'Third surge': Fears of super spread event

 

People who get vaccinated may believe they can't spread the coronavirus and could prove to be the next super-spreaders, Harvard University public health student Rushabh Doshi has warned.   

Writing on KevinMD, a platform founded by Dr Kevin Pho, Doshi noted that it was still unclear whether vaccinated people could still spread the virus.

"With a slower than expected vaccination rollout to the general public, people who are vaccinated and fail to understand that they can still be carriers of the virus pose an immediate threat to the unvaccinated," Doshi wrote last week.

Doshi said if vaccinated populations ignored social distancing protocol and failed to wear masks, this could lead to a massive surge of cases and hospitalisations.

"As winter ends and social behavior increases in vaccinated and non-vaccinated folk, there will be yet another opportunity for a third surge.

"This time, it may be those who are deemed to be the least susceptible to spreading the virus spearheading the third surge."

Meanwhile, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) has advised pregnant women not to get the vaccine.

It comes as Invasion Day rallies took place across Australia, which saw police make multiple arrests Sydney's Domain, where one rally was being held.

Thousands of beachgoers also flocked to places like Bondi Beach today, despite officials urging people to follow social distancing rules.

More than 80% of Aussies expected to get the jab


More than 80 per cent of Australians are likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine, an epidemiologist has said.

Epidemiologist and public health specialist, Professor Tony Blakely, said recent modelling has shown the majority of Australians are likely to get the jab when it becomes available.

"Right at the moment we brought in models with lots of different levels in them," he told Sunrise.

"I hope it would be high and I expect it could be above 80 per cent, maybe even 90 per cent, but we'll just have to wait and see."

Professor Blakely said the government needs to offer "a lot of reassurance and a lot of realism" when starting the rollout of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.

"For example, the situation in Norway, that was probably just elderly people that were likely to succumb anyway because they're late in their life," he said.

"But honesty really matters here as well as promoting it, keeping that sense that that there are going to be side effects from time to time. And then rolling it out, I think it's a good size budget, somewhere in the 20 million for rolling it out and advertising it."

UK COVID death toll hits 100,000

Britain on Tuesday became the first European country to pass 100,000 COVID deaths, in a grim milestone nearly one year since its first case of the disease.

Another 1,631 deaths were reported on Tuesday, bringing the total to 100,162 from nearly 3.7 million positive cases and overshadowing progress in an unprecedented vaccination campaign.

An ashen-faced Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a news conference just minutes after the official statistics were published that it was "hard to compute" the loss felt by families across the UK.

"I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and of course as prime minister I take full responsibility for everything that the government has done," he added.

But he said the government, which has been criticised for its initial response to the outbreak, "did everything that we could to minimise suffering and minimise loss of life".

Britain reported its first cases of the disease almost a year ago, on January 29, 2020 but Johnson was initially relaxed about the outbreak, despite widespread calls for a lockdown.

As cases rose, he eventually relented, and a lockdown was introduced in March. Questions have, however, remained about the government's approach, particularly its testing and tracing regime.

-AFP


NZ quarantine case is warning for Australia

New Zealand is urgently trying to work out how a woman apparently caught COVID-19 in her final days in hotel quarantine.

Travel between Australia and New Zealand has been put on pause after the woman visited at least 30 locations after she was released before testing positive for the highly contagious South African strain.

Physicist Shaun Hendy, who has provided modelling on the pandemic for the NZ government, told the ABC that the latest genomic testing indicated "that there was another case actually staying on the same floor and the same hotel, with the same genomic signature."

Professor Hendy said that the news should be a warning to Australia and New Zealand to redouble their efforts to protect their hotel quarantine systems from the contagious mutant variants.
"We do need to be upping our game and the way that we manage people when they come back through the border," he said.

Aussies may have to wait longer for NZ travel

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is disappointed by Australia's decision to suspend a travel bubble between the two countries.

She also indicated the decision may delay plans for two-way quarantine-free travel between the two countries, which was expected to be in place by the end of March.

