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Home » Coronavirus as it happened: NSW records zero new local COVID-19 cases as Victoria eases mask restrictions; Brisbane quarantine hotel evacuated over cluster fears
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Coronavirus as it happened: NSW records zero new local COVID-19 cases as Victoria eases mask restrictions; Brisbane quarantine hotel evacuated over cluster fears

Australians are being promised a two-stage strategy to protect the population from COVID-19 under a federal commitment to pursue herd immunity while making vaccines available as soon as possible.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the ambition on herd immunity after scientists raised questions over the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine to achieve the objective when compared to alternatives from Pfizer and others.

 Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia will pursue a herd immunity strategy as it waits to see how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia will pursue a herd immunity strategy as it waits to see how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

In another day of debate over vaccine options, health giant CSL shot down talk about Australian production of the potential Novavax vaccine by saying it could not make it and the AstraZeneca vaccine at the same time.

The developments cement the government plan for a widespread roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine to most of the population and a more limited roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine to up to five million people, subject to final test results for both.

In a key concern over the interim results for AstraZeneca, scientists this week told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age the vaccine’s efficacy rate was not high enough so far to achieve herd immunity.

The concept of herd immunity describes the objective of eliminating an epidemic by building up a community’s resistance to disease to the point where so many are protected it no longer spreads.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said the government view was to deliver protection and herd immunity but that results so far offered no guarantee about the longer-term objective.

Read more here.

Thanks for sticking with us. Here are some of the big stories from today:

We’ll see you tomorrow.

Two scientists on a mission to China to explore the origins of the new coronavirus are still in Singapore completing tests for COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The other 13 experts have arrived in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

“The experts will begin their work immediately during the 2 weeks quarantine protocol for international travelers,” the WHO said on Twitter.

The team of 15 all had tested negative for the disease prior to leaving their home countries and were tested again in Singapore, with all testing negative. However, two members were found to have antibodies.

The WHO said the pair “are being re-tested for both IgM and IgG antibodies”.

Reuters

A Vietnamese man who breached Western Australian quarantine by jumping off a carrier ship and swimming to shore will spend two weeks behind bars after being sentenced in court today.

A picture of Ho Anh Dung released by police in their search for him.

A picture of Ho Anh Dung released by police in their search for him. Credit:WA Police

Ho Anh Dung, 37, was a crew member on board a bulk carrier ship near the port of Albany when he jumped to the ocean on Saturday and swam to shore, sparking a massive police search to find him over fears he may carry coronavirus.

He was found later that evening at a backpackers’ hostel and charged with failing to comply with a direction. Under strict COVID-19 regulations for international arrivals, crew members are not permitted to disembark the ship.

On Thursday, Dung pleaded guilty in Albany Magistrates Court and was sentenced to six months and one day behind bars, suspended for five months and 22 days – meaning he will be required to serve a total of 14 days in jail before he can be released.

Premier Mark McGowan said the situation was “not something anyone would have predicted”.

“He was captured very quickly, he tested negative, he’s in quarantine, he’s in custody – there has been no danger of COVID spread from this person,” Mr McGowan said.

Read more here

NSW cases of the highly-transmissible coronavirus variant have doubled within a week, but Health Minister Brad Hazzard is confident the state’s current quarantine system can handle the more contagious strain.

There were no new local coronavirus cases across Australia on Thursday, the first time NSW has recorded a 24-hour period without a case since January 6.

NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard.

NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard.Credit:Jessica Hromas

NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said there had now been 13 cases of the B117 coronavirus variant, often called the “UK strain” due to its country of origin, in returned overseas travellers in Sydney.

This is an increase on the six who had tested positive to the variant in Sydney’s Special Health Accommodation – hotel quarantine managed exclusively by NSW Health for people with coronavirus and other health needs – by January 8.

Read more here

More than 100,000 people have gotten their hands on a permit to travel int Victoria since the government introduced a new traffic light system on Monday.

“Since the portal went live on Monday night, 105,970 permits have been issued up to midday today,” a statement from the Victorian Department of Health read.

“In the past 24 hours, 23,167 applications have been processed – an average of 16 permits issued each minute.”

The department revealed that about 82 per cent of permit applications were from green zones, and nine per cent were from those in orange zones.

“The remaining applications are for worker permits or people transiting through orange and red zones,” the statement continued.

The majority of applications, 68 per cent, were Victorians trying to come home.

When a handful of new coronavirus cases materialised this month in a province surrounding Beijing — apparently spread at a village wedding party — Chinese authorities bolted into action.

They locked down two cities with more than 17 million people, Shijiazhuang and Xingtai. They ordered a crash testing regime of nearly every resident there, which was completed in a matter of days.

They shut down transportation and cancelled weddings, funerals and, most significantly, a provincial Communist Party conference.

Workers in protective suits spray disinfectant near a residential area in Shijiazhuang.

Workers in protective suits spray disinfectant near a residential area in Shijiazhuang.Credit:Xinhua

By this week the lockdowns expanded to include another city on the edge of Beijing, Langfang, as well as a county in Heilongjiang, a northeastern province. Districts in Beijing itself, the Chinese capital, also shut down.

