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  • Rikki Lambert

A shot in the arm for Krispy Kreme sales - but there's a catch

In a stroke of marketing genius, Krispy Kreme has announced that it will give a free donut every day for the rest of the year to customers who go to the store holding a vaccination card. The catch, as Krispy Kreme had to clarify on its Twitter account within hours of announcing it, is only US residents are eligible.

The clever marketing ruse - and incentive for vaccinations - comes as Australia struggles to deploy vaccines across Australia due to supply and flooding issues, and Melbourne sets up its biggest vaccination hub since the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Hearkening back to the jelly baby sugar fix after vaccinations in a bygone era, the global fast food chain's move could help get the vaccination message through to people otherwise disinclined to get the vaccine, which health authorities want as global deaths started rising again.

A top World Health Organization coronavirus expert says the weekly global count of deaths is rising again, a "worrying sign" after about six weeks of declines.

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on COVID-19 at the UN health agency, said on Monday the growth followed a fifth straight week of confirmed cases increasing worldwide.

She said the number of reported cases went up in four of the WHO's six regions, though there were significant variations within each, telling reporters:

"In the last week, cases have increased 8 per cent percent.
"In Europe, that is 12 per cent - and that's driven by several countries."

The increase is due in part to the spread of a variant that first emerged in Britain and is now circulating in many other places, including eastern Europe, she said.

Southeast Asia registered a 49 per cent week-to-week jump in confirmed cases, while WHO's Western Pacific region reported a 29 per cent rise largely fuelled by the Philippines, Van Kerkhove said.

The eastern Mediterranean saw cases rise 8 per cent percent, while the number of cases reported in the Americas and Africa declined, Van Kerkhove observed:

"I do want to mention that it had been about six weeks where we were seeing decreases in deaths.
"And in the last week, we've started to see a slight increase in deaths across the world, and this is to be expected if we are to see increasing cases. But this is also a worrying sign."

WHO emergencies chief Dr Michael Ryan acknowledged an urge among the public in many places to emerge from pandemic restrictions.

Ryan insisted any easing should coincide with measures such as strict case surveillance and high levels of vaccination but said vaccines alone would not be enough, adding:.

"I'm afraid we're all trying to grasp at straws. We're trying to find the golden solution: 'So we just get enough vaccine and we push enough vaccine to people and that's going to take care of it. I'm sorry, it's not."

With strong interest in the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, doctors and the government are urging patience.

The federal government insists more Australians will be able to book appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations as the program expands.

Monday marked the first day of phase 1b of the vaccination plan, which will see six million Australians get their jabs.

Phase 1b of the program takes in everyone over the age of 70, along with Indigenous Australians over 55 and younger adults with a medical condition or disability.

Workers deemed critical or high risk can also apply.

Doctors are being inundated with requests for vaccinations, as more than 1000 GPs gear up to take part in the program.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said:

"Appointment availability will increase as the number of clinics grow from 1000 to more than 4000 over the next four weeks, so we thank you for your patience."

Mr Hunt noted Australia had a contract with CSL for 50 million doses of its AstraZeneca vaccine, which meant the country did not need to rely on overseas supply.

Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Chris Moy said he understood why people were so eager to be vaccinated, telling the ABC:

"What I would say to everybody is that we've got a few months to do this, and just to understand it is going to be a staged thing.
"It won't happen in a day but it will happen."

Floods in NSW have disrupted some supplies but the vast majority of doctors have received an initial batch of doses.

Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said the length of the interruption would depend on how quickly floodwaters abated.

Dr Moy said he believed the government's target of October for Australians to get an initial jab was "reasonable".

More than 280,000 vaccinations had been provided so far nationwide.

In a small step towards reopening the nation's international border, Australian Border Force boss Michael Outram said almost half of the officers eligible for a vaccine jab had received one:

"(It's) an important step we can make towards the future of Australia reopening borders, to help our industry and government partners to provide tourism and boost economic recovery".

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner is the latest political figure to be vaccinated, receiving the AstraZeneca shot on Monday in a bid to boost confidence in its safety.

Meanwhile, a century on from housing Spanish flu patients, Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building is playing another key role in Australia's fight against a rampant virus.

The iconic Victorian building was on Monday reopened as a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre as part of the next phase of the national rollout.

Its transformation has drawn comparisons to 1919 when it was used as a hospital during the Spanish Influenza pandemic, which eventually killed more than 12,000 Australians.

Historian Mary Sheehan, a Melbourne University doctoral candidate considering the social impact and cost of the Spanish flu, says the parallels are striking.

"It's history repeating itself to a degree," she told AAP.

"While I've been doing studies of the pandemic, I've found that there are so many parallels between now and 100 years ago.

"The Exhibition is an example of one of those parallels."

About 4000 patients were treated at the World Heritage-listed building in Carlton from February to mid-September that year.

It wasn't originally intended to be that way but was hastily set up after the military-run Base Hospital on St Kilda Road - now the site of Melbourne University's Southbank campus - stopped admitting civilian patients.

To meet skyrocketing demand, authorities considered erecting tents at Flemington and Caulfield racecourses and converting a Carlton drill hall before settling on the Royal Exhibition Building.

"I suspect the Exhibition was used because of its size and its proximity to the city, and ease of access for ambulances and medical professional," Ms Sheehan said.

"The premier of Victoria, premier (Harry) Lawson, said at the time that it was a 'stop-gap measure', that it was a 'port in the storm'."

In all, 412 people perished at the site, including nurses and doctors, although Ms Sheehan put the death rate into perspective.

"It was comparable to the other public hospitals and even better than some of them," she said.

"Whilst there were that many deaths, it wasn't too bad."

Fast forward to 2021 and the building is front and centre in Victoria's efforts to ramp up COVID vaccinations within the "phase 1b" group, which accounts for six million Australians.

Paramedics, police and fire service members were among 100 frontline emergency workers to receive the jab on Monday as the Carlton hub had its "soft launch".

St Vincent's Hospital chief executive Angela Nolan said the site's vaccination numbers would grow to 400 a day by the end of the week and rise to 2500 at its peak.

"It's a really exciting moment because it marks the start of what we think is hope for our community," she told reporters.

Ms Sheehan highlighted that in a historical twist, St Vincent's Hospital was invited to manage the vaccine centre after Archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix offered to send its nurses to take charge of the makeshift hospital in 1919.

"That created a huge furore," she said.

"It's the opposite of what the experience was 100 years ago."

-- with AAP


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