Coronavirus: Prisoner at Maghaberry isolated after testing positive


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Michael Cooper/pa

A prisoner has tested positive for Covid-19 for the first time in Northern Ireland.

The man was remanded in custody to Maghaberry Prison on Thursday.

He was separated from the main prisoner population to ensure the safety of staff and other inmates.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice (DoJ) said he was being cared for by prison staff and staff from the South Eastern Trust.

His family have also been informed.

In a statement, the DoJ confirmed it was the first positive test of a prisoner in Northern Ireland.

“The robust processes put in place in response to the pandemic have ensured this has been contained, and the Prison Service will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of everyone in our prisons during these challenging times,” the statement said.

Maghaberry Prison is the only Category ‘A’ prison in Northern Ireland and also operates as a remand prison for all adult male prisoners.

Belfast venue closed

Meanwhile, a licensed premises in Belfast has closed after receiving a PSNI prohibition notice on Saturday night.

In a tweet, Chief Constable Simon Byrne said the venue was shut down for breaching Covid-19 regulations.

Image copyright
PSNI

Image caption

Chief Constable Simon Byrne and Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride joined a PSNI licensing officer to inspect Belfast City Centre bars and restaurants on Saturday night

Mr Byrne and the Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride joined PSNI officers on routine patrol and licensing checks of bars and restaurants in Belfast city centre.

He said the vast majority were complying with the regulations.

A prohibition notice requires a premises to stop what enforcement officers consider to be unsafe activity – in this case, breaches of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations NI 2020.

The notice means the venue must close and remain shut until police are satisfied it can reopen safely.

Police have previously issued prohibition notices to licensed premises in Banbridge, Irvinestown, Roslea, Tempo, Coleraine, Bangor and Moy.

Health Minister Robin Swann has said he wants to prioritise stronger legislation to deal with the issue.

Meanwhile, daily Covid-19 testing figures released on Saturday showed a significant number of new cases on both sides of the Irish border.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said 118 new cases have been reported in the past 24 hours.

Its weekend figures are not full statistics and it do not provide details of coronavirus-related deaths.

In the Republic of Ireland, 231 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed.

More than half (58%) of the new infections recorded in the Republic were in Dublin, with 133 positive tests in the county.

Ireland’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn described that as a “significant number” and said it was now “important that people in Dublin keep their social contacts as low as possible”.

On Saturday evening, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin urged people to “heed the words” of Mr Glynn.

Irish health authorities have opened two “pop-up Covid-19 swabbing centres” at Croke Park and at Castleknock Health Centre in response to the increase in the infection rate in the capital.

County Kildare, which recently emerged from a local lockdown, had the second highest number of new cases on Saturday with 18 positive tests.

This was followed by County Limerick which has 13 new cases.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

More than 250,000 people have been tested in NI

Overall, more than two thirds (69%) of the new cases recorded by the Irish Health Protection Surveillance Centre are people under 45 years of age.

No new coronavirus-related deaths were reported on Saturday so the Republic’s death toll remains at 1,777.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health’s death toll stands at 564.

However, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra), which produces more comprehensive figures, said on Friday that Covid-19 had been mentioned on 873 death certificates by 28 August.

Since the pandemic began, 250,425 individuals have been tested for Covid-19 across Northern Ireland.

Of those, 7,621 people have tested positive for the virus, meaning that about 3% of the individuals tested have returned a positive result.



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NIMH » Why Testing is the Key to Getting Back to Normal



This piece was authored in collaboration with the leadership across NIH and represents a unified effort to meet the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic with excellence and innovation.

One thing we know for sure — every single person can help our country control the COVID-19 pandemic. From wearing a mask to washing your hands to maintaining physical distance and avoiding large indoor gatherings, each of us can follow proven public health practices that not only reduce our own chance of getting infected by SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes coronavirus disease, or COVID-19), but also prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our coworkers, friends and loved ones. Another thing that will help is testing as many people as possible.

Testing for COVID-19 is so important that in April 2020, the NIH launched the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Initiative to develop rapid, easy-to-use, accurate testing and make it available nationwide. As part of this effort, the RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program is about finding solutions to stop the spread of COVID-19, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable populations that have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic. Previously, we reported about the launch of this project and our plans to develop community-based approaches to study how best to implement testing and prevention strategies for populations who are disproportionately affected by, have the highest infection rates of, or are most at risk for complications or poor outcomes from COVID-19.

