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Coronacast is a podcast that answers your questions about coronavirus. We break down the latest news and research to help you understand how the world is living through a pandemic.
7 hours ago
How would you sell Australia's vaccination campaign?
While it's great to see that the number of Australians vaccinated against COVID-19 rises by the day, it's still far from the numbers needed to get it done by the end of the year. So perhaps a national advertising campaign selling the benefits, or maybe pointing out what could happen if we're not vaccinated is needed. Other countries have tried campaigns so far, including Singapore and New Zealand - is it time Australia joined them? So on today's Coronacast, a few ideas on what might work and why it's time for people to get the jab. We're after your ideas too! So send us your pitch for a national ad campaign that'll get Australians out and vaccinated!
1 day ago
Two doses, two different vaccines: Does it work?
When you're scheduled in for your COVID vaccine, depending on your age you'll get two doses of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer. But what if you had one brand, and for your secord shot you had the other? Well, researchers have been looking at this for a whole bunch of reasons - a main one being it makes rolling out the vaccines simpler. And on today's Coronacast, early results suggest that mixing brands might also make the vaccines work better too. Also on today's show: * Do blood clots only happen after the first dose of the vaccine, or are they also happening after the second? * When people talk of a booster vaccination does it simply mean another jab of exactly the same ingredients as in the first injection? And we are joined by special guest Professor Paul Monagle from the University of Melbourne, to talk about the possibility of using the common drug heparin as a short term protective shield to stop you getting COVID-19.
2 days ago
Why is there suddenly so much talk about the border reopening?
The transition from Australia being pretty much free of COVID to reopening the border and allowing it in, is a complicated and fraught issue. The country will eventually have to rejoin the world so people can see family, travel for pleasure or business and go overseas again - but according to experts, there's a list of things that have to happen before then. The most obvious is a very high level of vaccination, so that when coronavirus does arrive again, it won't result in an overburdened hospital system And on today's Coronacast, there's also the big issue of possible vaccine resistant variants. Also on today's show: * More cases of blood clots and low blood platelets * A clarification and refinement of the R0 value discussion from last week
5 days ago
Does the 617 variant change everything?
The coronavirus variant sweeping through India appears to be a stronger more contagious version than we've previously seen. While there is still little peer-reviewed scientific information on B.1.617 variants, health authorities are increasingly becoming worried about the threats the strains present. Australia has had two close calls with 617 over the past few weeks: firstly in Sydney then again in Melbourne after it escaped from a South Australian quarantine hotel. So on today's Coronacast, does the 617 variant change everything and will we have to revisit our base assumptions? Also on today's show: * Moderna coming to Australia later this year (pending TGA approvals)
6 days ago
Australia's borders are reopening when??
It seems that every time we talk about the timeframe of Australia's borders reopening to the world, the estimated date slips further into the future. In this week's budget, the government indicated that borders will probably remain shut until 2022 at least. And Qantas has also pushed back its plans to restart international flights by at least two months. So on today's Coronacast, what could be behind the reason for the slippages of border reopenings? Also on today's show: * Will we really need to get a vaccine every year for covid 19 for the foreseeable future? * Children don't usually get severe COVID-19, why am I seeing reports of kids dying in India? * If a combined coronavirus and flu vaccine is being developed, why can't existing coronavirus and flu vaccines be given at the same time? * I'm due for the second shot of Pfizer next week and am feeling a bit under the weather. What do I do? References A Misleading C.D.C. Number https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/briefing/outdoor-covid-transmission-cdc-number.html
May 11, 2021
It's Victoria's turn to hunt down coronavirus
It's Victoria's turn to hunt down coronavirus, after Victorian health authorities revealed a man tested positive to the virus yesterday morning. The man was a recent arrival from overseas, who completed his 14 days quarantine in South Australia before heading home to Victoria earlier this month. Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says he believes the man contracted the virus in hotel quarantine in South Australia. So on today's Coronacast, how could you spend two weeks in quarantine only to catch the virus just as you're leaving? Also on today's show: * I'm seeing testing fatigue. Once we're all vaccinated can we stop being tested? * I had my first shot of AstraZeneca and suffered no side effects except for maybe feeling a bit tired. Does this mean the vaccine did not work? * FDA approves Pfizer for older kids * Norman talks a bit about the Novavax vaccine which mixes a COVID shot with a flu shot
May 10, 2021
The one silver lining of coronavirus
We've spoken a lot over the last year or so about coronavirus, and for good reason. But there are plenty of other viruses out there that can make us seriously sick or kill us. One is the flu, or influenza, and usually at this time of the year, we'd be seeing a solid rise in the number of reported cases. But not this year. In fact, there's so little flu around that there's actually been more COVID detected than influenza. So on today's Coronacast, what could be going on? Also on today's show: * Is there any information on how long should someone with a flu wait before I get the Pfizer vaccine? * Is there a correlation between the degree of side effects experienced immediately after your first dose of AstraZeneca and the possibility of developing clots?
May 9, 2021
How worrying is Sydney's missing link?
A string of community transmission donut days in NSW has been a nice to see since a mystery COVID-19 case popped up in Sydney late last week. However, despite its best efforts, NSW Health has not been able to find out how the case jumped from hotel quarantine into the community. The man has clearly picked up the virus from a mystery person in the community, who could well have spread it to others. So on today's Coronacast, how worrying it is that the link hasn't been found? Also on today's show: * The virus found in Sydney - B.1.617.2 - is declared a variant of concern by the UK Government * Why don't these supposed very contagious variants seem to spread in Australia? And don't forget to check out the new season of Patient Zero! * Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/rn-presents-patient-zero/id1370255107 * ABC Listen app: https://abclisten.page.link/UgUg8Z4JtCaEh71p6
May 6, 2021
A new case of COVID and five new clots
Just when you think it's getting boring in coronavirus land, you're hit with an avalanche of news. Sydney is continuing to battle an outbreak of COVID-19, as health detectives narrow in on where it might have come from. And Australia's medicines regulator has revealed five more people have developed blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, bringing the total to 11 from around 1.4 million doses since the rollout began. So what have we learned about the variant circulating in Sydney? And what's the current likelihood of developing a clot?
May 5, 2021
Sydney's sudden and mysterious COVID case
When NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian started her press conference yesterday, she got straight to the point: NSW had detected a case of COVID in the community. And as yet, there’s no known source. The patient has not been overseas or interstate and has no known links to hotel quarantine. He's also been infectious in the community for the last several days. So as NSW Health tries to pin down where he might have got it, Coronacast asks how this mysterious case compares to other recent outbreaks. Also on today's show: * A study shows digital contact tracing apps can work * Norman gets vaccinated * If a person isn't vaccinated and contracts COVID, is the vaccine then administered to aid in recovery? * Can I get the AstraZeneca vaccine now and Pfizer later to be even more protected? * Can you advise me please on the recommended timing between a flu shot and the AstraZeneca shot?
May 4, 2021
One billion doses! But a long way to go
In a global pandemic, you have to take your successes where you can find them. Among the doom and gloom of three-quarters of a million new cases a day worldwide, it's important to look at how much progress we've made in fighting back against COVID-19. To date, more than a billion vaccines doses have been given out globally - a number that will hopefully continue to rapidly increase as more supply becomes available and distributed to those who need it most. Because - as explained on today's Coronacast - the faster we can vaccinate, the less chance we'll have of even worse variants popping into existence. Also on today's show: * Why is the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines constantly referred to as complex when the flu vaccine is rolled out every year to millions of people in Australia? * Your feedback and experiences on tracking down and getting a vaccine under the next phase of the rollout * The trouble with organ transplants and COVID-19
May 3, 2021
Will we finally see a jump in vaccinations?
The next phase of Australia's vaccination program began yesterday, and millions of people aged over 50 are now eligible to receive a vaccine. But many are still finding the booking process difficult and confusing, and while vaccines are available it can take a bit of work to find one. Before now, only the vulnerable and front line workers have been eligible, so health officials and experts will be hoping that finally we'll see a dramatic increase in the COVID-19 vaccination rate. So will we finally see a jump in vaccinations? Also on today's show: * I've heard that the vaccine immunity lasts only for 6 months. So does that mean that I'll need another 2 shots of the vaccine when Australia finally opens up, and I want to travel? * I am a First Nations person who is 36 with no other comorbidities. Is it clear yet when Pfizer will be available to me?
May 2, 2021
Perth's new outbreak. Can we avoid another lockdown?
For the second time in a fortnight, residents of Perth are facing lockdowns or increased restrictions due to a coronavirus outbreak from hotel quarantine. Last week, a security guard contracted the virus in a WA quarantine hotel. From there, it's broken into the community with at least two close contacts testing positive. It's again put a spotlight on hotels being used for quarantine and has disrupted the lives of millions of West Australians. So on today's Coronacast, what do we know about the latest outbreak and are more lockdowns coming? Also on today's show: * Does the AstraZeneca vaccine protect against serious illness from the serious variants? * Will Australia be getting the Moderna vaccine. If so can it approved and be released this year? * And a study about a man who suffered from COVID-19 for 8 months!
Apr 29, 2021
Could a little pill help treat COVID-19?
There's been a lot of talk over the last few months about coronavirus vaccines and how they'll hopefully end the pandemic sooner rather than later. But it'll be years before the world's entire population is vaccinated, and variants will also continue to provide a threat. So the world needs COVID treatments - drugs to help manage a patient's illness and stop them dying if they contract the virus. On today's Coronacast, what can we make of an-anti COVID pill from Pfizer which is now in early clinical trials? Also on today's show: * A study on why you don't want to be COVID positive and pregnant and another on pregnancy and vaccines And it's Friday. So you know what that means.
Apr 28, 2021
Turns out, the vaccines do stop you getting COVID-19
One of the biggest unknowns in the pandemic was whether or not vaccination would stop you getting infected with coronavirus, or just stop you getting sick. It sounds like much the same thing, but the difference is actually huge. Stopping infection means you don't have the virus at all, and thus won't go on to infect others. A study in the journal The Lancet has looked at both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines and found that they do indeed stop infection, which is great news - but sadly not all the time. That's on today's Coronacast. Also on today's show: * If you are a blood donor and have been vaccinated, will the antibodies you have developed help the recipient of your blood? * I've already received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Is it safe for me to swap over and get Pfizer if it is available to me? I'm in category 1B as I'm a health worker.
Apr 27, 2021
Is the UK variant not so bad after all?
The UK variant, or as it's known the Kent variant or B117, is taking over the United Kingdom and other countries it's spread to. It's dominance is due to it to being far more transmissible than other variants, but according to new research just being more contagious doesn't mean it's more deadly. In fact, the study has found that it might be less deadly in people with severe COVID-19. But as with all things coronavirus, conditions apply. That's on today's Coronacast. Also on today's show: * Is relative youth a proven causal link for the blood clotting problem or is it merely a correlation? * Is 14 days still the incubation period? * Is the 50 year old cut off an immune phenomenon related to menopause status? * What is the current advice regarding vaccination and pregnancy?
Apr 26, 2021
Perth's lockdown ends. Hotel quarantine fight goes on
Residents of Perth are out of a snap three day lockdown, with many hoping life will again return to normal over the coming days. The lockdown orders were lifted at midnight, after zero new cases were found yesterday, and testing numbers over the last three days have been high. However the debate about hotel quarantine is on-going. So on today's Coronacast, what could be a good way to allow Australians to return from overseas, but reduce the risk for people already at home? Also on today's show: * Which countries have banned travel from India? * What magic occurs when you turn 50 that makes AstraZeneca ok? * How do you know you have a blood clot?
Apr 25, 2021
Perth's tense wait - will lockdown end on time?
Residents of Perth and the Peel region were given a boost of hope yesterday, when no new cases of coronavirus were discovered. The areas are in a lockdown until at least midnight tonight, after coronavirus escaped hotel quarantine late last week and has spread into the community. WA Premier Mark McGowan says it's too early to predict what will happen with the lockdown after Monday And it's also promoted another debate about who should run hotel quarantine: the states or the federal government. Also on today's show: * We get some better numbers from ATAGI on the chance of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine, depending on how old you are.
Apr 22, 2021
Rush on down for our COVID stocktake!
At the start of the year when vaccines were starting to roll out, there was much hope that maybe, just maybe, the worst was behind us. But oh no. Not in this global pandemic. Suddenly we had several variants of concern to worry about, vaccines remained in very short supply and countries argued with each other for who needed it more. So today, Coronacast is doing a bit of a stocktake - taking a step back to have a look at we are and what might come next. Also on today's show: * Quick Fire Friday and today the answers are quick. We promise.
Apr 21, 2021
Uh oh. Can mRNA vaccines cause clots too?
The European Medicines Agency has reported that it's aware of 25 cases of rare blood clots from people who have had the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, and 5 cases from people who have had the Moderna vaccine. The numbers were revealed during a press briefing into blood clotting issues related to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. It's the first time such a number has been reported by a medical regulator, and may suggest very rare clotting events may not be confined only to AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson. The co-chair of Australia's vaccination advisory group Professor Allen Cheng has told Coronacast that there is still a lot of uncertainty, especially if reported cases have been fully investigated. So on today's Coronacast, what has the EMA said and is it real? References: EMA press conference
Apr 20, 2021
What's behind soaring COVID numbers in India?
The number of daily COVID-19 cases in India has been surging in recent weeks, and some are putting it down to a so-called double mutant COVID variant. New case records are being set nearly daily, and the number of people dying from COVID is also growing fast. The huge surge in cases is also being felt here, with the most recent NSW data showing people arriving from India are making up 20 percent of all cases in hotel quarantine. So on today's Coronacast, what could be behind the surge in India? Also on today's show: * NZ vaccinated border worker tests positive for COVID-19 * What is the treatment for those who get the blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine? * What do we know about mixing vaccines?
Apr 19, 2021
Vaccines for everyone over 50!* (conditions apply)
The Federal Government is hoping for a vaccine rollout reset, and it may come later this week with National Cabinet agreeing 'in principle' to bring forward vaccinations for those over 50 Currently, people in phase 1a and 1b can get access to vaccinations - which is mostly the AstraZeneca vaccine. As local production of the AstraZeneca vaccine ramps, it may be very soon when the doors are opened to everyone who's over 50. So on today's Coronacast, the washup from yesterday's National Cabinet. Also on today's show: * ATAGI releases some slides * Is there any data on the blood groups of the people who have experienced clotting? * What about for people who have had blood clots in the past?
Apr 18, 2021
Will we be taking international flights by October?
With every vaccination, we are a step closer to returning back to something that resembles the normal life we had before the coronavirus pandemic. And one of the big hopes is that people will once again be able to travel overseas to visit family, for work or for holidays. Airlines are taking bookings for later in the year, and report strong bookings so far. The Prime Minister was also yesterday talking about international travel opening up, albeit slowly and for essential travel. So on today's Coronacast, how likely is it we'll be travelling internationally again by October? Also on today's show: * Why variants are again the unknown when it comes to a normal life * Coronavirus slips out of one hotel quarantine room and into another in Sydney * Is the University of Queensland vaccine is still being developed? * A GP says roughly 10 percent of patients are pulling out from receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine
Apr 15, 2021
Is there such a thing as knowing too much?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, so much information has been flying around - some of it good and some not so good. Official information from Government and health authorities would be solidly in the good camp, but sometimes there's been a reluctance to provide us with all the information. Take blood clotting for example. In the USA, information has been made widely available and their vaccine advisory panel meets in public. On today's Coronacast, why being transparent in medical decision making processes can help ease the public's concerns. Also on today's show: * Some good news out of Israel and good news about vaccination numbers in Australia * Quick Fire Friday returns!
Apr 14, 2021
Are all viral vector vaccines a problem?
American health regulators have paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, following reports of rare blood clotting in six recipients. Like the AstraZeneca vaccine, Johnson & Johnson is what's known as a viral vector vaccine - where another virus is used like a taxi to deliver a bit of coronavirus to help teach the immune system. So on today's Coronacast, what are viral vector vaccines and could the rare blood-clots be a problem with them more broadly? Also on today's show: * What do the data show regarding the risks of clotting for people over the age of 50? * What can we learn from the US vaccine rollout? (We hear from special guest Anthony Fauci, who Tegan interviewed as part of an event presented by UNSW)
Apr 13, 2021
Revisiting the great debate: how deadly is coronavirus?
With all the talk of blood clots, various levels of risk and worries about possible coronavirus outbreaks over winter, it's important to remember that vaccines do save lives. And they especially help older people because they are at the most at risk of dying from COVID-19. Scientists have recently revisited the chances of dying if you're infected with coronavirus, and found an exponential growth in the death rate the older you get. So on today's Coronacast, we revisit a question from the beginning: without vaccination, how deadly can coronavirus be? Also on today's show: * A second Australian has the blood clotting syndrome post AstraZeneca vaccine * Informed consent. What are you actually agreeing to? * Why is everyone talking about "no fault compensation" in relation to vaccines?
Apr 12, 2021
How do you run a vaccine rollout with no targets?
The Federal Government has jettisoned vaccine rollout targets and the Prime Minister says there's no point creating them anyway because COVID-19 "writes its own rules". Instead, the government is "just getting on with it" in rolling out the coronavirus vaccine to the Australian population. But with few details and limited vaccine supply, it's hard to tell at the moment how the Federal Government plans to do it. However we do have AstraZeneca vaccines available and Pfizer is due to deliver many millions more eventually, so on today's Coronacast, a guess on how Australia's rocky rollout might be achieved by year's end.
Apr 11, 2021
Let's push the reset button on the vaccine rollout
A lot has happened with the coronavirus vaccine rollout over the last week. Firstly, it's been recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine not be given to under 50 year-old due to concerns about rare blood clotting. And secondly, there's been significant debate about why the rollout has been taking longer than anyone expected. So on today's Coronacast, it's time to take a rollout reset. Let's look through exactly what's happened over the last week and find out what it all means.
Apr 1, 2021
The Goodest Friday! Lockdown restrictions lift in time for Easter
After two coronavirus clusters sparked a sharp, three-day lockdown, greater Brisbane has opened back up just in time for Easter weekend. But the outbreak hasn't been without its fallout, with Byron Bay having to cancel a major music festival for the second year in a row and some restrictions remaining in place in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Meanwhile, Australia's vaccine rollout has had a slow start, and some of the reasons why are becoming clearer. So where do we rank internationally, and what's the end goal for global vaccine coverage? Also on today's Coronacast: * What's the latest with the vaccine rollout pace? * How does Australia rank internationally in terms of vaccine coverage? * New results on how the Pfizer vaccine performs in kids aged 12-15 years And we're taking a break! Coronacast will be back in your pod feed on Monday 12 April.
Mar 31, 2021
Light on the horizon for Queensland or too soon to say?
Millions of Queenslanders will be hoping for good news today when announcements are made whether Brisbane's lockdown will end or continue in some way. Yesterday saw two community cases of transmission in Queensland, and one popping up in northern New South Wales. While it's hoped that health authorities are getting on top of things, it will still be a few days before we know for sure. That's on today's Coronacast. Also on the show: * Federal-State relations getting a touch tetchy * More worries about AstraZeneca and reports of blood clots * The DL on making mRNA vaccines in Australia. Is it really that hard? GUEST: Colin Pouton, Professor of Pharmaceutical Biology, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Mar 30, 2021
Why are health workers still getting COVID at work?
The extent of the outbreak in Brisbane has become clearer, after authorities revealed that they were dealing with two separate coronavirus clusters. And at the heart of both outbreaks are health care workers who have somehow contracted it from COVID positive patients in hospital. As they work closely with patients, healthcare workers are particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus. But on today's Coronacast, with vaccines now available and a year's worth of knowledge about the virus why are health workers still getting COVID at work? Also on today's show: * Is there a case for vaccinating younger populations first considering they tend to be more active within the community? * Should I cancel my travel for the holidays? * You mentioned that the AstraZeneca vaccine 'escapes the South African variant to some extent'. Can you talk about that some more?
Mar 29, 2021
Suddenly, the Brisbane outbreak looks a lot more worrying
Until yesterday, the outbreak in Brisbane looked small and manageable, but it just shows how fast things can change in a pandemic. Today is the first day greater Brisbane will spend in at least a three day snap lockdown, after a rise in community transmission cases. So on today's Coronacast what changed so quickly? And why do we need lockdowns now when we have vaccines? Also on today's show: * My parents have just had the COVID vaccine and are flying to Melbourne from Queensland. Will the vaccine cause them to test positive? * When will I receive my vaccine? I'm of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander descent. Will the vaccine stop me from getting COVID-19 and or spreading it?
Mar 28, 2021
No Brisbane snap lockdown? What's changed?
