New preliminary evidence suggests coronavirus jumped from animals to humans multiple times


Hamish McCallum, Griffith UniversityThe origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has caused the COVID-19 pandemic, has been hotly debated.

This debate has caused substantial difficulties in the Australia-China relationship, with a call by Foreign Minister Marise Payne for another inquiry into its origin being considered by China as a hostile act.

What’s not in doubt is the closest relatives of the virus are found in bats. How, where and when the virus spilled over into humans is the contentious issue.

One widely supported hypothesis is the spillover occurred in the “wet markets” of Wuhan, where many species of wildlife from across China are held in crowded conditions.

However, there’s no evidence the species of bats in which the closest relatives of SARS-CoV-2 are found were sold through the Wuhan wet markets at any time in the two years before the pandemic. This hypothesis requires the existence of a “bridge host”, another species that becomes infected via spillover from the original bat hosts, and then passes the virus onto humans.

Bridge hosts are well-known in many emerging human diseases. For example, Hendra virus, which my group studies, has flying foxes as its reservoir. Hendra spills over to horses with some frequency. Horses then amplify the virus as a bridge host and can infect humans.

Fortunately, this is extremely rare, with only seven known cases. Tragically, four of those people died. Hendra has never been known to spread directly from flying foxes to humans.




Read more:
I was the Australian doctor on the WHO’s COVID-19 mission to China. Here’s what we found about the origins of the coronavirus


More evidence a lab leak is very unlikely

A second, much more contentious hypothesis is the origin of the pandemic was the result of a “lab leak”.

Wuhan has one of the most sophisticated virological laboratories in China, and the laboratory does work on bat viruses. The suggestion is the virus may have inadvertently been released into the general community via one of the workers. No direct evidence supports this hypothesis.

A new pre-print study, released online this month, provides strong evidence to support the “natural spillover” hypothesis, with results that are hard to reconcile with the “lab leak” hypothesis.

The study is yet to be peer reviewed. But it’s based on a detailed examination of the genetic sequences of two early lineages obtained from people infected in late 2019 and early 2020.

For convenience, these two lineages are called A and B. The two lineages differ by just two nucleotides (letters in the genetic code) at two different key sites in the genetic sequence.

If there was a single lab escape event, the separation into lineages A and B must have happened after the lab escape. We would therefore expect to see a substantial number of intermediate lineages, with the lineage A nucleotide at one site, and the lineage B nucleotide at the other site.

However, if almost all of the genetic sequences obtained from humans are “pure” lineage A or pure lineage B, this suggests there were at least two different spillover events, either directly from bats or via bridge hosts.

And the evolution of the two lineages occurred before humans were infected.

The researchers downloaded all complete genetic sequences for SARS-CoV-2 that had been lodged in a widely used genomic database. Of these sequences, 369 were lineage A, 1,297 were lineage B and just 38 were intermediates.




Read more:
Why it will soon be too late to find out where the COVID-19 virus originated


Genetic sequencing isn’t perfect. Close examination of the 38 intermediates strongly suggested they were more likely to be sequencing errors of pure lineage A or lineage B than to be true intermediates.

The genetic evidence, therefore, suggests very strongly there have been at least two separate spillover events into human populations, one being from lineage A and another being from lineage B.

Did a human bring SARS-CoV-2 to the wet markets?

The data don’t tell us there have been only two spillover events — there may have been more. Nor do they tell us whether these spillovers happened directly from bats, or whether some or all happened via an intermediate bridge host.

A Nature news article suggests this evidence points to the spillover having happened via the wildlife trade, but I think this is taking it a step too far.

While some of the wildlife species sold through the Wuhan wet market can indeed become infected with SARS-CoV-2 (for example raccoon dogs and mink), there’s no evidence any sold through the market were infected.

Many of the earliest human viral sequences (all lineage B) were recovered from the Wuhan seafood market, but wet markets and abattoirs are well-known to be places where the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads very well from human to human.

So, it may have been a human who brought the virus to the Wuhan seafood market, rather than a species of wildlife.

One thing we do know is this pandemic originated through a human coming in contact with another species infected with the virus.

It’s unknown whether this was a bat or a bridge host, and whether this contact occurred in a wildlife market, or in a bat cave, or somewhere else entirely different.

Nevertheless, as humans encroach more and more on the habitats of wild animals and as wild animals are brought more frequently into close contact with humans, we can expect further spillovers and pandemics to occur.




Read more:
How do viruses mutate and jump species? And why are ‘spillovers’ becoming more common?


The Conversation


Hamish McCallum, Director, Centre for Planetary Health and Food Security, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Melbourne earthquake: what exactly happened, and what’s the best way to stay safe from aftershocks?


James Ross/AAP

Mark Quigley, The University of MelbourneA magnitude 5.8 earthquake has struck about 115 kilometres east of Melbourne in Victoria, causing damage to buildings and forcing residents to evacuate across the city. The quake, which started near Woods Point at a depth of 12km, was also felt in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and even as far as Launceston, Tasmania.

I and the co-author of this article, Dee Ninis, work as earthquake scientists at the Seismology Research Centre. Researching earthquakes is our life’s work. Here’s what you need to know to understand why today’s earthquake happened, and the geological conditions that triggered it.

Where was it exactly?

On-ground sensors distributed by the Seismology Research Centre have confirmed the earthquake was of a 5.8 magnitude, with an epicentre about 60km south-east of Mansfield in Victoria. The preliminary focal mechanism of this earthquake is strike-slip, meaning the rocks likely slid past each other laterally on what is probably an east-west oriented fault.

The earthquake was felt across the region at around 9.15am today. Geoscience Australia had received 32,409 felt reports as of when this article was published.
Screenshot/Geoscience Australia

Australia experiences fewer earthquakes than plate boundary regions, such as New Zealand. Many of Australia’s suspected neotectonic faults (faults which have hosted earthquakes in recent geological times) have not been thoroughly investigated, commonly due to lack of funding and resources for earthquake research.

However, earthquakes basically happen for the same reason in Australia as they do in New Zealand: there is a buildup of elastic strain energy in the crust, which eventually needs to be released. And most of this energy release occurs due to the rupture of weak zones in the crust, called faults.

Geoscience Australia hosts a database of what we think might be active faults across Australia, but few of these faults have been studied on the ground.

