Virus hunters investigate frozen food risk


Virus hunters in New Zealand are racing to determine whether the mystery outbreak after 100 days COVID-free could have been freighted into the country in frozen food or even remain frozen in a cold storage facility for weeks.

And while infectious disease experts believe it’s more likely the virus was quietly bubbling away underneath the surface in Auckland as the nation celebrated “eliminating” the virus, the prospect it could be “frozen” and remain infectious is troubling.

The concerns have been sparked by the fact that one of the family members in the mystery COVID outbreak worked in a cold storage facility.

New Zealand’s director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed on Wednesday that “environmental testing” of a cold storage facility where the person worked will now be conducted.

“We do know from studies overseas, that actually, the virus can survive in some refrigerated environments for quite some time,” he said.

“We start by looking at all the options and ruling then out, and that’s the position we’re in at the moment.

“In general the role of surfaces for transmitting the virus has probably been overemphasised in the past.

“There’s much more focus now on transmission in indoor environments, and respiratory droplets and aerosols.”

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To date there appears to be no credible evidence of virus transmitting through food, freight or food packaging.

“I know that the virus re-emerging in our community has caused alarm and the unknown is scary. That causes anxiety for many of us,” Bloomfield said.

“We are working hard to put together the pieces of the puzzle as to how this family got the virus. We are testing all close and casual contacts.”

But some experts have raised the possibility the virus could last for months in frozen environments with China blaming frozen food for a second outbreak this year.

Wu Zunyou, Chief Epidemiologist of China’s Center for Diseases Prevention and Control, told Chinese state media this year that the virus can survive on the surface of frozen food for up to three months.

Infectious Diseases physician Professor Peter Collingnon told news.com.au he was still sceptical that the virus had been “imported” into New Zealand in frozen food.

“But I have always worried when people talk about elimination, it can be so mild in people in their 30s and 40s that it can just be there bubbling away without you knowing,’’ he said.

Prof Collingnon said genomic testing which could potentially link the virus to other earlier strains in the community was the key to working out where the virus came from after 100 days COVID free.

“We will have to wait for the genomics. I think it’s much more likely it was bubbling under the surface rather than frozen food. But was it from a high prevalence area? It is possible,’’ he said.

“Particularly if its fecal contaminated, because we do know this virus is in faeces.

“Look, my view is one of the places there’s the highest risk is abattoirs. It’s cold, refrigerated.”

The cold storage facility where the NZ man worked in Mount Wellington has been shut down for testing and cleaning with 160 staff across all the facilities tested for COVID-19.



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Virus ‘starkly exposed’ aged care flaws


Federal heath authorities failed to develop a coronavirus plan for aged care homes, with the pandemic leaving flaws in the sector “starkly exposed”, a royal commission has been told.

Australia’s virus aged care death rate is among the highest in the world, at 68 per cent, counsel assisting the commission Peter Rozen QC said on Monday.

As of Sunday, 203 of the nation’s almost 300 deaths had been in aged care.

He said while much had been done to prepare the national health system, neither the Federal Health Department nor aged care regulator developed a sector-specific plan.

Mr Rozen said aged care was offered no virus advice from either body from June 19 to August 3, a “crucial period” in the pandemic when cases in Victoria spiked.

He said there was confusion about processes and regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, lacked sufficient power to conduct investigations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly exposed all of the flaws of the aged care sector,” Mr Rozen said.

Federal and NSW governments were at a “stand off” early in the deadly outbreak at Sydney’s Newmarch House over whether to hospitalise residents, the commission heard.

Mr Rozen said meeting records showed NSW Health in April had a preference not to move virus-positive residents into hospital to avoid setting “a precedent” around transfers.

Of 37 positive residents, two were transferred to hospital. One of those died, with another other 16 fatalities occurring at the home.

“To put it very directly, older people are not less deserving of care because they are old,” Mr Rozen said.

Anglicare Sydney, which runs Newmarch House, had little or no say in whether virus-positive residents would be transferred to hospital, he added.

Mr Rozen said there was a lack of high-level infection control expertise at Newmarch House, which adopted a “hospital in the home” approach, until at least a fortnight into the outbreak.

A manager deployed to help Newmarch House from BaptistCare, the operator of Dorothy Henderson Lodge which also experienced a deadly outbreak, said staff management was a challenge with workers quarantined.

