Tag: coronavirus

‘Garbage’ and ‘cash cows’: temporary migrants describe anguish of exclusion and racism during COVID-19

800x450 migrants luggage

By Bassina Farbenblum* & Laurie Berg**

In early April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent a clear message to temporary visa holders that if they were no longer financially solvent to ride out the pandemic, they were not welcome in Australia.

As much as it’s lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this, if you are a visitor in this country, it is time […] to make your way home.

As our new research published today shows, this statement fuelled feelings of abandonment and worthlessness among temporary visa holders who have been left out of the government’s economic support schemes during the COVID-19 crisis.

In our survey of more than 6,100 temporary visa holders (including international students, backpackers and holiday workers), many used stark, dehumanising language to describe how they’ve felt since the pandemic began in Australia six months ago:

like we do not exist

aliens who don’t belong here

inanimate objects

discarded, unimportant, and expendable



Others recounted harrowing experiences of racist attacks — being punched, kicked, shoved and deliberately spat at or coughed on by passers-by — as well as a range of xenophobic slurs.

For many of our respondents, this has destroyed their sense of belonging in Australia and fundamentally changed their perceptions of the country and its leaders.

‘ATMs of the Australian government’

Our earlier research, and that of other scholars, has documented how temporary visa holders have suffered financially during the crisis.

These visa holders include international students, backpackers, graduates, sponsored workers and refugees. Many work in casualised industries, such as hospitality and retail, lost their jobs and struggled to meet basic living expenses.

There are more than one million temporary visa holders in Australia — who may comprise up to 10% of Australia’s workforce — but they have been excluded from the federal JobKeeper and JobSeeker support schemes.

In our latest survey, thousands of respondents voiced their distress and anger at the government’s lack of support during lockdown. Many felt their only value to Australia was as a revenue stream, since they worked here and paid taxes or spent considerable sums to study at universities.

A striking number used words such as “cash cows”, “money-making plants”, “ATMs of the Australian government” and “walking moneybags”.

Many felt callously used for their cheap labour. A Russian master’s student said:

We paid taxes. We did all dirty work Australians don’t want to do and what about us? […] It is nice to have invisible cheap workers that will be silently committing to work when you and your family can stay at home or work from home and get government support and don’t lose any money.

International students, in particular, have been encouraged by the government and universities to invest heavily in Australia — often spending their life savings — to set up new lives here. Many stay for at least five years — a three-year bachelor’s degree followed by a two-year temporary graduate visa.

As one French graduate visa holder put it:

some of us have been here for years and consider Australia like our home now. Quitting everything we have done and been through is just unimaginable.

Racist slurs and taunts

For some, their experiences have gone beyond social exclusion to overt racism. Almost a quarter of our respondents said they had been subjected to racist verbal abuse since the pandemic began in March. And a quarter said people avoided them because of their appearance.

More than half (52%) of Chinese respondents reported experiencing at least one of these forms of racism, as did more than 40% of those from other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

We also received more than 1,600 personal accounts of targeted xenophobic slurs, such as people saying “coronavirus”, “Chinese virus”, “Asian virus” or worse to them in public or at work.

One Chinese woman noted:

a stranger shouted in my face that I am the virus in the supermarket.

Another international student observed this kind of harassment

is a regular thing for Asian people in Australia.

In an echo of the prime minister’s words, many respondents from a range of nationalities reported being told to “get out of Australia”.

As one Colombian student put it,

I received many comments from Australian[s] telling me leave the country, go back your home, ask you[r] family for money, respect the Australian people.

An Indian student recalled being told

to go back to my country by random strangers on the street while working as an Uber Eats delivery man.

Abandoning people in their time of need

Clearly, the impact of the exclusion felt by these temporary visa holders will far outlast the pandemic.

The government’s failure to support these vulnerable people has the potential to profoundly impact Australia’s global reputation. The country’s education and tourism sectors will also likely suffer the economic consequences for years to come.

Of the students and working holiday makers in our survey, 60% indicated they are now less likely or much less likely to recommend Australia as a place to study or work.

