Also, a UK journal that published an influential article on the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine’s effect on COVID-19 patients has revealed it has concerns about the data behind the study.
In Australia, a Melbourne packaging company has been closed for cleaning after a worker tested positive for coronavirus, and the father of a central Queensland man who was falsely counted in the state’s coronavirus death toll has spoken.
This story will be regularly updated throughout Wednesday.
Wednesday’s key moments:Australia cracks testing milestone
Deputy Chief Medical Office Paul Kelly says most new COVID-19 infections in Australia continue to be linked to overseas travel, while revealing more than 1.5 million tests have been done in Australia.
“Yesterday, over 22,000 tests were done for COVID-19 and that means we’ve reached the milestone of 1.5 million tests done in Australia since the beginning of this pandemic,” he said.
Australia currently has 7,229 cases, rising by eight cases since yesterday.
Australia has processed 1.5 million tests since coronavirus emerged.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)
Professor Kelly said most of the new infections noted in Australia in the past have been people in hotel quarantine after returning from overseas.
“The only exception to that rule is in Victoria where there is a small outbreak now of people that have been part of the security guards in the hotels that have been looking after those people coming into quarantine from overseas,” he said.
“Other than that it’s really just overseas entrants in several states that have been adding to the numbers in recent days.”
Medical journal has concerns about data behind key hydroxychloroquine study The observational study was published in late May, after which several clinical trials were stopped.(AP: John Locher)
A UK medical journal that published an influential article that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients says it has concerns about the data behind the study.
The observational study published in The Lancet in late May looked at 96,000 hospitalised COVID-19 patients who were treated with the malaria drug that US President Donald Trump claims he takes and has urged others to use.
Several clinical trials were put on hold after the study was published.
The study, using data provided by healthcare data analytics firm Surgisphere, was not a traditional clinical trial that would have compared hydroxychloroquine to a placebo or other medicine.
Today, the journal said “serious scientific questions” had been brought to its attention about the validity of the data behind the study.
An independent audit of the data has already been commissioned.
Surgisphere said in a statement that the audit would “bring further transparency to our work [and] further highlight the quality of our work”.
Last week, The Lancet issued a correction to the study regarding the location of some patients, stating the conclusions had not changed, and 150 doctors signed an open letter to the journal calling the article’s conclusions into question and asking The Lancet to publish the peer review comments.
“We’re in an unprecedented pandemic. We’ve organised these enormous clinical trials to figure out if something works,” said Walid Gellad, a doctor who did not sign the letter but has been critical of the study.
“And this study stopped or paused a couple of those trials, and changed the narrative around a drug that no-one knows if it works or not.”
Australia’s first recession in 29 years Australia’s economy recorded its slowest annual growth in more than a decade, even before lockdowns began.(AAP Image: Dean Lewins)
Australia’s economy shrank last quarter, setting the scene for what will be the first technical recession in 29 years after entire business sectors were shut down to fight the coronavirus.
Wednesday’s data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed the $2 trillion economy contracted 0.3 per cent in the March quarter, the first decline in nine years.
That took the annual growth to 1.4 per cent, the slowest since the 2009 global financial crisis, as the economy was hit by the worst bushfire season in living memory, a prolonged drought and a pandemic that shut down businesses and left many without jobs.
Economists widely define a recession as two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, which are now certain to occur.
The last time Australia recorded two consecutive negative quarters for GDP was March and June 1991, dubbed by then treasurer Paul Keating as “the recession we had to have”.
“This was the slowest through-the-year growth since September 2009, when Australia was in the midst of the global financial crisis, and captures just the beginning of the expected economic effects of COVID-19,” the bureau’s chief economist, Bruce Hockman, said.
Seven new cases in Victoria, Melbourne packaging company closed for cleaning
A staff member at a Melbourne packaging company is among seven new cases of coronavirus reported in Victoria.
Amcor Packaging in Port Melbourne has been closed for cleaning and a number of staff are self-isolating. All staff on site will be tested for the virus.
“I believe there are about eight workers who are known to be close contacts [of the infected person],” Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.
Six of the seven cases are from returned overseas travellers and one case is under investigation.
MacLeod Preschool has decided to remain closed for 14 days after a teacher tested positive to COVID-19 through routine testing earlier this week.
The preschool closed on Tuesday for a deep clean. Ms Mikakos said the preschool closed of its own volition and was not told to do so by health authorities.
