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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.
15 hours ago
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?
3 days ago
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!
4 days ago
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.
5 days ago
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.
6 days ago
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 canditates 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.
May 10, 2020
As restrictions ease, here's how to avoid the virus
Most states and territories are moving to the next phase of our coronavirus pandemic journey, with some public spaces reopening, larger public gatherings permitted and an increase in the size of our social bubbles. But as we creep back into the world, there is always the risk of another outbreak. On today's Coronacast, Dr Norman Swan and health reporter Tegan Taylor discuss some simple ways you can keep yourself healthy and coronavirus-free while also enjoying your new freedoms. Also on the show: * How we can beat the Prime Minister's goal of reopening Australia's economy before July? * What are sentinel tests and why are they so important in Australia's coronavirus fight? * If so many COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, will ramped-up testing lead to a massive spike? Tegan and Norman also look at some modelling from Sydney University that predicts a suicide epidemic curve, but also shows what can be done now to flatten it. If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 1…
May 7, 2020
Has coronavirus really split into two strains – and does it matter?
You might have seen the study that found there may be a more contagious strain of coronavirus floating around. It turns out though that it's quite a controversial paper, and some experts are downplaying the findings. For starters, the more contagious strain is already the one that's in Australia. And secondly, while it may be more contagious it's no more dangerous than the other strain. On today's show: * I heard there are two strains. What’s that about? * Is there an accurate antibody test yet? * Would testing for antibodies at the airport mean I could avoid 14-day quarantine if I'd already had COVID-19? * I live in Australia and got sick before Christmas with coronavirus symptoms. Could I have had it? * Can Norman be President of the USA? And Norman's found a study that looked at anti-vaccination views and what that might mean if there's ever a SARS-COV-2 vaccine.
May 6, 2020
Why might coronavirus become more "gentle" in time?
Like all living things, coronavirus will evolve and mutate, but that's not necessarily something to be feared. While the virus that causes COVID-19 is dangerous and deadly, if history is anything to go by, any mutations may calm it down a bit. In fact, a mutation might be in the interests of both humans and the virus. On today's episode: * When does it turn from a blip in cases into a second wave? * What should I do if someone needs CPR? * Why might SARS-COV-2 turn into a more "gentle" virus? * Is the virus blood type specific? And Norman has a very interesting piece of research from France. The research found a patient who had the SARS-COV-2 virus in December - a month before the country's first reported case. And the patient had no travel history to China.
May 5, 2020
What's behind the sudden uptick in coronavirus cases?
One of the realities of this coronavirus pandemic is that you think you're doing a good job and then suddenly there's an outbreak. Some states might be consistently reporting zero cases, but others are struggling with growing clusters. So why has the infection rate suddenly increased? On today's episode: * Is the uptick in cases because of people travelling at Easter a few weeks ago? * Should I be worried about the increased number of cases? * Will salt in my homemade salami kill coronavirus? * We can't travel to other states yet. Isn't it a bit early to travel to NZ? * Is it possible Ebola and coronavirus can mutate into a more potent virus? And Norman has some news from a research paper about heart medication, which found it didn't worsen the disease for people who got it or make them more susceptible to it in the first place.
May 4, 2020
Is there any possibility coronavirus escaped a Chinese lab?
The origins of coronavirus have become increasingly controversial, with the US Government ratcheting up the rhetoric in recent days. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said recently there was "a significant amount of evidence" that it emerged from a Chinese laboratory. According to geneticists, it's unlikely the virus was man made. So what are some possible beginnings of the pandemic? On today's episode: * What are some possible origins of coronavirus? * Are you more likely to get coronavirus if you work in an abattoir? * Can I get sick from meat processed in an abattoir if the worker had coronavirus? * Could herbal medicine play a role in helping stop or treat coronavirus? And Norman and Tegan discuss research regarding skin rashes that are being reported by some COVID-19 patients.
