The lifesaving Covid-19 treatments offering hope amid Australia’s high case numbers | Australia news


With Australia’s Covid circumstances per capita among the many highest on the earth, new antivirals reminiscent of Paxlovid and Lagevrio in addition to intravenous remedies like sotrovimab are providing some hope for the severely unwell, aged and immunocompromised. Nevertheless Australia’s peak physique for GPs says some folks at biggest danger of dying from Covid are being prevented from accessing these remedies.

Medical editor Melissa Davey breaks down what Australia’s excessive case numbers and deaths imply, how these new remedies work, and the obstacles to accessing them.

How one can take heed to podcasts: all the things that you must know

Covid cases at an all-time high, free testing scrapped… so what will happen now? | Coronavirus


Nearly 5 million folks within the UK are actually believed to have Covid-19, it was estimated final week – an all-time excessive determine for the illness which first struck the nation two years in the past. Hospital admissions and deaths are additionally rising however not almost so sharply, scientists added.

This sharp soar in case numbers is being pushed by the virus variant BA.2 which is much more transmissible than the unique Omicron model that swept the UK at first of the 12 months.

The newest wave comes simply as the federal government has ended free testing for the virus and because the nation prepares to get pleasure from its Easter holidays. This prospect raises the worry that additional will increase in case numbers, adopted by rises in hospital admissions and deaths, may afflict the UK.

However as different researchers have identified, spring has arrived and hotter climate will permit increasingly more folks to combine outside the place they’re much less prone to infect one another. The result is unclear, briefly. So what’s the probably trajectory of the illness for the remainder of the 12 months? And what key measures must be taken now to restrict the unfold of Covid-19?

Ought to mask-wearing laws stay strict?

“I don’t suppose so, except you might be somebody who is especially weak,” says Professor Paul Hunter, of the College of East Anglia. “The newest ONS traits survey doesn’t discover a lot good thing about masks carrying any extra – although that doesn’t imply masks don’t work. It’s in all probability simply that individuals who haven’t been carrying masks usually tend to have had the an infection already and so are much less prone.”

This level was backed by Professor Rowland Kao, of Edinburgh College. “With all different restrictions just about eliminated, we’ve got little or no proof that fabric masks, akin to generally worn, have a lot effectiveness towards Omicron, as a result of its increased transmissibility.”

Nonetheless, the vaccine skilled Peter English argues that mask-wearing nonetheless has an essential function to play in limiting the unfold of Covid. “Masks are explicit efficient for supply management – at stopping an infectious individual from infecting others. And there are individuals who stay at excessive threat from Covid-19. They can not defend themselves in addition to they should by carrying a masks themselves. They depend on others to guard them by masking up in enclosed public areas.”

Can we anticipate UK infections to peak quickly?

Sure, says Professor Sheila Hen, of Cambridge College. “With respect to Omicron BA.2, it can in all probability peak within the subsequent couple of weeks in England and Wales to be adopted in two to 3 weeks by way of consequent Covid-mentioned deaths.”

In reality, infections could have peaked already, says Hunter. “My finest guess is that they peaked round 21 March, however provided that the ONS survey is a prevalence survey and at all times revealed every week behind we should always not anticipate to see falling ONS estimates till subsequent week on the earliest and doubtless not till the next Friday,” he added.

Nonetheless, the image is prone to be complicated, added Kao. “As testing goes down and surveillance is slowed or stopped, it can turn into very tough to inform for positive.”

Are we prone to get a Covid-free summer season?

No, says virologist Julian Tang, of Leicester College. “Covid-19 will persist via summer season and into autumn – it has not turn into totally seasonal but, in contrast to flu, which does disappear nearly fully all through spring and summer season.”

The seasonal behaviour of flu additionally contrasts with these frequent colds which can be attributable to coronaviruses and which persist all 12 months spherical – albeit at comparatively low ranges – however with peaks in autumn and winter, he added.

This level was backed by Hunter. “Even within the absence of a brand new variant, I think we are going to proceed to see infections at a price of some tens of hundreds a day, however most received’t be recognized and recorded.