It's been a while, but an Australian state is again dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19. Queensland detected a positive case of the so-called UK variant - B117 - on Thursday. A second case was detected over the weekend that may be the link to the existing cluster. In a positive sign, the number of tests in Queensland jumped over the weekend - but considering how long the person was infectious out in the community, it'll be a few more days before we can see how far it might have spread. So on today's Coronacast, last time this happened the city was plunged into a three day lockdown. What's different this time? Also on today's show: * Clinical advice from Victorial about AstraZeneca and thrombosis * I had my jab of AstraZeneca and I had a fever and headaches. I gather this is normal. Why do we get these symptoms? * Does taking paracetamol after vaccination reduce the efficacy of the vaccine?
Mar 25, 2021
We've now got official Australian advice on AstraZeneca and rare clots
Australia's expert advisory group on vaccines has recommended the COVID-19 vaccine be deferred for people who have a history of specific rare blood clotting disorders. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation says for the time being it recommends that vaccination with any COVID-19 vaccine should be deferred for people who have a history of two very rare and specific conditions. This is the first time a warning has been given for COVID-19 vaccines in Australia, and the recommendation applies to both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, although the current concerns have been focussed on the latter. So on today's Coronacast, why has the expert panel decided to make this move now? And for the very small number of people affected, what should they keep an eye out for if receiving a vaccine? Also on today's show: * AstraZeneca releases more figures regarding its vaccine's effectiveness And the return of Quick Fire Friday!
Mar 24, 2021
What scientists have learnt from talking to thousands of long COVID patients
There are still so many things we don't fully understand about COVID, but one of the big mysteries is long COVID. Experienced by up to 30 per cent of people who get the virus, long COVID can be debilitating and incredibly frustrating and scary for people who have it because it's so hard to provide solid answers to questions. But in a large survey a new study reports the most common symptoms, saying it's a "critical first step" to ensure medical treatments can be developed. So on today's Coronacast, what can the survey reveal about the mysterious long COVID? Also on today's show: * What is going on with Astra's US trial results? * And Norman clarifies comments around the pill
Mar 23, 2021
With every passing day, the harder it'll be to reach vaccination targets
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has signed off on the release of 800,000 locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines, which might soon help boost the total number of shots delivered in Australia. So far, Australia's rollout of the vaccine has been slow - due in part to limited supply but also due to the way the system has been set up to deliver vaccines. But the reality is that to vaccinate the entire population by the target date of October, there'll have to be a serious ramping up soon. So as today's Coronacast explains, with every passing day, the harder it'll be to reach those targets. Also on today's show: * We have a TGA response to (some) questions regarding German research into reports of blood clotting issues surrounding AstraZeneca vaccines * What we know and what we don't about blood clotting reports
Mar 22, 2021
Could German researchers have found a link between Astra and blood clots?
Researchers in Germany say they've identified what could be behind the reports of blood clotting in people who have had the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. The German team - in yet to be released pre-print research - say that the vaccine could in rare circumstances cause an autoimmune reaction that leads to clots. The findings have yet to be peer reviewed, but the team says people who are likely to be affected could be identified if they are at higher risk by a screening test. So on today's Coronacast, a rundown of the findings that could offer a reason for the reported blood clotting issues.
Mar 21, 2021
While the world fights variants, we have a border problem
The UK and Europe are vaccinating people in their millions but the scale of the pandemic there means they're still in catch up mode. Experts have warned that variants that may not be fully covered by our current vaccines are continuing to emerge and spread. So on today's Coronacast, while here in Australia we're still sitting relatively pretty with very few cases, what does this mean for our ability to reopen borders anytime in the foreseeable future?
Mar 18, 2021
Does the vaccine cure long COVID?
For those with symptoms of COVID months after being infected, there could be good news on the horizon. People with long COVID report being fatigued and unable to concentrate after contracting the virus. Now a study - which has not yet been peer-reviewed - has found that some long COVID sufferers report feeling significantly better in the days after receiving a coronavirus vaccine. On today's Coronacast, what could this study mean for people suffering from long COVID and what does it tell us about COVID-19? Also on today's show: * What could Europe's Astra pause mean for the global rollout? * What do reports of blood clotting mean for people who've had strokes or clots in the past? * A baby of vaccinated mother born with antibodies
Mar 17, 2021
The vaccine rollout has growing pains
The government has been urging Australians to embrace covid vaccines but now that phase 1b is just days away, the infrastructure underpinning this is being put to the test. About 6 million Aussies fall into the coming phase, and about 1000 GP clinics are part of the rollout plan. But many people, keen to get the vaccine and trying to book appointments, are being told clinics listed on the government website aren't part of the rollout, or that they haven't yet received vaccines and don't know when they will. On today's Coronacast, why is it so hard for Australia to scale up its vaccination rollout? And do these early delays risk putting people off getting their shots? Also on today's show: * A look at why Germany may have halted the AstraZeneca rollout
Mar 16, 2021
Here's what we know about the blood clots reports
Australian health authorities and regulators have assured the public that there is currently no evidence to suggest the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is not safe or is causing blood clots. It's come in response to several European countries pausing the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout amid blood clot concerns. The European Medicines Agency is currently investigating reports, and is due to report back on Thursday, and as such the Australian rollout will continue. So on today's Coronacast, what we know and what we don't about this whole story about blood clots.
Mar 15, 2021
What's the hold up with the vaccine rollout? Supply or delivery?
It's now several weeks into Australia's vaccine rollout, and while people are being immunised daily, there hasn't exactly been a massive ramp up. 165,000 people have been immunised so far, which is behind what the Federal Government had hoped to achieve. The target was 4 million people initially set for early April, which is only a few weeks away. So on today's Coronacast, what's the hold up with the vaccine rollout? Supply or delivery? Also on today's show: * Astra effective against 1.351 and B117 (in Syrian hamsters) * Queensland worried about coronavirus wave in PNG * A bit more on the NSW security guard who tested positive for COVID-19, despite being vaccinated
Mar 14, 2021
That damn virus slips out once again!
Coronavirus has slipped past our infection control systems once again, with health authorities in two states again chasing down the virus. In NSW, the hotel quarantine system seems to have been breached with a vaccinated security guard testing positive over the weekend. And in Queensland, a doctor has been infected after assessing a known COVID positive patient in hospital. So on today's Coronacast, can we expect this to happen less once the vaccine is further rolled out to frontline workers or is something we have to keep living with? Also on today's show: * Please tell us about the stories saying that the Astra-Zeneca vaccine is causing blood clots * A survey shows more people want to get vaccinated than in December 2020
Mar 11, 2021
The vaccines weren't developed as quickly as you think
When public figures talk about the coronavirus vaccine, you might hear that it's amazing that it was developed so quickly. While many are keen to talk up the amazing efforts of scientists, the statement that the vaccine was developed quickly can actually cause many people to worry. And in reality, the coronavirus vaccines being rolled out in Australia were NOT developed all that quickly, and were approved via exactly the same process as every other drug you've ever taken. So on today's Coronacast, the story behind the development of COVID vaccines and why it seems they popped up so fast. Also on today's show: * What does 100 percent more deadly even mean? * And it's time for Quick Fire Friday and we actually get through quite a few today.
Mar 10, 2021
The pandemic is officially a year old. We've learnt so much.
A year ago today, the World Health Organisation officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a "pandemic". In reality, it'd been clear for some time that the SARS-CoV-2 virus wasn't going to go away anytime soon. Cases outside China had been growing fast and Italy was going into its first big lockdown. So on today's Coronacast, a look back to what we've learnt and how far we've come. Also on today's show: * Adelaide's water keeps throwing up coronavirus alerts * Getting local vaccine into bottles * What if the vaccines don't work on the new variants?
Mar 9, 2021
Cancer patients and the vaccine. What do we know?
In the scramble to get the coronavirus vaccines through rigorous safety and dosage clinical trials, many types of people weren't included in the studies. One massive group are people who are affected - or have been affected - by cancer. People with cancer are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and have a higher risk of suffering severe disease, so a vaccine is a vital part of their health care. So on today's Coronacast, what do we know about how the vaccine works with people who have cancer? Also on today's show: * Norman and Tegan discuss a new study looking at how the Pfizer vaccine responds to the so-called Brazilian variant * More on convergent evolution and swimming kangaroos
Mar 8, 2021
What if we vaccinated everyone in poorer countries first?
The global effort to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible is gathering pace, but new variants have thrown a few curve balls. Australia has secured enough vaccines to immunise everyone several times over, but would a better long-term public health strategy be to vaccinate those in surrounding poorer countries first? The idea behind this is that large COVID-19 affected populations are more likely to throw off new variants, which might be worse than what we're currently dealing with. So on today's Coronacast, since Australia has very little virus, why not send what we've got overseas? Also on today's show: * Is there a limit to the number of variants that usually arise from a virus like coronavirus? * We've heard a lot about the so-called South African and UK variants, but what do we know about the Brazil variant?
Mar 7, 2021
The race to stop the new variants taking over the world
In a worrying turn, Europe has had an uptick in new coronavirus infections last week ending six weeks straight of declines. More than a million cases were recorded last week, with The World Health Organisation saying variants first identified in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil are behind the rise. Closer to home, two people have tested positive to the so-called South African variant while in hotel quarantine in Canberra. So on today's Coronacast, will we be able to vaccinate enough people in time before the new variants become dominant around the world? Also on today's show: * The nation's GPs are to play a huge role in the rollout of the vaccine. How much will it cost you to visit?
Mar 4, 2021
What makes a variant a variant of concern?
It seems we can't go a day without some new coronavirus variant popping up somewhere in the world. There's the so-called UK variant, the Brazil variant, the Californian variant and now the Russian variant. And to make it even more confusing, the name of the variant doesn't necessarily mean that's where the variant actually came from. So on today's Coronacast, what are the variants? What is with their names and why are some concerning and others a bit boring? Also on today's show: * What is the likelihood of simultaneous infection of two different variants of COVID-19? * Can you suggest or recommend any strategies for those who suffer from needle phobia but would still like to get vaccinated? * A clarification on our use of the word "average" And it's time for some more Quick Fire Friday!
Mar 3, 2021
Is there any point in a vaccine passport?
With the passing of another day, more Australians have been vaccinated against COVID. But as more and more of us get either the Pfizer vaccine or the Astra vaccine, proving it may become important as we take steps to reopen borders and the economy. One strategy that's been tried overseas in countries like Israel are what's known as vaccine passports - the idea being that to get into a movie or a gym, you need to prove you've been fully vaccinated. But on today's Coronacast, that raises both ethical and practical concerns. Also on today's show: * Can you have the injection in the bum, instead of the arm? * NSW to vaccinate border workers and families
Mar 2, 2021
Are we going to meet our vaccination target or what?
The first week of coronavirus vaccinations has now rolled out across Australia, and the data show that already we've missed our goals. According to analysis by the ABC, the country has fallen short of its target, delivering half the expected number of shots. Health Minister Greg Hunt says the Federal Government remains committed to meeting the end of October target. So on today's Coronacast, what have been some of the early hold ups and are they anything to worry about? Also on today's show: * I work in hotel quarantine and actively trying to get pregnant. Should I get the vaccine? * Can we get an update on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine? Is it coming to Australia? * Why do you keep talking about the next pandemic?
Mar 1, 2021
On the front lines of Victoria's vaccine rollout
With limited amounts of coronavirus vaccines available, health care organisations are taking extreme steps to ensure not a drop is wasted. Rollout plans that would normally take many months to develop have been done in mere weeks to ensure essential workers at the nation's borders are as protected as possible. On today's Coronacast, how is the rollout going on the front line of the vaccine rollout? And how are organisations handling training to make sure the correct doses are given? Also on the show: * Why does Dr Swan keep talking down the Astra vaccine when it is just as effective against serious illness and death as the Pfizer vaccine
Feb 28, 2021
Is Astra the wrong vaccine for border workers?
The AstraZeneca vaccine has arrived in Australia, and the Federal Government says it will start rolling out to people in the priority phase 1a group within the next few weeks. But the evidence suggests it's not as effective as the Pfizer shot at protecting people against new variants and preventing transmission. Australia's main risk from another coronavirus outbreak is a hotel quarantine leak, so is the Astra vaccine the right shot for people working on our borders? On today's Coronacast, a look at Australia's vaccine strategy. Also: Auckland goes into a week long lockdown, but this time New Zealand is facing something it hasn't had to worry about before.
Feb 25, 2021
Will vaccines make a difference responding to the next outbreak?
At the moment life has returned to a COVID-normal in Australia with state borders gradually reopening after the outbreak in Melbourne. It comes as vaccines continue to rollout across the country, and a small but regular supply of the Pfizer shot arrives. So now we have access to a vaccine, how will that change how we respond to any outbreak that happens from now on? On today's Coronacast, will it be business as usual - ie lockdowns and restrictions - or could a new strategy be introduced? Also on today's show: * How old is Norman again? He's so old. What vaccine does he qualify for? And it's Quick Fire Friday time, where we explain why doctors need immunisation training, what Pfizer is diluted with and why there are lots of doses in one vial.
Feb 24, 2021
What happens if you get the wrong dose?
An 88-year-old man and a 94-year-old woman in Queensland were given the incorrect doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday. It's still under investigation how much extra they were given, and the doctor who administered the drug has been stood down from the vaccine program. It was revealed yesterday that the doctor had not completed the required vaccination training. So on today's Coronacast what happens if you receive too much of the Pfizer vaccine, and how did the health system react to the mistake? Also: * We're also joined by Professor John Skerritt, who heads up the Therapeutic Goods Administration which has approved the use of the Pfizer and Astra vaccine for use in Australia. So what's he got to say about the timelines for reopening Australia to the rest of the world? And what are his thoughts on the efficacy of the Astra vaccine especially in regards to the so-called South African variant?
Feb 23, 2021
Should people with auto-immune disease get a coronavirus vaccine?
If you don't have an auto-immune disease, you probably know and love someone who does. These are diseases where the body's immune system attacks healthy cells, and they include conditions like type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. And plenty of people with these conditions have been asking the ABC: what happens if you have an auto-immune disease and get coronavirus? And is it safe for me to have a COVID vaccine? Today on Coronacast, why it's extra important for the 1 in 14 people with an auto-immune disease to get vaccinated against COVID, and what the research is telling us about these people's concerns. Also on today's show: * Should I just wait to get the Novavax vaccine? * Norman says that vaccines have the potential to make SARS-CoV-2 "like the common cold". But don't people who have mild or even no symptoms of a COVID-19 infection often wind up with lasting organ damage? * What's the difference between the words inoculation, immunisation and vac…
Feb 22, 2021
When will I know when I can go and get a vaccine?
As the coronavirus vaccine rollout continues across the country, it's left many wondering when it'll be their chance to go and get a shot. So far, there hasn't been a huge amount of specific information released as to when larger groups of Australians will be vaccinated. So on today's Coronacast, what we know about when the vaccine is coming for large groups of Australia and what we don't yet know. Also on today's show: * My work colleague says she doesn't want to get a COVID vaccine because, according to her brother who is a doctor, the vaccine is 'DNA altering'. Please can you set the record straight? * Aside from hotel quarantine, when do you see us relaxing the other restrictions we are still living with? And Norman has the results from a study on Vitamin D. Does it help protect against COVID or not? GUEST: Lauren Roberts, ABC health reporter The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine rollout is underway in Australia. Here are your questions answered: https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/…
Feb 21, 2021
Why vaccination is only the end of the beginning
Australia's coronavirus vaccination campaign started a day earlier than expected yesterday, with an 85 year-old World War Two survivor being the first in the country to receive a COVID vaccine. Ever since the pandemic began last year, vaccinations have been keenly anticipated as a way of hopefully returning to a more normal life. But if international modelling is anything to go by, it could be a while longer before things like overseas travel are back. On today's Coronacast, why vaccination is only the end of the beginning.
Feb 18, 2021
Could the UK strain mean longer time in quarantine?
Scientists are slowly discovering more about the so-called UK strain, or more precisely the variant of coronavirus known as B.117. The variant of concern is often said to be more infectious and faster moving, and now scientists think it might keep its human host infectious for longer. It could have ramifications for the way our hotel quarantine system is run. So on today's Coronacast, what else have scientists worked out about the UK strain that is becoming more and more common around the world? Also on today's show: * I've heard multiple doses of the vaccine are coming from the same bottle. What's the deal? * How protected am I after my first vaccine shot? How long do I need to wait for full protection after my second shot?
Feb 17, 2021
Global cases falling. Is it the vaccines or something else?
The World Health Organisation has reported that the number of new coronavirus cases around the world has fallen 16 per cent compared to the week before. In more good news, the number of deaths has also fallen 10 per cent. It comes as the global vaccine rollout continues, with millions of doses being administered. So on today's Coronacast are vaccines finally starting to see off the worst of the pandemic? Or could the fall be down to something else? Also on today's show: * NSW announces it'll vaccinate 35,000 frontline workers over the next three weeks * Victoria comes out of lockdown after five days * A clarification on yesterday's comments regarding the Astra vaccine and efficacy rates * If a person takes the AstraZeneca vaccine would it be medically safe for the same person to also get another COVID vaccine?
Feb 16, 2021
Astra approved! But do we have a boomer problem?
The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in Australia, but it comes with fine print around who should get it. In its approval, the Therapeutic Goods Administration noted that the "decision to immunise an elderly patient should be decided on a case-by-case basis with consideration of age, co-morbidities and their environment". While there are no safety concerns for people who are aged over 65, there weren't enough people infected with COVID-19 in the clinical trials to determine efficacy in that age group. So on today's Coronacast, why didn't the TGA give the Astra vaccine carte blanche for everyone over 18?
Feb 15, 2021
Vaccines arrive in Australia. Now the challenge begins
142,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have arrived in Australia, and will soon be divvied up and given to people next week. While it's a great start, it's only the beginning of a very long process to get as many as people across Australia vaccinated by the end of the year. It's a huge challenge, and obstacles include keeping the Pfizer vaccine cold enough, making sure the right people receive it first and keeping records to ensure it's working as hoped. So on today's Coronacast, what's next for the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine? Also on today's show: * Study finds anaphylaxis to be rare after mRNA vaccinations * An update on Melbourne's case numbers * What can infection, age and obesity tell us about super-spreading? * Why COVID-19 is not like the flu
Feb 14, 2021
Two days of lockdown in, does Melbourne need more time?
The Holiday Inn outbreak in Melbourne has continued to grow, despite the city being in hard lockdown now for two days. Additional exposure sites have been identified, with the popular Queen Victoria Market being added to the ever-growing list. The five-day lockdown was sold as a 'circuit breaker' to put a stop to the so-called UK coronavirus variant before it could spread too far. So on today's Coronacast with all the cases so far being linked back to the original outbreak and no mystery cases, what's the chance Victoria can come out of lockdown on Wednesday? Also on today's show: * A special guest interview with Dominic Dwyer, who has just returned from a WHO mission to China to try and track down the origins of coronavirus. How did he go?
Feb 11, 2021
What makes Melbourne's outbreak hot or not?
The Holiday Inn cluster in Melbourne has continued to grow, with close contacts yesterday testing positive to COVID and more exposure sites being added to the growing list. So far, 11 people are connected to the outbreak which started in a Melbourne hotel quarantine facility before being spread to workers and another resident. Other states are keenly looking on - deciding if they should once again throw up border closures and restrictions. But the next moves will all depend on how hot the hotspot in Melbourne is. So on today's Coronacast, what makes an outbreak hot or not? Also on today's show: * How big of a pinch of salt should we be taking the WHO investigation in China? * Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says the Astra vaccine will very shortly receive TGA approval * Why didn't SARS-CoV-1 not blow out to the proportion like the current SARS-CoV-2? GUEST: Hassan Vally, epidemiologist, Associate Professor at La Trobe University
Feb 10, 2021
What's going on in Melbourne's quarantine hotels?
Melbourne has temporarily shut down one of its quarantine hotels for deep cleaning after several different people seemed to catch it from within the facility. The 'working theory', according to Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton, is that the virus may have spread further than expected because someone with COVID in the hotel had to use a nebuliser for medical reasons. It's one of a couple of times in the past week or so that someone's caught the virus in a quarantine hotel, apparently without any close contact with an active case. So on today's Coronacast, what does this mean for our understanding of how the coronavirus spreads through the air? Also on today's show: * Do quarantine hotels have an airflow problem? * How did a NSW returning traveller test negative twice, then positive after their 14-day quarantine? * What did the WHO fact-finding team discover about the origins of the virus on their trip to China? Is there any chance it escaped from a lab? * Do vaccines f…
Feb 9, 2021
Should you try to convince your (unsure) friends to get vaccinated?
