Coronavirus Aus: Pfizer vaccine set for February rollout

 

Australians are expected to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine from mid to late February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said high-priority groups, including healthcare and quarantine workers among others, would receive the treatment first.

He hoped the initial phase would start with about 80,000 inoculations a week.

However, Mr Morrison said this timeline with depend on a number of factors including final approval from the Therapeutic Good Administation, and delivery of the vaccine from the supplier.

He said the Pfizer vaccine would only be delivered and released once TGA approval was given, which he anticipated would occur by the end of January.

Mr Morrison dismissed claims the vaccine release had been delayed, adding health officials had been moving "swiftly and safely" to introduce the treatment

"Doing that is critical to public confidence in the vaccine. We have set out cautious timetables … but behind the scenes the officials you see here have led a process … to ensure we are seeking to better those [vaccine rollout timetables]. We don't want to make promises that we can't keep - that is incredibly important," Mr Morrison said

Mr Morrison warned that the vaccine was not a "silver bullet".

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"Once the vaccination process starts, COVID-safe practices do not end," he said.

He said the approval process for the AstraZeneca vaccine should be completed in February, but he did not have a clearer timeline at present.

Once the AstraZeneca treatment had been cleared by the TGA more groups of Australians would be vaccinated, federal health department secretary, Professor Brendan Murphy, said.

Prof Murphy said this was because it would be manufactured locally and thus have guaranteed supply line.

He said vaccine hubs would be set up across the nation to help ensure people got two doses of the same vaccine.

Over the second quarter of 2021 "a significant portion" of the Australian population would be vaccinated, he said.

He added children would likely be among the last to receive the jab.

"The very last group that we might consider [vaccinating] is children. We know that children are at very low risk of getting COVID and transmitting COVID and the vaccine has not yet been thoroughly tested against children," he said.

Earlier:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the COVID-19 numbers from NSW and Victoria are "encouraging", as NSW found two Victorians brought the illness over the border.

He said to those who are frustrated, there are ways to "count our blessings" when we compare the case load in Australia to the rest of the world.

He also said it was up to each state to decide on their own public health measures and border closures being put in place. While he would like to see "greater consistency" on clsoures, he did not criticise them for their decisions.

"I want to thank people particularly in New South Wales but also for the people of Victoria for their response to the public health messaging and the controls that have been put in place," he said.

.Prime Minister Scott Morrison during his first press political conference in Parliament House Canberra, for 2021. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
.Prime Minister Scott Morrison during his first press political conference in Parliament House Canberra, for 2021. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

 

"Especially those coming forward for testing. The record numbers we have seen come forward for testing has been extraordinary and enormously helpful for those who are doing the job to keep Australian safe both in those areas and for the benefit of the other parts of the country.

"And in Victoria, we are seeing already, I think, the results of the strengthening of their tracing systems that have been put in place over many months and it has been good to see how that has swung into gear over the course of the last 24 hours or so or longer.

"And we are seeing them getting on top of that information very quickly which is assisting them in managing this most recent outbreak in Victoria."

 

The Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly during a press conference at Parliament House Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
The Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly during a press conference at Parliament House Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly said the fact there is a definite genomic link between all of the clusters in Wollongong, Croydon and the Northern Beaches, as well as other parts of Sydney, was showing the testing and tracing systems were "excelling".

He said the vaccine was still on track to be delivered.

Mr Morrison said they won't be cutting corners before rolling out the vaccines.

"If there's no tick, there's no jab. That's got to be right for every single Australian. And so, our authorities are doing a tremendous job on this. But you need to get all the right data, and that needs to be validated, there's the batches that also need to be tested as well, it's not just about the initial vaccine itself, it's actually what is distributed around the country."

It comes as NSW Health has said two Victorians have brought COVID-19 to NSW.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the two cases travelled to NSW from Victoria on December 30.

They had dinner at the Great Southern Hotel in Eden from 5pm-6:30pm and the venue has been contacted and contact tracing is under way.

"We are asking people to get tested and isolate and public health will provide further updated advice as we understand the nature of exposures that occurred at that venue," she said.

