Episodes



  • Norman Swan made a big call in predicting that Victoria will start to see a reduction in coronavirus cases by next week, but not everyone agrees with him.

    Some health experts say it's more likely that the state will experience a wide curve, rather than a sharp decline.

    Ultimately, it'll come down to how many unknown mystery cases there are in the community.

    So is Norman sticking by his prediction?

    On today's show:

    * How sure is Norman about his big prediction?

    * What did we learn from SARS-CoV-1? Can we apply any knowledge from that?

    * Can you get COVID-19 multiple times within a short time frame?

    * If I can smell cigarette smoke and if I inhaled it from someone who was infected could I get sick?

    * What is "pool testing"? Why don't we use it in Australia?

    * Does UVC light effectively kill airborne coronavirus?



  • There's been another grim round of record-breaking coronavirus numbers in Victoria: the highest daily tally, the highest death toll and Australia's youngest victim – a man in his 30s.

    It's now been almost a month since the state was placed into stage 3 lockdown, and a few days since they were ratcheted up to stage 4.

    Today on Coronacast, some predictions on when numbers will finally start falling.

    Also on the show:

    * What happens with lockdowns if a vaccine never arrives?

    * What's the success rate on most vaccines?



  • The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that all COVID positive cases will be doorknocked multiple times, as authorities continue to tighten restrictions in Melbourne.

    Complying with rules to isolate and quarantine has been a major problem in Victoria.

    Recent figures show as many as one in four people who were supposed to be isolating at home, were not.

    So why has it taken this long to crack down on rule breakers? Or is the punitive approach more harmful in the long term?

    On today's show:

    * How do you stop people from breaking the rules?

    * What do you do about people who continue to refuse to follow the rules?

    * The head of the World Health Organisation says there might not be a COVID silver bullet. How long could this all go on?

    * What's the point of Melbourne's curfew?

    * Is the cooler weather in Melbourne playing a part in the sudden rise in cases?

    * Is there any point checking people's temperatures? Or is it a waste of time?

    * I have hay fever and a constant runny nose. Should I keep getting tested for COVID, just in case?



  • More than 250,000 workers in Melbourne will be forced to stay home to try and stop the spread of coronavirus.

    Yesterday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews ordered the closure of thousands of shops, factories and offices in an attempt to not only flatten the curve but force it downwards.

    So as the Victorian Government ratchets down restrictions even further, you'd be forgiven for thinking 'what was the point of stage 3?'

    So today, why stage 3 lockdowns were successful, but not quite enough.

    On today's show:

    * What's the point of the new restrictions that are closing businesses across Melbourne?

    * Were stage 3 restrictions a failure?

    * Other parts of the country are increasing restrictions too. Are they a bit spooked?

    * Are children really not that infectious? New research seems to challenge that idea and finds they are actually carrying a lot of virus.

    * What's going on with rapid testing? The UK are rolling out tests that give results in 90 minutes. Can we have these in Australia too?



  • Melbourne has spent its first night under curfew, imposed to try and halt the spread of coronavirus.

    Yesterday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced Melbourne would move to stage 4 restrictions for six weeks.

    Reasons to leave your house, education, ceremonies, travel and the number of people allowed to gather have all been tightened.

    It's going to be a tough month and half, so how do we make sure it's all worth it?

    On today's show:

    * How do we make sure these stage 4 restrictions are worth it?

    * What should we hope for when we come out the other side?

    * When will it all end? By Christmas?

    * I'm in Queensland and want to wear a mask when I go out but have a one year old. I would feel terrible protecting myself while leaving her exposed. Would wearing a mask offer us both any protection?



  • Australia has smashed its daily coronavirus record, with Victoria recording around 700 new infections yesterday.

    The state's second surge has been a rollercoaster ride of new peaks and falls – but what's concerning everyone is that the overall trend for Victoria is still on the rise.