“They were coming (to Newmarch) from so many areas with varying competencies,” Melanie Dicks said.

“We had new staff that didn’t fully understand what hospital in the home model was. We needed to continually orient those staff as well.”

Six residents at northern Sydney’s Dorothy Henderson Lodge died from the virus, with 13 of the home’s 16 cases sent to hospital.

Ms Dicks said hospitalisation helped the facility better contain the virus and manage staffing.

The aged care royal commission is holding hearings over three days to examine the virus response but Victoria’s outbreak is not part of the scope due to its evolving nature.

Mr Rozen said the commission had received hundreds of submissions, some of which refer to inadequate staff infection control training and lack of access to personal protective equipment.



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Poor decisions are wrecking Australia’s economy, not the virus


Australians don’t have far to look to see governments effectively guiding their economies through the COVID-19 pandemic. Alan Austin surveys successful nations nearby.

ACROSS THE TASMAN, New Zealand’s jobless rate has just declined from 4.2% in the 2020 first quarter to 4% in the second.

New Zealand’s exports have grown impressively over the last year, with June exports 2.2% higher than the year before. The trade balance has been in healthy surplus for six of the last seven months. Retail trade is up 2.3% over the last year, inflation is at the optimum 1.5% and building permits are at an all-time high.

Not far to the north, Malaysia also improved its jobless rate from 5.3% in May to 4.9% in June. It reported a positive annual rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth in March and impressive outcomes on exports.

Further north again, Taiwan’s economy is advancing steadily. The jobless rate fell from 4.16 to 3.97% in June, wages are growing steadily, exports remain buoyant and the trade balance is in strong surplus.

Further afield, in Europe, economies with jobless rates below 5% include Switzerland, Iceland, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Norway and Estonia. Most are enjoying positive wage rises and strong export performance as well.

Impact of the pandemic

These economic winners are also succeeding against the coronavirus. Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland and Estonia recorded zero deaths in July. Malaysia recorded four, Norway five and Hungary 11.

At the other end of the table, economies struggling with the economy and infection and death rates include the United States, Chile, Brazil, South Africa and Australia.

Australia no longer winning

In dramatic contrast to the last global economic crisis, Australia is failing in most areas except exports and corporate profits – which are both booming.

Australia’s jobless rate blew out to 6.37% in April, then to 7.08% in May and 7.45% in June. That is the highest since November 1998 when Paul Keating’s reforms were still taking effect. Productivity has been jammed at 100 index points for the last 16 quarters.

Quarterly economic growth fell in the first quarter this year to -0.3%, the first negative quarter since 2011 when floods ravaged much of Northern Australia and the worst since 2008 when the global financial crisis (GFC) whacked every developed economy.

Annual economic growth tumbled to 1.39%, the lowest since the fourth quarter in 2000 when Treasurer Peter Costello was battling the early 2000s global recession.

Gross debt expanded to a staggering $741.4 billion last Friday bringing the Coalition’s total debt to $469.7 billion. Just since April 2018, the Coalition has added more gross debt than Labor took on during its entire five years and nine months contending with the GFC.

By May, Australia’s net worth had plummeted under the Coalition from negative $205.9 billion at the 2013 Election to negative $624.2 billion. It will be worse now, as we shall see next month in the final budget outcome.

There is no excuse for this. Exports are at record highs. The trade balance has been in surplus for the last 30 months, recording a new all-time monthly high above ten billion dollars in March this year. Corporate profits have been soaring since September 2016.

The primary reason the budget is still in deep deficit, debt is deepening, wages are stagnating, benefits are far too low and the Aussie dollar is down the S-bend is that proceeds of the current export and profits boom have not been shared fairly.

This is the outcome of poor government decision-making over the last six years, not external global conditions – and not the recent pandemic.

Stand-out world economy 2009

Australia’s performance through this global emergency is in dramatic contrast to its success through the financial crisis which devastated the developed world in 2008 and lingered until 2013.

Through that period Australia clearly had the world’s most impressive economy, being the only OECD or G20 member country to avoid recession, deep unemployment and widespread bankruptcies and suicides. As shown more fully here, Australia shone on productivity, wages growth, job creation, economic freedom, income per person and wealth.

