- Novak Djokovic has revealed he is opposed to vaccination
- New Yorks virus outbreak past the high point
- Johnson on top of things after virus response backlash
- Wuhan lab head slams claims COVID-19 came from his lab
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth has said that even if only one per cent of Australians sign up to the controversial COVID-19 tracking app, that will be more useful than if no one takes it up.
Coatsworth said he thinks Australians “will come with us” on signing up to the app.
“They will see the inherent value in having a mechanism that helps those disease detectives do their work…. we have been very clear on what the app is about, this is not a geo-location app, for example,” he said.
He said he also backed what the minister has said that it’s necessary then to ask Australians to give up their privacy concerns.
Australian Government Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nick Coatsworth, during a press conference in Canberra, provided an update on COVID-19. Picture Gary Ramage
“…that is the purpose of the app. It is the case that if you put the app out and even if only one per cent of the population take it up, it will be more useful than if no-one takes it up.
“I agree completely with what the minister has said it is necessary then to ask Australians to give up their privacy concerns and sign up to this.”
Coatsworth also said elective surgery may resume in a month, but was “not something we are going to sit on for many weeks”.
“…There are Australians out there who are in pain and have disability, cannot be in the workforce, they need to take very potent pain medication and they need their elective surgery done,” he said.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC REJECTS VIRUS VACCINE
World number one tennis champion Novak Djokovic has revealed he is “opposed” to vaccination and would face a difficult choice if one became available.
Reuters reports that during live Facebook chat Djokovic, who most recently won the Australian Open in January, said he “wouldn’t want to be forced” to receive a vaccine.
“Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” the 17-time grand slam tennis champion said.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. Picture: AP
“But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts about the matter and whether those thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.
“Hypothetically, if the season was to resume in July, August or September, though unlikely, I understand that a vaccine will become a requirement straight after we are out of strict quarantine and there is no vaccine yet.”
NYC MAYOR BLASTS TRUMP
New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio has blasted President Donald Trump, saying he has betrayed his fellow New Yorkers by failing to push for billions of dollars in additional federal aid needed to help the city deal with coronavirus.
The mayor had harsh words for the Queens-born president, claiming Mr Trump has ignored the very city he was raised in.
“Right now you are failing to protect the very people you grew up around,” Mr de Blasio said of the President.
Where are you? New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has criticised Donald Trump. Picture: AFP
“When New York City is in need, where are you?” De Blasio said, as he referenced an infamous tabloid headline, “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD”, from 1975 – when then-President Gerald Ford denied assistance to spare New York from bankruptcy.
“Are you going to save New York City,” Mr de Blasio said, adding: “Or are you saying to New York City ‘drop dead?”’
Gov. Andrew Cuomo chimed in, saying the states needed money from the federal government to ramp up testing that has not been provided so far.
“You have the president saying 15 times, ‘It’s up to the governors, it’s up to the governors, it’s up to the governors.’
“And then they’re going to pass a piece of legislation that gives you know what to states: zero, zilch, nada, niente,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The coronavirus outbreak in New York State — epicentre of the epidemic in the United States — is “on the descent,” Gov. Cuomo said.
“We are past the high point, and all indications at this point is that we are on the descent,” Gov. Cuomo told a press conference.
“Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do, but right now we’re on the descent.”
It comes as Europe saw encouraging signs on Sunday (local time), with Italy, Spain, France and Britain seeing drops in daily death tolls and slowing infection rates.
A pedestrian walks past a Brooklyn funeral home. New York’s daily toll of coronavirus deaths has hit its lowest point in more than two weeks. Picture: AP
The continent accounts for almost two-thirds of the 160,000 fatalities reported across the globe out of more than 2.3 million declared infections,
New York has borne the brunt of the virus in the United States, which has killed more than 13,000 people in the state, with more than 226,000 known infections.
A field hospital has been erected in New York City’s Central Park, and the state’s shutdown — which orders residents to stay at home except to exercise or perform essential business — has been extended until May 15.
It is “good news only compared to the terrible news that we were living with, which is that constant increase” in hospitalisations and deaths, Gov. Cuomo said of the latest data.
“It’s no time to get cocky and it’s no time to get arrogant. We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. This virus has been ahead of us every step of the way.
“We still have to make sure that we keep that beast under control.”