    On today's Coronacast, Norman Swan tells Tegan Taylor where he thinks all of this could be heading for Victoria, as well as surrounding states.

    Also on today:

    * Another record day in Victoria. It's been a rollercoaster of cases, and emotions.

    * Why is Victoria waiting until Monday to impose mandatory masks statewide?

    * How do we combat community coronavirus fatigue?

    * Regarding the episode about COVID-toes, it's likely describing chilblains.



  • The daily coronavirus tallies in Queensland and New South Wales are nowhere near as high as Victoria, but health experts are warning that both states are now on a knife's edge

    From early Saturday morning, Queensland will block all Sydneysiders from crossing its border, declaring the whole city a hotspot.

    The New South Wales Government is so far still resisting any talk of another lockdown.

    So is banning Sydneysiders fair enough? Or an overreaction?

    On today's show:

    * Is Queensland overreacting by banning Sydneysiders?

    * Why does Queensland have concerns about Sydney?

    * Why aren't other countries that are coming out of lockdown experiencing outbreaks?

    * Do I have COVID toes and should I get a test?

    And Coronacast looks at a new study that examines whether a 14-day quarantine is really long enough for coronavirus.



  • When it comes to coronavirus, there is probably no one more vulnerable to the disease than an elderly resident at an aged care facility.

    With 769 active cases relating to outbreaks in more than 60 Victorian aged care homes, you may think the solution could be evacuating those residents and putting them in hospital until the worst is over.

    But on today's Coronacast, Norman Swan tells Tegan Taylor that while a change of location might protect an elderly resident from COVID-19, it could put them at risk of a terrifying medical condition known as delirium.

    Also on the show:

    * Norman has previously said that coronavirus can survive for days on some surfaces. So why shouldn't I worry about groceries?

    * How should I clean the gym and do anti-bacterial wipes kill the virus?



  • When you think of a coronavirus outbreak on a graph, you probably imagine a big peak and then a swift downward curve as lockdown measures bring the number of infections under control.

    But Victoria's recent spike looks pretty different. A record-breaking daily tally is followed by a fall in cases before infections suddenly rise again.

    And also, why has this happened in Victoria? Is it just unlucky or could there be more to it?

    Health reporter Tegan Taylor has been speaking to some epidemiologists about Victoria's unusual spike and fills in Norman Swan on what they think is going on here.

    On today's show:

    * Another day, another massive amount of cases in Victoria. Why isn't it going down?

    * Why is it different from the first time we were in lockdown?

    * If coronavirus is on playground equipment, will the rain wash it off?

    * Do we really need to wash the groceries? It takes one hour to buy them and another two hours to wash and dry them.

    * Since March, people have been arguing that the mortality rate is much lower than the documented case mortality rate by a factor of five to 10 times. What do we know about the mortality rate of COVID-19?



  • We often hear that coronavirus doesn't discriminate when it comes to age, but after infection it does tend to get deadlier as patients get older.

    So while COVID-19 does kill more elderly people, youth is not a guarantee that you'll sail through with mild symptoms and no problems.

    Over the weekend, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews reminded Victorians that currently two children and eight people under the age of 30 were in hospital with COVID-19.

    So why are the numbers of young people in hospital growing?

    On today's show:

    * How many younger patients are currently in hospital in Victoria?

    * If you get the virus as a younger person, what long-term damage might there be?

    * As some of the candidate vaccines go into phase 3 trials, aren't there ethical issues by giving people a placebo and not the vaccine?

    * Norman has said the key to coronavirus in WA is testing, so what symptoms should be the trigger to get tested?

    And Norman has some research from the journal Science about undocumented cases of coronavirus, and how it might explain what's going on in Victoria.



  • A month ago, consecutive days of more than 400 new coronavirus cases would have been almost unbelievable.

    Sadly, it's become a reality for Victoria. Melbourne has now been in lockdown for a fortnight, desperately trying to get the numbers to fall.

