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‘It felt like a disaster movie’: Guardian Australia readers share their stories of Covid testing mayhem | Australia news

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George Quarmby, Canberra

My mum is 96, lives in aged care and thinks I have abandoned her, because I can’t get a RAT [rapid antigen test]. She does not understand what is going on due to a medium level of dementia. This is tough on families.

Dennis, Hunter Valley

Had enough. Given up. Can’t get tested. Can’t find RATs. Ring the national hotline, go around in circles. Can’t ring 000. For God’s sake, call an election now before the country is totally stuffed.

Marcus, Blue Mountains

Sadly, this isn’t just Australia, it’s a global problem – so I have sympathy for politicians as these issues are mostly global. Our hospital systems will have to cope with it at some point, and I’d rather we do this in summer, when vaccination is at its highest ever we’re likely to achieve, etc. What’s the alternate end game? I don’t see another option and we can’t keep closing down – the wider impact is too great.

Ann, Taree

My dad is in hospital with end-stage heart failure. He was sent from the public to the private hospital, I guess to free up his bed, because he had had multiple heart attacks in three days and the doctors had called us to bring in the family. At the public hospital we had an exemption and could come in any time. At the private hospital we had to provide a negative RAT before we could go in. But we couldn’t find any. Eventually staff from the hospital administered a RAT so we could go in. Two days later, Dad’s no longer considered end-of-life so we’ve lost our exemption status and can’t see him any more.

Grandchildren Hannah and Sophie and daughter Ann visit John in hospital in Taree
Grandchildren Hannah and Sophie (left) and daughter Ann (right) visit John in hospital in Taree.

Andrew, Richmond

I can’t get a test. I think I’ve been exposed and have a sore throat. The testing centres are full and I’ve been to 13 pharmacies today looking for a RAT. Scott Morrison should have ordered these RATs. We could have manufactured them here by now. How many people could I have infected running around desperately trying to find a test? Scott Morrison is useless and I’m angry that his arrogant, apathetic attitude is causing more illness and anxiety.

Son, Sydney

The spiralling cases and hospitalisation in NSW are dreadful. I worry for the vulnerable unvaxxed, including young children. My family has people with weakened immune [systems] and severe mental health issues. They will not comprehend self care and iso requirements if they become infected or need care. I have to decide whether to get surgery in a Covid-positive-staffed Sydney hospital or delay for several uncertain months until government action and the Covid surge possibly subsides, as my condition deteriorates.

Claire, Melbourne

I joined a drive-through queue on the Gold Coast after checking opening hours on the Queensland website. The queue was reasonable, with cars slowly moving at a regular pace. After my partner walked up to the front, he came back and said to me, “This queue is leading to nowhere.” We were all queuing in front of a CLOSED testing site. Not a single soul. Yet people in their cars were still queuing, hoping and desperate. The queue was only progressing because some would give up. We went on a mission to tell everyone. But some cars would still stay. Pure Covid-19 madness!

Lisa, north shore, Sydney

Nine-plus day wait for PCR result. Survived stage four melanoma, losing a lung, kidney and other organs so pretty vulnerable to infection and respiratory disease. In isolation all through New Year. This system’s broken.

Amanda, Brunswick

Symptoms have meant that I’ve not been getting much sleep, so getting up early to get in line and reducing the amount of sleep I’m getting is also not great for recovery. People with symptoms this bad should be told to rest and recover – not go wait in line for multiple hours to get another test.

Diana, Brisbane

It’s only three weeks since the borders opened in Queensland. We have known this was going to happen for months. We went from not catching Covid at almost any cost to “Exposure is a must, get over it. That’s why you got vaccinated” without proper planning for the infrastructure that we would need. Led by donkeys indeed.

Kelly Kershaw, Hillsdale

My family of four waited seven hours in a Covid PCR test queue. I received my negative result three days later, my husband received his positive result four days later, my son’s negative result came through on day five and my daughter’s on day six. Lack of governance has caused this chaos!

Lena, Mullumbimby

Multiple PCR testing sites in small towns have closed due to lack of staff. The ones that are open, people are queuing from 4am/sleeping in their vans. From 8am the line is so long they close. It is impossible to get a RAT anywhere. We have four ICU beds, all full. Can expand to nine but there’s no one to staff it. People will die unnecessarily.

Sean Church, Robina

My girlfriend and I woke up at 5am to get to the drive-through testing at Robina at 5.30am. The line was probably 3km long. At 7am someone tried to pull in front of me using the gap I had left for the hospital driveway. It didn’t matter though because at 7.30am we were informed the testing site was not opening today. By this time all of the other testing sites were full. Great way to spend my morning.