These were the results of the courageous policies adopted by the Rudd Government in 2008 on the advice of then-Treasury Secretary Ken Henry. Those initiatives – including the school buildings program, cash payments to families, investment in community housing and the falsely-maligned national insulation scheme – rocketed Australia to the top of the world’s economies, where it stayed until 2014.

As economist Guy Debelle recalls,

Morrison’s stimulus with your retirement savings

Superannuation accounts are dwindling as millions of Australians fund their own rescue during the pandemic.

Stand-out world economy 2020?

No single economy is leading the world today as Australia was between 2008 and 2013. No government as yet has had the wisdom to implement anything as far-reaching and visionary as the Rudd/Henry programs.

Of the 42 major OECD and G20 member countries which reported GDP growth for the March quarter, only five reported positive growth: Chile, Ireland, Russia, Turkey and Sweden. Of the 16 countries to report June quarter GDP growth so far, only China is positive. We may get a clearer picture of which economies are faring best through the current crisis when we see more June quarter GDP figures in the coming days.

Current leaders – on jobs, wages growth, retail sales, exports and construction – are Ireland, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Australia could yet recover its rightful place at the top of the world. For this to happen, however, it must abandon virtually all current economic policies and return to those which actually serve the people of Australia.

Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read an update HERE and help out by contributing to the crowd-funding campaign HERE. Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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Poor decisions are wrecking Australia’s economy, not the virus


Australians don’t have far to look to see governments effectively guiding their economies through the COVID-19 pandemic. Alan Austin surveys successful nations nearby.

ACROSS THE TASMAN, New Zealand’s jobless rate has just declined from 4.2% in the 2020 first quarter to 4% in the second.

New Zealand’s exports have grown impressively over the last year, with June exports 2.2% higher than the year before. The trade balance has been in healthy surplus for six of the last seven months. Retail trade is up 2.3% over the last year, inflation is at the optimum 1.5% and building permits are at an all-time high.

Not far to the north, Malaysia also improved its jobless rate from 5.3% in May to 4.9% in June. It reported a positive annual rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth in March and impressive outcomes on exports.

Further north again, Taiwan’s economy is advancing steadily. The jobless rate fell from 4.16 to 3.97% in June, wages are growing steadily, exports remain buoyant and the trade balance is in strong surplus.

Further afield, in Europe, economies with jobless rates below 5% include Switzerland, Iceland, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Norway and Estonia. Most are enjoying positive wage rises and strong export performance as well.

Impact of the pandemic

These economic winners are also succeeding against the coronavirus. Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland and Estonia recorded zero deaths in July. Malaysia recorded four, Norway five and Hungary 11.

At the other end of the table, economies struggling with the economy and infection and death rates include the United States, Chile, Brazil, South Africa and Australia.

Australia no longer winning

In dramatic contrast to the last global economic crisis, Australia is failing in most areas except exports and corporate profits — which are both booming.

Australia’s jobless rate blew out to 6.37% in April, then to 7.08% in May and 7.45% in June. That is the highest since November 1998 when Paul Keating’s reforms were still taking effect. Productivity has been jammed at 100 index points for the last 16 quarters.

Quarterly economic growth fell in the first quarter this year to -0.3%, the first negative quarter since 2011 when floods ravaged much of Northern Australia and the worst since 2008 when the global financial crisis (GFC) whacked every developed economy.

Annual economic growth tumbled to 1.39%, the lowest since the fourth quarter in 2000 when Treasurer Peter Costello was battling the early 2000s global recession.

Gross debt expanded to a staggering $741.4 billion last Friday bringing the Coalition’s total debt to $469.7 billion. Just since April 2018, the Coalition has added more gross debt than Labor took on during its entire five years and nine months contending with the GFC.

By May, Australia’s net worth had plummeted under the Coalition from negative $205.9 billion at the 2013 Election to negative $624.2 billion. It will be worse now, as we shall see next month in the final budget outcome.

There is no excuse for this. Exports are at record highs. The trade balance has been in surplus for the last 30 months, recording a new all-time monthly high above ten billion dollars in March this year. Corporate profits have been soaring since September 2016.

The primary reason the budget is still in deep deficit, debt is deepening, wages are stagnating, benefits are far too low and the Aussie dollar is down the S-bend is that proceeds of the current export and profits boom have not been shared fairly.
This is the outcome of poor government decision-making over the last six years, not external global conditions — and not the recent pandemic.