This includes international students from important education markets like China and Nepal (76% and 69% less likely to recommend Australia, respectively).

Our survey reveals the financial situation of many respondents is rapidly worsening, with more than a third of international students indicating they will run out of funds by next month.

The government must use the October budget to rectify the exclusion of temporary migrants from social support measures.

If it is not compelled to act for ethical or diplomatic reasons, it should at least listen to the observations of one survey respondent. This is emblematic of the sentiments expressed by thousands more:

Australia showed its true colours when it came to international students. They call us friends but then abandon us in our time of need. I think Australia will struggle to attract international students after the disgraceful treatment and lack of compassion shown during COVID.

* Associate professor, UNSW
** Associate Professor, University of Technology Sydney

Source- The Conversation, Sept 17, 2020 (Under Creative Commons Licence)

13 insider tips on how to wear a mask without your glasses fogging up, getting short of breath or your ears hurting


By Craig Lockwood* & Zoe Jordan**

After midnight tonight, wearing face masks will be mandatory for people in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire when they leave home. It’s also recommended in New South Wales when physical distancing isn’t possible.

This means many Australians will be wearing a face mask for the first time.

Yes, wearing a mask can be uncomfortable or frustrating, especially if you’re not used to it. People who wear glasses, those anxious about being able to breathe properly, or who wear masks for extended periods of time face particular challenges.

But health workers, who have long used face masks as part of their everyday work, have developed a number of useful workarounds we’d like to share.

How do I stop my glasses fogging up?
For people with glasses, wearing a mask can lead to their lenses fogging, reducing their vision. As you breathe out, your warm breath shoots upwards out the top of the mask. When it hits the colder lens, it cools down, forming condensation, or fogging.

Having to keep on taking off your glasses to wipe them clear, and putting them back on again, is an infection risk. So preventing or minimising fogging is the key. Here are some tips:

1. Soap and water — wash your glasses with soap and water (such as regular washing up liquid), then dry them with a microfibre cloth. This type of cloth typically comes free with each pair of glasses. You can also buy cheap microfibre cloths from most optometrists. Facial tissues may leave lint, which attracts moisture to the lenses. Soap reduces surface tension, preventing fog from sticking to the lenses.

2. Shaving foam — apply a thin layer of shaving cream to the inside of your glasses, then gently wipe it off. The residual shaving cream will protect the lenses from misting up.

3. De-misting spray — you can use a commercial de-misting spray that dries clear. But make sure this is compatible with your lens type or existing coatings on your lens. You can buy demisting spray online or from your optometrist.

4. Close the gap on surgical masks — mould the nose bridge at the top of your surgical mask to your face to reduce the gap that allows warm moist air up to the glasses.

5. Twist ties and pipe cleaners — if you make your own cloth mask, add a twist tie (for instance, from a loaf of bread) or pipe cleaner to the top seam of your homemade mask and mould that to your nose for the same effect.

6. Tape — some health professionals apply a strip of tape that’s specially designed for use on skin to the top edge of the mask to close the gap. You can buy a roll online or at the pharmacy.

7. Damp tissue — slightly moistening a tissue, folding it and placing it under the top edge of the mask also does the trick.

8. Nylon stocking — Victoria’s health department says you can also get a snug fit across the cheeks and bridge of the nose by wearing a layer of nylon stocking over a face mask.

Sadly, there is no magic trick, such as putting the mask or glasses on first that will stop fogging. Improving the fit around the curve of the nose and cheeks is the best approach.

I feel anxious about wearing a mask. What can I do?
Putting on a mask may make you feel anxious or you may find it hard to breathe normally, especially if you’re new to wearing a mask.

Fortunately, the World Health Organisation and others say there is no evidence a face mask will cause either a drop in blood oxygen or an increase in blood carbon dioxide levels for normal everyday activities.

If you do feel anxious about wearing a mask, here are some tips:

9. Practise at home — take a few minutes before leaving the house to get used to the feel of wearing a mask. Slow your breathing, breathe gently, with a slower, longer inhale and exhale while focusing on the fact that air is getting to your lungs, and safely out again.

