Coronavirus: Australian scientists develop wearable COVID-19 patch as Africans in China face racism

Davida Erdahl

‘I owe them my life’: Boris thanks hospital staff Doctor’s drug gamble to save COVID-19 patients Aussie scientists are developing a simple wearable patch able to detect which COVID-19 patients are most likely to develop a severe form of the disease and need a ventilator. Australian National University researcher Professor […]

  • ‘I owe them my life’: Boris thanks hospital staff
  • Doctor’s drug gamble to save COVID-19 patients

Aussie scientists are developing a simple wearable patch able to detect which COVID-19 patients are most likely to develop a severe form of the disease and need a ventilator.

Australian National University researcher Professor Mark Kendall has developed a microwavable sensor which attaches to the patient’s skin and measures fluid in the skin containing markers of disease.

The device would be worn by the patients like a watch.

media_cameraProfessor Mark Kendall pictured with his Nanopatch needle-free vaccine device in his lab at the University of Queensland. Pics Tim Marsden

Patients who become severely ill with COVID-19 suffer when their immune system goes into overdrive releasing inflammatory factors called cytokines, which clog their lungs with fluid.

One of these cytokines IL-6 is very low in healthy people and a German study has found higher levels of IL-6 can predict whether the patient is deteriorating and is likely to need a ventilator.

The device, being developed by the ANU and Brisbane based WearOptimo, will allow real time measurement of IL-6 levels in the patients.

“Real time testing of IL-6 in hospitalised COVID-19 positive patients is the game-changer we need to accurately identify those most likely to require precious ICU resources,” respiratory and intensive care physician Professor Keith McNeil said.

“That will enable more effective planning of the need for and use of those resources, and signal those requiring more intensive early intervention potentially avoiding more severe deterioration.”

It comes as Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, told The Times newspaper she was “80 per cent confident” the vaccine being developed by her team would work and could be available by September.

Human trials of the vaccine are due to begin in the next two weeks.

And the drug which led to the births of thousands of deformed babies, Thalidomide, has emerged as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Although it is no longer used to treat nausea caused by pregnancy thalidomide is still being used as an anti-inflammatory to treat some lung conditions, skin lesions and throat ulcers in HIV patients and cancer.

Researchers at Wenzhou Medical University are trialling the treatment in combination with several hormones in a randomised trial on 100 patients with COVID-19 with the study due to report at the end of May.

AFRICAN COMMUNITY TARGETED IN CHINA VIRUS CRACKDOWN

Africans in southern China are becoming targets of suspicion and are being subjected to forced evictions, arbitrary quarantines and mass coronavirus testing as the city ramps up its fight against imported infections.

China has largely curbed COVID-19; however, a recent cluster of cases linked to the Nigerian community in Guangzhou has sparked an alleged discrimination by locals and virus prevention officials.

Authorities in the industrial centre of 15 million said at least eight people diagnosed with the illness had spent time in the city’s Yuexiu district, known as “Little Africa”.

Five were Nigerian nationals who faced widespread anger after reports surfaced they had broken a mandatory quarantine and been to eight restaurants and other public places instead of staying home.

As a result, about 2000 people they came into contact with had to be tested for COVID-19 or undergo quarantine, state media said.

Guangzhou had confirmed 114 imported coronavirus cases as of Thursday – 16 of which were Africans. The rest were returning Chinese nationals.

As a result, Africans have become targets of suspicion, district and racism in China.

Tony Mathias, a 24-year-old exchange student from Uganda who was forced from his apartment on Monday, told AFP: “I’ve been sleeping under the bridge for four days with no food to eat … I cannot buy food anywhere, no shops or restaurants will serve me.”

“We’re like beggars on the street.”

China has banned foreign nationals from entering the country, and many travellers are being sent into 14-day quarantines either in their own accommodation or at centralised facilities.

The US State Department has issued an alert advising African-Americans, or those with potential contact with African nationals, to avoid Guangzhou.

HOPE FOR SLEEP-DEPRIVED AMID COVID-19

Lockdown has been leaving people lethargic, despite avoiding the commuters’ crush, but there is hope for the sleep-deprived.

There has been a spike in reports of sleep problems since the lockdown started on March 23. Oxford University Sleep Medicine professor Colin Espie has revealed how to get 40 winks when coronavirus restrictions have thrown out routines.

“There’s lots of talk about staying well in the day by staying home and looking after yourself, but it’s also important to stay well during the night time,” he said.

“Sleep is central to our lives and because it happens automatically we take it for granted.

