Brisbane’s COVID lockdown has a crucial difference: it aims to squash an outbreak before it even starts


Catherine Bennett, Deakin University

Greater Brisbane’s 72-hour COVID lockdown, which takes effect at 6pm on Friday, has a crucial difference from the months-long lockdown endured by Melbourne earlier this year, or the current restrictions aimed at stamping out Sydney’s COVID clusters.

In Brisbane’s case, it’s just a circuit-breaker designed to immediately minimise everyone’s number of close contacts until we can establish whether anyone has caught the virus from the one known case: a hotel quarantine cleaner who was moving around in the community for five days before testing positive yesterday.

Melbourne’s lockdown, in contrast, was about suppressing viral transmission from cases that numbered in the thousands and where workplaces were the main driver of spread. That meant isolating everyone until the continual seeding back into the community could be stopped.

Brisbane’s shorter lockdown allows health authorities to find and test anyone who might, for instance, have been on public transport with the one woman we know has been infected so far.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said authorities were aiming to “go hard and go early”, given the infected woman is known to have contracted the more infectious UK mutant strain of the coronavirus.

This is why the announcement has been prompt: the time frame for circuit-breakers must be short but the list of allowable reasons for leaving the house is relatively generous to compensate. Besides the usual essentials such as shopping, health care and exercise, it also includes attending workplaces when working from home is impractical, and going to weddings and funerals (with restricted numbers) because people may have immediate plans they cannot change.

That said, the panic-buying witnessed in Brisbane’s shops today is really disappointing. The shops will still be open, you can still shop as one of your reasons to leave home, and everyone crowding into shops at the start of lockdown actually increases the risk of infection.

We’ve seen how these things play out – the empty shelves and toilet paper shortages. We wouldn’t wish Melbourne’s situation on anybody, but they have shown it is possible to live with lockdown. It’s actually the panic-buying that causes the shortages in supply. But it just seems to be an instinctive human reaction that can’t be prevented.

Does it matter that the ‘UK superstrain’ is involved here?

The protocol for handling a situation like this should be the same regardless of whether the “UK superstrain” is involved or not.

With a low number of cases, it doesn’t make much of a difference which variant is responsible. It would make a difference if case numbers climbed or the virus got into workplaces and began to get a foothold in the community. Then, the fact this strain spreads more rapidly would become a danger.

The fact that Melbourne’s lockdown successfully suppressed within a matter of weeks a new “mutant” strain with some of the same genetic changes as the UK variant, while the variant responsible for more than 99% of the second wave was a supposedly less infectious strain, shows that what matters most is the how the epidemic seeds, where transmission is established and how it is controlled, not just the COVID strain itself.




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Finally at zero new cases, Victoria is on top of the world after unprecedented lockdown effort


Brisbane’s current situation does show the value of more frequent testing of hotel quarantine staff. When we had the Adelaide outbreak, I advocated for daily testing, or testing on each shift, to be the national testing standard for all workers on the quarantine frontline. The Victorian government has already applied it, and National Cabinet has now established this as the the national standard.

With more frequent testing, we wouldn’t have the situation we have in Queensland. Instead, the woman who is believed to have been infectious since January 2 would have tested positive on her last shift that day, rather than when she developed symptoms several days later. This would have removed the risks associated with her subsequent movements in the community.

Testing times for air passengers

National Cabinet has also announced a series of new measures aimed at reducing the risks associated with air travel and the potential arrival of COVID cases among returned travellers.

All passengers will be required to test negative before boarding a flight to Australia, and masks will be mandatory on all international and domestic flights and inside airports.

Testing positive for a test completes within 72 hours of a flight will rule that passenger, and any of their household contacts, from boarding the flight. This is a good way of taking the pressure off our returnee quarantine process, although it will not eliminate the risk entirely. It is still possible passengers or crew will bring the virus into Australia as some may still be incubating an infection when in transit.

While it’s impossible to rule out that positive cases will arrive among returned travellers, particularly from the UK, it will undoubtedly reduce the proportion of arrivals who are positive, and PCR testing is much more reliable than screening for symptoms.

Mandatory masks are also a sensible idea – many passengers were already wearing them so this about making it mandatory and consistent across all carriers. If you don’t have the virus, the last thing you want is to contract it on the plane.

