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Western Australia Covid case surges

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“Are we there yet?”

For weeks now we’ve been reporting that it’s “looming”, and yet it’s still not here. Trying to pick the crest of the wave while you’re in it is almost impossible, but by looking at the overall trajectory, and a few other measures, we can see where the state is at. It all suggests while WA is not at its peak yet, it’s likely just around the corner – for real this time (we think).

Sure, so when will cases actually peak?

Unfortunately, without a crystal ball we can’t answer the million-dollar question with a high degree of confidence. A big part of the issue is that understanding what’s happening with the virus depends entirely on testing and reporting.

If a person gets COVID on Friday but doesn’t get tested until Monday because they have plans for the weekend, that doesn’t change the spread of the virus, just how it’s represented in our data.

Ultimately, it means after a record day of 9,754 new cases on Wednesday, we’ll have to wait until around that time this week to have the best idea of how things are tracking.

Of course, these figures are only the cases we know of. With rising infection rates in the community, there is an expectation more people have the virus but are asymptomatic, aren’t getting tested, or aren’t reporting positive RATs.

Do case numbers really matter though?

Increasingly the Premier has been telling us that hospitalisation and ICU admissions are the key figures to watch, and that’s true to an extent.

Together with deaths they are the key indicators of how severe the Omicron wave is.

In part, that’s why we at the ABC have changed our reporting over the last week – placing greater emphasis on those figures and being less inclined to simply report each day’s case numbers without more context.

But case numbers are still important because they can help show the impact of the virus on people’s day-to-day lives.

More cases mean more people at risk of being left with long COVID, and each infection places that person, and all of their close contacts, into isolation with everything that flows from being stuck at home for a week.

 

Will the easing of restrictions this week mean we’ll have more cases for longer?

In his advice to the Premier about the easing of restrictions earlier this week, Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson did warn the current approach “may have the effect of increasing cases and hospitalisations”.

Professor Clements said it may also mean that infections don’t go down as quickly as they would have otherwise.

But he said because the restrictions impact different groups in different ways, rising case numbers won’t necessarily have a direct impact on the number of people who end up seriously ill or dying from the virus.

 

What happens next?

The general attitude seems to be that where other states are seeing cases climb because of easing restrictions and the more transmissible BA.2 variant, WA likely won’t see the same.

But after the peak, and eventual fall, cases will inevitably rise again. That’s likely to coincide with winter, in part because we spend more time inside, but also because of the nature of the virus.

There have been suggestions the current spread of Omicron, and the natural immunity created by infection, will provide some protection against whatever comes next. But that will depend though on what future variants of COVID look like – and how governments decide to manage them.

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5 steps in writing an effective e-mail

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  1. Keep your e-mails short

Less is more. The shorter you can keep your e-mail while still relaying your message or question the better. At most we suggest no more than three paragraphs of text.

 

  1. Make the subject line clear and easy to read

The subject of the e-mail should contain enough information to let the recipient know the contents of an e-mail.

 

  1. Make the e-mail personal

Always include the name or alias of the e-mail recipient. If you want the e-mail to be even more personal include your real name in the e-mail as well.

 

  1. Watch your spelling and grammar

E-mail with spelling and other grammatical errors tells the reader it’s not that important. Always spell check, keep the below suggestions in mind, and proofread the e-mail before sending it out.

– Always use proper punctuation and capitalization.

– Never use shorthand or acronyms people don’t understand.

– Do not WRITE IN ALL CAPS; it gives the impression you’re YELLING.

 

  1. Use a clean signature

Signatures is an effective method of displaying your contact information at the bottom of e-mails. However, follow e-mail signature etiquette when creating a signature.

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Is Australia a Covid success?

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The pandemic – and PM Scott Morrison’s handling of it – was once expected to be a central element of his campaign to be re-elected. But with the election just a week away, Covid seems to have taken a backseat in Australian politics.

Mr Morrison took credit for saving thousands of lives in his first campaign video – a reminder of 2020 when infections first gripped Europe and the US, but life in much of Australia largely went on as usual.

Australia was hailed as a Covid success story as days went by with zero cases. But as the pandemic h1as worn on, that theory has been put to test.

The initial success

When the first cases emerged in Australia, Mr Morrison’s government reacted quickly with strict measures that controlled its spread. Every state too adopted fast and firm lockdowns, test and trace protocols, social distancing and mask mandates to contain outbreaks.

The country shut its borders – Australians couldn’t leave without official permission and those allowed in had to go through a two-week hotel quarantine. When the vaccines arrived, the drive picked up after a slow start. Australia is now one of the most vaccinated countries in the world with 95% of its eligible population double-jabbed.