May 3, 2020
Why the next fortnight is so important in the coronavirus battle
This weekend, for the first time in a long time, you may have gone out to see a friend, sat in the park or had a picnic. With restrictions in some states slightly lifted, does that mean we're finally turning a corner on the coronavirus pandemic? Possibly, but the next 14 days will be crucial. On today's show: * What's going on with school openings? * How important is Vitamin D and what role could it play in COVID-19 infections? * Could low blood oxygen be used as a way to see if someone has COVID-19? And Norman has some information from a yet-to-be-published paper about why some South Korean recovered patients seem to be testing positive again for COVID-19.
Apr 30, 2020
What is remdesivir and what's all the fuss about?
An experimental antiviral drug called remdesivir is being touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19 patients. An unpublished, non-peer reviewed trial from America has found that it seems to lower the time patients spend in hospital, and might help reduce death rates. So how excited should we be about this drug? On today's show: * What's remdesivir? * Where does it come from? * What do we know about side effects? * What about that study from China that found it provided no benefit? * Is lifting restrictions now too risky? * What does all the research into SARS-CoV-2 mean for the common cold?
Apr 29, 2020
Are kids and young people affected more badly than we thought?
Several worrying cases involving coronavirus infection of children and younger adults have emerged from the UK and USA in the last few weeks. In the UK, a few children have shown up at hospitals with a serious illness. And in America, younger adults have shown up at hospitals after suffering from strokes. While the total numbers are low, it reveals there's still a lot we don’t know about this virus. On today's show: * What is happening with children in the UK? * What about younger adults suffering from stroke in America? * Is loss of sense of taste and smell a good enough symptom to get tested? * How does COVID-19 possibly change the way we think?
Apr 28, 2020
Were Australian lockdowns worth it?
As states slowly wind back restrictions and release the brake on lockdowns, it’s a good time to look back to see if they were worth it. So far, Australia has had less than 100 deaths related to COVID-19, and new case numbers remain small. But what about deaths that occurred because of the lockdown? And how many deaths would have occurred anyway? On today's show: * Were the lockdowns worth it? * Why is the tracing app critical time set to 15 minutes? * When is it likely that we will be able to travel interstate again?
Apr 27, 2020
So should we download the coronavirus app or what?
The Federal Government's contact-tracing app has smashed expectations and has been downloaded more than two million times since its release. It's hoped it will help track down contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, but there is still a lot we don't know about the app. And is there any evidence that it will even help? Today, Coronacast is joined by tech reporter Ariel Bogle from the ABC's science unit to help answer your questions. On today's show: * What is the COVIDSafe app supposed to do? * Is it spying on me? * Is being fit and healthy a good thing to help tackle coronavirus? * What happened to all those suburb hotspots? * Is there a possibility of infertility occurring from this virus? And Dr Norman Swan has a study that dives into antibodies, which might give us some clues around immunity.
Apr 26, 2020
Is being overweight a bigger risk factor than smoking?
Data from overseas suggests that after age, obesity is the biggest risk factor causing more problems than smoking with coronavirus patients. So why could that be? On today's show: * What's the NSW schools report all about? * Queensland is reducing some restrictions. Why now? * People are volunteering to be exposed to coronavirus to help test the vaccine. Is that a good idea? * What is the role of obesity in serious outcomes from COVID-19? * Why do I need a flu shot to visit my father in an aged care home? * Are vegans and vegetarians the least affected by COVID-19? And don't forget to check out Dr Norman Swan's "The Health Report" podcast for more on the issues around volunteering for the coronavirus vaccine.
Apr 23, 2020
How do we avoid the dreaded second (third or fourth) coronavirus wave?
