Coronavirus in Victoria
Last week saw the extension of Victoria’s stage four restrictions past the original end date of September 13th. Yet despite this continuation, the state has seen its lowest numbers of recorded cases in about three months; there were only 41 new cases on September 13th, compared to over 200 new cases a mere four weeks ago.
To address the current situation in Victoria and provide some semblance of future stability for businesses within the state, the government has released a roadmap outlining its five-point plan to reopen the state.
The 1st step, which comes into effect on the 14th of September, includes extending curfew to 9pm, as well as increasing the limit on outdoor activities to 2 hours. This stage also includes the establishment of “bubbles” where single parents and those living alone can isolate in the company of one another.
The following stages are all tied to dates and threshold cases numbers, each gradually easing previous restrictions. Below is just some of the key information. (For more details visit https://www.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-roadmaps
- (Aim) Metropolitan Melbourne reaches a 14-day average of 30-50 recorded cases per day
- Effective on 28th September
- Includes the opening of VCE/VCAL and specialist schools for term 4
- (Aim) Daily case rate reaches <5
- Effective on 26th October
- No curfew
- No restrictions on leaving homes
- (Aim) No new cases in over 14 days
- Up to 20 visitors at home
- Public gatherings of up to 50 people
In wake of this roadmap announcement, the Victorian government has also released details of a $3 billion support program for Victorian businesses. This includes $1.1 billion in cash grants to small and medium businesses as well as companies who are deemed as “most affected by the lockdown restrictions”.
In other state-related coronavirus news, the inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program has aired that 99% of cases in the second wave could be attributed to three different outbreaks. Hence, shedding light on the costly and disorganised nature of the program. The Victorian Premier is set to face inquiry into the program and a final report will be compiled in November.
Oxford and AstraZeneca are set to resume their phase three clinical trial after pausing when a participant developed an unexplained illness. This illness was later confirmed to be transverse myelitis and trials have since been declared safe to process. Yet such pauses can also be expected in the future, as participants may fall sick from natural causes unrelated to the trial program.
This announcement comes in the wake of nine COVID-19 vaccine companies, including AstraZeneca, publishing a pledge to only apply for regulatory approval after vaccines have, as quoted from CEOs, “high ethical standards and sound scientific principles”. As US President Donald Trump pushes for a vaccine to be discovered by November 3rd (before the US election) and safety questions are being raised regarding fast-tracking the trials, it comes as a relief that science- not politics- will decide when a suitable vaccine is ready and safe for public distribution.
In the past, Jupiter’s moons have been noted as hotter than they should be, given their position from the Sun. Yet a study by the University of Arizona has aired a new theory that the moons are actually heating each other.
This study has proposed that gravitational interplay between the moons causes tidal heating- more than what is caused by Jupiter itself. Tidal heating is the process that occurs when gravitational tugs between the moons and the planet squash and stretch the moons, generating heat. New knowledge that moon to moon tidal interactions rather than Jupiter alone generates heat, helps us to better understand Jupiter’s moon system and explore the liquid water trapped under its surface. It is hoped that future programs may in turn discover the true depth of these hidden oceans.
For the first time in fifty years, Australian media organisations have no accredited journalists in China. Correspondents from The Australian Financial Review and the ABC flew back to the country after seeking protection in Australian embassies. State officers in China had visited the homes of both journalists, revealing they were persons of interest in “a national security case” and thus unable to leave the country due to required questioning. This announcement came after the confirmed arrest of Australian Cheng Lei who worked as a Chinese TV anchor and was “suspected of carrying out criminal activities endangering China’s national security,” as stated by Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
The Australia government has now revoked the visas of two Chinese media officials and scholars in the country- both targeted for involvement in an investigation regarding foreign interference of the NSW Parliament. The homes of four journalists were subsequently raided. Yet these actions only seem to escalate the tense diplomatic stand-off between Australia and China.
For the last three weeks, fires been burning in Oregon, California and Washington, displacing thousands and claiming the lives of 33 people. The smoke pollution in Oregon’s largest city is currently reported to be the worst in the world. These wildfires have swept through an area the size of New Jersey (about a third of the size of Tasmania).
Democratic Governors of all three states have stated that global warming is the underlying cause of the fires, whilst US President Donald Trump claims the spread is only a consequence of fire mismanagement. Meanwhile, there are also users on social media blaming Antifa and the Proud Boys for causing the wildfires. The FBI has since investigated and found those claims to be unsubstantiated.
France’s “yellow vests”
More than 250 people have been arrested in the streets of Paris after the police fired tear gas at protestors. The “yellow vest” movement originated in 2018 and its name coined due to the high visibility jackets of motorists who protested against fuel taxes and economic reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron. Last Saturday marked the first protest since the coronavirus pandemic, as daily cases in the country reach almost 10 000. Although the marches were authorised, one still flared up after protestors left the assigned route, setting bins and a car alight. Local police have called for the protestors to wear masks and respect public health measures.