Border closures still a blunt tool

While Brisbane’s lockdown covers a sizeable area of Queensland’s southeast, wholesale border closures — such as Western Australia’s new decision to bar arrivals from Queensland — is overkill.

We must be able to manage our response to this pandemic nationally. This is not the time for states to be saying “our processes are better than yours”. Instead, we should have a coordinated process, so if you have cases arriving in your state, we can all work together to manage it.




Read more:
Australia’s mishmash of COVID border closures is confusing, inconsistent and counterproductive


Closing the border to travellers from specific hotpots: yes. That’s how you manage risk. But doing it beyond the hotspots, especially if there aren’t even any known exposure sites outside the hotspot, seems unnecessary and counterproductive, especially in the context of a circuit-breaker compared with evidence of unknown community transmission.

Hard border closures bring a host of health and economic consequences.

Masks mean you can reduce transmission risk, keep borders open and contain local clusters that start before you know the virus has landed in your area – masks are absolutely the way to go. It’s just something you can put in your pocket, and authorities can step the rules up and down as required. True, we will see more clusters, but they will likely be smaller and contained more promptly.The Conversation

Catherine Bennett, Chair in Epidemiology, Deakin University

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

Australian Politics: 20 August 2013


Australian Floods: Queensland – Latest News


The flood crisis in the state of Queensland in Australia has worsened again today, with confirmation of eight deaths and about 72 people missing in the Queensland town of Toowombah and surrounding areas following the severe flash floods yesterday. In towns below Toowombah, homes and buildings were hit with a 7 metre wall of water, leaving a trail of destruction and death.

In recent hours that area affected by secere flooding had spread widely and rapidly, including the Queensland capital of Brisbane and now also throughout southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The next 48 hours is likely to see significant and major escalations in flooding throughout New South Wales and Queensland, including northern Queensland.

At the moment the major areas of concern include Ipswich, Brisbane and surrounding areas in Queensland, as well as Kempsey, Tenterfield, Belligen and Grafton in New South Wales. Many areas already flooded several times in recent weeks are again threatened by renewed secere flooding. There are many, many areas now severely affected in both states. A major weather system in now moving into affected areas.

Hung Parliament Likely in Australian Federal Election


Greens and Independents to Hold Balance of Power in Both Houses

It would seem that the likely outcome of the 2010 federal election in Australia is that of a hung parliament, with government going to the party that gains the support of one or two possible Greens members of parliament in the lower house, and three other independent members of parliament in the lower house. It seems likely that the Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate.

The Greens have now clearly become the third major political party behind the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Liberal Party (Lib) – National Party (Nat) coalition. They have now gained a representative in the lower house with the seat of Melbourne in Victoria falling to Adam Bandt. It is possible that the seat of Grayndler in New South wales (NSW) could also fall to the Greens, with ALP member Anthony Albanese in a close fight with Sam Byrne of the Greens.

The three other certain independents, all former National Party members, are Bob Katter (Kennedy – Queensland, Tony Windsor (New England – NSW) and Rob Oakeshott (Lyne – NSW)

The ALP has also lost large numbers of seats in Queensland ( QLD – Flynn, Leichhardt, Forde, Bonner, Dickson, Herbert, Longman, Brisbane and Dawson) and seats in NSW (Bennelong, Macarthur, Macquarie and Gilmore), one in the Northern Territory (Solomon), one in Western Australia (Hasluck) and possibly one in Tasmania (Denison) to independent Andrew Wilkie. It would seem that a total of 18 or 19 seats have been lost by the ALP. They have gained two in Victoria, winning La Trobe and McEwan.

The ALP’s greatest hope would seem to be the seat of Boothby in South Australia, which still appears too close too call. At this stage Denison in Tasmania remains an ALP seat, but it also remains too close to call.

It seems to me that there will be 73 seats to the ALP (possibly 72 if Grayndler falls to the Greens in NSW), 73 seats to the Coalition, one seat to the Greens (possibly 2 if they pick up Grayndler in NSW – who would lean to the ALP) and 3 to the Independents (all formerly National Party members who would likely lean to the Coalition). If these predictions prove to be true, it would seem that the Coalition will be able to form a minority government with the support of the Independents.

