News National As Wuhan parties, and Europeans rush back from holidays, we face hard coronavirus truths

As Wuhan parties, and Europeans rush back from holidays, we face hard coronavirus truths

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Video footage has emerged of partygoers in the Chinese city where the coronavirus originated crammed together by a pool to dance to a live DJ set, in a sign of residents’ eagerness to return to normal life.

The popular Wuhan Maya Beach Water Park was filled with revellers swimming and soaking up some sense of freedom at an electronic music festival, Agence France-Presse reports.

The Chinese city is attempting to return to normal following a 76-day lockdown, with the government offering free entry to tourists sites to entice people back to Hubei province and boost the economy.

The carefree scenes resemble those appearing on social media out of Europe, where residents have defied social distancing recommendations while travelling for a summer break.

But the holiday may be over. EU countries that had experienced a respite from coronavirus outbreaks are tracking swiftly rising numbers of new cases, prompting fears among health authorities that months of hard-won progress could be lost.

The fears have prompted some leaders to announce new restrictions on leisure activities and quarantine rules for residents returning home from holidays.

Hours-long traffic jams formed at the Croatia-Slovenia border in recent days as Austrians tried to beat a midnight quarantine deadline.

Meanwhile, the Italian government closed discos, required masks from 6pm to 6am anywhere people might gather – and began testing all arriving travellers from Spain, Greece, Malta and Croatia.

In this July 25 photo, beachgoers enjoy the sun at the Plage des Catalans in Marseille. Britain will require all people arriving from France to isolate for 14 days. Photo: AAP

France’s two largest cities, Paris and Marseille, widened the areas where masks are required, and the French government has sent riot police to the Marseille region to enforce the requirement.

In Greece, health officials attributed many new infections to wedding receptions and people ignoring social distancing and other public health protective measures while on holiday.

Australia faces hard truths

The photos and videos from overseas show daily life in stark contrast to that of Australians – especially Victorians who are in the second week of another state-wide lockdown.

On Tuesday, Australians will find out more details about the handling of some of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

Tourists get their hair braided in Marseille’s Old Port in late July – before there was an uptick in virus numbers again. Photo: AAP

Australian Border Force and agriculture officials will front a Senate inquiry over the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship which has been linked to more than 20 coronavirus deaths and hundreds of cases.

“Federal agriculture officials will need to explain why their department failed to follow its own protocols and procedures in handling the arrival of the Ruby Princess,” Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said.

The impact of the coronavirus on people with a disability, as well as the federal government’s pandemic response, will also be examined across a four-day royal commission hearing.

Almost 40 people, including those with a disability, their families, advocates and experts, will give evidence.

And Victorian authorities and government officials will face more questioning over the handling of the state’s hotel quarantine system.

It comes as details emerged on Monday night about the security company contracted by the Victoria government to guard returned travellers at Melbourne’s quarantine hotels.

A Four Corners investigation revealed Wilson Security, which provided hundreds of guards to work in quarantine hotels, requested a subcontractor backdate documents within hours of the state government announcing an inquiry into hotel quarantine.

In an email to the subcontractor, which was obtained by 7.30, Wilson Security asked the subcontractor to backdate an acknowledgment that it was aware of its obligations of training and infection control.

Gavin Silbert, Victoria’s former chief crown prosecutor who reviewed the correspondence, told 7.30 that on July 2 Wilson requested the subcontractor sign an acknowledgment to suggest it was aware of its obligations that were being subcontracted to them as at April 30.

“The subcontractor refused to sign such an undertaking and in an email to Wilson said that they could not sign it because they were simply not aware of the obligations and the conditions that they were bound by as at the 30th of April, and that they couldn’t backdate from the 2nd of July,” Mr Silbert told 7.30.

He said the email indicated a cover-up attempt by Wilson Security.

“Wilson are trying to cover their tracks and to cover themselves from any sort of legal liability and any sort of blame.”

Wilson Security has been accused of asking a subcontractor to backdate a contract. Photo: ABC News

The revelation comes a day after the head of the Doherty Institute’s genomic sequencing unit, Professor Ben Howden, told Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry that “99 per cent” of the state’s second wave of the coronavirus can be linked to returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Advice by the Department of Health and Human Services dated June 8 stated there was no need for security guards to wear PPE when greeting guests in the lobby, taking them out for fresh air breaks or when making doorway visits if physical distancing could be maintained.

Aged care failings

Also on ABC, Epping Gardens aged care home management said there had been delays in testing, with the home having to wait six days to hear back about results.

Documents also show they were encouraged to keep the elderly in the home, where possible, rather than send patients to hospital.

Of the 25 COVID-19 fatalities recorded on Monday, 22 were linked to aged care. It took the state death toll to 334 and the national figure to 421.

Three companies were contracted by the Victorian government to provide security for returned travellers in hotel quarantine. Photo: Four Corners

Healthcare numbers climb, but Victorian cases steady

Concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare workers are growing, with 48 staff at Frankston Hospital in Melbourne’s outer south-east testing positive for the coronavirus.

But, in a major sign that Stage 4 restrictions are working, Victoria’s active coronavirus cases have dropped by nearly 400 from Monday last week.

Yet the number of Victorians fighting the coronavirus in hospital hasn’t budged.

On August 10, there were 640 Victorians were in hospital. Of those, 48 were in intensive care. On Monday, 657 Victorians were in hospital with 44 in intensive care.

Professor Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said the fact Victoria’s hospital case numbers have “held steady” over the past week suggests we may have reached the peak.

“Hospitalisations in our first wave lagged behind daily case reports, with increases in hospitalisations following some seven to 10 days after a rise in new cases,” she said.

“The peak in deaths follows another seven to 10 after that. Once symptoms develop, it can take a week for someone to become so seriously ill that they require hospitalisation, and possibly intensive care.”

New rules for NSW schools, social events

In New South Wales, meanwhile, 117 people are in hospital with seven in intensive care, compared to 111 in hospital and eight in intensive care one week ago. Five people are on ventilators.

Gladys Berejiklian will look at the ‘inexplicable’ failings of NSW officials who handled the disembarkation of the Ruby Princess. Photo: AAP

Meanwhile, tough new rules have been announced to stop the spread of the virus in NSW schools.

Formals, dances, graduation ceremonies, choirs and all social events have been banned and students must remain within their relevant class or year groups.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the rules applying to public schools would come into effect on Wednesday, but that she has written to private schools asking them to also abide.

“It is also being done with the spirit of trying to make sure that our schools can maintain their on-site learning,” she said.

Under the new guidelines anyone with COVID-19 symptoms cannot return to school until they receive a negative test result, spectators at school events are banned, and sports carnivals are restricted.

-with AAP