Whichever way you look at it, coronavirus is going to be with us for quite a while. Elimination seems unlikely and overseas it’s infecting people in large numbers. While cases remain low, there's always the risk of it reappearing. So how do we avoid getting smashed by waves of coronavirus again and again and again? On today's show: * How do we make sure that our health system and economy doesn't get smashed every time there's a coronavirus wave? * In a previous episode, Norman mentioned that coronavirus might come back in two or four years. Where would it go in between? * Why do people often suffer more from COVID-19 in the second week? And we are joined by two time Archibald Prize winner Del Kathryn Barton! She's here to talk about the Together In Art Kids project — an exhibition featuring kids' artwork about the coronavirus. For more information, see togetherinart.org/kids
Apr 22, 2020
Human vaccine trials begin! What happens next?
Human trials for a coronavirus vaccine have begun in the UK, and it's all actions go. Depending on what happens there’s a long way to go before you might be innoculated. Usually the process could take years, but this isn’t your usual vaccine trial. On today's show: * What are the phases of vaccine trials? * Wasn’t the vaccine 18 months away? * Are death rates worse in hotter or cooler climates? * Will we see a better flu season because everyone is indoors? And Norman has found a paper from Nature Medicine, published in 2015, that has some spooky predictions about the current pandemic.
Apr 21, 2020
SPECIAL: Deputy Chief Medical Officer answers your questions
Why aren't we being told to wear masks? Are we trying to eradicate coronavirus or what? What’s going on with schools? There are so many big coronavirus questions Australians have, so we asked the country’s deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly to come on the podcast to help answer them. On today's show: * What’s the deal with masks? * Why does the Federal Government seem to have different views to the states on schools? * How do you socially distance and go to school? * Why have you shut playgrounds but not schools? * Can we eradicate coronavirus? * If you knew what you know now, what would you do differently?
Apr 20, 2020
When might Australia reach zero coronavirus cases?
New Zealand has announced it will soon loosen restrictions, as the number of cases there has continued to fall. So when might Australia reach a low enough caseload to consider doing the same thing? On today's show: * If Australia and NZ had low cases, could there be a “bubble” where we can travel between each country but no where else? * How far does Norman think Australia is away from zero or near zero cases? * If Australia goes for elimination, do we risk creating a COVID-19 vulnerable population? * Is there somewhere in the middle between zero cases and New York/Italy, eg Sweden? And Norman explains research from the journal Science about what the world could look like post-pandemic.
Apr 19, 2020
Why can't I test myself for coronavirus at home?
As getting a test for COVID-19 becomes far easier in Australia, people are starting to wonder why you can’t just do it yourself at home. On today's Coronacast, Dr Norman Swan explains while getting tested is easy, making sure you do it properly is a lot harder. On today's show: * When does the virus show up in testing? * Why can’t I do a test at home? * If anti-bodies are low in recovered patients, what does that mean for any vaccine? * What is the latest on vaccines? * What’s going on with the possible treatment using the drug remdesivir? And Norman gets a scalding from a three-year-old listener.
Apr 16, 2020
'No bare bottoms!': Norman Swan weighs in on corona-farts
It's the question everyone wants to know: can you get coronavirus from farts? Dr Norman Swan has a strong opinion on fighting the scourge of corona-farting, and asks Australians to make yet another sacrifice. We promise the rest of the episode isn't as silly. It's actually very interesting. In today's episode: * Are Australian governments trying to eliminate coronavirus, but just aren't telling us yet? * When do you know if you’re sick enough to go to the hospital? * Can microwaves kill coronavirus? * Can you get coronavirus from farts? And Dr Norman Swan discusses some research from Nature Medicine about when people are most infectious with the SARS-Cov-2 virus.
Apr 15, 2020
The search for a coronavirus vaccine and the challenges we're facing
Scientists are desperately searching for a coronavirus vaccine, but before that can happen there's a whole bunch of stuff they need to discover. One of those things is working out how the body's immune system responds to the virus that causes COVID-19. It has implications not only for vaccine discovery, but also how long people may stay immune after recovering. On today's show: * Anti-bodies. What are they and how do they work? * Is there a test that can detect them? * How long might you stay immune after a vaccine or infection? And we're also joined by Professor Declan Murphy from Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to discuss the worrying phenomenon of cancer patients who may be frightened to continue their care because they're worried about picking up the virus while visiting the doctor.