Most of the neotectonic faults near today’s earthquake were identified from remote elevation data — and this alone doesn’t reveal information such as when, how big and how often previous earthquakes on these faults occurred.

What we look for here is displacement at Earth’s surface, formed by movement during previous quakes. Such displacement is only caused by moderate to large earthquakes relatively close to the surface.

If it’s deep enough, it’s entirely possible for a quake to happen at a fault that never ruptures the surface — so we can’t see evidence for it. At a magnitude of 5.8 and a depth of 12km, we don’t expect today’s event to have an associated surface rupture, although it is remotely possible.

The Conversation’s readers sent in their accounts of the earthquake, which was felt across Melbourne’s suburbs.
The Conversation

Is this an unusual event?

While some early reports suggested today’s earthquake was the “largest on-land earthquake in Australia since 1997”, this isn’t the case. Australia has an earthquake of magnitude 6 or higher every six to ten years, on average. That’s based on an instrumental record going back about 150 years.

The 2016 Petermann Ranges earthquake in the Northern Territory was a magnitude 6.1 quake. And while Australia is not a tectonic plate boundary, it is still quite seismically active.

This morning’s earthquake was the largest onshore quake ever recorded in Victoria. Other recent earthquakes include two magnitude 5 quakes: one in 1996 near Mt Baw Baw, and one in 2012 near Moe.

But just because we haven’t seen such a high-magnitude earthquake in our time doesn’t mean they don’t happen. For instance, there is geological evidence for a possible magnitude 7 earthquake occurring sometime between 70,000 and 25,000 years ago, on the Cadell Fault near the Victorian town of Echuca.




Read more:
The earthquake that rattled Melbourne was among Australia’s biggest in half a century, but rock records reveal far mightier ones


Earthquakes are more intense and frequent in plate boundary regions. The Pacific plate boundary, which passes directly through New Zealand’s South Island, lies to Australia’s east.

But despite this — and although the tectonic deformation rates across Australia are lower than the deformation rates at plate boundary regions — Australia has seen earthquakes in places you wouldn’t expect (unless you’re an earthquake scientist).

For instance, the Tennant Creek earthquake sequence in 1988 saw three separate shocks erupt within 12 hours, with magnitudes of 6.2, 6.3 and 6.6 (the main shock).

What about aftershocks?

Several aftershocks followed the main event this morning, some occurring within the hour. In an earthquake sequence, an “aftershock” is defined as an earthquake that’s smaller than and which follows the main shock. The strongest aftershocks come soon after the main event and slowly taper off.

We do expect the region around today’s earthquake epicentre to remain active, and we will probably have more felt events in the next few days. In fact, we would expect aftershocks to continue up to decades afterwards, although through time most of these will become too small to be felt (the Tennant Creek earthquake sequence of 1988 is still ongoing).

If, under unfortunate circumstances, we experience an even larger earthquake soon — then that will become the main event, and the quake from this morning will be designated a “foreshock”.

So we all have to stay alert. Even if the aftershocks aren’t as intense in magnitude, smaller quakes can still be incredibly damaging depending on their depth and location. In the 2011 Christchurch disaster, it was an aftershock of magnitude 6.3 which wreaked the most havoc, and led to many people’s deaths.

How to prepare?

In terms of personal safety, the best thing to do during an earthquake is drop to the ground, take cover and hold on. If you’re inside a house or other building, try to crawl under something sturdy to protect yourself, such as a solid table. This will help save you from anything that might fall.

If you experience a quake while you’re outside, make sure you’re as far away from buildings and other structures as possible, as these too can fall on you. You need to be in an open area. Victoria’s State Emergency Service has more recommendations on what to do, including:

  • staying away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls and anything that could fall such as lighting fixtures
  • not using a doorway unless you know it is strongly supported and is close to you
  • keeping in mind the electricity may go out, and sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

Finally, if you’re considering any activities that might put you at risk, such as roofing, gutter cleaning, and other activities that involve the use of ladders, it is prudent to reconsider whether these are essential in the short term.


Acknowledgment: this article was co-authored by Dee Ninis, who works as an earthquake geologist at ESS Earth Sciences’s Seismology Research Centre based in Richmond, Victoria.The Conversation

Mark Quigley, Associate Professor of Earthquake Science, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition still well ahead in NSW poll, Newspoll premiers’ ratings, and WA upper house electoral reforms


AAP/Bianca de Marchi

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneA New South Wales state Resolve poll for The Sydney Morning Herald gave the Coalition 41% of the primary vote (down two since July), Labor 30% (up two), the Greens 11% (down one), the Shooters 2% (up one) and independents 10% (steady).

Resolve does not provide two party estimates, but analyst Kevin Bonham estimated 53-47 to the Coalition, a two-point gain for Labor since July. I previously covered issues with the independent vote in Resolve and the lack of two party estimates.




Read more:
Coalition gains in federal Resolve poll, but Labor increases lead in Victoria


Incumbent Liberal Gladys Berejiklian led Labor’s Chris Minns by 48-21 as preferred premier (55-16 in July). This poll would have been conducted concurrently with the August and September federal polls from a sample of about 1,100. The federal Resolve polls in those months have had a strong lean to the Coalition compared with other polls (see below).

By 65-17, voters supported “the plan to ease restrictions in mid-October with 70% vaccination rates”. The SMH article implies the Coalition’s position was stronger in September than August, as vaccination uptake makes reopening soon realistic.

The same situation applies to the federal government. Once lockdowns are over, the economy is likely to rebound quickly, and this will assist the Coalition in an election in the first half of next year.

Newspoll: Andrews has best approval out of Vic, Qld and NSW premiers

The Poll Bludger reported that Newspoll asked for premiers’ ratings in last weekend’s poll from a larger than usual national sample of 2,144.

The states considered were NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Victorian Labor premier Daniel Andrews had a 64-35 satisfied rating (net +29). Queensland Labor premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had a 57-38 satisfied rating (net +19). Berejiklian had a 56-40 satisfied rating (net +16).

On handling COVID, Palaszczuk scored far better than her overall rating at 67-31 good, while Andrews and Berejiklian scored nearly the same (63-35 good for Andrews, 56-41 good for Berejiklian).

Nationally, Scott Morrison had a -4 net approval in Newspoll; he was at +15 in Queensland, -3 in NSW and -16 in Victoria.