Scientists from the NIH and across the country are working around the clock to establish programs that will ensure access to and acceptance of rapid and reliable testing around the country. Testing can help people determine if they are infected with SARS-CoV-2 — regardless of whether they have symptoms — and whether they are at risk of spreading the infection to others. Taking measures to prevent the spread of infection will be the most effective strategy for getting us safely back to work and school.

We want to take this opportunity to articulate why widespread testing is necessary, important, and achievable.

  1. 1. Testing saves lives

    Testing of all people for SARS-CoV-2, including those who have no symptoms, who show symptoms of infection such as trouble breathing, fever, sore throat or loss of the sense of smell and taste, and who may have been exposed to the virus will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by identifying people who are in need of care in a timely fashion. A positive test early in the course of the illness enables individuals to isolate themselves — reducing the chances that they will infect others and allowing them to seek treatment earlier, likely reducing disease severity and the risk of long-term disability, or death.

    Testing of people who have been in contact with others who have a documented infection is also important. A negative test doesn’t mean you’re in the clear; you could become infectious later. Therefore, even if you test negative, you need to continue to protect yourself and others by washing your hands frequently, physically distancing, and wearing a face mask. A positive test makes it clear that you have to isolate yourself, and that others with whom you have been in contact since the time of your exposure should also get tested.

    Since it is recognized that nearly half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections are transmitted by people who are not showing any symptoms, identifying infected individuals while they are presymptomatic, as well as those who are asymptomatic, will play a major role in stopping the pandemic.

  2. 2. Testing can be easy and quick

    Initially, the only test available required getting a sample from the back of a person’s throat. New developments, some of which are supported by two other NIH projects, RADx Tech and RADx-ATP (Advanced Technology Platforms), will provide more comfortable and equally accurate tests that obtain the sample from inside the nose. On the horizon for large-scale use are tests that will use a simple mouth swab or a saliva sample. 

    A positive test for SARS-CoV-2 alerts an individual that they have the infection. Not only can they get treated faster, but they can take steps to minimize the spread of the virus.

    This is why it is so important to get the test results quickly, ideally within a few hours or less.

    Early in the pandemic, there was not enough capacity and limited supplies to collect and process the tests, which resulted in delays. However, lab equipment has improved, capacity and supply have expanded, and results are being returned, on average, within 3-4 days. In fact, point-of-care tests will be available that provide a result in less than 15 minutes!

  3. 3. Testing matters more in the communities affected the most

    Communities of color are disproportionately burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some individuals in these communities are essential workers, who cannot work from home, increasing their risk of being exposed to the virus. In addition, multi-generational living situations or multi-family housing arrangements can allow the virus to spread more quickly if one household member gets infected. Comorbid conditions that worsen the health risks of COVID-19, such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes, are also more common in minority communities because of long-standing societal and environmental factors and impediments to healthcare access. Therefore, COVID-19 can spread quickly in these communities, and the impact of that spread is great. Testing, particularly of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals, is key to interrupting this spread.

Unfortunately, there still is a lot of confusion about where to get a test and who should get tested. It is becoming clear that for a person to test positive, they have to have a significant amount of the virus in their system. This means that if you have no symptoms but think or were told that you were in contact with a person with COVID-19, you should isolate yourself immediately, call your health care provider, and then get a test. If you have any questions, always call your health care provider or local county public health office. You can also contact the CDC Hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

Staying informed is essential. We encourage you to look to up-to-date, trusted sources of information about COVID-19, such as resources from the NIH website or MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine’s consumer information resource. 

Over the next few months, you’ll have opportunities, such as those listed at the NIH’s vaccine trial sites, to help scientists discover if the vaccines being evaluated now are effective. If you become ill with COVID-19, you can participate in clinical trials underway to develop and evaluate a wide range of potential treatments, as well as several possible vaccines. So that these therapies will work for everyone, it is important for people from diverse communities across the country to participate in this research. We hope that in the not too distant future, these efforts will lead to therapies that will put an end to the pandemic.

In the meantime, let’s all continue to protect ourselves and others from getting infected, and get tested if you believe you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. 

