccine have been under way since April, involving about 20,000 volunteers worldwide. Scientists have reported a ‘robust immune response’ and no serious side-effects.

Last night, David Eltringham, managing director at George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, said: ‘We don’t have a definite date for delivery of the vaccine, but we are making ready to deploy the vaccine from the beginning of December.’ 

Oxford’s Covid jab ‘has only been tested on 500 over-70s’

By STEPHEN ADAMS for the Mail On Sunday 

Britain’s front-running Covid vaccine has only been tested on about 500 elderly people in this country, raising questions about how effective it might be for a vital section of the population.

There are high hopes for Oxford University’s ‘ChAdOx’ jab but only 1,000 or so of the 10,000 people recruited to the UK arm of Oxford’s trial are aged 70 or over. Half of them have been given the vaccine and half have had a placebo.

Last night, former immunisation ‘tsar’ Professor David Salisbury said the relatively small numbers might not be enough to generate a meaningful result.

‘Clearly, if you’ve just got 500 vaccinated and you’ve given 500 the placebo and you are looking to see a significant difference in protection between the two… you may not get much out, in terms of data,’ he said.

However, he added that early results appeared to show that older people given Covid vaccines developed good immune responses, so he was hopeful they would work well in the elderly.

The issue is critical because the virus is much more deadly in older people. An 80-year-old is about 1,000 times more likely to die of the virus than a 20-year-old, while five out of every six Covid-related deaths have been in the over-70s.

Earlier this month, Kate Bingham, head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, gave a clear signal that Covid vaccination is to be aimed at older people, even though vaccines are often less effective in that group as their immune systems tend to respond less strongly.

For example, the flu vaccine given in 2016-17 was completely ineffective in the over-65s, according to data from Public Health England. It did, however, work well in younger people.

As Oxford’s Covid vaccine works in a different way, there is no specific reason to believe it will be a dud in the elderly but all the leading jab contenders are acutely aware of the issue.

Oxford has launched parallel trials in Brazil, South Africa and the US – but only the American ‘arm’ is enrolling over-65s. AstraZeneca, which is handling the US trial enquiries, refused to say how many over-65s have been recruited there so far.



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Baby deaths ‘cluster’ at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital prompts official review


Health authorities have launched a review into a “cluster” of baby deaths at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital after a parliamentary committee heard a lack of infant heart and life support services was to blame.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor John Svigos on Tuesday gave evidence that the deaths of three babies over the past month could have been prevented.

Doctors’ union official Bernadette Mulholland told the committee a fourth baby had died last week, also due to the lack of services.

Professor Svigos said the infants could have been saved if the right treatment were available at Adelaide’s central hospital for children.

He said Adelaide was the only mainland state capital city that does not offer heart surgery or external oxygenation machines (ECMOs) for babies and children, and the usual process of referring infants to a Melbourne cardiac unit was “no longer tenable” because of the COVID-19 situation.

SASMOA officer Bernadette Mulholland gave evidence to the committee.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Health Minister Stephen Wade announced this morning that SA Health would launch a review into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

“There has been a cluster of paediatric cardiac incidents in recent weeks, the deaths of children,” Mr Wade said.

“We’re very sad, our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

“I’ve asked the Chief Medical Officer [Dr Mike Cusack] … to work with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital to review these cases, to see what we can learn.”

Dr Cusack said between six and 10 babies with significant heart abnormalities were usually born in SA each year, and that the deaths needed to be investigated.

“As a parent, whenever you read about adverse events in children, it’s always hard to read, and so my heart really does go out to each of the parents.

“Had we provided the very best available care for those children and their families? And what are the lessons learnt?”

But Dr Cusack said, from the information he had at this stage, there was no evidence of any “lapses in care or things that should have been done”.

He said the review would take between two and four weeks and would have a particular focus on the impact of COVID-19 on usual practice.

Business case warned of avoidable death

The State Opposition claims a leaked document shows the Government was advised to introduce cardiac surgery at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for more than a year before the four babies died.

Labor spokesperson Chris Picton said a business case, prepared by doctors last year, also claimed the lack of cardiac surgery had contributed to at least one avoidable death and several near misses at the time.

The July 2019 business case, which the ABC has seen, stated that a heart surgery service at the hospital “is feasible, safe and cost-effective”.