Never before have we watched vaccines being developed in real time, and so rapidly. There's elation one day as a vaccine is announced to be safe and highly effective; disappointment another day when it's revealed it doesn’t work as well against new variants. And the backdrop to this is wonder and sometimes suspicion that these vaccines are able to have been developed so quickly. So today on Coronacast, how you can make sense of the rollercoaster that is waiting for a vaccine rollout, what sources to trust and should you try to convince your vaccine hesitant friend to get vaccinated? GUEST: Julie Leask, Professor at University of Sydney in the Faculty of Medicine and Health
Feb 8, 2021
South Africa suspends Oxford vaccine rollout. What does it mean?
South Africa says it's suspending the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine while it goes through the results of a recent study which has thrown the vaccine's effectiveness into question. Data from a recent study showed the vaccine only gave small amounts of protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country's dominant coronavirus variant. The country's dominant coronavirus variant is the so-called South African variant, which has been the centre of much attention over the past few months. So considering Australia is relying on the AstraZeneca vaccine too - what could this mean for the vaccine more generally? GUEST: Dr Larisa Labzin, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland
Feb 7, 2021
Can we vaccinate people against falling for vaccine lies?
A hallmark of the coronavirus pandemic has been the related "infodemic" of fake news that has circulated online. But while many have tried valiantly to set the story straight, fact-based debunking is often a tougher sell than a wild conspiracy theory. Now experts are trying a different approach: they've come up with a game where you play the role of a fake-news generator in an attempt to get people to recognise misinformation when they see it. So on today's Coronacast, can we use games and similar techniques to vaccinate people against falling for vaccine lies?
Feb 4, 2021
Why has Australia ordered so many vaccines?
The Federal Government has revealed that it has sourced another 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, bringing the total ordered for Australia to 150 million. Most Australians will still be given the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine if it is approved by the regulator. Also, it's been announced that everyone in Australia, including all visa holders, will be given a vaccine for free and it's hoped the rollout will be completed by October. So on today's Coronacast, why have we ordered so many vaccines? And what do we hope the vaccination program will achieve? Also on today's show: * Do we know if vaccines prevent transmission yet? * What's the latest from the WA and Victorian outbreaks? * What medical conditions could prevent or limit COVID vaccination? * What is the difference between the SA variant, the UK variant and the Brazil variant? Are they the same thing?
Feb 3, 2021
Nothing good can come from a 10:30pm press conference :(
Late last night, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that a worker at a quarantine hotel hosting guests for the Australian Open had tested positive to coronavirus. This came just hours after it was revealed Victorian authorities were trying to work out how two groups of returning overseas travellers both staying at a different hotel ended up with the exact same variant of coronavirus. As of 11:59pm last night, restrictions on gatherings, mask rules and caps on numbers of people have all come back into effect in Victoria. So on today's Coronacast, what can Victorians expect in the coming days, and do these cases tell us anything new about the virus? Also on today's show: * Viral load is "a leading driver of SARSCoV2 transmission” * Could the drug ivermectin help protect against coronavirus after all? * Some Russian vaccine results have been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and it looks good
Feb 2, 2021
Wasn't the UK strain supposed to be more contagious?
Yesterday was another coronavirus donut day for Western Australia, which also comes as there's been a huge increase in testing numbers. While Perth and some surrounding areas remain in lockdown, both testing numbers and the zero cases will give health authorities a little bit more confidence that there isn't an undetected coronavirus cluster bubbling away. But if we come back to hotel quarantine where this all started, part of the concern was that the guard was infected with the new so-called UK strain of the virus, which has been shown to be more infectious than previous variants. So on today's Coronacast, if the UK variant is much more infectious - why haven't we seen more cases? Also on today's show: * Norman's been invited to some more Zoom seminars on vaccine rollouts. What's he learnt?
Feb 1, 2021
When might we see more cases in WA's outbreak?
When you're in the middle of a coronavirus scare, the sweetest number of all that you want to hear is 0 new cases. That's exactly what Western Australia's Premier Mark McGowan delivered yesterday, as Perth entered its first full day of a strict lockdown. It was triggered after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive for COVID over the weekend, ending a 10 month long no community transmission run for WA. But on today's Coronacast, if it's so serious to plunge a whole city into lockdown, shouldn't we be seeing more cases already? Also on today's show: * What happens if you get COVID in between getting your first and second vaccine shot? * If you've had COVID, can you get vaccinated? * Is the vaccine I'm given first the only chance I'll get or can I get a different type down the track?
Jan 31, 2021
Is WA overreacting by locking down so much?
It was the information that no one in Australia, let alone Western Australia, wanted to hear: there's been a COVID leak from a quarantine hotel. The city of Perth last night spent its first night in a five day hard lockdown, as health authorities start a mammoth contact tracing effort to track down the virus. As lockdowns go, it's very strict: people are only allowed out for a few essential reasons, masks are mandatory, and students due back at school have been given another week off. So on today's Coronacast, is locking down nearly 80 per cent of the state's population with only one confirmed case an overreaction? Also on today's show: * We run through the latest vaccine trial results of Novavax and Johnson and Johnson. What does it all mean? * Now that all the major trial results are in, Norman has ranked them from best to least best (hey it's amazing we have five options so quickly!)
Jan 28, 2021
You thought herd immunity would save us? Maybe not
For much of the coronavirus pandemic, there's been an idea that when enough people are infected and then recover the health crisis will be over. It's known as herd immunity - and early on in the pandemic some countries thought it would be the best long-term strategy in dealing with COVID. Well, it's lucky that the herd immunity strategy was mostly abandoned, because a peer-reviewed study published in medical journal The Lancet has found that herd immunity might not work. On today's Coronacast, Tegan Taylor and Norman Swan discuss some of the reasons why. Also on the show: * Where was China in yesterday's best countries to handle COVID leaderboard chat? And Tegan and Norman go another round of Quick Fire Friday.
Jan 27, 2021
Which country is the best in the world at managing COVID?
There's no denying that Australia has so far done well at managing COVID and keeping it out of the country. But how do we compare to the rest of the world? Well, according to a new report from the Lowy Institute, the answer is very well indeed with Australia coming in at number 8 in the world. So on today's Coronacast, how did Australia end up at number 8? And who did better? GUEST: Herve Lemahieu, Director of the Power and Diplomacy Program at the Lowy Institute
Jan 26, 2021
What's with the hold-up with the Pfizer vaccine?
The vaccine hopes of millions of people worldwide are hanging on the Pfizer vaccine, but the supply of the shot is facing delays. Why? Well, it relies on a whole lot of things that have never happened before all happening at once, in perfect sequence. It's the first approved mRNA vaccine, it needs to be produced in the billions, and it needs to be kept at super-low temperatures until it's needed. So today on Coronacast, Norman and Tegan discuss the challenges facing the Pfizer vaccine and what it means for our ability to protect the most vulnerable people in Australia. Also on today's show: * Some news outlets are reporting the vaccine that most Australians will get, the Oxford AstraZeneca shot, has efficacy of less that 10 per cent in elderly people. How worried should you be?
Jan 25, 2021
Will the next vaccine approval be harder?
In news that has been eagerly awaited since the pandemic began, a coronavirus vaccine has finally been approved for use in Australia. Yesterday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration gave the mRNA vaccine the thumbs up, paving the way for its rollout for key vulnerable groups. But Australia won't have enough Pfizer vaccine for the entire population, and is relying on the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to fill the gaps. So on today's Coronacast, why the approval of the Astra vaccine might be a bit more of a challenge for the TGA than the Pfizer vaccine. Also on today's show: * Will Australia be keeping enough supply from the first shipments to boost the people who receive the first vaccinations? * How is "vulnerable" defined for the purposes of deciding who will get the Pfizer vaccine? * Will I be able to choose which vaccine I receive? And thank you for writing in about your coronavirus "ah-ha/oh-no" moment when you realised it was going to be A Thing. We go through some of your com…
Jan 24, 2021
One whole year of coronavirus in Australia. How did we do?
Today marks one year since coronavirus officially reached our shores and changed our lives forever. On January 25, 2020, Victorian health authorities detected the first case of COVID-19 in a man who had flown in from Guandong province a few days earlier. On today's Coronacast, Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor look back on the moment they realised that our world was about to be upturned. Also on the show: * What could the second generation of vaccines look like and why would be bother if we already have one? * Is the UK variant *really* more contagious? * Did Norman actually make it to Rottnest Island in the end? * Is Norman pumping iron in the gym again?
Jan 21, 2021
Should we re-think who gets the vaccine first?
In a global context, Australia is in an incredibly privileged position when it comes to the coronavirus vaccine rollout. Case numbers are very low and we're once again getting close to eliminating local spread, so we have time to monitor how the Pfizer vaccine is working in other countries. We can see what works and what doesn't, which can help inform the vaccine rollout strategy Australia takes when a vaccine eventually arrives. So on today's Coronacast, how Australia's enviable position allows a re-think on who should get the vaccine first. Also on today's show: * We have a question from Gary, an Israeli Coronacaster who lives on a kibbutz * Some feedback from the Coronacaster from last year who was too afraid to leave the house after the Melbourne lockdown And it's Friday, which means there's some sort of quick fireness.
Jan 20, 2021
The huge coronavirus challenge facing America's new President
Joe Biden has been sworn into office early this morning and now faces a monstrous battle to get COVID under any semblance of control. Yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins University, the US recorded more than 400,000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began. As the weeks pass and the pandemic spreads, more and more people are dying. At the moment, an American is dying of COVID roughly every 38 seconds. So on today’s Coronacast, the huge problem facing America and what President Biden might be able to do about it. Also on today's show: * As vaccines continue to rollout, when will case numbers (and deaths) start dropping? * Nearly a third of people who were discharged from hospitals in England after being treated for COVID-19 were readmitted within five months * A bit of feedback on yesterday's episode on the time taken to bust COVID clusters * And what do we know about breastfeeding after taking a COVID vaccine?
Jan 19, 2021
How long does it take to bust a COVID cluster?
An analysis of NSW coronavirus clusters has found the state's COVID-19 outbreak could almost be at an end. The ABC looked at 18 coronavirus outbreaks in NSW since July last year and found that it takes authorities three weeks on average to bring an end to each cluster. That means that the cluster which Berala cluster, which began on New Year's Eve, could be in its last days. But on today's Coronacast, it all depends if contract tracers have missed any cases. Also on today's show: * A very small study finds that the Pfizer vaccine mightn't work quite as well on the new "UK strain" variant * I'm in my 30s and my partner and I always thought this was the year to start trying for a baby. Now I'm worried that if I get pregnant now I'll miss or delay my opportunity to get a vaccine. * Why is Australia only sourcing two vaccines and not all that is available, including the Russian and Chinese ones? FEATURED GUEST: ABC data journalist Catherine Hanrahan
Jan 18, 2021
What have we learned from the Pfizer vaccine rollout?
While the deaths of elderly people who had received the Pfizer vaccine in Norway has dominated the headlines, it's worth taking a step back and taking a broader look of the worldwide rollout to date. Millions and millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine have now been given to people around the world, and scientists have been monitoring to see if any rarer side effects are popping up. That's because it sometimes takes larger numbers of people receiving a new drug before you can see if there are any one in a million events. So on today's Coronacast, what have we learned so far from the Pfizer vaccine rollout around the world? And what could it mean for the other first generation coronavirus vaccines? Also on today's show: * When you get the vaccine, how long does it take to afford protection? Hours? Days? Weeks? * Could the fall in the NSW COVID-19 testing numbers reflect the fact that greater Sydney is now subject to mandatory mask wearing resulting in fewer people getting even mil…
Jan 17, 2021
Is the Pfizer vaccine the culprit in elderly deaths in Norway?
As vaccines are injected into millions of arms across the world, authorities are watching closely to see if there are any unexpected side effects. And a higher than expected number of deaths in frail and elderly Pfizer vaccine recipients in Norway is drawing scrutiny. The Norwegian Medicines Agency last week reported 13 people had died shortly after getting the Pfizer vaccine shot - all people over the age of 80 and all in nursing homes. So how do we know if these deaths are to do with the vaccine, or whether they might have happened anyway? And if they do prove to be linked to the vaccine, what does this mean for the rollout? Also on today's Coronacast: * Australian Open participants in quarantine ahead of the tournament have tested positive to the virus - will they be cleared in time? * Are there any side effects if you get a vaccine when you already have immunity to the virus? * I increasingly meet people being suspicious about the vaccine. How do you talk to them?
Jan 14, 2021
Vaccines are rolling out - so when will cases drop?
Coronavirus vaccines have started rolling out around the world -- so when will we see case numbers start to drop? Preliminary data out of Israel offers some hope, but the death of a Florida physician who had received the Pfizer vaccine has sparked an investigation into its safety. (There have been no similar cases recorded in those who have received the vaccine.) Closer to home, could mining camps be the answer to Queensland’s quarantine question? And if the so-called UK strain is so infectious, how come the Brisbane outbreak hasn’t been much worse? Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor answer your questions on Coronacast. Also on today’s show, a Quick Fire Friday covering Chinese vaccines, fertility, infectious eyes, and much more!
Jan 13, 2021
Why will most Australians get a less effective vaccine?
If all goes well Australians will start receiving coronavirus vaccinations from next month. But the types of vaccines on offer are not created equal. High-risk groups will get a vaccine that’s been shown to have 95 per cent efficacy -- but the vast majority of Australians will get a locally produced shot that studies have so far found to be much less effective. Is jumping in with what we’ve got on hand the best approach? Or are we better off waiting until we can get our hands on a more effective vaccine? Also, what’s going on in Brisbane’s quarantine hotel where six positive cases are found to have been linked? Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor answer your questions on Coronacast.
Jan 12, 2021
Is the UK strain really 70 per cent more transmissible? (No.)
Pretty much since coronavirus emerged, people have been worried about it mutating, but in the past month or so reports of strains that are particularly contagious have caught the public’s attention and begun to guide public policy. What makes these strains different to earlier mutations? Is the so-called UK strain really 70 per cent more transmissible? What does this mean for vaccines, and why are similar mutations popping up in virus strains in distant parts of the world? Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor put these questions and more to virologist Professor Edward Holmes from the University of Sydney in today’s Coronacast.
Jan 11, 2021
What’s the point of a three-day lockdown?
On Friday, Greater Brisbane was plunged into lockdown after a worker at a quarantine hotel tested positive to the so-called UK strain of coronavirus. But no other cases emerged during the three-day lockdown, and the region opened up again last night. So what was the point of this lockdown? Was it an overreaction to a single case? Or, given that we know the virus can take up to 14 days to incubate, was it not long enough? Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor are back for 2021 to answer these questions on today’s Coronacast.
Dec 27, 2020
Why 2021 will be an even bigger year for coronavirus
2020 saw the rise of coronavirus but it's not going away anytime soon. In 2021, cases and deaths will continue to rise around the world and Australia will have to handle more outbreaks. But 2021 will also bring positives. Vaccines will be given to millions of people, and scientists will discover new things about the virus that's changed the world. So on today's Coronacast - the last one of the year - Dr Norman Swan gives us his list of things to keep an eye out for next year.
Dec 24, 2020
How to avoid a super-spreading coronavirus Christmas
If there's one thing we've learnt from coronavirus this year, is that when it appears it happens quickly, by surprise, and is very hard to get back under control. That's why health experts are worried that the gathering of people across several generations in homes across the country give the virus some very fertile infection conditions. The home is one of the riskiest environments, and today's Christmas get-togethers present real super-spreading risks. Which is why Coronacast is here to help explain what you can do to make sure your Christmas is as COVID safe as it can be.
Dec 23, 2020
The great big coronavirus balancing act of Christmas 2020
The coronavirus stage in Sydney has been set for Christmas. Restrictions have been relaxed a little and health authorities are hoping that case numbers won't balloon after families get together for festive celebrations. It's a massive balancing act allowing people to try and live their life as normally as possible, but also not giving the virus too much of a chance to take off undetected in other parts of the city. So on today's Coronacast, do we need more Grinch for Greater Sydney, or should the Christmas spirit flow? Also on today's show: * In pulling back restrictions slightly, is NSW hoping for a Christmas miracle? * It's great people from the Northern Beaches got tested, but did too many people get tested too early? * Turns out the transport nurse is connected to the Northern Beaches cluster and not hotel quarantine. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Dec 22, 2020
Four leaks in three weeks - what's going wrong?
Yesterday, NSW reported eight new community transmission cases of coronavirus with seven of those cases already linked to the Northern Beaches outbreak. The one remaining case's source is still under investigation, but what's known is that it was a healthcare worker who transported a symptomatic family of three from the airport on 14th of December. It's likely the latest leak from the hotel quarantine system, which in the last month has become quite common. Along with the latest case, there was a cleaner who got COVID while working in a quarantine hotel, a driver who picked it up while transporting aircrew, and the still unknown source who started the Northern Beaches outbreak. So on today's Coronacast, with four leaks in three weeks, what's going on? Also on today's show: * Shout out for NSW contact tracers * What's going on with the NSW hotel quarantine system? * Australia exports coronavirus to Singapore * And more on the new infectious strain in the UK
Dec 21, 2020
Are we out of the woods? Or is it the calm before the storm?
There was slightly better news yesterday on the Northern Beaches outbreak front when the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced 15 new cases of COVID. The majority were from people who live in the Northern Beaches, with only four cases from outside the main outbreak area. And add a huge number of tests across the state, and you could be forgiven for thinking that it could be looking up. So is NSW out of the woods? Or was yesterday just one good day before the real trouble starts? Also on today's show: * Are people getting testing across Sydney or just in the Northern Beaches? * Why we're failing NSW health care workers * Would mandating the use of the Service NSW QR code system be a good idea? * And what do you make of the "new strain" in the UK?
Dec 20, 2020
Has NSW's luck run out?
Throughout the pandemic, NSW has mostly managed to keep a lid on outbreaks without imposing hard restrictions like we saw in Victoria and South Australia. While those states went into various stages of hard lockdown, NSW used a fast, efficient contact tracing system to get on top of things before they got too bad. But with the growing outbreak on Sydney's Northern Beaches showing little sign of slowing down, has that system met its match? On today's Coronacast will NSW need harsher restrictions to get on top of things?
Dec 17, 2020
What could Sydney's outbreak mean for Christmas?
A couple of days ago, a COVID-normal Christmas all over Australia was looking pretty sweet, but the rapidly growing cluster in Sydney's Northern Beaches has thrown it into doubt. Yesterday, the cluster grew to 17 people. Aged care homes were locked down, long lines of people queued to get tested and other states considered whether to enforce border restrictions again. So what do we know about the cluster so far? And what does it mean for Christmas?
Dec 16, 2020
How worried should we be about the two Sydney mystery cases?
Just when you think you've got coronavirus pinned down, it manages to struggle free and throw a few mystery moves in your direction. Late yesterday, NSW Health sent out an alert revealing two people from Sydney's Northern Beaches had tested positive to COVID-19. There are currently no known links, which is a worry as it's been more than a month since authorities have been unable to trace the source of an infection in the community. And if that wasn't enough, a Sydney van driver who was responsible for driving international flight crews to and from the airport had tested positive COVID. So on today's Coronacast, how worried should we be? Also on today's show: * If a vaccine is only 90 per cent effective at stopping disease, but not spread, then how does it differ from having no vaccine? * How long will it take to have everyone moving freely around again after being vaccinated, for instance if 100 people are vaccinated or 1 million people are vaccinated what's the number? And we…
Dec 15, 2020
Another new strain? Panic stations or same as last time?
The British Government says it has detected a new strain of coronavirus that is rapidly increasing in prominence in southern England. Viruses can and do change all the time in ways that can both help or hinder the strain depending on what the mutation is. We've heard about new coronavirus variants several times: think back to claims of a new, fast moving, wildly infectious strain in South Australia's Parafield cluster. So on today's Coronacast, what could be happening in the UK? And is it something to worry about this time around? Also on today's show: * What's the latest with the Oxford vaccine? Is it currently up for approval? * What happens if they vaccinate someone who's already had COVID-19?
Dec 14, 2020
Why are we still waiting for travel bubbles?
A New Zealand-Australia travel bubble is a step closer after New Zealand's Cabinet agreed in principle to establish a bubble with Australia early next year. Australia already accepts New Zealand travellers without forcing hotel quarantine. And despite hotel quarantine outbreaks in South Australia and NSW, Australia has kept community transmission cases very low. So what could be the hold up in creating a New Zealand Australian travel bubble? Well on today's Coronacast, we can look to sexually transmitted infections for a possible answer. Also on today's show: * mRNA vaccines fiddle with genetics, does that mean it could cause cancer? * Social distancing has suppressed many viruses, but my son in kindergarten has just had his 10th cold. Are we doing something wrong?