Top Row (left to right):
Diana W. Bianchi, M.D., Director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 
Patricia Flatley Brennan, R.N., Ph.D., Director, National Library of Medicine
Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., Director, National Institute of Mental Health

Middle Row (left to right):
Richard J. Hodes, M.D., Director, National Institute on Aging
Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D., Director, National Institute of General Medical Sciences
George A. Mensah, M.D., Division Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., Director, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Bottom Row (left to right):
William Riley, Ph.D., Director, NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research
Tara A. Schwetz, Ph.D., Associate Deputy Director, National Institutes of Health and Acting Director, National Institute of Nursing Research
Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse



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Coronavirus: Former Italy PM Silvio Berlusconi in hospital after testing positive | World News


Italy’s former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has been admitted to hospital with double pneumonia after testing positive for coronavirus.

Mr Berlusconi, who will be 84 later this month, was admitted to San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on Friday as a precautionary measure.

He has not been admitted into intensive care.

After a CT scan found that he has early-stage double pneumonia, one of his top aides, Lucia Ronzulli, said he “passed the night well”.

Double pneumonia, which is the inflammation of both lungs, is a complication of COVID-19 – the disease is typically more severe among the elderly and those who have other medical conditions.

Image:
Mr Berlusconi has said he will continue to campaign for regional elections

Before his hospitalisation, Mr Berlusconi had said he was only experiencing a fever along with some muscle and bone pain, adding: “But it passed.”

Italian media have reported that he will be isolating in a floor of the hospital set aside for VIPs.

Mr Berlusconi has suffered from several medical issues in the past, including prostate cancer and heart problems which saw him undergo heart surgery in 2016.



Flypast in Italy



Italian flypast pays tribute to virus victims

Both his girlfriend and two children tested positive for coronavirus. After he tested positive, he said he realised “more than ever how grave” the pandemic is.

He added: “I’m aware of how much sorrow it has sowed in so many families, of how much pain it has caused so many people.

“I think of all those who aren’t here any more, I think of those who lost their loved ones.”

He is said to have spent his summer at his villa on Sardinia’s Emerald Coast. Many of Italy’s recent coronavirus cases have been linked to clusters of people holidaying in Sardinia.



A grandfather and daughter reunite



Italians rejoice as lockdown is lifted

The former Italian PM has said he will keep campaigning for upcoming regional elections for the centre-right party, Forza Italia, which he created more than 25 years ago.

Regional elections will be held on 21-22 September, after being postponed due to the pandemic.

Mr Berlusconi, who has served as Italy’s PM four times, lost his senate seat in 2013 after being convicted of tax fraud.

Last year he was appointed as a lawmaker at the European Parliament.



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LETTERS: Turns out testing poo is not a wasteful idea


WELL, who knew poo could reveal so much?

I mean, we know authorities can pinpoint ice hot spots in Queensland through sewage checks and then set up raids to rid towns of the drug.

But the ability to detect a coronavirus case from sewage is kind of astounding.

We have no idea whether the virus fragment comes from an infectious person with symptoms, who has not been tested, or an infectious person who is asymptomatic.

It could even be someone shedding the virus who is no longer infectious.

Regardless, it’s fascinating. And the lightning fast ability to set up fever clinics is impressive too – two pop-up clinics in Airlie Beach right away.

Congrats must go to Mackay Hospital and Health Service for that feat.

But if you’re in the Whitsundays and you have even the hint of a cough or cold, do us all a favour and get one of those sticks shoved up your nose.

And for goodness sake, stay home until you have the test results back.

We’ll all sleep better at night knowing you have.

Rae Wilson, editor

Catch up on the article here:

ALERT: Sewer sleuths find virus in tourist hotspot

Great to catch up

STILL miss the old time paper.

Reading your bylines in the Courier Mail is not the same. Seems to lack that personal touch of the past.

So many oldies lost through not reading the funeral notices and then asking about a person who has passed away – embarrassing scene.

Miss sending letters to the paper, though you probably don’t miss them at all.

Enough griping from me and all the best to the gang because I do read the Courier Mail to try and catch up on your stories as well as being online

Patricia Russell, Mackay

Editor’s note: Great to hear from you, Patricia, and thanks for keeping an eye out for our bylines. Keep those letters coming, it’s always lovely to hear from our locals. As for the funeral notices, we’re hoping to get them onto a page in the Digital Edition soon. We’ve been talking to the funeral homes in recent weeks. – Rae Wilson

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Collinsville power station

IT IS good that Dawson MP George Christensen wants jobs for his constituents (Collinsville coal result a win for regional Queensland, DM 2/9/20).