Apr 14, 2020
Australia is doing well. But where are we heading next?
In the scheme of things, Australia is becoming a bit of a poster child for how to handle the coronavirus pandemic. Helped by having no land borders and by locking things down relatively quickly, the number of positive cases is now low. But that can change quickly. Today on Coronacast, where are we headed? What could life look like in the weeks ahead? On today's show: * Why are death rates different from country to country? And Dr Norman Swan also talks about some research on how effective school closures are on controlling coronavirus spread.
Apr 13, 2020
Why flatten the curve when we could eradicate coronavirus?
Forget flattening the curve. There’s a radical approach to coronavirus that could have us out of our houses and back at work or school without having to worry about the virus. It's called eradication, and it’s New Zealand goal. If they pull it off they could end social distancing in a month. We're also joined by Professor Ian Hickie to answer your questions on mental health. On today's show: * What are the best mental health strategies for people self-isolating on their own? * What do people do who have major pre-existing depression and are living alone? * What do I do for loved ones who have a mental health issue? * I am hating all these Zoom parties. Is this just the introvert life or am I coping worse than I think I am?
Apr 12, 2020
Do animals get coronavirus? We answer more kids' questions!
Scientists have given coronavirus to ferrets, dogs and cats to try and find out how the virus works. It turns out some animals can contract and potentially spread coronavirus – and that includes household pets. In today’s Coronacast, Dr Norman Swan and health reporter Tegan Taylor answer more questions from kids about the pandemic. On today's show: * James asks why is the coronavirus also called COVID-19? * Finn asks does it make animals sick? * Estelle asks when can I see my grandparents? * Alice asks why do adults get coronavirus worse than children? * Oliver asks how close are we to discovering a vaccine for COVID-19? And don’t forget about the Together In Art Kids project! See our website at abc.net.au/coronacast for more information.
Apr 9, 2020
You've probably heard these coronavirus myths. Did you fall for them?
A week ago, we put the call out for coronavirus social media myths and asked you to send them in. And we got a lot of them. One of the most common was a fake email that says it’s from a staff member of a hospital. It contains a whole list of tips like don't drink cold water, and offers ways to check at home if you have coronavirus. So we took the claims, and put them to Dr Norman Swan. Some of the email myths checked on today’s show: * Do you only have a cold if you have a running nose? * Does coronavirus die if you warm it up to 27 degrees? * Should you drink hot liquids and avoid drinks with ice? * Will salt water protect you? * Is there a way to check if you have coronavirus by breathing in deeply and seeing if you cough? Also, since it’s Easter, we ask Norman if eating chocolate while in quarantine is a bad thing. And Norman has an exciting announcement. To find out more, check out our website at abc.net.au/coronacast
Apr 8, 2020
How to get groceries without bringing home coronavirus
One of the few things we're able to do with social distancing is go to the supermarkets. We've had heaps of questions from people who are wondering the best way to stay safe. So if you have to visit the supermarket this Easter, here's a few tips to avoid getting coronavirus when you're out and about. On today's show: * How far should I keep away from other customers? * Should staff be wearing masks and gloves? * What are the chances of picking up coronavirus from products on the shelves? * Is it a good idea to sterilise stuff I buy when I get home? * How do I make disinfectants at home? * Still not sure how to wash fruit and vegetables. With detergent? * Does boiling water kill the virus? * How long does coronavirus last in the fridge? Freezer? * If I coat my hands in soap, is that enough? We are looking for questions about mental health for an episode next week, so send them in with CORONACAST in the question at abc.net.au/coronavirus
Apr 7, 2020
The second week crash. Why Week Two as a coronavirus patient is so scary
British PM Boris Johnson’s health has deteriorated as he enters the second week of being diagnosed with COVID-19. The 55-year old's experience is what many people have gone through, but it shows the dangers people often face in the later stages of trying to fight off the virus. Today, Dr Norman Swan explains why it is known as the second week crash. On today’s episode: * If soap and water kills coronavirus why not just wash medical clothing? * If the acids in the gut kill this virus, why does faeces still have it? * Why has coronavirus spread so far across the world and not to the rest of China? * Why are people across the world spraying disinfectant on streets? * What is happening in Japan and Sweden where they appeared to have a handle on the virus, but are now experiencing a rapid uptake And Tegan gives us a rundown of how scientists have come up with a way to "hear" the virus which causes COVID-19.
