News Coronavirus WHO hopes coronavirus pandemic could be shorter than Spanish flu of 1918
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WHO hopes coronavirus pandemic could be shorter than Spanish flu of 1918

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The World Health Organisation hopes the deadly coronavirus pandemic could be over in less than two years as global infections neared 23 million.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Spanish flu of 1918 took two years to end but warned COVID-19 could spread more easily in our modern connected world.

“Our situation now with more technology, of course with more connectiveness, the virus has a better chance of spreading, it can move fast,” he said.

“At the same time we have the technology and knowledge to stop it.”

Nearly 22.8 million people have been infected globally and 795,575 have died, according to the John Hopkins University tally.

The WHO chief’s comments come as new infections in Victoria dipped below 200 on Friday for the first time in five weeks, showing the lockdown is working.

But Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned Victorians not to expect restrictions to be eased early, with the possibility the aged sector might continue to experience a “baseline level of transmission” that could be harder to shift.

There are 1732 active cases across 126 aged care sites. The 10 most infected aged care facilities range between 107 and 209 cases each, according to government data.

Across the state there are 4421 active cases, including 626 people in hospital, of which 40 are receiving intensive care.

The state’s death toll is now at 385 after nine more deaths were recorded on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a week of “increased hope”, with a deal to secure a coronavirus vaccine for all Australians, as well as falling case numbers in Victoria.

NSW also recorded its lowest number of COVID-19 cases in almost two months with only one person testing positive in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday.

Mr Morrison praised the NSW government for “keeping NSW open” while fighting the virus with the “key weapons” of testing, tracing and outbreak containment.

“They have backed the weapons that they have built and formed to combat this virus and they have done it each and every day,” he said.

Queensland is back on alert as more infections are expected to be confirmed on Saturday, linked to the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre in Wacol where a staffer tested positive this week.

Mr Morrison on Friday pleaded with premiers and chief ministers at a national cabinet meeting to ease border restrictions as Australia’s medical expert panel attempts to define what constitutes a coronavirus “hotspot”.

Queensland has warned its borders could remain sealed for several months or until its coronavirus infections have fallen to zero.

Western Australia is in a similar position, with no border opening in sight.

Tasmania’s borders will remain closed until at least December 1.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall is confused about why WA and Tasmania haven’t opened up to travellers from his state.

Aussies to test Trump’s drug of choice

An Australian-first trial aims to “once and for all” settle the science surrounding an antimalarial drug touted by US President Donald Trump as protection from COVID-19.

The “COVID shield” study, led by Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, has recruited more than 100 healthcare workers to test the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.

Study co-lead Marc Pellegrini said half of the study participants would be given the drug and the rest a placebo tablet over a four-month span to determine its effectiveness in clinical settings.

Mr Trump spruiked hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game-changer” in March and later confirmed he had been taking the drug for “a couple (of) weeks”.

His comments set off fierce discussion over its safety and ability to guard against coronavirus, and Professor Pellegrini wants to put the debate to rest.

“Because of a lot of the politicisation of this particular drug, it’s nice for us to once and for all discover if this relatively cheap drug – which is pretty safe – is going to play any role in this particular pandemic,” he told AAP on Friday.

“We’ll either have discovered it is an effective drug to manage the pandemic, or alternatively that we should definitely dispense with it.”

Prof Pellegrini said it was clear the Melbourne outbreak had compromised healthcare workers, with 2607 total infections across the Victorian sector as of Friday.

He launched the double-blind trial in late May and is signing up another 600 or so frontline and allied health professionals who have expressed interest to ensure adequate quantitative data.

“We have had quite a lot of people wanting to participate,” said Prof Pellegrini, joint head of the institute’s infectious diseases and immune defence unit.

“I’d say that’s for altruistic reasons. It’s not that they want to help themselves, rather they truly want to see if this drug is effective or not.”

It is open to any healthcare worker in Australia at risk of contracting coronavirus after undergoing screening at one of 10 participating facilities across Melbourne and Sydney.

-with AAP

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