News National Virus update: Vaccine timeline, lockdown costs, and aged-care fears

Virus update: Vaccine timeline, lockdown costs, and aged-care fears

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Almost all of the people who caught the coronavirus in the past week had been infected in the community and men are most at risk.

Statistics released on Thursday show that while older men are most likely to die, young Australians are more commonly contracting the coronavirus.

And they’re spreading it in public, with more than 98 per cent of cases in the past week a result of local transmission.

The statistics back up the importance of taking health precautions in public, the same day of Victoria’s new mask rules, which mandate that people in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire must wear face coverings when they leave home or face a $200 fine.

Wednesday was the state’s worst day – and the highest daily total for anywhere in Australia – since the COVID outbreak began, with 484 confirmed infections and two more deaths.

The two men in their 90s whose deaths were reported on Wednesday were aged-care residents.

There are 45 outbreaks in aged-care facilities across the state, with 383 staff and residents testing positive.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews leads by example by wearing his mask. Photo: AAP

An outbreak at St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner has grown from 51 cases on Tuesday to 69 staff and residents, while 54 people at Estia Health have contracted the disease.

A new cluster has also emerged at Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth, with two staff and one resident testing positive.

There are fears NSW is on a similar path to Victoria after an aged-care worker at Ashfield Baptist Homes in Sydney’s inner-west tested positive to COVID-19.

The staff member had 10 days earlier dined at Wetherill Park’s Thai Rock restaurant, which has been linked to 37 confirmed cases.

NSW Health tested all aged-care staff and residents on Wednesday, with the facility expected to remain closed until the end of July.

It was also reported late on Wednesday that a toddler who attends a childcare centre in Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, had tested positive for the coronavirus.

A man from the same area had contracted the virus last week.

The toddler’s diagnosis forced Goodstart Anna Bay to shut its doors for specialist cleaning, according to Nine.

Nine cited further reports that suggested a child at Tomaree School is also infected with the virus, while the Herald Sun reports that children are among the coronavirus patients in intensive care.

While the closure of another aged-care facility in NSW has put the elderly front and centre, state government data and recent testing results shows the young are also vulnerable.

NSW numbers show young people in their 20s account for most positive cases.

The same can be said for Victoria, where the majority of infections have been among those aged between 25 and 34.

Young most likely to fall ill, but older Australians dying

Younger Australians are more likely to be infected by COVID-19 but older people are more likely to die from the virus.

The median age of death for people who caught coronavirus was 80.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data released on Thursday showed men were more likely to die from the virus.

The institute analysed data from late January to late May, before the large scale outbreak in Victoria.

Australians aged 20-29 had the highest number of infections, while people aged over 70 had the lowest.

Cases acquired overseas made up the bulk of infections in the period studied.

Three-quarters of infections picked up in Australia were from close contacts, with one in 10 cases involving an unknown contact.

Of patients with information on where they caught the virus, 18 per cent caught it on cruise ships.

But the situation has since reversed, with 98.8 per cent of cases locally acquired in the past week.

Vaccine is a year away

Researchers are making “good progress” in developing vaccines against COVID-19, but their first use cannot be expected until early 2021, a World Health Organisation expert says.

The WHO is working hard to ensure fair distribution of the vaccines, but in the meantime it was most important to suppress the spread of the coronavirus, executive director of WHO’s emergencies program Mike Ryan said.

“We’re making good progress,” Mr Ryan said on Thursday morning, noting that several vaccines were in phase three trials.

“Realistically it is going to be the first part of next year before we start seeing people getting vaccinated.”

Second lockdown costs

Meanwhile, new economic modelling is set to predict the economic impact of lockdowns on virus-hit Victoria.

The second Victorian lockdown will cost Australia’s economy in excess of $3.3 billion as the state struggles to contain a surge in coronavirus cases – particularly in aged-care facilities.

The state’s national isolation coupled with a lockdown of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will strip 0.75 percentage points from economic growth in the September quarter, data to be released on Thursday reveals.

Despite the record number of new cases in his state, Premier Daniel Andrews said there were no plans to introduce further restrictions.

“The key factor here that’s driving the numbers and driving our challenge is people that are sick but not getting tested,” he said on Wednesday.

Mr Andrews said nine in 10 people did not self-isolate between feeling sick and being tested.

“They have gone out shopping. They have gone to work. They have been at the height of their infectivity, and they have just continued on as usual,” he said.

About 53 per cent of people also did not isolate between having their test taken and receiving the result.

“A bunch of those will be aged-care workers. Let’s not judge them. Let’s try and work out what is driving it,” he said.

The state’s previous record was 428 cases on Friday (July 17), although daily case numbers have been in triple digits since July 6.

No new cases have been reported in the ACT, Northern Territory, Tasmania or Western Australia.

Meanwhile, there was a single case recorded in each of Queensland and South Australia on Wednesday.