Aside from a lone yellow cab, New Yorks usually bustling 42nd Street is empty on a warm spring Sunday. Picture: AFP
Mounting evidence suggests that the lockdowns and social distancing are slowing the spread of the virus that first emerged in China last year.
The tentatively hopeful signs come with the US and China locked in a spat over suggestions by President Donald Trump that a laboratory in the ground zero city of Wuhan may have spawned the pandemic.
A digital billboard in Times Square gives thanks to the citys medical workers. Picture: AFP
JOHNSON ‘ON TOP OF THINGS’
The British government insisted on Sunday (local time) that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “on top of things” as he recovers from the coronavirus facing criticism of his early handling of the crisis.
The Conservative leader spent three days in intensive care after contracting the virus, and has been off work since March 27, but was released from hospital last Sunday after a week-long stay.
Britain’s official death toll from the virus now stands at 16,060 after 596 more deaths were reported on Sunday, and the country has been under lockdown since March 23, with the government extending it until at least the end of the month.
The British PM might be under fire but he has some fans. Picture: AFP
Education minister Gavin Williamson said on Sunday that “I can’t give you a date” as to when schools would reopen.
Recent figures suggest the outbreak in Britain was “starting to plateau”, said Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, but warned it was “not fair to say we are past the peak”.
Senior minister Michael Gove earlier sought to defend Mr Johnson after the prime minister, in a damning investigation by The Sunday Times, was accused of being “missing in action” in the early stages of the outbreak.
Mr Johnson “is absolutely on top of things” and issuing instructions, Mr Gove told Sky News. “The prime minister is recovering well, he is in cheerful spirits.”
His comments came after a Sunday Times newspaper report said Mr Johnson had missed five of the government’s emergency response meetings in January and February.
“None of us expect the impossible, but there are serious questions about why the prime minister skipped Cobra meetings,” the opposition Labour Party’s shadow health minister Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News.
“It suggests early on he was missing in action.”
A lone mask-wearing man enjoys Londons springweather in an empty Trafalgar Square. Picture: AFP
Mr Gove lashed out at the Sunday Times report, saying the government would issue a rebuttal.
“The idea that the prime minister ‘skipped’ meetings, I think, is grotesque, there are meetings across government, some chaired by the health secretary, some chaired by other ministers,” he said.
“The prime minister took all the major decisions. Nobody can say that the prime minister wasn’t throwing heart and soul into the virus.”
Mr Williamson also defended his boss, saying he “has absolutely been leading our effort” to fight the virus.
The government is also under pressure over shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers, with warnings that gowns could run out within days.
Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the council of the British Medical Association (BMA), told Sky that 50 per cent of doctors are saying they feel they don’t have adequate protection.
Cyclists ride up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace in central London, as they attempt to keep a distance from each other. Picture: AFP
“The government hasn’t been as agile as it should have been,” he added. “This is extremely emotionally taxing and it’s showing its toll on the healthcare workforce.”
Mr Gove said PPE was the government’s “first priority” and suggested that 25 million gowns would be arriving from China “in due course”.
“Gowns are the area at the moment where there is the greatest need,” he said. Downing Street announced on Sunday that Paul Deighton, the former London Olympics chief, has been appointed to lead the effort to domestically produce PPE.
But it later emerged that a large shipment of PPE from Turkey had been delayed, with Mr Williamson saying “we hope to see it come in the country tomorrow”.
On the lockdown, Mr Gove said: “We shouldn’t be thinking of lifting these restrictions now.
“One of the things that is deeply worrying and concerning is still the high level of deaths,” he said.
“We’re not absolutely certain that we are yet on a downward trajectory (of infections) and we want to be heading towards that downward trajectory to be confident about all the steps we might want to take.”
EUROPE SEES ENCOURAGING SIGNS
European nations hard hit by the coronavirus reported headway in their battle against the deadly pandemic.
Governments across the world are now debating how and when to ease lockdowns that have kept more than half of humanity — 4.5 billion people — confined to their homes and crippled the global economy.
Europe saw encouraging signs on Sunday (local time), with Italy, Spain, France and Britain seeing drops in daily death tolls and slowing infection rates.
The continent accounts for almost two-thirds of the 160,000 fatalities reported across the globe out of more than 2.3 million declared infections.
Chemist Amaya Pascual poses for a photograph in her pharmacy in Pamplona, northern Spain. Picture: AP
Spain registered 410 new fatalities on Sunday, the lowest daily count in almost a month and a figure that health ministry emergencies co-ordinator Fernando Simon said “gives us hope”.