Apr 6, 2020
Trump loves an old anti-malarial drug. Is it the elixir to cure coronavirus?
American President Donald Trump has been talking a lot about a certain drug called hydroxychloroquine. It's an old anti-malarial which is sometimes used to treat auto-immune diseases. So can it cure COVID-19? Why the hype? On today's show: * How do I safely manage work clothes? * When we wash our hands to wash away the bad germs, do we wash away the good germs too? * Is large scale temperature checking useful to find people who may have the virus? * Can two positively diagnosed COVID-19 people live together in the same house? * Is coronavirus more agressive overseas? And a study (preprint) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has looked into physical distancing and has found that it works amazingly well.
Apr 5, 2020
Do masks help protect you from coronavirus?
After insisting masks were unnecessary, US health authorities are now telling people to cover their faces in public to protect themselves from spreading or catching coronavirus. But in Australia, the message is that masks are crucial for health workers, but not recommended for the public. Dr Norman Swan and health reporter Tegan Taylor discuss the merits of masks, and if wrapping a scarf around your face will help. On today's show: * Masks. What's the deal? Do they work? * Why am I having such wild dreams at the moment? * If you need an urgent repair in your home, is it safe to ask a tradie to come over? Norman and Tegan also discuss a new study about how blood pressure medication and if it increases the risk of problems if you get COVID-19.
Apr 3, 2020
BONUS: 'How does coronavirus go into my body?' We answer more kids' questions!
What kind of germ is coronavirus? What started coronavirus? Why is the coronavirus making people so sick? Kids have millions of questions about coronavirus. We've had hundreds sent in by kids across the country, so we thought we'd make another episode just for them. This is a special episode just for kids! So if you have a small one in your life, sit down with them and work your way through this episode. If you're not a kid, don't worry. We'll have our usual episode out first thing Monday morning. This is the second episode for kids. If you want to hear the first, you can find it here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/coronacast/are-we-all-going-to-die-we-answer-kids-questions!/12093754
Apr 2, 2020
What syphilis and measles can tell us about the coronavirus endgame
As parts of Australia face up to 90 days of lockdowns, you might be feeling like there's no light at the end of the tunnel. But the world has been here before. Today's episode of Coronacast gives you the pep talk you didn't know you needed. On today's show: * What's the end game here? Are we all just going to get it? Or can we get rid of it somehow? And Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor talk about an article in The Conversation titled "Regaining control: the case for a short, sharp lockdown"
Apr 1, 2020
Under the radar! How much coronavirus is really out there?
While the coronavirus growth rate has slowed over the past few days, there's still likely to be cases circling in the community undetected. Community transmission hotspots are popping up in suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne. So how many unknown COVID-19 cases could there be out there? In today's episode: * Flu shots. Why get one? * Should I bunker down or risk venturing out to get a flu vaccine? * How reliable is COVID-19 testing anyway? And Dr Norman Swan explains the research from America which might give an indication of how many undetected cases are out in the community.
Mar 31, 2020
Norman did everything right. So how did he catch another virus?
Norman's coronavirus test is back, and it was negative! He's been so clean and careful but still picked up something. How did that happen? Also, turns out children may not be coronavirus super spreaders we thought they were. On today's show: * Are sweaty joggers putting you at risk? * Why are health professionals falling sick? * Why isn't the government doing more testing in 'hotspots'? CALL OUT: We want to make an episode of Coronacast next week that’s all about busting myths that are circulating on social media. So if you’re seeing the same type of messages popping up in your email, or on Whatsapp or group chats or Facebook or Twitter - send it to us! Our email is email@example.com And Dr Norman Swan explains (early) research that indicates that children are unlikely to be the primary source of household coronavirus infections.