She also said the cases ate at Bermi's cafe in Bermagui, from 9pm-10pm on December 31.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said there were another three cases of COVID-19 from western Sydney, which are mystery cases with no link to the other clusters in the Northern Beaches and Croydon.

Victoria recorded no new cases of coronavirus.

 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

 

Victorians are rushing to the border to get home from NSW as Victoria also announced a new transit permit for those Victorians coming home from Queensland.

They said they will be making arrangements after tomorrow for people who need to transit from NSW to other states including travellers from Queensland for example - so they can pass through NSW to get home.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said the five cases reported yesterday were detected from 13,108 tests.

So far there have been nine locally acquired cases recorded in Victoria this week.

Mr Foley said "the New South Wales link is still our primary line of investigation for this outbreak".

He said he expects genomic sequencing data on the new cases to become available "very shortly".

"We have seen reports overnight of long lines at border entrances and we have seen Victorians understandably frustrated by that," he said.

A mass exodus was created with holiday makers fleeing NSW and heading to the Victorian border in the confusion with the two different deadlines. Traffic heading south toward Genoa in East Gippsland. Picture: Alex Coppel.
A mass exodus was created with holiday makers fleeing NSW and heading to the Victorian border in the confusion with the two different deadlines. Traffic heading south toward Genoa in East Gippsland. Picture: Alex Coppel.

"Hard work from Victorian police and SES volunteers are working as hard as they can to move people through border checkpoints as quickly and as safely as possible.

"We ask all motorists to be prepared for delays again and to be patient."

Victorian chief COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said they have identified a closer link between the Mitcham and Mentone cases centred on the Smile Buffalo Thai Restaurant.

He also urged anybody who has been to the following locations at the times to get tested and isolate for 14 days.

*The Black Rock Cafe,

*Smile Buffalo Thai Restaurant at Black Rock

*Royal Brighton yacht club

*Holy Family Parish Doveton Catholic Church

*Village Cinema, Glen Waverley

 

Mr Foley clarified rules in Victoria around masks.

"From 5pm yesterday, our rules for mandatory mask wearing came in and I confirm as part of these, for those Victorians undertaking beauty services in the coming days, you must wear your mask in all indoor spaces, however, masks can be removed if you are receiving a service where it is not practical for you to receive that service while wearing a mask, for example if you are receiving a facial," he said.

"For gyms, it is the same rule. You must wear your masks in all indoor spaces however if you are engaged in any indoor strenuous physical activity and that Jim, you can remove that must, for example jogging, running, cycling."

 

A mass exodus was created with holiday makers fleeing NSW and heading to the Victorian border in the confusion with the two different deadlines. Scores of people camping alongside the highway near Cann River in East Gippsland. Picture: Alex Coppel.
A mass exodus was created with holiday makers fleeing NSW and heading to the Victorian border in the confusion with the two different deadlines. Scores of people camping alongside the highway near Cann River in East Gippsland. Picture: Alex Coppel.

BORDERS SHUT TO NSW

It comes as Sydneysiders have been effectively shut-out from the nation as states toughen their borders with NSW over the ongoing pre-Christmas outbreak of COVID-19 on the Northern Beaches.

South Australia and Victoria announced on Thursday they will close their border with NSW as the state recorded 10 new coronavirus cases.

SA said its hard border closure to NSW would come into effect as the clock ticks over into 2021.

Victorians also face a race to get home or risk getting trapped in NSW after the state declared it will shut the border from 11.59pm on January 1.

It comes after new locally transmitted cases emerged in Victoria after a 61-day COVID-19 free streak.

Eight cases have been recorded over the past two days, with more than 70 close contacts now in isolation.

 

Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan. Picture: Ian Currie
Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan. Picture: Ian Currie

 

The first three cases were all linked to a Thai restaurant where a NSW returned traveller had also been, Health Minister Martin Foley said.

Western Australia has already shut its border to NSW travellers, but on Thursday said it will close to Victorians too after new COVID-19 cases emerged in the southeastern state.

Western Australia's acting premier Roger Cook has said the state has now declared Victoria to be a medium risk.

He said Victoria will become a "medium risk" state from 12.01am, January 1.

This means people will not be able to enter Victoria unless they are an "exempt traveller".

There will be a list of exemptions, which will be the same as are in place for NSW.