The document warns of “avoidable mortality” as a result of the lack of an ECMO machine service there, and that “at least one avoidable death has occurred”.

The business case advises the hospital would have to recruit an experienced heart surgeon to establish the service.

It also lists “skill maintenance” as a potential problem, but argues that could be mitigated by having one surgeon perform all procedures and collaborate with adult and interstate surgical services.

Report found service ‘not viable’: Minister

But speaking on ABC Radio Adelaide earlier this morning, Mr Wade said an earlier review had rejected paediatric heart services for the hospital.

Stephen Wade wears a suit and tie
Mr Wade said an earlier review found a paediatric heart service would result in worse outcomes.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

However he said the review had recommended an ECMO machine at the hospital.

The Minister said there was a “diversity of views” among doctors at the hospital about how best to manage the issue and that the hospital’s board was capable of coming to the right solution.

He added that the board had respectfully engaged with the doctors who wrote the July 2019 business case.

He said the board was working to get “the best possible service for babies and children in South Australia”.

Mother joins call for services

Kylie Baker, who has travelled to Melbourne several times since her daughter Abby was born so she could receive life-saving heart surgery, joined the call for paediatric cardiac services to be set up in Adelaide.

A woman hugging a girl in front of playground swings
Kylie Baker and her daughter Abby.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Ms Baker said the trips took a heavy emotional and financial toll.

“If it was in Adelaide, you’ve got family, you’ve got your friends, you’ve got a support network,” she said.

She said she was devastated to learn of the four babies’ deaths.

“It’s heartbreaking and it shouldn’t be happening. These are little babies,” she said.



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Victoria records seven new coronavirus cases and no further deaths



Victoria has recorded seven new coronavirus cases and no further deaths since yesterday, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services says.

The 14-day rolling case average is now 5 in metropolitan Melbourne and 0.2 in regional Victoria.

Melbourne’s two week total of cases with an unknown source, or “mystery” cases, remains at 10.

Four cases were detected in the Preston area in Melbourne’s north, including a student at the East Preston Islamic College.

The school closed temporarily last week after a grade five student who attended classes on Monday and Tuesday tested positive for COVID-19.

Hundreds of close contacts in Melbourne’s northern suburbs have been asked to self-isolate in the past week, and more than 6,500 coronavirus tests have been conducted.

A parent at East Preston Islamic College was the only new case recorded in Victoria yesterday, but authorities said they did not have any contact with the grade five student.

Health authorities are urging families and staff at East Preston Islamic College and Croxton School to get tested immediately, even if they do not have any symptoms.

Both schools will remain closed for the next two weeks.

Testing sites have been set up across the northern suburbs of Melbourne, and a drive-through testing centre will be at the East Preston Islamic College from today.

More to come.



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US faces half a million COVID-19 deaths by end of February, study says


US President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 221,000 Americans so far, has become the top election issue for him and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Polls have shown that Americans trust Biden more than Trump to handle the crisis.

The IHME study forecast that large, populous states such as California, Texas and Florida will likely face particularly high levels of illness, deaths and demands on hospital resources.

“We expect the surge to steadily grow across different states and at the national level, and to continue to increase as we head towards high levels of daily deaths in late December and in January,” Murray said.

The modelling study, which mapped out various scenarios and their projected impact on the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic in the US, found that universal mask-wearing could have a major impact on deaths rates, potentially saving 130,000 lives.

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Current mask use in the US varies widely. While some states, like New York, set strict rules on when to wear masks, others have no requirements.

The issue has become political, in which some supporters have taken their cues from Trump, who is often seen without a mask and has repeatedly questioned their usefulness.

“Expanding mask use is one of the easy wins for the United States … and can save many lives,” Murray said.

He added that, just as right now in parts of Europe and in some local areas of high transmission in the US, many US states would need to reintroduce social distancing measures to curb the winter surge.



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Victoria records one new coronavirus case and zero deaths



Victoria has recorded one new case of coronavirus in the past 24 hours and zero deaths, the state’s health department says.

Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average for new cases is now 5.5, down from 6.1 yesterday, and there are 10 cases with an unknown source of infection from the past two weeks.

Regional Victoria’s rolling average has fallen from 0.4 yesterday to 0.3.

The new case comes as health authorities try to contain an outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs that led to around 500 people being told to self-isolate.