But he should not mislead them.

An independent report by PWC called The Future of Energy – Australia’s Energy Choice concluded that new High-Efficiency Low-Emissions coal plants would result in a poorer economic outcome than renewables.

Any proper feasibility study will reach the same conclusion.

BHP has announced a transition from coal-fired power to renewables.

The Collinsville power station will not be built.

Mr Christensen needs to accept this and work to create real jobs with a real future.

In the energy sector, these jobs are clearly in renewables.

Ray Peck, Hawthorn, Victoria

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State election

WITH the State Election about to take place, I believe all voters should consider the following when casting their vote.

Instead of just a party vote, ask yourself has the present member in your electorate’s performance rating been poor, average, good, excellent?

Do they follow up on local issues like roads, housing, medical, schools, etc?

Do they get out and meet the people at events, or are they just seen on TV standing behind their leaders nodding at every word said?

Are they outspoken in parliament or just party parrots?

Are there other candidates that have been in positions that render them for consideration? Remember if a party secures enough seats, the leader becomes premier.

We have a crime wave in Queensland, the police catch people, waste their time going to crimes and the judges let them go free to steal, assault, etc.

This must stop now. Enough is enough. Laws must be passed and judges must get real.

As an example, if you are caught drink-driving (no accident or injury) at present, you get the book thrown at you.

Bert Cave, North Mackay

Send your letters to news@dailymercury.com.au





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Coronavirus: Airlines call for US-UK ‘testing trial’ to resume more international flights | Business News


Airlines have called on the US and UK governments to launch a passenger testing trial for flights between New York and London, as a way to get closer to normal travel.

Executives of Airlines For America, Airlines UK, Heathrow Airport, and Virgin Atlantic said “passenger testing solutions in air travel” between New York and London should be in place by the end of the month to “gather real world evidence and data”.

In a letter seen by Reuters news agency, they wrote: “We believe that in the immediate absence of a vaccine, testing of passengers in aviation provides the best and most effective frontline defence.”







August: Heathrow’s coronavirus testing plan explained

There were more than 14,000 flights between New York’s JFK airport and London Heathrow last year, making it the busiest international long-haul route in the world.

However, under coronavirus restrictions, Britons cannot enter the US directly from the UK and those travelling from the US to the UK must isolate for two weeks on their arrival.

Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president at Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines Co, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, said: “One of the key steps to recovery is setting up an international pilot programme between the US and either Europe, Canada, somewhere in the Pacific.”

Such a programme could help eliminate some of the international quarantines currently in place, she added.

The US has, by far, the highest number of coronavirus deaths and infections in the world – according to a tally by US university Johns Hopkins, 186,000 people in the country have died and more than six million have returned a positive test.



Passengers wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, arrive at Heathrow airport, west London, on July 10, 2020. - The British government on Friday revealed the first exemptions from its coronavirus quarantine, with arrivals from Germany, France, Spain and Italy no longer required to self-isolate from July 10. Since June 8, it has required all overseas arrivals -- including UK residents -- to self-quarantine to avoid the risk of importing new cases from abroad. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)



Heathrow chief executive: ‘Virus test passengers twice’

New York was initially the epicentre of cases in the US but its rate of infection is now among the lowest in the country.

However, there would need to be a way of dealing with passengers coming to New York from other parts of the US that are more badly affected.

The US Transportation Department said it “stands ready to support the safe resumption of international flights between the US and Europe”.

“Conversations are ongoing between the federal government, international partners, and industry stakeholders on these matters,” it added.

The UK government would not comment.

The possibility of quarantine-free travel between London and New York was first reported late last month, when the Department for Transport said: “We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review, and will not add a country to our travel corridor list unless safe to do so.”



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Health Canada changes course on COVID-19 testing at home


Health Canada is willing to consider approving home COVID-19 tests to screen for the virus, a spokesperson for the minister of health told Reuters, in a win for public health experts and doctors who have argued that frequent and inexpensive testing could beat back the pandemic.

The health ministry had previously said it was concerned that people might misuse home tests or misinterpret the results.

