China claims Australians are becoming increasingly racist against Asians because of the coronavirus pandemic and has issued a travel warning to its citizens.
Beijing has advised Chinese people against visiting Australia because of what it says is a rise in racial discrimination and violence against Chinese people, linked to COVID-19.
With relations between the trading nations already on edge, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued the travel advice on Friday evening, citing an “alarming increase” in anti-Asian sentiment.
However the statement did not elaborate on specific examples of such discrimination or violence against people of Asian background.
The ministry’s statement said: “There has been an alarming increase recently in acts of racial discrimination and violence against Chinese and Asians in Australia, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Ministry of Culture and Tourism reminds Chinese tourists to enhance their safety awareness and do not travel to Australia.”
Asians of various backgrounds have said they have been harassed since the outbreak of the coronavirus, including in the United States.
China issued a warning to tourists travelling to the US earlier this year after some said they were mistreated in connection with the outbreak.
China’s latest move follows it slapping an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and blacklisting four major beef exporters over labelling issues after Scott Morrison called for a global inquiry into the origins of the pandemic.
However Beijing has denied the trade measures were in retaliation to the Prime Minister’s insistence on an investigation.
Mask advice change, WHO virus warning
The World Health Organisation has changed its stance on wearing face masks as it warned the coronavirus pandemic would not be over until there were no more cases.
The WHO now wants governments to ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas.
In its new guidance, prompted by evidence from studies conducted in recent weeks, the WHO stressed face masks were only one of a range of tools that could reduce the risk of viral transmission, and should not give a false sense of protection.
“We are advising governments to encourage that the general public wear a mask. And we specify a fabric mask – that is, a non-medical mask,” the WHO’s technical lead expert on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, told Reuters in an interview.
“We have new research findings,” she added. “We have evidence now that if this is done properly it can provide a barrier … for potentially infectious droplets.”
The WHO warned some countries had seen “upticks” in COVID-19 cases as lockdowns eased, and said populations must continue to protect themselves.
“It’s not over. It’s not over until there is no virus anywhere in the world,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a UN briefing on Friday in Geneva.
The epicentre of the pandemic is in countries of central, south and north America, particularly the United States, she said.
Ms Harris, referring to US demonstrations since the killing of George Floyd 10 days ago, said protesters must take precautions.
“We have certainly seen a lot of passion this week; we’ve seen people who have felt the need to be out and to express their feelings,” she added.
“We ask them to remember still protect yourself and others.”
Australia’s virus hot spots
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has warned Melbourne’s north and west are emerging as “hot spots” for coronavirus, as police say social distancing fines will be issued to the organisers of a Black Lives Matter protest.
The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, has called on people to stay away from the protest, dismissing organisers’ pleas for attendees to wear masks, bring hand sanitiser and self-isolate at home after attending.
His concern comes as three more people tested positive to coronavirus in Victoria on Friday, including a Newbury Primary School student at Craigieburn in Melbourne’s north. The two other cases were from people in hotel quarantine.
The latest cases bring the state’s total to 1,681.
Dr Sutton said COVID-19 cases were concentrated in Melbourne’s inner-north and west, and he urged everyone in those suburbs to be alert to symptoms and to get tested.
“So right from Keilor Downs, through Fawkner to Craigieburn, this is where, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen community cases,” he said.
“I want to specifically emphasise these areas of Melbourne appear to be the hotspots at the moment.”
Western Australia have had a sharp reminder of the viral threat after four members of a family tested positive after returning from Sudan.
They have been placed in hotel quarantine and won’t be able to enjoy the further relaxation of lockdown restrictions doe to begin Saturday.
Restrictions are also being lifted in the Northern Territory, where drinkers can once again prop in bars all day, the two-hour limit now a thing of the past.
Cinemas and live music venues will also be free to operate, although social-distancing recommendations remain in effect.
Tasmania is also easing its stage 2 restrictions, allowing restaurants to re-open some two weeks ahead of schedule.
Homegrown vaccine breakthrough
While defending against COVID-19 has been key to giving Australia some of the world’s lowest casualty and infection rates, vaccine scientists at the University of Queensland are about to go on the offensive.
The team, which has achieved promising results with a vaccine prototype, has won funding from pharmaceutical giant CSL as the first human tests begin next month.
UQ researcher Paul Young said 120 people would be recruited for the first trial which will test the vaccine’s safety and monitor the impact on the immune system.
All going well, a further 800 to 1,000 people would take part in the next stage of the vaccine trial.
Professor Young said he was hopeful his team would have results by the middle of 2021, with the prospect of producing 100 million doses by that year’s end the ultimate goal.
The first trial is likely to take place in Brisbane, but subsequent trials will need to be carried out where the virus is more prevalent to test the vaccine’s effectiveness.
-with wires and ABC