Covid-19 in Melbourne [Australia] and Viral Load

For those in other parts of the world, my city, Melbourne, is in the middle of a Covid-19 resurgence, and we’re being locked down again.

Much has been made about the so-called ‘error of judgement’ that led to a private security company being tasked with keeping travellers in hotel quarantine. The truth, however is a lot more complicated:

  • yes, the security guards assigned to the hotels were not properly ‘educated’ about the virus,
  • and yes, some of those security guards caught the virus themselves,
  • and yes, the infected guards did bring the virus home to their friends and family,
  • but…they would not have been able to infect as many friends and family if Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal National Party had not pushed so hard for Victoria to reopen.

Part of the re-opening in Victoria included the ability to visit more people outside of our immediate families. This led to big family get togethers, especially in migrant families for whom family connections are not only strong but vital.

Now think – what would a family get together be without kisses and hugs?

‘The government said it’s okay to get together so it must be safe. And if it’s safe, why should we not kiss and hug?’

One of the reasons why social distancing is so important could well be viral load.

No idea what that is?

I was struggling with the concept myself until I watched Dr John Campbell’s video this morning:

There is some technical stuff in the video, but Dr John is very good at explaining complex ideas in simple ways so please don’t skip this one.

For those who only want the bottom line, it’s this:

  1. a small viral load – i.e. about 10 viral particles – will likely get caught in the mucus membranes of the nose and throat, giving your immune system TIME to mount a counter attack. By the time the virus has spread enough to reach the lungs, the body is already fighting back. This could explain why some disease is less deadly.
  2. a large viral load – i.e. about 100 viral particles – goes straight to the lungs. Once in the lungs, it begins causing pneumonia before the immune system has had a chance to fight back. The lungs are a perfect place for the virus to reproduce and spread, so it does. This could explain why lung infections can be so deadly.

The mechanism determining whether we get a mild infection or a severe one is much more complicated that just viral load, but understanding the impact of viral load can make a difference in how we behave.

If I walk down the street, wearing a mask, and I pass you, also wearing a mask, the chance of being infected with a large viral load is almost zero.

But if you and I are in a crowded bus, and neither of us is wearing a mask, the chance of breathing in a lot of viral particles goes way up.

And finally, if we are friends and we kiss and hug when we meet, the chance of becoming infected or passing on the infection sky rockets. Why? Because the pathways for the virus include:

  • breath to breath
  • contact to contact, via saliva
  • hand to hand and then from hand to mouth/nose/eyes
  • passive droplets in the air
  • passive droplets on surfaces
  • passive droplets on uncooked food such as salads, or cooked foods that may have been touched by hand [after cooking], or breathed on accidentally [after cooking]
  • passive droplets on plates, cutlery, towels, toys

I could go on and on, but I think you can see where this is going. The more contact, the greater the likelihood of severe infection. So yes, in hindsight, a private security company obviously wasn’t the right choice. But who would have been? The police? What makes us think the police or the ADF [Australian Defence Force] would have been better educated about pandemic protocols?

And finally, let’s not forget the bloody great elephant in the room: the reopening. If people had not been allowed to visit each other, the virus could not have spread from the security guards in the first place. Or if it had, the clusters would have been small and manageable.

It takes two to tango, and Victoria’s dance partners included:

  • Scott Morrison and henchmen like Dan Tehan, the Federal Education Minister who castigated my Premier for being too cautious and not opening up the schools faster.
  • And let’s not forget Michael O’Brien. Michael who? Michael O’Brien, the leader of the LNP here in Victoria. Yes, the man in the same party as Scott Morrison et al. The man so desperate to gain political advantage that he made attack ads against my Premier, telling Victorians that they were missing out, being left behind, doing it tough because we weren’t opening up fast enough.
  • Smarmy Tim Wilson should probably rate a mention as well. Yet another LNP politician in Victoria looking to cash in on Covid-19.

I’m sure there are more, but I can only handle so much anger in one day so I’m not going to go online to research who else played a part in what’s happening to my city and my state. For me, the bottom line is that my Premier, Dan Andrews, has fought long and hard to keep people alive. Those other politicians I named care only about one thing – the economy.

I ask you to remember those names when Covid-19 stops being an inconvenience and starts hurting the people you love.