More than 22 million people in all have been ordered to remain inside their homes — double the number affected in January 2020 when China’s central government locked down Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first reported, in a move that was then seen as extraordinary.

This comes as the World Health Organisation’s 10-member team has arrived in Wuhan to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Their arrival was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of the WHO.

The flare-ups remain small compared with the devastation facing other countries, but they threaten to undercut the success the country’s Communist Party has had in subduing the virus, allowing its economy to surge back after last year’s slump and its people to return to something close to normal lives.

The urgency of the government’s current response stands in contrast to that of officials in Wuhan last year who feared a backlash if they disclosed the mysterious new illnesses then emerging. Local officials there had gone ahead with a Communist Party conference like the one now cancelled in Hebei, despite knowing the risk of the disease spreading among people.

Since Wuhan, authorities have created a playbook that mobilises party cadres to quickly respond to new outbreaks by sealing off neighbourhoods, conducting widespread testing and quarantining large groups when needed.

Read the full story here.

Australians are being promised a two-stage strategy to protect the population from COVID-19 under a federal commitment to pursue herd immunity while making vaccines available as soon as possible.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the ambition on herd immunity after scientists raised questions over the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine to achieve the objective when compared to alternatives from Pfizer and others.

 Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia will pursue a herd immunity strategy as it waits to see how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia will pursue a herd immunity strategy as it waits to see how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

In another day of debate over vaccine options, health giant CSL shot down talk about Australian production of the potential Novavax vaccine by saying it could not make it and the AstraZeneca vaccine at the same time.

The developments cement the government plan for a widespread roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine to most of the population and a more limited roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine to up to five million people, subject to final test results for both.

In a key concern over the interim results for AstraZeneca, scientists this week told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age the vaccine’s efficacy rate was not high enough so far to achieve herd immunity.

The concept of herd immunity describes the objective of eliminating an epidemic by building up a community’s resistance to disease to the point where so many are protected it no longer spreads.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said the government view was to deliver protection and herd immunity but that results so far offered no guarantee about the longer-term objective.

Read more here.

Disneyland is going to hold California’s first mass-vaccination site, where officials say they’ll be able to provide COVID-19 shots for over 7,000 people a day.

The county plans to have several “super” sites for vaccinations in large numbers.

The state government body tasked with managing Victoria’s hotel quarantine system has ticked off on tennis player Tennys Sandgren travelling to Melbourne for the Australian Open, despite testing positive for coronavirus this week.

COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria reviewed Sandgren’s test result and determined that the evidence in his case suggested he had recovered from his initial positive test in November 2020, and that this week’s positive test was a case of virus shedding.

“Every person arriving from overseas to participate in the Australian Open is required to take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test 72 hours before departing,” a spokesman for CQV said in a statement.

“For people who have previously tested positive and have since recovered, it is common to shed viral fragments for some time – which can trigger another positive result.

“Any person who returns a positive test result has their medical and case history reviewed by a team of public health experts. Only those who are determined to be recovered and no longer infectious will be allowed to travel to Australia.”

CQV’s statement came after American tennis player Sandgren tweeted that he had been allowed on a chartered flight to Melbourne to take part in the Australian Open, despite recently testing positive for coronavirus.

Sandgren tweeted on Thursday that he had originally been barred from the flight because of his positive test, but said later said he had been allowed on board.

“COVID positive for thanksgiving. COVID positive on Monday. Yet PCR tests are the ‘gold standard’? At least I get to keep my points,” he wrote.

He then tweeted: “Wow I’m on the plane. Maybe I just hold my breath too long … [Australian Open tournament director] Craig Tiley is a wizard.”

He later tweeted: “A lot couch virologists out there. My two tests were less than [eight] weeks [apart].
I was sick in November, totally healthy now. There’s not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point. Totally recovered!”

Police Minister Lisa Neville then tweeted that “no one who is COVID positive for the first time – or still could be infectious – will be allowed in for the [Australian Open]”.

Premier Daniel Andrews has suggested that Melbourne may have lost the Australian Open for good to another Asian city if Victoria did not allow the tournament to go ahead.

Some 1200 players and staff are en route to Melbourne on charter flights to commence a 14-day quarantine before the tournament, which begins on February 8.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.Credit:Simon Schluter

They will be allowed to train during that 14-day hotel quarantine, with a total of five hours outside of their rooms per day.

“Logic tells you, just look at Japan. Japan have a purpose built Olympic grade tennis facility sitting there ready to host this tournament, and you could make your own judgement about how likely it would be if it ever came back,” Andrews said on Thursday.

“If the Australian Open does not happen in Melbourne it will happen somewhere else.

“It’ll happen in Japan, it’ll happen in China, it’ll happen in Singapore and the real risk then is it doesn’t come back.

“So an event that underpins tens of thousands of jobs is a major part of our major events agenda which in total terms supports more than a quarter of a million Victorian jobs.

“Not to mention all of us, as taxpayers, have built a facility that is second to none, roughly at about $1.5 billion worth of investment,

“This event is every important to our city and our state and on that basis it is worth going to these extraordinary steps to make sure it can happen but in a safe way.”

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