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“Now we are in one place (most of the day) it is easy for sleep and wakefulness to merge.”

Prof Espie said putting an alarm clock on, getting as much sunlight as possible and doing exercise outside would help maintain sleep patterns.

Many people will get tired during the day under lockdown but he warned to avoid naps and instead do some exercise so you could sleep at night.

“People are getting less daylight and not getting up as early,” he said.

“That loss of light and change of habit allows the body clock to drift and can lead to a sense of malaise.

“It’s important to maintain a routine and to get daylight. This helps keep the rhythm, and do your exercise early in the day.”

AUSTRALIA’S DEATH TOLL RISES AS AUSSIES RETURN FROM ABROAD

Australia’s COVID-19 death toll has risen to 59 as Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says Aussies returning on an evacuation flight will be a driver for infection rates.

NSW has recorded another coronavirus death – a man in his 80s, who had been in close contact with someone diagnosed with the virus.

The man had no link to the Ruby Princess cruise ship, NSW health authorities have confirmed.

In Tasmania, a woman in her 70s died at the North-West Regional Hospital in Burnie, Premier Peter Gutwein said.

In Adelaide, a 74-year-old man – a patient at the Royal Adelaide Hospital – died as well, South Australia Health confirmed early Sunday.

The flight crew of the chartered flight from Uruguay disembark the plane at Melbourne Airport. Picture: AAP
media_cameraThe flight crew of the chartered flight from Uruguay disembark the plane at Melbourne Airport. Picture: AAP

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends,” SA Health said.

The news comes as Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said he expected Australians returning to Melbourne on an evacuation flight from Uruguay on Sunday would be a driver for the national infection rate in the next week.

“There is no place in the world I would rather be than Australia at the moment,” he said.

“Having said that … we cannot become complacent. We still have some community transmission.

New arrivals at Sydney International airport are ushered into waiting buses for hotel quarantine. Picture: Jeremy Piper
media_cameraNew arrivals at Sydney International airport are ushered into waiting buses for hotel quarantine. Picture: Jeremy Piper

“We are in a good place … but we have to maintain that good place.

“We will start to see a whole different way we interact, even when this is over, in terms of hand hygiene and distancing.

“The single biggest reason why we have not had a terrible outbreak of community transmission is we in Australia have got on top of those cases, two-thirds of whom have still been our citizens returning back from overseas, and these public health workers, in each of the state and territory health departments, who have done that.”

BINGE ON STUDYING, NOT NETFLIX AMID COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

Idle Australians in isolation have been told to swap binge watching Netflix for books as the price of short university courses and diplomas is slashed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government was dropping the cost of several online courses during the crisis to help newly-unemployed Australians retrain and gain skills in high demand sectors including health care.

“We are slashing the prices of degrees and diplomas in short courses, to enable people, rather than bingeing on Netflix, to be able to binge on studying,” Mr Tehan said.

“To binge on looking at a teaching degree, binge on looking at a nursing degree, an allied health degree.

“Areas where we need people, and we are going to need people as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy and Minister for Education Dan Tehan speak to the media at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: AAP
media_cameraChief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy and Minister for Education Dan Tehan speak to the media at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: AAP

Mr Tehan said the economic crisis caused by COVID19 could be turned into an opportunity for those now forced to reconsider their careers.

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And what we want to do is provide an opportunity for all those people who have had their lives turned upside down by the coronavirus to re-skill or look at different career options,” he said.

“If our people can seize this opportunity, if our universities can seize this opportunity, we will be able to ensure that education remains one of the foundations which will build this nation into the future.”

The cost to study short, online courses universities and private will be reduced from the beginning of May and initially run for six months.

The government is also providing a six-month exemption from the loan fees associated with FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans in a bid to encourage full-fee paying students to continue

their studies.

SPAIN PARTLY REOPENS WITH MASKS DISTRIBUTED

A drop in the number of coronavirus deaths in Spain has allowed the reopening of some parts of society, with more than 10 million face masks to be distributed.

Construction workers will be back on the tools on Tuesday local time, two weeks after they were stopped during an increase of Spain’s lockdown.

Tax accountants and some white collar workers were also due to return, but a general lockdown remains.

Hotels, restaurants, bars and retail shops will stay closed.

There have been 510 deaths in Spain, on the latest daily figures, with 16,353 fatalities overall. Picture: Felipe Dana
media_cameraThere have been 510 deaths in Spain, on the latest daily figures, with 16,353 fatalities overall. Picture: Felipe Dana
Two men on their balconies socialising during a nationwide confinement to counter the COVID-19 in Barcelona, Spain. Picture: Emilio Morenatti
media_cameraTwo men on their balconies socialising during a nationwide confinement to counter the COVID-19 in Barcelona, Spain. Picture: Emilio Morenatti

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said the changes did not mean Spain had beaten the virus.