Stand-out world economy 2009

Australia’s performance through this global emergency is in dramatic contrast to its success through the financial crisis which devastated the developed world in 2008 and lingered until 2013.

Through that period Australia clearly had the world’s most impressive economy, being the only OECD or G20 member country to avoid recession, deep unemployment and widespread bankruptcies and suicides. As shown more fully here, Australia shone on productivity, wages growth, job creation, economic freedom, income per person and wealth.

These were the results of the courageous policies adopted by the Rudd Government in 2008 on the advice of then-Treasury Secretary Ken Henry. Those initiatives – including the school buildings program, cash payments to families, investment in community housing and the falsely-maligned national insulation scheme – rocketed Australia to the top of the world’s economies, where it stayed until 2014.

As economist Guy Debelle recalls,

‘Fiscal stimulus in Australia in my view was absolutely necessary and was a critical factor behind Australia’s good economic outcomes. While one can argue about the exact nature of the implementation, the fact that it was designed to take effect quickly was vital in the circumstances: “go hard, go early, go to households”, as Ken Henry put it.’

 

Morrison's stimulus with your retirement savings

Stand-out world economy 2020?

No single economy is leading the world today as Australia was between 2008 and 2013. No government as yet has had the wisdom to implement anything as far-reaching and visionary as the Rudd/Henry programs.

Of the 42 major OECD and G20 member countries which reported GDP growth for the March quarter, only five reported positive growth: Chile, Ireland, Russia, Turkey and Sweden. Of the 16 countries to report June quarter GDP growth so far, only China is positive. We may get a clearer picture of which economies are faring best through the current crisis when we see more June quarter GDP figures in the coming days.

Current leaders – on jobs, wages growth, retail sales, exports and construction – are Ireland, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Australia could yet recover its rightful place at the top of the world. For this to happen, however, it must abandon virtually all current economic policies and return to those which actually serve the people of Australia.

Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read an update HERE and help out by contributing to the crowd-funding campaign HEREAlan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanAustin001

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Philippines back under virus lockdown

Philippine police have deployed street blocks to enforce a tough new lockdown on about 28 million men and women in the funds Manila and nearby provinces as the state reported the region’s most important day by day rise in coronavirus cases.

The space, which accounts for most economic exercise in the nation and a quarter of the population, has absent back again into lockdown for two months soon after restrictions were calm in June.

The eased limits, in an hard work to revive the economic system, led to bacterial infections soaring more than six-fold to 112,593 and deaths far more than doubling to approximately 2100, piling tension on a beleaguered health care sector.

The overall health ministry on Tuesday noted 6352 new situations, marking the most significant day by day leap in bacterial infections in Southeast Asia and just after posting a history increase in five of the past 6 days.

In a new blow for the financial state, authorities have suspended community transport and produced places to eat get-absent only, when barbershops and salons have shut, hitting livelihoods.

“You can find really absolutely nothing we can do but abide by the measures offered by the governing administration,” stated Cipriano Quirante, 57, a dispatcher at a taxi business.

Restaurant supervisor Charlito Imperial explained normally there ended up long strains at his premises but by midday he had had only three acquire-absent prospects.

Police ringed city areas with roadblocks and checkpoints to restrict movement, with only a single member of each individual domestic authorized to go out to get food stuff and essentials.

President Rodrigo Duterte late on Sunday announced the new lockdown, marking a return to the rigorous quarantine steps in force from mid-March to May perhaps.

But the presidential palace on Tuesday warned the new constraints could not be extended.

“The economy can no for a longer time bear a extended lockdown,” Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, advised a information briefing. “Our information to the men and women is to consider care of your well being so you can still make a residing.”



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Melbourne records a horror day, virus hits the slums


Victoria information its worst day, but the WHO states we shouldn’t get in touch with it a second wave. In the meantime research emphasises the require to isolate early.

Victorian chief well being officer Brett Sutton (Image: AAP/James Ross)

New document and limitations

On Wednesday, new cases in Victoria fell below 300, main to optimistic speculation the state experienced passed its peak.

