COVID-19 DIARY – HOW YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR MOST VULNERABLE

Gladys Berejiklian on Twitter: "What an amazing welcome from the staff at  the Endeavour Foundation warehouse in Seven Hills- the largest employer of  people with intellectual disability in Australia.… https://t.co/3oNHXjZtF9"

May 17

Monday.

I have talked previously about the fact that many people with disabilities were being left behind in the vaccine roll-out.

Now finally there was some media coverage thanks to one angry Mum named Margaret Ruff who had had enough.

Her son 45 year old Raymond who lives in a residential group home was still waiting for the jab.

This example struck close to home with regards to my older sister.

And now we had the stats.

Out of 26,000 people with disabilities living in care residences across Australia.

Only 999 had received a jab.

The country had moved to 2A of the vaccine rollout to get everybody over 50 vaccinated but at least 25,000 vulnerable people who fell under catergory 1A which started roll-out in February were still waiting for their jabs.

The disability royal commission heard from families today “Basically we’ve sort of been left on our own.

As at 15th of May, 2021 3,089,183 vaccine doses had been administered in the country wtih 32,386 in a the 24 hours leading up to that.

There were complications to be sure.

There had been 296,336 doses given to those in aged care and residentially disability facilities with 1,524 given in the past 24 hours

67,172 of those were doses administered had been in Queensland.

There were lots of things to complicate delivery of vaccines amongst those with disabilities and in aged care.

One was travel, you had to do and delivery at the residency and you weren’t going to do for one jab.

There was consent to be gained or established.

If they were underlying health conditions you had to get the go ahead from your Doctor or specialist which could take more time here.

You might need others on sight for those who would be anxious to get a needle without someone that put them at ease.

But allowing for all of that – it was absolutely piss poor what had occurred here.

We need to do better.

As Margaret Ruff put it, “It’s disgusting, it’s absolutely disgusting. How do you judge society, by the way they treat their ill and vulnerable.

With the India travel ban there had been renewed talk about how to improve our quarantine system in Australia.

In the news that week there was talk of using Bladin Point for overseas workers for Australian farms to be be quarantined. The facility currently did that for a U.S. Marine Rotational Force that trains in the Northern Territory during the dry season.

Thousands of US marines to touch down in Darwin before June 2021 - ABC News

“When those contracts finish then there is the opportunity to do further work there, particularly dealing with workforce requirements in the Territory,” he told reporters on Brisbane on Monday.

The Victorian government had also spent $15 million dollar to prepare for the construction of a 500 bed quarantine facility at Mickleham north of Melbourne. It would take $200 million to build but that was small change compared to the cost to the economy when a capital city or state goes into lockdown.

A proposal from Queensland to build at Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba to quarantine 1,000 travellers and be manned from 300 staff was rejected.

Increase in infrastructure could be the boom Toowoomba needs

The idea that you can just put these out in the desert somewhere, and I know Toowoomba’s not in the desert but the point being (that) they need to be close to a major capital city airport. The planes aren’t going somewhere else, they’re coming into Brisbane, and that is a very long trek over to Toowoomba,” said the Prime Minister.

Victoria has put a very comprehensive proposal to us, something we can actually work with, and we are. If they [the Queensland government] were to do that, then they could expect the same sort of hearing that the Victorian government’s getting,” the PM explained.

Howard Springs is 25 kilometres from Darwin.

Mickleham is 40 kilometres from Melbourne.

Victoria's Mickleham quarantine hub proposal site a surprise to most

Wellcamp Airport is 160 kilometres from Brisbane.

I wondered what were the factors that went into these decisions.

Previously remote locations had been ruled out because of lack of access to major health care facilities.

On the other hand the push was to mitigate all the pressure on hotel quarantines in major capital cities.

Some outbreaks had occurred following leaks from hotel quarantine staff being out in the community unknowingly infecitous.

But other outbreaks had occured when returned travellers had spent time in quarantine, tested negative and subsequently gone out in the community and been infectious.

Yet again other outbreaks had occured from hospital staff becoming infected.

In terms of distance Ipswich was 40 kilometres from Brisbane but also been part of a greater Brisbane lockdowns this year.

A recent lockdown in South East Queensland had seen cases spread as far as Byron Bay 165 kilometrest to the south and Gladstone 515 kilometres to the north.

So distance couldnt’ be the only factor here, available facilities, support and necessary staff and travel all had to be weighed up.

Furthermore it appeared these facilities were to augment not replace hotel quarantine.

Researchers at Griffith University in Queensland were working on an anti-viral drug which would seek out and destroy COVID-19 cells in an infected person’s lungs while leaving other cells unharmed.

The hope was the drug could be on the market in two years.