Dec 13, 2020
What's HIV got to do with a coronavirus vaccine?
It was one of the four vaccines that the Australian Government had pinned its hopes on, but on Friday we heard the University of Queensland vaccine had been canned. The vaccine had shown promising results in early trials and was deemed safe, but its downfall was that it caused recipients to have a false positive for HIV. So if the shot was safe and effective, and the HIV link was a false positive, then why was the whole vaccine scrapped?
Dec 10, 2020
Should you be worried about allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine?
It's been a huge week for coronavirus vaccine news: mass vaccination programs have begun in the UK, more scientific data has been published about the Oxford vaccine and it's all looking quite promising. But one worry has popped up in the UK with the Pfizer vaccine - some patients have reported allergic reactions after being vaccinated. The UK regulator has now said that anyone with a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine or food should not get the vaccine. So on today's Coronacast, what could be going on? Also on today's show: * Could the Chinese vaccine have run into some problems? * What do the new data published in The Lancet tell us about the Astra vaccine? * And we reveal your comments about what you'd do differently if you got a coronavirus do-over
Dec 9, 2020
Why did so many Victorian healthcare workers get infected?
During Victoria's second wave, thousands and thousands of healthcare workers in Victoria were infected with COVID-19. Aged care workers and nurses were the most likely to get sick and amazingly 70 percent of them caught it while they were at work. So how did so many Victorian healthcare workers get infected? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Featured: Marion Kainer, Head of Infectious Diseases at Western Health in Victoria
Dec 8, 2020
It's coronavirus do-over time. What would we do differently?
If you knew what you know now about coronavirus, what would you have done differently this year? Since COVID came into our lives, more than 67 million people have had COVID and more than one and a half million people have died from it. On today's Coronacast, it's time to look back and see what we've learned from the global pandemic.
Dec 7, 2020
Will a coronavirus vaccine *actually* stop you getting COVID?
As the world eagerly awaits the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine, it’s worth looking at exactly how it might and might not work. While we know from trials that the vaccines are very good at stopping people from getting sick from COVID, that’s not the same as a vaccine protecting against getting infected in the first place. And what the vaccine actually does matters a lot, because if it’s only stopping you from getting sick, you may still be able to infect others. So on today’s Coronacast, a deep dive into what and what not to expect from upcoming coronavirus vaccines. Featured: Dr Kirsty Short, University of Queensland
Dec 6, 2020
It's finally happening! Mass coronavirus vaccinations begin
It's been nearly a year since coronavirus burst into the world's consciousness, and finally mass vaccination campaigns have started. Over the weekend, Russia started vaccinating people. The UK will begin in the next few days and the US will hopefully follow later this month. And already, hundreds of thousands of people in China have received vaccinations. But on today's Coronacast, not every vaccination program is the same, and one of the big differences is that some of the drugs have gone through the full three phases of human trials, and others have not. Also on today's show: * The difference between emergency use approval and approval in an emergency * Two people manage to escape hotel quarantine * No new cases from the NSW hotel quarantine outbreak so far * And some more reflections on things you'll be doing differently once COVID is less of a concern
Dec 3, 2020
Here we go again? More problems with hotel quarantine
Just as South Australia seems to be getting on top of its hotel quarantine outbreak, a new one is starting in NSW. Late on Wednesday night, a NSW hotel quarantine worker tested positive for COVID19 - prompting health authorities to put out alerts and start contact tracing. NSW Health is taking the extra step of asking people who travelled on certain trains to not only get tested immediately but also self-isolate until further advised. It follows what happened in Victoria - which suffered a massive second wave due to issues with COVID escaping hotel quarantine. So on today's Coronacast - are we just going to have to get used to this? Also on today's show: * We break down the emergency vaccine approval in the UK * Could Vitamin C be a miracle treatment for COVID? * We read out your comments on what you'll keep doing after the pandemic * And it's Friday so there's that quick fire thing too :)
Dec 2, 2020
As restrictions lift, some tips to stay COVID free
As more restrictions are relaxed, and as border controls continue to come down, it's time to revisit the things we should be doing to stay safe and healthy. From the start of the pandemic, getting tested if you show any symptoms at all is vital and will remain so until everyone is vaccinated. But what about the other things like washing your hands, choosing to wear masks even if it's not mandated and refraining from hugging or getting too close? On today's Coronacast, the things that are worth continuing just to be safe and the things we can relax about a bit. Also on today's show: * Norman has some things to say about WA. But don't worry, he's nice (enough) * Victoria finds something in the sewage in Colac * An update on Moderna's latest claims about preventing "severe" COVID disease * And why Australia could benefit by having to wait a bit longer for any vaccine
Dec 1, 2020
The COVIDSafe app is back. Will it work better this time?
The COVIDSafe app has been given a massive update, and with it comes the hope that it'll give contact tracers vital information when tracking down COVID positive cases. However experts have criticised the update not using technology developed by Apple and Google. Since the app was first launched in April, it has been used successfully several times to find people who otherwise might have been missed by human contact tracers, but overall hasn't been of much use. So on today's Coronacast, will the updates help make the app work better this time round? Featured: James Purtill, ABC technology reporter, ABC Science Unit
Nov 30, 2020
Why are health authorities still struggling to communicate?
It's been a tough couple of days for health authorities in South Australia, especially surrounding the case of the COVID positive man who went out to lots of places. Health authorities initially said he had broken quarantine by going shopping, before admitting that as a casual contact he hadn't actually been told to stay home. It turns out that the man did everything that was asked of him, and it was the authorities who got the message wrong. So on today's Coronacast, why getting the information right is so important - and particularly in a pandemic. On today's show: * We haven't had a case of coronavirus in town for over 6 months now. My school age kids often catch colds and I've been getting them swabbed each time. Do I need to continue having them tested? * We've heard a lot from the companies about the effectiveness of their vaccines, however could you comment on the safety component of the trials?
Nov 29, 2020
What's going on with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine?
As the days have passed since the drug company AstraZeneca announced its coronavirus vaccine results, the questions about those results and what they could mean have only grown. Last week, AstraZeneca reported a 90 percent efficacy rate for its vaccine - but also another lower rate for another part of the trial. Now questions are emerging around how the trial was run, and if parts of it were accidental or if they were on purpose. It's all very confusing, so here's today's Coronacast to help sort it out. Also on today's show: * Why haven't Pfizer and Moderna been subject to similar criticism as AstraZeneca? * Is there any logic to forcing international arrivals who may or may not be infected with coronavirus to quarantine in a hotel, yet those who are confirmed to be infected are able to stay at home? And will Norman back down on his highly inflammatory pineapple pizza comments?
Nov 26, 2020
Wait, so can you catch coronavirus from a pizza or not?
After a dramatic state-wide lockdown which was swiftly lifted when a patient revealed he'd lied about how he caught coronavirus, there is yet another twist in South Australia's latest outbreak. A schoolgirl in Adelaide has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and has been linked to the same pizza restaurant which is now at the middle of Adelaide's cluster. So on today's Coronacast what might have happened? Also on the show: * SARS-CoV-2 detected in sewage around Geelong * COVID-19 and deaths in the US and 18 other countries And Quick Fire Friday returns! Please note, Norman's pineapple on pizza comments are his own, but I guess if you must complain please send to: Why does Norman Swan hate pineapple and what has it ever done to him? C/O: Norman Swan's Boss GPO BOX 9994 Sydney NSW 2000
Nov 25, 2020
Borders are coming down. Were they based on science or politics?
Australia will soon - mostly - be a country where you can once again travel freely between states and territories. Many borders will finally come down in December 1, after they were put up to stop coronavirus jumping from state to state during Victoria’s second wave. But how much have they been about politics and how much about science? And if we can bring domestic borders down, when might international borders follow? Also on today’s show: * More on the testing of the Oxford vaccine * Would it be a good idea to take all the vaccines at once?
Nov 24, 2020
Is the Oxford vaccine worse than the other ones?
All of a sudden, the world has three strong vaccine options to fight coronavirus. There's the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine and now the Oxford vaccine. But while Moderna and Pfizer both reported they were more than 90 per cent effective, the press release for Oxford said it was only 70 per cent effective on average. Australia has a deal to get access to the Oxford vaccine if it's approved, but is it as good? * Australia has a deal to get the Oxford vaccine, but it seems to have a lower effectiveness. Are we getting the s*#t vaccine? * I am a frontline healthcare worker so will likely have first access to the vaccine. I am also pregnant. Is there any evidence of safety in a pregnant population? Should I wait until I've given birth to receive the vaccine? * After 11 months of no proven vaccines, we've gotten results about three effective vaccines in just the last two weeks. Does Norman think this timing is simply a coincidence? And Norman's been watching coronavirus seminars…
Nov 23, 2020
Is coronavirus seasonal after all?
As coronavirus has now had a year to spread around the world, scientists are starting to become more confident the virus could be more seasonal than originally expected. Models are showing caseloads in America, which will soon be in winter, will possibly plateau around January. So if coronavirus is seasonal, what could that mean for Australia's next winter? On today's show: * If the world just stood still for two weeks would coronavirus die altogether? * What is the latest with the Queensland University vaccine? * I don't have a smart phone and have no intention of getting one. Will I be turned away from any venues in NSW because I can't complete a QR code?
Nov 22, 2020
Is South Australia out of the woods?
After plunging the state into a full lockdown, then dramatically performing a massive U turn a few days later, South Australia is hoping its outbreak is under control. It's been a week since health authorities discovered coronavirus had somehow broken out of hotel quarantine and had infected nearly 20 people. Since then, 4500 people are in quarantine and the number of cases has slowed - despite claims that the state was dealing with a particularly fast moving virus. So has South Australia managed to control it? Are they out of the woods?
Nov 19, 2020
A donut day before the storm? Is six days going to be enough?
South Australia posted a donut day yesterday recording zero new coronavirus cases. The state is now under a severe lockdown for the next five days, with people only being allowed out under strict conditions. But if there's fear of a major outbreak and the virus is supposedly moving very fast and is very active, why zero cases? And will SA be able to keep it up? On today's show: * Is 6 days lockdown in South Australia going to be long enough? * Coronavirus fragments have been detected in wastewater from Benalla and Portland * I got a negative coronavirus test, but it also told me that I had another virus. Is this common? What else are they testing for?
Nov 18, 2020
So what's the deal with this new coronavirus strain in Adelaide?
South Australia has started its first day of a strict six day lockdown that health authorities have described as a "circuit breaker" to stamp out Adelaide's coronavirus outbreak. So far, the number of new cases remains relatively small. But authorities are worried they're dealing with a variant of the SARS-Cov-2 virus which moves much more quickly and patients don't show symptoms. So how likely is it that the virus has changed and is now far sneakier? And will the six day lockdown solve the problem?
Nov 17, 2020
Why South Australia's outbreak isn't going away anytime soon
The number of cases in Adelaide's coronavirus cluster has jumped again, and health authorities are warning it'll likely continue to grow. There are more than 4000 people currently in quarantine, and authorities say there are a handful of people that they are treating as highly likely to test positive in coming days. It's worth remembering that even if everything goes the right way, this outbreak is going to take weeks to resolve as all contacts are traced and tested. So on today's Coronacast, why the citizens of Adelaide can't let up or relax for at least the next fortnight or so. Also on today's show: * What does the results around the Moderna mRNA vaccine mean for fighting COVID? * Why are there still three remaining cases in Victoria especially since they've gone so long without a case?
Nov 16, 2020
Lockdown early or wait and see? The big questions facing Adelaide
South Australia has spent its first night under increased restrictions as the state battles a coronavirus cluster that increased dramatically in size yesterday. From when the first case was discovered on Saturday, the number quickly jumped to double figures by Monday as authorities conducted contact tracing and testing. So far, the cluster is primarily centred around a single family with a link to an Adelaide hotel quarantine facility. But on today's Coronacast, the big question remains: when did the virus manage to escape and what could that mean for South Australia's chances of getting it under control? On today's show: * What went wrong in hotel quarantine? * Is it time to mandate mask wearing in SA? * What is Norman's view on testing workers in medi-hotels? * Do you think the black death would have been easier to handle than COVID-19 if the people back then had the resources we do now?
Nov 15, 2020
SA's coronavirus outbreak. What happens now?
South Australian health authorities say several people have tested positive to coronavirus outside of hotel quarantine. They're urging anyone with the mildest of symptoms to come forward for testing, as attempts are made to try and work out how far the virus may have got and where it has come from. It's been many months since there's been cases of unknown origin in South Australia. So on today's Coronacast, why this is a massive wake up call that the virus hasn't gone away. Also on today's show: * New study showing how much coronavirus might have gone under the radar in Sydney * How big a risk is Christmas and New Year in "complacent" states like Western Australia? * If a vaccine becomes available early next year, would you recommend someone who is pregnant getting it?
Nov 12, 2020
Everything you've wanted to know about sewage testing
In the fight against COVID, it turns out that regular old sewage could be a major tool in detecting outbreaks long before people even come forward for testing. In many states, health authorities are regularly testing sewage for SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes COVID - as an early warning system that the virus is circulating. And the idea that a single positive person could be detected via a city's sewage system has captivated Coronacast's audience - so today's episode is answering everything you've ever wanted to know about sewage.
Nov 11, 2020
A vaccine means a quick return to normal right? Right????????
With the great news about the Pfizer vaccine still celebrated around the world, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the pandemic's days will soon be numbered. But sadly, that's not that case, as is the hope that we'll bounce right back again to normal. That's because the vaccine might not stop you getting the virus, it'll just protect you from getting too sick. And that matters because if everyone can still get the virus and infect others, what do you do about the large numbers of people who are unprotected? Also today: what is "viral shedding"? Is a shedder a spreader?
Nov 10, 2020
What we still don't know about the vaccine announcement (but it's ok to be excited!)
The drug company Pfizer has announced its coronavirus vaccine has 90 per cent efficacy against COVID-19. It seems like exciting news, especially as it's one of the four vaccines the Australian Government has secured a deal to access if it proves safe and effective. But Pfizer haven't provided much in the way of data to explain their claims -- just a press release so far. So exactly how promising is this news? And what does all the scientific words like "90 per cent efficacy" actually mean?
Nov 9, 2020
First bats, now Danish mink. How worried should we be?
Millions of small carnivorous animals in Denmark - otherwise known as mink - are being killed due to concerns that they might pass a mutated form of coronavirus onto humans. The animal, which looks a little bit like a ferret, is prized for its fur in making coats. The concern is that the mutated strain of the virus might not be susceptible to the vaccines currently in development. On today's Coronacast, how worried should we be? Also on today's show: * What do we miss when we keep older people out of vaccine trials? * Norman do you really believe all these Victorian zeros? * Placebo effect aside, would gargling scotch help treat a COVID-19 infection?
Nov 8, 2020
Can Biden bring the US back from the coronavirus brink?
President-elect Joe Biden has already signalled that one of his first big jobs when he takes office will be to try to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. To date, the US has had nearly 10 million cases and 240,000 deaths, and both measures are getting worse by the week. So on today's Coronacast, with the pandemic already at a massive scale and growing, what's it going to take to pull the country back from the brink? Also on today's show: * When will masks no longer be mandatory in Victoria, given the continued low numbers, and inconsistency with comparable states like NSW? * Why doesn't NSW do some mass testing in the areas of concern? Wouldn't that help flush out cases?
Nov 5, 2020
Will there be not one, not two but FOUR vaccine options?
As the search for a coronavirus vaccine continues, the Federal Government has signed a few new agreements to get Australians access to potential COVID-19 vaccines next year. The new deals are with two international vaccine companies and are in addition to the deals already signed with the University of Queensland and the Oxford vaccine deal. The vaccines are currently in various stages of clinical trials, so why sign so many deals when none of the vaccines have yet been proven to even work. Also on today's show: * Victoria has no more active coronavirus cases in its aged care sector * Do Norman and Tegan realise that there are actually more the three states in the Commonwealth of Australia? And it's also time for Quick Fire Friday!
Nov 4, 2020
How do we still not know the coronavirus's origin story?
Coronavirus is now nearly a year old, and despite it being studied by scientists from nearly every angle imaginable, we still don't know its origin story. While researchers can give us a good guess: it began in an animal somewhere in China, but locking it down more than that has been harder. And it matters because unless we fully understand why and how this pandemic came into existence, we might let the next one get away too. Also on today's show: * NZ shows again it's never game over for coronavirus * QR code changes in NSW * I have been having a glass of scotch every night to kill any virus that I might have caught through the day. Will this work and if not then at least I will have the placebo effect?
Nov 3, 2020
Will NSW soon be the odd one out?
For the last several months, it's been obvious that Victoria has been responsible for the most new locally-acquired coronavirus cases. But as the days tick by, it's increasingly NSW where we're seeing small numbers of new cases being added to the tally from small, managed outbreaks. But as the country continues to once again open domestic borders, could NSW be at risk of being left behind? Also on today's show: * We address some feedback on masks and blood oxygen levels * And on complacency, how do you deal with people who want you to "tough it out" and come to work sick? Also, check out America, If You're Listening's coronavirus episode here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/russia-if-youre-listening/how-coronavirus-destroyed-trumps-maga-promise/12826142
Nov 2, 2020
What are the risks of too many donut days?
You might have heard about so-called 'donut days' - days where zero cases of coronavirus are recorded. To yesterday, Victoria has recorded three donut days in a row which is a huge relief for the state which peaked at 700 daily infections back in July and August. But with the excitement of donut days, and now that they're becoming more common than not, there's always the risk that people will get comfortable with their new reality, and complacency could once again set in. Also on today's show: * I'm coming from the country to Sydney, how safe is public transportation? And Norman and Tegan discuss a couple of studies about masks - one showing the difference between two cities in America: one with a mask mandate and one without. And also a study on masks and oxygen levels. And are we getting closer to discovering how President Trump got coronavirus?
Nov 1, 2020
Will European lockdowns work or are they too weak?
Melbourne's three-month lockdown was a long and gruelling slog, but eventually the city was able to reopen with very low levels of coronavirus still around. The same almost certainly won't be true for major European countries, which are increasingly being forced into winter lockdowns to try and save their health systems from collapsing. England, France, Belgium and Austria have all recently announced a form of lockdown or social distancing restrictions. So with coronavirus really taking off in Europe, will the lockdowns work? Also on today's show: * What does the Coronacast team think of the various curfew measures in Europe right now? * If I were to be in a room with someone for a long period of time, does it make any difference if I gave them a hug when I saw them?
Oct 29, 2020
Why the next big vaccine milestone might be only 4-6 weeks away
All year we've been hearing a vaccine was 12 to 18 months away, and annoyingly it never seemed to change. But when you talk to the experts, it seems we're much closer to the next vaccine milestone than you might expect. And that milestone is finding out if any of the good quality frontrunner candidates work or not. The timeline? Possibly only 4-6 weeks away. On today's Coronacast, we're joined by vaccine expert Terry Nolan who describes what the vaccine front might look like by Christmas. GUEST: Professor Terry Nolan Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and Murdoch Children's Research Institute
Oct 28, 2020
Why the worsening pandemic overseas is a risk to Australia
As the coronavirus pandemic speeds up overseas in Europe and America, it's putting pressure on Australia's hotel quarantine system. Pressure is building because of the higher chance that arrivals will test positive and the increase in demand from Australians wanting to come home. With more positive cases, the risk of a coronavirus escaping quarantine increases, potentially triggering another major outbreak like what happened in Victoria. So on today's Coronacast, is it time to revisit the old idea of opening specialist quarantine stations to help? Also on today's show: * Like everyone else in Melbourne I'm so excited to be coming out of lockdown, but after the initial euphoria of the announcement, and no new cases/deaths, I've just been feeling absolutely exhausted. * What does Norman mean when he says that a vaccine might be only 50 percent effective against getting COVID-19 disease?
Oct 27, 2020
Forget herd immunity... does immunity last at all?
There are several strategies when trying to control coronavirus - ranging from hard suppression to herd immunity. The idea behind herd immunity is to let the virus spread through a population in manageable numbers with the hope that when enough recover, it won't have anywhere else to go. But that relies on humans remaining immune. Today: why a recent yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study has thrown more doubt on the herd immunity theory. Also on this show: * What's the latest with the Russian vaccine? * Is it safe to go back into shopping centres in Melbourne while wearing a mask? And Norman has some research from Nature on our good friend the D614G spike protein mutation, and why it mightn't be worth worrying about too much.
Oct 26, 2020
Victoria takes a deep breath and opens up!