10. Try another mask — if you still feel breathing is difficult, try a different mask, use a commercially available design, or use different materials in your next home mask project.

What can I do to stop my ears hurting?
Once you have been wearing a face mask for several hours, you may notice discomfort around the ears as the ear loops can chafe the skin. Here’s what you can do:

11. Wear a headband with buttons… — one solution is to wear a headband with two buttons sewn onto it. Sew the buttons so they sit behind the ears. Rather than looping the mask around your ears, loop it around the buttons instead. This takes the pressure off the skin, increases comfort and helps you keep the mask on longer.

12. …or a paper clip — unfold two paper clips and wrap them around a headband, again positioning them behind the ears. Leave enough paperclip exposed to hook your earloops over, then press down to clamp down the loops in place.

13. 3D printing — freely available 3D printer templates allow you to print your own ear shields.

It’s worth getting this right
It may take a few attempts to get used to wearing a mask. But with a bit of trial and error, your glasses should remain fog-free, your ears comfortable and any anxiety about wearing a mask should reduce.

Wearing a mask in public is another thing we can do to help keep ourselves and the community safe, alongside social distancing and hand hygiene.

* Associate Professor Implementation Science, University of Adelaide.

** Executive Director, JBI, University of Adelaide.

Source- The Conversation, 22 July 2020. (Under Creative Commons Licence)

Whether a ratings chase or ideological war, News Corp’s coronavirus coverage is dangerous


By Denis Muller*

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, insignificant parts of its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, has become a clear and present danger to the welfare of Australian society.

Aping the worst of the American media – notably Murdoch’s Fox News – it rails against science, ridicules the measures being taken to suppress the outbreak, and tries to politicize a germ.

It also propagates hate speech, vilifying ethnic and religious minorities in whose suburbs, schools, and housing towers clusters have broken out.

In all these ways, it drives divisions in Australian society and sows doubt in the minds of an anxious population about the need for lockdowns and other precautions.

This critique is directed primarily at its opinion articles and television commentaries, rather than at its news coverage.

The news coverage has been extensive, has included many voices, and has kept its audiences up to date with what is going on. It has also been vigorous in holding governments to account for their mistakes, which is exactly what the media should do.

But the racism, ridiculing of science and ideological warfare that has disfigured much of the commentary have nothing to do with holding governments to account or providing the community with essential information.

On Sky, Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, launched an attack on Muslims and South Sudanese people over Melbourne’s second wave of COVID-19 that was a toxic mixture of vitriol and ignorance.

She blamed South Sudanese people living in Coburg for a cluster of 14 new infections, which she said were triggered by a feast to mark the end of Ramadan, the Muslim season of abstinence.

The Society of South Sudanese Professionals pointed out to her that more than 90% of South Sudanese in Victoria are Christian, not Muslim. Moreover, very few of them live in Coburg and the cluster did not consist of South Sudanese people.

For those errors of fact, Credlin apologised. But her fairmindedness did not extend to an apology for a nasty rhetorical question about the character of South Sudanese immigrants in general, linking well-worn tropes about gangs, unemployment and alleged inability to speak “Australia’s national language”.

Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph was onto the same immigrant-bashing exercise. He noted that three of the worst COVID-19 hot spots in Melbourne were the Flemington towers, the Islamic Al-Taqwa College and the Cedar Meats abattoir.

Here was a trifecta for divisiveness: African immigrants, Muslims and a meatworks that, according to Bolt, employs many immigrants and donates money to the Labor Party.

Most recently, as mask-wearing was made compulsory in Victoria, Bolt and Alan Jones turned their attacks against that too. That represented a significant change and was based on new data.

In June, The Lancet, one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world, published an article based on a meta-analysis of 172 observational studies and 44 comparative studies into the efficacy of physical distancing, mask-wearing and eye protection as ways of reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection.

It found face mask use could greatly reduce risk of infection.

The breadth and authoritativeness of the study persuaded health experts in Australia and elsewhere that mask-wearing was now a more important part of the armoury against COVID-19 than had been previously thought.

Bolt likened this to a kind of political backflip. Jones called it “alarmism”.