Meeks

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

39 responses to “Covid-19 in Melbourne [Australia] and Viral Load

  • marymtf

    It’s been fascinating watching an hour of The Dan Andrews show each day at 11. When you do, you can rely on what you hear, rather than the out of context takes some in the media dole out to suit their narratives.
    Andrews could give a master class on evasions, lies and intimidation of the press. He keeps saying that – this isn’t the place to answer (inconvenient) questions. The buck stops with him, he says, but hasn’t taken any responsibility for this totally unnecessary second wave of covid cases and deaths as a result of his government’s incompetence and his arrogance. No offer of ADF help he says. He kept denying there was any offer made, but three letters from the Prime Minister have recently been unearthed through freedom of information. He begins each daily session by telling us he’s ‘sorry about the global pandemic’ but not a word about being sorry for his part in it. Do put the blame squarely where it belongs, Meeka. You need to compare what’s happening in the rest of the country and place the blame on Andrews for what’s going on in Victoria. Until those letters turned up Andrews could lie and brazen it out. And did. You really have to ask what sort of mindset it takes to prefer untrained body guards to ADF help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      I’m sorry but I completely disagree.

      I haven’t watched the daily briefings but I have been following the pandemic unfold since February, and I place the blame for Victoria’s outbreak squarely on the PM, not Dan Andrews.

      Have you forgotten that the CovidSafe app was supposed to make it possible to track infections and therefore control the spread?

      That app was the ONLY weapon in the PM’s arsenal and it failed. But the PM pushed to reopen anyway, despite not having anything else to fight the virus with.

      If you remember, Dan Andrews resisted for quite some time because here in Victoria, we’d never completely got the virus under control. I followed the daily stats in May and we only had 2 separate days on which there were no new infections.

      I think that was the point at which Dan Andrews made his big mistake – he caved in to the PM’s demands. Once
      families were allowed to have get togethers again the stage was set and all that was needed was a trigger.

      The trigger was hotel security. Was it a security guard? Or was it one of the hotel staff? I don’t know, but I do know that if we’d still been under lockdown…it would not have happened. There would have been clusters, but as in NSW, we would have been able to trace them. Once you have over 2000 unknown sources, it’s pretty impossible to contact trace anything.

      I’d also like to make the point that the ADF [Australia Defence Force] personnel are not trained in quarantine security either. And…if you check, you will find out that NSW has both ADF and private security handling quarantine.

      And while we’re on the subject of quarantine, why was the Federal government able to place Chinese Australians repatriated to Australia in a quarantine detention centre, but all other returning travellers could go into hotel quarantine? In fact, why were the states forced to handle quarantine when that’s a Federal responsibility?

      I’d also like to point out that most of the Covid-19 deaths in Victoria occurred in private aged care facilities that are funded and REGULATED by the Federal Government. The staff at those facilities carried the virus from one work place to the next.

      It was Dan Andrews who made it possible for those staff to work at /one/ place only, thereby stopping the rate of spread.

      How are the deaths in private aged care his fault?

      As for being sorry? When has the PM admitted to any of this? And when has /he/ apologised in any manner, shape or form for allowing so many people to die? All he’s done is pretend that it had nothing to do with him. I guess the Federal buck doesn’t stop with the PM.

      Or maybe it /did/.

      Right at the beginning of the pandemic, the PM and Brendan Murphy flirted with the idea of ‘herd immunity’ just like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. Thank god they pulled back from ‘letting it rip’ completely, but I can’t help wondering if NOT doing anything to safeguard the elderly in aged care wasn’t an economic decision.

      I know we will never agree on this, and if a lot of Victorians feel the way you do, I suspect that Dan Andrews’ career in politics will end with the next election. But…

      I admire the man for not shirking an awful job.

      I admire him for having the guts to front a hostile media every day.

      I admire him for having the guts to save lives instead of the bloody economy.

      I admire him for not putting his popularity and future political prospects ahead of the good of this state.

      #IStandWithDan

      Like

      • marymtf

        You’re right, we aren’t likely to agree with each other. But I admire you for responding and I admire you for not blocking an answer that you disagree with. I admire you for your passion. Here is my last go for what it’s worth.
        Despite Andrews consistently denying that Morrison offered ADF help.letters from Morrison surfaced that proved he was lying. Proved. That should give you pause to think.
        Despite the judge at the Enquiry telling Andrews he can answer questions and not wait for the Enquiry he refused to answer questions, telling reporters he would answer at the Enquiry. He didn’t.
        If you’d watched his daily blah you would have heard his evasions for yourself. Usually we have to count on the media to report to us. This daily televised meeting was a chance to see Andrews in action without the media filter.
        Seven hundred people died in this unnecessary second wave. This second avoidable wave that came out of the debacle at Rydges hotel. Clips of untrained guards sleeping on the job. In Melbourne. A debacle that, despite your wanting it all to be Morrison’s fault, the other states did not experience. They are slowly opening up.
        Every single Minister told the Enquiry he/she could not remember who made the decision to use untrained guards. Do you find that believable or acceptable? It was a collective decision we are told. A collective amnesia. A sergeant Shultz response.

