The COVID problem experts say must be accepted – and corrected

The risk of breathing in COVID-19 is 20 times higher indoors than out, doctors reveal.

Will BrodieJournalist June 8, 2021

. . . . . .

The expert advice is that super-spread events – where five people or more are infected – can be prevented, because 97 per cent of them happen indoors.

Many measures are simple and cheap: regular ‘airing out’ of rooms; resetting ventilation systems; checking wall vents are not blocked, and opening windows. Limiting activities such as shouting, singing and exercising indoors is also advised as is increasing humidity with humidifiers as the virus thrives on dry air.

Asst. Prof. Hegarty says vaccines alone will not end the pandemic.

“We now understand that risk of transmission is predominantly indoors and very specific to certain buildings and indoor air conditions.

“These conditions are preventable, and this knowledge is key to stopping infections and to opening buildings at low risk.”

The pressure is on for Australia to accept the coronavirus really can spread in the air we breathe

The Conversation, May 13, 2021

https://theconversation.com/the-pressure-is-on-for-australia-to-accept-the-coronavirus-really-can-spread-in-the-air-we-breathe-160641

. . . . .

Catching COVID from surfaces is very unlikely. So perhaps we can ease up on the disinfecting

What does the evidence say?

SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus that multiplies in the respiratory tract. So it is spread by the respiratory route — via breathing, speaking, singing, coughing or sneezing.

Two other coronaviruses — the ones that cause MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory sydrome) and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) — are also spread this way. Both are accepted as being airborne.

In fact, experimental studies show SARS-CoV-2 is as airborne as these other coronaviruses, if not more so, and can be found in the air 16 hours after being aerosolised.

. . . . .

So why has airborne denialism persisted for so long?

The role of airborne transmission has been denied for so long partly because expert groups that advise government have not included engineers, aerosol scientists, occupational hygienists and multidisciplinary environmental health experts.

Partly it is because the role of airborne transmission for other respiratory viruses has been denied for decades, accompanied by a long history of denial of adequate respiratory protection for health workers. For example, during the SARS outbreak in Canada in 2003, denial of protection against airborne spread for health workers in Toronto resulted in a fatal outbreak.

Even influenza is airborne, but this has been denied by infection control committees.

Read more: Here’s the proof we need. Many more health workers than we ever thought are catching COVID-19 on the job

What’s the difference between aerosols and droplets?

The distinction between aerosols and droplets is largely artificial and driven by infection control dogma, not science.

This dogma says large droplets (defined by WHO as larger than 5 micrometres across) settle to the ground and are emitted within 2 metres of an infected person. Meanwhile, fine particles under 5 micrometres across can become airborne and exist further away.

There is in fact no scientific basis for this belief. Most studies that looked at how far large droplets travelled found the horizontal distance is greater than 2 metres. And the size threshold that dictates whether droplets fall or float is actually 100 micrometres, not 5 micrometres. In other words, larger droplets travel further than what we’ve been led to believe.

. . . . .

Leading aerosol scientists explain the historical basis of these false beliefs, which go back nearly a century.

And in further evidence the droplet theory is false, we showed that even for infections believed to be spread by droplets, a N95 respirator protects better than a surgical mask. In fact airborne precautions are needed for most respiratory infections.

Why does this difference matter?

Accepting how SARS-CoV-2 spreads means we can better prevent transmission and protect people, using the right types of masks and better ventilation.

Breathing and speaking generate aerosols. So an infected person in a closed indoor space without good ventilation will generate an accumulation of aerosols over time, just like cigarette smoke accumulates.

church outbreak in Australia saw spread indoors up to 15 metres from the sick person, without any close contact.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?

Masks work, both by preventing sick people from emitting infected aerosols, and by preventing well people from getting infected. A study in Hong Kong found most transmission occurred when masks weren’t worn inside, such as at home and in restaurants.