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: May 17, 2020

Some national parks in Queensland had re-opened. Karen and I headed out on a Sunday drive, going to the Natural Bridge in Springfield National Park near the border of New South Wales.

COVID-19 DIARY – REPATRIATION

Howard Springs quarantine capacity boosted | Katherine Times | Katherine, NT

 

May 14

 

The first repatriation flight for Australians from India since the short lived travel ban took off from New Delhi with only half of the 150 the passengers scheduled to be on board.

Forty-six people had COVID and twenty four were close contacts. 

Forty six having tested positive for the more contagious Indian variant and people close to them left behind for what would have been their deliverance.

While the government tried to fill the flight with more passengers, it struggled to do so because of the window for pre-flight testing restrictions.

People like Jitin Wig whose wife and toddler tested positive. 

“The whole medical system here is a shambles, so if it does get serious here for any of us, I’m not sure how I’d be able to get help. I’m not sure if I’d be able to get any medicines, I’m not sure if I’d be able to get any oxygen, or anything else they might need,” Wig said of the overworked Indian health care system they might need help from in the coming days.

I understand the government’s position, if people are testing positive, they don’t want to bring the infection over, I understand they are trying to protect the economy, the people. Even though I’m one of those people who didn’t get to go on a flight today, I would still agree that I somebody is testing positive, it is best – for the larger good, I would say – to not bring them over,”the father added.

He did want the government to help those left behind with medical support and consider taking particularly vulnerable people if they had COVID. 

Would you want to board an international flight with someone with COVID on board?

What was the likelihood somebody on that flight would ultimately test positive?

Could other arrangements be made to get those vulnerable people home than just putting them on a flight with others? 

Surely.

Sunny Joura interviewed on ABC News was due to travel on the same flight with his elderley mother but he tested positive. 

In a moment that would have been unsettling he did well to stay calm during an interview with ABC News. He had previously tested negative to fly back on the 28th of April when the ban was put in place. 

He did suggest that decision could now potentlally prove to have turned out to be a death sentence for him.

He also said that only five repatration flights had been sent over from June to December 2020 to India which had been a missed opportunity to get people home before this subsequent wave. Only 750 out of 10,000 Australians in the country had been able to get on repatriation flights during that six month period. He had been trying to get home for 11 months and had had two flights previously cancelled but this was the first time he had tested positve.

The goverment had tried to fill the suddenly spare seats but pre-flight testing didn’t give much of a window of time.

Prior to boarding people take a PCR test two days before the flight and then a rapid antigen test. Both have to return negative results.

 

 

QF112 arrived at the RAAF base in Darwin on Saturday morning. Picture Glenn Campbell

 

May 15

 

The next day Qantas Flight 112 touched down in RAAF Darwin with the passengers headed for quarantine in Howard Springs.

I’m sure they didn’t feel that whatever they had gone through was over but hopefully the worst of it was.

How many would test positive while in quarantine?

How many had left for India to care for a loved one or bury them?

How many counted themselves lucky just to be home?

I wonder.

For what its worth in this small corner of the internet.

Welcome home, it’s good to have you back and hope to have everyone home soon.

“We really need to ensure that we have a system in place to bring these people safely home so they can receive the medical care here in Australia that they require. If our system can’t handle easily 100 people coming back who are testing positive a week, if that if it can’t handle that, then we need to look seriously at our healthcare system,” Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott, from the Global Health Security Network, said.

 

 

May 16

 

On the 16th of May, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 161,854,452 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 675,747. 

There had been 3,367,187 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 12,305.

They're our family': Australia pledges 1m Covid-19 vaccine doses to Papua  New Guinea | Papua New Guinea | The Guardian

In Papua New Guinea there had been 13,928 confirmed cases. There had been 136 deaths.

There had been 504 new daily cases on May 11. Thirteen deaths would be reported on the 20th of May, the most in one day in the small nation. The spread of the virus was still going on in PNG.

As of the 13th of May there had been 11,537 vaccine doses dispensed in the country. 

In Australia there had been 29,967 confirmed cases with a daily increase of ten. There had been 910 deaths.

As of the 27th of April there had been 3,089,183 vaccine doses dispensed in the country.

In Canada there had been 1,318,399 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,991. There had been 24,869 deaths with a daily increase 44.

As of the 20th of May there had been 20,124,578 vaccine doses dispensed in the country. The population of Canada was 37.59 million people.

African nation worst hit by COVID-19 falling behind on vaccines | The Japan  Times

In South Africa there had been 1,611,143 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,750. There had been 55,183 deaths with a daily increase of 59. 

As of the 25th of May, 2021 there had been only 182,983! vaccine doses dispensed in the country. The population of South Africa was 58.56 million people.

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,447,984 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,156. There had been 127,675 deaths with a daily increase of seven.