New Zealanders had been able to travel to Australia without quarantining but Australia announced an immediate suspension of this arrangement on Monday, forcing travellers to quarantine for at least 72 hours.

It followed the discovery of a COVID case in New Zealand, who was diagnosed with the more infectious South African strain after she had already left hotel quarantine.

Ms Ardern said she told Prime Minister Scott Morrison she was disappointed by Australia's decision.

"I certainly shared my view that this was a situation that was well under control," she told reporters.

"If we are to enter into a trans-Tasman bubble we will need to give people confidence that we won't see closures at the border that happen with very short notice over incidents we believe can be well-managed domestically."

Vaccinated may become super-spreaders

People who get vaccinated may believe they can't spread the coronavirus and could prove to be the next super-spreaders, Harvard University public health student Rushabh Doshi has warned.

Writing on KevinMD, a platform founded by Dr Kevin Pho, Doshi noted that it was still unclear whether vaccinated people could still spread the virus.

"With a slower than expected vaccination rollout to the general public, people who are vaccinated and fail to understand that they can still be carriers of the virus pose an immediate threat to the unvaccinated," Doshi wrote last week.

Doshi said more research was needed on the effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing community transmission and there should be more investment in mucosal vaccines that target immune responses in the nose, including through a potential nasal spray.

People should also be educated that they may still be carriers of the virus even if they are vaccinated.

"If vaccinated populations ignore social distancing protocol and fail to wear masks, this could lead to a massive surge of cases and hospitalizations, adding to the already devastating impact of the pandemic," Doshi noted.

"As winter ends and social behavior increases in vaccinated and non-vaccinated folk, there will be yet another opportunity for a third surge.

"This time, it may be those who are deemed to be the least susceptible to spreading the virus spearheading the third surge."

Pregnant women advised not to get vaccine

Pregnant women are being advised not to get the coronavirus vaccine.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) has released advice that it says takes into consideration the low level of community transmission in Australia and New Zealand.

"Based on known data from other similar vaccines, it is unlikely that COVID-19 vaccines pose a risk to a pregnant woman or her fetus," a RANZCOG statement said.

"However, as pregnant and breastfeeding women have not been included in initial trials, data are very limited and our current knowledge is based on inadvertently exposed patients and the impact of the disease in an unvaccinated population.

"Although the available data do not indicate any safety concern or harm to pregnancy, there is insufficient evidence to recommend routine use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy."

However, it noted that if a pregnant woman met the definition of being particularly vulnerable, then she should discuss the option of COVID-19 vaccination with her obstetrician and/or midwife.

This includes women with significant pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, those with chronic respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis and severe asthma.

The College also noted that there was no data on the safety of vaccines in breastfeeding women but the vaccines were not thought to be a risk to their babies.

Women who are trying to get pregnant can get the vaccine as there is no evidence that women who become pregnant after receiving the vaccine are at increased risk of teratogenicity, miscarriage or maternal illness.

"Pregnancy need not be delayed after receiving the vaccine," the College said.

Police break up beach party

NSW Police have broken up a large beach party at Lilli Pilli in southern Sydney.

A police spokeswoman said no arrests were made and the party was moved on.

Images obtained by Nine and Seven show a large gathering on the beach and people crammed into boats.

NewsCorp journalist Eliza Barr noted that Lilli Pilli is a sandbank beach that can only be accessed by boat when the tide is out.


Tony Abbott rants about 'virus hysteria'

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ranted about "virus hysteria" in a video to announce his new position as a Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Mr Abbott will be working for the IPA "in the fight for mainstream Australian values" and the Australian way of life.

In a video posted to the IPA website, Mr Abbott said "who we are and how we live is under more stress.

"Here is a small but what I think is a telling example, along with calling everyone by their first name and expecting everyone, even national leaders to be in the stands with the general public at the footy, it's almost the mark of an Australian to sit beside the driver in the front seat of a taxi because here, in this country, no one's better than anyone else.

"But like so much, that's apparently against the rules, along with singing, dancing and having too many friends and family around for a barbecue.