Read more: This video shows just how easily COVID-19 could spread when people sing together


Coughing generates more aerosols

The old dogma of droplet infection includes a belief that only “aerosol generating procedures” — such as inserting a tube into someone’s throat and windpipe to help them breathe — pose a risk of airborne transmission. But research shows a coughing patient generates more aerosols than one of these procedures.

Yet we do not provide health workers treating coughing COVID-19 patients with N95 respirators under current guidelines.

At the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where many health worker infections occurred in 2020, understanding airflow in the COVID ward helped explain how health workers got infected.

Think about it. Airborne deniers tell us infection occurs after a ballistic strike by a single large droplet hitting the eye, nose or mouth. The statistical probability of this is much lower than simply breathing in accumulated, contaminated air.

The ballistic strike theory has driven an industry in plastic barriers and face shields, which offer no protection against airborne spread. In Switzerland, only hospitality workers using just a face shield got infected and those wearing masks were protected.


Read more: Many of our buildings are poorly ventilated, and that adds to COVID risks


In hotel quarantine, denial of airborne transmission stops us from fixing repeated breaches, which are likely due to airborne transmission.

We need to select quarantine venues based on adequacy of ventilation, test ventilation and mitigate areas of poor ventilation. Opening a window, drawing in fresh air or using air purifiers dramatically reduce virus in the air.


Read more: As international travellers return to Melbourne, will it be third time lucky for Victoria’s controversial hotel quarantine system?


We need to provide N95 respirators to health, aged-care and quarantine workers who are at risk of high-dose exposure, and not place them in poorly ventilated areas.

It’s time to accept the evidence and tighten protection accordingly, to keep Australia safe from SARS-CoV-2 and more dangerous variants of concern, some of which are vaccine resistant.

Thousands pay last respects to Dutch reporter Peter de Vries

https://www.dw.com/en/thousands-pay-last-respects-to-dutch-reporter-peter-de-vries/a-58583145

“Mourners spoke of the journalist’s fearlessness as police union leaders tried to make sense of a shooting in broad daylight in central Amsterdam. A smaller funeral for family and friends will be held on Thursday. , , , “

A picture of Peter de Vries at the Carre Theatre.

Mourners paid their last respects to Peter de Vries at the Carre Theatre

COVID-19 cases confirmed in Illawarra and Southern Highlands, links to Sydney suspected

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-07-20/new-covid-cases-recorded-in-illawarra-and-southern-highlands/100307978

ABC Illawarra / By Ainslie Drewitt-Smith Posted Tue 20 Jul 2021 at 3:55pm

Authorities working to determine the source of three COVID-19 cases confirmed in the Illawarra this week suspect they may be linked to cases in Sydney.

Key points:

  • Three new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Illawarra, but no venues have been listed as places of concern
  • Two cases have also been confirmed in the Wingecarribee Shire, and one in the Wollondilly, where community exposure is said to be “minimal”
  • The exact source of the Illawarra infections is unknown

Two of the cases from the Wollongong area were revealed on Monday, with the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) confirming the third case this afternoon.

“This case is from the Wollongong local government area and is linked to the two cases announced yesterday,” the spokesperson said.

“All three cases are currently isolating at home.”

New South Wales recorded 78 new locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8:00pm on Monday, 27 of which were infectious in the community.

No venues of concern

The ISLHD said in a statement that investigations into the source of the three infections was underway, but no new venues of concern had been listed in the region.

“It is believed there are links to employment in the Sydney area,” the spokesperson said.

“When a confirmed COVID-19 case attends a venue while possibly infectious, NSW Health carries out a risk assessment on that venue to determine whether other people may have been exposed and whether there is a public health risk.

“NSW Health does not disclose details about venues unless there is a public health reason.”

A woolworths sign, light up over the entrance to the supermarket.
Woolworths said it deep-cleaned its Dapto store after being contacted by NSW Health on Monday.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Businesses exposed

Several businesses in the Illawarra have identified themselves as exposure sites and are working to allay concerns from customers and clients.