        Liked by 1 person

        • acflory

          The one thing I hate more than any other is people who attack the person instead of attacking the argument. I believe that you believe exactly what you say. I may not like it, and I will definitely try to change your mind, but I respect your right to have those opinions and voice them. You will always be welcome here.

          And…I will agree with you on some points. 🙂

          The first one is that I believe the DHHS and members of the government were incompetent. Some people rise to a challenge. Others retreat to the familiar and hope for the best. In a crisis, the familiar is nowhere near good enough.

          And despite not have watched the daily pressers, I would probably agree with you that Dan Andrews was not telling all he knew. The question is why. He sure as hell wasn’t protecting himself. He’s become the lightning rod for everyone who dislikes what he’s doing.

          So who was he protecting? His government? His party? His ministers?

          In my view, all three are possible.

          If I had to guess, I’d say that at the moment all he’s concerned about is fixing the mess we’re in with the minimum loss of life.

          Is he driven by pride? What politician isn’t?

          But that is not the right question. Questioning Dan Andrews’ personality or motivation is a distraction. The ONLY question that matters, right here right now is – is he right?

          Is this hard lockdown, the curfew, the economic hit the right way to deal with this outbreak?

          If Europe and the US are anything to go by then, yes, Dan Andrews is doing exactly the right thing, not just by the science but by our long term economic prospects as well.

          The UK is heading towards a collapse of its health system or a lockdown that will make ours look like a picnic. Spain and France are teetering on the brink of a massive lockdown as well. I imagine many of the other, smaller European countries are in dire straits as well. These countries are all in the grip of a second wave that will destroy their economies long term. I shudder to think what will happen in the US.

          By contrast, China, yes China, Taiwan, Thailand, etc are doing really really well. Why? Because they got in early, and because mask wearing is ‘normal’ for their people.

          The example of the rest of the world and the /science/ show that this lockdown in Victoria will allow us, eventually, to reach a point of de facto eradication. That’s what the other states have got. That’s why they don’t want to open their borders. They know that if they do, the chance of importing an asymptomatic spreader will skyrocket.

          On a personal note, the Offspring and I both have health problems, and we have been in strict isolation since March. I have only been out of the house about 4 or 5 times in 6 and a half months.

          I knew the outbreak would happen somewhere when Morrison pushed for an early reopening back in May. I just didn’t expect it to happen in Victoria.

          If you look at my posts under ‘Corona virus – Covid19’, you’ll see that I have 38 posts about it. Not trying to blow my own trumpet, but I knew the LNP’s policies were never about lives; they’ve never been about the /science/. Morrison makes no bones about that. It’s always been about ‘the economy’.
          People like me and the Offspring are the calculated and acceptable collateral damage to /his/ policies. That’s why I’m so very angry.

          For me, the bottom line is that I support Dan Andrews’ /policies/. I’d support them even if a Liberal government proposed them.

          Unfortunately, Michael O’Brien the leader of the Victorian Opposition has done nothing but stir discontent – with the policies first and foremost.

          Michael O’Brien as Premier would have opened us up faster than NSW. He would have mouthed platitudes about protecting the vulnerable, but he would have let the virus rip.

          And when our health system began to collapse, he would have continued to um and ah, tinkering at the edges – just like Boris Johnson. And then the old, the sick, the disabled would have died in their thousands. Just like in the UK, Europe and the US.

          We are not the clever country. We have just been the lucky country…so far. And I consider us lucky to have Dan Andrews doing all the unpopular, hard things to keep most of us alive.

          I meant what I said, you will always be welcome here.

          Like

  • Widdershins

    Little islands of sanity in an increasingly fucked-up ocean of stupidity and greed … that’s what it’s come to, I think, and we need to defend those islands for all our sakes. Once the ocean recedes then can we engage with the wider world again.

    Liked by 1 person

  • dvberkom

    Hear, hear! The absolute stupidity of people who refuse to wear masks, wash their hands, and distance themselves is appalling. So simple, yet apparently a bridge too far for many. SMH. The only good news is that more folks here in the US are actually figuring out the Rs and the twit in the WH are crapping all over those who would vote for them. Reopen schools? Are they delusional?

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Hi DV. Things we used to take as common sense have been politicized until black is white and white is black. The same is happening here, although to a lesser degree. I know things will change, eventually, but just at the moment the madness feels never ending.
      Stay well. -hugs-

      Liked by 1 person

  • Candy Korman

    All I can say is this… take this thing seriously folks! I live in NYC which was for a few months the epicenter in the U.S. and is now, way, way down. The State and City governments worked the NUMBERS and the SCIENCE, restricting activity and loosening the restrictions only when the stats indicated it was OK. For example, this week in NYC we were supposed to allow a little indoor dining. There was a small uptick in the cases last week so there’s a delay in indoor dining. As it is high summer here, and the City is adaptable, we’re dining outside. So much so that I’m starting to think of the avenue on my corner as an extended buffet. in the meantime, other locations in the U.S. are determined to avoid restrictions on their activities. It’s as if NY never happened!!! They won’t or can’t learn from what we did (and what European countries did) and slowly open only after the lockdown has had a real impact. I’m astonished at what’s happening in Florida and Texas in particular. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Limit your activities.

