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”.


Australia economy climbs back to pre-pandemic size


Australia’s economy has continued its rapid rebound, to grow larger than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Official figures show that gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 1.8% in the first quarter, beating expectations.

Growth was spurred by a soaring demand for commodities around the world and spending by consumers and businesses.

Last year, Australia was tipped into recession after lockdown measures were imposed across the country.

Rising household spending, investment by businesses, and higher prices of iron ore and gas exports helped drive the expansion, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The country’s speedy recovery has been helped by its ability to contain coronavirus outbreaks, which boosted consumer and business confidence.

78,113 people attend the traditional ANZAC Day AFL match in Melbourne, the biggest attendance at a global sporting event since the start of the pandemic


A crowd of 78,113 packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for an Australian rules match between Collingwood and Essendon on Sunday, the highest attendance at a sports stadium anywhere in the world since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities in Australia’s southern state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, on Friday raised the cap on the attendance at the 100,000-seater arena to 85,000 ahead of the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster.

Sunday’s attendance was higher than the 67,200 and 66,352 crowds attracted to the first two Twenty20 cricket matches between India and England at the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad in March.

Anzac Day, which commemorates a bloody battle fought by the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War One, is an iconic day in the regional calendar with bumper crowds guaranteed at sporting fixtures.

The Collingwood Magpies and Essendon Bombers, two of the best-supported teams in the Australian Football League (AFL), have met since 1995 on what is a public holiday when it falls on a weekday.

Last year, the match was played at an empty MCG but the fans were back with a vengeance at the cavernous stadium on Sunday, emitting a roar when the commemorative pre-match preliminaries were completed.

New Zealand to open travel bubble with Australia on April 19


New Zealand announced Tuesday it will open a long-anticipated travel bubble with Australia on April 19 now that both countries have been successful in stamping out the spread of the coronavirus.

The start of quarantine-free travel between the neighboring nations will come as a relief to families who have been separated by the pandemic as well as to struggling tourist operators.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said health officials believe the risk of the virus being transmitted from Australia is low and that travel is now safe.

“The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world-leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out,” Ardern said.