After the promise of the ALP in the previous election and the result that occured, the ALP should have held office for at least two terms. However, the ALP has failed to deliver and instead gave Australia a very lazy, poor and mediocre government. Under Kevin Rudd the ALP successfully steered Australia through the financial crisis, for which Australians should be very thankful. However, there has also been poor management of ecomomic stimulus projects, environmental issues and other projects, which have left many Australians disillusioned with the government. This of course led to the downfall of Kevin Rudd prior to the election and the elevation of Julia Gillard to the Prime Ministership of the country. This was too little too late to save the ALP from electoral disaster and the Australian people have delivered swift punishment for their failure to deliver what we had hoped for under the Kevin Rudd led ALP government.

Perhaps the experience of a hung parliament and a minority government, from whichever side of politics, will result in someone or some party standing up with a real commitment to governance and leadership in Australia. At the moment there seems little of both and the Australian people are largely disillusioned with both major parties. The ALP should prepare itself for major defeats in state elections over the next couple of years, especially in New South Wales and Queensland, where voters are fed up with poor government – not that the alternatives are much better.

How an Australian-born pastor survived a Molotov cocktail


Wayne Zschech, the Australian-born pastor of Calvary Chapel Kaharlyk, just south of Kiev in Ukraine with a population 15,000, says he will never forget the events that took place in the early hours of Wednesday, October 14th, when attackers smashed a window at the church building, where he and his family live, and threw a Molotov cocktail (petrol bomb) into the building, reports Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST Ministries.

In an interview he gave me during my recent visit to Kiev, he re-lived the horrifying turn of events that could have caused the deaths of himself and his family as they slept.

“It all started when my wife Olya woke up in the morning to feed the newborn baby and she said she could smell smoke,” said Wayne. “We actually live in the church building and that night, there were six of us (including his mother-in-law) who were sleeping. We had actually sent the kids to school at eight o’clock in the morning and my wife said again that she could ‘really smell smoke.’ So we looked out the back window and there was smoke billowing out of the back of the church.

“Suddenly, it was all hands on deck. I called the fire brigade and then started finding where the fire was coming from. We originally thought that it was an electrical short because it’s an old building. I began opening up all the doors – because I didn’t want the fire brigade knocking them down – and looking in the basement trying to find where the fire was coming from.

“I kept going down into the basement and when I came up for air on the third or fourth occasion, I just happened to walk around the side of the building and suddenly the whole situation became clear. Someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail through the side of the building into our children’s ministry room and had also left spray painted markings on the side of the building saying, ‘Get out of here, you sectarians.’ So suddenly it put a big a whole new spin on the situation.”

I asked Wayne if he had ever experienced trouble before and he replied, “Not directly. We’ve had a couple of youths smashing windows and so we had to put security screens on our apartment, but nothing like this. There was no warning.”

Sitting next to Pastor Zschech was his assistant pastor, American-born Micah Claycamp, who is married with four children, who then described what he saw when he arrived at the church that morning.

“I had come to the church to do a language lesson and, as I walked in, I saw a big hose running from the back of the church into the room that had been firebombed and I could smell smoke,” he said. “They had just finished cleaning everything up and I went around to the side of the building and saw what had been spray painted and started talking to Wayne who had got the situation figured out and he told me what exactly had happened.

“This was the first big thing we’ve seen in our town. It is pretty quiet for the most part. I don’t feel threatened living there but this obviously is a situation that is a lot different and when you walk into something like this it makes you appreciate the things that you see God do, the unseen things. It makes you realize how much God protects our lives in ways you don’t see every day. So it just makes you more appreciative of His protection.”

I then asked Wayne how an Australian from Brisbane whose family hailed from the Prussian part of Germany finished up in a small town in Ukraine.

“Well, to be perfectly honest, I think God played a trick on me,” he smiled. “I graduated from school and wanted to get into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and when I applied for the Australian Defence Force Academy I got the chickenpox and so they didn’t let me in that year, even though my academic achievements were fine.