“We have been notified that a customer with a confirmed case of COVID-19 was present at our Dapto store on Thursday, July 15,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

“As a food retailer, we already have very high standards of cleaning and hygiene in place, and the store had a detailed deep clean overnight on Monday 19 July.

“Customers and team members should be assured they can continue to safely shop and work at our Woolworths Dapto store.”

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Facebook post, Dapto Healthcare announced it would close as a precaution.

“Due to a Dapto medical centre being declared as a COVID-19 exposure site, Dapto Healthcare will be conducting telephone consults only, until further notice,” the post said.

A dermatology clinic in Wollongong was also closed on Monday for deep cleaning.

In a phone message, the clinic said a person who had since tested positive for the virus attended the venue between 10:00 and 11:00am on Thursday, July 15.

A residential-looking, brick rendered building that operates as a dermatology practice in a regional city.
Wollongong Dermatology informed its patients a person who has since tested positive for the virus attended the practice on Thursday, July 15. (Facebook)

. . . . .

Wollongong, Mittagong, and Burradoo have all been identified by NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant as focus areas for increased testing in the coming days.

Australian government urged to secure COVID therapy drugs as experts look beyond vaccination

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-07-22/federal-government-urged-to-secure-covid-treatment-drugs/100312542

By Dan Oakes, ABC Investigations 5h ago, updated 19m ago

The federal government has been urged to secure supplies of COVID therapy drugs amid fears Australia could be left at the back of the queue as the world’s focus turns from vaccines to medicines to treat the disease.

Key points:

  • Vaccination may be ineffective for immuno-compromised people, which is about 4 per cent of the population
  • Antibodies that are administered intravenously are already in use in the United States
  • Singapore has signed a pre-purchase agreement for one drug, while the European Commission has purchased doses of another

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which has struck an agreement with the Singaporean Government to supply one promising treatment, says it’s unclear if the Australian Government will buy its drug.

Currently there’s only one treatment used widely for COVID patients, a steroid called Dexamaethasone which treats inflammation of the lungs.

However, the drug is only effective on patients who are suffering severe symptoms and are receiving oxygen.

Experts say that as Australia moves towards a future where COVID is ever-present in the community, there is an urgent need for drugs to treat milder, yet more infectious, cases.

. . . . .

Australian Influenza Surveillance Report and Activity Updates

https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-surveil-ozflu-flucurr.htm

. . . . . .

Australian Influenza Surveillance Report – 2021 Influenza Season in Australia

Australian Influenza Surveillance Report No 07 – fortnight ending 04 July 2021

Key Messages

It is important to note that due to the COVID-19 epidemic in Australia, data reported from the various influenza surveillance systems may not represent an accurate reflection of influenza activity. Results should be interpreted with caution, especially where comparisons are made to previous influenza seasons. Interpretation of influenza activity data from April 2020 onwards should take into account, but are not limited to, the impact of social distancing measures, likely changes in health seeking behaviour of the community including access to alternative streams of acute respiratory infection specific health services, and focussed testing for COVID-19 response activities. Current COVID-19 related public health measures and the community’s adherence to public health messages are also likely having an effect on transmission of acute respiratory infections, including influenza.

Activity

  • While influenza-like-illness (ILI) activity in the community remains at historically low levels, it has continued to gradually increase since January 2021.
  • Notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza have remained low since April 2020. In the year to date in 2021, there have been 388 notifications to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) in Australia, of which 25 notifications had a diagnosis date this fortnight.

Severity

  • There is no indication of the potential severity of the 2021 season at this time.
  • In the year to date, of the 388 notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza, no influenza-associated deaths have been notified to the NNDSS.
  • There have been no hospital admissions due to influenza reported across sentinel hospitals sites since commencement of surveillance in April 2021.

Impact

  • Given the low number of laboratory-confirmed influenza notifications, low community ILI activity, and no hospitalisations due to influenza at sentinel hospital sites, it is likely there is minimal impact on society due to influenza in 2021 to date.

. . . . .

