Small coronavirus outbreak at Australian meat factory as cases keep dropping

Over the past week Australia has recorded an average of only 13 new cases each day, the health ministry said. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 02 May 2020

Small coronavirus outbreak at Australian meat factory as cases keep dropping

  • Over the past week Australia has recorded an average of only 13 new cases each day
  • Local clusters of COVID-19 and cruise ships infections have accounted for a large percentage of Australia’s nearly 6,800 cases and 93 deaths

A small coronavirus cluster has emerged at a meat factory in the Australian state of Victoria, health officials said on Saturday, as parts of the country started easing social distancing restrictions after suppressing the infection rate to below 1 percent.
Australia and neighboring New Zealand, which have closed borders and imposed lockdowns and tight social restrictions, have been hailed for containing COVID-19 outbreaks, but the measures are set to push both economies into recession.
Over the past week Australia has recorded an average of only 13 new cases each day, the health ministry said.
Local clusters of COVID-19 and cruise ships infections have accounted for a large percentage of Australia’s nearly 6,800 cases and 93 deaths.
Victoria reported seven new cases on Saturday, three of which were related to a meat-processing facility, said its health minister. A total of eight employees have tested positive.
In Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) two out of five new cases were recorded at the Newmarch aged care facility in Sydney, where about 60 people have been infected and 13 died.
New Zealand, which had imposed a total lockdown for all its ciitzens, recorded one new death on Saturday, bringing the toll to 20. There were two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections on Saturday, that raised the total to 1,134.
The Australian government will meet next Friday, a week ahead of schedule, to decide whether to ease social distancing restrictions, as the numbers of new infections dwindle and pressure mounts for business and schools to reopen. .
Some of Australia’s states and territories have already moved this week to ease social distancing rules, to a various degree, reopening parks and allowing for more gatherings and social activities.
But the state of Victoria is not expected to ease its measures before a state of emergency expires on May 11.
On Saturday, Australia’s National Rugby League cleared another key step in the plan to resume their 2020 season before the end of the month when the New Zealand Warriors team was given permission to enter the country.
NSW said on Saturday it will reopen some beauty salons for purchases only, not services. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that a gradual loosening of “onerous” restrictions key to keep the virus under control.
“If we take our foot off the brake, we’ll certainly end up in deep trouble,” Hazzard said.


Proteins in COVID-19 patients’ blood could predict severity of illness, study finds

Updated 28 min 49 sec ago

Proteins in COVID-19 patients’ blood could predict severity of illness, study finds

  • The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get
  • Could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease

LONDON: Scientists have found 27 key proteins in the blood of people infected with COVID-19 which they say could act as predictive biomarkers for how ill a patient could become with the disease.
In research published in the journal Cell Systems on Tuesday, scientists at Britain’s Francis Crick Institute and Germany’s Charite Universitaetsmedizin Berlin found the proteins are present in different levels in COVID-19 patients, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get when infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, they said, and could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 374,000 people worldwide and infected more than 6.7 million.
Doctors and scientists say those infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, respond differently — with some developing no symptoms at all, while others need to be hospitalized and others suffer fatal infection.
“A test to help doctors predict whether a COVID-19 patient is likely to become critical or not would be invaluable,” said Christoph Messner, an expert in molecular biology at the Crick Institute who co-led the research.
He said such tests would help doctors decide how best manage the disease for each patient, as well as identify those most at risk of needing hospital treatment or intensive care.
Messner’s team used a method called mass spectrometry to rapidly test for the presence and quantity of various proteins in blood plasma from 31 COVID-19 patients at Berlin’s Charite hospital. They then validated their results in 17 other patients with COVID-19 at the same hospital, and in 15 healthy people who acted as controls.
Three of the key proteins identified were linked with interleukin IL-6, a protein known to cause inflammation and also a known marker for severe COVID-19 symptoms.