Those daily numbers were similar to the early part of March 2020 when the first wave was building and late August before numbers continued to rise to devastating effect over winter. Not quite the lull of June and July 2020 but close.

As of the 24th of May there had been 60,965,594 vaccine doses dispensed in the country. The population of Great Britain was 66.65 million people. Given they were now vaccinating people 38 years old and over there must be a few who had gotten second doses or even more?

World reacts to India's catastrophic COVID surge | Coronavirus pandemic  News | Al Jazeera

In India there had been 24,684,077 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 311,170. There had been 270,284 deaths with 4,077.

A record of new daily deaths had been set on the 12th of May with 4,205 deaths recorded that day.

As of the 24th of May there had been 200,494,991 vaccine doses dispensed in the country. 

In the United States of America there had been 32,574,504 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 40,431. In March, April, May and June 2020 the daily averages had never been that high. Many had been less than 20,000 back then. 

There had been 579,664 deaths with a daily increase of 680.

As of the 13th of May there had been 283,181,265 vaccine doses dispensed in the country. The population of the U.S. was 328.2 million people.

 

-Lloyd Marken

 

ONE YEAR EARLIER: May 14, 2020

A MacDonalds at Fawkner in Melbourne Victoria had 90 staff tested and isolated pending results after a break-out of eight COVID-19 cases from the fast food outlet including four staff members and four family members of a worker.

May 15, 2020

On the 15th of May the World Health Organisation reported 6,989 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 14. 98 Australians had died and there was no daily increase.

 

COVID-19 DIARY – HEAVILY WEIGHTED DECISIONS – PART II

India's COVID-19 deaths will rise sharply till mid-May—US study | Inquirer  News

May 06

A Sydney man and his wife tested positive for COVID-19 having visited 14 suburbs over five days where he unknowingly had the virus.

In a twist there was no explanation for how we caught it.

Genomic testing linked him an American man who quarantined at the Park Royal in late April. So there was a missing link.

New restrictions were put in place on the eve of Mother’s Day to run three days until midnight Sunday night.

Mask were to be worn indoors and on public transport, there was no singing or dance indoors with the exception of weddings where 20 could get up and boogy. No more than 20 visitors were allowed in households and no more than two visitors to aged care facilities.

If this was WA or Queensland they would have shut down the whole city. They would have said stay at home, they would have said don’t go about your business. We’re saying the opposite,” jabbed Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Which was a bit funny because recently the Queensland Premier had chosen not to go into lockdown when a case had been out in the communtiy for several days. That decison ultimately meant that two Queenslanders with COVID had travelled to Byron Bay leading to the Bryon Bay Bluesfest having to be cancelled in Berejiklian’s home state.

Additionally there was the missing link element here, somebody was out in the community potentially with COVID with no idea that they had it, maybe even more.

Yet the New South Wale Premier was urging people to go out about their business.

It also did eventuate in a lockdown in south east Queensland so Berejiklian’s comments needed to taken as seriously as her thoughts had been prior to making them.

In Victoria state run vaccination centres were averaging 8,000 jabs a day since phase 2A started earlier in the week.

The New Zealand government paused travel from Sydney for two days.

Six thousand people from New South Wales had travelled to New Zealand over the last 6 days would be contacted.

Those who had been to Sydney hotspots travelling into Western Australia were ordered to self quarantine for 14 days and those entering Queensland had to go into hotel quarantine.

Canada also approved Pfizer for use on teenagers aged 12-16 following trials. There was still a long way to go in vaccinating the adult population though.

Nationwide the same day 14,568,067 doses had been dispensed and 1,173,962 people or 3.1 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated out of a national population of 37 and a half million.

In Queensland a man was in Intensive Care following blood clotting after getting the AstraZeneca vaccination. He was one of five cases of clotting across the country in the past ten days as the government moved to deliver 270,000 doses of the vaccine next week.

There had been eleven cases of blood clotting after 1.4 million doses of AstraZeneca had been given in Australia including one dose to yours truly.

That is 11 / 1 400 000.

That is so far you had a 1 / 140 000 chance of getting a blood clot.

Out of those eleven cases though had been one fatality.

The threat of dying from COVID remained higher even in a country like Australia where case numbers and deaths had been so low.

Capacity at the Howard Springs facility was due to expand from 850 to 2,000 in preparation for repatriation flights from India as more aid from Australia landed in India.

An ABC News report said that these expansions would be complete by the end of the month, not May 15 but it did give the government time to have undertaken a lot of the work to expand capacity if repatriations did begin on May 15.

Two weeks is a long time in politics, Perth had been in lockdown at the end of April with talk about high numbers of COVID cases in hotel quarantine.

Back then the pressure was on for the Federal Government to act to protect the country from another outbreak in the community and certain sectors of the media were constantly bemoaning shutdowns as hurtful to the economy.