Fatal flooding in western Germany and neighboring countries — as it happened

https://www.dw.com/en/fatal-flooding-in-western-germany-and-neighboring-countries-as-it-happened/a-58270820

At least 58 people have died in parts of western Germany amid heavy rains and flooding, local police said on Thursday. Most of the deaths have been reported in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.

The flooding has heavily impacted transport in the region, which lies near the borders to Belgium, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands. Weather forecasters say more rain is expected in the coming days.

David Gulpilil takes centre stage to tell his incredible life story in intimate documentary My Name is Gulpilil

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-26/david-gulpilil-documentary-my-name-is-gulpilil/100156218

ABC Arts / 

By Annabel Brady-BrownPosted Wed 26 May 2021 at 4:37amWednesday 26 May 2021 at 4:37am, updated Wed 26 May 2021 at 3:42pmWednesday 26 May 2021 at 3:42pm

Actor David Gulpilil, an older Yolngu man in shearling coat taking off his akubra, in the documentary My Name is Gulpilil
The film homes in on Gulpilil’s magnetic performances, from his breakout role in Walkabout to his turns in critically acclaimed films, including Rabbit Proof Fence.(Supplied: ABCG Film)

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In early 2017, when the legendary actor David Gulpilil was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer and advised that he had only months to live, he told filmmakers Molly Reynolds and Rolf de Heer that he wanted to make one more film.

He wasn’t well enough to appear as planned in Stephen Maxwell Johnson’s revisionary western, High Ground — he requested that his role be taken by Yothu Yindi’s Witiyana Marika, who is a close relative.

But the three decided “that the best way we could go forward was to do his life story, right until the end,” Reynolds says.

The result is My Name is Gulpilil, an intimate documentary about the actor squaring with the end of his life.

Actor David Gulpilil, an older Yolngu man standing in a hospital corridoor, in the documentary My Name is Gulpilil
Gulpilil has been living more than 3,000 kilometres from home in Arnhem Land, as he receives treatment for lung cancer and emphysema.(Supplied: ABCG Film)

“This film is about me. This is my story of my story,” he says at the outset.

Moving between hospital visits and scenic excursions through the South Australian landscape, the film interweaves footage of Gulpilil speaking direct-to-camera with news archives and clips from his movies, reliving his astonishing half-century on screen.

“I like to show my face to remember,” he says.

Viewers are taken on a bittersweet journey — from his debut in the 1971 Australian New Wave classic Walkabout, through some of the country’s most popular and critically acclaimed films, including Storm Boy, Mad Dog Morgan, Crocodile Dundee and Rabbit Proof Fence.

Refreshingly, the movie clips are presented without title cards that name the directors, as the documentary instead homes in on Gulpilil’s magnetic performances.

‘I’m an actor, I’m a dancer, I’m a singer and also a painter.’

My Name is Gulpilil is likely the final entry in a fruitful, two-decade collaboration between Gulpilil and the white Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer and his partner Reynolds, which started with the Yolngu actor’s phenomenal lead role — his first — in The Tracker in 2002.

Play Audio. Duration: 15 minutes 57 seconds
Listen: David Gulpilil and Rolf de Heer

Over the four films they’ve made since then — which are widely held up as examples of best-practice collaborative filmmaking — Gulpilil has increasingly asserted creative control over his story.

He initiated and narrated Ten Canoes (2006) — the first Australian feature entirely in Indigenous language — and co-wrote and starred in the semi-autobiographical drama Charlie’s Country (2013) and the follow-up essay-documentary Another Country (2015).

Actor David Gulpilil, an older Yolngu man in a white singlet out in the forest on 2013 film Charlie's Country
Charlie’s Country won Gulpilil the Best Actor award at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard section and the AACTA Awards in 2015.(Supplied: ABCG Film)

It’s fitting, then, that My Name is Gulpilil sees him occupy centre stage.

“It’s like, ‘Over to you, David,'” says Reynolds, who directed the film. 

“It’s a fabulous progression, for all of us really.”