“So I quickly did a deal with God and said, ‘I’ll give you a year of my life’ and the next thing I knew three months later I was in Ukraine and started a Bible-based English schooling programs in communist government schools where kids were learning about Jesus. I was just seventeen years old at the time and began travelling all over the country and I’ve been here ever since. That is some sixteen and a half years now.”

Had he seen big changes in the country?

“Yes, many changes,” he said. “We’ve had currency changes and also seen mindset changes. We see economic things going on and we’ve learned a lot of things. But along the way, I found a beautiful Ukrainian girl and we have a wonderful marriage and we have three Ukrainian kids.”

Wayne then spoke about how he got involved in this Calvary Chapel.

“Well, I got tricked also into becoming the pastor of this church in what was then a village,” he said. “The founding pastor who moved with me from Kiev to Kaharlyk went back home to Australia to do his deputation work and a couple months later, he wrote me an email saying that he was ‘not returning to be the pastor of the church.’ He added, ‘So congratulations. You’re the pastor.’ So not only did I become a missionary by hook or by crook but also became a pastor and I’m thrilled.

“I never wanted to be those things but God has turned things around totally and I’m absolutely content and happy and it’s a very exciting life to see what God is doing despite the fact that humans would have had other choices.”

I then asked Wayne what Kaharlyk was like when he first arrived.

“We are about 80 kilometers (nearly 50 miles) south of Kiev and it was a town that had been in economic ruin as most of the country had been after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” he said. “Unemployment was rife. There were no jobs, no income and there was lots of mental and cultural baggage as the country was trying to reacclimatize to the real world situation.

“Now some 12 years later, we’re basically on the outskirts of Kiev although obviously the town hasn’t moved geographically. But it’s a thriving little town. It hasn’t grown numerically that much but you can definitely see there are changes. There are people moving out of Kiev to come and live in our town. That was never in our plan and we’re also seeing bits of investment coming in and things like that show what was once basically dead is now starting to show signs of life.”

I then asked him to describe the types of people who attended his church.

“We’re a young church and we’re different from the mainstream Orthodox and older style Baptist churches,” Wayne explained. “But the truth is that we are reaching out to orphans, to the elderly and we have a beautiful mix of all those generations in between. When you see a grandmother coming with her son and her grandson to church, you see the wholesomeness that the Gospel brings when God enters a family’s life.

“Back in the early days everyone was warned about people like us saying that these are the people ‘you’ve been warned about for all those years’ and that ‘they’ve come here to hypnotize you and take all your money.’ But that was more then based out of ignorance.

“We had an Orthodox priest back then and we had some very serious chats with him and he said, ‘Look publicly, I have to hold the government line or the Orthodox line, but personally I see that you’re a brother in Christ. So that was good. I wouldn’t call that major persecution, but I can understand the fear from their side.”

He then spoke about a unique business he has begun in the town.

“We decided that we had to become producers so people can put bread on the table and we have to show how God is in everything,” said Wayne. “So we have started a little mushroom-growing enterprise and now we’re making biodiesel. We actually collect oil from a number of restaurants, including McDonald’s Ukraine, and we make biodiesel and sell it and save money for the church and make money for the church and employ people and reinvest into the local town.”

Micah then said that he runs his car on biodiesel which he says smells like “fried chicken.”

“I can run it and I haven’t had any problems at all,” he said. “It’s also cheaper and I’ve put advertisements on the van to let people know the phone numbers so that people know what’s going on.”

It was Micah that picked me up at the Kiev (Borispol) Airport and drove me to my hotel and I have to confess that I didn’t catch a whiff of fried chicken from the exhaust of the van, though I did have a bad cold at the time.

I concluded by returning to the topic of the firebombing and asked Wayne if he had further thoughts about it.

“As soon as we discovered that it was intentional, you can just imagine the situation in your mind with totally charged different emotions,” he said. “We were targeted from the side of the building so that everyone in the town walking past it could see the damage and the spray painting.

“It was basically a political statement in that respect. The fact that the family was asleep in the building when it happened my mother in-law was staying at the time and she said that she heard some banging around at five o’clock in the morning and we looked at the fire damage and we see that it was a real a miracle. There was a fire but the damage was minimal. It should have been so much worse. What turned out to be a couple thousand dollars worth of damage when we could have lost the whole room.

