Researchers at the University of Queensland could begin clinical trials on coronavirus sufferers – using HIV and malaria tablets – in Australian hospitals by the end of March.
The trials would be based on test tube results that showed the drugs had effectively treated infections of the COVID-19 virus.
Professor David Paterson from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Clinical Research told Sky News the drugs were already licensed for use in Australila and had “a good safety record”
“This is not a new vaccine that has to be developed from scratch,” he said.
“So we’re finalising the protocol of how we’re going to do it right now, it will go to hospital ethics committees hopefully by Friday and hopefully by the end of next week we will have our first patients enrolled.
“How quickly the study gets finished will depend on how many patients we see but it could be as soon as three months that we know which of these treatments – the HIV drug, the malaria drug or the two put together – is actually the best.
“What we want to do is we want to get in early, as soon as a person is diagnosed in hospital with a case of COVID-19, and we want to stop them going down that path that leads them to an intensive care unit admission … and unfortunately death.”
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has updated its advice for pregnant women.
The College says there is a lack of detailed information about the impact of Covid-19 infection on pregnant women and their babies, given the recent and novel nature of the virus.
The pregnancy advice is therefore also based on learnings from influenza infection, and also the medical response to the SARS epidemic in 2003.
“Some babies born to women with symptoms of coronavirus in China have been born prematurely,” the College states.
“It is unclear whether coronavirus was the causative factor, or the doctors made the decision for the baby to be born early because the woman was unwell. Newborn babies and infants do not appear to be at increased risk of complications from the infection.
“At the moment there is no evidence that the virus is carried in breastmilk and, therefore, the well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19 through breastmilk.
“Pregnant women are advised to avoid all non-essential overseas travel.”
In Australia, only 90 MPs will come to the capital, Canberra, next week for parliamentary sittings.
Ahead of an expected further crack-down on large group gatherings aimed at slowing the spread of the disease, the Coalition and Labor have agreed to limit the number of MPs coming to Canberra.
Under the arrangement, which was thrashed out between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese in a phone discussion on Tuesday morning, 30 pairs will be agreed between the two parties, meaning 60 of Parliament’s 151 MPs will stay in their electorates.
It is unclear how each side will decide which MPs come to Canberra and which will stay in their electorates.
The move comes after the presiding officers of Parliament announced a range of measures to limit the number of visitors to capital hill, including restrictions on sponsored pass holders, and the closure of public galleries.
Sydney Opera House cancels public performances
Californians urged to ‘shelter in place’
San Francisco and five other Bay Area counties in California have ordered all residents to shelter-in-place to curb the spread of coronavirus, in a drastic move similar to ones taken in Italy, Spain and China, but the first of its kind in the US.
The order came Monday following a 14% increase in positive coronavirus cases in California, with 335 reported and six deaths. More than a third of all positive cases were in Santa Clara county, the home of Silicon Valley, as well as two deaths. San Francisco has had 40 positive cases.
More than 6.7 million people live in San Francisco and the five counties issuing the order – Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties. The order, which goes into effect at midnight Tuesday until 7 April, does not confine residents to their home unless they have permission to leave, as the lockdown orders in Italy and China do, but directs them to stay inside unless absolutely necessary.
New Zealand launches massive spending package
New Zealand’s government has announced a spending package equivalent to 4% of the country’s GDP in an attempt to fight the effects of Covid-19 on the country’s economy, in what ministers called the most significant peace-time economic plan in the country’s modern history.
“This package is one of the largest in the world on a per capita basis,” Grant Robertson, the finance minister, told reporters at New Zealand’s parliament on Tuesday.
Latest China figures – and what they mean
Trump calls Covid-19 “the Chinese virus”
The Costa Rican president says predictive models on the virus are “not that precise”.
The Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado has told the Guardian it is “hard to say” whether the coronavirus outbreak in Central America can be controlled and has cautioned that predictive models for the spread of virus are “not that precise”.
On Monday, Costa Rica declared a state of emergency over the global pandemic and announced it would close their borders to foreign nationals that do not reside in the country from the end of Wednesday.
Speaking to the Guardian hours after the announcement, President Alvarado said he expected the economic hit from the virus on the popular ecotourism destination to be temporary. He said:
We are following the situation regionally. I believe it is too soon to assess what the movement of it is going to be. That’s why I believe that all the region has to take extreme measures of social distancing. And yes, we are concerned about what can happen in the weeks to follow but we’re keeping track of how this is developing.”
When asked whether he believes Central America could control the spread of the virus, President Alvarado said:
It’s hard to say. When you look at other countries, many of them have had the exponential peaks and you’ve seen the cases that people are following the most are the ones like South Korea, which they say have been handled in the best manner.
But one of the more complicated things is that it is still not that precise to predict. The models are not that precise to predict [the spread of the virus]. I believe all the countries are hoping for the best but planning for the worst and taking the measures necessary to decrease the effects.”
All Australian cricket cancelled at all levels
All cricket in Australia has been cancelled, including the Sheffield Shield final, with NSW declared champions.
“Cricket Australia has today announced the cancellation of the Marsh Sheffield Shield final and recommended that all cricket played within the community is ceased for the remainder of the 2019-20 season in response to the global coronavirus pandemic,” a statement read.
NSW were awarded the title after leading the Sheffield Shield competition through nine rounds having won six, lost two and drawn one. Their nearest rivals Victoria had posted just three wins.