Reminiscing direct to camera, Gulpilil recounts his youth as a tribal man from the Arafura Swamp region in Central Arnhem Land, and how it was his talent as a ceremonial dancer that led the British director Nicolas Roeg to “discover” him as a teen and cast him in the biblical desert horror Walkabout.

The experience ignited Gulpilil’s love for cinema and his abiding diva-like delight in front of the camera.

As he said in his 2004 one-man stage show, “Acting came natural to me. Piece of piss. I know how to walk across the land in front of a camera, because I belong there.”

Walkabout toured the world, which took the Yolngu teenager out of his ancestral home and catapulted him into the European film world — and Hollywood-level excess.

Actor David Gulpilil, an young Yolngu man in traditional paint dancing, in the 1971 film Walkabout
At the time Gulpilil was cast in Walkabout, non-Indigenous actors were still being cast as Indigenous characters. (Supplied: ABCG Film)

He amusingly relates some of his adventures: dining with the Queen, carousing with Dennis Hopper, partying with Muhammad Ali and getting high for the first time with Bob Marley. It was the start of a lifelong balancing act for Gulpilil — straddling two worlds, Yolngu and Balanda — and the documentary emphasises the great personal toll this took.

He’s sober these days, but he speaks openly about his well-publicised substance abuse and his time living in the long grass in Darwin.

“Drinking all this grog, smoking all this tobacco, smoking all this ganja. I ended up good in prison every day in Darwin,” he says.

The film uses audio clips from news reports that run through his numerous convictions, including one for domestic violence in 2011, after he broke his wife’s arm.

“I forgot about her,” he says. “Because I was a drunken, drunken man.

“I’m a drug and alcoholic.”

‘No one else can do the life of me, it’s only me. I can do the life about me.’

Unlike other biographic treatments, such as Darlene Johnson’s 2002 documentary Gulpilil: One Red Blood, or Derek Rielly’s 2020 book Gulpilil, there are no other interviewees or talking heads.

“People, usually whitefellas, sort of speak for or about David,’ says Reynolds, explaining the reasoning behind the “clear choices” that she and David made about how to present the documentary.

“David is the consummate performer, the consummate artist, actor. I thought, ‘What happens if he just spoke for himself?’

“I knew David’s capacity to deliver. I thought, ‘He can hold the screen,'” she says. 

Filmmaker Molly Reynolds,  a white woman in red hat and glasses, and David Gulpilil, the Yolgnu actor and dancer in an akubra
“The terrific thing was that throughout this project we developed a real affection, love and regard for one another,” says Reynolds.(Supplied: ABCG Film/Bonnie Paku)

“David really embraced that, because there were no intermediaries at all. He could just look straight down the lens, and speak it as he saw it. 

“Having said that, he’s also an actor and he likes having a director to support his work.”

Needing to stay close to doctors and hospitals, and too sick to travel to Arnhem Land, Gulpilil is observed living in a modest house — kitted out with posters of his films — in Murray Bridge, east of Adelaide, with his indefatigable carer Mary Hood.

Before each shooting session, Reynolds and Gulpilil would discuss what he wanted to talk about that day.

“I quickly learned to be a different director to what I’d normally be,” she says, describing her role as “sort of the brains trust who holds the information”.

“I was there to support his performance, even though his performance was really him.”

The interviews would run for hours. 

“Then he’d just conclude somehow so poetically, and ‘boom’, we’ve got it.”

Tying the film together into effectively one long interview, the unhurried monologues allow the viewer to really listen, and to sink into the rhythm of Gulpilil’s storytelling.

‘I like to make a film, it’s a history. I like it because it won’t rub out.’

Gulpilil’s role extended far beyond being the star interviewee.

“One day he called me up,” recounts Reynolds. “‘Molly, Molly,’ he said. ‘What I’d like to do is, I want you to wrap me in our film, in my cemetery box.'”

She had to break the news to him: “David, we’re shooting digital, not 35mm … but I got the image he was evoking, and that was really poetic, so we did end up shooting it,” she says.

