Melbourne bids farewell to COVID-19 lockdown and the controversial curfew


Victoria has finally downed one of the bluntest and most controversial public health tools used during the pandemic.

As of today, the lockdown has lifted from Melbourne, and along with it, the curfew.

There are hopes the measures will not be needed again any time soon in a highly vaccinated population.

With the eased restrictions come a raft of returned freedoms, including dine-in hospitality, more outdoor activities and limited household visits.

Counts of days spent under lockdown vary, but most find Melburnians have now spent the longest period under COVID-19 lockdown as any city in the world.

But while the usefulness of lockdown in curbing movement and preventing a catastrophic overwhelming of health systems has been broadly accepted, the curfew has remained a controversial measure.

Western Sydney residents enjoy ‘Freedom Day’ after months of harsher lockdown restrictions


They’ve suffered more than most during NSW’s lockdown, but excited Western Sydney residents have today been out in force, enjoying their new freedoms.

After 106 days in lockdown, queues of shoppers counted down the final minutes of the Sydney lockdown while waiting in line outside Kmart stores in Casula and Mount Druitt.

Retail shops, restaurants, pubs and hairdressers were permitted to reopen on the stroke of midnight to customers fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Subjected to harsher restrictions than the rest of Sydney, residents of the 12 local government areas (LGAs) of concern endured nighttime curfews and strict limits on how far they could travel.

NSW Premier Dominic Perottet said the Canterbury-Bankstown area and Western Sydney would continue to be monitored but he hoped today’s reopening conveyed a message of unity.

Queensland records zero local cases of COVID-19, one in hotel quarantine, as state reaches 70% first-dose mark


Queensland has recorded zero locally acquired cases of COVID-19, with just one case detected in hotel quarantine.

It comes after a passenger who flew into Queensland without a valid border pass tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

Queensland Health announced the Brisbane Airport as a close contact site over the weekend, after a person from New South Wales landed at the domestic terminal on Saturday morning.

“They’re no risk to the community here, but the airport itself is an exposure site around that gate,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.

Queensland has not recorded a locally acquired cases since October 5, with parts of the state’s south-east and Townsville easing some restrictions last Friday.

There have been 6,825 COVID tests over the past 24 hours, with 21,712 vaccines administered yesterday, meaning Queensland today passed the 70 per cent mark for over-16s who have received their first jab.

Queensland records no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 as vaccination push in regional areas steps up


Queensland has recorded no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants a number of regions to pick up their lagging vaccination rates.

Ms Palaszczuk said today’s results were “unbelievable” and thanked Queenslanders for doing the “right thing”.

But the Premier once more refused to be drawn on how quickly state borders would reopen when Queensland reaches 80 per cent double vaccination target.

So far, of eligible Queenslanders, 48.89 per cent have received both vaccine doses and 67.76 per cent have received their first.

New South Wales Australia sees ‘dramatic drop’ in COVID cases, with 667 new cases and 10 deaths


New South Wales has recorded a “dramatic drop” in COVID-19 cases, with 667 infections and 10 deaths as the state announced an easing of self-quarantine rules for the fully vaccinated.

The cases recorded in the latest reporting period were the lowest since August 19 and were cautiously celebrated by Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

“It’s quite a dramatic drop,” he said.

“All the hard work that we have done … to have gone from 1,599 cases just three weeks ago to 667 cases today has taken a lot of hard work.

Australian border to reopen for first time in pandemic


Australia will reopen its international border from November, giving long-awaited freedoms to vaccinated citizens and their relatives.

Since March 2020, Australia has had some of the world’s strictest border rules – even banning its own people from leaving the country.

The policy has been praised for helping to suppress Covid, but it has also controversially separated families.

“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” PM Scott Morrison said.

Australia has recorded more than 1,300 deaths from Covid-19 and more than 107,000 cases of infection.

People would be eligible to travel when their state’s vaccination rate hit 80%, Mr Morrison told a press briefing on Friday.

Travel would not immediately be open to foreigners, but the government said it was working “towards welcoming tourists back to our shores”.