The plan to do something had been discussed at National Cabinet and signed off by health beaurecrats.

But now less than a week later and the focus was on the moral considerations of such an unprecedented decision and the government seemed anxious to peel back the law in another weeks’ time.

Phrasing it around lower number COVID cases in hotel quarantine and a shift to more repatriations through facilities like Howard Springs made sense.

Specialist staff at the Howard Springs facility wear heavy PPE gear.

It was understood the first repatriation flight from India would start as soon as the ban lifted May 15 with a flight that could bring home 200 passengers with priority given to 900 Australians stranded in the sub-continent that were classed as vulnerable.

It was expected that Howard Springs would be close to empty of travellers quarantining there at that point.

Anybody scheduled to board would have to return two negative results before stepping on the plane.

“This second wave is very bad, the logistics in India are very difficult, people are living in remote towns and villages and to get them safely to an airport is a very difficult undertaking. These are the real, practical consequences. There are thousands of people, many dying on the streets in India. So it’s going to be very complex,” Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.

I imagine those Australians waiting to get on those flights were like, “Yeah no shit mate.”

There would only be one repatriation flight per week, previously to the travel ban there had been two a week from India.

But two weeeks was a long time for the virus to wreak havoc.

How many people would die waiting for a flight home in that time?

On May 6th, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported in India there had been 21,077,410 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 412,262.

A world record for daily new cases.

There had been 230,168 deaths with a daily increase of 3,980.

A new record of daily deaths in India too.

May 07

The next day the Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ban would end on May 15.

The original decision to put in place that biosecurity order until the 15th of May has proved very effective and it will run its full course until that time without any change,” Morrison said.

The challenge we have had with arrivals from India is the higher incidence of infections and the stress that was placing on the quarantine system,” he explained.

Australia's Scott Morrison stands by 'one country' remark on China and  Taiwan | The Japan Times

At one point the infection rate at Howard Springs was 15 per cent, much higher than the goal of two per cent causing concern for the quarantine system and potentially Darwin’s hospital system.

However now those numbers had halved and there was an expectation they could be close to zero by next weekend.

No decision had been made yet about commercial flights coming in from India.

Meanwhile the situation in India remained dire.

Positive test results for COVID were averaging about 20 per cent and plenty of people were not getting tested and dying from COVID.

The percentage fo the population that had been fully vaccinated was 2.2%.

More than 46,000 Red Cross staff and volunteers were helping in India.

In the capital city Kathmandu of neighbouring Nepal positve test results for COVID were up to 47 per cent. The country was in lockdown and its hospitals were stretched.

On May 7th, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported in India there had been 21,491,598 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 414,188.

The highest ever – 414,188.

The global total of new cases in the world that day was a little over double this with 853,895.

There had been 234,083 deaths with a daily increase of 3,915.

The next day would set a new record with 4,187 deaths. 

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: May 6, 2020

In Melbourne, there was an outbreak at the Cedar Meats abattoir leading to 62 confirmed cases.

COVID-19 DIARY – HEAVILY WEIGHED DECISIONS – PART I

May 03

Monday.

The vaccine rollout continued in Australia with vaccinations being opened up to the 2A Cohort. Anyone over 50 could now get the jab and the main jab available was the AstraZeneca one.

This had followed discussions at National Cabinet.

Politically it was commented that maybe with the vaccine rollout not going smoothly the Prime Minister had moved to more closely consult with state Premiers to achieve results and to also share any blame for failure to deliver.

Either way, with the decision to list Pfizer as the preferred jab for under 50s, the very rare examples of blood clotting being reported in media, and elements of the community that were fearful or against vaccinations – there was now a need to build momentum and confidence.

Sometimes I worry that people have become complacent over our good fortune here in Australia.

There are plenty of countries that avoided major outbreaks for some time before falling foul of the virus.

There was also talk about the need to open up borders and that would only be suitable once we got the majority of the population vaccinated.

So this was the next step and a step in the right direction.

Nearly 16 million doses would be part of 2A which was a cohort of six million Australians aged 50 to 69.

I knew that still not all of 1B had been completed which included people with disabilities and the staff at their centres.

Across the country people were lining up at vaccination hubs including people like the 53 year old recently re-elected Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan who rolled up his sleeve for the AstraZeneca jab.

In Melbourne there were waiting times for people who just rocked up on the day – some as long as two hours.

On Monday a new element to the India travel ban that had been announced on Saturday came into effect.

Any travellers who have been in India in the 14 days leading up to their date of arrival in Australia could face jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $66,000.

The law appeared to be unprecedented and in some circles was labelled immoral and inhuman.

“It is incredibly disproportionate to the threat that is posed,” GP Dr Vyom Sharma told Weekend Breakfast.