There have been no new cases reported yet today in other states and territories.
NSW gyms to reopen, but full sporting calendar may be a while away There is no timeline yet for the return of adults’ sports in NSW.(Supplied: Barb Kelly)
With gyms and other indoor fitness activities in New South Wales reopening from next week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says it may still be a while before outdoor sports start back up for adults.
From Saturday, June 13 class sizes at indoor fitness activities will be capped at 10 people, while the maximum of 100 people will be allowed in large gyms.
Children’s community sports will be allowed to start back up on July 1, but the Government has not yet outlined a path for a return to organised sports for adults.
“We’re obviously looking at adult sport. But as you can appreciate, at the moment, what has underpinned our success is the social distancing,” Mr Berejiklian said.
“That’s very difficult to apply to adult sports. So that’s why we need to be careful in how we do that. We need to get it right.”
She said she did not want to be in a position where businesses or activities had to be shut down again after reopening.
Ms Berejiklian said the Government was prioritising activities with a “high economic benefit and low health risk“.
“That’s what’s driving us. And as we move through the list, things that have a high health risk, you have to spend a bit more time developing those plans,” she said.
NSW has reached a major coronavirus milestone, with no new locally transmitted infections recorded in a week for the first time since the pandemic began.
A total of 15 new coronavirus infections have been recorded since last Tuesday, but all have been found in people who returned from overseas and are in hotel quarantine.
Two school children in Sydney’s eastern suburbs were the state’s last-known locally acquired cases. Health authorities have not revealed how the 10-year-old student from Moriah College or 12-year-old student at Waverley College contracted the virus.
Hundreds of planes grounded at vulnerable airports Major airports have been turned into giant parking lots as travel restrictions choke demand.(Reuters: Jorge Silva)
Airlines, airports and insurers across Asia are bracing for the prospect of unusually high damage as the region’s tropical storm season begins, as hundreds of aircraft grounded by the coronavirus pandemic cannot be moved easily.
Major airports in storm-vulnerable regions such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and India have been effectively turned into giant parking lots as COVID-19 travel restrictions choke demand.
Airline insurers, already on the hook to refund large portions of crash-risk premiums because of the groundings, now face the larger-than-usual risk posed by having lots of aeroplanes grouped together at airports, industry experts say.
“If you have got those aircraft on the ground, you can imagine to get them back up and running in a short space of time is no easy thing,” Gary Moran, head of Asia aviation at insurance broker Aon, said.
“The challenge is you can have a typhoon or hurricane coming and there are going to be a lot of aircraft that aren’t going to be able to be moved in time.”
Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport has so many aircraft on the ground that it is using a runway for parking, according to a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Taiwan’s aviation regulator said it had asked airports to hold typhoon-preparation meetings 36 hours in advance this year, rather than the usual 24 hours, to give airlines enough time to make parking requests.
Hong Kong International Airport, home to Cathay Pacific Airways, said it had 150 planes parked and precautionary measures had already been carried out for most as part of typhoon-season preparations.
The measures include fuelling up the planes to make them heavier, tying weights to nose gear, adding weight in the cargo hold and flying planes to other airports, the airport operator said.
Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, whose runway flooded when Typhoon Jebi breached a seawall in 2018, said it had raised the wall’s height and waterproofed facilities.
Brazil sets another daily record for coronavirus deaths Brazil has reported more than 31,000 coronavirus deaths so far.(AP: Eraldo Peres)
Brazil has registered another record number of coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours, with more than 1,262 people dying in a single day.
The country’s Health Ministry also registered 28,936 new cases of coronavirus.
There are now 555,383 total confirmed cases, including 31,199 deaths.
It comes as some Brazilian leaders, including President Jair Bolsonaro, continue to belittle the virus, warning the economic fallout from quarantine measures will be worse than the virus itself.
“We lament all deaths, but it’s everyone’s destiny,” Mr Bolsonaro said.
Even in states and cities where leaders had previously instituted lockdown orders, authorities have been rapidly loosening restrictions in recent days, despite the number of daily new cases continuing to grow in most regions.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreakFather of man thought to have died from COVID-19 backs Queensland Health response Nathan Turner’s father Rodney says the family now wants to be left alone.(Facebook)
The father of a man who died in the Central Queensland town of Blackwater last week has backed Queensland Health’s response to his son initially testing positive to COVID-19.
Nathan Turner, 30, was found dead in his Blackwater home by his partner early last week.