Novavax begins early-stage trial for combined flu/Covid vaccine


Vaccine developer Novavax said on Wednesday it has initiated an early-stage study to test its combined flu and Covid-19 vaccine.

The trial, to be conducted in Australia, will enroll 640 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 70 years and who have either been previously infected with the coronavirus or given an authorized Covid-19 vaccine at least eight weeks prior to the study.

Participants will receive a combination of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, and its Influenza shot NanoFlu along with an adjuvant or vaccine booster.

“Combination of these two vaccines … may lead to greater efficiencies for the healthcare system and achieve high levels of protection against Covid-19 and influenza with a single regimen,” Gregory Glenn, President of Research and Development at Novavax, said in a statement.

Novavax had said in May it expects seasonal influenza and Covid-19 combination vaccines to likely be critical in combating emerging Covid-19 variants.

Starpharma’s Nasal Spray Reduces SARS-CoV-2 by Over 99.9% in Animal Studies


A new antiviral nasal spray by Melbourne biotechnology firm Starpharma reportedly shows effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infection following a successful animal trial.

Starpharma’s Viraleze is said to have reduced the viral load by over 99.9% when it was administered nasally into the trachea and lungs of animals who were positive with the virus, compared to saline control. The results, published in the journal Viruses, provided empirical proof that SL7013 (Viraleze) was potent against the Delta variant and multiple other variations of the SARS-CoV-2.

The latest results were from research conducted by The Scripps Research Institute, which used a humanized SARS-CoV-2 mouse model under the World Health Organization’s recommendation.

The protective effects of the drug were found to be consistent with SPL7013’s virucidal activity previously reported in a separate study also by Starpharma, which highlighted the topical drug astodrimer sodium as a potential agent against the virus after one minute of exposure.

“In this study Viraleze was highly protective against SARS-CoV-2 challenge in an established SARS-CoV-2 animal model of coronavirus infection. These results provide compelling data supporting the utility of a broad-spectrum nasal spray, like Viraleze, to potentially reduce exposure to SARS-CoV-2 virus in respiratory tract and other organs. One of the potential advantages of Viraleze is its ability to significantly reduce viral load in the respiratory tract, which could lower both the transmissibility of the virus to others and severity of disease,” said Dr. Jackie Fairley, chief executive officer of Starpharma, in a statement.

The title of the report is “Medical Interventions for Treatment and Prevention of SARS-CoV-2 Infections.

Half of Australians over 16 have now had at least one COVID vaccine dose


More people will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine this month, as Australia’s rollout hits a major milestone, with more than half of people aged over 16 now having had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The latest vaccination data shows 50.2 per cent of people have had at least their first dose, while 28.2 per cent are fully vaccinated.

A record 309,010 vaccines were administered yesterday.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the numbers reflected the “huge” turnouts for vaccinations.

“It is being sustained, so over a 10-day period now, we have had more than 2.4 million doses delivered,” he said.

The federal government has also announced plans for all people aged between 16 and 39 to be eligible for a vaccine by August 30.

‘Light at the end of the tunnel’: New Zealand welcomes border reopening plans

New Zealand’s much-awaited, albeit cautious, roadmap for reopening its borders has given businesses and families a taste of hope for the future, though health experts warn that it is dependent on improving the country’s vaccination strategy to reach vulnerable communities.

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern laid out the reopening plans at a forum in Wellington on Thursday, 17 months after borders closed in March 2020.

Ardern indicated that, all going well, vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries will be allowed to skip quarantine and enter the country early next year. Travellers from medium-risk countries would undertake some form of self-isolation or a shorter stay in a quarantine hotel, while MIQ would still be required for those coming from high-risk countries, or those who are unvaccinated.

The proposals are contingent on an accelerated vaccine rollout in the next few months as the country seeks to avoid the lockdowns that are currently taking place in Australia.

Business leader and former chief executive of Air New Zealand Rob Fyfe said he felt encouraged that the strategy was “a clear signal of intent to open up”.