They might do well to recall the remark of economist John Maynard Keynes:

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

He went on to declare that government responses to the pandemic were shafting ordinary hard-working Australians.

Bolt stated he no longer trusted what Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said about coronavirus. Like Jones, Bolt questioned the medical basis for the decision to make mask-wearing compulsory.

He went on to declare that government responses to the pandemic were shafting ordinary hard-working Australians.

Bolt stated he no longer trusted what Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said about coronavirus. Like Jones, Bolt questioned the medical basis for the decision to make mask-wearing compulsory.

There has also been a party-political dimension to the News Corp coverage.

This has been evident in the contrast between The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the Ruby Princess debacle (Coalition government in New South Wales) and the Herald Sun’s coverage of the hotel quarantine debacle (Labor government in Victoria).

My analysis of 464 articles in the Telegraph on the Ruby Princess showed the coverage was extensive, quoting many voices trenchantly critical of the way the government handled the case. However, the newspaper itself made no direct personal attack on Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

A similar analysis I undertook of 411 articles in the Herald Sun about hotel quarantine and subsequent second wave likewise showed extensive coverage quoting many voices trenchantly critical of the government. But there was an additional dimension: direct personal attacks on Daniel Andrews, which has become a speciality of Credlin’s.

While the Murdoch organisation’s approach stands out as systematic and sustained, Channel Nine has also made episodic contributions to this dark side of Australia’s media performance.

Its Today program has twice disgraced itself. First it gave Senator Pauline Hanson a platform from which to make a racist attack on the people in Melbourne’s public housing towers. Then Today hosted an extreme right-winger, DeAnne Lorraine, from the United States, who says COVID-19 is a conspiracy to change the world.

Her stream of consciousness in support of this proposition included a reference to the Caduceus, symbol of medicine since time immemorial.

Fake science. And look at the snake. The snake is their logo. That should tell you everything you need to know, right there.

Whether the motive is to chase ratings, as with Nine, or to prosecute ideological and cultural warfare, as with Murdoch’s News Corporation, the consequences for Australian society are dire.

The coronavirus pandemic has created well-founded anxiety in people for their health and economic well-being. In times like these, there is always a tendency in human nature to look for scapegoats or to deny reality.

Media coverage of the kind described here exploits that anxiety and feeds those natural human impulses, leading to social division and resistance to medical advice.

Both these consequences work against the suppression of the virus. That is why it represents a clear and present danger to society.

* Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

Source- The Conversation, July 22, 2020. (Published under the Creative Commons Licence)

UN report: 690 million people went hungry in 2019 ; achieving zero hunger by 2030 in doubt

Photo- FAO

By SAT News Desk/WHO Media

Rome, 13 July 2020 – More people are going hungry, an annual study by the United Nations has found. Tens of millions have joined the ranks of the chronically undernourished over the past five years, and countries around the world continue to struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition.

The latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published today, estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years. High costs and low affordability also mean billions cannot eat healthily or nutritiously. The hungry are most numerous in Asia but expanding fastest in Africa. Across the planet, the report forecasts, the COVID-19 pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020. (Flare-ups of acute hunger in the pandemic context may see this number escalate further at times.)

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. It is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Writing in the Foreword, the heads of the five agencies warn that “five years after the world committed to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, we are still off-track to achieve this objective by 2030.”


The hunger numbers explained

In this edition, critical data updates for China and other populous countries have led to a substantial cut in estimates of the global number of hungry people, to the current 690 million. Nevertheless, there has been no change in the trend. Revising the entire hunger series back to the year 2000 yields the same conclusion: after steadily diminishing for decades, chronic hunger slowly began to rise in 2014 and continues to do so.

Asia remains home to the greatest number of undernourished (381 million). Africa is second (250 million), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (48 million). The global prevalence of undernourishment – or overall percentage of hungry people – has changed little at 8.9 percent, but the absolute numbers have been rising since 2014. This means that over the last five years, hunger has grown in step with the global population.

This, in turn, hides great regional disparities: in percentage terms, Africa is the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 percent of its people undernourished. This is more than double the rate in Asia (8.3 percent) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (7.4 percent). On current trends, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry.