He initially tested positive for COVID-19, triggering a rapid response. But it was later revealed that further testing confirmed Mr Turner did not have coronavirus just before he died.
His father Rodney Turner issued a statement on social media last night, saying he “completely understood” the reaction of Queensland Health and wanted the media to respect the family’s privacy.
“As a matter of public interest they had to take precautionary action based on the evidence they had before them,” he said.
“This is no longer a story of public concern. It is now time to leave Nathan’s fiancee, his family and friends, alone to grieve in private.”
Keep your distance: people queue for school and Ikea in England People queue at Ikea in Gateshead, UK, as it re-opens, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)(Reuters: Lee Smith)
Thousands of people across England have queued up for school and IKEA as the British Government eased the coronavirus lockdown by allowing some children to return to class and many shops to reopen for the first time since March.
While some schools in England allowed four to six-year-olds and 10 to 11-year-olds back to school, many parents planned to keep children at home amid fears ministers were moving too fast.
Lines formed as parents dropped off their children, who teachers aimed to keep 2 metres apart.
But in Warrington, northern England, people arrived at 6:40am (local time) to start queuing for the IKEA store to reopen at 10:00am. A line of more than 1,000 people snaked around the car park. There were similar scenes at IKEA at Wembley in London.
Measures to ease the lockdown, imposed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, include the reopening of outdoor markets and up to six people now being allowed to meet outside.
But with Britain recording more than 38,000 deaths from confirmed COVID-19 cases, one of the highest tolls in the world, many are worried it is happening too soon.
UK politicians form queue around Palace of Westminster to cast votes UK politicians queued all the way inside the House of Commons to vote on the future of proceedings.(UK Parliament via AP)
Hundreds of British politicians spent over an hour in enormous queues through the halls of the Palace of Westminster, waiting to cast their first socially distanced votes.
The Government has ditched the coronavirus measures introduced in April and May that allowed remote voting and debates by video conference.
Instead, politicians were required to attend in person and join a queue, spaced two metres apart, that stretched out of the wood-panelled debating chamber, zigzagged through the 11th-century hall and outside into a tree-lined courtyard.
The UK Government has ditched measures that allowed MPs to vote via video conference.(UK Parliament via Reuters)
They voted 261-163 in favour of the Government’s plan to end the so-called hybrid parliament and restore a system that requires all those who wish to vote to attend in person.
“Voting while enjoying a sunny walk or whilst watching television does democracy an injustice … we ask members to vote in person for a reason: because it is the heart of what parliament is about,” House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said.
Unless a better method can be found, every vote will now involve the long queues that critics dismissed as a farce, and some on Twitter dubbed the #ReesMoggConga.
Sextortion reports spike during coronavirus shutdown The spike in reports coincides with the period of coronavirus restrictions.(Flickr: Mad Fish Digital)
Reports of image-based sexual abuse to the eSafety Commissioner increased by 200 per cent on average from March to May this year.
Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant said people being cooped up inside thanks to COVID-19 restrictions was playing a part, along with the resurgence of an old “sextortion” scam.
“This is a combination of what you might call sexting gone wrong, people relying on more digital intimacy tools to share affection, love, sexual gratification, rather than meeting physically in person during lockdown,” she said.
“But we’ve also seen a huge sextortion scam that has surged.
“It comes in the form of an email that scares people into paying cryptocurrency payments with the threat they’ve hacked into their computer because they have a password compromised in an earlier data breach.”
Previous research from the commissioner shows one in 10 Australians will experience image-based sexual abuse, with women, LGBTQI people, Indigenous Australians and people with disabilities at higher risk.
Rome flooded with anti-Government protesters flouting distancing rules The Italian Government has only recently begun to ease restrictions imposed in early March when COVID-19 was devastating the country.(AP: Alessandra Tarantino)
Italian opposition parties and hundreds of supporters have defied social distancing rules to pack Rome’s central streets in an anti-Government protest rally.
With more than 233,000 confirmed cases, Italy is one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the Government only recently decided to gradually lift severe restrictions it had imposed in early March to rein in contagion.
The demonstration was organised by the right-wing League, the far-right Brothers of Italy and the centre-right Go Italy parties to protest against the coalition Government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Live streaming on social media showed protesters marching next to each other with a large Italian flag along Via del Corso, leading to the Piazza del Popolo in Rome’s historic centre.