Nationally, Morrison had a 49-48 poor rating for his handling of COVID, unchanged from six weeks ago. By 53-42, voters expressed more concern with relaxing restrictions too fast than too slowly (62-34 in January).

WA upper house electoral reform: group ticket voting and malapportionment to be scrapped

The massive WA Labor landslide at the March state election gave them large majorities in both chambers of the WA parliament – the first ever Labor majority in the upper house.




Read more:
Coalition and Morrison gain in Newspoll, and the new Resolve poll


Labor set up a committee to look at reforming the upper house’s electoral system. There are two current major problems: malapportionment and group ticket voting (GTV). The Mining & Pastoral region and Agricultural region elect one-third of the upper house on just 10% of the state’s population. GTV allowed Daylight Saving to win a seat in March on just 98 primary votes.

Labor will adopt the committee’s proposals to change to a statewide election of 37 members, up from the current 36. GTV will be replaced by optional above-the-line voting, in which a single “1” above the line will stay within the party it is cast for. Voters can number “2”, “3”, etc, above the line to continue directing preferences after their original party is excluded.

This system is the same as is currently used in elections for the NSW and SA upper houses. However, these states elect half their upper house at each election (21 seats up each election in NSW and 11 in SA). The WA proposal is for all 37 seats to be elected at once, so the quota will be just 2.63%.

With optional preferential voting, parties will be able to win seats from much lower vote shares than 2.63%. It’s likely to lead to cluttered ballot papers at the next election.

ABC election analyst Antony Green has much more on the WA reforms. I hope the Victorian government scraps GTV before the 2022 state election – Victoria is now the last Australian jurisdiction with GTV.

Other state developments: NT, Victoria and Tasmania

The Labor Northern Territory government gained Daly at a September 11 byelection by a 56.0-44.0 margin over the CLP, a 7.2% swing to Labor. Bonham said this is the first time a government gained from an opposition at a byelection anywhere in Australia since Benalla (Victoria state) in 2000.

Matthew Guy ousted Michael O’Brien as Victorian Liberal leader at a leadership spill on September 7. Guy led the Liberals to a landslide defeat at the November 2018 state election.

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted August 7-9 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 49% (steady since the May election), Labor 28% (steady) and the Greens 13% (up one). Incumbent Peter Gutwein led Labor’s Rebecca White as preferred premier by 59-29 (61-26 in EMRS’ last state poll in February).

Coalition leads on estimated preference flows in federal Resolve poll

A federal Resolve poll for Nine newapapers, conducted September 15-19 from a sample of 1,606, gave the Coalition 39% of the primary vote (down one since August), Labor 31% (down one), the Greens 10% (down two), One Nation 4% (up two), Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party 3% and independents 9% (down one).

No two-party estimate was given, but Bonham estimated 51-49 to the Coalition, a one-point gain for the Coalition.

There’s divergence in voting intentions between Resolve and Newspoll, which was 53-47 to Labor. But there’s been movement in all recent polls to the Coalition, which was up one in Newspoll and up two in Morgan to a 52.5-47.5 Labor lead.

49% gave Morrison a good rating for his performance in recent weeks, and 45% a poor rating, for a net +4 rating, up five since August. Albanese’s net approval was up three to -16. Morrison led as preferred PM by 45-26 (46-23 in August).

The Liberals and Morrison led Labor and Albanese by 42-24 on economic management (44-19 in August). On COVID, the Liberals led by 37-24 (37-22 last time).

Canadian election called two years early gives nearly status quo result

I live blogged the results of the Canadian election that PM Justin Trudeau called two years early for The Poll Bludger. At the 2019 election, Trudeau’s centre-left Liberals won 157 of the 338 seats and the Conservatives 121, despite a 1.2% lead for the Conservatives in vote shares. In 2021, the results are nearly the same.

The German election will be held Sunday, with polls closing at 2am Monday AEST. Parties need to either win at least 5% nationally or three of the 299 single-member seats to qualify for a proportional seat allocation. The Guardian’s poll aggregate
suggests the overall left parties have a narrow lead over the overall right. I will be live blogging for The Poll Bludger.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The earthquake that rattled Melbourne was among Australia’s biggest in half a century, but rock records reveal far mightier ones


Mark Quigley, The University of Melbourne and Januka Attanayake, The University of MelbourneAn earthquake that struck near Melbourne today is one of the largest in Australia since instrumental seismic records began. However, the geological record of ground-breaking fault ruptures tells us much larger earthquakes have occurred across the continent. Some of these earthquakes would have been witnessed by Australia’s Indigenous peoples.

Several quakes were felt near Melbourne today, the largest of which was recorded at a magnitude of 5.8. A magnitude 4.7 aftershock happened about 15 minutes after the main shock, which was at 9:15am local time. A typical aftershock sequence could go on for weeks to years. Aftershocks went on for about 40 days following the Thorpdale, Victoria earthquake of magnitude 5 in 2021.

In Australia we get magnitude 5.8-6.0 or greater earthquakes, on average, once every four to 20 years. The highest since instrumental records began in Australia was the magnitude 6.6 quake in the Western Australia town of Meckering in 1968.

Earthquakes are considered a low probability, high consequence hazard — the rate of earthquakes is low compared to our seismically active neighbours in New Zealand, PNG, and Indonesia, but we have vulnerable infrastructure such as unreinforced masonry buildings that present a risk.




Read more:
‘Like tearing a piece of cheese’: here’s why Darwin was rocked so hard by a distant quake


How this quake compares

There are some big quakes in our recent past.

There was a magnitude 5.3 quake in 2018 in Western Australia.

Near Uluru in 2016, there was the Petermann earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6.1.

The largest in the record since instrumental records began in Australia was in 1988; it was part of the Tennant Creek series of quakes in the Northern Territory, and that was magnitude 6.5.

Then there was the aforementioned one in 1968 in the WA town of Meckering; that was 6.6.

But the geological record tells us we have had earthquakes in Australia’s deeper past that were much, much larger — possibly up to magnitude 7.0 and beyond.

The energy released by a magnitude 7.0 quake is 32 times larger than the energy from a magnitude 6.0 quake.

For each one point up the scale, the amount of energy released is about 32 times greater.

Why are quakes of this strength not common in Australia?

Compared with places like New Zealand and Indonesia, large quakes are not common in Australia. That’s because Australia is in the middle of a tectonic plate so what we call the “strain rate” — the rate at which energy builds up due to plates pushing against each other — is slow.