    Right now, I’m hurting. I live alone and have very limited in-person interactions. I don’t live with family or a partner. So… I am lonely! I’m dealing with it. Slowly, slowly… I’m starting to get together with people in socially “distant” social settings, like the roof of my building, outdoor dining, etc. This is NOT the way I choose to live, but I want to avoid a repeat of this past spring so… I’m doing it.

    When I see people refusing to wear masks on the grounds of civil liberties I want to scream. Mask up! Wash up! And one day I’ll dance Tango again and we’ll all do the things we love and be out and about in crowds. JUST NOT NOW!

    Liked by 3 people

    • acflory

      -huge hug- Thank you, Candy. People, my people, your people, need to hear this. And we need to change our expectations. Sacrifice now so we can all live and enjoy life later.

      I really appreciate your honesty, and I’m so glad you’re starting to have some social interactions, even if they’re distant. Take care and stay strong.

      Like

  • A Melbourne-wide lockdown – Anne Lawson Art

    […] has copped a lot of flack because of the spread from hotel quarantine to security personnel. My friend Meeks points out that others, including the federal Liberal Government, had a big role to play in the outbreak […]

    Like

  • CarolCooks2

    Hurrah for WA cos they ain’t letting the other side in and neither are we…We are also still having to wear masks in public places, observe social distancing and have our temps checked and scan in if you have the app if not you sign in and out and give your details…No one argues they are just pleased we have zero cases for 40 days.Sorry to brag but it works and the kids in school have to wear full face masks…Now going to wash my hands…be well and stay safe Meeks x

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      -hugs- You’re a champ, Carol. And for those who don’t know, Carol is living in Thailand. Everything she’s mentioned we could do too. It’s not rocket science. All it takes is a little bit of social responsibility and some common sense.

      Liked by 2 people

  • anne54

    Good on you for calling out the Liberals and their push to open up quickly. And Michael O’Brien carping on about how Andrews should have called in the army. No partisan politics there. I smiled when Andrews said at today’s press conference that he has much better and more important things to do than pay the political game that the Liberals are trying to get him to play. Because things are very serious, and the Liberal opposition just doesn’t get it. I also got fleetingly cross when O’Brien said he felt for the people in the northern suburbs. When has he ever cared about us before?! Grrr.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      lmao! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed what that little creep has been doing. O’Brien, not Andrews!!
      Did you watch the 7.30 interview with Dan Andrews tonight? Trioli was trying to trip him up so badly. Instead we saw what courage under fire looks like. Still glad I live in Victoria. 🙂

      Like

  • robertawrites235681907

    I’m sorry to hear that Melbourne is being locked down again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      It was almost inevitable, Robbie. Not to big note, but I’ve been stockpiling toilet paper for weeks. I truly believe the Federal govt here has been putting the cart before the horse all along. Now we’re paying for it.
      How’s it going in South Africa? I haven’t seen anything for a while.

      Liked by 2 people

      • robertawrites235681907

        As expected, C-19 is going mad here, Meeks. We have 215 000 infection compared to Australia which is not yet 9 000. We have had 3 500 deaths compared to your 106 deaths and we had 198 deaths yesterday. Our C-19 cases have doubled in the past 2 weeks. It is very sad as our people are very vulnerable. Government has really tried but you can’t really lock down our poor as I’ve mentioned before. It is impossible to self isolate when you live in a tin shack. I am providing food to 2 African families each month and we are supporting other funding initiatives through work and our church. We can’t do much more and it is very frustrating.

        Liked by 2 people

  • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    Didn’t know the number you can tolerate of virus particles is so low! Ten? Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Yes, that was an eye opener for me too. I have no idea whether that’s an actual number of simply an illustration of small vs big. But it does make sense of the whole viral load thing, and why health care workers are more likely to get the virus despite the PPE.

      Like

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

        I had read before, and stowed away in the dim recesses of my mind, that we could handle 1000 virus particles, but that larger loads overwhelmed the system.

        It doesn’t matter – either you get too few, or you get sick. I’m wearing masks in public, and washing my hands, etc., so that whatever is out there, and I pick up, does not get transferred into my body via eyes, nose, or mouth!

        Washing with soap for twenty seconds DEFINITELY kills all of it. I can’t believe that a quick rub with a tiny squirt of hand sanitizer is equivalent. I almost never use it.

        Liked by 2 people

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