“We are still in the confinement phase … We haven’t begun any relaxation (of the restrictions),” he said.

There were 510 deaths in Spain, on the latest daily figures, with 16,353 fatalities overall.

Medical staff made up at least 15 per cent, or 25,000, of Spain’s 160,000 cases.

Anyone who shows symptoms, including a temperature or a new persistent cough, was ordered to self isolate under Spain’s new easing of restrictions.

ITALY LAUNCHES DRONES TO TAKE TEMPERATURES

Italy has launched drones to take people’s temperature as it cracks down on coronavirus rule breakers while it extends its lockdown to May 3.

The drones bark instructions at people found walking in Italian streets, with information sent to a handler and fines dished out.

“Attention! You are in a prohibited area. Get out immediately,” the drones warn.

A drone operator monitors the temperature recordings but a second reading was also taken.

An officer of the municipal police (right), assisted by an instructor (left), pilots a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drone equipped with a thermal sensor for checking people’s temperature in Treviolo, near Bergamo. Picture: Miguel Medina/AFP
media_cameraAn officer of the municipal police (right), assisted by an instructor (left), pilots a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drone equipped with a thermal sensor for checking people’s temperature in Treviolo, near Bergamo. Picture: Miguel Medina/AFP

Matteo Copia, police commander in Treviolo, near Bergamo, said: “Drones are useful for controlling the territory.”

“At this moment of emergency, the Italian civil aviation authority has authorised us to control people using critical and non-critical operations.

“The critical operations involve city overflights.”

The latest death toll in Italy was 619, bringing the overall total to almost 20,000 but the number of patients in hospital has decreased.

There were 116 fewer people in intensive care, but 3381 remain in high care units.

Overall, almost 30,000 people were in hospital, but that had dropped by almost 100.

IRAN REOPENS BUSINESSES, RISKING SECOND WAVE OF COVID-19

Iran has reopened some businesses at the weekend as officials admit they were risking a second wave of coronavirus infections.

The heavily sanctioned country has reported only 4,357 deaths from more than 70,000 infections despite being at the centre of the early outbreaks.

The nation’s heavily controlled media makes it difficult to question or verify the statistics.

Iran was already struggling under heavy US economic bans because of its nuclear program, and the decision to reopen was linked to the impact coronavirus was having on the economy.

Many Iranians had been ignoring lockdown rules anyway, with health officials warning of more deaths.

“If people become arrogant over the relatively better situation now and disregard anti-corona health measures … we will surely face a hard and heavy phase (of the disease),” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on state TV.

VODKA, SAUNA, ICE HOCKEY PROMOTED TO FIGHT COVID-19

A head-in-the-sand response to coronavirus has threatened a major disaster in Belarus, an Eastern European country bordering Poland and Russia.

President Alexander Lukashenko has promoted vodka, saunas and ice hockey to fight the disease which has been cutting a swathe across the globe.

Professional sport has continued and there has been no lockdown.

The country has officially reported 23 deaths from 2226 cases, while its neighbour Poland has 208 deaths from 6356 cases.

“The situation is catastrophic,” Andrei Sannikov, a former presidential candidate, told The Times.

“I suspect the real figures could be five or ten times higher than what the people are being told.

Patrick O’Connor, who led a WHO delegation in a visit to Belarus this week, said Belarus was detecting cases and isolating those people.

But the disease was spreading in the community, he said.

“Belarus is entering a new phase in the evolution of the outbreak,” he said.

“We are seeing community transmission occurring … This situation is concerning and warrants new measures to be put into place.”

There has been a spike in reports of sleep problems since the lockdown started on March 23.

AUSSIES RETURN FROM OVERSEAS

Long-stuck Aussie travellers flown from Peru, Uruguay, India and Nepal are trickling through Sydney and Melbourne before being shuttled to hotels for two weeks of quarantine.

Nearly 100 of them spent weeks stranded on an Antarctic cruise ship off the coast of Uruguay while another 63 left Kathmandu on a Canadian government-backed flight.

“Thanks also to (the) Canadian High Commission in New Delhi and Canadian Govt. To do what you did remotely … hats off,” Australian Ambassador to Nepal Peter Budd tweeted on Saturday (April 11).

More than 100 Australian passengers from the Antarctic cruise ship Greg Mortimer have arrived in Melbourne from Uruguay.