Our families are quite literally dying in India overseas. Many people are trying to come back. We know that hundreds of people in this situation are classify as medically and financially vulnerable, to have absolutely no way of getting them out — this is abandonment,” he said.

A week previously the WA Premier Mark McGowan had said, “India is an epicentre of death and destruction as we speak.I don’t think there is any need to go to India, I don’t.

Epidemiologist Michael Toole, from the Burnet Institute cited a lack of confidence in hotel quarantine from the government.

By his count there had been 16 separate leaks from hotel quarantine in the past six months in five major capital cities.

We need to do that by ensuring that the ventilation in every hotel room is adequate and that staff wear the most appropriate protective equipment, including respiratory masks. That just hasn’t happened because we don’t have a national standard. Each state and territory is basically doing their own thing,” he cited as a possible solution.

As I said, we’ve seen in 16 times in the last 6 months. And if we don’t make any improvements, we can expect more than a dozen more breaches to occur in the section six months,” he told.

Hysterical and ruinous': Christmas Island furious over Australia's  coronavirus plans | Christmas Island | The Guardian

Opposition MP Jason Clare suggested Christmas Island as a solution as had been done a year earlier with people returning from China but notably that was previous to the Howard Springs facility being set up.

According to Education Minister Alan Tudge, the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory currently has an infection rate of 15 per cent, well above the goal of 2 per cent.

Fifty-seven per cent of the positive cases in quarantine had been arrivals from India. It was placing a very, very significant burden on health and medical services in states and territories,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dlsms4JhCCY

May 04

In the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday morning across Victoria’s 22 mass vaccination hubs there had been a record 6,923 doses administered.

As media spotlight ramped up on the travel ban, Prime Minister Scott Morrison when interviewed said, “I think it would be very remote circumstances that would see them imposed. I don’t want to see them necessarily imposed anywhere because I don’t want to see people breaching the rule. If everybody cooperates, then we can get things in a stronger position and that means we can start those repatriation flights again.

The Australian Medical Association had written a letter to the Prime Minister and Health Minister to remove the jail terms and fine amounts.

“To be clear, the AMA is supportive of the pause on flights so that our hotel quarantine system can be readied for the increased risk that we are clearly seeing now of Australians returning with the virus … from India,” AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“The government, in our view, should be doing everything in its power — chartering flights, using our Defence Force if necessary — to bring the most vulnerable of the Australians in India home. In the longer term there’s also the need to replace hotel quarantine with purpose-built facilities, and I’ve had a conversation with the Minister of Health expressing that view today, and the AMA will continue to fight for that.”

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: May 4, 2020

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that Prep, Year 1, 11 and 12 would return to school next Monday May 11. For the other grades it was planned for them to remain remote learning with a return to classrooms May 25.

COVID-19 DIARY – ONE LOCKDOWN ENDS AND A NEW BAN BEGINS

Cyclist wearing mask rides near fence of lookout over looking Perth city skyline of tall buildings.

April 26

Monday.

Perth came out of its snap lockdown with no new community cases reported that day.

Mandatory mask wearing would remain until at least 1 minute past midnight on Saturday morning.

Retaurants, pubs and cafes could re-open but indoor gyms, nightclubs and casinos would remain shut.

“The short three-day lockdown has done the job it was designed to do. It was the circuit-breaker we needed to limit community spread. Western Australians have done their bit to keep our community safe,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

QANTAS plane on tarmac in Hobart.

April 27

On the larger scale the Australian government made a decision to stop all direct flights returning from India India due to the higher number of COVID cases from returned travellers in hotel quarantine in particular from India.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all indirect flights through other cities like Doha, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur had been paused by their respective governments.

Last week on the 22nd of April, National Cabinet had made the decision to reduce flights from India by 30 per cent. 

It followed a reduction in repatriations and travellers going through hotel quarantines due to increased case numbers in said quarantine.

The ban halted two passenger flights from India to Sydney, two repatriation flights from India to Darwin and eight further repatriation flights scheduled for the first two weeks of May.

Travel to India was also retricted to matters of national interest, under medical exemption and for COVID-19 purposes.

Specialist staff at the Howard Springs facility wear heavy PPE gear.

On the 24th of April the number of positive cases at the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory had reached 48.

“The Northern Territory only has a certain amount of ICU beds,” the Northern Territory Deputy Opposition Leader Gerard Maley had said.

As of that Saturday, a total of 6,668 people have arrived in Darwin on repatriation flights since October last year, of which 117 have tested positive to COVID-19.

The total number of positive coronavirus cases reported in the Territory is 160, with all cases relating to international or interstate travel.

The Prime Minister said the total number of weekly cases in hotel quarantine had risen from 90 to 143.

The pause would last until May 15.