“In response to the evolution of the pandemic, Health Canada is now considering applications for home testing devices for screening purposes,” said Cole Davidson, spokesperson for the minister of health said in a statement.

In June of this year, Health Canada had indicated that it would not review applications for home test kits, as at that time, “the Department’s position was in relation to the use of home tests for diagnostic purposes,” the statement said.

Screening tests are meant to monitor large groups of seemingly healthy people for illness, while diagnostic tests investigate symptoms.

The change could allow for self collection, where samples are sent to a lab for processing, and spur the development of new tests to detect the virus at home.

Njoo says there ‘might be a place’ for home tests

Home tests may be more likely to miss positive cases than the laboratory tests. Regulators generally want those errors to be very rare, since patients who do not realize they are contagious could spread the virus.

But advocates argue that cheap, rapid tests could more than make up for any reduced sensitivity if they can be used to test many people daily or weekly, and are very unlikely to miss people who are sick enough to be contagious.

Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, said PCR testing (also known as polymerase chain reaction testing) remains the gold standard. That’s the nose or throat swab test which, after laboratory analysis, tells health officials if someone currently has COVID-19. 

“It’s very important to critically get the result right. For example, a sick person in intensive care in the hospital or, for example, someone who is symptomatic in a long term care facility — you want to use the PCR,” he said during a briefing in Ottawa Tuesday.

“Where I think there might be a place for other types of testing modalities, other technologies, is where certain types of testing might be done — for example, screening on a regular basis in workplaces or other contexts.”

Rapid COVID-19 tests similar to home pregnancy tests exist as prototypes in research labs, but until last week none were approved or manufactured at scale.

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a $5 rapid COVID-19 test about the size of a credit card, made by Abbott Laboratories. The test cannot be taken alone, but it can be administered by a wide variety of health-care providers and technicians.

Abbott has not applied to sell the device in Canada, public application data shows.



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Victoria’s falling coronavirus testing rate threatens efforts against second wave, Chief Health Officer warns


Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has flagged serious concerns about a fall in the number of people getting tested for coronavirus, just as the state attempts to put the tail end of its deadly second wave behind it.

The daily figure of 10,153 tests reported on Tuesday was the lowest since 8,149 tests were reported on June 23, near the beginning of the second wave.

“That’s not enough. I know there’s more respiratory illness out there,” Professor Sutton said.

“So we do need everyone who’s got compatible symptoms — runny nose, a sore throat, a cough, shortness of breath, fever, but even headache and fatigue, change in smell and in taste … to step up for testing.”

Drop in cases may be fuelling complacency

Victoria’s average daily number of tests has been slowly falling since late July when it was sitting at about 25,000 for several weeks.

On Tuesday, authorities reported 70 new cases and five deaths, and the Premier announced two separate roadmaps were being developed to begin lifting restrictions in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Professor Sutton said the downward trend of infections in the community should not lead Victorians to believe testing wasn’t important.

“These are low numbers,” he said.

“It can cause complacency for people who think, ‘I don’t need to test. There’s not enough virus out there.’

“It is a concern if testing numbers were to continue to drop because it’s one of our really significant tools in managing this.”

If infections are flying under the radar, they could explode when restrictions lift

Professor Sutton said it was critical health authorities were able to pick up as many undetected chains of community transmission as possible before they began to relax restrictions.

“If we’re not aware of those chains of transmission, if we’re not aware of those hidden cases because people haven’t come forward for testing, then they will persist and then accelerate as we ease restrictions,” he said.

“If we only detect them when they’re large outbreaks, it means that there’s much more community transmission out there.

“And even though we can identify and get on top of outbreaks, it does become really challenging if there’s widespread community transmission.”

The Victorian Government is offering a $450 payment to people who lose their only income while they self-isolate after a test.(ABC News: Nicole Asher)

Professor Sutton said unknown community transmission was happening around the world, including in New South Wales where he said intensive contact tracing had been underway for two months to prevent outbreaks from growing.

“The very best thing that we can do is drive these numbers down to the lowest possible level,” he said.

Premier says many test results are returned within 24 hours

Professor Sutton said there were more than 190 testing sites across Victoria, and they were listed on the health department’s website.

“There’s no place in Victoria where you have to travel too far,” he said.

“And for some people who need to be tested at home, we’ve got a service that can test people at home.”