“We’re solely diagnosing about one in seven to 1 in eight new infections now and this will likely drop. Nonetheless the speed of hospitalisations per an infection is decrease than at any time and does appear to be persevering with to fall, so hopefully we received’t see many Covid-19 hospitalisations throughout summer season.”

Kao additionally warned that an infection numbers have been additionally prone to stay excessive. “We now have to keep in mind that for the majority of individuals vaccinated final autumn, there shall be a considerable drop in immune safety except all adults are supplied boosters. This mix signifies that it’s probably that there’ll stay appreciable Omicron an infection circulating, although we nonetheless anticipate the general stage to drop in comparison with now.”

What route ought to vaccine growth take to guard us towards future rises in circumstances and new variants?

A variety of enhancements in vaccines was highlighted by English, who pinpointed a number of key areas the place efforts must be directed. “Present vaccines are very efficient at stopping critical sickness but when we’re to forestall transmission, we’d like vaccines that are simpler at stopping transmission. Ideally, we’d even have vaccines which induce longer-lasting immunity,” he instructed the Observer.

As well as, it will be useful to develop new strategies of vaccine administration akin to nasal sprays and vaccines which were up to date to match circulating variants in addition to Covid-19 vaccines which will be given together with flu vaccines.

“We could nicely require an annual vaccination towards Covid-19 as a result of waning immunity – simply as we do for influenza. It could make a variety of sense to mix the 2 in a single annual jab,” added English.

Hitting the high notes: the lessons of all singing from the same sheet | Life and style


Tright here is one thing about singing in public that solicits everybody’s consideration immediately and calls for a response. It makes its personal climate system wherever it occurs. Even singing that’s wildly off-tempo and off-key, like drunken karaoke, can’t be ignored. And when the singing is gorgeous, it declares the singer’s emotional state and replicates it within the listener, gluing them collectively briefly in a second of shared consideration.

Now we have seen and heard this in movies which have emerged from Ukraine previously few weeks and gone viral. MPs lustily singing the Ukrainian nationwide anthem as they returned to parliament. Dad and mom singing folks songs to their youngsters in underground stations to maintain their spirits up. A younger lady silencing the opposite occupants of a Kyiv bunker with a rendition of Let it Go from Frozen. Singing stops us in our tracks in a manner that speech not often can.

I’ve all the time beloved to sing. For many of my grownup life, although, I’ve simply sung to myself – within the bathe, within the automobile, or alongside the corridors at work. Then, three years in the past, I joined a sea-shanty choir. Liverpool, the place I stay, has a wealthy shanty custom and our choir’s chief, Professor Gerry Smyth, is a number one scholar of the shape. We have been an unlikely crew to be singing these rough-hewn sailors’ work songs, meant to accompany the hauling of ropes on ship. Girls outnumbered males in our group, as they do in most choirs, and none of us appears to be like as if we might heave up an anchor. I get seasick on the Mersey ferry. However the sense of incongruity quickly wore off, and I discovered, together with the 2 million different folks within the UK who belong to choirs, that singing in unison and concord with others is a joyful factor.

We began doing gigs in pubs and bars, the primary time I had sung for an viewers since concert events at college. Writing, my solely different inventive outlet, connects with its readers one-sidedly and remotely. Largely it generates well mannered curiosity or indifference, or any enthusiasm is long-delayed – as should you’d dropped a stone down a very deep nicely and heard, months or years later, the tiny splash of a reader’s response because it hit the water. Once we sang, the response was on the spot. We awoke the room.

After which Covid silenced us. Some choirs migrated on-line, with various success. We had a few desultory conferences on Zoom, however quickly realised that you would be able to’t sing in unison due to the millisecond time lag. The urge to sing remained. So, to boost my spirits within the boredom and anxiousness of lockdown, I began singing to karaoke backing tracks on YouTube. I quickly acquired a weirdly eclectic repertoire, largely ruled by the singers (Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell, David Cassidy) who sing in the identical keys as me. On my each day stroll, I might flip a nook and discover myself singing full-throated to a startled-looking canine walker.