It was reported 9,000 Australians in India wanted to return home with 650 of them categorised as vulnerable.

Australia says chance of jail remote for India travel ban offenders - Times  of India

We don’t think the answer is to just forsake those in India and just shut them off. I don’t see this as a problem we have to solve, I see this as a group of people we need to help. These are Australians and Australian residents who need our help, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

When flights resume, all passengers will be required to have both a negative COVID-19 PCR test result and a negative rapid antigen test result prior to departure.

The Australian government was also sending 500 ventilators, 1 million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.

On the 27th of April, the World Health Organisation reported there had been 17,636,307 confirmed cases with a daily increae of 323,144. There had been 197,894 deaths with a daily increase of 2,771.

“I stress this is an initial package, there’ll be more to follow,” the Prime Minister advised about the aid being sent.

“This is the challenge of a pandemic, you don’t get the perfect of all situations,” the Prime Minister said.

The European Union decided to sue AstraZeneca for breach of contract after they failed to deliver 30,000,000 dozes of their COVID vaccine by the end of June. The pharmaceutical company was only going to be able to deliver a third of that amount.

The U.S. government planned to send 60 million doses of AstraZeneca overseas to where it is needed if the move gets approval from the Food and Drugs Administration.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP – PART X

Mass cremations begin as India's capital faces deluge of COVID-19 deaths |  Reuters

April 19

Monday.

At a National Cabinet meeting the and federal leaders agreed to opening up vaccinations to anyone over 50 in Australia.

Regardless of whether the older age groups had all been vaccinated.

The thinking was as more people got more vaccinated it might grow confidence for some to get vaccinated who were sitting on the fence.

Hence starting on 2A phase of those aged 50-69 before the rest of 1B had been completed.

There wasn’t a lot of coverage in the media at the moment but I can tell that not all those with disabilities or living in supported accomodation had received their vaccines yet.

We don’t want to see one vaccine that’s rolling off the line and going through the approval processes and the batch testing sitting in a fridge,” Morrison said.

Great…so how about getting it to those with disabilities?

The priority of the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy remains to vaccinate vulnerable populations under priority groups 1a and 1b,” the Prime Minister said.

The medical advice remains that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is safe and recommended for Australians over 50 years old and all states will continue to be prioritised AstraZeneca for Australians over 50 years old,” he added.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

“Scott Morrison promised aged care residents and disability facility residents, the most vulnerable members of our community, would be fully vaccinated by Easter, but still more than three-quarters of aged-care facilities have not had their residents fully vaccinated. This is simply not good enough; Australia needs to speed up this crucial vaccine rollout. I’d like to see a new plan with clear timelines and targets. The last one which had targets like 4 million Australians by end of March, the job done by October, is clearly in tatters, we need a new plan with revised timelines and targets,” said Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler before the meeting.

Six million Australians would come under the 2A phase.

The Department of Health reported on April 14th, 2.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been produced in country and 714,000 received from overseas.

Breakdowns of how many people have been given which vaccine are not provided by the government or health authorities.

The changes would be potentially approved at the next National Cabinet meeting scheduled to take place on Thursday but had agreed in-principle to the changes.

The Prime Minister said National Cabinet still planned for GPs to be the primary way of dispensing vaccines to the populace but state governments would look to assist with mass vaccination sites.

Mr Morrison said the Commonwealth will continue to finalise the vaccination of residential aged care facility (RACF) residents with Pfizer using an in-reach model.

Australia remained slow in getting its country vaccinated.

This had implications for opening borders back up going forward causing issues for trade and business but as the Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted, “The pandemic is raging. globally. It’s raging.

Also being discussed was mass vaccine centre hubs in particular to when Pfizer doses arrived later in the year for under 50s to get vaccinated with.

“There’s a lot of work to be done given that would be effectively, if we wished, a 12-week sprint. There’d need to be plenty of planning to achieve that,” said the Prime Minister.

There was also talk from the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt about looking to set up an MRNA capacity here in Australia but it could take up to a year.

Other countries, Germany for example, decided they wanted to manufacture their own mRNA vaccines in country, to be assured of supplies of these state of the art vaccines, and they built a factory in about six months. We’ve seen for months now, talk from the government and no action,” countered Butler.

India is running out of COVID-19 vaccines, as second wave accelerates

In India a surging new wave of cases and deaths continued in a country that was a major vaccine producer.

On April 19th, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 15,061,919 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 273,810. There had been 178,769 deaths with a daily increase of 1,619.

They had reported a million new cases in less than a week.

New restrictions and curfews were being put in place but the the wave was rising.

Sixty per cent of all vaccines were produced in India and the country was home to the Serum Institute of India which was the world’s largest vaccine producer.

They were a major player in the global vaccine sharing initiative COVAX.

