CategoryNew Zealand

New Zealands’s first mass vaccination event to be held in Auckland at end of July

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The country’s first mass Covid-19 vaccination event will be held in south Auckland at the end of the month.

On Wednesday, Covid-19 Response Health Minister Chris Hipkins announced the event will be held at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau, over the weekend of Friday, July 30 to Sunday, August 1.

More than 15,000 people are set to be vaccinated over those three days, Hipkins said. Another mass vaccination event will be held six weeks later for second doses.

It comes after a mass vaccination event at the centre planned earlier this month was postponed due to tight supply of the vaccine.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/300357211/covid19-nzs-first-mass-vaccination-event-to-be-held-in-auckland-at-end-of-july

New Zealand reaches 100 days without community transmission

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New Zealand has reached 100 days without community transmission of Covid-19, following the news that there are no new cases outside managed isolation and quarantine on Tuesday.

The 100-day time period spans Sunday, February 28 to June 8, according to community case details on the Ministry of Heath’s website.

New Zealand is just two days off from beating the previous milestone.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/300327341/covid19-new-zealand-reaches-100-days-without-community-transmission

One in 20 Kiwi adults now fully vaccinated, new batch of vaccines arrives

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New Zealand continues to outpace its planned vaccine rollout schedule, with more than 668,000 jabs completed as of midnight Tuesday.

Almost 234,000 Kiwis are now fully vaccinated, about 5.6 per cent of the 16+ population.

This is tracking at about 109 per cent of the Government’s plan, associate health Minister Ayesha Verrall said.

New Zealand has generally been its exceeding its plan for the first phases of its vaccine rollout, but Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has been openly “nervous” about the mass rollout.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/300323097/covid19-one-in-20-kiwi-adults-now-fully-vaccinated-new-batch-of-vaccines-arrives

COVID-19 vaccines touch down in Australia, New Zealand, inoculations to start

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Australia and New Zealand have received their first COVID-19 vaccine deliveries and will begin rolling out inoculations in the coming week, while populous cities of Melbourne and Auckland remained locked down following the emergence of new cases.

“The Eagle has landed,” Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Monday as the first shipment of 142,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech touched down.

Vaccination in Australia will start from Feb. 22.

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the first batch of 60,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines had arrived and would undergo safety checks before border workers start receiving vaccinations from Saturday.

“This will be the largest full-scale vaccination campaign in this country’s history,” Ardern said.

“We have purchased enough vaccines to cover all New Zealanders and to do so for free. That includes all those in New Zealand regardless of their visa status,” Ardern said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-australia-new-zeal-idUSKBN2AF0AL

Prime Minister gives briefing on vaccination in New Zealand

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine will arrive in New Zealand next week, earlier than expected.

Ardern and senior ministers have given a briefing on the country’s coronavirus vaccination programme.

“We should be in a position, providing all goes well, to start vaccinating border workers from next Saturday,” Ardern said.

Over the next two to three weeks, 12,000 workers should be vaccinated, followed by their household contacts. The next priority will be healthcare and essential workers, along with most at-risk groups, in the second quarter of the year.

“It’s going to take all the year to reach everyone,” Ardern said.

Deliveries are expected near weekly, with a batch in the low tens of thousands delivered within the first consignment.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the first batch would be enough to cover all border workers.

“Our advance purchase agreement has us getting just under quarter of a million [courses] in the first quarter. That is going to come in waves.”

The remaining courses will be split of the following two quarters, he said.

www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/436268/covid-19-prime-minister-gives-briefing-on-vaccination-in-new-zealand

Australia posts zero virus cases, state chief calls for ‘Pacific bubble’

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Australia recorded a fourth day of zero coronavirus cases on Thursday, prompting the chief of the country’s most populous state to call for a special travel “bubble” with Pacific island nations.

New South Wales has reined in an outbreak in mid-December that prompted a strict lockdown in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, while broader social distancing rules and mandatory mask wearing were imposed for the rest of the city.

Signalling those restrictions were set to be eased next week, Premier Gladys Berejiklien told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper the federal government should consider establishing a travel arrangement with the Pacific.

“There is no reason why we shouldns’t aim to travel to New Zealand or some of the Pacific Islands well within the next 12 months,” Berejiklian said.

The comments come after Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly cautioned about restarting international travel, given the country was in an “envious position” compared to most of the world.

Unlike other countries, Australia has closed its international borders, only allowing its stranded citizens back home.

https://www.reuters.com/article/reutersComService_2_MOLT/idUSKBN29Q06D

Pfizer vaccine appears to neutralize a key mutation of Covid variants found in UK, South Africa

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A coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to be effective against a key mutation in the more infectious variants of the virus discovered in the U.K. and South Africa, according to a study conducted by the U.S. pharmaceutical giant.

It comes as countries scramble to contain the variants that are significantly more transmissible, with public health experts anxious about the potential impact on inoculation efforts.