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A testing blitz is underway in six suburbs, including Roxburgh Park, Dallas, Broadmeadows, Preston, East Preston and West Heidelberg.

Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said he was confident the outbreak would be contained, but that it was possible more cases could emerge.

As of yesterday, there were 16 active cases across six different households linked to the cluster.

One of those active cases is a student who attended East Preston Islamic College for two days this week, believing he had been cleared to do so by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Some members of the boy’s family who had been infectious had been cleared to leave isolation, but the boy was meant to remain in quarantine.

The Deputy Chief Health Officer, Allen Cheng, said miscommunication between the DHHS and cases within large families was an issue health authorities were moving to fix.

Professor Cheng said a single DHHS case manager would now be assigned to families dealing with a coronavirus outbreak, to ensure they were receiving consistent advice about how long they needed to remain in isolation.

More to come.



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US COVID-19 single-day deaths top 1200 for first time since August


Since the pandemic reached the US earlier this year, the nation has lost more than 222,000 lives, the world’s highest total as well as one of the highest per capita death rates, especially among developed nations.

For a third consecutive day, the country reported more than 60,000 new cases, bringing the total to more than 8.3 million. The rise partly reflects stepped-up testing in many states, although higher hospitalisations and deaths are not linked to more testing.

At a drive-through testing site in a Milwaukee parking lot, residents waited to get tested in a long line of vehicles.

The autumn resurgence and dire predictions that the spread would further accelerate in the cold winter months have once again cast a harsh spotlight on President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

He will debate Democratic challenger Joe Biden for the last time before the election on Thursday night (Friday AEDT). But with less than two weeks before the election, Trump’s dismissive approach to the coronavirus has taken a toll on his re-election prospects, with polls showing Americans losing confidence of his ability to handle the pandemic.

A report released on Wednesday by Columbia University estimated that between 130,000 and 210,000 COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided in the US, calling the federal government’s response to the pandemic an “enormous failure”.

“The weight of this enormous failure ultimately falls to the leadership at the White House – and among a number of state governments – which consistently undercut the efforts of top officials at the CDC and HHS,” the report said, referring to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The White House was not immediately available to comment. Last month Trump told Fox he would give himself an “A+” on his coronavirus response.

‘Stay at work’

The spike in cases led officials in some states to reinstate restrictions on businesses to help curb further spread of the virus.

In Illinois, one of nine states that reported their highest one-day increases in cases since the start of the pandemic, some residents planned to protest a fresh round of restrictions announced this week by Governor JB Pritzker.

A petition to the Governor posted on change.org by a restaurant owner in St Charles, Illinois urged businesses to stay open on Friday, when Pritzker’s restrictions in some counties, including a ban on indoor dining, are set to go into effect.

“This is restaurant’s ‘stay at work’ order so that we can provide work and income for our employees and ourselves,” it read.

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On top of the health toll, the pandemic has weighed heavily on the finances of many Americans, who say they are barely getting by as Washington wrangles over another round of financial aid.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, but remained very high as the labor market recovery shows signs of strain as the pandemic rages on.

“There are still millions and millions on the nation’s unemployment rolls because many of the jobs lost during the steepest downturn in economic history have not yet returned,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.

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Victoria records five new coronavirus cases and no deaths as East Preston Islamic College closes for cleaning


Victoria has recorded five new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and zero deaths, the state’s health department says.

The new cases take the rolling 14-day average for Melbourne to 6.1, down from 6.2 yesterday, with 10 “mystery” cases.

In regional Victoria, the 14-day average remains at 0.4.

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As many as 300 people are self-isolating in suburbs in Melbourne’s north as health authorities try to contain an outbreak of coronavirus linked to a school.

There are 17 active cases connected to the outbreak.

The East Preston Islamic College has been closed after a student tested positive for coronavirus.(ABC News: Billy Draper)

A student at the East Preston Islamic College tested positive for the virus, and the school has now been closed for the rest of the week.

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has asked 70 families to self-isolate, and a testing blitz has begun in the suburbs of Roxburgh Park, Preston, Broadmeadows and Heidelberg West.

All  120 residents of a social housing block in Broadmeadows have been told to quarantine, and a mobile testing site has been set up at the block.