Indonesia is on a plate boundary, so the strain rate — the rate at which the Earth is being deformed — is much higher. That energy is released mainly through earthquakes.

Even though Australia is in the middle of a plate, strain can nevertheless build up over time — and eventually needs to find release.

Australia is moving northwards as part of the Indo-Australian tectonic plate, which is colliding with the plate near PNG and Indonesia, and that is pushing back — building up strain. New Zealand is also imposing a force onto the Australian plate.

A quake like today’s would normally cause a lot of damage

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake is a big deal. If such a quake occurred directly under one of our major cities, we could expect billions of dollars of damage and fatalities.

In many parts of Australia, such as Melbourne, earthquakes are felt at greater distances than in countries like New Zealand, because our crust is stiffer. Seismic waves travel more efficiently through Australian crust.

In Melbourne, the soft sediment south of the CBD and in other areas likely caused the seismic waves to slow down but also amplify. The seismic waves get bigger and can cause more damage when they are in soft sediments.

The scenes of toppled brickwork reflect the seismic energy that has travelled quite effectively 130km from the source of the tremor (which is reported to be near Mansfield).

They have almost certainly been amplified by the soft sediments, and the direction of the waves may make certain buildings more vulnerable than others.

Crucially, Melbourne has many buildings that are highly vulnerable to quake shaking: buildings with big overhangs, buildings that are unreinforced, or those that have been weathering away for decades without repair.

The sort of shaking that wouldn’t cause damage in other locations is causing damage in places like Melbourne.




Read more:
10 years since the Darfield earthquake rocked New Zealand: what have we learned?


The Conversation


Mark Quigley, Associate Professor of Earthquake Science, The University of Melbourne and Januka Attanayake, Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition gains a point in Newspoll, but Morrison slides back into net negative ratings


AAP/Joel Carrett

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted September 15-18 from a sample a little over 1,500, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 38% Labor (down two), 37% Coalition (up one), 10% Greens (steady) and 3% One Nation (steady).

50% (up three) were dissatisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance, and 46% (down three) were satisfied, for a net approval of -4. Morrison dropped into net negative ratings six weeks ago, but recovered to +2 in the last Newspoll. This is his worst net approval in Newspoll since the start of the pandemic.




Read more:
First negative Newspoll rating for Morrison since start of pandemic; 47% of unvaccinated would take Pfizer but not AstraZeneca


Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s ratings also slumped, with his net approval falling four points to -11, his worst since becoming opposition leader. Morrison led Albanese by 47-35 as better PM (50-34 previously). Newspoll figures are from The Poll Bludger.

The vote for all Others in this poll was 12% (up one). It’s plausible Clive Palmer and Craig Kelly’s campaign promoting United Australia Party has lured some anti-lockdown voters. At the 2019 election, UAP preferences split 65-35 to the Coalition.

If the proportion of the Others vote supporting UAP is higher than usual, this would explain why the Coalition’s two party figure in Newspoll was a point higher than would be expected from primary votes according to analyst Kevin Bonham.

There’s good news for the Coalition in other polling on voting intentions and COVID handling. The Morgan poll last week had the Coalition up two for a 52.5-47.5 Labor lead. The Essential poll had the federal government’s COVID rating up to 43-35 good from 39-36 in late August.

The Guardian’s datablog has 37.2% of the population (not 16+) fully vaccinated, up from 27.2% three weeks ago. We rank 33 of 38 OECD countries in share of population fully vaccinated (35th three weeks ago). The Age shows 46.7% of 16+ are fully vaccinated and 71.7% have received at least one dose.

Employment and GDP reports from the ABS suggest that the economy was in good shape before the Sydney and Melbourne lockdowns began. Once these cities reopen, the economy is likely to recover rapidly, boosting the Coalition’s chances.

It is too soon to know whether there has been any impact from the decision to enter into the so-called AUKUS pact with the US and UK. A snap Morgan poll found voters approved by 57-43, but Morgan’s SMS polls have not been reliable, and this poll was taken before more negative publicity about the deal.

Two Essential polls

In the mid-September Essential poll, the federal government’s rating on response to COVID rose to 43-35 good from 39-36 in late August and 41-35 in mid-August. The Victorian government’s “good” rating was up six to 50%, after falling 12 in late August, and the NSW government was up six to 46% after dropping two.

41% thought states with low or no COVID should be able to keep their borders closed for as long as they think it necessary, 37% until 80% of the 16+ population is fully vaccinated, and 23% until 80% of the total population is fully vaccinated.

39% thought restrictions for fully vaccinated people should be relaxed immediately, 44% thought they should be relaxed when everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated and 17% thought vaccinated people should not be treated differently to unvaccinated.

In the late August Essential poll, 50% approved of Morrison’s performance (steady since early August) and 41% disapproved (up one), for a net approval of +9. Albanese’s net approval increased five points to +1. Morrison led as better PM by 47-26 (45-26 previously).

56% of NSW respondents thought the lockdown restrictions in their area were about right, 28% too strong and 16% too weak. In Victoria, these figures were 57% about right, 35% too strong and 8% too weak.

61% said fewer than 100 COVID deaths a year in Australia was acceptable to “live with”, 25% between 100 and 1,000 deaths a year and 19% between 1,000 and 3,000. Before COVID in 2019, there were over 169,000 deaths from all causes in Australia.

Coalition gains two points in mid-September Morgan poll

A Morgan poll, conducted September 4-5 and 11-12 from a sample of over 2,700, gave Labor a 52.5-47.5 lead, a 2% gain for the Coalition since late August. Primary votes were 38.5% Coalition (up 1%), 35% Labor (down 3.5%), 13% Greens (up 1.5%) and 3% One Nation (steady). The late August Morgan poll had Labor’s lead up 0.5% from mid-August.

A separate SMS Morgan poll, conducted last Thursday from a sample of over 1,700, had voters approving 57-43 of the government entering the AUKUS pact.

Late August YouGov COVID poll

A YouGov poll for the News Corp papers, conducted August 20-25 from a sample of over 3,000, was reported by The Poll Bludger. By 41-37, respondents thought lockdowns should be ended when “everyone has the opportunity to be fully vaccinated”. WA respondents were most pro-lockdown, while NSW and Victorian respondents were least so.