It's been months in the making, but finally Victoria has taken a deep breath and reopened. As of 11:59pm tonight, the Victorian lockdown will officially end and many of the most significant restrictions will be removed or wound back. Yesterday saw zero new cases, the first time since June 9th. So as the state opens up, what challenges await and what can the rest of the country learn? On today's show: * Learning to live a COVID normal life * The CDC changes its definition of what a close contact is * Norman and Tegan jump back into the jobby waters on sewage testing * What does Norman make of 9-12 month estimates before a vaccine could be rolled out across the country?
Oct 25, 2020
Why did Victoria hesitate to remove restrictions?
On Friday, the Premier Daniel Andrews and Victorian health authorities sounded confident that coronavirus restrictions could be relaxed on Sunday. But 48 hours later, something changed. Daniel Andrews says despite the state recording just seven coronavirus infections in the last day, he doesn't believe it's safe enough to completely reopen Victoria yet. So why did Victoria hesitate to remove restrictions? Also on the show: * What happens if after months of lockdown you're now too scared to leave the house? * An update on whether masks are giving you just enough virus to give you some immunity * If you're wearing a mask on a plane, can you take it off to eat and drink?
Oct 22, 2020
We can't be cut off from the world forever. How do we reopen?
As Australian states and territories take small steps to reopening internal borders, it raises the question of when international borders might be able to reopen too. Closing the country's borders with the rest of the world has been successful in managing the risk of coronavirus entering Australia undetected. But at the moment we have a very simple one size fits all approach: every single international arrival, except for New Zealand, goes into mandatory 14 day quarantine. So is it time to rethink it? On today's show: * With an outbreak in Melbourne's northern suburbs, is the city ready to reopen? * Rethinking our international border restrictions. Could we reopen to more countries? And it's also time for another round of Quick Fire Friday!
Oct 21, 2020
Is giving people coronavirus on purpose ethical?
In an effort to help speed up the development of a coronavirus vaccine, a group of healthy young people in the UK will be deliberately infected. It's known as a human challenge study - and it's not used often due to the risk to the participants. Making it even more risky, there is no foolproof treatment for COVID-19 if a participant starts to go rapidly downhill. While the researchers say the rewards outweigh the risks, it raises the question if anyone can really give informed consent for the trial as there's still so much we don't know. Also on today's show * What do we know about the possible reinfection in Victoria? * How bad is the pandemic getting in America? * Can Norman please use the term 'jobbie' when referring to his favourite topic?
Oct 20, 2020
Is Europe copying Victoria's lockdown strategy?
As the number of coronavirus cases in Europe continues to grow and concerns mount that hospitals may again not be able to cope, governments are turning to lockdowns. In Ireland, the Government has announced that the country will move to its highest level of restrictions for the next six weeks. The restrictions are similar to what Victorians have spent the last several months dealing with: 5km movement limits, tightly controlled retail and strict limits on wedding and funerals. So on today's Coronacast, are European countries looking to Melbourne's response for their lockdown strategies? Also on today's show: * Some people at my office continue to cough at work. As manager, am I being over the top if I ask them to work from home and get tested? * If we can test for virus in sewage, why can't we use people's urine/faeces to test for virus instead of only saliva/nose samples? * Are third or fourth waves our next concern?
Oct 19, 2020
What happens if we don't get a vaccine? This is what 'COVID normal' looks like
Everyone's waiting for the day a university or a pharmaceutical company makes the big announcement: a vaccine for COVID-19 has been developed and it works well. But until then, the best thing we can do for our mental health is start preparing for a lifestyle called "COVID-normal". As Australian state borders slowly reopen, and COVID-free states once again allow internal travellers, life will start looking a bit like it used to. Today: until a vaccine is found, life won't be exactly the same and we'll have to find a middle ground and get used to being tested a lot more.
Oct 18, 2020
Why Victoria's success matters to us all
Victorians aren't the only ones who should be celebrating that things are looking up. The number of new daily coronavirus cases in that state have been kept in low single digits for several days now, and on Sunday restrictions were loosened a little. While there's a long way to go, Victoria's success in crushing the virus hasn't been seen many other places in the world. And for the rest of the country, that means we're all slightly closer to internal borders being opened and can once again glimpse a somewhat normal life.
Oct 15, 2020
Are we just going to have to get used to dealing with outbreaks?
In recent days both NSW and Victoria have recorded very similar numbers of locally transmitted coronavirus cases. NSW is dealing with an outbreak at a doctor's clinic, and Victoria is dealing with an outbreak in Shepparton. So it seems unlikely Australia's two largest states will be able to get to zero community spread at least in the short term. So as health authorities deal with outbreaks, is this just the new normal and what does that mean for those states that are currently more or less coronavirus-free? On today's show: * Is what is happening in NSW something we have to get used to? * If a person who has the virus uses a toilet does the next person inhale the virus spray when the toilet is flushed? And it's Quick Fire Friday: * Has any other state or country actively knocked back 700+ daily cases to 5 or so like Victoria has succeeded in doing? * Are some older people asymptomatic or is it just young people? * You've previously mentioned that the coronavirus started with…
Oct 14, 2020
How do contact tracing systems differ between NSW and Victoria?
Outbreaks of coronavirus are growing in Victoria and New South Wales, and in Queensland health authorities are testing people in several cities. At the heart of the investigations are teams of contract tracers, who help track down contacts of all COVID positive cases. A lot has been said over the last few months about how New South Wales' system is the "gold standard" that Victoria should follow. So on today's Coronacast, how do the systems in the two states differ? And how do contact tracers work?
Oct 13, 2020
What are the real numbers Victoria needs to focus on?
Every day we get a news alert informing us exactly how many new cases of coronavirus have been detected in Victoria. From there the rolling average is calculated and analysed as to how close Melbourne is to finally taking the next step out of lockdown. But what if that's not the right number to focus on? On today's Coronacast, could another number tell us more about what's really going on and how far away the next step might be? On today's show: * Norman re-thinks his earlier criticism about Victoria's contact tracing system * Johnson & Johnson pauses its COVID-19 vaccine trial * China announces first locally acquired cases in two months and announces it'll test a whole city
Oct 12, 2020
Why is the seemingly simple science of masks so complicated?
Masks are back in the spotlight as Victoria has tightened its guidelines about what face coverings are allowed. Originally, people were allowed to use a face mask, scarf, bandana or face shield — but not anymore. Now only fitted face masks are allowed. Throughout the pandemic there has been mixed messaging on how important they are in the fight against COVID-19. Today, what you need to know about face shields and washing masks to help protect yourself and others. Also on today's research roundup episode: * A study on if a baby can catch coronavirus from breast milk * A study on the best way to point the nose swab used for COVID testing * Can SARS-CoV-2 develop resistance to the drug Remdesivir * The best way to communicate social-distancing and other public health messages * And what do we know about getting infected by SARS-CoV-2 from meat
Oct 11, 2020
Why can NSW dodge lockdowns, but Victoria can't?
The average number of daily coronavirus cases in Melbourne has plateaued in recent days. It's raised concerns that the city won't be able to open up as fast as it had hoped. But the number of cases is now about equal to what it was in NSW several months ago, but Sydney didn't have any lockdowns and managed to keep control. So why is it that Victoria still can't open up? On today's show: * Looking at NSW stats around mid-July, there were 15/18/14/20 new coronavirus cases a day. It never escalated. No lockdown & life was covid-normal. Why isn't that happening now in Victoria on their current numbers? * How is metro Melbourne going to get to the third step? * Some kids are going back to school in Melbourne today - what do we know about how infectious kids are? * Is President Trump out of the woods? And Norman and Tegan talk about some CSIRO research about SARS-CoV-2 and surfaces.
Oct 8, 2020
Why are scientists obsessed with the coronavirus G strain?
One of the big unknowns with coronavirus to date is how much it's mutating and how that could hurt the effectiveness of a vaccine. The worry is that by the time scientists have found a vaccine and tested it, the virus would have already changed rendering the vaccine ineffective. The dominant coronavirus strain is known as the "G strain", which has a mutation right where vaccines are targeting. So what does this mean for the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine? On today's show: * What has the CSIRO found regarding coronavirus' "G strain"? * Another study has found that antibodies can disappear after three months. What does this mean for longer term immunity? * NSW records more COVID cases than Victoria * An update from the White House. How is President Trump tracking?
Oct 7, 2020
Why have three community cases suddenly popped up in NSW?
NSW Health authorities are urging people across Sydney with even the mildest symptoms to get tested, as they continue contact tracing three new mysterious cases. After 12 days straight of no community transmission, the three new cases have popped up in different parts of the city. Testing rates in NSW have plummeted recently, despite the virus still circulating in the community. So how did Sydney go for nearly a fortnight of no community cases, only to get three all at once? Also on today's show: * Why are cases suddenly popping up in NSW after almost two weeks of no community transmission? * A big group of doctors have published a letter saying lockdown measures are causing more harm than good * Good news in Victoria as yesterday's case numbers went down again, and cases with health care workers also continues to drop * And how do Australian health authorities approve vaccines? Do they just rubber stamp them if they are approved in the United States?
Oct 6, 2020
Are big families the centre of Victoria's second wave?
Victoria has hit a road bump on its pathway to reopening, recording 15 new cases of coronavirus yesterday as it tries to suppress a new outbreak. The Chadstone cluster has continued to grow, and has spread to a regional town about 60km from Melbourne. It comes as the state's Chief Health Officer has revealed that Melbourne's second wave appears to have focused on larger families. So why are households with more than six people at the centre of this outbreak? On today's show: * How has an outbreak happened in Melbourne when it's supposed to be still under restrictions? * In NSW, why were there so many cases yesterday in hotel quarantine? * How significant is the risk that the steroid that President Trump is taking can lead to euphoria and affect his sense of well being? * Norman has mentioned treating people on their stomachs a few times lately, what does he mean by that?
Oct 5, 2020
Why is Trump getting drugs reserved for serious coronavirus cases?
With each new day, we're learning a little bit more about the US President's battle with COVID-19. Yesterday, doctors said the president's oxygen level had dropped a couple of times and that he had been put on a steroid drug used in the most severe of COVID cases. So what could his treatment of experimental drugs and now steroids tell us about President Trump's condition? On today's show: * What is going on with President Trump's treatment? * If he's not that sick what could the steroid dexamethasone do instead? * What's happening in Victoria and New South Wales? Also Norman discusses the UK reset on expectations about who'll get a vaccine first, and chats about a study showing that maybe obesity isn't such a risk factor when it comes to COVID. Risk Factors for Hospitalization, Mechanical Ventilation, or Death Among 10131 US Veterans With SARS-CoV-2 Infection https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2770946
Oct 4, 2020
Trump's growing White House coronavirus cluster
By now you've probably heard the news that the most powerful man on the planet has tested positive for coronavirus. US President Donald Trump is part of a growing cluster of cases popping up in the White House, Republican Senators and the Republican National Committee. How did it happen? And what will Trump's course of treatment mean for the rest of his coronavirus journey?
Oct 1, 2020
Are we doing contact tracing the wrong way?
One of the main tools in our belt to fight coronavirus is contact tracing. That is, when you identify someone who is positive for COVID-19, you isolate them and then try and find out all the people they've come in contact with. The way we do contact tracing in Australia hasn't changed much since the beginning of the pandemic, but in other parts of the world it has. So on today's Coronacast, are we doing contact tracing the wrong way and what can we learn from countries like Japan?
Sep 30, 2020
How can we safely reopen international borders?
As the number of COVID cases continues to drop in Australia, there's suddenly a whole lot more talk again about travel bubbles and increasing international arrivals from "safe" coronavirus countries. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is talking up an idea to let travellers from countries where there are low caseloads do their 14 days quarantine at home rather than in a hotel. While mismanagement of the hotel quarantine system in Victoria led to a large outbreak, in other states and territories it has protected the country. So how could we safely reopen international borders? Also on today's show: * What's the latest with healthcare worker statistics in Victoria? * My husband is still convinced that flu has a higher mortality rate than COVID-19 * Is there any news on how successful or not the Russian vaccine has been? And Norman has some interesting research about cats and dogs and if they can get coronavirus.
Sep 29, 2020
Why 1 million coronavirus deaths is only just the beginning
Coronavirus has now claimed the lives of more than a million people around the world and it's not showing many signs of slowing down. Countries pummelled by the first wave of the pandemic are now experiencing a second one, while lower income countries are starting to see their infection rates take off. And 1 million deaths is only the official recorded figure, so how much higher could the death toll be? Also on the show: * What is rapid testing and why isn't it more commonly used? * How are Norman's gains after he returned to the gym?
Sep 28, 2020
What ever happened to saliva testing for coronavirus?
By now many of us would have been subjected to a coronavirus test. A swab is shoved up your nose and jiggled around a bit, then it's shoved down your throat for another jiggle. While it's incredibly important to keep coronavirus at bay, it's not exactly the most fun you'll ever have. So what's happened to the promise of non-invasive saliva testing? On today's show: * Whatever happened to saliva testing for coronavirus? * Is it okay to go back to swimming in a public swimming pool? * Is it still worth wearing a mask in NSW? * If you show symptoms of coronavirus, should you get tested straight away?
Sep 27, 2020
As Melbourne relaxes restrictions, can it keep cases down?
Melbourne has taken its first big step out of restrictions, with 127,000 more people allowed to head back to work today. The number of active cases has fallen below 400 for the first time in nearly three months and the number of unknown mystery cases is also dropping. And in positive news, the Premier Daniel Andrews says the city is about a week ahead of where they hoped to be. So as restrictions are slowly lifted, can Melbourne keep numbers down? On today's show: * How cautious is the Victorian Government being as it moves out of lockdown? * How useful is sewage testing for monitoring community spread of SARS-CoV-2? * Any new information about climate and COVID? * Can sniffer dogs detect coronavirus?
Sep 24, 2020
How often are people getting coronavirus twice?
With coronavirus still raging around the world, there have been plenty of opportunities for people to get COVID-19 twice. The good news is that it seems to be incredibly rare for a person to contract the disease twice. But in less good news, it seems when someone does get reinfected, it can be more serious the second time round. So what does this mean for any vaccine? On today's show: * Why has there not been much discussion about possible treatment and therapies for coronavirus? * What are the top three countries that get "the gold star" in dealing with the pandemic? And it's time for Quick Fire Friday! * How do you determine what percentage of infections in the community is required for herd immunity? * If COVID 19 can cause inflammation to the brain and cause Parkinson's, what other sickness can do the same? * How safe are choirs now? * Who will be Norman's co-host next week?
Sep 23, 2020
Here's who you think should get a vaccine first
When it finally comes time to roll out a coronavirus vaccine, the reality is that some people will have to go first. And then difficult decisions have to be made. Do you pick the most vulnerable or do you pick the people most likely to spread it? In the results of a survey out today, Australians have indicated that they'd pick healthcare workers and carers to be first, and lawyers and farmers to have to wait a bit longer. So who would you pick? On today's show: * Who would you pick to be vaccinated first? * Is Sweden the success story it's cracked up to be? * Does Sweden have herd immunity yet? Is it close? * Are the UK's new restrictions likely to work? * Is Melbourne much further along that the averages would suggest?
Sep 22, 2020
All of a sudden, things are looking much more positive
What a difference a little bit of time can make. A month ago today, it was bleak. Melbourne was already several weeks into stage 4 lockdowns and posted more than 200 new cases of coronavirus. But now it's looking much better. In Melbourne yesterday, the vast majority of cases were connected to aged care outbreaks with only four under investigation. And states and territories are slowly reopening their borders, allowing us to travel far more freely once again. So if internal borders are coming down, what can we hopefully look forward to next? On today's show: * With all the second waves cropping up globally are we getting more information on how people who had COVID-19 in the first wave are immune to infection the next time around? * I have had a cough, sore throat, fatigue and breathlessness. I had the COVID-19 test which was negative. What's going on? And Tegan talks about concerns that COVID-19 could lead to a pandemic of Parkinson's disease in the years ahead.
Sep 21, 2020
Why the wait for a vaccine might be longer than you think
There are several potential vaccines for coronavirus currently in phase 3 trials, but large scale safety and efficacy testing is far from the only hurdles the vaccines face. The first round of vaccines could have complicated transportation and temperature requirements, and may have limited effectiveness and side effects. So are the first available vaccines for COVID-19 the ones we'll have to just deal with forever? Or could the second round of vaccines be even better? On today's show: * Why would a second round COVID vaccine be more effective than a first round COVID vaccine? * Why could it be another year before we all get vaccinated? * I live in Melbourne and I am swimming each day in the bay. Does swimming in the sea help kill coronavirus? * What is your take on electric hand-dryers in toilets? Should they be turned off for good? * My baby turned one in lockdown in Melbourne. Most of her babyhood has passed in lockdown. What could be the developmental consequences of this fo…
Sep 20, 2020
Even mild coronavirus cases can have this long term symptom
Every day we learn more about coronavirus, but it may take months or even years for us to fully understand the long term effects of surviving COVID-19. A new study out of Ireland suggests that more than half of people who contract the disease will suffer persistent fatigue – even if they experienced a mild case of coronavirus. So is this a unique hallmark of COVID-19? Or is it just something most people can expect after any viral infection? Also on the show: * Now the numbers in NSW are now looking better, how much longer will Norman wait before going back to the gym? * When do you think Victorians could safely walk outside without a mask? * My wife and I are 65, what is the case fatality rate for people in our age bracket? And Norman and Tegan discuss the funding by the Commonwealth Government's Medical Research Future Fund of two potential new coronavirus vaccines.
Sep 17, 2020
The Melbourne mop-up. What needs to happen next?
While the number of new coronavirus cases in Melbourne continues to fall, for many it's not falling fast enough. The average number of daily cases is edging down day by day, but there's a long way to go until it meets the hurdle to take the big step out of lockdown. So why are cases falling so slowly and what needs to happen next to get cases down? On today's show: * As numbers drop why don't we see a faster fall in the tail? * How long can a person be asymptomatic? Does it just disappear? Can they become asymptomatic again? * My husband and I are chronic asthmatics and take a preventer. Would good asthma management assist us if we caught COVID-19? * Would there have been less antibiotic use this year and how beneficial might that be? And it's Quick Fire Friday: * What episode number are we up to? * Is Norman's towel ready and waiting? * Is there more chance of catching coronavirus from getting on a plane or sitting inside for a meeting/lecture? Or are they the same? * Do y…
Sep 16, 2020
The ambitious mass testing plan that might be as good as a vaccine
The longer this pandemic drags on, the more likely it is that people will get fed up with taking themselves off for a coronavirus test every time they get sick. It might sound counterintuitive, but the solution might be to test everyone more. Regular, targeted but rapid testing of people, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not, could allow us all to return to a somewhat normal life. On today's Coronacast, Tegan Taylor and Dr Norman Swan discuss the possibilities and challenges of a mass testing scheme. Also today: * Will kids fail to build up a strong immune system since they've avoided so many colds and flus this year? * What are some of the longer term effects of coronavirus on the body?
Sep 15, 2020
Why is coronavirus not killing as many people?
For the first time in two months, Australia has finally recorded a day with no deaths from coronavirus. It's a huge milestone after Victoria's second wave pushed Australia's national COVID-19 death toll to more than 800. While Australia's second wave is coming to an end, in Europe case numbers are again increasing. But unlike last time, the death rate doesn't seem to be going up with the number of cases. On today's show: * Why are the number of cases increasing overseas, but the death rate is not? * When will the Oxford vaccine complete stage 3 trials (if it's successful)? And Norman and Tegan talk about an interesting pre-print study that has found the number of COVID-19 infections in Australia could be much higher than previously thought.
Sep 14, 2020
How coronavirus is hiding a future cancer wave
The immediate and long term health effects of COVID-19 have been well reported over the past several months, but it may have crowded out other illnesses and diseases. According to the Federal Government's national cancer agency Cancer Australia, treatments and tests for the most common types of cancer have plummeted since the pandemic began. It's raised concerns that because people might have been unable or avoided going to the doctor during lockdown, they could be living with undiagnosed and untreated cancer. On today's show: * What's happened to cancer diagnosis over the past six months? * How did Norman get sick again? What's he been doing? Has he been washing his hands? * You've mentioned that the coronavirus is mutating. Can you tell me more about that?
Sep 13, 2020
Why the secrecy around the Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial?
The Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial is set to resume after it was abruptly halted when a participant experienced some sort of medical event. All we know is that the woman was given the potential vaccine and the event was serious enough to hit pause on the trial last week. The company developing the potential vaccine says it cannot disclose further medical information. But given the global interest in the trial and what'll be asked of everyone if it is approved, should we be given more information as to what might have happened? On today's show: * Why is Victoria's death rate still so high, even though infections are dropping off? * Some shops are marketing anti-viral fabrics in their masks. Is that a real thing? * The 2009 H1N1 vaccine was ready in six months. Could that be the case for coronavirus in the future?