Some protesters were not wearing face masks, made compulsory in Italy when sufficient distancing between people is not possible.
Matteo Salvini posed for selfies with a protesters while wearing his mask under his chin.(AP: Alessandra Tarantino)
League leader Matteo Salvini took selfies with supporters and spoke to reporters wearing an Italian flag-coloured face mask under his chin.
“I’ve have got a mask but experts say that the virus is dying,” Mr Salvini said, referring to recent declarations by Italian professors that the coronavirus is losing its potency.
Regional Express passengers will have to wear face masks Joanne Pelly and her daughter Holly were among passengers happy to don a mask before boarding a Regional Express flight.(ABC Goldfields-Esperance: Emily Smith)
Passengers flying on Regional Express, known as Rex, will have to wear face masks if they want to take advantage of easing travel restrictions.
The airline said passengers who refused to wear face masks would not be allowed to board flights unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Passengers can use their own masks or purchase one at check-in for $2, and must wear them at check-in counters, boarding gates, during tarmac transfers and while on the aircraft.
Rex’s national airport manager, David Brooksby, said the airline had already introduced body temperature testing of passengers and employees as well as social distancing on flights.
“As the country prepares to open the borders and lift the lockdowns, we need to be vigilant now more than ever to ensure that we prevent a second wave of infections, which would cause untold economic damage and misery to all communities,” he said.
“The health and safety of passengers and employees is paramount, and we thank our passengers for putting up with the inconvenience as an act of consideration for our staff and other passengers.”
First Rohingya refugee dies from coronavirus in Bangladesh camp The Cox’s Bazar refugee is home to almost 1 million displaced people, who are mostly Rohingya.(Supplied: World Food Program/Saikat Mojumder)
Authorities in Bangladesh have confirmed the first death of a Rohingya refugee from the coronavirus, as infections rise in sprawling camps where more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims have been living since fleeing from neighbouring Myanmar.
The 71-year-old refugee died on Saturday at Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, a week after he was admitted to an isolation centre.
Samples collected from him tested positive on Monday, the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner’s office said.
A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said at least 29 Rohingya refugees had tested positive for the disease.
With about 40,000 people per square kilometre, the 34 refugee camps have more than 40 times Bangladesh’s average population density. Each shack is barely 10 square metres and many are packed with up to 12 residents.
Aid agencies and government officials say the challenge of handling a wide outbreak of the virus in the camps could be huge.
This chart uses a logarithmic scale to highlight coronavirus growth rates. Read our explainer to understand what that means — and how COVID-19 cases are spreading around the world.Calls for Australia to work with Asia to help economy recover from coronavirus
A group of prominent economists, politicians and industry leaders wants the Australian Government to formally work with Asia to bring the global economy back from the “savage impacts” of COVID-19.
The so-called Asian Strategy for Recovery and Reconstruction after COVID-19 warns of a “prolonged health crisis and lasting economic stagnation” without international cooperation.
In a report released today, the group urged Australia and its Asian neighbours including China, India, Japan and the 10 member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to coordinate financial, trade, public health and food security policies after the pandemic.
“Asia was hit by the crisis first, and it also means that they’re coming out of the crisis sooner than everyone else,” said Adam Triggs, a co-author of the plan and director of research at the Australian National University’s Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
“There’s a real opportunity for them to lead the recovery.”
Read more about coronavirus:Minorities up to 50 per cent more likely to die from coronavirus, UK study finds The UK study found that people from ethnic minority groups had between 10 to 50 per cent higher risk of death than white Brits.(Reuters: Hannah McKay)
Black and Asian people in England are up to 50 per cent more likely to die after being infected with COVID-19, according to an official study out of the UK.
It reinforces previous reports which indicated ethnic minority groups were more at risk from the virus.
“Death rates from COVID-19 were higher for black and Asian ethnic groups when compared to white ethnic groups,” the Public Health England (PHE) report said.
The report said that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had approximately twice the risk of death as people who were white.
Those who are of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani or other Asian ethnicity, as well as those who are Caribbean or other black ethnicity, had between a 10 to 50 per cent higher risk of death than those in the white group, PHE said.
The findings echo a previous study by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) released last month, as well as other reports from Finland to the United States.
The report comes as a United Nations human rights official highlighted the “devastating impact” of the disease on those communities in Britain and other countries.