66% supported proof of vaccination being required to participate in a range of public activities, 63% supported only opening state borders for the vaccinated, and 68% the same for international borders. Just 23% were opposed to employers being able to demand their staff be vaccinated, with 69% support for this in public facing jobs and 45% support in all industries.

Given a choice between “lockdowns should be ended immediately”, “lockdowns must be part of Australia’s future until COVID is eliminated” and “vaccination is the pathway to ending lockdowns”, 64% selected the third option, 22% the second and 14% the first.

Participation down in August jobs report

The ABS reported last Thursday that the unemployment rate in August dropped 0.1% from July to 4.5%. However, this was because the participation rate fell 0.8% to 65.2%. The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Australians employed – fell 0.7% to 62.2%.

The ABS reported on September 1 that GDP in the June quarter increased 0.7% from the March quarter, and a massive 9.6% since June 2020 as the economy rapidly rebounded from the 7.0% COVID-caused crash in the June 2020 quarter.

With Sydney and Melbourne in lockdown for most of the September quarter period, it is very likely GDP will contract. But once restrictions are eased, economic activity is likely to rebound quickly, and this will assist the Coalition.

Canadian and German elections

The Canadian election is Tuesday AEST, with most polls closing at 11:30am AEST. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau called this election two years early, hoping to win a majority for his centre-left Liberals. But the Liberals’ position deteriorated quickly.

However, the rise for the right populist People’s Party has hurt the Conservatives. According to the CBC Poll Tracker, the Liberals are likely to again win the most seats, but be short of a majority under Canada’s first past the post system.

The German election is next Sunday September 26, with polls closing at 2am Monday AEST. In the Politico poll aggregate, the centre-left SPD leads the conservative CDU/CSU, which has been in government since 2005 under retiring chancellor Angela Merkel. Overall left parties hold a narrow lead over overall right parties.

I will be live blogging both these elections for The Poll Bludger. I live blogged last week’s California recall election, in which the Democratic governor easily defeated Recall.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Christian Porter quits cabinet, refusing to find out who gave him money for legal costs


AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraIndustry Minister Christian Porter has been forced to resign from cabinet after declining to seek and provide to Scott Morrison the names of the anonymous benefactors who have helped fund his legal costs.

Morrison has appointed energy minister Angus Taylor acting industry minister and sources say he is likely to continue in the dual role.

Porter’s resignation comes as Newspoll shows the government slightly reducing Labor’s two-party lead, from 54-46% to 53-47%. Labor’s primary vote fell 2 points to 38%; the Coalition rose a point to 37%.

Both leaders took hits in approval: Morrison is on a net negative of minus 4, while Anthony Albanese is on a net negative of minus 11. Morrison’s lead as better PM has fallen to 47-35%, from 50-34% three weeks ago – this is the closest since March last year.

In a three-page statement, Porter renewed his attack on the ABC and said a statement provided by the now-deceased woman who accused him of historical rape – which he denies – showed the allegation lacked credibility and was written by someone “very unwell”.

Porter is keeping the funds donated to a “blind trust”, the amount of which is unknown. He also says he will seek to run again in his Western Australian seat of Pearce, which is on a 5.2% margin.

Last week, Porter updated his parliamentary register of interests to reveal a “part contribution” to his legal bills for his (now settled) defamation case against the ABC from “a blind trust known as the Legal Services Trust”. Porter said he did not know the names of donors.

Morrison asked his department to advise whether the arrangement breached ministerial standards.

But Morrison indicated at a news conference on Sunday he and Porter had finalised his future ahead of the advice.

Morrison was clearly anxious to have it settled before his trip to the United States, so it would not be a distraction during what he hopes will be a time of positive news following last week’s announcement of the AUKUS security agreement.

Bad publicity around Porter has been a running sore for the government for much of the year.

The historical rape allegation surfaced publicly in February, when the ABC reported material about it had been sent to several politicians, including the prime minister. Porter was not named but later identified himself, declaring the alleged assault had never happened.

Initially, he hoped to retain his position as attorney-general, but this was politically untenable and he was moved to the industry job in a reshuffle.

With an outcry over the “blind trust” and an election approaching next year, Morrison could not afford another prolonged scandal around Porter. He indicated Porter’s future was in doubt when he said last week he was taking the matter very seriously.

Morrison said on Sunday that in their discussions, Porter had been unable to “practically provide further information because of the nature of those [trust] arrangements”.

That Porter couldn’t provide the information meant he could not conclusively rule out a perceived conflict of interest.

Morrison said Porter was upholding the ministerial standards by resigning.

Porter said in his statement that while he had no right of access to the trust’s funding or conduct, he had asked the trustee for an assurance, which he received, “that none of the contributors were lobbyists or prohibited foreign entities.

“This additional information was provided as part of my Ministerial disclosure,” he said.

He said no doubt the desire of some or many of the donors to remain anonymous was driven by wanting to avoid “trial by mob”.

Porter said he believed that he had provided the information required under the Members’ Register of Interests, and that the additional disclosures he provided under the Ministerial Standards were in accord with its additional requirements.

“However, after discussing the matter with the Prime Minister I accept that any uncertainty on this point provides a very unhelpful distraction for the Government in its work.”

He said to the extent the uncertainty might be resolved by seeking further information about donors’ identities, “this would require me to put pressure on the Trust to provide me with information to which I am not entitled.

“I am not prepared to seek to break the confidentiality of those people who contributed to my legal fees under what are well-known and regular legal structures, including the confidentiality attached to the Trust contribution,” Porter said.

He had explained he “could not assist any process that would ultimately allow people who have done nothing wrong to become targets of the social media mob.”

“Ultimately, I decided that if I have to make a choice between seeking to pressure the Trust to break individuals’ confidentiality in order to remain in Cabinet, or alternatively forego my Cabinet position, there is only one choice I could, in all conscience, make.”

In his renewed attack on the ABC, Porter said that “seemingly with great care and effort – [it] has reported only those parts of the information that it has in its possession which feeds into its narrative of guilt.

“I have recently been provided from a source outside the ABC with a copy of the only signed document that the person who made and subsequently withdrew the complaint ever made.

“Many parts of that 88-page document are such that any reasonable person would conclude that they show an allegation that lacks credibility; was based on repressed memory (which has been completely rejected by courts as unreliable and dangerous); which relied on diaries said to be drafted in 1990/91 but which were actually words composed in 2019; and, was written by someone who was, sadly, very unwell.”