WA residents on holidays in Victoria will be "dealt with on a compassionate basis", case-by-case.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant (left) is seen wearing a face mask during a COVID-19 press conference in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant (left) is seen wearing a face mask during a COVID-19 press conference in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

These returning Western Australians will have to self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive back home, and they will need to have a Day 11 COVID-19 test," he said.

Anyone who has arrived in Western Australia from Victoria on or after 21 December will need to self-quarantine immediately.

"They will need to be in self-quarantine for 14 days from when they arrived in Western Australia and get a COVID-19 test at any point symptoms develop," Roger Cook said. "They will also need to present to a COVID-19 clinic for a test on day 11."

Meanwhile, the NT declared Greater Metropolitan Sydney a COVID-19 hotspot from midnight on NYE, while Queensland is monitoring the situation.

Thursday's numerous changes mean Sydneysiders must enter mandatory quarantine in every state or territory.

The border closures across the states emerged after NSW recorded ten new coronavirus cases overnight.

Of these, five are linked to the northern beaches Avalon cluster, three were members of the Croydon cluster, one is linked to the transport worker cluster and one is currently under investigation.

 

Cars are seen lining up at the Summer Hill drive through COVID-19 testing clinic in the inner west of Sydney. NSW has recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases, with 5 linked to the Avalon cluster and 3 linked to the Croydon cluster. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi
Cars are seen lining up at the Summer Hill drive through COVID-19 testing clinic in the inner west of Sydney. NSW has recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases, with 5 linked to the Avalon cluster and 3 linked to the Croydon cluster. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi

 

"Pleasingly, we have seen the numbers go down today but it's very volatile. They're going to bounce around and what is really important is for all of us to do everything we can to reduce our mobility, to reduce the number of people that we're mixing with and to make sure that we stick to the rules and the health advice that's been provided," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said during a press conference on Thursday, where she again implored people to wear face masks in indoor settings.

 

 

 

But she has stopped short of making masks mandatory despite expert epidemiologists recommending it. She is also not enforcing a state-wide hard lockdown of any type despite the virus spreading to Shellharbour, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong.

Here's a breakdown of what's happening in each state and territory.

 

NSW

The NSW State Government announced a string of new rules.

From New Year's Eve in Sydney (including Wollongong, Central Coast and Blue Mountains) the following will apply:

* Household gatherings will be limited to 5 visitors (including children).

* The limit for outdoor gatherings will be reduced from 50 to 30.

Restrictions for the northern zone of the Northern Beaches remain the same but for the southern zone of the Northern Beaches the following will now apply;

* Household gatherings will be limited to 5 visitors from within your zone (including children).

These changes come into effect from midnight on December 30 and will be in place until further notice.

Hospitality venues will remain open but must adhere to the one person per four square metres rule.

Council events may continue but they must be controlled and seated with no mingling, and record keeping requirements must be strictly adhered to.

FOR THE NORTHERN AREA OF THE NORTHERN BEACHES

During the New Year's Eve period (4pm, 31 December 2020 to the end of 1 January 2021):

*You may have up to 5 visitors (including children) to your home per day, as long as your visitors also live in the northern area of the Northern Beaches

*Your group may also gather outdoors in a public place, provided no one else joins your group.

*Stay at home rules apply.

*You may leave your home for exercise or outdoor recreation, but only within the northern area of the Northern Beaches.

*You may only leave this area for essential reasons, including to buy food or access goods or services that are not available in the northern area of the Northern Beaches.

*Up to 5 people, including children, may gather outdoors in a public place for exercise or recreational activity (including boating), but everyone must be a northern area resident.

*Restrictions for the northern area will be reassessed on 9 January 2021.

FOR THE REMAINDER (SOUTHERN AREA) OF THE NORTHERN BEACHES

During the New Year's Eve period (4pm, 31 December 2020 to the end of 1 January 2021):

*You may have up to 5 visitors (including children) to your home per day, as long as your visitors also live in the southern area of the Northern Beaches (see map below)

*Your group may also gather outdoors in a public place, provided no one else joins your group.

Stay at home rules apply.