It was well worth the odd awkward encounter. Singing, I’m certain, has acquired me by way of the final two troublesome years. Its psychological and bodily well being advantages are nicely established. It has been discovered to cut back stress, launch mood-boosting hormones and improve the physique’s tolerance of ache. Graham Welch, professor of music training on the UCL Institute of Schooling, has collated this proof for greater than 30 years. For him, the physiological and psychological results of singing each derive from its standing as a primal act, “interwoven with core emotional states which are central to the human situation”. Once you sing, you are feeling your chest and head vibrating and the lungs correctly filling and emptying. It reminds you that you’re a residing, respiratory, sentient physique, taking over its personal area on the planet and making its personal noise. Novice singers are likely to delude themselves about how good they sound. A voice all the time sounds higher to its proprietor than to an viewers, as a result of it resonates extra sonorously by way of the bones of the cranium than by way of the air. (This explains why we discover recorded variations of our voices so skinny and disappointing.) Nonetheless, I admit it: I just like the sound of my very own voice.

The voice is the oldest musical instrument of all – and essentially the most difficult. At root it’s simply an exhaled breath, the noise made when the air rising up from the lungs vibrates towards the glottis, the V-shaped aperture between the vocal folds, earlier than being modulated by the jaw, tongue, lips and enamel because the air travels by way of them. However actually singing is completed with the entire physique, and each facet of our carriage and posture impacts it. Any little bit of pressure within the shoulders, chest or stomach muscle tissue, even locked knees or a sprained ankle, impacts the sound that comes out of our mouths. That sound is your vocal tone, one thing as distinctive to you as your fingerprints. It would delight or mortify you, however you’ll be able to’t be detached to it, any greater than you might be detached to the face that greets you within the mirror. Prefer it or not, it’s you.

Even essentially the most angelic-sounding voice nonetheless feels totally human, with its personal knotty grain and texture, its personal unreproducible flaws and glitches. The thinker Martha Nussbaum argues that we measure aesthetic achievements, as we do athletic achievements, towards the constraints of the human physique. “Human limits construction the human excellences, and provides wonderful motion its significance,” she writes. When a soprano pulls off these outrageous high Fs within the Queen of the Evening aria from The Magic Flute, it astonishes and delights as a result of it’s simply, however solely simply, inside the limits of human lung energy and vocal vary. Like Usain Bolt operating 100m in 9.58 seconds, this sort of singing feels virtuosic, however nonetheless one thing {that a} mere mortal might do.

In her e-book about singing, Bare on the Albert Corridor, the musician Tracey Thorn factors out what a mundanely technical enterprise it’s. “There’s extra pondering in singing than you may assume,” she writes. The singer should study to breathe in all the suitable locations and launch the air slowly, take little top-up breaths the place they’ll, work their tongue around the trickier consonants, and practice their swallowing muscle tissue, close to the larynx, to sit down nonetheless whereas the larynx does all of the work. That swoon-inducing impact achieved by transferring dramatically up and down the dimensions is a matter of managing what opera singers name the passaggio: the transition between the deeper and thicker “chest voice” and the upper and lighter “head voice”.

I don’t a lot take care of the bravura model of singing on The Voice and different TV expertise exhibits, with its love of portamento (sliding as much as the observe) and melisma (utilizing numerous notes on one syllable). It appears like singing as aggressive sport, all vocal pyrotechnics on the expense of the phrases. And studying a music for me is about attending to know the phrases intimately, savouring them within the mouth earlier than letting them stream into the melody and metre. It means going over the chewier diction, pondering fastidiously about stress and intonation, and noting the place you want an additional breath to sing by way of a line break with out breaking the syntactical sense.

Singing day-after-day is heartening as a result of you’ll be able to hear your self enhancing. Nearly with out attempting, I discovered my tone getting smoother, my vary increasing and my breath sustaining for longer notes and phrases. Because the pandemic wore on and the times melded right into a homogeneous mass, singing gave my life not less than some measure of progress and momentum. Nonetheless, I longed to sing in a bunch once more. Group singing was one of many final actions to be launched from coronavirus restrictions, as a result of the respiratory droplets and aerosols that singers exhale are thought to make it high-risk.

