COVID, as always, dominated news headlines this week. Melbourne’s Holiday Inn cluster has grown to 13 cases and as of Saturday (13th February), has been linked to one locally acquired community transmission. As a result, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has enacted a 5-day lockdown on Metropolitan Melbourne, effective from 12th of February 11:59 pm.
A returned traveller has been blamed for the outbreak, having reportedly used a nebuliser to treat his asthma – something which the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care have warned against for use in patients with COVID-19, as it significantly increases the changes of viral transmission, as virus particles are liquefied into airborne particles.
Hence, Victoria’s supposed “gold standard” hotel quarantine is once again under intense scrutiny from both the public and health officials, as to why an event like this was able to occur, with the Australian Medical Association declaring that Victoria “cannot be trusted” to run such a quarantine program.
Elsewhere in Melbourne however, Australia’s vaccine efforts are on track at CSL, a global biotechnology company, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison who toured the facility recently. He described the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – one of the two types of vaccines bought by Australia – to be ready “in a matter of weeks”, aiming to have vaccines released to the public by the end of March.
Scott Morrison’s calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 were also answered this week, though without the conclusive results the PM would have perhaps liked. Dominic Dwyer, the Australia member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) investigation team sent to Wuhan, is now back in Australia in quarantine. The team failed to conclude how the pandemic started and have yet to identify the reservoir host for COVID-19 to human transmission. Despite being hampered by the unavailability of certain data, however, Dwyer has still described the experience as worthwhile. The United States of America has now called on China to release the raw data that the WHO team were unable to access.
YEMEN HEALTH CRISIS
A recent United Nations report warned that more than two million children under the age of five in Yemen will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021- four-hundred thousand of which are at risk of death. This ongoing health crisis in Yemen and the ability to give humanitarian aid is largely hampered by the the six-year long civil conflict which has brought about both political and economic ruin to the country.
In response to the dire health crisis and to ease the political conflict, the Biden Administration revoked the designations of Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organisation. This response demonstrated a new approach to diplomatic relationships, a stark contrast to the previous Trump presidency, presenting a flicker of hope to somewhat peaceful resolutions.
DONALD TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT TRIAL
Former U.S President Donald Trump’s second impeachment commenced on the 9th of February, making him the only U.S. president to ever be impeached twice. The trial addresses Trump’s highly publicised attempts to interfere with the 2020 U.S elections through means false accusations of voter fraud and inciting insurrection via the storming of the U.S Capitol in Washington on January 6th in 2021. Yet in spite of this, Trump was acquitted of all allegations, with senators voting 57- 43 guilty – just 10 guilty votes short of the required 67 to impeach him.