No deaths in Spain for second day running Though the lack of deaths is something to celebrate, Spain’s number of COVID-19 cases is again on the rise.(Reuters: Sergio Perez)
Spain’s Health Ministry says it has recorded no deaths from COVID-19 for the second day in a row.
The latest official data showed an increase in new confirmed cases, however — 137 in the previous 24 hours compared with an increase of 71 cases between Sunday and Monday.
Madrid accounted for over half of the new cases with 73. The Spanish capital has been the area of the country hardest-hit by the coronavirus.
The head of Spain’s emergency response, Fernando Simón, called the falling death rate “very encouraging,” adding that the number of patients being treated in intensive care units had also been declining, with only nine people admitted to ICUs over the past seven days.
Spain’s official national death toll from the pandemic is 27,127, while the country has almost 240,000 confirmed cases.
Tests could predict how severely COVID-19 will affect a patient Though factors such as age and ethnicity can impact the chances of severity, there is no hard and fast way to tell how much damage coronavirus will do to an individual.(AP: Zhang Yuwei via Xinhua)
Scientists have found 27 key proteins in the blood of people infected with COVID-19 that they say could act as predictive biomarkers for how ill a patient could become with the disease.
In research published in the Cell Systems journal, scientists at Britain’s Francis Crick Institute and Germany’s Charite Universitaetsmedizin Berlin found the proteins are present in different levels in COVID-19 patients, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get when infected with COVID-19, they said, and could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease.
Doctors and scientists say the coronavirus affects people in varying degrees, with some developing no symptoms at all, some needing treatment in hospital, while others die.
“A test to help doctors predict whether a COVID-19 patient is likely to become critical or not would be invaluable,” said Christoph Messner, an expert in molecular biology at the Crick Institute who co-led the research.
300 asymptomatic carriers identified after widespread testing in Wuhan Wuhan undertook a program to test everyone in the Chinese city of 11 million people in 10 days.(AP: Chinatopix)
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak first emerged, found no new cases of COVID-19 and 300 asymptomatic carriers after testing most of its 11 million residents, according to city officials.
Authorities launched the ambitious, city-wide testing campaign on May 14, and reached 9.9 million people, after a cluster of new cases raised fears of a second wave of infections.
But they found no new cases of COVID-19 in the campaign, that ran until June 1, officials told reporters in a briefing.
They said the asymptomatic carriers had been found not to be infectious, with no traces of virus detected on items used by the 300 people, such as masks, toothbrushes and phones, or on door handles and elevator buttons they touched.
China does not count asymptomatic carriers — people who are infected with the virus but do not exhibit symptoms of the disease — as confirmed cases.
The central city, capital of Hubei province, was placed under a lockdown on January 23. It was lifted on April 8.
Drug companies pursuing more accessible versions of virus treatment Remdesivir is the only drug so far that has been shown to help patients with COVID-19.(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH)
The maker of remdesivir, Gilead Sciences Inc, is developing easier-to-administer versions of its antiviral treatment that could be used outside of hospitals.
Currently, remdesivir is only available is an IV formula, meaning it can only be administered in hospitals.
Gilead is studying how its existing IV formulation of remdesivir can be diluted for use with a nebuliser — a drug delivery device used to administer medication in the form of a mist inhaled into the lungs.
The idea is that a nebuliser would make remdesivir more directly available to upper airway and lung tissue as the coronavirus is known to attack the lungs. It would also allow for early treatment of coronavirus patients who are not hospitalised.
The company says it is also exploring different formulas to be used in the future, such as an injection formulation, as well as dry powder versions to be inhaled. Remdesivir cannot be given as a pill because it has a chemical makeup that would degrade in the liver.
New York’s contact tracers get to work There are more than 150 free testing sites around New York City, and people who have attended George Floyd protests have been encouraged to get tested.(AP: John Minchillo, file)
Officials say New York City’s coronavirus contact tracers reached out to all of the roughly 600 people who tested positive for the virus citywide on the first day of the program, and successfully got in contact with more than half of them.
“On day one of the program, seeking to reach several hundred people and have what could be an hour conversation with each of them was a tall order,” said Ted Long, the head of the city’s contact tracing program.
Dr Long said the fact that the contact tracers actually got through to more than half of the new cases “shows that the system we’re setting up is working.”
New York hired 1,700 people for its contact tracing effort and needs to reach 2,500 in order to meet Governor Andrew Cuomo’s target for entering the first phase of the state’s four-step reopening process.
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