Daily News Roundup

November 29, 2021

 

MONDAY November 29

It’s the new Covid-19 variant that has put the world on edge, and it turns out that Omicron has some unusual, though mild, symptoms.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who issued an alert about the Omicron variant B.1.1.529, said from her observations the symptoms are usually “mild” in healthy people, reports the ABC.

However, she said she is concerned the elderly and unvaccinated could be at risk of complications.

Dr Coetzee believed she’d found a new strain of the virus when she began noticing patients at her practice in Pretoria didn’t have typical Covid symptoms.

“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” she told the UK’s Telegraph.

Dr Coetzee, who has been practising medicine for 30 years and is chair of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), said she called South Africa’s vaccine advisory committee on November 18 after a family of four with extreme fatigue tested positive to the virus.

She had treated more than 24 Covid patients – mostly young men from different backgrounds and ethnicities – who seemed to show symptoms of the new variant. Half were unvaccinated.”

While one common symptom of Covid-19 has always been a loss of taste and smell, none of Dr Coetzee’s patients experienced this.

“It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two [and] not feeling well,” Dr Coetzee said.

“So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer the loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough.

“There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected, some are currently being treated at home.”

There was also a case of a six-year-old child with an extremely high pulse rate.

“We had one very interesting case, a kid, about six years old, with a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her,” Dr Coetzee said.

“But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better.”

However, Dr Coetzee is still concerned about how the new strain may affect the elderly and those with comorbidities.

“What we have to worry about now is that when older, unvaccinated people are infected with the new variant, and if they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe [form of the] disease,” she said.

The World Health Organisation declared Omicron a “variant of concern” on Friday, with the strain showing a number of mutations that could make it more contagious than Delta.

It was first detected in Botswana and South Africa earlier this month. Since then it has also been found in the UK, Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Belgium and Australia.

NSW Health has confirmed urgent genomic testing undertaken on Sunday showed two overseas travellers had the new Omicron B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant.

Both passengers came to Sydney from southern Africa via Doha on the evening of Saturday, November 27. They underwent testing on arrival and tested positive for Covid-19 late Sunday night.

The two positive cases, who were asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, are in isolation in the Special Health Accommodation.

The two passengers were among 14 people from southern Africa who arrived on Qatar Airways QR908, Doha to Sydney.

The remaining 12 passengers from southern Africa are undertaking 14 days of hotel quarantine in the Special Health Accommodation.

Around 260 passengers and aircrew on the flight are considered close contacts and have been directed to isolate.

*Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed the national security committee will be meeting later today to consider what steps Australia will take to prevent the spread of new Covid variant Omicron.

Migrants and international students are due to return to Australia on December 1, but this plan is now in doubt.

“Of course (Omicron) is concerning and that’s why we’re getting all the information we possibly can,” Mr Morrison told Sunrise.

“The cases that have presented … are in quarantine and appropriate action is being taken by the NSW government in those matters.

“We moved very quickly on Saturday, this moved from a variance under investigation to a variant of concern within a very short period of time and we immediately put those extra controls in place on Saturday.

“The National Security committee will be meeting this afternoon to consider December 1 decisions that are pending for migrants and students so we will review all of the information this afternoon and this morning.”

*Victoria has recorded 1,007 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and three deaths, as the state tightens its quarantine rules in response to the spread of the Omicron variant.

There are now 11,501 active cases of the virus in Victoria, and 506 people have died during the state’s current Delta outbreak.

There are 300 COVID-19 patients in Victorian hospitals, with 45 active cases in ICU and 17 patients on ventilators.

On the weekend, authorities announced all overseas arrivals in Victoria and their household contacts would be required to isolate at home or suitable accommodation for 72 hours, even if they were previously eligible for quarantine-free travel.

The changes, which took effect from 11:59pm Saturday, also mandate 14 days of hotel quarantine for anyone arriving from nine southern African countries where the variant of concern was first identified.

On Sunday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said while the discovery of the Omicron variant justified the additional measures, it did not put Victoria “back to square one by any means”.

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Telecommunications companies will soon be able to block scam text messages from being sent in the first place, thanks to regulatory changes by the government, reports the ABC. 

An increase in malicious text messages in recent months has been described as a “tsunami”, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) receiving tens of thousands of reports of scams.

Australians have lost more than $87 million to scams this year.

Having stepped in to block more than 200 million scam phone calls pretending to be from government agencies, the federal government is now paving the way to make it easier for telcos to block malicious text messages at their source.