Mar 30, 2020
Dr Norman Swan was tested for coronavirus. Here's what happened
You might have heard that Dr Norman Swan has come down with a bit of an illness. Yesterday he was checked for coronavirus, and had to use his doctor skills and do the swab on himself. So, what is getting tested for coronavirus like? On today's show: * Dr Norman Swan explains how the coronavirus test is done * Why don't the authorities give us better data on where positive cases are found? * Is it okay to mail packages and cards/letters to loved ones in the hospital or nursing homes? * You talk about getting high and low doses of the virus. What do you mean by that? * Does taking supplements like horseradish and garlic help?
Mar 29, 2020
Could coronavirus' death rate be lower than first thought?
There have been many infections from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan for weeks. But it turns out it might have helped scientists get a better estimate on the fatality rate COVID-19. So, could it be a little less than we previously thought? And if so, why are there still so many people dying from it? On today's show: * The infection rate has halved over the last few days, what does that mean? * Is the way we test people possibly skewing the numbers? * Can I see my partner if we don't live together? * My hands are dry because I'm washing them a lot. Can I fix that? * Does UV/sunlight kill coronavirus? And Dr Norman Swan explains the research in The Lancet about mortality rates of COVID-19, compared to influenza and SARS.
Mar 26, 2020
'Are we all going to die?' We answer kids' questions!
What does coronavirus look like? When can we hug again? Are we all going to die? We asked for questions from kids, and they delivered! Hundreds of Aussie kids have asked and we've put them to Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor. This episode is for them, so if you have a little one in your life, sit together, have a listen and hopefully this will make things a little clearer. In this show: * What does the coronavirus look like? * Why are there so many rumours about coronavirus and how do I know what's true? * Why can't we hug? * When will the coronavirus end? * Are we are all going to die? Thank you to everyone who sent us a question!
Mar 25, 2020
The tantalising scheme to fix coronavirus in only six weeks
What if this could mostly be over in four to six weeks instead of a year or more? Sounds pretty good right. According to experts in Australia and overseas, it is possible. So what's the catch? On the show today: * What should people do if they have mild cold and flu symptoms but do not meet the testing criteria? * What do we know about general health and surviving coronavirus? If your older and healthy, does that help? * What's going on with male vs female stats? * Should we now remove our shoes before coming back inside the house? And Dr Norman Swan explains that tantalising plan that could see life pretty much return to normal in only four to six weeks.
Mar 24, 2020
Three tips on how to convince friends and family to stay home
It seems many people still haven't got the message about the importance of social distancing. And some Coronacast listeners are saying they're still struggling to convince friends and family to take it seriously and stop acting in ways that could spread the virus. So today Dr Norman Swan has three tips to help you convince your loved ones to take notice. On today’s show: * How do you convince friends and family to take coronavirus seriously? * What's the difference between COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2? * Why can't Australia make our own testing kits? * Kids question: Clara wants to know why coronavirus is so bad * Kids question: Ezra wants to know what happens if you get coronavirus and another virus at the same time. Will they mix? And Dr Norman Swan explains what the World Health Organisation megatrial testing four possible coronavirus treatments is all about.
Mar 23, 2020
How do I stay fit (and not go crazy) if I can't go outside?
If you're in coronavirus quarantine and going a bit stir-crazy, you might be wondering if exercise can help. It can – but which type of exercise is best, and how do you get it done if you can’t get outside? On the show today: * Can COVID-19 be transmitted by mosquitos? * How virulent is it instead of the flu? * What can the bushfires teach us about the importance of My Health Record? Plus, we answer a couple of questions from kids – but we’re looking for more, for a special kids-only edition. Record your question with an iPhone or Android and email the file to firstname.lastname@example.org and we might include it!