Currently, Victoria recorded a staggering 723 new cases and 13 new deaths, by far the worst figures we’ve observed in Australia in the course of the pandemic. In response, the Andrew govt has prolonged obligatory mask donning to all locations of the point out and banned residence visits in the 6 regional parts of Better Geelong, the Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains and the Borough of Queenscliffe. Wedding day and funerals have been banned in all those spots also.

NSW, in the meantime, carries on to see sufficient small-stage local community transmission for overall health officers to explain the scenario as “on a knife edge” (a knife’s edge we have been on for weeks, it appears to be). As but, there’s been no fast escalation in situation figures. There were being 18 new situations in NSW overnight.





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Hong Kong economy reels as tough virus restrictions implemented


Hong Kong is on the verge of a “big-scale” coronavirus outbreak that could overwhelm hospitals, its chief warned Wednesday, as authorities implemented their hardest social distancing measures still in a new blow for the financial state.

From Wednesday all citizens in the densely packed town of 7.5 million will have to have on masks when they depart their residences even though restaurants can only serve takeaway meals.

No much more than two folks from unique homes can assemble in general public with fines of up to HK$5,000 ($899) for those who breach the new unexpected emergency guidelines.

The most up-to-date actions pile contemporary distress on a finance hub that was currently mired in recession before the pandemic began many thanks to the US-China trade war and political unrest last yr.

Figures produced Wednesday confirmed the city’s financial system shrank by 9. per cent on calendar year in the 2nd quarter, the fourth contraction in a row.

As the pandemic took keep in the to start with quarter of 2020, Hong Kong’s financial system shrank 9.1 p.c on year, the worst drop on file.

The challenging new social distancing procedures are a bid to reverse a sudden spike in coronavirus instances that has upended the city’s usually enviable fight versus the fatal condition.

A lot more than 1,000 bacterial infections have been confirmed considering that early July, more than 40 p.c of the whole considering the fact that the virus very first strike the town in late January.

Restaurant employees prepare consider aways at a Chinese food court in Hong Kong. Dining-in at restaurants has been banned and mask carrying designed required.

AP

New each day bacterial infections have been earlier mentioned 100 for the previous eight times.

Although Hong Kong still has fairly few conditions, currently all these who test constructive are addressed in isolation wards, which are quickly filling up.

“We are on the verge of a substantial-scale neighborhood outbreak, which could lead to a collapse of our healthcare facility system and price lives, particularly of the elderly,” Main Executive Carrie Lam reported in a statement introduced on Wednesday to coincide with the new steps.

“In get to secure our loved types, our healthcare workers and Hong Kong, I charm to you to stick to strictly the social distancing measures and continue to be at residence as considerably as achievable,” she extra.

During their lunch break on Wednesday, quite a few inhabitants ended up eating takeaway meals outdoors in the extreme summer months heat and humidity. 

“It’s so very hot exterior now,” a development employee, who gave his surname as Chow, told AFP as he tucked into a pork chop in an alcove outside a division retail store.

“Ten minutes right after I commence function, my shirt is all sweaty,” he stated, incorporating he missed the air conditioning of restaurants.

Hong Kong has some of the world’s smallest and most expensive flats. Some people scarcely have a kitchen to cook in, generating them vastly reliant on low-priced eateries.

From achievements to unexpected surge

The finance hub was one of the to start with sites hit by the coronavirus when it emerged from China at the start out of the 12 months.

It to begin with had exceptional achievements in controlling the outbreak, assisted in section by a wellness-acutely aware general public embracing encounter masks and an productive monitor and trace programme, cast in the fires of the lethal SARS virus in 2003.

By June, nearby transmission experienced all but ended.

But the virus later on sneaked again into the city and started spreading.

Overall health officials have been scrambling to uncover the resource of the most up-to-date outbreak.

Some have blamed exemptions from the standard 14-working day quarantine that the governing administration granted to “critical personnel”, which include cross-boundary truckers, air and sea crew and some production executives.

The authorities has given that tightened limits for some of those people teams.

Gladys Chan, who was taking her lunch crack, explained she felt the government experienced not completed plenty of to keep track of people with exemptions.

“I assume the government has failed us, especially with this 3rd wave of the pandemic,” she explained to AFP, including the most up-to-date measures have been “as well little, far too late”.

As isolation wards fill up, authorities have introduced plans to develop a momentary 2,000-mattress subject hospital in the vicinity of the city’s airport, a thing Chinese authorities have provided to assistance with.



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