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Covid-19 News Updates

COVID has proved working from home is the best policy to beat congestion

COVID has proved working from home is the best policy to beat congestion

As almost anyone who wastes countless hours stuck in traffic would agree, there's little more frustrating for workers than starting or ending the day with an overly long commute. But, while we might not like it, more of us are doing it. In 2019, the average daily commute time for Australian metro workers was 66 minutes. Then COVID happened.

Although the pandemic has forced change without choice on almost all of us, there have been some positive unintended consequences. Commuting times are one winner, particularly in larger cities. The increase in working from home turns out to be the best policy lever the transport sector has ever pulled for reducing traffic congestion in our cities.

Read more: Australian city workers' average commute has blown out to 66 minutes a day. How does yours compare?

We began looking at the impacts of the increase in working from home on our roads and public transport from March to September. We found a 10-15% drop in peak-period congestion. That's similar to traffic during school holidays.

COVID-19, it turns out, has done something that nobody in government has been able to achieve cutting road congestion almost overnight.

For commuters, time is money

It's possible to calculate how much these kinds of shifts are worth to us as a society. If we weren't stuck in traffic, what else might we do with that time? And just how much is it worth to us?

The Greater Sydney metropolitan area, covering Newcastle to Wollongong, is a good example. From late May 2020, commuting times declined as working from home boomed. We calculate this cut total commuting time costs by 54%, from A$10.5 billion a year to A$5.58 billion.

Naturally, commuters want to know the impact on their own metaphorical hip pockets. In Greater Sydney, we calculate the average annual reduction in time costs per car commuter was A$2,312 as at May 2020. That's equivalent to A$48.16 per week, or A$9.63 per weekday.

For the public transport commuter, the "time cost" of being stuck in traffic is higher as their commute is often longer. Their time saving is worth A$5,203 per person, an equivalent of A$108.39 per week or A$21.68 per weekday.

It's all money that could be better spent elsewhere, especially in the current economic environment.

Chart showing percentage of work days working from home by occupation

Transport planning priorities will change

Congestion shows us working from home is changing more than the workplace: it could have profound implications for road investment and transport policy.

Our data show the increase in working from home is spread evenly across the five weekdays. This is important, since infrastructure and service capacity are typically determined by peak demand. If demand can be flattened, as the data suggest it can be, then the implications for transport planning priorities will be significant.

Read more: If more of us work from home after coronavirus we'll need to rethink city planning

Of course, now that full-time working from home is easing for many, we don't expect this level of benefit to be sustained. But we believe we'll still be left with a significant improvement on pre-COVID congestion. Early signs, including from our surveys in September, suggest many people in certain occupations are likely to work from home one to two days a week in the future, with full employer support.

Chart showing percentage of work days working from home by occupation

But to really capture the benefits of this welcome shift on our roads, we need governments to play a role. They need to publicly support working from home as a way of reducing pressure on transport networks, especially in our big cities.

2020 has proven traffic congestion can be reduced without building more roads. What's more, doing so brings other benefits: in addition to myriad environmental benefits, our increased ability to work from home will open up new opportunities for revitalising suburbia. These adjustments align well with the concept of the 20- or 30-minute city, a strategy many Australian city planners are grappling with.

Read more: People love the idea of 20-minute neighbourhoods. So why isn't it top of the agenda?

Is there a downside to fewer commutes?

As more of us spend fewer days commuting, there are risks. For example, we might move more permanently to using private cars for commuting (even once COVID safety issues subside).

If we commute for only three or four days a week, rather than five, we may be more tolerant of the costs associated with driving, such as parking fees and tolls. Even congestion itself may bother us less.

If this occurs, we may have to find other ways to contain this increase in car use if we want to keep those shorter commutes.

Read more: Cars rule as coronavirus shakes up travel trends in our cities

Strategies to limit car use in peak periods

One option is road-pricing reform a user-pays system. One well-researched user charge is to replace vehicle registration charges (in part or in full) with a distance-based charge (cents/km) during periods of heavy congestion for example, peak periods in cities.