    The lockdown was originally imposed for six weeks, but with four weeks to go and the number of cases remaining stubbornly high, is another month going to be enough?

    On today's show:

    * Is six weeks going to be enough for Melbourne?

    * When do we know if it's safe to reopen again?

    * Could the virus be circulating in Queensland? What should people there be doing?

    * I'm a garden labourer working in Melbourne. My mask is causing my safety glasses to fog up. How do I stop this happening?

    * Should people trim their beard to give masks a more secure fit?

    * Some people have told me that surface transfer is not an issue anymore. Could you please outline the current understanding of how coronavirus spreads?



  • The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews revealed some startling figures yesterday.

    It wasn't just that the state recorded its highest number of new coronavirus cases in a single day, it was the huge percentage of people that were getting tested and not isolating before they got their result.

    And in Queensland, there's another issue where people are skipping quarantine before their time is up.

    So what problems is this all causing?

    On today's show:

    * Why are people not complying with the quarantine and isolation rules?

    * Many of Victoria's outbreaks are in essential industries. How can we control that?

    * How long is an asymptomatic person contagious for? 14 days? Or forever? How does it work?

    * There has been a lot of talk about different ways of cleaning masks. Isn't detergent and water just as good as anything?

    And if you want a back to basics on how to put on a mask, check out our Instagram account @abchealth for a how-to by Dr Norman Swan.



  • Melbourne recorded its second worst day yesterday with 374 new cases of coronavirus.

    It's also been nearly two weeks since the city-wide lockdown was reimposed, but as yet there has been no reduction in new cases and it's unclear whether the curve is flattening.

    Restrictions seemed to work a lot faster the first time, so what’s going on?

    And you asked for it: we have Norman's explanation and breakdown of the promising results of the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine.

    On today's show:

    * Shouldn't we be seeing a reduction in new Melbourne cases by now?

    * Is it time to impose tighter restrictions?

    * Why are we not being advised to soak reusable face masks in ethanol?

    * I'm a mask newbie. I experienced a suffocating feeling, like I was in a stuffy room with humid stale air. Do you have any advice?

    And you have some comments about not inhaling scotchgard, questions about if we're anti-Queensland because we forgot to mention them yesterday and was Norman grumpy on Monday.

    Also today is our 100th episode! We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you or your amazing questions, so thank you for listening!



  • While coronavirus case numbers were up in NSW yesterday, health authorities said that they could identify where every infection came from.

    Being able to trace every case is a great sign that outbreaks are being brought back under control. So is NSW out of the woods?

    And while NSW might be starting to get back on top of things, research has shown that what’s happening in NSW and Victoria could happen anywhere.

    On today's show:

    * Norman explains some intriguing figures about which Australian states are most primed for a coronavirus outbreak.

    And loads more questions have come in on masks:

    * Can I lightly scotchgard the outer layer of fabric?

    * Is scotchgard toxic to breathe through?

    * Can you wear a face shield instead of a mask?

    * I am hearing mixed reports about how often to wash a mask. Can you please clarify the best practice?

    * Can I hot wash and reuse the blue disposable masks?



  • The Victorian Government has imposed new restrictions on Melbourne, mandating the use of masks.
    Following an increase in coronavirus cases over the last few days, people living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will be required to wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four allowed reasons.

    Residents have now been under restrictions for more than a week, so why aren't Melbourne's coronavirus numbers coming down?

    And now that masks are mandatory, what's the best way to make them and safely look after them?

    On today's show:

    * What do we do if numbers don't start coming down soon?

    * Why aren't the numbers coming down?

    * Dr Norman gave his recommendation for materials for masks. What are they?

    * What should I look for when buying a mask?

    * Can I put my cloth mask in the microwave and it will kill the germs?

    * My husband was given some surgical masks and was told he could rotate them every three days. Is this true?



  • There's been a record number of new daily cases of coronavirus in Melbourne, just days after health authorities were hoping numbers had stabilised.