The authorities are even starting to shut some makeshift facilities set up to relieve the overburdened health system, including a morgue at a Madrid ice rink.
Spain has extended a nationwide shutdown but said it would soon ease restrictions to allow children time outside.
A patchwork of countries on the continent including Switzerland, Denmark and Finland have already begun reopening shops and schools.
Germany is set to follow suit on Monday with some shops back open after declaring the virus “under control”, while Italy — at one time the European epicentre of the crisis — was tentatively mulling easing restrictions.
DJ ChechuIbiza performs at the balcony of his home for the people staying inside as a precaution against the coronavirus in Madrid. Picture: Getty Images
And France said a nationwide lockdown in force for a month was beginning to bear fruit, with death tolls and hospitalisations declining.
“We are scoring points against the epidemic,” said French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, while insisting “we are not out of the health crisis yet”.
HEAD OF WUHAN LAB: ‘VIRUS DIDN’T COME FROM US’
Meanwhile, the head of a laboratory in Wuhan – the epicentre of COVID-19 – says “there’s no way this virus came out from us” after claims in the US suggest it has.
Institute of Virology director Yuan Zhiming told state media on Sunday while he understood why people had jumped to conclusions about the institute, none of the laboratory staff had been infected with the coronavirus.
“We clearly know what kind of virus research is going on in the institute and how the institute manages viruses and samples,” he said.
The P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan. Picture: Hector Retamal/AFP
“It’s bad when some are deliberately trying to mislead people.
“This is entirely based on speculation.”
The lab director contested the thesis, already rejected by scientists, the virus could have been originally generated in the laboratory.
The first infections with the coronavirus were linked with an animal market in Wuhan.
Experts believe the virus comes from bats and might also have been spread via another host animal.
“There is no evidence to prove the virus has artificial or synthetic traces,” Mr Zhiming said.
His comments come a day after US President Donald Trump said the US was investigating whether the virus could have originated in the Wuhan lab.
“It seems to make sense,” he said.
AUSTRALIA CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF COVID-19 CRISIS
Mr Zhiming’s comments also come as the Morrison Government leads the international call for an independent review of the COVID-19 crisis to determine the origin of the virus and if more could have been done to slow its spread.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said transparency – particularly from the Chinese Government – would be “key” to any review.
“An independent review would identify for us (facts) about the genesis of the virus, about the approaches to dealing with it, and addressing it about the openness with which information was shared,” she said.
“(And) about interaction with the World Health Organisation … with other international leaders.
“All of those sorts of things will need to be on the table.”
Ms Payne said every country would need to agree to a mechanism for the review, but argued it should not be done by the WHO as its own activities would likely be assessed.
“We’ve been able to do those sorts of things in the past for key independent reviews, often on egregious human rights issues, for example,” she said.
“I think that there will be a path through.
“But it will need parties and countries to come to the table with a willingness to be transparent and to engage in that process, and also ensure that we have a review mechanism in which the international community can have faith.”
Last Friday China revised its death toll for the city of Wuhan – ground zero of the outbreak – to 3869 fatalities, almost 50 per cent higher than previously reported.
According to Chinese state media these deaths were missed by local officials in Wuhan because the city’s medical facilities were overwhelmed.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the federal government only had confidence in Australia’s coronavirus numbers.
“Australia’s own figures have been identified by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as the most accurate of 83 countries around the world,” he said.
“I think that is the baseline for judging how each individual country is going.”
China has long been criticised for being slow to publicly announce it had detected clusters of pneumonia cases with no known source in December 2019, preventing health officials or journalists from sounding the alarm at the time.
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Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt says the federal government only has confidence in Australias coronavirus numbers. Picture: Scott Barbour
Companies connected to China have also been condemned for stockpiling personal protective equipment to send to the mainland during the peak of the virus crisis.
As the pandemic spread around the world, other countries have been forced to recall faulty PPE imported from China.
Labor’s health spokesman Chris Bowen said the opposition backed an independent review of the COVID19 outbreak and as Australia’s top diplomat Ms Payne must work to make it a “reality”.
“I imagine and would hope that she is engaging with her (international) colleagues to bring that inquiry about,” he said.
“It should be independent the WHO should feed into that inquiry, but it should be independent.”