Covax vaccine-sharing scheme delivers first doses to Ghana - BBC News

But now India was in short supply of vaccines themselves.
While vaccines could only do so much now given the spread was happening it did raise questions about the competing priorities of India’s delivery of vaccines to the rest of the world and to its own people.
SII had also previously slowed down exports in January to prioritise the most vulnerable in India with vaccines. Those decisions did have impacts abroad particularly in Africa.
The world has never looked to produce vaccines on this scale in these timeframes.
The United States of America with the most number of reported cases and deaths in the world had placed a temporary ban on raw materials used for vaccine production. The European Union had also tightened restrictions around vaccine exports.
Stage-3 Trials Given A Miss: Congress Leaders On Covid Vaccine Approval
The two main vaccines in India were the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine also known as Covishield, and the Indian vaccine Covaxin made by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Their roll out began in earnest in January with health care workers and those highest at risk. They wanted to vaccinate 300 million people by August in a country of 1.4 billion people.
Covaxin had been rushed into service before third trial efficacy data had been released but initial vaccine hesitancy had been overcome.
Still only 14.3 million Indians had been fully vaccinated and now the pandemic was raging.
The capacity to have vaccinated the whole country in such a short time would not have been possible.
In Punjab last week there had been 450,000 doses of Covishield and 30,000 doses of Covaxin in a state of 27 million.
Covishield: A timeline of the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Serum  Institute of India | Hindustan Times
Other states had to suspend their vaccinations including the COVID ravaged Maharashtra which had also administered more than 11.1 million doses more than any other state.
Last week Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with state governors had praised the success of India’s vaccination efforts.
India had become the fastest nation to reach 100 million jabs in 85 days. America had taken 89 and China 102.
The Indian government moved to receive more vaccines the same week by fast tracking approval of vaccines already approved for use in other countries.

India delivers COVID jabs for 'world's biggest vaccination drive' |  Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

April 21

Wednesday and my Mum and Dad got their Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine.

This was a huge relief for me.

I am told that on the way to the centre they were a little nervous and decided to put on the radio for some music to distract themselves and a news bulletin about blood clotting came on and they promptly turned the radio off.

There were no side effects and they will get a second dose in three months time.

April 22

The Australian government announced a travel ban on all direct flights from India. That included Australians trying to return home.

312,731 new cases were reported in the country that day alone and there were now well over 2 million active cases in India at 2,291,428.

2,104 deaths had been recorded in a single day.

The death toll stood at 184,657.

One third of active cases in Australia have now orginated from returning flights from India.

The travel ban will started on April 27 and will last for two weeks until May 15 when a further decision will be made.

New South Wales was also going to have a major vaccination hub open by mid-May to delvier 30,000 doses a week.

April 23

Friday the week was coming to an end, a long weekend beckoned but perhaps appropriately on the eve of ANZAC Day the mood was sombre as Perth went into a three day lockdown, a boat with COVID cases docked in Australia and images out of India broke my heart. Just look at that masked woman at the end shaking as she cries.

Anzac driveway events set to stay: RSLWA | Liverpool City Champion |  Liverpool, NSW

A man in his 50s had flown into Melbourne on Wednesday and tested positive Friday morning. He had been in hotel quarantine for the required days then been out in the Perth Community for five days with a friend who had now tested positive.

Those 270 passengers on the flight into Melbourne would need to isolate for 14 days and were currently being contact by Victorian authorities.

Thirteen more people had tested positive in the Howard Springs quarantine facility in Darwin – all returned travellers from India in the past week. So they were deferring flights throughout May into June.

There were 18 more hotel quarantine cases in New South Wales, twelve of them returned travellers from India.

Channel Nine 9 News reported the Queensland Premier had written a letter to the Prime Minister calling for a two week freeze on any travel from India.

Sydney port workers await COVID-19 results after boarding ship with  positive crew members - ABC News

Thirteen out of fifteen Port Botany workers tested negative to COVID having boarded a tanker previously that had an outbreak of COVID on board.

The tanker Inge Kosan had travelled from Port Moresby and docked in Sydney on the 31st of March and then gone on to Vanuatu where it was detained with twelve cases on board and one death due to COVID.

But it was India that captured our attention. Well over a year into a virus that first impacted China in late 2019 had wrecked havoc but perhaps never on a scale like this.

It was heartbreaking.

Just when you think we might have seen the worst of this.

We were reminded the virus never sleeps.

It never rests.

We can’t afford too either.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP – PART VI

March 05

Friday.

In South Australia GP Caroline Phegan received the first AstraZeneca vaccine in the country. Having worked on the frontline of fighting COVID consulting in Emergency Departments and with autoimmune issues in her own health her vaccination went well and caused her a great deal of relief.