Sep 10, 2020
The crazy theory that masks are building up our coronavirus immunity
Wearing a mask is one of the simplest and most effective ways you can reduce your chances of catching or spreading coronavirus when you're around other people. But a new theory suggests the fabric over your face also might be providing a crude form of immunisation against the disease. The idea is that masks might be allowing a very small amount of the virus to slip through into the airways – not enough to get sick, but just enough to build up some immunity. On today's show: * Masks, COVID-19 and immunity. Could they be linked? * A new survey on Australians attitudes to mandatory masks * The latest news from the (currently halted) Oxford vaccine trial * Quick fire Friday (with music this time!)
Sep 9, 2020
The Oxford vaccine's troubles. Why it's not doomed (yet)
The vaccine widely considered our best shot at bringing this pandemic to an end has run into a bit of trouble, after a trial participant suffered a medical problem. Because safety is incredibly important, trials of the Oxford University's potential coronavirus vaccine have been put on hold until scientists can work out what went wrong. It could be nothing, or it could be the end of this vaccine. At the moment, all we can do is wait. But it's important to remember pausing vaccine trials is common. So what might have gone wrong and where we could end up?
Sep 8, 2020
Will contact tracers finally bust Victoria's clusters?
Victoria's daily coronavirus tally is finally starting to drop, but the roadmap out of lockdown suggests state officials don't believe they'll be back down in single digits until November. The cause for the delay appears to be Victoria's contact tracing system, which the Prime Minister claims is years behind New South Wales. So will the newly announced changes to Victoria's contact tracing system finally bring things back under control so the state can open up faster? On today's show: * What makes a good contact tracing system? * Why aren't all states and territories using the same contact tracing system? And we've got some really interesting replies from healthcare workers about how well they're being protected against the COVID-19 virus.
Sep 7, 2020
The problem with coronavirus in hospitals isn't just a Victorian one
Over the past few days, a number of worrying COVID-19 infections have popped up in hospitals in Queensland and New South Wales. While the problem with infections in the healthcare sector in Victoria is well known, hospital outbreaks in other states are a warning sign that things aren't quite right. So are hospitals in Victoria any more susceptible to coronavirus outbreaks, or is it potentially a problem across the country? On today's show: * Are coronavirus infection problems specific to Victoria? * How much time does Norman Swan spend researching coronavirus? * And we’ve had loads of questions about the rising number of daily cases in Europe. Why are cases going up now? Why isn’t the death rate going up as much as during the first wave?
Sep 6, 2020
What to make of Victoria's roadmap out of lockdown
Melburnians will face another fortnight of lockdown after September 13, but the Victorian Premier has also announced a plan for the eventual reopening of the state. There will be a few small changes after stage 4 restrictions were originally going to end, like an extra hour before curfew and social "bubbles" for those living on their own. But Victorians are being warned the trip out of lockdown will take a long time. So why wasn't the original six weeks enough? On today's show: * Why wasn't six weeks enough for stage 4 lockdowns? * What's going on in Queensland with the government furloughing hundreds of healthcare workers after a single staff member tested positive? * What does a COVID-19 vaccine entail? Does it mean that you can get it without becoming sick? * Will a vaccine stop other health complications that sometimes come from COVID-19?
Sep 3, 2020
Why Christmas could be a super-spreading event
No matter what else happens this year, Christmas 2020 is probably going to be like no other you've experienced. You might opt to just celebrate quietly at home to avoid a potential outbreak, but some may decide to proceed with a big family gathering. So how risky might Christmas be and could it be a massive super-spreading event? On today's show: * What's going on in Airlie Beach with SARS-CoV-2 being discovered in sewage? * Should I be worried? * How do we hold mass events over summer without a coronavirus disaster? * Should masks be mandated now so we can all enjoy a semi-normal Christmas? And Olivia Willis from Patient Zero drops by to talk about the hunt for the very first person to contract coronavirus.
Sep 2, 2020
Should you get pregnant in the COVID era?
There is still so much to learn about the novel coronavirus, but scientists have unlocked some clues about the way COVID-19 affects pregnant women and their unborn children. A review of dozens of scientific studies has found that women who contract coronavirus during pregnancy may have a higher risk of premature delivery. And while pregnant women also seem to have less severe symptoms initially, if they do get sick it's likely to be worse than non-pregnant patients. Also on the show: * Everyone has an opinion about mandatory isolation for positive cases! * Can you tell if you've got COVID-19 by monitoring your resting heart rate? * What percentage of people would need to be vaccinated to lift restrictions?
Sep 1, 2020
Is it time to make people who test positive quarantine in special clinics?
Australia was one of the first countries to require returning overseas travellers to isolate in hotel rooms, which has significantly helped keep community transmission of coronavirus down. But if someone already in Australia tests positive, they're allowed to isolate at home, which risks infection to family or the wider community So why isn't Australia following China's lead and making it mandatory for people with coronavirus to isolate in special clinics or hotels? On today's show: * Could COVID-19 positive clinics help bring Australia's coronavirus count down? * How would you manage families or children? And we return to a segment where we look into how other countries are going. Today we focus on Spain, which is seeing a large resurgence of the virus. What can we learn from what's happening in Europe?
Aug 31, 2020
What could Victoria's path out of lockdown look like?
With the number of new coronavirus infections falling to double digits, Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews says he will reveal the state's roadmap out of lockdown this weekend. Stage 4 restrictions are due to end on September 13, and many Victorians are wondering what happens past that date. There are many ways the state could approach its return to a more normal existence. So what are some possible benchmarks to reach before they can even consider opening again? On today's show: * What is the pathway out of lockdown for Victoria? * What could stages of normality look like? * What can we learn from how New Zealand got out of stage 4? * How should we define what a hotspot is? * Can a person have two vaccines to get better coverage?
Aug 30, 2020
Are gyms the weakest link in NSW?
Sydney's CBD coronavirus cluster has grown over the weekend, with more people being diagnosed with COVID-19 and being linked back to a city fitness centre. A health notice was issued on Saturday for people who attended the Tattersall's fitness centre at certain times over five days in middle to late August. There are also alerts for other gyms in the city, after an infected person visited them last week. So are gyms becoming coronavirus hotspots and are they any riskier than other indoor environments? On today's show: * Is there something that causes gyms to be a riskier venue than other places? * So should I avoid the gym and just stay home and watch TV? * What about runners or people exercising outdoors? * What can gyms tell us about how coronavirus spreads? * What's happening with the healthcare worker numbers in Victoria? * What's going on with China's authorisation of a vaccine for emergency use? * Have there been any studies into the effect of climate or weather and CO…
Aug 27, 2020
How many cases a day are we happy to live with?
As the number of new coronavirus cases in Victoria continue to fall, conversations are turning to coming out of stage 4 restrictions. Part of that discussion is how many new cases will be accepted each day before restrictions can be eased. NSW has been ticking along with a handful of daily cases, and so far seems to have been able to manage it without a massive outbreak. So what can we manage day to day? And what can be tolerated? On today's show: * What level of virus would we be able to tolerate long term? * Is zero community spread a long-term goal? * How is it going in NSW and Queensland at the moment? * Can Norman please say something nicer about Victoria? Is there any silver lining yet? * What can Victorians do at an individual level to help get cases down? And it's time for quick fire Friday: * My kids are using an iPad for hours a day in lockdown. What's the impact on their mental health or their eyes? * If the cold is often caused by coronaviruses, could any vaccin…
Aug 26, 2020
Are Victoria's numbers really going down as much as we think?
While the decline in Victoria's coronavirus case numbers has been incredibly positive over the past few weeks, worryingly the number of people getting tested is also falling. Yesterday, Victoria recorded fewer than 14,000 tests — much lower than NSW's 25,000 and even Queensland's 20,000 tests. So could a lower testing rate be hiding the true situation in Victoria and are Victoria's numbers really going down as much as we think? On today's show: * How do we know what the true number of cases in Victoria are if there's not enough testing? * Are the right people being tested? * Why might people not be coming forward to get tested? * Did the man in Hong Kong who tested positive for COVID-19 twice really have it the first time? * What's the difference between the Oxford vaccine and University of Queensland vaccine? * Why are scientists trying to make different types of vaccines when the Oxford vaccine might work?
Aug 25, 2020
The top 3 healthcare jobs most at risk of coronavirus
The Victorian Government has finally released information that provides a much deeper insight into how many healthcare workers have been infected with coronavirus in hospitals and aged care facilities. It says that "70 to 80 per cent" of healthcare workers who were infected with COVID-19 caught it at work, which is up from its previous estimate of 10 to 15 per cent. But yet to be published research has found that some jobs are far riskier than others and the risk of contracting the virus depends where in the system you work. So which jobs are most at risk? On today's show: * What have we learnt from the Victorian Government's information on healthcare worker statistics? * Which jobs are most at risk? * Why are foetal cells and abortions being talked about in relation to the Oxford coronavirus vaccine? * A Hong Kong man has been reinfected with coronavirus. What use is a vaccine if you can get coronavirus again?
Aug 24, 2020
What lessons have NSW and Queensland learned from Victoria?
Queensland health authorities say they're worried by the growing number of coronavirus cases in the state, and are recommending people wear facemasks. In NSW, authorities say the virus is lurking in parts of Sydney and are urging people to get tested. Both states have so far kept cases low, no doubt looking south to Victoria for an example as to what happens if it gets out of control. So what other lessons have NSW and Queensland learnt from Victoria? On today's show: * Can you please, please, please talk a bit about NSW? Case numbers are rising, restrictions are being added and I feel lost and confused. * You have said many times that Victoria isn't being transparent. Can you explain why you say that? * Can you clarify if the vaccines that are being developed are live vaccines? And Norman has some news about the way the Oxford vaccine (assuming it's proven safe and effective) will have to be transported, and why it's so different from other vaccines.
Aug 23, 2020
Can Victoria get it done in three more weeks?
Melbourne is now halfway through its stage 4 lockdown, and if the daily case numbers are anything to go by, the restrictions are clearly working. At the start of the month, Victoria recorded more than 700 cases in a single day. Daily cases are now down to the low 200s. But is three more weeks of hard lockdown enough to get the number to where it needs to be? And what else could be standing in the way of the city coming out of stage 4? On today's show: * Is three more weeks enough to get Melbourne's numbers down? * What about by Christmas? We have a few updates and clarifications regarding testing times and the story about which COVID-19 symptoms come first (on average). If that's not enough, we also have a quick fire round on vaccines! * How is an unvaccinated person a threat to a vaccinated person? * How will the vaccine be distributed? * Is there enough evidence to suggest that it is safe? * Will it be safe for pregnant women? * Who will be getting the vaccine first?
Aug 20, 2020
Could aged care and hospitals keep Victoria locked up?
New coronavirus cases in Victoria have been falling nicely this week, but if you look a little closer there are still some concerning numbers. A large number of healthcare workers are still being infected. And cases from aged care still appear to be making up large parts of the daily totals. So could the Government's struggle to rein in infections in aged care and hospitals be holding Victoria back? On today's show: * Is the drop in Victorian case numbers due to lower testing? * But didn't the Victorian Health Minister say only 10-15 percent of health workers are catching it at work? * What are the chances that aged care and hospital transmissions will keep Victoria in lockdown? * Can you tell me more about the Oxford vaccine? How does it work? * Will the vaccine work for people with weak immune systems? * Would Norman and Tegan personally take it? And we put the call out yesterday to see how long coronavirus tests are taking around the country. We've had a huge response, so…
Aug 19, 2020
Why make a vaccine mandatory?
When Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he'd like to see any COVID vaccination be as "as mandatory as you can possibly make it", he put the idea of compulsory vaccines on the table. Yesterday he announced the Government had signed a "letter of intent" with a British pharmaceutical giant for access to a coronavirus vaccine if it is successful in clinical trials. So assuming the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective, what are some scientific reasons behind a mandatory rollout of mass vaccination? On today's show: * Are there any scientific reasons for mandatory vaccination? * What are the ethics of mandatory vaccination? * Are there any ways to speed up getting test results back? And Norman has some research about COVID symptoms and what, on average, comes first, second, third and fourth, and why it shows testing regimes should be expanded.
Aug 18, 2020
Are hotels the best way of managing quarantine?
Governments in Australia and New Zealand are scrambling to find out more about recent coronavirus cases that appear to have escaped from hotel quarantine. NSW Health is looking into how a security guard became infected with coronavirus while working at a hotel quarantine facility in early August. And in New Zealand, a maintenance worker at a hotel managed isolation facility has been infected by a returned traveller from the USA, but no obvious person-to-person connection has been identified. And don't forget the huge problems in Victoria. So it raises the question: are hotels the best way of managing COVID quarantine? On today's show: * With new possible hotel quarantine breaches in NSW and New Zealand, are hotels the best way to manage quarantine? * Isn't it inevitable that when humans are close together, the virus will find a way eventually? * Why are we still talking about superspreaders when we should be talking about superspreading environments? * Why are we still talking…
Aug 17, 2020
Will Australia have access to a vaccine if/when it is discovered?
While scientists are yet to come through with a proven coronavirus vaccine, it hasn't stopped governments around the world signing up for some of the most promising candidates. The Australian Government is reportedly in "advanced negotiations" with a range of different companies and close to a deal that would allow production in Australia. But what happens if the deals are for vaccines that end up not working? And is Australia at risk of missing out? On today's show: * Will Australia have access to a vaccine if/when it is discovered? * What happens to production of vaccines if they are shown not to work? * Can the outbreak in New Zealand be traced back to hotel quarantine? What about Victoria? * How's the are of the virus coming in via cold storage looking?
Aug 16, 2020
Did coronavirus slip into NZ by cold freight?
As the coronavirus outbreak in New Zealand continues to grow, theories are circulating about how the virus snuck back into the country. While the most likely explanation is it came in via a human, there are a few other suggestions. One is that it never left and has been circulating silently for months, though health authorities say that this is unlikely. Another is that it slipped back into the country on imported cold meats. So how likely is it? On today's show: * Are the numbers in Victoria getting better? Are health workers still a concern? * How did coronavirus make it back into New Zealand? * Has SARS-CoV-2 mutated so that it's now more contagious? And Norman and Tegan discuss a fascinating pre-print study about a fishing trip where nearly everyone on board got infected, except three people. What could that mean for vaccine development?
Aug 13, 2020
NZ's cases grow. What's the point of going for elimination?
The number of coronavirus cases in New Zealand has continued to grow, as health authorities desperately try to track down and stop the outbreak. Prior to the coronavirus being found in the community, New Zealand had more than 100 days of zero community transmission. But as they've just found out, keeping it that way seems impossible. So if the virus is going to make it into your community eventually, what's the point of trying to eliminate spread? On today's show: * Victoria's numbers are falling nicely now. Is zero cases still something to aim for? * New Zealand's cases of community transmission are on the rise again. What does it teach us about trying to eliminate the COVID-19 virus? * We've had a lot of questions about a possible treatment for COVID-19, with a mix of the drugs ivermectin and doxycycline (also zinc). Why are some people suggesting it should be studied? It's also time for another Quick Fire Friday!
Aug 12, 2020
Is the Russian vaccine dodgy, a game changer, or both?
Russia's announcement that its new coronavirus vaccine has been approved and is ready to be rolled out has been attacked by vaccine experts, describing it as reckless. No reliable evidence has so far been released to show that it is effective. And more dangerously, no large scale safety trial has been completed. So what now for the Russian coronavirus vaccine? And what could it mean for the rest of the world's efforts? On today's show: * Could Russia's vaccine actually be effective? * If it is effective, what is the problem then? * What are coronavirus vaccines actually attempting to do? Stop the infection or just stop the disease? * Victoria's numbers are up again. What's the latest? * And what on earth is happening in New Zealand?
Aug 11, 2020
As Melbourne recovers, regional Victoria is struggling
The stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne has been successful so far in pushing down the number of cases in metro areas, but regional Victoria risks being left behind. While the number of cases in regional areas are far smaller, centres like Bendigo and Geelong are struggling to get things under control. So is there a possibility that Melbourne will get on top of things but regional Victoria will still have problems? On today's show: * Are cases increasing in regional Victoria and what could happen if they don’t start falling? * Do some regional areas need stronger restrictions? * On healthcare workers, how do we stop them getting sick? * What about negative pressure rooms in hospitals? * In NSW, clusters seem to be getting bigger, especially around schools. Weren’t they supposed to be lower risk? * Should NSW go into tighter lockdown? * Everyone is making sock masks. Aren’t they going to be too leaky?
Aug 10, 2020
When will Victoria's death count stop rising?
The tragic reality of so many people being infected with coronavirus over the past month has started to play out in Victoria. Yesterday a record number of Victorians died of coronavirus in a single day. So while the number of daily cases seems to have started to fall, when will the death rate also start to go down? On today's show: * It seems that while new daily cases have started to fall, sadly the death rate is up. Why are we only seeing it now? * NSW says it's halfway through its critical phase. What does that mean? * How did New Zealand get to zero spread? * Does Australia still have a chance to get there? * How are vaccines distributed in pandemics? Who gets it first? And Norman has a correction and clarification from comments in a previous episode about swine flu and Victoria.
Aug 9, 2020
Can we do better at protecting health care workers?
One of the startling figures from the Victorian coronavirus wave is the number of healthcare workers who are getting sick. Nearly 1000 Victorian healthcare workers currently have COVID-19, a number that has doubled in less than a fortnight. When coronavirus hit China and Italy, we saw terrible numbers of healthcare workers getting really sick and sometimes dying. So as the numbers continue to rise, what could happen in Victoria? On today's show: * How many healthcare workers could die? * Norman talks about a study that looks at antibodies in health care workers in New York, which also reports some encouraging information about the accuracy of coronavirus tests. * Numbers are slightly down in Victoria over the weekend. Is Norman going to do a victory lap about his prediction? * Physiotherapists and other allied health professionals must now wear eye protection. This even applies in clinics treating only non-symptomatic people, with everybody wearing masks. I don't understand thi…
Aug 6, 2020
What happens next in Victoria depends on its mystery cases
Norman Swan made a big call in predicting that Victoria will start to see a reduction in coronavirus cases by next week, but not everyone agrees with him. Some health experts say it's more likely that the state will experience a wide curve, rather than a sharp decline. Ultimately, it'll come down to how many unknown mystery cases there are in the community. So is Norman sticking by his prediction? On today's show: * How sure is Norman about his big prediction? * What did we learn from SARS-CoV-1? Can we apply any knowledge from that? * Can you get COVID-19 multiple times within a short time frame? * If I can smell cigarette smoke and if I inhaled it from someone who was infected could I get sick? * What is "pool testing"? Why don't we use it in Australia? * Does UVC light effectively kill airborne coronavirus?
Aug 5, 2020
When will stage 4 restrictions start to shift the needle?
There's been another grim round of record-breaking coronavirus numbers in Victoria: the highest daily tally, the highest death toll and Australia's youngest victim – a man in his 30s. It's now been almost a month since the state was placed into stage 3 lockdown, and a few days since they were ratcheted up to stage 4. Today on Coronacast, some predictions on when numbers will finally start falling. Also on the show: * What happens with lockdowns if a vaccine never arrives? * What's the success rate on most vaccines?
Aug 4, 2020
Have we been too easy on rule breakers?
The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that all COVID positive cases will be doorknocked multiple times, as authorities continue to tighten restrictions in Melbourne. Complying with rules to isolate and quarantine has been a major problem in Victoria. Recent figures show as many as one in four people who were supposed to be isolating at home, were not. So why has it taken this long to crack down on rule breakers? Or is the punitive approach more harmful in the long term? On today's show: * How do you stop people from breaking the rules? * What do you do about people who continue to refuse to follow the rules? * The head of the World Health Organisation says there might not be a COVID silver bullet. How long could this all go on? * What's the point of Melbourne's curfew? * Is the cooler weather in Melbourne playing a part in the sudden rise in cases? * Is there any point checking people's temperatures? Or is it a waste of time? * I have hay fever and a constant ru…
Aug 3, 2020
Why stage 3 lockdowns were successful, but not quite enough
More than 250,000 workers in Melbourne will be forced to stay home to try and stop the spread of coronavirus. Yesterday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews ordered the closure of thousands of shops, factories and offices in an attempt to not only flatten the curve but force it downwards. So as the Victorian Government ratchets down restrictions even further, you'd be forgiven for thinking 'what was the point of stage 3?' So today, why stage 3 lockdowns were successful, but not quite enough. On today's show: * What's the point of the new restrictions that are closing businesses across Melbourne? * Were stage 3 restrictions a failure? * Other parts of the country are increasing restrictions too. Are they a bit spooked? * Are children really not that infectious? New research seems to challenge that idea and finds they are actually carrying a lot of virus. * What's going on with rapid testing? The UK are rolling out tests that give results in 90 minutes. Can we have these in Austral…
Aug 2, 2020
Melbourne's lockdown pain. How do we make it worth it?
