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COVID-19 in Australia

Weekly COVID news at a glance



1.  More Vaccine for Victoria announced

The federal government has announced an extra 100-thousand doses of the Pfizer vaccines for Victoria to meet the high vaccination demand.

Following the recent outbreak in the community, vaccination numbers have increased dramatically leading to long wait times and dwindling supplies of the vaccines.

The new doses will be available to people UNDER 50 and will be delivered over three weeks starting on the 14th of June.

More AstraZeneca shots will also be delivered to GPs to increase inoculations among those aged OVER 50.



2.  Federal in support of a Victoria quarantine facilty


The federal government will support the construction of a purpose-built quarantine hub in Victoria.

The state government prefers the new centre to be built at Mickleham, but Avalon is also a potential site.

The state government proposed the 500-bed facility be built next to an existing quarantine facility for plants and animals.

The state government has also asked the Commonwealth to fund the full 200 million dollars needed for the facility.

Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed that the state has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commonwealth over the new centre.



3.  Leaders urge G7 to help vaccinate world’s poorest

More than 100 former prime ministers, presidents and foreign ministers are among 230 prominent figures calling on the leaders of the powerful G7 countries to pay two-thirds of the $66bn (£46.6bn) needed to vaccinate low-income countries against Covid.

A letter seen by the Guardian ahead of the G7 summit to be hosted by Boris Johnson in Cornwall warns that the leaders of the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada must make 2021 “a turning point in global cooperation”. Fewer than 2% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have been vaccinated against Covid, while the UK has now immunised 70% of its population with at least one dose.

Among the vaccine letter’s signatories are Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, with the two former prime ministers putting aside past differences to join the effort to put pressure on the G7. Brown said the proposal would cost 30p per person per week in the UK “for the best insurance policy in the world”.

Prominent figures who have signed the letter include former UN secretary general Ban-Ki Moon, former Irish president Mary Robinson and taoiseach Bertie Ahern and 15 former African leaders including presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, John Mahama of Ghana and FW de Klerk of South Africa.


4.  Mix and match’ Covid booster jabs may be better

Researchers testing whether second dose of different vaccine could generate stronger immune response.

Four different coronavirus jabs have been approved for use in the UK, with more under regulatory review. While people are currently offered two doses of the same jab, researchers have been exploring whether offering a second dose of a different Covid vaccine could generate a stronger immune response.

A further study has suggested the approach could bring benefits. The research, yet to be peer-reviewed, compared the immune responses of 26 individuals aged 25-46 who were given one dose of the AstraZeneca jab followed by a dose of the Pfizer jab with those given two shots of the latter.

The results suggest those given the mixed regime had an almost four-fold higher median level of neutralising antibodies against the Alpha variant, first detected in Kent, two weeks after their second jab.

While further research is needed among larger groups and participants of different ages, scientists say the findings are encouraging – although not a surprise.

Prof Deenan Pillay, a professor of virology at University College London, said the mix and match approach offered more global flexibility. “We await the results of more pilots. But overall this is good news, since it means that booster doses of vaccine are not limited by supply of one particular vaccine. It also will allow flexibility when considering third booster doses in the future,” he said.



5.  ‘Arsenal’ of vaccines for world from US

/ US President Joe Biden

The United States will provide an “arsenal” of vaccines for the world and will donate 75% of its surplus doses through an international initiative for countries in need, the Biden administration announced 3 June.

The US administration has pledged to donate at least 80 million doses by month’s end, starting with an initial tranche of 25 million. Of those, the White House said about 19 million will go to COVAX – a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access – with approximately 6 million for South and Central America, 7 million for Asia and 5 million for Africa.

“The United States will be the world’s arsenal of vaccines in our shared fight against this virus,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “And we will continue to do all we can to build a world that is safer and more secure against the threat of infectious disease.”

The U.S. will keep 25% of its excess vaccine supply in reserve for emergencies and to share with allies and partners.

The distribution plan will prioritize neighbors in our hemisphere but also India, Southeast Asia and countries where the need is especially dire, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said U.S. vaccine makers are ramping up production so that additional doses can be provided beyond the 80 million already committed.