Albanese said Porter needed to answer where the money had come from. He also said Morrison had not sacked Porter – Porter had resigned.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The AUKUS pact, born in secrecy, will have huge implications for Australia and the region


Patricia A. O’Brien, Georgetown UniversityIt has been announced the US, Australia and the UK are forming a new security partnership to be known as AUKUS.

This alliance, announced by the leaders of the three countries, throws an entirely different light on the recent 70th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty and indeed key defence relationships of the past seven decades.

Dubbed by some as ANZUS 2.0, AUKUS is a trilateral agreement, but one that notably excludes New Zealand. With the UK’s inclusion instead, this agreement shifts the ANZUS Treaty’s Pacific Ocean focus to one that encompasses the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic Oceans too. It is an arrangement with global reach and profound, long-term implications.

There is much to unpack from this far-reaching announcement. It was only known publicly that a major announcement was coming less than 24 hours beforehand. In the slick promotional video that preceded remarks by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and finally US President Joe Biden, the fact that the three nations are democracies was touted as a defining and unifying feature.

Yet the publics of the three nations were kept in the dark about what was afoot, and were instead presented a fait d’accompli. “AUKUS is born”, Morrison declared. Few knew it was even in gestation.

The secrecy surrounding AUKUS is troubling given its significance, especially for Australia. These stakes were clearly demarcated in today’s White House press briefing ahead of the formal leaders’ announcement. AUKUS in its scope and aims:

binds decisively Australia to the United States and Great Britain for generations.

To further underscore the significance for Australia, the US spokesperson described AUKUS as:

the biggest strategic step Australia has taken in generations.

The most significant component of AUKUS announced so far is that Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines. The US and the UK have shared this nuclear technology in an arrangement dating back to 1958.




Read more:
Why nuclear submarines are a smart military move for Australia — and could deter China further


Over the next 18 months, the US and UK will “support Australia’s desire to acquire nuclear-powered submarines”. Adelaide will soon see technical and strategic teams from all three countries working on building the subs.

These submarines will allow Australia to “deploy for longer periods”, are “quieter”, “much more capable” and will allow “us to sustain and to improve deterrence across the Indo-Pacific”, the White House said. All three leaders were at pains to stress Australia has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons, though these capabilities will necessarily develop along with the limited AUKUS aims of propulsion.

Now Australia’s pre-existing sub-building deal with France is destined for the scrap heap, but not without a hefty bill for Australian taxpayers, it has been reported.

The other elements of AUKUS include enhancing joint capabilities, deeper military interoperability, “new architectures” of meetings and engagements between defence and foreign policy officials, and to “spur co-operation across many new and emerging arenas” – cyber, applied AI, quantum technologies and “some undersea capabilities”.

The need for this immense shift in Australia’s defence capabilities and the genesis of the AUKUS partnership were not specified in today’s announcement. Biden came closest to articulating AUKUS’s intent when he said it will help “better meet the threats of today and tomorrow”. There is no doubt what has sparked this strategic recalibration: the rise of China.

In addition to exponentially increasing Australia’s military capabilities, the overarching rationale of AUKUS is to link existing allies and partners together. This will in turn create a global web of security arrangements to combat China’s massive and rapid global expansion. This is why the focus of AUKUS is on the Indo-Pacific, which stretches from the eastern Pacific to the east coast of Africa.

Many questions remain about AUKUS. One is why did the UK return to the Indo-Pacific arena in this way, having essentially left it, in strategic terms, in the 1950s?

According to Johnson’s brief remarks today, it joined to impart knowledge about nuclear submarine technology, “acquired over generations”, to Australia. This will have a two-fold benefit, he said. It will “preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific” while “creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom”. The UK’s involvement in AUKUS is its most significant enaction of its new Indo-Pacific strategic “tilt” set out in its 2021 defence and foreign policy review.

One of the many questions arising from the AUKUS announcement is why the UK is re-engaging in the Indo-Pacific.
Alberto Pezzali/AP/AAP

And where does AUKUS leave New Zealand? Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reassured New Zealanders today that she “welcomed” greater UK and US involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, a security outlook she has clearly adhered her nation to.

But beneath statements insisting that AUKUS does not interfere with New Zealand’s existing security arrangements, its exclusion from this security partnership has set it on a singular course.

AUKUS’s initial purpose of building Australia a fleet of nuclear-powered subs assures this. As Ardern emphasised,

New Zealand’s position in relation to the prohibition of nuclear-powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged.

There is no doubt China will react strongly to this news and, given its recent conduct towards Australia, punitively in terms of trade. The implications are likely to be manifold.

How Australians respond to the nation’s course set today without their knowledge or consultation will be interesting to gauge. If 70 years of living with the ANZUS treaty is any indication, reactions will be strong and sharply divided.The Conversation

Patricia A. O’Brien, Visiting Fellow, Department of Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, and Adjunct Professor, Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia to build nuclear submarines in a new partnership with the US and UK


original.
AAP/EPA/Oliver Contreras

Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraAustralia will build a fleet of nuclear submarines as part of a new security partnership with the United States and United Kingdom, dubbed AUKUS.

The dramatic move is a response to the growing threat of China and will be seen as provocative by that country.

In an early morning address at Parliament House, part of a three-way virtual appearance with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia, the US and the UK had “always seen the world through a similar lens”.

“Our world is becoming more complex, especially here in our region, the Indo-Pacific.

“This affects us all. The future of the Indo-Pacific will impact all our futures. To meet these challenges, to help deliver the security and stability our region needs, we must now take our partnership to a new level.”

The submarines will be built in Adelaide, in co-operation with the UK and US.

Morrison stressed “Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability”.

There will be an 18-month long effort by the three countries to develop the best plan to deliver the new capability. In doing this, expertise from the US and the UK will be used.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese indicated Labor’s general support for the submarines and sought a bipartisan mechanism for oversight of the process.

In a statement Morrison, Biden and Johnson said: “Through AUKUS, our governments will strengthen the ability of each to support our security and defence interests, building on our longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties.

“We will promote deeper information and technology sharing. We will foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases, and supply chains. And in particular, we will significantly deepen co-operation on a range of security and defence capabilities.”

The leaders said: “The endeavour we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

American nuclear-powered submarines visit Australia.

Currently, Australia has a $90 billion contract with the French for conventionally-powered submarines. This has been controversial because of the long lead time and escalating costs. Cancellation costs will run into billions of dollars.