*You may leave your home for exercise or outdoor recreation, but only within the southern area of the Northern Beaches.

*You may only leave this area for essential reasons, including to buy food or access goods or services that are not available in the southern area of the Northern Beaches.

*Up to 10 people, including children, may gather outdoors in a public place for exercise or recreational activity (including boating), but everyone must be a southern area resident.

*Restrictions for the southern area will be reassessed on 2 January 2021.

PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE NORTHERN BEACHES

You must not enter the Northern Beaches area (including Pittwater) to obtain food, goods or services unless those things are not available outside the Northern Beaches.

For regional NSW there is no change to current arrangements.

 

 

SA Premier Steven Marshall. Picture: Mike Burton
SA Premier Steven Marshall. Picture: Mike Burton

 

 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SA Premier Steven Marshall announced a hard border closure to NSW would come into effect as the clock ticks over into 2021, citing the "disturbing circumstances" of COVID-19 globally.

He said there will be few exemptions for those returning after 12.01am on Friday, but SA residents, people permanently moving states and essential travellers will be permitted.

All those groups will still need to self-isolate for 14 days.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said officers were already in place at border checkpoints.

Travellers returning to the state will need to demonstrate they met the criteria upon crossing the border.

"Don't think that you can manipulate the system by travelling backwards and forwards between NSW and South Australia claiming to be a returning resident every time: it is a one time deal," Commissioner Stevens said.

He said people travelling from Queensland to South Australia must follow the most direct route through NSW and not spend "unnecessary time" interstate.

SA Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier announced only two new cases from overseas travellers were in quarantine and had no connection to NSW.

She urged SA residents to follow social distancing guidelines and practice good hygiene for New Year's Eve celebrations.

Mr Marshall said a 100km buffer zone will be implemented for cross-border communities, allowing people in Broken Hill and Wentworth to freely enter the state.

"We're also going to be putting some transit allowances because there are people travelling through NSW who won't be stopping," Mr Marshall said.

Mr Marshall said border arrangements with Victoria would not change.

 

 

VICTORIA

Hours before the state announced it would close border to all of NSW from 11.59pm on January 1, Victorians were urged to return home as soon as possible.

"This is a quickly changing situation and we don't want you to be trapped in New South Wales," Acting Premier Jacinta Allan said.

Any Victorian arriving from NSW before the deadline will still need to get tested and quarantine for 14 days, the state government said late Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, Victoria announced anyone who has been in the NSW regions of the Blue Mountains and Wollongong since Sunday had to return by 11.59pm on December 31.

The border was already closed to those in Greater Sydney and the Central Coast.

 

NORTHERN TERRITORY

The NT declared Greater Metropolitan Sydney a COVID-19 hotspot from midnight on New Year's Eve, meaning anyone travelling from there must enter quarantine.

The NT had previously declared only seven Sydney suburbs hotspots.

 

 

Dr Jeannette Young with Health Minister Yvette D'Ath. Photo Steve Pohlner
Dr Jeannette Young with Health Minister Yvette D'Ath. Photo Steve Pohlner

 

 

QUEENSLAND

Queensland, which had already declared Greater Sydney a hotspot, is assessing the situation as it unfolds.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said on Thursday she was closely monitoring the New South Wales cluster and the new Victorian cases.

"I'm urging Queenslanders travelling to these states to reassess their plans - if it is not necessary, then consider staying here," she said.

"The next 24 hours are critical for Victoria and the NSW cluster is growing daily. Queensland is in a good position right now because we acted quickly to declare greater Sydney a hotspot."

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Western Australia has already shut its border to NSW travellers but on Thursday said it will close to Victorian travellers too.

From 12.01am on January 1, only exempt Victorian travellers will be allowed into WA, while returning residents must self-isolate for two weeks.

Anyone who arrived in WA from Victoria on or after December 21 must also self-quarantine for 14 days.

 

TASMANIA

Tasmania announced no new changes on Thursday, but has measures in place requiring travellers from Greater Sydney to quarantine.

 

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

The ACT announced no new changes on Thursday, but has measures in place requiring travellers from Greater Sydney, Wollongong and the Central Coast to quarantine.

Originally published as PM: 'No tick no jab', as Victorians bring COVID to NSW



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