6.  Covid for 216 days, develops 32 mutations

A South African woman with advanced HIV carried the coronavirus for 216 days, during which it accumulated 32 mutations, according to a new study.

According to Business Insider, the unnamed 36-year-old woman’s unique Covid situation was the subject of a case study by Tulio de Oliveira, a geneticist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.


/ Tulio de Oliveira, a geneticist at University of KwaZulu-Nata


The case report, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, said that the coronaviruses gathered 13 mutations to the spike protein, which is known to help the virus escape the immune response and 19 other mutations that could change the way the virus behaves.

Some of the mutations seen in the woman have been previously observed in other known Covid variants, such as:

  • The E484K mutation, which is part of the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7, which was first seen in the UK).
  • The N510Y mutation, which is part of the Beta variant (B.1.351, which was first seen in South Africa).

It is not yet clear whether the woman’s mutations were passed on to others.


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COVID-19 in Australia

These stats predicts Sydney’s lockdown situation




The number of infections since the Delta variant was first identified in the eastern suburbs last month is approaching 2,000. Daily updates show figures in several key COVID indicators are climbing. Ms Berejiklian said she would be working hard over the weekend on a blueprint out of the crisis.

Some academics have built three different models that provide clues as to how long the lockdown in Sydney and its surrounds could need to run. They’re based on complex maths, and designed by separate teams from different institutions. The people behind these models argue they’re about as close to that as you can get, and history shows they’re pretty accurate.


The first, from the University of Melbourne’s Populations Intervention Unit shows Sydney’s 14-day average number of new cases could be brought down to five by around August 28. The model predicts it could be as early as August 16 or as late as September 6 when variable factors are included in calculations. A 14-day average of less than five was the same trigger to relax restrictions that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews used during Melbourne’s second wave last year.

Ms Berejiklian hasn’t publicly identified it as a significant number in her state’s lockdown calculations. The real-world data shows the actual 14-day average in NSW has been rising steadily and has not started to plateau. Tony Blakely, the epidemiologist who led the work, said the model was very accurate at predicting when Melbourne’s lockdown reached its goal.

Professor Blakely said the strength of the model was that it took the guess work out of calculating what the reproductive rate — the number of people each case infected — needed to be. The model has been tailored to Sydney and factors in the increased transmissibility of the Delta COVID-19 variant, which was not present during Melbourne’s second wave.

Another model, developed by the Burnett Institute of Medical Research, shows what have happened if restrictions similar to those brought in at the height of Melbourne’s second wave last year were introduced in Sydney on July 7.

The model, run in early July, predicted case numbers would be brought down to five in about a month. However, stronger restrictions were not introduced in Sydney until July 18, pushing the target out even further.

Margaret Hellard, the epidemiologist who led the work, said the model ascribed random attributes to every individual. She said the strength of the model was that it captured some of the random nature of the pandemic, but models were only one component and contact tracing and epidemiological data gathering were important to “paint the bigger picture of what’s going on”.

The third model, developed by the University of Sydney, is based around compliance. It shows case numbers could be brought down to less than five a day by August 13 if compliance in Greater Sydney increases to 90 per cent. Study author Sheryl Chang said to achieve 90 per cent compliance, Sydneysiders needed to reduce their activity to 10 per cent of normal. Dropping to 80 per cent compliance pushes the target out to August 28. The actual case numbers show compliance has been below 50 per cent since around July 12.

“More importantly, we really have to bring down the community interactions,” Dr Chang said. “Minimise your time outdoors, minimise the time you meet strangers. That’s how we can bring down the number of cases.” The model currently does not include actual movement data in Sydney.




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COVID-19 in Australia

Alyssa suffered still agreed with vaccination




Being 40 years old, Alyssa Kent never expected to have a massive stroke and end up in a coma.  But that’s what happened after Alyssa suffered a rare case of blood clotting as a result of having the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. She still believes vaccinating the population is the best way for Australia to emerge from the pandemic.