Passengers from the Australian cruise ship Greg Mortimer, get on a plane to be flown to Australia at the international airport in Montevideo, Uruguay. Picture: AP
media_cameraPassengers from the Australian cruise ship Greg Mortimer, get on a plane to be flown to Australia at the international airport in Montevideo, Uruguay. Picture: AP

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Annaliese van Diemen said up to 70 per cent of people – an estimated 80 people – on-board the Melbourne flight could have coronavirus.

Dr Annaliese van Diemen said preparations are being made to test and quarantine those on board repatriation flights from Peru, Delhi and Uruguay.

“Everybody will be assessed when they get off the flight by a medical flight by a medical team,” Dr van Diemen said.

Passengers of the COVID-19 coronavirus-stricken Australian liner Greg Mortimer disembark in personal protective equipment from the cruise ship. Picture: AFP
media_cameraPassengers of the COVID-19 coronavirus-stricken Australian liner Greg Mortimer disembark in personal protective equipment from the cruise ship. Picture: AFP

“If that assessment determines they need testing, then yes they will be tested.”

Passengers will go into 14 days of isolation in a hotel.

In the US, the death toll surged towards 20,000 after more than 2000 people died in a day.

The global infection toll early on Sunday was 1.75 million with nearly 110,000 deaths.

THOUSANDS TO LEAVE QUARANTINE

Thousands of recently returned travellers will be released from the guarded quarantine they have spent the past fortnight in.

Australia’s daily infection rate was increasing at least 15 per cent every day when they entered but it has now dropped to less than two per cent.

Australia’s total cases sits at 6302 cases, with 56 people having died from the virus.

The source of nearly half those cases, NSW, on Saturday recorded its fifth day with fewer than 50 new infections.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth. Picture: AAP
media_cameraDeputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth. Picture: AAP

Some 240 people are in hospital nationwide, with 80 of those in intensive care units.

One-third of cases have been locally acquired.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth has conceded the restrictions have made it difficult for Australians wanting to celebrate Easter or Passover. “We’re very happy with what we’re seeing Australians do around Easter,” he said. “We have got to remember that this is a holiday time, we’ve asked Australians to break a lifelong habit with this weekend.” He didn’t think isolated cases of poor behaviour was cause for a widespread concern, but wouldn’t speculate if an potential spike in cases down the track could be attributed to Easter.

“What we are aiming for is that the news continues to be good.” Efforts are also ongoing to return hundreds of passengers from cruise ship Vasco Da Gama to their home states.

They were forced to quarantine on Western Australia’s Rottnest Island but, despite being cleared, are now stranded in Perth due to a lack of flights.

US TAKES THE UNWANTED LEAD IN NUMBER OF COVID-19 DEATHS

The US now has the largest official reported national coronavirus death toll in the world.

After more than 2000 Americans died in just 24 hours – a horrific figure not yet seen anywhere else – the US tally of more than 19,700 dead surpassed Italy’s tally of about 19,500.

Italy, with a population less than a fifth of the size of the States, has a far worse death rate.

Grand Central Terminal stands nearly empty due to the coronavirus epidemic. The US will have the most cases, globally. Picture: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
media_cameraGrand Central Terminal stands nearly empty due to the coronavirus epidemic. The US will have the most cases, globally. Picture: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

But the US also has by far the highest number of reported COVID-19 infections at 503,594, although western countries are highly sceptical about the numbers being reported in China which has made disputed claims to have contained the virus.

Spain has the second-highest number of cases with nearly 160,000.

Figures released by Johns Hopkins University show 2108 people died in the US overnight, while the UK’s death toll approached 10,000 with nearly 2000 dead in just 48 hours.

Early today, the global infection tally was nearly 1.75 million with 108,000 deaths across the world.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio wears a mask while visiting a temporary hospital at the national tennis centre. New York is the epicentre of the pandemic. Picture: AFP
media_cameraNew York City Mayor Bill De Blasio wears a mask while visiting a temporary hospital at the national tennis centre. New York is the epicentre of the pandemic. Picture: AFP

That’s far more than any other country. Spain has the second-most cases with 158,273.

At least 18,777 people have died making the US second only to Italy, which has reported 18,849 deaths.

New York remains the epicentre of the outbreak in the United States, with 94,409 confirmed cases and 7067 deaths.

While the White House claimed the spread of the virus was starting to level off, the news indicated that the virus had not yet reached its peak in America.

Originally published as Australia’s new virus detecting device as racism spikes in China

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