Australian State Closes Borders As COVID-19 Cases Surge; Scientists Urge WHO To Revise Guidance: Live Updates

Monday, July 6, 2020
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
Mon, 07/06/2020

Excuse us – we just couldn’t help ourselves..

…after months of a global pandemic killing more than half a million people, hundreds of scientists are joining together in an open letter to the World Health Organization urging the WHO to update its guidelines – which myriad critics (including many quoted on this website) have warned are woefully out of date – to account for the fact that there’s a growing body of evidence showing that the virus is, in fact, airborne.

Following the fiasco over the WHO’s disastrous flip-flops on its infection-control guidance on issues like the benefits of wearing masks, to the possibility of being infected by an asymptomatic patient (something one top WHO scientist once described as “rare”), few really pay attention to the agency’s guidance anymore.

As of now, the WHO guidelines claim that evidence of the virus being “airborne” (ie can glom on to larger particles like air pollution etc) isn’t especially convincing. More likely, aerosol droplets expelled when a person coughs, or sneezes or breathes are the primary transmission, and these ‘aerosolized’ droplets are too large to linger in the air, explaining why the risk of infection outdoors is much lower, so long as social distancing is maintained.

But in an open letter to the agency that will soon be published in a respected scientific journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles carrying the virus that can linger in the air for longer and infect people, and that the WHO should amend its guidance claiming that this evidence “isn’t especially convincing.”

Of course, if true, this would create serious problems for restaurants as they try to reopen indoor dining, while also showing that health-care workers must wear N95 masks at all times or face odds of infection of virtually 100%.

News of the letter was published by the NYT on the 4th, but has garnered more attention Monday as Reuters approached the WHO for comment.

“We are aware of the article and are reviewing its contents with our technical experts,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in an email reply to a Reuters request for comment.

A confidence-inspiring response, to be sure.

Meanwhile, the biggest news overnight comes out of Australia, where the border between Victoria and New South Wales, the country’s two largest states, is being closed for the first time in 100 years as the number of new COVID-19 cases surge in Melbourne and the surrounding area, the latest step as the country – which recently touted its triumph over the virus – scrambles to stave off a resurgence. According to the AP, the hard-hit Australian state of Victoria suffered 2 COVID-19-linked deaths and its highest-ever daily tally of newly confirmed infections on Monday as authorities prepare to close the country’s border with New South Wales. Both men – one in his 60s and one in his 90s – were in the median age range for deaths in the country, and their deaths brought Australia’s death toll to 106.

Here’s more from the AP:

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said of the 127 new cases, 53 were among 3,000 people who have been confined by police to their apartments in nine public housing blocks since Saturday.

Andrews said the high number of cases reflected a daily record number of tests exceeding 24,500.

Andrews also announced that the state border with New South Wales will be closed from late Tuesday night in an agreement between the two state premiers and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Morrison had previously opposed states closing their borders.

It will be the first time Australia’s two most populous states have closed their border since the pandemic began.

New South Wales had previously banned travel from dozens of Melbourne suburbs that were locked down last week for a month due to high rates of infection.

NSW is clearly annoyed with its errant neighbor, with the state’s leader warning that stringent action must be taken to stop Victoria from reinfecting the country. NSW’s premier warned that the decision to close the border between the two states marked a new phase in the country’s struggle with the outbreak.

The leader of Australia’s most populous state said her government’s decision to close its border with hard-hit Victoria marked a new phase in the country’s outbreak.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian had criticized states that closed their borders to New South Wales residents when Sydney, the state capital and Australia’s largest city, had most of the country’s COVID-19 cases.

She noted the overwhelming majority of new cases in Melbourne in recent weeks were from community transmission. Everywhere else in Australia, the vast majority of cases were people infected overseas or by a returned traveler, Berejiklian said.

“What is occurring in Victoria has not yet occurred anywhere else in Australia,” she said. “It’s a new part of the pandemic and, as such, it requires a new type of response.”

New South Wales police will close the Victorian border from late Tuesday. Some flights and trains services would continue for travelers who are given permits and exemptions, Berejiklian said

As we reported yesterday, Texas reported a startling spike in COVID-19-related hospitalizations yesterday, as more than 8k new patients have been hospitalized in the last 24 hours. Meanwhile, California is preparing for wildfire season by once again relying on posses of prison inmates to “volunteer” to fight the blaze. The only problem is this year, they’ll also be battling COVID-19.

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