“If they, for some, reason had chosen another window to throw it in, just the next window, the floor boards are totally bear there we don’t have thick linoleum on them, so the fire would have spread immediately. There’s a big air gap right under those boards and it runs right to our family’s bedrooms.”

I concluded by asking Wayne what his prayer needs were at this time.

“That Christ would be glorified to the maximum through this and the next circumstances and that He would save people and that the Christian body locally and throughout the world would pray harder to understanding the privileges that we have in our situations and that God can change them any time that He wants.”

Micah then added his prayer request: “That our church would grow together in this as they would see that God allows these things to happen to strengthen the body, to cause our eyes to be back upon Him and that for His glory to be done and bring more people to Christ.”

By the way if the name Zschech rings a bell with you, he is related to Darlene Zschech, who is perhaps most famous for the chorus "Shout to the Lord," a song that is sung by an estimated 25 to 30 million churchgoers every week, who has married in the Zschech family. “I was a Zschech first,” laughed Wayne.

Report from the Christian Telegraph 

AUSTRALIA: CYCLONE HAMISH UPDATE – 8th March 2009


Cyclone Hamish is continuing to track parallel down the Queensland coast and thus far there have been no reports of injuries or major damage. Damaging winds can now be expected between Mackay and Bundaberg with the storm currently located to the north-east of Mackay.

The cyclone has been downgraded from a category 5 cyclone to a category 4 cyclone. The storm is massive and will still cause major damage should it cross the coast on Tuesday as forecast. The cyclone is generating winds of up to 260 km per hour.

Lady Elliot, Heron and Fraser Islands are all being evacuated as the cyclone heads in their direction. It is thought that the Hervey Bay area is the likely area the cyclone will fully impact on, with its remnant reaching possibly Brisbane.

ELECTRIC CARS COMING SOONER RATHER THAN LATER


In great news for the environment and consumers it seems that ‘green cars’ will be arriving in Australia sooner rather than later, with infrastructure for electric cars to be set up in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne within four years. The project is a joint venture between AGL, Macquarie Capital and Better Place.

The project aims to set up recharge stations for electric cars at workplaces, homes and shopping centres. It is thought that some 250 000 recharge stations will be built in the project. Such projects have already been set up in Israel and Denmark.

Macquarie Capital is to raise $1 billion to build the recharging network, with AGL to supply renewable energy for the project. Better Place will actually build the network.

Should the project go ahead and the infrastructure be built, motorists will be able to dump petrol and diesel vehicles and move to electric ones. This will of course be a great relief from rising fuel costs and help protect the environment from further greenhouse gas emissions.

MANLY SMASH THE MELBOURNE STORM IN NRL GRAND FINAL


Having tipped the Storm to win back to back premierships, I am still in shock at the hammering Manly dished out to Melbourne in the NRL Grand Final yesterday. In fact the victory was the largest winning margin of NRL Grand Final history, with a 40-0 thumping of the Storm.

It was a match that signalled the end of various careers, especially that of Steve Menzies (349 games) for Manly and Matt Geyer’s for Melbourne. Menzies (known as ‘Beaver’) completed his NRL career on top, while Mat Geyer will remember his last game as a heart-breaking loss.

Having been the best team in the competition until the final series, Melbourne began their fall from premiership glory with a loss to New Zealand in their first finals match of the season. Having barely defeated Brisbane in the following game, the Storm beat Cronulla before advancing to the Grand Final.

Questions are now being asked as to the immediate future of the Melbourne Storm – is this the beginning of the end of Melbourne’s NRL domination, will they make the finals next year, etc? However, all of this talk of a declining Melbourne side seems a little premature at this stage. Certainly they performed well below their best during the final series, but they remain a great side, though they will loose some great players before next season. Mat Geyer, Michael Crocker and Israel Folau will all be gone from the Storm next year.

The Manly side finished the year on the same points as Melbourne (as did Cronulla), though Melbourne were the Minor Premiers on for and against. Manly were the deserved winners of the Grand Final and were by far the superior team in the finals series.

Manly prop Brent Kite took out the Clive Churchill Medal as man of the match. Matt Orford was the Dally M Player of the Year.

BELOW: Cooper Cronk Speech after loosing the Grand Final