Jeroen Weimar, the DHHS’s commander of testing and community engagement, urged anyone in the area who is displaying symptoms to get tested.

“We’ve boosted all of our testing stations in the area and we’ve got additional pop-up testing locations particularly in Preston and Broadmeadows,” he said.

“We have so few cases now in Victoria that when we do see a positive case as we’ve seen in the past few weeks we’re going to bring all of our resources to bear on it and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t go any further.”

More to come.



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Victoria records three new coronavirus cases and no deaths



Victoria has recorded three new cases of coronavirus and no deaths, the state’s health department says.

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The new cases take the rolling 14-day average for Melbourne to 6.2, down from 6.4 yesterday.

There are 10 “mystery” cases, down from 13 yesterday.

In regional Victoria, the rolling 14-day average remains at 0.4.

The continued fall in the rolling average comes amid a renewed push by big business for the reopening of Victoria’s economy.

The chief executives of seven of Australia’s biggest companies — including Wesfarmers, BHP and the Commonwealth Bank —  have written an open letter to the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, calling on him to speed up the easing of restrictions on businesses.

The letter praises Victorians and health workers for their efforts in containing the spread of coronavirus, but urges the Government to push on with reopening  more workplaces.

“Victorians are hurting badly, personally and economically,” the letter says.

“Our state is facing social and economic challenges of an unprecedented scale, and which will take many years to resolve.”

“We urgently need to kickstart our economy, and as leaders of some of Victoria’s biggest businesses we want to do our bit.”

More to come.



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Lack of heart machine behind four babies’ deaths in four weeks at Adelaide hospital, committee hears


The deaths of four babies at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital in the past month could have been prevented if the right cardiac treatment had been available, a South Australian Parliament committee has heard.

John Svigos, the convenor of a group called the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Alliance, told the Select Committee on Health Services Adelaide was the only mainland state capital without onsite cardiac treatment or external oxygenation machines (ECMOs) available for babies and children.

Children who would normally have emergency transfers to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital for the treatment are currently unable to because of coronavirus restrictions on re-entering South Australia from Victoria.

Obstetrician-gynaecologist John Svigos speaks to the committee.(ABC News: Alina Eacott)

Professor Svigos said the hospital’s board needed to approve a proposal, presented 18 months ago, to have the services here.

Professor Svigos said the lack of the service at the hospital was an “erroneous decision” based on cost.

“We spend $5 million a year transferring patients,” he said.

“It would cost about $6 million to set it up and then $1 million a year to run it.”

He said within two years it would be cost-neutral to run the treatments in South Australia.

An ECMO machine connected to a patient in an ICU.
An ECMO machine in action in an intensive care unit.(Getty Images: Akiromaru)

Hospital considering purchase

The hospital’s medical director of the division of medicine, Gavin Wheaton, said it was considering the possibility of purchasing an ECMO, which he described as a lifesupport system or a form of heart-lung bypass.

Dr Wheaton could not comment on specific cases, but said the current arrangement with Sydney’s West Meade Hospital was working well.

Women's and Children's Hospital CEO Lindsey Gough.
Women’s and Children’s Hospital chief executive Lindsey Gough speaks to the media.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Women’s and Children’s Hospital chief executive Lindsey Gough said she was not in a position to comment on specific cases, but defended the hospital’s record.

“The death of any patient is extremely distressing to all of us and to all of our staff here at the network,” she said.

“We do take it very seriously and I want to reassure all of the public that our services here are safe and of a high-quality standard.”

The South Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Association chief industrial officer, Bernadette Mulholland, told the committee it was inexcusable there were no alternatives provided for the four babies to be transferred.

“Except for West Meade in Sydney, but it’s not a formal agreement, and it requires… the ability of those surgeons in Sydney to have the staff to enable the transfer,” she said.

Other concerns raised

In his evidence to the committee, Professor Svigos also outlined several other concerns about the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

They included what he said was outdated equipment and a lack of consultation around the hospital’s proposed replacement in the CBD.

Ms Mulholland also said staff were feeling burnt out and were struggling “to understand the logic in the cost-saving exercises, the lack of replacement for equipment, and the danger that [presents] to the babies and women of this state using this particular hospital”.

The hospital’s new site next to the Royal Adelaide Hospital is not expected to be ready for patients until the 2025–26 financial year.



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