The research, published Thursday on preprint server bioRxiv and not yet peer-reviewed, suggested the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine worked to neutralize the so-called N501Y mutation.

The N501Y mutation has been reported in the more infectious variants. It is altering an amino acid within six key residues in the receptor-binding domain — a key part of the spike protein that the virus uses to gain entry into cells within the body.

“These findings are good news for the likely effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against these new variants of SARS-CoV-2,” said Dr. Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/08/pfizer-biontech-vaccine-appears-effective-against-mutation-in-new-strains.html

New Zealand says its strict Covid lockdown is paying off as economy rebounds

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New Zealand’s government said the fiscal and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be less severe than first feared as its decision to impose one of the world’s strictest lockdowns pays off.

Economic growth will recover more rapidly while budget deficits and net debt will be much lower than expected just three months ago, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said Wednesday in Wellington when presenting the half-year fiscal and economic update. Unemployment will now peak at 6.9% at the end of next year rather than the 7.8% predicted in September.

“The government’s decision to act quickly in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a better than expected economic recovery,” Robertson said. “While New Zealand’s economy contracted in 2020, it is forecast to rebound strongly in 2021, outperforming regions we compare ourselves to like the euro zone, the United Kingdom and Japan.”

New Zealand’s strategy to eliminate Covid-19 from the community saw it impose a harsh nationwide lockdown that tipped the economy into recession, but its success allowed a relatively quick resumption of normal life. Today, as many countries face new lockdowns, New Zealanders head into the Christmas vacation free of any restrictions.

While gross domestic product plunged a record 12.2% in the second quarter, economists predict it surged by 12.9% in the third, according to a Bloomberg survey. That data is due tomorrow.

https://theprint.in/world/new-zealand-says-its-strict-covid-lockdown-is-paying-off-as-economy-rebounds/567584/HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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How Covid-19 is changing the flu

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The presence of flu-free societies raises an important question: could the rest of the world ever be rid of this virus? As it happens, the world is making some tantalising first steps towards this goal.

Back in January 2020, at the end of the Australian summer, the country had 6,962 cases of the flu confirmed via a laboratory test. At this time, Covid-19 was still known only as “the novel coronavirus” and mostly confined to China. Ordinarily, you would have expected to see more and more cases of the flu as the days became shorter and winter descended.

Instead, something unexpected happened. By April there were just 229 cases of the flu – down from 18,705 at the same time the previous year. Covid-19 had already ripped across the world, collectively infecting more than a million people, including the British prime minister, and spreading to every continent except Antarctica. Lockdowns had been imposed, hand-washing had been popularised and mask-wearing had become commonplace – though the latter was still much more widely practiced in Asia than elsewhere.

By August, it was clear that Australia’s flu season had been the mildest on record. In all, there were fewer than a 10th of the infections seen in 2019 – and the vast majority of these occurred before the pandemic hit. This is all against a backdrop of more testing than had ever been conducted before.

The same pattern also occurred elsewhere. The co-head of South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) recently told CBS News that the country “just didn’t have a flu season this year”, while in New Zealand, doctors didn’t detect a single flu case during their annual screening drive, though last year 57% of the swabs they took were positive.  

Now winter is over in the Southern Hemisphere and beginning in the North. And though it’s still early in the season, already things look radically different to how they ordinarily would.

As of September, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the missing flu cases were a global phenomenon, with significantly lower levels than would be expected, from tropical Africa to the Caribbean. For the week beginning 7 September, the flu tracker FluMart recorded just 12 lab-confirmed cases of the flu on the entire planet.  

“What we’re seeing in Australia, New Zealand, South America, Hong Kong, are really, really attenuated seasons of not just the flu, but also respiratory syncytial virus (RSV),” says Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago. 

Peter Palese, a microbiologist and expert in RNA viruses at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York Palese is keen to stress the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu. “Even if it is not completely protective, it is certainly resulting in a more mellow disease – and it’s a very safe vaccine,” he says.

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201009-could-social-distancing-make-the-flu-extinctHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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New Zealand signs deal with Pfizer, BioNTech for COVID-19 vaccine

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The New Zealand government signed a deal on Monday to buy 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc PFE.N and Germany’s BioNTech 22UAy.F, with delivery potentially as early as the first quarter of 2021.

The government did not disclose financial terms of the deal, its first vaccine purchase, which will provide enough doses to vaccinate 750,000 people.

Officials said talks were continuing with other drug companies to secure more vaccine supplies for the country of 5 million people and further announcements were expected next month.

“The additional agreements will ensure that once the portfolio is completed, we will have sufficient COVID-19 vaccines for the whole population,” Research Minister Megan Woods said in a statement.

https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-newzealand/new-zealand-signs-deal-with-pfizer-biontech-for-covid-19-vaccine-idUSL4N2H30QGHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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