A line of cars near a sign with COVID-19 testing on it.
There are several drive-through testing sites at shopping centres and health services across the state.(ABC News: Gemma Hall, file photo)

Premier Daniel Andrews tests were being processed “faster than ever”, with many people receiving their results within 24 hours.

He said it was “absolutely critical” the state had the clearest possible picture of the spread of the virus so it could avoid a lurch back into tough restrictions after September 13.

“In many respects, the most important point is a very simple one,” he said.

“Please get tested. It is so important, so, so important.”



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Mernda coronavirus testing centre targeted in arson attack


Police are investigating a late-night arson attack at a coronavirus testing station in Melbourne’s northeast.

Emergency services were called to Waterview Recreation Reserve in Mernda about 10.40pm last night following a call to triple-zero which reported the suspicious fire.

The CFA said three trucks attended and the blaze was put out before 11pm.

The fire to the wall of the marquee was about 1m high.

A security guard suffered smoke inhalation.

Victoria Police has been contacted for comment.

MORE NEWS

CRUCIAL VOTE ON STATE OF EMERGENCY LOOMS

THE RESTRICTIONS LIKELY TO BE EASED FIRST IN MELBOURNE

Originally published as COVID-19 testing centre set on fire in arson attack



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A.C.T. Government announces intent for permanent pill testing site


The A.C.T. Greens have made a progressive move towards drug decriminalisation and treating drug use as a health issue, writes Chris Mordd Richards.

THE A.C.T. IS SET to potentially trial a fixed location pill testing site in the city this summer in a bold move to address the health issue of pill taking, without trying to arrest their way out of it.

The A.C.T. Greens proudly announced on Thursday 20 August that they ‘have secured a commitment from A.C.T. Labor to explore a permanent pill-testing site in the A.C.T. this summer’.

This would be an Australian and an A.C.T. first, building on the success of two previous trials of pill testing facilities at music festivals in Canberra, specifically at Groovin the Moo, as IA has previously reported on.

A.C.T. Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said on Thursday at the announcement:

The A.C.T. Greens are pleased today to have secured a commitment from our government colleagues to extend pill-testing from only music festivals to a more regular weekend service in the city, this summer, informed by expert health advice.

 

The reality is, people don’t just take pills at music festivals. A routine pill-testing site will continue to build on the success of previous pill testing trials at music festivals here in the A.C.T. and help keep more young lives safe.

 

 This decision today means that over the coming summer, as we look to potentially eased restrictions, we’ll be able to provide more supports so that young people can experience less harm as a result of recreational drug use.

IA spoke with Andrew Braddock, the Greens candidate for Yerrabi in the 2020 A.C.T. Election, about how the trial might work in practice:

“The aim is to start this plan over this summer, the exact starting date is yet to be determined but it would aim to commence in 2020. It will run for a period of months over the summer period, which tends to be the period that pill-taking increases.”

The facility would be open Friday through Sunday, to cover the busier weekend period when pills are more likely to be used, although the exact hours it would be open on those days is still to be decided.

The benefits of pill testing

When asked what kind of staffing mix would work at the centre (such as nurses, social workers and counsellors), Braddock said:

“We have a commitment that there will be public health staff there, what the exact skillset looks like has not been determined. There would also be other staff from partners such as NightCrew, who already have a pop-up facility providing services to those with alcohol inebriation.”

It has not been determined either if the A.C.T. would purchase their own expensive testing equipment to use at the facility, although the nature of the trial strongly suggests the Government would attempt to lease or hire instead of purchasing outright if that was possible and more cost-viable.

On the question of an arrangement with A.C.T. Police regarding an amnesty zone around the clinic so punters aren’t arrested specifically on their way to get a pill tested, Braddock said:

We’ve already had very good cooperation with the A.C.T. Police in terms of their conduct for pill testing at the festivals, we would look to be able to continue that in terms of this new permanent facility.

 

The exact nature of what that might look like would probably be very similar to what was currently in place at the festivals, however that will still need to be sorted out with the police.

In terms of the potential location of the testing centre, Braddock says there have been initial suggestions to locate it near the current NightCrew operations, by Civic Bus Station Platform #8. This is still to be determined, however, like the other details.

The A.C.T. Greens have advocated for a routine pill-testing site as a health service for many years now.

