Friday COVID-19 update: they’ve found patient zero

27 March 2020

Chinese officials have reportedly identified the first person to contract coronavirus – ‘patient zero’.

The un-named 55-year-old was selling live prawns at a market in Hubai province in Wuhan, and tested positive on November 17, 2019.

Within a month more than 60 people a day were returning positive test results.

Tracing ‘patient zero’ is considered crucial to understanding the virus’ exact oriigns.

Back in Australia, Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre could be turned into a make-shift hospital to treat thousands of seriously ill coronavirus patients.

Today’s Age says part of the massive building could also be turned into a temporary morgue if the number of victims surges, as it’s done in some countries.

The Victorian government is bracing for up to 2000 intensive care admissions when the pandemic peaks – possibly in May or June – but the state has less than 500 regular ICU beds.

This morning Prime Minister Scott Morrison again met with state and territory leaders to discuss the next moves in the fight against COVID-19, amid talk Victoria is set to move to even tougher stage three restrictions.

Small businesses forced to close are expected to receive protection from eviction and have their rent suspended, while help for residential tenants is also in the pipeline.

The federal opposition is calling for a wages guarantee to allow employers to retain staff during the economic deep freeze, with Finance Minister Matthias Corman confirming further assistance for workers could be on the way.

“We will continue to make judgements on how the support packages that are already out there can be further improved, Mr Corman said.

The number of confirmed cases in Australia has risen to 2799 and health officials are begging Australians to stay at home if they are sick in any way, and to keep their distance from other people even if they’re healthy.

Australia has tested more than 178,000 people but deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said the rate of positive tests is low, at about 1.5 per cent.

The 370 new cases since Wednesday compares with a rise of 290 in the previous 24 hours.

Death toll reaches 13

A second passenger from a cruise liner that controversially docked in Sydney last week has died from coronavirus.

Holiday-makers aboard the Ruby Princess was were allowed to freely disembark after it tied up in Sydney, even though hundreds of the 2300 passengers were ill.

The liner has been linked to a huge spike in coronavirus cases that have since been confirmed in the Australian community.

First fines issued

NSW police have issued what are believed to be Australia’s first penalties for breaches of coronavirus-related restrictions.

A Sydney massage parlour owner and three of his staff have been fined for failing to close down.

A 65-year-old woman was penalised after failing to self-isolate following a trip to Bali.

Vic police test positive

Two Victorian police officers have tested positive to COVID-19.

It’s understood the pair are among as many as 400 officers now in self-isolation across the state.

Yesterday Victorian police conducted 88 spot checks and caught several people disobeying restrictions.

Woolworths create 20,000 jobs

As retail jobs begin to disapear en-masse supermarket chain Woolworths is throwing workers a life-line, creating 20,000 new positions to cope with soaring demand from online shoppers.

It comes as the Australian Retailers Association says sales of clothing, footwear and accessories have plunged by more than 75 per cent.

Online hoaxes continue

Facebook is cracking down on coronavirus hoaxes but many are still circulating in chat groups and on Messenger.

Among the posts is a false that the virus hates heat and cannot live in temperatures above 27°C.

Another falsely suggests that sipping water prevents infection by flushing the virus from the throat into the stomach.

One dangerous video on YouTube falsely claims inhaling hot air from a hair dryer will kill the virus.

Several posts claim coronavirus is man-made, whereas new research has in fact confirmed the virus developed organically.

Stranded Aussies spark virus spike fears

Thousands of Australians are still trapped overseas, sparking fears they will trigger a surge in cases when they eventually arrive home.

More than 4,500 Aussies are currently on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Hundreds more will board chartered flights in Peru and Uruguay in the next few days.

Many have been stuck aboard cruise ships for weeks.

Tassie slams door on tourists

Tourists in Tasmania have been told to go home.

The state’s premier delivered the blunt message to everyone staying in hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, hostels and boarding houses.

“I’m sorry to say that, but go home,” a teary Peter Gutwein said on Thursday

TB vaccine may fight off COVID-9

Melbourne health workers will be part of a global trial of a tuberculosis vaccine to see if it’s effective in reducing symptoms of Covid-19.

The drug has been around for more than a century but recent research has found it also boosts the human immune system.

Professor Nigel Curtis from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute says it has not been used in Australia since the 1980s.

“We no longer give it in Australia, simply because there is insufficient tuberculosis (TB) in this country to justify needing to give this vaccine routinely,: Professor Curis said.

Pandemic eases in China

The Chinese provence of Hubai, where the coronavirus was first detected, has reopened its borders as the country’s tenative recovery continues.

While imported cases are still rising, there have been no new locally-transmitted cases on six of the last eight days.

Indy 500 abandoned, Tour de France in doubt

The crown jewel of American motor sport, the Indianapolis 500, has been postponed until August 23 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The event attracts more than 350,000 people and was scheduled yto be staged on the US Memorial Day weekend in late May.

Meantime this year’s Tour de France may still go ahead despite the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, but without roadside spectators.

Following the postponement of the Euro 2020 soccer championships and the Tokyo Olympics, the Tour de France – which takes place in June and July – is one of the last major global sporting events that’s not yet been cancelled or postponed.

Since the Tour’s inception in 1903, only the two World Wars have forced organisers to cancel the race.

Picture: Jason Beaubien NPR