What makes this option appealing is the ability to set charges at a level that leaves most people no worse off financially (the hip-pocket test), while at the same time reducing peak-period car use to improve travel times. We estimate 5-7c/km would be the right price.

Read more: Three charts on: why congestion charging is fairer than you might think

Surveys show over 70% of commuters could switch to other times of the day and still use their cars if keen to avoid the distance-based charge. Our modelling suggests this would deliver an 8% improvement in travel times. That's equivalent to school holiday periods and the shift we've seen from the increase in working from home.

It is likely this shift would only increase in a world where working from home means people can work more flexibly.

An alternative strategy to keep congestion low, even if our love for private car travel increases, centres on incentives rewards similar to those used by supermarkets or airlines.

Why not create incentives like loyalty points for drivers willing to switch to off-peak car use or to public transport? Drivers' decisions could be tracked via GPS, and resulting reward points converted to cash payments or discounts on travel and other non-transport-related purchases.

Read more: Coronavirus recovery: public transport is key to avoid repeating old and unsustainable mistakes The Conversation

Travel post-COVID-19: alternative views from leading academics.
Travel post-COVID-19: Q&A session.

David Hensher, Director, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, University of Sydney and Matthew Beck, Associate Professor in Infrastructure Management, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Adelaide COVID-19 cluster grows to 17, states introduce border controls

Adelaide COVID-19 cluster grows to 17, states introduce border controls

Update : Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, and Victoria have introduced border controls to travellers from South Australia this morning, but with different cut-off times and degrees of severity.

A COVID-19 cluster in Adelaide's northern suburbs has grown to 17 cases overnight sparking concerns about community transmission of the virus.

It comes after Western Australia immediately tightened its border to South Australians yesterday afternoon, within 1.5 days of reopening. Tasmania and the Northern Territory have both followed suit, while Queensland will declare all of Adelaide a COVID-19 "hotspot".

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has also designated South Australia as a COVID-19 "hotspot" but will not close his border to the state.

On the other hand, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has decided to keep her state's borders open to visitors from the Festival State.

The cluster has forced the closure of a number of businesses and schools as health workers scramble to trace contacts.

So far a Hungry Jack's in Port Adelaide, a primary school in Mawson Lakes, Thomas Moore College in Salisbury Downs, Parafield Plaza supermarket and an aged care facility have been shut down.

A number of public health alerts for other businesses, bus stops, and the Mantra hotel in the CBD have been issued today.

Speaking to ABC Radio Adelaide this morning, SA's chief public health officer Professor Nicola Suprrier said the growth of the cluster is "very serious".

"We had a lot of pathology testing done yesterday," Professor Spurrier told the broadcaster.

"We just kept getting positives coming off the machine."

Fifteen of the new cases are part of a family cluster linked to a worker in an Adelaide medi-hotel.

"We haven't got the genomics yet, but I'm absolutely certain it has come from a medi-hotel," Professor Spurrier told the ABC.

Two of the cases work in aged care and another works at the Port Adelaide Hungry Jack's restaurant.

Of yesterday's cases one is a woman in her 80s who tested positive at the Lyell McEwin Hospital (LMH) emergency department on Saturday 14 November.

As such, SA Health has asked anyone who was in the LMH emergency department between 5.30pm Friday 13 November and 4am Saturday 14 November who has not been contacted by SA Health should self-quarantine immediately.

In addition, anyone who was at Parafield Plaza Supermarket on Thursday 12 November between 10.30am and 11.30am should monitor for symptoms and get tested as soon as they appear.

The cases are the first instances of community transmission in SA since 15 April.

SA Health has established a mobile COVID-19 testing clinic in Parafield, open from 8am to 6pm all week.

States and territories introduce border controls

In response to the outbreak Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have essentially shut borders to South Australians.