The shot shows Gulpilil lying inside a coffin with his eyes closed, resting on a bed of unfurled analogue film – one of several dreamy images that appear in the documentary to suggest he is confronting his own mortality, and which often foreground his connection with the land.

“He’s got a true sense of cinema,” says Reynolds.

Actor David Gulpilil, an older Yolngu man standing on empty train tracks, in the documentary My Name is Gulpilil
The film is in English and Mandhalpingu and was filmed and produced on Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna and Andyamathana Lands.(Supplied: ABCG Film)

The new film sees Gulpilil credited for the first time in his career as a producer — alongside de Heer and his Ten Canoes co-director Peter Djigirr.

Reynolds describes Djigirr as “critical to everything we do with the Yolngu mob up there… He’s been involved in every single film we’ve made in Ramingining.”

Acting as a kind of “pivot point” between the filmmakers and the community, Djigirr also ensured that everything was done in accord with cultural protocols and traditions.

There was another crucial, if sombre, reason for his involvement, says Reynolds: “There was the expectation that David would be dead by the time we finished. So we wanted someone who … would be able to look at the film and determine how David would feel about it.”

That Gulpilil is still alive to see the finished film, walking the red carpet at the Adelaide Festival for the premiere in March, is a surprise twist ending.

“It felt so right that it worked out this way,” says Reynolds.

“One thing that pleases me about the film, for David, is that I think it has cemented his legacy,” she says. 

“It’s the culmination of all that he has done.”

‘This film will remember to generation to generation.’

In 2002, academic and cultural commentator Marcia Langton said: “David has been absolutely critical to both representing Aboriginal people in modern Australia in the cinema … and also, in his own ironic and charismatic way, undermining the stereotypes that were forced on him. He’s a tremendously important person to us culturally.”

Reflecting on this important role, Reynolds says, “I don’t think Australia yet appreciates [David’s contribution] enough.”

“And I really, really do hope that, on behalf of all of us, whitefellas and blackfellas alike, that we do get to that point.

“My Name Is Gulpilil may just be a reference to help us get there.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/vK1DLvEkvtA?feature=oembedYOUTUBEMy Name is Gulpilil trailer

Taronga Park Zoo

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-07-10/covid-live-updates-coronavirus-press-conference-sydney-lockdown/100282612

https://taronga.org.au/taronga-tv

Taronga Zoo Sydney is temporarily closed. Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo is still operating. Read more.

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The Lambda coronavirus variant has arrived in Australia. Here’s what we know so far

https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2021-07-06/what-we-know-about-the-lambda-variant/100267978

Key points:

  • The Lambda variant is one of 11 official SARS-CoV-2 variants recognised by the World Health Organization
  • It was first detected in Peru and has spread to 29 countries, including Australia
  • A new study that has yet to be peer-reviewed found signs that the variant could be more infectious and harder to tackle with vaccination, but it’s early days

Coronavirus variants

The World Health Organization has identified 11 coronavirus variants so far (there are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet).

There are four variants of concern:

  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Gamma 
  • Delta

And seven variants of interest (most of which you’ve probably never heard of). They are:

  • Epsilon
  • Zeta
  • Eta
  • Theta
  • Iota
  • Kappa
  • Lambda

All SARS-CoV-2 variants are distinguished from one another by mutations in their spike proteins — the components of the virus that allow it to invade human cells.

For instance, the Delta variant first detected in India has two key spike protein mutations — E484Q and L452R  — that allow it to infect cells more easily and evade the body’s immune response. 

According to research published last week but yet to be peer reviewed,  Lambda has seven unique spike protein mutations.

A Chilean team of scientists analysed blood samples from health workers in Santiago who had received two doses of the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech in China.

They found  the Lambda variant has a mutation called L452Q, which is similar to the L452R mutation seen in the Delta and Epsilon variants.

As the L452R mutation is thought to make Delta and Epsilon more infectious and resilient against vaccination, the team concluded that Lambda’s L452Q mutation might also help it spread far and wide.