“[In] a further step to deal with the problem of scam texts … what we again want to do is make sure the telcos have the power to use their technologies to identify and block these texts before customers even realise they’re there,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.

“The fact is we’re dealing with organised criminals, mostly located overseas, who are pumping out calls and texts.

“They’re using technology. We need to use technology to combat what they’re doing.”

Telstra CEO Andy Penn said that technology included algorithms and artificial intelligence.

“We’re already blocking hundreds of thousands of [text messages],” he said.

“What this initiative does is it enables us to get a much richer set of data — much better access to the data we need to use with our algorithms and artificial intelligence engines — to better identify those [messages] which are malicious.

“That’s the name of the game.”

Many of the scam texts Australians have been receiving claim to be unopened voicemail notifications, with a link to download the “voicemail”.

Mr Penn said the sheer volume of messages that were sent around the country meant detecting scams could only be done using technology.

“As you can imagine, there are billions, if not trillions, of transactions and [text messages] and calls going across telecommunications networks every year and what we have to do is try and sift through that and identify those that are malicious and block them at their source,” he said.

“That can’t be done manually. We need to use computer technology, we need to use artificial intelligence.”

Labor recently called on telcos, as well as banks and retailers, to change how they communicated with customers so it was clear when they were sending legitimate messages or making legitimate calls.

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On November 27, 2017, the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was announced at 5am. A few hours later, Prince Charles sat down for breakfast and mused to his wife, Camilla, “I wonder what the children will look like?” reports news.com.au.

Camilla was “somewhat taken aback” by the question and replied, “Well, absolutely gorgeous, I’m certain.”

Lowering his voice, Charles asked: “I mean, what do you think their children’s complexion might be?”

This is according to a well-placed source, says news.co.au, who contributed to Christopher Andersen’s book Brothers And Wives: Inside The Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan (Gallery), out November 30, reports the New York Post.

But Andersen stops short of claiming that Charles is the unnamed “senior royal” who Harry and Meghan – whose mother is black and father is white – sensationally accused during their shocking interview with Oprah Winfrey.

In the March broadcast, Meghan said there were “concerns and conversations about how dark [their son, Archie’s] skin might be when he was born … Those were conversations that family had with Harry”.

The author presents it as if the curiosity of Charles was seized upon and twisted by scheming courtiers to give it a racist spin. By the time the repackaged account reached the ears of Harry and Meghan, it had reached peak toxicity.

Andersen points the finger at a group of high-level palace advisers known as the “Men in Grey”.

“The question posed by Charles was being echoed in a less innocent way throughout the halls of Buckingham Palace,” Anderson writes, describing the whispers of an elitist clique called “the old boys’ network”. Their gossip focused on how the royals would “look to the rest of the world” once African-American blood became part of the mix.

The book also reveals Harry’s frustration after he complained to Charles, who, according to another insider, told the Prince he was being “overly sensitive about the matter”.

This unsympathetic view was shared by Harry’s brother, William, who allegedly called the skin tone comment “tactless” but “not a sign of racism within the family”.

A spokesperson for Prince Charles told The Post: “This is fiction and not worth further comment.”

A spokesperson for Harry and Meghan did not respond to requests for comment.

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New Zealand MP Julie Anne Genter got on her bicycle early on Sunday and headed to the hospital reports Reuter.

She was already in labour and she gave birth an hour later.

“Big news!” the Greens politician posted on her Facebook.

“At 3.04am this morning we welcomed the newest member of our family.

“I genuinely wasn’t planning to cycle in labour, but it did end up happening.

“My contractions weren’t that bad when we left at 2am to go to the hospital — though they were 2-3 minutes apart and picking up in intensity by the time we arrived 10 minutes later,” Ms Genter wrote.

“Amazingly now we have a healthy, happy little one sleeping, as is her dad,” said Ms Genter.

A dual citizen, Ms Genter was born in the US state of Minnesota and before moving to New Zealand in 2006.

Ms Genter said she rode her bike to Auckland City Hospital to give birth because there “wasn’t enough room in the car”.

Ms Genter — her party’s spokesperson for transport issues and whose Facebook profile includes “I love my bicycle” — also biked to the hospital in 2018 for a previous birth. 

At the time, she said she rode to Auckland City Hospital to give birth to her son because there “wasn’t enough room in the car”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern famously took maternity leave while in office and brought her three-month old to a United Nations meeting because she was still breastfeeding.