    It's now more than a week since Melbourne went into lockdown, but so far there's been no sign the massive outbreak is being suppressed.

    And the numbers are also growing in NSW, where authorities are saying the incubation period of the virus could be as low as a day.

    On today's show:

    * What do authorities mean by "stability"? Could they know more than they're saying?

    * NSW authorities say the incubation period of the virus could be a day. What does that mean?

    * I work at an outdoor grocer. How do I wear a mask for a eight hours?

    * What does Norman think about loads of people going to the AFL in WA?

    And we have some research on a really interesting study about how well masks worked at a salon in America.



  • Melbourne has now been in lockdown for a week, and yet we're still seeing hundreds and hundreds of new coronavirus cases every day.

    And the city's hotspot suburbs have had restrictions for even longer.

    Health authorities are saying that the numbers are showing signs of some stabilisation but it's still too early to tell for sure.

    So are the restrictions working and when should we start to see a decline in cases?

    On today's show:

    * Melbourne has been in lockdown for a week. Why haven't we started to see a decline in cases?

    * Health authorities are talking about signs of stabilisation of numbers. Is that true?

    * If the outbreak in NSW can be linked to Victoria, was NSW about to eradicate the virus?

    And we received a bunch of comments on yesterday's show. Norman and Tegan respond to your concerns about elbow bumping, the efficacy of loose fitting masks and suggestions on how to get more people to wear them.

    And we have some research from the New England Journal of Medicine about some results from Moderna's mRNA coronavirus vaccine trial. It seems to look pretty good, but there are some caveats.



  • Going to the pub is almost a national sport, which is why the following question might be a little controversial.

    In a pandemic, should pubs be closed to try and stop infections?

    The coronavirus outbreak in the Crossroads Hotel in Sydney has now hit 30 cases, and may be starting to cause problems with surrounding businesses like gyms.

    So should pubs - heaving places with lots of mixing and movement - be closed?

    On today's show:

    * Are pubs places to avoid?

    * Runners come too close to me. Could I get coronavirus from them? They breathe a lot.

    * What about gyms? Is it still safe to go to them?

    * I can't breathe when I wear my woven cotton mask. What should I do?

    * Can you get coronavirus via the eye?

    * If a person coughs/sneezes into their elbow and covers that part of their arm with droplets, is it not unhygienic to then bump elbows, instead of shaking hands?



  • The growing numbers of coronavirus cases from Sydney's Crossroads Hotel has shown that Melbourne is far from alone in having to worry about outbreaks.

    The venue has so far been linked to more than 20 cases from people who either picked it up while at the pub, as a contact of someone who'd been there, and even as a contact of a contact.

    So will NSW Health be able to get on top of it? Or could this be the beginning of some big problems for Sydney?

    On today's show:

    * Are we watching the start of a Sydney outbreak in real time?

    * With all the new cases popping up in Sydney, should we be heading back into lockdown now rather than waiting?

    * Norman said touching a face mask can reduce or impair its effectiveness. How or why does this happen?

    * Europe has reduced some restrictions. Why is there not a spike in cases?

    * I was disappointed about Norman’s reference to healthcare workers contracting diseases as 'inexcusable'. What did he mean by that?



  • There have been hundreds more cases of coronavirus over the weekend in Victoria, with more and more outbreaks popping up.

    New South Wales is also battling its own outbreak, which has come from a pub in south-west Sydney.

    With the amount of virus now washing around the community, has Australia missed its chance at eliminating coronavirus even if it wanted to?

    On today's show:

    * Has the surge in cases in Victoria peaked yet?

    * Why are there so many cases per day in Victoria?

    * How do I prevent spread between household members when there is only one bathroom?

    And Norman and Tegan discuss a recent study in The Lancet about so-called herd immunity, and how even countries that have suffered terribly are still a long way away from enough of the population being immune.