Billie, Lara

One of my friends has cystic fibrosis, and Covid – even this new one – is basically a death sentence. A friend of mine who is 30 and seemingly healthy has just spent three weeks in hospital with Covid and they say his lungs will never be the same. I have no idea what we are going to do now or in the future. I am scared. The government has left us to die or get permanent damage to our bodies or harm the people we love and I cannot believe we are so far into this and this is where we are. No wonder we can’t figure out climate change.

Marge, South Yarra

I have to return my grandson to South Australia but can’t cross the border without a test. PCR tests take too long for the results, a five-year-old cannot wait in a queue and no rapid tests are available. My grandson is very concerned.

Jacqueline Wilson, Ballarat

Ballarat’s public hospital system is at crisis point. As a patient who needs regular care due to bowel surgery, I have chosen to go private. But those who cannot afford private health insurance will miss out. Covid numbers have exacerbated weaknesses in our public systems.

Dean, Brisbane

Seven hours waiting for a test at Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital. Is that really the best they can do after two years of preparation and millions spent on planning workshops at Queensland Health? Let’s have just four testers when thousands are in the queue! Fuming. Forced to squat on grass in 32C heat. No chairs, water, sunscreen, info. Someone in the queue in front literally collapsed.

Sophie, Caloundra

At this point, you can’t begrudge anyone for not doing the right thing – the right thing is increasingly impossible. Turn public testing centres into field hospitals.

Tim, Melbourne

On the way home, we passed a pharmacy where a queue for RATs had been cut off. A mum who missed out was desperately trying to bargain with the pharmacist and people in the queue to split open the packs of seven and share them. It felt like a disaster movie. My partner needs a PCR result for support payments and I still don’t know my status. I have a feeling I won’t ever find out.

Michelle, Portalington

I pay a substantial amount each year through the Medicare levy on the basis that it provides universal healthcare services. If the feds continue with their current “strategy”, I think I should be entitled to a refund!

Mehdi, Melbourne

I booked a non-refundable Airbnb down the coast and now I’m stuck in isolation in my small apartment. Every day I don’t get a test result is a day I lose money. That’s also a holiday I was really looking forward to after this long year in locked-down Melbourne.

Grant, Reedy Creek

Undercounting of stats equals a false sense of security, impacts on nursing and medical staff, impacts on critical care.

Parisa Rezaei Abyaneh, Sydney

I am pregnant and I am shit-scared to leave the house. I have had numerous panic attacks because of my fears of getting it. Also it doesn’t help that the medical advice I am being given is that seven days of isolation isn’t enough … it’s 14 until you can’t infect. Is this all a big government push to keep our economy going because there is an election?

Mac, Melbourne

My small business has been left in limbo and closed due to the long wait for test results. After last year’s eternal lockdowns I didn’t expect to be back in a situation where my business would be closed. My livelihood is once again on the line with no support for the loss of trade.

Jono, Canowindra

In his haste to boost “economic activity”, the NSW premier stopped most people’s Christmas celebrations (including ours), stopped holidays, made many more people sick and stuffed the health system for all sick people. One of the most naive and ideologically-driven decisions I’ve seen. I want to know if he can be made legally accountable for his negligent mismanagement. It would happen to company directors – why not him?

Gabby, Adelaide

I work in childcare and after telling my work I had to quarantine, they called me and berated me for following quarantine procedure, trying to convince me that I wasn’t really a close contact. I understand they’re worried about staffing, but I’m trying to do the right thing.

Mark, Sydney

I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste my time standing in line for hours to get a test, especially because it’ll likely be full of sick people. We’ll be in the sweltering heat (we have no car) and I don’t care about supposedly doing the right thing if it’s a huge inconvenience. Why bother?

Ellie, Melbourne

It is awful not knowing if my sickness is Covid – to what extent should I be isolating? And a lack of access to testing means people cannot access disaster payments if they are too sick to work. More concerning is the disregard for elderly and immunocompromised members of our community – they’re just letting it rip through like wildfire. As a student nurse, it is horrifying to read of the exhaustion and dangerous work conditions – which ultimately impacts patients. People have and will die as a result of this negligence.

Trevor, East Melbourne

Now isn’t a good time to have an accident. I’m incredibly concerned about hospitals filling up with Covid wards and no space for anything else. I have parents in their 60s and I can just hope that neither of them gets sick or has an accident because they won’t get the normal standard of care.

Fiona, Urunga

Queues in the Coffs/Bellingen/Nambucca areas have been closing between Christmas and New Year at 9am as people started queuing at 4am. Since New Year it hasn’t improved. Our son brought Covid up from Sydney when a work colleague failed to inform him he’d tested positive before Christmas. I hold the government messaging responsible for misinforming people about the severity of Omicron.