Current drug laws contribute to unnecessary deaths

It is a coup indeed to have convinced A.C.T. Labor to come on board with the initiative after many years of lobbying, although the upcoming A.C.T. Election in October is clearly weighing on the Government’s mind in making this decision at this particular moment.

More details on this announcement are not available yet until after the A.C.T. Election and are entirely dependent on A.C.T. Labor forming government again and going ahead with an exploratory phase ahead of the actual trial taking place.

The Canberra Liberals are yet to respond to this announcement in terms of whether they would also support such a trial if they were to form government for the first time in 19 years in the A.C.T. after this election.

This commitment is set to be a vote winner among 18-30+-year-old voters in the A.C.T. among those most likely to be taking pills. It might even attract some Greens voters to vote Labor instead to ensure this does go ahead under a re-elected Labor Government.

Whether the Federal Government would seek to interfere somehow, as they have previously threatened over the legalised cannabis legislation in the A.C.T., is also unclear at this stage.

What is clear is that the A.C.T. is leading the pack in terms of drug decriminalisation and treating drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue.

The rest of Australia will surely be watching the experiment keenly to see what can be gleaned from it, just like when the first injecting room was opened in Kings Cross all those years ago.

You can follow Chris Mordd Richards on Twitter @Mordd_IndyMedia.

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Queensland records one new case of coronavirus in Brisbane suburb of Forest Lake after spike in testing rates


Queensland has recorded one new case of coronavirus today.

The person is a close contact of an existing case and lives in Forest Lake.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the latest case was “already in quarantine and therefore not posing an ongoing infection risk to the community”.

He thanked the 20,856 Queenslanders who were tested for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

“The highest number in a 24-hour period we have recorded throughout the pandemic,” he said.

“To have just one of those return positive is fantastic news.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the number was a record for Queensland.

“We want to ensure that we keep these rates up,” she said.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said there had not been any sign of community transmission yet as a result of the cluster.

“There is still a risk over the next week that we will see [community transmission] because those people were out and about in the community,” Dr Young said.

She said the testing rates were “fantastic” but urged Queenslanders to keep coming forward to get tested as the missing link between the Logan and Brisbane Youth Detention Centre cluster was yet to be found.

“We actually don’t know what the link is for this cluster. Where did they actually originally get it from? Which means we might have more cases out in the community related to this cluster,” she said.

“Anyone with any symptoms at all, if you live anywhere in that Brisbane, Logan, West Moreton or Ipswich area, it is incredibly important that you come forward and get tested.”

Premier pleased with court decision on borders

The Premier added that she agreed with the decision of the Federal Court following a case Clive Palmer pursued surrounding Western Australia’s border closures.

Clive Palmer launched a High Court challenge in May over the constitutionality of Western Australia’s border closure, but in his judgement on Tuesday, Justice Darryl Rangiah said the border restrictions had been “effective to a very substantial extent” in preventing COVID-19 from being imported into WA from interstate.

“The border measures are in place to keep the health of their residents safe,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“That’s what the Federal Court has found and I’m very pleased with that result because that is exactly what I’ve been saying.”

The Premier said the border closure was allowing Queensland’s economy stay open.

Investigation into superyacht continuing

Mr Miles offered a stern warning to people attempting to breach border directives.

“Where we are provided with intelligence about people being creative trying to breach our borders, we will take very strong action,” he said.

He said police are continuing to investigate the case of a family from New South Wales who entered Queensland on a superyacht, who have since had their exemption revoked.

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski confirmed a criminal investigation had been launched into those onboard the Lady Pamela found to be in breach of COVID-19 restrictions.

“We are doing that in collaboration with the New South Wales police force,” he said.

He also revealed a person carrying an “X pass”, which only allows users to remain within the Queensland/New South Wales border community, was found in Mackay, in north Queensland.

“That person has been issued with an on-the-spot fine and placed into quarantine,” he said.

A number of fines were handed down to businesses breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions, including a Portuguese Club in Pinkenba which was fined $9,441.

A karaoke club in Upper Mount Gravatt was also fined for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

A total of 64 flights have entered Queensland in the past 24 hours carrying 2,904 people, of which two were refused entry.

At road borders, 3,412 cars were checked and 107 people were subsequently refused entry.

There were 455 people directed to quarantine.



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