The pandemic’s toll

As progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems – understood as all the activities and processes affecting the production, distribution, and consumption of food. While it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, the report estimates that at a minimum, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19. iii The setback throws into further doubt the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

Unhealthy diets, food insecurity, and malnutrition

Overcoming hunger and malnutrition in all its forms (including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) is about more than securing enough food to survive: what people eat – and especially what children eat – must also be nutritious. Yet a key obstacle is the high cost of nutritious foods and the low affordability of healthy diets for vast numbers of families.

The report presents evidence that a healthy diet costs far more than US$ 1.90/day, the international poverty threshold. It puts the price of even the least expensive healthy diet at five times the price of filling stomachs with starch only. Nutrient-rich dairy, fruits, vegetables, and protein-rich foods (plant and animal-sourced) are the most expensive food groups globally.

The latest estimates are that a staggering 3 billion people or more cannot afford a healthy diet. In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, this is the case for 57 percent of the population – though no region, including North America and Europe, is spared. Partly as a result, the race to end malnutrition appears compromised. According to the report, in 2019, between a quarter and a third of children under five (191 million) were stunted or wasted – too short or too thin. Another 38 million under-fives were overweight. Among adults, meanwhile, obesity has become a global pandemic in its own right.

A call to action

The report argues that once sustainability considerations are factored in, a global switch to healthy diets would help check the backslide into hunger while delivering enormous savings. It calculates that such a shift would allow the health costs associated with unhealthy diets, estimated to reach US$ 1.3 trillion a year in 2030, to be almost entirely offset; while the diet-related social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at US$ 1.7 trillion, could be cut by up to three-quarters.iv

The report urges the transformation of food systems to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the affordability of healthy diets. While the specific solutions will differ from country to country, and even within them, the overall answers lie with interventions along the entire food supply chain, in the food environment, and in the political economy that shapes trade, public expenditure, and investment policies. The study calls on governments to mainstream nutrition in their approaches to agriculture; work to cut cost-escalating factors in the production, storage, transport, distribution and marketing of food – including by reducing inefficiencies and food loss and waste; support local small-scale producers to grow and sell more nutritious foods, and secure their access to markets; prioritize children’s nutrition as the category in greatest need; foster behavior change through education and communication; and embed nutrition in national social protection systems and investment strategies.

The heads of the five UN agencies behind the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World have declared their commitment to support this momentous shift, ensuring that it unfolds “in a sustainable way, for people and the planet.”


Lockdown period – boon or bane


By Deepti Sikka

MELBOURNE, 5 June 2020: The COVID-19 lockdown period is leaving a profound impact on humankind. People are living at different times, on one level there is a physical disconnection with the society but at another level, people are back to the grassroots level realizing and valuing family bonding.

Families are spending more time with each other, having meals together which was forgotten and is now welcomed with open arms. Children are spending more time with the parents, going out to the parks, taking time out for bike rides, and with time the new routine is getting embedded as a new lifestyle. The lockdown period has given an opportunity for people to rekindle their relationships and understand the family better.

Gaurav Angi, Senior Manager, NBN says, “I have changed from being a father to be a friend to my kids, the important message learned is that material things are not that important as spending quality time is important”,

Hobbies and passions which gathered dust over a period of time have started emerging again. We have realized in order to maintain our mental wellbeing its critical to go back to basics and revive the artist in ourselves.

Talking to South Asia Times, Amit Sharma, Consultant, NAB said, “We all wanted a break, everyone was following a set routine. The lockdown period has definitely forced us to rethink our priorities”.

People have started understanding the importance of slowing down while enjoying the simple joys of life. As well as spending more time in understanding one’s inner self and for once stop being a part of the rat race.

Though it’s unfortunate that a global pandemic was required to acquaint people with their forgotten reality but somewhere finally the realization has dawned that we have been so busy making our lives perfect that the real meaning of life and relationships were lost.

The lockdown period for sure is the new paradigm of functioning and the year 2020 will be etched in everyone’s memories for years to come.