Mar 22, 2020
Testing works. Why aren't we doing more?
The World Health Organisation keeps saying that testing is an essential part of the fight against COVID-19. But Australia still hasn't embraced wide scale testing like authorities are doing in some other countries. So why not? On the show today: * Who is patient zero? (our first kids question) * Why aren’t we doing more testing? * If we do more testing, wouldn’t the number of cases go up? * Is it possible the death rate is lower because people aren’t getting picked up? And Dr Norman Swan explains what the thinking is behind the state shutdowns. We're looking for questions from kids. Record the question with an iPhone or Android and email the file to email@example.com and we might include it on an upcoming special edition!
Mar 19, 2020
Should you just pull your kid out of school?
The government is urging us to stay away from one another as much as possible. But at the same time our kids are going to school where they're spending hours in classrooms and on playgrounds with their friends. Why is that? On the show today: * Should I send my kids to school? * Should you be patting dogs right now? * Why are more people in Italy dying than in China? In this episode Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor also talk about how long viruses can thrive on different surfaces — from cardboard to steel. Coronacast is a daily podcast that's all about answering your coronavirus questions. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 18, 2020
Is this our life now for the next 18 months?
Could the solution to getting rid of coronavirus be shutting everything down and keeping it that way... for a year and a half? That's no school, no uni, constant social distancing and quarantine. Is this our life now? On the show today: * Can you get coronavirus twice? * Can you get coronavirus from food? * I touch my hair a lot, should I wash my pillow case more often? In this episode Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor start by talking about that Imperial College London modelling. Coronacast is a daily podcast that's all about answering your coronavirus questions. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 17, 2020
Where did coronavirus really start? (spoiler: not a CIA lab)
There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there about the origins of coronvirus — was it invented by the US military? The US Democrats? Maybe even by aliens? Well... no. And the real answer will not surprise you (hint: it arose in Wuhan). In today's episode: * Where did coronavirus come from? * Should you pull your kid out of school? * How do you navigate social distancing in a share house? * What is contact tracing and how does it work? And Dr Norman Swan talks about a study which finds most COVID-19 infections in Wuhan were going under the radar — so what does that mean for us in Australia? Coronacast is a daily podcast that’s all about answering your coronavirus questions. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 16, 2020
What can kids' poo teach us about coronavirus?
Plenty of questions remain about how children are affected by coronavirus, what symptoms they show and how they transmit it. But a study from China has shed some light on this. Not only are kids being affected by COVID-19, the virus seems to remain in their poo for much longer than you'd think. On the show today: * What does a state of emergency mean? * Will the 14-day overseas quarantine work? * Should I cancel my small party or wedding? And Dr Norman Swan has some new research (with some caveats) about how kids may be affected by the virus. Coronacast is a daily podcast that’s all about answering your coronavirus questions. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 15, 2020
Think coronavirus only kills the old? Think again.
One of the biggest myths around coronavirus is that it's only the old who are at serious risk. But evidence from China and Italy show that intensive care wards are full of otherwise healthy younger people. On the show today: * Back to basics: how do you stay healthy? We've got some simple tips. * Should I keep my routine medical appointments? * What can we expect over the next few weeks? * What are some of the myths around coronavirus? And Dr Norman Swan has some research from The Lancet about risk of death and how long people might stay infectious. Coronacast is a daily podcast that’s all about answering your coronavirus questions. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 12, 2020
Is it time to ban mass gatherings?
As the risk of coming across coronavirus grows, it is time to ban mass gatherings? Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday there's currently no advice to cancel events and he's going the footy on the weekend. And the Victorian Premier said on Wednesday that his advice was there was no need to cancel the Grand Prix. So should you avoid mass gatherings? On the show today: * What does the World Health Organisation declaration of a pandemic mean? * Is Tom Hanks going to be ok? * Are people who have asthma at greater risk? And Dr Norman Swan explains what the research is telling us about what the most reliable ways to test for coronavirus are. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 11, 2020
What's the best way to wash your hands?