The French government has reacted angrily. It declared the Australian decision to halt the current “Future Submarine Program” was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the co-operation that prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust as well as on the development of a very high-level defence industrial and technological base in Australia”.

In a statement Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister for Europe and foreign affairs, and Florence Parly, minister of the armed forces, said: “The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”

A former French ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, tweeted: “The world is a jungle. France has just been reminded of this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia”.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating criticised the announcement as representing a further loss of Australian sovereignty.

The agreement for Australia “to move to a fleet of US supplied nuclear submarines will amount to a lock-in of Australian military equipment and thereby forces, with those of the United States with only one underlying objective: the ability to act collectively in any military engagement by the United States against China” Keating said.

“This arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependency on the United States robbed Australia of any freedom or choice in any engagement Australia may deem appropriate,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said under that under that country’s legislation, the nuclear submarines would not be able to visit there.

Senate crossbencher Rex Patrick, a former submariner, said the decision on nuclear submarines should come under rigorous parliamentary scrutiny.

“I’ve been a strong critic of the French submarine deal. The delays and cost overruns are huge and unacceptable. But we have to be careful we don’t move from one massive procurement disaster into something else that hasn’t been thought through properly.”

Patrick said that “acquiring, operating and maintaining a nuclear submarine fleet without a domestic nuclear power industry is a challenge that must not be underestimated”.

Greens leader Adam Bandt attacked the decision, saying it was “a dangerous move that makes our country less safe by putting floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities, increasing the risk of conflict in our region and putting Australia in the firing line”.

He said the government was trying to distract from its failures by preparing for a khaki election.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

NSW risks a second larger COVID peak by Christmas if it eases restrictions too quickly


C Raina MacIntyre, UNSWNew South Wales plans to relax restrictions when vaccination targets of 70% and 80% of those aged 16 years and over are met.

The national plan was based on the assumption there would be just 30 cases when restrictions were lifted. However, NSW may have cases in the hundreds or thousands when restrictions are relaxed.

The current discussion has been around “the peak” occurring during current restrictions.

But modelling from my team at UNSW shows if current restrictions are relaxed while a large proportion of the community is unvaccinated, a larger, second peak may occur that may overwhelms our hospitals – unless countermeasures are taken to prevent that.




Read more:
Flattening the COVID curve: 3 weeks of tougher lockdowns in Sydney’s hotspots halved expected case numbers


What would a second peak look like?

The 70-80% adult vaccination targets correspond to 56-64% of the whole population, leaving plenty of room for the virus to spread among increasingly mobile people.

If the first relaxation of restrictions occurs around October 18, our modelling predicts a second, larger peak will occur between December 24-29 2021.

If restrictions are only relaxed around November 6 when the 80% target is met, the peak occurs later, between January 6-12 2022 instead of around Christmas day.

The current strategy of mass vaccination is vital to our exit plan. But vaccination alone cannot control an epidemic that began when fully vaccinated rates were extremely low.

This is because the virus spreads much faster (days) than the time taken to benefit from vaccine immunity after two doses (two months, with a six week interval between doses and two weeks after the second dose to get maximal immunity).

Also current vaccines are not as effective against the Delta variant due to a combination of vaccine escape (meaning they’re not exactly matched to the Delta strain) and waning immunity.




Read more:
Is Delta defeating us? Here’s why the variant makes contact tracing so much harder


The restrictions used in NSW since the end of June have kept a lid on it, but case numbers have continued to grow. We estimated the 70% target may be met around October 18, and case numbers at that time may be in the thousands.

Depending on what steps accompany that relaxation, many different scenarios are possible. Modelling allows us to look at best and worst case scenarios and ensure the worst never occurs.

Weighing the harms

Controlling an epidemic is like balancing a set of old fashioned scales. Imagine the virus is a large, menacing metal weight sitting on one side, and the public health measures are a bunch of weights on the other, which are combined to keep the fight even.

Modelling shows the effect of changes on either side of the scale.
Shutterstock

The Delta virus is very heavy, so we need many public health “weights” to keep it from winning. Vaccination alone is not enough, as we have seen in the United States, United Kingdom and Israel.

The public health “weights” include:

  • vaccination
  • testing (identifying infected people and isolating them)
  • rapid contact tracing (within 24 hours of identifying an infected person)
  • restricting mixing and movement of people
  • masks
  • ventilation (safe indoor air).
COVID-19 spreads through air.

Modelling can help us work out the effect of changes on either side of the scale. What if the epidemic is bigger? What if we remove movement restrictions?

That will tip the scales in favour of the virus, so we need to add more into the public health bowl to compensate for that removal. Maybe we can add more contact tracing, mask use or testing.

It’s a constant dance in trying to outwit the virus, and modelling helps by allowing to forecast the impact of different approaches to relaxing restrictions.

Vaccination alone isn’t enough

We already know that to relax restrictions, we need high vaccination rates. But because the vaccine is not enough against Delta, at the 70-80% adult targets (which correspond to 56-65% of the whole population) there is still plenty of scope for the virus to spread.

COVID-19 will find under-vaccinated pockets and communities, whether it be disadvantaged urban communities or remote Aboriginal communities like Wilcannia, which had a 7% rate of full vaccination when the Sydney outbreak arrived there.

So, our modelling shows that if you remove restrictions on movement, you need to add more weights to the public health bowl to stop the scales tipping in favour of the virus. This is the vaccine-plus and ventilation strategy recommended by OzSAGE, a new independent expert network I’m part of, which outlines a safe pandemic exit strategy.

It means when we open schools, we need to open classroom windows too, ensure clean air in classrooms, ensure parents and teachers are vaccinated, and have kids wearing masks.




Read more:
From vaccination to ventilation: 5 ways to keep kids safe from COVID when schools reopen


We estimated the NSW capacity to rapidly trace contacts dropped off in mid-August.

So, in preparation of increasing mixing of people, we could massively scale up contact tracing capacity using digital methods. This would be adding more weight to the public health bowl.

We need to make sure testing capacity remains high and think about making rapid testing more widely available in schools, workplaces and homes.

We could also retain the outdoor mask mandate to ensure at least the protection of masks is not also reduced in the public health bowl (the current roadmap indicates outdoor mask mandates will be dropped).

How bad could it get?