Sue, Bentleigh

My year 8 son has not had anything like a normal secondary school experience, so I am hoping he will attend school in 2022 for year 9. The lack of forecasting and planning by states and feds is breathtaking.

Some quotes have been edited slightly for clarity and/or space

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Solar storms may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in a given year

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In an approximate 11-year cycle, the sun blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field, which may disrupt our body clock and ultimately affect our heart



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17 June 2022

A solar storm

Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

Solar storms that disrupt Earth’s magnetic field may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in the US in a given year.

The sun goes through cycles of high and low activity that repeat approximately every 11 years. During periods of high activity, it blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field.

These so-called solar storms can cause glitches in our power grids and bring down Earth-orbiting satellites. A handful of studies have also hinted that they increase the risk of …

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UK Covid infection rate rising, with more than a million cases in England | Coronavirus

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Coronavirus infections are rising in the UK, figures have revealed, with experts noting the increase is probably down to the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, reveal that in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in the community in England are thought to have had Covid – around 1.13 million people.

The figure is even higher, at one in 45, in both Wales and Northern Ireland, while it was highest in Scotland where, in the week ending 10 June, one in 30 people are thought to have been infected.

While the figures remain below the peak levels of infection seen earlier this year, when around one in 13 people in England had Covid, the findings are a rise on the previous week where one in 70 people in England were thought to be infected. Furthermore, the data reveals increases in all regions of England, except the north-east, and across all age groups.

Experts say that a key factor in the increase is probably the rise of the Covid variants of concern BA.4 and BA.5.

“Infections have increased across all four UK nations, driven by rising numbers of people infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants,” said Kara Steel, senior statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey.

While Steel said it remained too early to say if this was the start of another wave, others have warned it may already have begun, with increased mixing and travelling among other factors fuelling a rise in cases.

Among concerns scientists have raised are that BA.4, BA.5 and another variant on the rise, BA.2.12.1, replicate more efficiently in human lung cells than BA.2.

Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said the latest figures were not surprising, and might rise further.

“This increase in infection prevalence is likely due to the growth of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which as we have seen elsewhere in Europe, appear to be able to escape immunity generated from previous Omicron subvariants,” she said.

“It is therefore possible that we will continue to see some growth in infection prevalence in the coming weeks and consequently an increase in hospitalisations, although these subvariants do not currently appear to result in any significantly changed severity profile. This does however serve as a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.”

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NHS to offer women in England drug that cuts recurrence of breast cancer | Breast cancer

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Thousands of women in England with breast cancer are to benefit from a new pill on the NHS which reduces the risk of the disease coming back.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to abemaciclib, which cuts the chance of breast cancer returning after a patient has had surgery to remove a tumour.

Trials showed that patients who had the drug with hormone therapy had a more than 30% improved chance of their cancer not coming back after surgery, compared with hormone therapy alone.

“It’s fantastic thousands of women with this type of primary breast cancer will now have an additional treatment option available on the NHS to help further reduce the risk of the disease coming back,” said Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now.

“The fear of breast cancer returning or spreading to other parts of their body and becoming incurable can cause considerable anxiety for so many women and their loved ones.

“New effective treatments such as abemaciclib, which can offer more women the chance to further reduce the risk of the disease recurring, are therefore extremely welcome and this is an important step change in the drug options available for this group of patients.”

The twice-a-day pill is suitable for women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence who have had surgery. About 4,000 women will benefit initially, Nice said.

Helen Knight, the interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said the draft recommendation came less than a month after abemaciclib received its licence.

“The fact that we have been able to produce draft recommendations so quickly is testament to the success of our ambition to support patient access to clinically and cost effective treatments as early as possible,” said Knight. “Until now there have been no targeted treatments for people with this type of breast cancer.

“Abemaciclib with hormone therapy represents a significant improvement in how it is treated because being able to have a targeted treatment earlier after surgery will increase the chance of curing the disease and reduce the likelihood of developing incurable advanced disease.”

Abemaciclib works by targeting and inhibiting proteins in cancer cells which allow the cancer to divide and grow. It normally costs £2,950 for a packet of 56 150mg-tablets, but the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has agreed an undisclosed discounted price for NHS England.

“Thanks in part to this latest deal struck by NHS England, NHS patients will be able to access another new targeted drug for a common and aggressive form of breast cancer,” said Prof Peter Johnson, the cancer director of NHS England.

“Abemaciclib, when used alongside a hormone therapy, offers a new, doubly targeted, treatment option, helping to increase the chances of beating the cancer for good, as well as meeting the NHS’s commitment to delivering improved cancer care under our long-term plan.”

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