If you're hoping to stay healthy and coronavirus-free, one of the best things you can do it wash your hands often and wash your hands well. But what are the best techniques? What soap should you use? And how do you get out of the bathroom without touching anything? On the show today: * What's the best way to wash your hands? * Bar soap or liquid soap? * Is the virus passing from person to person out in the community? * How many intensive care beds do we have in Australia? * Public pools. Good or bad? * More on those hot and sweaty gyms And Dr Norman Swan explains some research about the average incubation period of the virus. It's possibly both shorter, and longer, than you might think. Coronacast is a daily podcast that's all about answering your coronavirus questions. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 10, 2020
Gyms are sweaty. Are they risky?
Gyms are sweaty, wet places and they're the perfect place for coronavirus to hide. Chinese data indicates that gyms are a high risk location for spreading the virus to other people or picking it up. So what can you do to help make your workout a little bit safer? On the show today: * What's going on in Italy? What are the chances mass quarantine will work? * Does air travel increase the risk of getting infected? * Can you catch coronavirus through air conditioning? * How does the testing process work? When will authorities test me for coronavirus? * How risky are gyms? And what about steam rooms? And Dr Norman Swan clarifies the study he talked about yesterday on disinfectants. Which ones are the best for coronavirus? Coronacast is a daily podcast that's all about answering your coronavirus questions. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 9, 2020
What a 100 year old pandemic can teach us about coronavirus
More than 100 years ago, tens of millions of people died in an influenza pandemic. The virus spread quickly and had a high mortality rate. More than a third of the world's population was infected. So what can we learn from the 1918 pandemic? On the show today: * How does the virus kill you? * How do you disinfect your stuff to try and keep it coronavirus free? * Why 18 months to develop a coronavirus vaccine? * How do I get rid of infected waste like tissues and masks? And Dr Norman Swan explains how a 13 year old study on a 100 year old pandemic might have some interesting lessons. Coronacast is a daily podcast that's all about answering your coronavirus questions. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 8, 2020
Should you get a flu shot early this year?
With coronavirus spreading, heaps of people are wondering if getting a flu shot earlier this year is worth it. And as more people need tests, how do the swabs work and how long does it take? On the show today: * How long does testing for coronavirus take? * Flu shot season is rapidly approaching, so should you get one earlier than usual? How will it help? * Can you start infecting other people with coronavirus before you start showing symptoms? * What happens to people who have weak immune systems? And you might have seen the study which indicated coronavirus had mutated. But has it really? Dr Norman Swan explains.
Mar 5, 2020
Do face masks work? And stop touching your face (but good luck)
Face mask supplies may be limited, but do they even work? And why you should stop touching your face, but that's much easier said than done. On the show today: * Does a face mask really protect you? * How often do we touch our faces? (spoiler: it's a lot) * Can you get coronavirus if an infected person touches fruit and vegetables at the supermarket? * How will hospitals manage if there's huge numbers of people needing care? * And why isolation means isolation. No family members allowed. All that, and a frightening new study which could show how easy it is for a sick person to get coronavirus over everything.
Mar 4, 2020
Can coronavirus hide in the brain?
What happens if you get coronavirus when you're pregnant? What surfaces should you avoid touching? And can children get infected? Coronacast is a daily podcast that's all about answering your coronavirus questions. On the show today: * What are the risks to pregnant women? What will happen if an expectant mother is infected? * Can you get coronavirus from mail from overseas? What about other surfaces? * Have there been any confirmed cases of children or infants contracting the disease? And Dr Norman Swan also explains some interesting research regarding what the new coronavirus might be doing in people's brains. If you want to send in a question, go to abc.net.au/coronavirus and we might answer it tomorrow on the podcast.
Mar 3, 2020
Coronacast is a daily podcast that helps to answer your questions about coronavirus or COVID19. We break down the latest news and research to help you understand how the world is living through an epidemic.