Even earlier than Covid, singers would fret continually in regards to the state and well being of their voices; throat-knackering air-con, dry sinuses, or that little tickle that may be a chilly, or worse. Singers know that the voice is like life itself – a fragile, mortal, capricious factor that may falter and founder with out warning. The lungs lose energy as we become old, and the muscle fibres within the vocal folds turn into stiffer and thinner. The voice is the one musical instrument that’s alive, and the one one which ages and dies with its proprietor.

And but this fragility is exactly what makes the voice so magical. The ugly and unreliable mechanics of singing, all that flapping round of laryngeal cartilage and muscle, are invisible. The voice has no correct residence, within the physique or wherever else; it’s pure motion, current solely when launched into area. So when it materialises within the presence of different folks it appears like a small miracle, as if we have been mainlining the contents of one other human coronary heart.

To sing, as Joan Baez as soon as wrote, is “to coast into the hearts of the individuals who pay attention, to inform them that life is to stay, that love is there, that nothing is a promise, however that magnificence exists, and have to be hunted for and located”. Singing in public is as close to as our disenchanted world will get to the “winged phrases” that the heroes of Greek epics converse, which fly like feathered arrows to pierce their listeners and depart them modified. On the finish of March, our shanty choir will carry out in public for the primary time in over two years – the primary of many extra gigs, I hope. I really feel like I’ve already wasted an excessive amount of of my life simply singing to myself. Now, each time I get the prospect, I’ll sing to anybody who needs to listen to.

Covid resurgence sweeping UK with infections in over-70s at record high | Coronavirus


A resurgence of Covid instances is below means throughout the UK, with infections within the over-70s at a file excessive, official figures have proven.

Primarily based on random swab checks taken in the neighborhood, the Workplace for Nationwide Statistics (ONS) estimates that nearly 5%, or 1,544,600 folks, in England had Covid within the week ending 12 March, and three.5% of individuals within the oldest age group. Infections additionally reached a file excessive in Scotland, with one in 14 testing constructive.

The excessive prevalence amongst older folks has prompted unease, after stories this week that vaccine immunity declines steeply in care residence residents. It’s six months since many individuals on this age group had their final vaccine dose.

“Older age teams, particularly individuals who have been isolating for therefore lengthy, at the moment are fairly weak even when they’ve saved updated with their vaccines,” stated Paul Hunter, a professor of drugs on the College of East Anglia.

The rise in infections is being pushed by the extra transmissible Omicron BA.2 variant, which has change into the dominant pressure throughout the UK. It transmits extra readily than the unique BA.1 pressure however there’s good cross-immunity between the 2 variants.

“It’s mainly sweeping up everybody who didn’t get Omicron the primary time round,” Hunter stated. This, he added, meant the present wave was extra prone to observe a brief, sharp trajectory as had been seen in Denmark and the Netherlands, the place there had been an Omicron BA.2 wave.

“It wouldn’t shock me if it peaks earlier than the tip of March,” he stated.

Prof James Naismith, a director on the Rosalind Franklin Institute on the College of Oxford, famous the upper prevalence in Scotland than England – regardless of its extra stringent guidelines, together with a continued masks mandate in outlets and on transport.

“The truth is that variations in management measures between the international locations are meaningless,” he stated. “Prevalence is rising in each space and throughout age teams. With out vaccines, this may be bleak .… Nations with poor vaccination charges face a really difficult future.

“For the UK, my important concern is for the weak, for whom this illness is severe and for these whose lives might be blighted by lengthy Covid. Each effort should be made to triple-vaccinate as many individuals as doable, quadruple-vaccinate probably the most weak and make accessible antivirals.”

Sarah Crofts, the top of analytical outputs for the ONS An infection Survey, stated: “These newest figures present additional will increase in infections throughout a lot of the UK with excessive ranges of an infection all over the place, and in Scotland the very best our survey has seen.

“These will increase are largely pushed by the marked rise of the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant,” she added. “It’s notable additionally that infections have risen in all age teams, with the over-70s reaching their highest estimate since our survey started.”