We modelled six different scenarios and ways of adjusting the weights in the scales to ensure we do not overwhelm the health system.

We used the NSW definition of “code black” – when there are not enough ICU beds and alternative models of care are needed. We used this to forecast scenarios that could cause or avoid code black conditions.

The best case scenarios would only have a single relaxing of restrictions and retain high mask use, scale up contact tracing, and retain some reduction of mixing between people.

On the other hand, relaxing restrictions progressively between the 70% and 80% targets, or drastically increasing mixing, while reducing mask use at the same time, and not improving contact tracing, will be taking too many weights out of the public health bowl. This would allow the virus to overwhelm the health system.

In the worst case scenario, there may be five weeks of code black conditions. In the best case scenario, code black is avoided.

If ICU care cannot be provided, the death rate will increase because all people who need ICU cannot receive it. So it’s essential we avoid code black conditions.




Read more:
We’re two frontline COVID doctors. Here’s what we see as case numbers rise


There are an infinite number of scenarios we could model, but the general trade-off between both sides of the scales are demonstrated by the model.

All models have uncertainty in them. Models predict a range of possibilities under different conditions, and worst-case scenarios usually do not eventuate, because authorities use the models to inform the prevention of severe scenarios. They may also reinstate restrictions if the health system is under threat.

Models are a valuable tool to guide and provide transparency to decision-making. At the moment, the choices in NSW are between “not great” and “terrible”. But that will change.

In time, we will have better vaccines (matched to Delta), boosters and higher vaccination rates in all Australians including children. These will add more weight to the public health side of the scales, and hopefully prevent the virus from winning.The Conversation

C Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity, NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, Head, Biosecurity Program, Kirby Institute, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hot pack or cold pack: which one to reach for when you’re injured or in pain


Shutterstock

Andrew Lavender, Federation University AustraliaWhen you injure yourself, you may reach for a hot or a cold pack. Which option is better depends on the nature of your pain, what caused it and how long you’ve had it.

Heat therapy, sometimes called thermotherapy, involves applying heat to an injury or painful area on the body. Hot water bottles or pads that can be heated in a microwave oven are commonly used. Cold therapy, or cryotherapy, can come in the form of water bottles or pads cooled in a fridge or freezer.

Placing something cold at the injury site causes the blood vessels, arteries and veins, to narrow. This reduces blood flow through the area and helps reduce inflammation and swelling. Adding heat to the area has the opposite effect: opening the blood vessels up and increasing blood flow through injured tissue.

These opposite effects are useful in different situations.




Read more:
Feeling sore after exercise? Here’s what science suggests helps (and what doesn’t)


Cooling down to prevent inflammation

We can treat injury or tissue pain with a hot or cold pack, or sometimes alternate the two.

Cold therapy should be used for injuries that result in swelling and inflammation such as joint sprains, muscle strains or bruises. The objective is to slow blood flow to the area and prevent the effects of the injury. Gel packs that can be kept in the freezer, coolant sprays or even a bag of frozen veggies will do the job.

It is important to avoid holding ice in direct contact with the skin for long periods as this can cause skin damage. It is best to wrap ice in a cloth and then apply it.

Cold therapy is most effective in the immediate or acute phase of pain when swelling and inflammation first kicks off. Typically, the treatment should be applied for about 20 minutes and can be reapplied every two hours for a few days. After that, the injury should be well into the healing phase and the swelling and inflammation will subside.

Cold therapy, or applying ice, is often used in conjunction with rest, compression and elevation, known in first aid by the acronym RICE.

So, ice can be useful when we want to limit the initial swelling and pain, since too much or prolonged swelling can impede the healing process. But with less severe injuries like minor sprains and strains, inflammation is part of the body’s healing process and continuing cold therapy can be a barrier to recovery.




Read more:
Can’t face running? Have a hot bath or a sauna – research shows they offer some similar benefits


When to warm up

Heat therapy is generally thought of as being either dry or moist.

Dry heat therapy includes hot water bottles or heated pads. These are easy to apply and are effective for reducing pain. Moist heat therapy includes warm bath, hot wet towel and moist heat packs.

Heat therapy is not recommended for acute management of sprains, strains or contusions as this promotes blood flow and can increase swelling and pain.

Heat therapy can help chronic conditions such as recurring joint pain, neck or back pain.

If pain is due to a strain or sprain, cold therapy should be applied immediately, but heat therapy can help relieve pain from 72 hours post-injury.

Man holds ankle, sitting on kerb
Cooling down an injury immediately after it happens can reduce swelling but don’t do it for too long.
Shutterstock

Heat therapy does not mean applying something very hot, rather it should be warm, pleasant and easily tolerated for long periods.

Heat therapy can be very effective for muscle tension or joint stiffness — increasingly blood flow and heating muscles or joints for around 15 minutes before physical activity as a kind of warm up. This approach can also help people engage in activities that might aggravate a chronic injury by loosening and relaxing injured muscles.




Read more:
Health Check: do joint and muscle aches get worse in the cold?


Heat is used differently for bluebottle stings. These are best treated by a medical professional in a hospital emergency department. But, as a first aid intervention, pain can be reduced by applying hot water (42–45°C) to the area for 30–90 minutes.

Alternating hot and cold to an area of pain has been used for decades but there has not been a great deal of research assessing the practice. One study assessed hospital inpatients with heel pain and found greater improvement in foot function after hot/cold therapy compared with a group who underwent standard therapy.

Soaking in it

Athletes commonly use water immersion therapy for recovery.

However, this practice is also not without controversy. One review of the evidence found cold water immersion improved performance, measured by jumping and all-out sprint ability 24 hours after a sporting event. Fatigue was also reduced at 48–72 hours after sports events.

This type of temperature control therapy may also help with recovery after undertaking some sustained physical exertion such as a day of hiking.




Read more:
Health Check: why do my muscles ache the day after exercise?


So, cold first and maybe heat later

The take-home message is that cold packs work well for reducing pain and inflammation in the acute phase of a strain, sprain or bruise — especially when used in as part of the RICE method.

Heat packs are useful for reducing muscle tension and stiffness and pain in the joints, but never in the initial phase of an injury. There is not enough evidence to show alternating the two is particularly useful, while cold water immersion therapy may help recovery after sport or sustained physical exertion.The Conversation

Andrew Lavender, Senior Lecturer, School of Science, Psychology and Sport, Federation University Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.