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Lupus sufferers pleaded for more supplies of hydroxychloroquine two months before the federal government told billionaire Clive Palmer it didn’t want more of the 33m doses he wanted to donate as a possible Covid-19 treatment.
One tonne of Palmer’s hydroxychloroquine – equivalent to 5m doses – was destroyed after it was left unclaimed in Melbourne due to a lengthy standoff with the commonwealth, Guardian Australia revealed on Wednesday.
When Palmer first promised to donate 33m doses of hydroxychloroquine to Australia, there was some optimism – since disproven – that it could be used as a treatment for Covid-19.
The fervour around hydroxychloroquine’s possible value in treating coronavirus led to the hoarding of the drug and put meaningful pressure on supplies for other patient groups – sufferers of malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, among others – who have a authentic need for it.
The pressure on supplies was so meaningful that Lupus Australia wrote to the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, on 25 March last year, expressing concerns that patients were unable to fill their prescriptions, due to major shortages.
Hunt responded to the letter and outlined the steps taken by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to ensure continued supply for those who needed hydroxychloroquine, including lupus sufferers.
Lupus Australia president, Barbara Ward, said hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were basic drugs for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, particularly where “a patient’s symptoms do not respond to other treatments”.
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In Australia, teachers are warning that schools in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria are not however ready to go back, raising concerns over poor ventilation, a without of air filters, and no guidance on how to safely manage class sizes.
“We have situations where room capacity leaves eight to 10 students out in the cold, literally,” the senior vice-president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Amber Flohm, said.
Teachers had asked the government to audit classroom sizes three months ago but had been ignored, she said.
In NSW, teachers say the government’s policy to have schools open their windows for natural ventilation method some students have already been forced to learn in halting conditions.
One teacher in the Blue Mountains said students currently in confront-to-confront learning were bringing in blankets.
“It’s currently 13C here and raining,” she said on Wednesday. “We have been told that we can put the heater on, but the warmth is just blowing outside.
“Summer will be interesting too. We often have days well over 40 and have been told we can’t use the air-con as it recirculates the air in the room,” she said.
Many of the teachers Guardian Australia spoke to for this story are not allowed to speak to the media, so their identities have been kept anonymous.
Italy is bracing itself for further unrest and labour market mayhem as the strictest vaccine mandate in Europe takes effect on Friday.
All workers will be obliged to present a coronavirus health pass before entering their workplaces, a move that is expected to leave some industries struggling with staff shortages.
The measure, an expansion of the “green pass” introduced in August, will require public and private sector workers to have been double vaccinated, to show proof of a negative test taken within the past 48 hours or of having recently recovered from Covid-19.
Those who flout the rules confront being suspended without pay or fined up to €1,500 (£1,270). Employers confront fines for failing to check if staff are complying.
More than 80% of the population over the age of 12 has been double-vaccinated and the majority of Italians have taken the green pass – also required for dining inside restaurants, entering museums, theatres and cinemas, and for use on planes and long-distance trains – in their stride.
However, protests over the workplace rule have gathered speed in recent weeks, with a demonstration in Rome last weekend turning violent as neofascist groups exploited the discontent. The motive behind Italy’s green pass is to raise inoculations and contain infections in the hope of avoiding another lockdown.
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