/ Alyssa Kent


“You just never think you’re going to be that statistic. I’m 40 years old and I’ve had a stroke … I never thought that [would happen]. I thought [the vaccine] was the best option to protect me and add some protection to my family to get out of this [pandemic].”

But after she nearly died, she also wants people to understand the risk — albeit rare — of having the AstraZeneca COVID-19 jab. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has confirmed the clots that caused Alyssa’s stroke are linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

This week, the TGA recorded two new deaths from the clotting syndrome associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. One was a 44-year-old man from Tasmania and the other a 48-year-old woman from Victoria. In its latest weekly Vaccine Safety Report, the TGA said there have been 87 cases of clotting from the 6.1 million doses of AstraZeneca administered in Australia.

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COVID-19 in Australia

Weekly COVID news at a glance




1  Potential community transmission

Leaders at both state and federal levels have expressed disappointment and serious concern over Saturday’s anti-lockdown protests in Sydney and Melbourne, with Victorian Covid Commander Jeroen Weimar saying this behaviour was very frustrating. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also warned that any potential community transmission cases which emerged from the rally could affect further easing of restrictions. On the basis of consistent contained cases, Premier Andrews said on Sunday he expects the lockdown to end as planned on Tuesday night, but it would be under specific restrictions.

State health authorities are waiting for test results from two clusters in the recent outbreak before any announcement is made. Mr Andrews said two factors that could impact that announcement are results from testing for an apartment block in Docklands and the final round of tests for primary close contacts at the Prahran Market. He also said regional Victorians should expect any easing of restrictions to be in line with those for Greater Melbourne.


2  Pregnant women now eligible to vaccination

Pregnant women can now receive the Pfizer vaccine after becoming a priority group in Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout. If pregnant women have had a first dose of AstraZeneca, they can receive Pfizer as their second dose. Women at any stage of their pregnancy no matter how old they are can get the free vaccine by contacting their GP. 

Previously, pregnant women under 40 could not access the vaccine. Vaccinating pregnant women ensures that COVID-19, if caught, cannot cause adverse health complications for both mothers and their babies. 


3  “No-questions-asked” mental health days

Senior students are calling for the right to take “no-questions-asked” mental health days each term, considering the uncertainty in their learning due to repeated lockdowns. Student body, the Victorian Student Representative Council, is urging the state’s Education Minister James Merlino to act in helping the mental burden for VCE students who have been in an out of lockdowns.

As well as calling for one or two mental health days permitted per term, the council is also recommending that the attendance rate required to pass VCE class time be lowered. Student Executive Advisory Committee member Linh Dang says it is unfair to be able to take time off for physical illness but not mental illness.


4  2021 Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence 

Applications for the 2021 Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence are now open. The awards are presented each year to individuals and organisations that have created connection and cross cultural understanding between different faith and cultural groups. 

Award categories include the Premier’s Award, Media, Business, Police, Local Government, Youth Leadership, Community Innovation, and Education Awards. There are also the Refugee Advocacy, Sport, Arts, Justice, Health, Emergency Services and the Community Response and Recovery Awards. Nominations are open until 5 September. 

5  Trans-Tasman bubble on paused

New Zealand’s quarantine free travel bubble with Australia has been shut down for eight weeks. New Zealand previously paused travel to and from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia but the new shutdown includes all of Australia. The decision was made after the increasing case numbers in New South Wales. 

Managed return flights for New Zealanders who have a negative test pre-departure will run for a week. Returning residents from New South Wales and Victoria will need to quarantine and isolate.

6  Racism against Australian Muslims

The Australian Human Rights Commission has found that 80 per cent of Australian Muslims have experienced discrimination and prejudice. The Commission found that 50 per cent said they had dealt with unfair treatment from law enforcement. 48 per cent said they experienced racism in the workplace or when looking for work. 

The survey was conducted after the Christchurch attacks to understand the experiences of Australian Muslims. The Human Rights Commission wants national education campaigns and programs for employers. The Home Affairs Department said it was considering the report and would spend 63 million on social cohesion programs.


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