Melbourne has spent its first night under curfew, imposed to try and halt the spread of coronavirus. Yesterday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced Melbourne would move to stage 4 restrictions for six weeks. Reasons to leave your house, education, ceremonies, travel and the number of people allowed to gather have all been tightened. It's going to be a tough month and half, so how do we make sure it's all worth it? On today's show: * How do we make sure these stage 4 restrictions are worth it? * What should we hope for when we come out the other side? * When will it all end? By Christmas? * I'm in Queensland and want to wear a mask when I go out but have a one year old. I would feel terrible protecting myself while leaving her exposed. Would wearing a mask offer us both any protection?
Jul 30, 2020
Another record :( Melbourne’s case number rollercoaster
Australia has smashed its daily coronavirus record, with Victoria recording around 700 new infections yesterday. The state's second surge has been a rollercoaster ride of new peaks and falls – but what's concerning everyone is that the overall trend for Victoria is still on the rise. On today's Coronacast, Norman Swan tells Tegan Taylor where he thinks all of this could be heading for Victoria, as well as surrounding states. Also on today: * Another record day in Victoria. It's been a rollercoaster of cases, and emotions. * Why is Victoria waiting until Monday to impose mandatory masks statewide? * How do we combat community coronavirus fatigue? * Regarding the episode about COVID-toes, it's likely describing chilblains.
Jul 29, 2020
Is Queensland overreacting by banning Sydneysiders?
The daily coronavirus tallies in Queensland and New South Wales are nowhere near as high as Victoria, but health experts are warning that both states are now on a knife's edge From early Saturday morning, Queensland will block all Sydneysiders from crossing its border, declaring the whole city a hotspot. The New South Wales Government is so far still resisting any talk of another lockdown. So is banning Sydneysiders fair enough? Or an overreaction? On today's show: * Is Queensland overreacting by banning Sydneysiders? * Why does Queensland have concerns about Sydney? * Why aren't other countries that are coming out of lockdown experiencing outbreaks? * Do I have COVID toes and should I get a test? And Coronacast looks at a new study that examines whether a 14-day quarantine is really long enough for coronavirus.
Jul 28, 2020
Coronavirus or terrifying hallucinations? Aged care's stark choice
When it comes to coronavirus, there is probably no one more vulnerable to the disease than an elderly resident at an aged care facility. With 769 active cases relating to outbreaks in more than 60 Victorian aged care homes, you may think the solution could be evacuating those residents and putting them in hospital until the worst is over. But on today's Coronacast, Norman Swan tells Tegan Taylor that while a change of location might protect an elderly resident from COVID-19, it could put them at risk of a terrifying medical condition known as delirium. Also on the show: * Norman has previously said that coronavirus can survive for days on some surfaces. So why shouldn't I worry about groceries? * How should I clean the gym and do anti-bacterial wipes kill the virus?
Jul 27, 2020
Here's why Victoria's spike isn't going down just yet
When you think of a coronavirus outbreak on a graph, you probably imagine a big peak and then a swift downward curve as lockdown measures bring the number of infections under control. But Victoria's recent spike looks pretty different. A record-breaking daily tally is followed by a fall in cases before infections suddenly rise again. And also, why has this happened in Victoria? Is it just unlucky or could there be more to it? Health reporter Tegan Taylor has been speaking to some epidemiologists about Victoria's unusual spike and fills in Norman Swan on what they think is going on here. On today's show: * Another day, another massive amount of cases in Victoria. Why isn't it going down? * Why is it different from the first time we were in lockdown? * If coronavirus is on playground equipment, will the rain wash it off? * Do we really need to wash the groceries? It takes one hour to buy them and another two hours to wash and dry them. * Since March, people have been arguing tha…
Jul 26, 2020
Coronavirus is not just an old person's virus
We often hear that coronavirus doesn't discriminate when it comes to age, but after infection it does tend to get deadlier as patients get older. So while COVID-19 does kill more elderly people, youth is not a guarantee that you'll sail through with mild symptoms and no problems. Over the weekend, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews reminded Victorians that currently two children and eight people under the age of 30 were in hospital with COVID-19. So why are the numbers of young people in hospital growing? On today's show: * How many younger patients are currently in hospital in Victoria? * If you get the virus as a younger person, what long-term damage might there be? * As some of the candidate vaccines go into phase 3 trials, aren't there ethical issues by giving people a placebo and not the vaccine? * Norman has said the key to coronavirus in WA is testing, so what symptoms should be the trigger to get tested? And Norman has some research from the journal Science about undocum…
Jul 23, 2020
Is a six-week lockdown going to be enough?
A month ago, consecutive days of more than 400 new coronavirus cases would have been almost unbelievable. Sadly, it's become a reality for Victoria. Melbourne has now been in lockdown for a fortnight, desperately trying to get the numbers to fall. The lockdown was originally imposed for six weeks, but with four weeks to go and the number of cases remaining stubbornly high, is another month going to be enough? On today's show: * Is six weeks going to be enough for Melbourne? * When do we know if it's safe to reopen again? * Could the virus be circulating in Queensland? What should people there be doing? * I'm a garden labourer working in Melbourne. My mask is causing my safety glasses to fog up. How do I stop this happening? * Should people trim their beard to give masks a more secure fit? * Some people have told me that surface transfer is not an issue anymore. Could you please outline the current understanding of how coronavirus spreads?
Jul 22, 2020
Why are thousands of people not complying with the rules?
The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews revealed some startling figures yesterday. It wasn't just that the state recorded its highest number of new coronavirus cases in a single day, it was the huge percentage of people that were getting tested and not isolating before they got their result. And in Queensland, there's another issue where people are skipping quarantine before their time is up. So what problems is this all causing? On today's show: * Why are people not complying with the quarantine and isolation rules? * Many of Victoria's outbreaks are in essential industries. How can we control that? * How long is an asymptomatic person contagious for? 14 days? Or forever? How does it work? * There has been a lot of talk about different ways of cleaning masks. Isn't detergent and water just as good as anything? And if you want a back to basics on how to put on a mask, check out our Instagram account @abchealth for a how-to by Dr Norman Swan.
Jul 21, 2020
Melbourne's 2nd worst day. Are lockdowns working?
Melbourne recorded its second worst day yesterday with 374 new cases of coronavirus. It's also been nearly two weeks since the city-wide lockdown was reimposed, but as yet there has been no reduction in new cases and it's unclear whether the curve is flattening. Restrictions seemed to work a lot faster the first time, so what’s going on? And you asked for it: we have Norman's explanation and breakdown of the promising results of the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine. On today's show: * Shouldn't we be seeing a reduction in new Melbourne cases by now? * Is it time to impose tighter restrictions? * Why are we not being advised to soak reusable face masks in ethanol? * I'm a mask newbie. I experienced a suffocating feeling, like I was in a stuffy room with humid stale air. Do you have any advice? And you have some comments about not inhaling scotchgard, questions about if we're anti-Queensland because we forgot to mention them yesterday and was Norman grumpy on Monday. Als…
Jul 20, 2020
What state is most primed for a coronavirus outbreak?
While coronavirus case numbers were up in NSW yesterday, health authorities said that they could identify where every infection came from. Being able to trace every case is a great sign that outbreaks are being brought back under control. So is NSW out of the woods? And while NSW might be starting to get back on top of things, research has shown that what’s happening in NSW and Victoria could happen anywhere. On today's show: * Norman explains some intriguing figures about which Australian states are most primed for a coronavirus outbreak. And loads more questions have come in on masks: * Can I lightly scotchgard the outer layer of fabric? * Is scotchgard toxic to breathe through? * Can you wear a face shield instead of a mask? * I am hearing mixed reports about how often to wash a mask. Can you please clarify the best practice? * Can I hot wash and reuse the blue disposable masks?
Jul 19, 2020
Why aren't Melbourne's coronavirus numbers coming down?
The Victorian Government has imposed new restrictions on Melbourne, mandating the use of masks. Following an increase in coronavirus cases over the last few days, people living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will be required to wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four allowed reasons. Residents have now been under restrictions for more than a week, so why aren't Melbourne's coronavirus numbers coming down? And now that masks are mandatory, what's the best way to make them and safely look after them? On today's show: * What do we do if numbers don't start coming down soon? * Why aren't the numbers coming down? * Dr Norman gave his recommendation for materials for masks. What are they? * What should I look for when buying a mask? * Can I put my cloth mask in the microwave and it will kill the germs? * My husband was given some surgical masks and was told he could rotate them every three days. Is this true?
Jul 16, 2020
Record numbers in Melbourne. What happened to stability?
There's been a record number of new daily cases of coronavirus in Melbourne, just days after health authorities were hoping numbers had stabilised. It's now more than a week since Melbourne went into lockdown, but so far there's been no sign the massive outbreak is being suppressed. And the numbers are also growing in NSW, where authorities are saying the incubation period of the virus could be as low as a day. On today's show: * What do authorities mean by "stability"? Could they know more than they're saying? * NSW authorities say the incubation period of the virus could be a day. What does that mean? * I work at an outdoor grocer. How do I wear a mask for a eight hours? * What does Norman think about loads of people going to the AFL in WA? And we have some research on a really interesting study about how well masks worked at a salon in America.
Jul 15, 2020
Melbourne's lockdown is a week old. Why no decline in cases?
Melbourne has now been in lockdown for a week, and yet we're still seeing hundreds and hundreds of new coronavirus cases every day. And the city's hotspot suburbs have had restrictions for even longer. Health authorities are saying that the numbers are showing signs of some stabilisation but it's still too early to tell for sure. So are the restrictions working and when should we start to see a decline in cases? On today's show: * Melbourne has been in lockdown for a week. Why haven't we started to see a decline in cases? * Health authorities are talking about signs of stabilisation of numbers. Is that true? * If the outbreak in NSW can be linked to Victoria, was NSW about to eradicate the virus? And we received a bunch of comments on yesterday's show. Norman and Tegan respond to your concerns about elbow bumping, the efficacy of loose fitting masks and suggestions on how to get more people to wear them. And we have some research from the New England Journal of Medicine about…
Jul 14, 2020
Are pubs petri dishes that should be shut down and avoided?
Going to the pub is almost a national sport, which is why the following question might be a little controversial. In a pandemic, should pubs be closed to try and stop infections? The coronavirus outbreak in the Crossroads Hotel in Sydney has now hit 30 cases, and may be starting to cause problems with surrounding businesses like gyms. So should pubs - heaving places with lots of mixing and movement - be closed? On today's show: * Are pubs places to avoid? * Runners come too close to me. Could I get coronavirus from them? They breathe a lot. * What about gyms? Is it still safe to go to them? * I can't breathe when I wear my woven cotton mask. What should I do? * Can you get coronavirus via the eye? * If a person coughs/sneezes into their elbow and covers that part of their arm with droplets, is it not unhygienic to then bump elbows, instead of shaking hands?
Jul 13, 2020
Melbourne was first. Is it now Sydney's turn?
The growing numbers of coronavirus cases from Sydney's Crossroads Hotel has shown that Melbourne is far from alone in having to worry about outbreaks. The venue has so far been linked to more than 20 cases from people who either picked it up while at the pub, as a contact of someone who'd been there, and even as a contact of a contact. So will NSW Health be able to get on top of it? Or could this be the beginning of some big problems for Sydney? On today's show: * Are we watching the start of a Sydney outbreak in real time? * With all the new cases popping up in Sydney, should we be heading back into lockdown now rather than waiting? * Norman said touching a face mask can reduce or impair its effectiveness. How or why does this happen? * Europe has reduced some restrictions. Why is there not a spike in cases? * I was disappointed about Norman’s reference to healthcare workers contracting diseases as 'inexcusable'. What did he mean by that?
Jul 12, 2020
Is it too late to eliminate coronavirus, even if we wanted to?
There have been hundreds more cases of coronavirus over the weekend in Victoria, with more and more outbreaks popping up. New South Wales is also battling its own outbreak, which has come from a pub in south-west Sydney. With the amount of virus now washing around the community, has Australia missed its chance at eliminating coronavirus even if it wanted to? On today's show: * Has the surge in cases in Victoria peaked yet? * Why are there so many cases per day in Victoria? * How do I prevent spread between household members when there is only one bathroom? And Norman and Tegan discuss a recent study in The Lancet about so-called herd immunity, and how even countries that have suffered terribly are still a long way away from enough of the population being immune.
Jul 9, 2020
With hundreds of cases this week, has Australia blown it?
Let's face it: it hasn't exactly been a great week this week for coronavirus. Victoria has outbreaks occurring all over the place, Australia's second largest city is in lockdown and other states and territories are terrified of cases flowing over to them. It's all looking very messy. So has Australia blown it? Or can we fight back against SARS-CoV-2? On today's show: * Has Australia blown it? * Should other states continue winding back restrictions and social distancing requirements? * How do we know if the virus is emerging? * Has the recommendation on masks changed? * Should I wear a mask? What about my baby?
Jul 8, 2020
Is Victoria the wake up call Australia needed?
Borders have been thrown up around Victoria as other states try to limit importing coronavirus infections. But it's been too late for the ACT and NSW, which yesterday had cases that were linked back to Victorian residents. It has kickstarted a lesson about if we've been too complacent with personal social distancing and relaxing restrictions. So is what's happening in Victoria the wake up call Australia needed? On today's show: * Is the rest of Australia ready for coronavirus? * What lessons can we learn from what's happening in Victoria? * Why has Victoria gone with a six week lockdown? * What does Norman have against the ACT? He never mentions Canberra on Coronacast. * What's the difference between droplets and aerosols? And why does it matter?
Jul 7, 2020
Melbourne's 42 days of lockdown. Will it work?
The number of new coronavirus cases in Melbourne has finally hit a high enough level for the Victorian Government to put the city back into lockdown. Melbourne will be in lockdown for the next six weeks, or 42 days, with people only being allowed out for four specific reasons: care, essential purchases, exercise and school or work. It's a remarkable turnaround from only a month ago, where elimination and international travel bubbles were on the agenda. So why put the lockdowns in now? Will they work? And why is it going to be so much harder the second time around?
Jul 6, 2020
Are Melbourne's current lockdowns enough?
There are now all sorts of different lockdowns in Victoria as the state's active caseload of coronavirus gets worse and worse. The number of cases has more than doubled in the last week, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Borders will be closed with NSW from midnight, a hard lockdown remains in place for residents in public housing towers and softer restrictions apply to people in hotspots. But is it all enough? Or is just delaying the inevitable citywide lockdown? On today’s show: * Are the measures in Melbourne enough? * Given Victoria's daily case count is higher than during the March peak will the whole of Melbourne go back to harder restrictions? And will school go back? * What’s the latest understanding of COVID-19's case fatality rate? And Norman and Tegan discuss the letter to the World Health Organisation, signed by more than 230 scientists, arguing that coronavirus is airborne. And also research in The Lancet which might indicate that we're worrying way too…
Jul 5, 2020
Is Melbourne becoming a nightmare?
The coronavirus situation in Melbourne is getting more and more serious, with hundreds of people in public housing units forced into hard lockdown over the weekend. The Victorian Government has announced a series of support measures for the residents of the high-rise buildings as they're unable to go out. It's a scary prospect for the residents, and a potentially nightmarish situation with hundreds of people living in densely populated buildings. On today's show: * Victoria has had a bad weekend. What’s likely to happen now? * I'm not in a Melbourne hotspot, but should I go to a dinner that was organised before the surge in cases or stay at home? * Is getting on a plane and flying to a job interview a good idea at the moment? We have a clarification about staying home after being tested in Victoria's testing blitz last week, and Norman has an update on how a few COVID-19 treatments are going and which ones the World Health Organisation has removed from its list because they do…
Jul 2, 2020
Cases are popping up in other states. Are we losing control?
If you've been watching the coronavirus news this week, you may have reacted with a bit of alarm after seeing that cases seem to be slipping out of Victoria and into other states and territories. The NT and NSW have reported cases that came from people travelling from Victoria, and contact tracing is underway. So as cases pop up around the country, Coronacast listeners are wondering: are we losing control? On today's show: * As cases spread beyond Victoria, are we losing control? * Why are we making such a big deal about the infections when clearly the hospital rate is almost non-existent? Norman and Tegan discuss some responses to yesterday's question about why people in Melbourne might be refusing to be tested for coronavirus. And it's Friday, which means it's time for the quick-fire round! * Are workers who are testing people tested for COVID-19? * Will our DNA be stored after taking the test? * In the UK there was a trial of a COVID-19 test that takes 20 minutes with no l…
Jul 1, 2020
Why are some people refusing to get tested?
With huge amounts of coronavirus testing going on, one of the more disturbing statistics is the number of people who are refusing to be tested. Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday that as part of Victoria's testing blitz, more than 900 people had refused tests. So why is it happening? Tegan and Norman go through our huge list of audience questions and comments to try and find out. On today's show: * Why are people refusing to be tested for coronavirus? * The virus doesn't recognise someone's home address as a boundary. Is it enough to single out just those suburbs in Melbourne for lockdown? * I have read that gastro-like symptoms have been a first symptom of COVID-19 in children. Should I get my child tested if they have these symptoms? * Norman mentioned on Wednesday that China was testing something on its military. Do you know anything more about that? * What are the rules when it comes to social distancing now in states where there is less virus?
Jun 30, 2020
Lockdown! Victoria's big move to try and stop coronavirus
Victoria has again forced large parts of Melbourne into lockdown, in an attempt to try and halt the spread of coronavirus. Listing postcodes in so-called "hot zones" where restrictions will apply, Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews says the "extraordinary steps" were necessary to contain a surge in infections. The orders effectively place some suburbs back under the same restrictions from the start of the pandemic. So will it help stop the spread? On today's show: * Why are people in Melbourne being forced back into lockdown? * As cases rise in Victoria, why aren't we seeing more people in hospital like what happened the first time? * There hasn't been a treatment or vaccine for SARS and MERS, why do we think there will be one for coronavirus? * There are antiviral drugs for HIV, could we see a similar approach for coronavirus?
Jun 29, 2020
Why isn't Victoria locking it all down?
Victoria registered 75 new cases of coronavirus on Monday – one of the highest daily increases in new cases since the pandemic began. Last time the curve was becoming this steep, Australia was put into lockdown. And while that hasn't happened again yet, Victorian authorities aren't ruling it out. But if keeping coronavirus under control is so important, why wait? On today's show: * Is it time to get worried about Victoria? * If controlling community transmission is so important in containing the spread then why is the Victorian government not taking any measures? * Will you finally admit that Victoria is experiencing a second wave of infections? * Is diminished or loss of sense of smell a permanent or temporary complication of COVID-19? * Is it safer to fly in business class or does the air circulate regardless and make no difference on such a long trip? And Norman and Tegan discuss some research about COVID-19 in children and infants, which found that while most kids only…
Jun 28, 2020
The unrelenting slog facing the people trying to stop coronavirus
As case numbers in Victoria continue to rise, spare a thought for the people running the State Government's response to the virus outbreak. The small team needs to manage a growing number of active cases, find out who they've come in contact with and hope it all doesn't spiral out of control. To make matters worse, even if they manage to bring the latest outbreaks under control, there's little to stop it all flaring up again somewhere down the line. On today's show: * What's it like inside the Victorian Government's response to rising case numbers? * How is Victoria hoping to deal with the outbreak? * What's keeping Victoria's Chief Medical Officer Brett Sutton up at night? And a few recent studies have found SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in wastewater in Europe long before the first known cluster in Wuhan. So what's going on? Does this mean coronavirus could have been circulating long before we originally thought?
Jun 25, 2020
Can Victoria test its way out of its coronavirus problem?
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews wants 100,000 Victorians to be tested for coronavirus over the next 10 days in what he calls an "unprecedented testing blitz". The blitz aims to find out where coronavirus is and isolate infected people, to try and get on top of that state's growing infection problem. So can Victoria test its way out of its coronavirus problem? Or are local lockdowns going to be needed? On today's show: * Can Victoria test its way out of its coronavirus problem? * How accurate are the saliva tests? * What's the strategy here of mass testing? * Why are we so worried about community transmission? The goal was always to flatten the curve, not eliminate the virus, wasn't it? * People want to elbow bump me. Is that a risk? It's also quick-fire Friday! * Should you put off routine dental checks or colonoscopy checks? * Is it true that women involved in trials of a coronavirus vaccine overseas have become infertile? * If 200 Australians were exposed to COVID-19, ho…
Jun 24, 2020
So did Conor McKenna have coronavirus or not?