It has also recorded just over 7,000 Covid deaths to date – a small number compared to other developed nations. Last week, the World Health Organization found Australia had recorded fewer deaths in 2020 and 2021 – from Covid or otherwise – than it had in a normal year.

But Australia’s harsh border policies and lockdowns came at a huge cost. Tens of thousands of people were locked in or out of the country, separated from their families.

The restrictions, however, couldn’t stop the highly transmissible and vicious Delta variant from breaking through in the middle of 2021. Mr Morrison, who had frequently boasted of Australia’s success in controlling the virus’ spread, asked people to “hang in there”. And when he was criticised for the slow vaccine rollout, he made a now-infamous comment that it “isn’t a race”.

From control to crisis

But the Omicron variant brought fresh panic and the government was caught off-guard again.

Australia’s case count, which stood at nearly 400,000 cases by the end of 2021, jumped to 2.1 million over the next month. While deaths have remained relatively low, Australia has already had more than twice as many Covid deaths this year compared to 2020 and 2021 combined.

Australians had swung from one extreme to another. After months of restrictions, they were left to navigate the new reality of living with the virus on their own – and this was while cases soared.

People queued for hours at overwhelmed PCR testing clinics, only to be turned away in the end. Rapid antigen tests were expensive and not available for a time. Rules about what constituted a “close contact” were confusing and officials flip-flopped on mask and other safety mandates.

As staffing and supply chains suffered, supermarkets emptied out and businesses struggled to survive.

But one of the starkest failures happened in the aged care sector. It was already struggling, but Covid proved devastating. Three quarters of the 910 Covid deaths in 2020 were aged care residents, according to a review by Lyn Gilbert, honorary professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Science in the University of Sydney.

 

Will Covid matter in this election?

Mr Morrison has at times used the campaign to talk up his economic handling of Covid. And his opponent, Anthony Albanese, used one question in a leader’s debate to get the prime minister to concede that his comment – “it’s not a race” – was miscalculated.

And yet, Covid has barely been mentioned otherwise. Professor “It’s somewhat surprising given that Australian news coverage for the last few years was dominated by Covid stories and different appraisals of state and federal government’s handling of the various aspects of Covid,” said Andrea Carson, associate professor of journalism and political science at La Trobe University.

Professor Carson added that data from a sample survey of 100,000 people by the national broadcaster ABC showed that Covid was a long way down the list of issues on voter’s minds.

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Living with Covid: Are Australians accepting people dying from Covid?

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We seem to be at the point in this pandemic where people die every day from COVID-19 … and we’re OK with that. Just last week, on average, 39 Australians died each day after catching the virus.

For example, just last week numerous videos circulated in the United States showing airline passengers cheering as the announcement was made that a federal judge had voided the mask mandate.

This is despite mask-wearing being one of the most effective ways of containing super-spreader events, according to epidemiologists like Saskia Popescu, who looked at the dropping of the mandate in despair. The US President’s chief medical adviser, Antony Fauci, said it was a decision a judge did not have the medical experience to make.

There have been similar scenes here in Australia as COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed. Witness the jubilation at the lifting of the dancing ban in December, 2020 or the joyous airport reunions as the Queensland border opened to domestic hotspots in time for Christmas, 2021.

By that point Queensland had still only recorded seven COVID-related deaths. We all knew what was coming and yet we did it anyway. The eighth death was reported on January 7 and by yesterday the total number of deaths of people with COVID-19 in the state had reached 869.

The impact has been disproportionately felt by older people. The federal health department has broken down the number of deaths in Australia by age group and it shows almost 83 per cent were aged 70 years or older.

 

‘Learn to live with the virus’

Perhaps government messaging has been a factor. As the phrase “learn to live with the virus” became more and more common people may have thought the worst was past.

The requirement to use the QR check-in app to enter restaurants and retailers was dropped. Even if people did check in, they weren’t being contacted if it later emerged that a positive case was present at the same time.

On Thursday, the rules for close contacts changed meaning those who are asymptomatic no longer had to isolate for seven days. A day later, the Queensland government announced it had disbanded its central contact-tracing team after 15 months of work that involved tracking more than 15,000 contacts and 10,000 cases. This is while Queensland goes through an Omicron outbreak.

What has changed is our attitudes. The federal government read the room when they shut international borders. It is hard to imagine going back to these or other restrictions without significant pushback or disobedience.

 

Getting life ‘back to normal’

What seems more plausible is that with the passage of time and the gaining of knowledge about COVID-19, people have shifted the virus in their mind to be a given risk of life.

We could do more — wearing masks at all times, investing in air filtration to remove airborne virus particles, or reinstating restrictions on the unvaccinated – but we seem more interested in getting life “back to normal”. It is like our acceptance of influenza, which claimed 1,080 Australian lives in 2019.

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