"Thanks to the pandemic, we're now told to form orderly and socially distanced queues, as if we were English, for our own good of course, as on one ever makes rules without reason.

"It's just that if we're not careful, freedom and self reliance can evaporate.

"Sure, for the past year, we've been coping with a potentially deadly disease.

"But it takes a fair dose of virus hysteria and health despotism for Australians to be barred from Victoria, without first getting a visa. And to be barred altogether from Western Australia due to just a few cases of disease, with an infection fatality rate - in people under 50 - of less than one in 5000.

"Better than almost any other country in this pandemic, we've certainly saved lives so let's be grateful but in the process we've damaged them too, the old people who've spent their last days in forced isolation from family and friends, the families separated by capricious border closures, the businesses ruined and the jobs lost in a stop-start economy, and the psychological cost of living under rules that were rarely explained or justified, and often seemed contradictory, even absurd, like having to wear a face mask while driving alone.

"So while grateful the pandemic has not been worse, let's not underestimate the damage that's been done, even in doing good.

"Now with vaccines coming, the virus threat should pass but won't ever pass is the ongoing need to keep our country safe, our economy strong and our people together.

"That will only get harder to the extent that we've become conditioned to have experts give us all the answers and to have government then tell us exactly what to do."

Mr Abbott went on to talk about the threat of China in the region, the difficulty of passing legislation in a Senate where government can almost never hold a majority, and the values being embedded in the national school curriculum.

"For a full year we've let a virus dominate our lives and in the process we've put safety before freedom, prudence before courage and avoiding danger before accepting risk," he said.

"Even though courage, conviction and character, remain vital to our success as a people and as a nation.

Mr Abbott said there was a need to rebuild and strengthen Australia's culture.

"That won't come from deconstructing our history, or our heroes or by imported fads like sports stars taking the knee, because if there are any better ways of dealing with a virus than hiding under the doona whenever there's a new cluster or blocking out the world for the duration, all those Australians who have ever turned adversity into opportunity will inspire us to find them.

"These are the stores we need to recall to steel us to keep calm and carry on in the face of any future peril."

South Australia records zero cases


There have been no new coronavirus cases in South Australia today.

There are currently no active cases in the state.


Another urgent virus alert for Queensland

Queensland Health has sent out another alert to thousands of residents after COVID-19 fragments were found at seven more sewage testing sites in the state.

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said fragments of the virus had been detected at wastewater treatment plants at Condon (Townsville), Cairns South, Cairns Marlin Coast, Nambour, Maroochydore, Pulgul (Hervey Bay) and Yeppoon.

"While this does not mean we have new cases of COVID-19 in these communities, we are treating these detections seriously," Dr Young said.

"A positive sewage result means that someone who has been infected was shedding the virus. Infected people can shed viral fragments and that shedding can happen for several weeks after the person is no longer infectious.

"I continue to urge anyone who feels unwell in these communities to get tested and isolate."

This is the latest in a string of treatment plants that have reported finding COVID-19 fragments in wastewater.

Yesterday, Queensland Health announced the viral fragments had also been reported at plants in Caboolture South, Oxley Creek, Bundamba, Gibson Island, Luggage Point and Maryborough.

Last week there were also detections at facilities in Mackay South, Goodna, Wacol, Carole Park and Rockhampton.


Moderna vaccine 'effective' against mutant strain

Drug manufacturer Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine is effective against two mutant strains causing concern to Australia, but the government has not yet struck a deal for the jab.

Moderna said on Monday it believed its vaccine protected against a highly contagious strain from South Africa as well as a variant that has wreaked havoc across the UK.

But it said it would test whether a third "booster" shot would prove beneficial against the South African strain or future mutations.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the company would continue to be proactive as the virus rapidly developed.

"We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants," he said.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) granted provisional approval for the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, and the federal government has also struck deals with AstraZeneca and Novavax.

But it has yet to agree a deal for the Moderna vaccine, which Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy described as "very similar" to the Pfizer jab.
- Finn McHugh, NCA NewsWire