In the past 12 days, 3,000 South Australians had been vaccinated but the state government still was aiming for 12,000 in the first three weeks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave a bizare update following a meeting of National Cabinet. He spoke for at least five minutes but there were few actual pieces of information in it. One was an expansion of the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory expanding from housing 850 to 2,000 returned travellers in quartine.

The European Union blocked a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca vials originally destined to be exported to Australia. That certainly upset a few people over here but the Australian government downplayed it.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton reminded that we were weeks away from having over a million doses of AstraZeneca rolled out from local production here in Australia.

The decision made by the EU was originally put forwardd from Italy.

AstraZenca itself was making delivery of 40 million doses to the continent by the end of the month – half of what it had originally promised. That kind of shortfall was projected for the second quarter of the year.

In Itally 4.8 million Italians had been vaccinated out of a population of 60 million people.

Europe had just gone through the ringer the past twelve months, political leaders could ill afford to be seen to do nothing in the lead up to next winter where deaths had to be less than they were in just this one past.

Morally they were even more obligated.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 5th of March, 2021, out of a population of over five million people, in Norway there had been 72,923 confirmed cases and 632 deaths.

In Sweden with over 10 million people it was 680,071 confirmed cases and 13,113 deaths.

Sweden's Pandemic Experiment | The New Yorker

In Portugal with a population of 10 million people too had seen 806,916 confirmed cases and 16,458 deaths.

Greece with 10.7 million people 199,496 confirmed cases and 6,632 deaths.

In Belgium with 11 and half million people , there had been 784,682 confirmed cases and 21,453 deaths.

With just under a population of 47 million, Spain had seen 3,154,712 confirmed cases and 98,974 deaths.

Making headlines as the first European country with a serious outbreak last year Italy had sufferred 2,999,119 confirmed cases and 98,974 deaths.

In Australia with a population of 25 million people there had been 29,002 confirmed cases and 909 deaths.

Additionally some European countries had had some bad experiences with the Pfizer vaccine like Norway in January where 29 elderly receipents had experienced side effects and sadly 13 had died.

For the European Union this was a no brainer however concerning it might be for us in the southern hemisphere.

The larger concern was if national politics made us lose sight of the larger need to get the whole world vaccinated.

It was easy to hold up 250,000 vials from Australia who was going to produce the same drug enmasse.

But what about withholding orders from countries that were not in our position?

March 06

Planet America covered some of the latest developments in America. Case numbers and deaths were down as vaccinations occurred at a high rate.

That was good enough for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to announce that Texas was 100 per cent open for business and the mandated mask wearing was over.

Mississipi soon followed suit.

Abbott’s actions showed the state’s power over decisions that the Federal government count not affect in the normal scheme of things. All the more reason why it was essential that the President was consistent in his message and sought to bring uniformity to the actions of all governments. Something that had desperately been need last March.

THe last thing we need is neanderthal thinking,” said President Biden leading some to give full throated defense to Neanderthals. Who you know… are extinct.

Interestingly enough Governor Abbott had taken exectuive action back on October 8 when there was a seven day average of 3,894 new cases. Now there was 6,681.

Texas had given first jabs to only 13 per cent of the states’ population – that was 48th out of the 50 states.

March 07

On the eve of rolling out AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia through General Practioners

81,000 vaccinations had been reached in the past two weeks but as General Practioners across four and half thousand centres were called upon to start providing jabs in the past two weeks the hope was to reach half a million per week.

Some GPs were arguing though that not enough vials were being allocated to them to get all their patients vaccinated any time soon and would disrupt regular appointments and providing other medical services.

On the 7th of March, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 116,197,902 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 442,880.

There had been 2,586,898 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 8,916.

In Australia there had been 29,030 cases with a daily increase of ten. There had been 909 deaths.

In Canada there had been 881,761 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,370. There had been 22,192 deaths with a daily increase of 41.

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,213,705 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,294. There had been 124,419 deaths with a daily increase of 158.

In India there had been 11,210,799 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 18,711. There had been 157,756 deaths with a daily increase of 100.

In the United States of America there had been 28,602,211 with a daily increase of 67,213. There had been 519,075 deaths with a daily increase of 2,227.

March 10

On Wednesday New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian received the AstraZeneca vaccine along with health care workers and aged care residents across Sydney.

March 11

In the United States of America the vaccine roll-out continued.

President Joe Biden had declared on January 14th, 2021 he would deliver 100 million shots in his 100 days. A more than acheiveable goal given how the vaccine roll out was tracking at that time.

Fifty days into his Presidency 75 million doses had already been delivered.

Vaccines couldn’t come fast enough as spring breakers still planned to head to Florida and Disney World was opening up again even though the state was still averaging 5,000 cases a day at that time.

-Lloyd Marken