The on again, off again nature of Essendon AFL player Conor McKenna's COVID tests has been a wild ride this week. McKenna had an irregular test result on Friday, then tested positive on Saturday. Then on Tuesday, tested negative. So what's going on? Did he have COVID-19? Or has he been clear all along? On today's show: * How much can we rely on COVID-19 tests? * What makes a super spreader? Is it biological or is it behavioural? * I tried to buy a pair of jeans today but my size was "out the back in quarantine for another 24 hours"! Would putting clothes in a plastic bag for 48 hours kill off any coronavirus? * Should people in the coronavirus hot spots leave their house to go to work?
Jun 23, 2020
Every coronavirus cluster starts with one person
If we've learnt anything from the Victorian coronavirus situation, it's that COVID-19 loves clusters. The first known cluster of coronavirus was the Wuhan wet market in China, infecting more than 40 people. From there, in only a few months, it has spread around the world, infecting more than 9 million people. So how do these clusters start? And how do we stop them? On today's show: * What's the latest in Victoria? * Are multicultural communities getting enough official communication about coronavirus? * I live in a Melbourne hotspot. Do you have any tips on what measures I should take? * What is "routine testing"? * How do clusters or hot spots start? And Norman has some more on "R values" of coronavirus and the flu. He also makes a correction to some comments in yesterday's episode about where the protester at the Melbourne Black Lives Matter protest was infected.
Jun 22, 2020
We've stopped social distancing and it's causing problems
A month or so ago, we had social distancing sorted. We weren't hugging or shaking hands and we were keeping our distance. But as the threat of coronavirus reduced, it seems we've slipped back into old habits. And according to experts, the complacency could cost us dearly. On today's show: * What is the "R value" for coronavirus nationally? What about Victoria? * What is happening to social distancing? Are we getting worse at it? * Could the spike in Victoria be due to the colder weather? * How does genomic testing of the virus work and is this how Victorian authorities know that the latest outbreaks are from family transmission? * When going to family gatherings, it's not pleasant when relatives are offended by maintaining physical distance from them. How do we do this better?
Jun 21, 2020
Coronavirus is taking off again. Is it the second wave?
The state of Victoria is now under more restrictions, after being forced to ratchet them up due to a rise in coronavirus cases. Victoria has had nearly a week of daily double digit increases of COVID-19 cases as coronavirus circulates. While the situation isn't yet as bad as it was before the lockdowns, it has health authorities and political leaders worried. So how did we end up in this situation? On today's show: * What's going on in Victoria? * Why don't state governments make people who test positive to COVID-19 go into forced quarantine? * Is the situation better or worse than when restrictions and lockdowns were first started? * For every person detected with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test, how many are in the community undetected? * What is actually a second wave? Does it mean small clusters breaking out here and there, or a big spread of the virus again?
Jun 18, 2020
What's social distancing done for sexually transmitted infections?
When Australia went into lockdown, it helped more than just coronavirus from spiralling out of control. Infections of influenza are massively down on average, thanks to social distancing and people staying home. So what about other illnesses like sexually transmitted infections? Has staying apart helped drive down those cases too? On today's show: * How do you manage dating and remain COVID-19 safe at the same time? * Can coronavirus be transmitted sexually? * What's social distancing done for sexually transmitted infections? * Was the virus present earlier than reported in those countries that suffered early on? * My Victorian family members insist there has been no community spread and new cases in Victoria and NSW are expats returning and in quarantine. Is this right, or is there a community trickle? * Do you think kids have better immunity because of all the vaccinations they receive during childhood? And in our new "quick answers" segment: * How do you get a COVID-19 te…
Jun 17, 2020
Can we trust the hype over steroids as a coronavirus treatment?
You might have seen the headlines over the past day or two about the drug dexamethasone, which claims to be a major breakthrough in the coronavirus pandemic. The drug is a cheap and widely used steroid, and reduced death rates by about a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients in hospital. But news of the drug's success in trials came not from a peer-reviewed scientific paper, but instead via press release and snippets on Twitter. So how much can we trust the results? On today's show: * What is dexamethasone and why is it being touted as a coronavirus treatment? * Beijing has been battling with a fresh outbreak of the new coronavirus. What’s going on?
Jun 16, 2020
The global hotspots where coronavirus is still killing thousands
As coronavirus restrictions are loosened in Australia, it's easy to forget we're still living in the middle of a pandemic and globally numbers are still rapidly growing. A COVID-19 tracker run by Johns Hopkins University in the US has the worldwide tally for coronavirus infections at over eight million cases. So where are the new hotspots and are any countries beginning a second wave? On today’s show: * There's more than eight million cases of coronavirus worldwide. Where are the hotspots? * My daughter is a bit of an anxious school avoider who sometimes feels "sick" to avoid going to school. Are there any tips to manage this during a pandemic where we must keep sick kids at home to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks? * And we continue our series looking at other countries. Today we talk about Japan!
Jun 15, 2020
The 'ludicrous' coronavirus certificate your boss wants
Proving you have coronavirus is easy. You get a test, and it comes back positive. But what if your boss or school asks you to prove you DON'T have it? According to the professional body for GPs, some employers and schools are asking people to provide a medical certificate showing they're clear of coronavirus. So why is a certificate proving you're COVID-19 negative impossible and a waste of time? On today's show: * Why employers and schools should stop asking for COVID-19 clearance certificates * Do researchers know why some people are asymptomatic? Is the virus only mild in these people, or can it be severe and they still show no symptoms? * Is SARS-CoV-2 the only virus where people are asymptomatic? * I have woken up with a sore throat and headache but am too scared to get tested. What should I do?
Jun 14, 2020
What if we can't stop unknown coronavirus cases?
While the number of new daily coronavirus cases in Australia is now mostly in single digits, there's still occasional cases of unknown origin popping up. It's also known as community transmission, and it's when health authorities get a positive test for COVID-19, but can't work out where the patient picked it up. So is this something we're just going to have to get used to? And what does it mean for phrases like eradication, elimination and suppression? On today's show: * What does eradication, elimination and suppression mean? And what’s the difference? * What does the term 'routine testing' mean? * How safe is it to play in a clarinet or flute ensemble even with social distancing? * Norman has mentioned diarrhoea as a COVID-19 symptom but it is never mentioned as a symptom that warrants testing. How often is diarrhoea a symptom of COVID-19? And Norman has some research about US poison control, which found a huge jump in the people being exposed to cleaning products and disi…
Jun 11, 2020
Protester tests positive. What happens now?
A protester at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Melbourne has tested positive to COVID-19. Victorian health authorities say the man was unlikely to have acquired the virus at the protest and may have been infectious at the time. Tracing possible contacts will be difficult, so what should people do if they were at the Melbourne protest? And what does it mean for Australia's overall response to coronavirus? Also on today's show: * What should you do if you were at the Melbourne Black Lives Matter protest? * Will there be a reduction in testing due to fear of testing positive and having to self-isolate? * My grandparents won't take advice to wash their hands saying they survived the war. How do I convince them it's worthwhile? And we continue our new segment talking about other countries and how they've responded to coronavirus. Today we're talking about Iran and fears that a second wave is already happening.
Jun 10, 2020
Does the World Health Org know what it's doing?
There's been all sorts of confusion this week, after a top expert at the World Health Organization seemed to suggest that people without COVID-19 symptoms rarely transmit the virus. The statement caused head scratching among experts, as asymptomatic transmission - that's giving the virus to someone when you don't have symptoms - is known to occur. The WHO has since clarified the statements saying they were "misunderstandings". So what happened and what could it mean for the WHO's reputation? Also on today's show: * If community transmission is erased, can we go back to normal? * What’s the latest on the COVIDSafe app? Is it still being used? * What is the risk of COVID-19 infection while flying? * Should I use a cloth handkerchief?
Jun 9, 2020
NZ has eliminated COVID. Is Australia on track to do it too?
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she "did a little dance" when she found out her country finally had no more active cases of coronavirus. It means that the country is able to pretty much roll back most internal restrictions, meaning New Zealanders can now do what they want. So how far away is Australia from similar achievements? On today's show: * If NZ can be coronavirus free, is Australia far away? * For those who did attend the protests on Saturday, when is a good time to get tested? * My housemate emits long unguarded belches. Is there any COVID-19 risk? And we're starting a new segment where we'll have a look at a country to see how it's going, and what's been happening with COVID-19. Today we're looking at Italy.
Jun 8, 2020
So you went to the protests. Should you self-isolate?
With Black Lives Matters demonstrations being held in many Australian cities over the weekend, should protestors now be self-isolating in case they were infected? The AMA in Victoria says it’s necessary, but Federal Government advice is to get tested if you develop symptoms. So with thousands of people gathering for the protests, what's the chance there will be a rise in cases in the weeks ahead? On today's show: * I went to the protests. Should I self-isolate? * Is there a risk from hanging out with colleagues in stock rooms? * Can I start playing bridge again? Are the cards a risk? * Can you please talk about babies and pregnancy? And pharmacist owners have written to Norman, a bit annoyed that he said cold and flu products don't work. How will he respond?
Jun 4, 2020
The mysterious company behind a misleading coronavirus drug study
When the World Health Organisation saw data from a study into a possible coronavirus drug treatment, it immediately halted trials for safety reasons. The data implied that use of the drug hydroxychloroquine didn't help COVID-19 patients at best, and was even possibly harmful. But it turns out that the data were suspect, misleading and based on some pretty weird assumptions. Today, the story of a mysterious company that changed coronavirus treatment policies, and has called into question how medical studies are published. Also on today's show: * How do I stay safe from coronavirus if you’re planning to demonstrate or go to a rally.
Jun 3, 2020
Coronavirus can take away your taste. Why?
One of the main symptoms of coronavirus is loss of taste and smell, but it causes all sort of angst and concern to people who suffer from it. While many recover their senses in a few weeks, others have to wait far longer. So why is loss of taste and smell such a strong symptom for COVID-19? On today's show: * I lost my sense of taste. What's going on? * I'm seeing TV ads for cough syrup and colds, should there also be messages to get a COVID-19 test? * My wife and I have just had a child and I’m wondering what the latest info is around the impact of COVID-19 on newborns?
Jun 2, 2020
Why coronavirus tests are far from perfect
The accuracy of coronavirus tests has been again thrust into the spotlight, after a man who authorities said died from COVID-19, actually didn't. When 30-year-old Nathan Turner died last week, Queensland Health said he had tested positive to COVID-19. But further testing showed that he was negative. So how did the test get it wrong, and how common could it be? On today's show: * How do you even get a false positive? * How is the coronavirus death rate calculated? * If Australia is locked down, where would a second wave come from? * Why are there still cases in hotel quarantine?
Jun 1, 2020
Could rallies in the US cause a coronavirus uptick?
As riots rage across large cities in the United States, some are happening right in the middle of major COVID-19 hotspots. Thousands of people have already died from the virus in cities like Washington DC and New York, and the epidemic is still not under control. So what could it mean for America's response to coronavirus? On today's show: * What could US riots mean for coronavirus cases? * Why are so many schools in Israel closing? * Is there any evidence that masks work? And Norman has a study of COVID-19 patients with diabetes, which shows that 10 percent die within seven days.
May 31, 2020
Hello Winter! Is coronavirus about to get worse?
As the days get shorter and colder, many people are wondering what it might mean for coronavirus infections. One theory states that countries in the northern hemisphere have suffered more because they were in their winter months. So as Australia ticks over to a new season, could the weather play any part in the severity of an epidemic here? On todays show: * What might winter mean for coronavirus? * More Ruby Princess, but this time it's a tuberculosis problem * What's going on with Victoria? And Norman has some more information regarding a question from last week's episode about the accuracy of coronavirus tests.
May 28, 2020
So what's the chance your coronavirus test is wrong?
So you've just had a coronavirus test, and had a little stick shoved up your nose and wobbled around. But while you’re waiting for a result, have you thought how accurate it might be? Turns out the so-called false negative rate - that's when positive cases are wrongly found to be negative - can be as high as one in three on average. What might that mean for Australia's fight against the virus? On today's show: * Can I get married in India in November? * Do vaccines need to be 100% effective to be good? * How accurate are coronavirus tests? And we have a special announcement about the Together in Art Kids exhibition. Meet one of the kids who has submitted some amazing work, and the next artist who will help curate the next round of submissions. If you want to see the art from the "Inner Worlds" exhibition, visit the Together In Art website (search for Together In Art Kids or find the link on our website).
May 27, 2020
Has the COVIDSafe app been worth it?
It's been just over a month since the Federal Government released the COVIDSafe app to help contact tracers track down potentially positive COVID-19 cases. It was sold as a vital tool to reopen the Australian economy and help get things moving again. So how has the app been used since then? Has it been the key to get things moving or has it been forgotten? On today's show: * What’s the history of the app so far? * How many downloads has it had? * Is it still being sold as a vital tool? * Why isn't the Government being transparent about the app’s functionality? * What successes has it had? * Has the source code been released? * How many people have since deleted it?
May 26, 2020
Just when you thought it was safe to go outside again
You might have thought we were finally getting on top of coronavirus, but the pandemic is not without its surprises. There's been a few cases in the past few days that have health authorities scratching their heads. Two school kids in Sydney have tested positive, and there's a case in Queensland that apparently dates back to the Ruby Princess. So what's going on? And what might it say about the level of community transmission of the virus? On today's show: * What do the cases in Sydney schools mean for community transmission numbers? * Is coronavirus more common out in the wild that we thought? * How can there be another case from the Ruby Princess? * Are enough people still getting tested to give a true indication of the spread? And Norman's here to explain the latest from the vaccine trial that's just started in Australia. But how can they test it here if there are such low active cases?
May 25, 2020
Which mask is the best? What should you avoid?
There are all sorts of options when picking a mask to help protect yourself and other people from picking up coronavirus. But some masks can be expensive, and not every mask is equal. Firstly, you have to wear it correctly. Secondly, you want to make sure it's doing what it is supposed to. So what mask should you choose? On today's show: * What mask should I wear and can I make my own? * What’s going on with state border closures? Is there any point? * Can smoking help inhibit coronavirus? And Norman and Tegan discuss a few pieces of research about how long coronavirus may be infectious for.
May 24, 2020
Is it finally time to hug your grandparents again?
At the height of the Australian coronavirus epidemic, older people were urged to stay away from children and grandchildren to avoid contracting the virus. Age is a major risk factor for COVID-19, and many older people made the emotional decision to stay away from loved ones. But as the number of active cases continues to fall, families are wondering if it's okay once again for grandparents to hug and be around their children and grandchildren. On today's show: * Is it ok to hug our parents again? * What should people aged over 70 be doing now? * Why is it ok for kids to go to school, but not visit grandparents? And Norman talks about a study how coronavirus affects the immune system and what it could mean for designing treatments.
May 21, 2020
How complacency could trigger a third wave and force us back indoors
We know that in the 1918 flu pandemic the second wave was far more deadly than when it first arrived. This time around in Australia, it seems we may avoid a terrible second wave but that may make us more vulnerable to a third wave. By the end of this year and into 2021, we'll have little natural immunity, a vaccine may not be available and there's a danger that complacency may have set in. On today's show: * Norman goes on a bit of a tear about masks, and says if we all wore them we could re-open society much more quickly * How should social distancing work on flights? * Will any second or third coronavirus wave be better or worse than the 1918 flu?
May 20, 2020
Coronavirus loves lungs. Does it also lurk in our blood?
When coronavirus infects someone, we know they can spread the disease via coughing and sneezing. But what about other forms of bodily fluid like blood? Around the world, there have been no reports of transmission that have definitely proven blood to be the cause. But the virus has been found in our blood, so it is theoretically possible. So what could this mean for blood donations? On today's show: * Is giving blood safe? * If someone with the virus coughed or sneezed on another's open wound, can the virus get into the bloodstream then the lungs? * Is there a chance we've eradicated the seasonal flu seeing as its infection rate is much lower than coronavirus? * If there are no new cases and haven't been for a while, like in WA, why do we need to continue with social distancing?
May 19, 2020
The race for a coronavirus vaccine may have a frontrunner
The search for a coronavirus vaccine has taken a small step in the right direction, with promising early results from a vaccine trial. Made by biotechnology company Moderna, the very early findings indicate the vaccine is safe and doing what it needs to do. But the results now need to be repeated in thousands more people to see if the vaccine works in the real world. On today's show: * What is this Moderna vaccine all about? * It appears that five sailors on USS Theodore Roosevelt have been reinfected or tested positive after recovering from infection. What does this imply for immunity? * Because we've been at home for so long without going out much, when we do start going back to school and work, will we become more likely to catch colds? Also, Norman and Tegan have a chat about bats, and Norman has some research about one of his favourite topics: the faecal oral route.
May 18, 2020
Is social distancing 1.5m enough to avoid coronavirus?
As pubs and restaurants re-open in some states, you're probably thinking that it's safe to return as long as you maintain 1.5 metres distance from other diners. But the 1.5 metre "rule" for social distancing is really just a best effort recommendation, and isn't a guarantee. So are social distancing recommendations enough when you're in a closed space for a long time? On today's show: * Can COVID-19 be spread through the air-conditioning? * Will social distancing save me? * Is it true that no scientist has physically isolated an actual COVID-19 virus that can be viewed under a powerful enough microscope? And Norman and Tegan talk about some exciting research about antibodies.
May 17, 2020
42 days of infection? When coronavirus won't go away
You probably think that coronavirus is a disease that takes 14 days to get over. That's how long isolation periods last. But for some people, coronavirus is a slow burn, making them sick - sometimes critically - and keeping them infectious for weeks. For example, we're still hearing about cases being connected back to the Ruby Princess, which docked in Sydney in March. And while rare, some patients remain infectious for longer than a month. So if some people remain infectious much longer than we think, could we get caught out if they go undetected? On today's show: * How long can people remain infectious for? * Is the easing of restrictions because there’s less virus around or that we’re better at responding to outbreaks? * Has SARS1 and MERS disappeared? And we have all your creative, wonderful and scary ways to blow out birthday cake candles, without blowing on the cake.
May 14, 2020
Will coronavirus kill off birthday candles and choirs?
When you start thinking about it, coronavirus is going to change so many things we previously took for granted. Birthday cakes for example. It's probably not a great idea to be blowing out the candles. And if overseas experiences are anything to go by, loud boisterous singing in choirs may also be problematic. So what else might change? On today's show: * Is the risk of transmission high for those singing in choirs? * How do I blow out candles on a cake? * How do asymptomatic people transmit the virus if they're not coughing? * I was tested a few weeks ago because I had a sore throat. It's back. Should I get tested again? * Does coronavirus cause the common cold? There's no vaccine for that. * Does everyone who gets coronavirus develop COVID-19? * When you say 'kids', what do you mean? * I haven't worn shoes for a while. Now my old shoes hurt. Can my feet get bigger?
May 13, 2020
How much coronavirus research is useless and wasteful?
Ever since coronavirus appeared, scientists and researchers around the world have been scrambling to find out as much as they can about it. So much so that there's now enormous overlap in trials and reviews of COVID-19 evidence. It's led to concerns that resources are being wasted, especially in areas of drug trials because many studies are poorly designed and not actually revealing any useful information. On today's show: * How much coronavirus research is wasteful? * What's the point of quarantine if some people remain infectious for more than two weeks? * If I have a flu vaccination and get a slight reaction do I need to be tested for coronavirus?
May 12, 2020
Was coronavirus 50 years in the making?
There are all sorts of coronavirus origin stories, ranging from secret US military plots to disastrous accidental leaks from Chinese labs. But studying the evolutionary history of the SARS-COV-2 virus reveals that those stories are unlikely. So what is the most likely explanation for where the virus came from and could it be that it's been circulating in humans for far longer than we think? On today’s episode: * We revisit some of the origin stories of the novel coronavirus * If someone is asymptomatic with COVID-19, what's the maximum time they could be contagious? * Is it true that people who recover from the virus are left with serious holes in their lungs? And Norman talks about a paper that looks at a tuberculosis vaccine and if it could be useful in protecting against COVID-19.
May 11, 2020
Weighing up death. The cost of lockdowns vs no lockdowns
The way different countries have responded to coronavirus has been incredibly varied. Some have tried to keep as much open as possible, others have gone for hard lockdowns at enormous economic cost. Australia has been towards the stricter end of the scale. So was it worth it? Will it end up costing more lives than it saved? On today's episode: * What are the recommendations for getting kids tested? * What if you know someone has COVID-19 symptoms but isn't getting tested? * Could we train dogs to sniff out coronavirus? * Is it safe to re-enter the pool? And are the lockdowns worth the cost? A few articles lately say yes, both in economic terms and total lives saved.