News Coronavirus Coronavirus in Australia: Concerns over spike, as report raises doubts about tests

Coronavirus in Australia: Concerns over spike, as report raises doubts about tests

mcdonalds coronavirus melbourne
Six workers at a McDonald's in Melbourne's north have COVID-19, with that number likely to grow. Photo: Getty
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Australian authorities are on alert after a small spike in coronavirus cases, another death in NSW and new clusters emerging in Victoria.

WorkSafe launched an investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak at Cedar Meats in the Melbourne suburb of Brooklyn, which has been linked to 88 infections.

The probe will examine whether the abattoir was using social distancing measures and if workers were provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser.

Meanwhile, another cluster continues to grow in Melbourne’s north, with three more infections being linked to McDonald’s Fawkner on Wednesday night, bringing the total number of cases to six. That number could rise as test results for 92 workers come back.

WorkSafe will investigate the COVID-19 outbreak at the Melbourne meat works.

In NSW, another six new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, from 8100 tests.

Authorities have not yet been able to trace how three of those people contracted the virus.

Two new cases were contacts of those connected to the Newmarch House aged-care cluster, where 16 residents have died and 71 people have caught the virus.

Also in NSW, an 81-year-old woman who travelled on the coronavirus-plagued Ruby Princess cruise ship has died, taking the state’s toll to 47 and Australia’s to 98.

The woman had disembarked the Ruby Princess in Sydney on March 19, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Wednesday.

“It’s upsetting to know people are still perishing, dying from this horrible virus.’’
– NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

It’s Australia’s first reported COVID-19 death since May 5.

newmarch house cluster grows
NSW Police searched the Ruby Princess at Port Kembla in April. Photo: NSW Police

Ms Berejiklian reiterated success for NSW should be seen as a healthy balance between economic and social activity and manageable case numbers.

Other states’ deaths are: Victoria 18, Tasmania 13, Western Australia nine, Queensland six, South Australia four, ACT three. Two Queensland residents who died in NSW have been included in both state’s counts.

Testing doubts

Meanwhile, the Morrison government faces increasing pressure over the purchase of coronavirus antibody tests, as further revelations raise serious doubts about their reliability.

On Thursday, The Age reported that tests being sold to doctors, pharmacies and labs across Australia had been found to be about as accurate as “flipping a coin”.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has already approved the use of 32 different tests.

But the newspaper said the regulator did so without first commissioning its own independent studies and instead let companies send in their own results.

The TGA is now requiring companies to provide tests to the Doherty Institute – and preliminary checks on some have already demonstrated that they are not as accurate as the companies had reported.

It comes after the paper revealed that more than a million tests the government had already bought were found to be not fit for purpose.

The antibody tests were supposed to be distributed soon after they arrived in March. But a report commissioned by Health Minister Greg Hunt found they were not ready for widespread deployment.

Australian National University Professor Carola Vinuesa, one of the report’s co-authors, told Nine newspapers “the quality does not seem to be good enough for these tests to be deployed in large scale”.

Mr Hunt denied the fingerprint tests were unreliable, saying they were designed for mass outbreaks.

“And we haven’t had a mass outbreak,” he said.

On Wednesday The Guardian reported that coronavirus tests brought to Australia by mining magnate Andrew Forrest at a $200 million cost to taxpayers were also not being used.

Victoria was the only state to confirm to The Guardian the use of the BGI tests.

Massive fine for ‘miracle cure’ claim

An Australian church has been slapped with $151,200 in fines for selling an industrial bleach it claims is a “miracle cure” for the coronavirus.

The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has long advertised chlorine dioxide as a “Miracle Mineral Solution” for autism, acne, cancer and diabetes, despite not being approved for human consumption.

The TGA issued 12 infringement notices totalling $151,200 to MMS Australia, the Australian chapter of the international church.

Pubs, clubs to reopen

queensland pubs beer coronavirus
Outback pubs will be able to serve up to 20 people from this weekend. Photo: Getty

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet confirmed on Wednesday night that pubs and clubs would join cafes and restaurants for dining as part of the state government’s push to boost the economy amid COVID-19.

Mr Perrottet said the venues must adhere to social distancing requirements and patrons would be limited to 10 per venue.

Bars and gaming facilities will remain closed, but table service for alcohol with a meal will be allowed. Takeaway will also be allowed.

On Wednesday, Victorians were allowed to get back into sports such as golf and start welcoming up to five friends and family back into their homes.

-with AAP