South Australians coming into WA will have to be tested for COVID-19 on arrival in the state and self-quarantine for 14 days in a "suitable premise", bringing SA visitors in line with those from New South Wales and Victoria.

Travellers on a Qantas flight from Adelaide to Perth on Sunday will also be required to comply with the new orders.

The NT has declared SA a COVID-19 hotspot, meaning those arriving in the Territory must self-isolate for 14 days.

TAS's new border controls have been retroactively applied to Monday 9 November, with the state's Premier Peter Gutwein asking all those currently in the state from SA to self-isolate.

For new arrivals into TAS from SA they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival at a residence or in a hotel room.

TAS is not elevating SA to "medium risk", the category VIC currently sits in, but will be monitoring the situation as the day progresses.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced her state will stay open to travellers from SA, saying that other leaders need to have confidence in health officials to get outbreaks under control.

"At this stage we need to accept that we live with the virus, and imagine if there was a similar outbreak in New South Wales - we'd be arguing that that's no reason to cut off New South Wales from the rest of the country," Berejiklian said.

"We need to have confidence in our own systems and those in other states."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has designated South Australia as a COVID-19 hotspot, but it is not closing its borders.

Instead, visitors from SA will be interviewed when they arrive and may be tested for COVID-19. 

Queensland health authorities will declare all of Adelaide a COVID-19 "hotspot" from 11.59pm today.

As a result, anyone coming into Queensland who has been in South Australia since Monday of last week will need to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days. 

Public health alerts issued

If you visited any of the below locations duration the listed times, you do not need to self-quarantine but you should monitor for symptoms and get tested immediately if symptoms appear.

Bus 500 from Salisbury Bus Interchange

  • Friday 13 November,  6.30 am to 7.40 am
  • Thursday 12 November,  6.30 am to 7.40 am
  • Wednesday 11 November,  6.30 am to 7.40 am
  • Tuesday 10 November,  6.30 am to 7.40 am
  • Monday 9 November,  6.30 am to 7.40 am

Bus 502 from Internode Adelaide bus stop on Grenfell Street

  • Friday 13 November,  4.15 pm to 5.30 pm
  • Thursday 12 November,  4.30 pm to 5.30 pm
  • Monday 9 November,  10.30 am to 11.30 am

Bus (GA1/GA2/GA3) from bus stop near train station

  • Tuesday 10 November,  5.30 pm to 6.30 pm
  • Saturday 7 November,  5.30 pm to 6.30 pm

Bus 411 from Salisbury Bus Interchange

  • Monday 9 November,  11.30 am to 11.45 am

Salisbury Bus Interchange

  • Monday 9 November,  11.30 am to 12.00 am
  • Saturday 7 November,  6.30 pm

Elizabeth Shopping Centre

  • Sunday 8 November,  11.00 am to 12.30 pm

Harris Scarf, Elizabeth Shopping Centre

  • Sunday 8 November,  11.00 am to 12.30 pm
  • Hollywood Plaza Surgery
  • Saturday 14 November,  10.00 am to 11.00 am
  • Friday 13 November,  7.15 am to 7.20 am
  • Friday 3 November, 7.15 am to 7.20 am

Woolworths, Hollywood Plaza

  • Saturday 14 November,  10.00 am to 11.00 am
  • Friday 13 November,  10.00 am to 12.00 pm

The Aquadome, 1 Crockerton Road Elizabeth

  • Saturday 14 November,  11.00 am to 1.30 pm

Hungry Jacks, 321 Commercial Road Port Adelaide

  • Saturday 14 November,  12.00 am to 2.30 am
  • Friday 13 November,  7.30 pm to 12.00 am

Mantra on Frome

  • Friday 13 November,  7.40 am to 3.45pm
  • Thursday 12 November,  7.30 am to 4.00 pm

Salisbury City Fruit Bowl, Salisbury

  • Friday 13 November 10.00 am to 10.15 am

Ekam Indian Groceries, Enfield Plaza

  • Friday 13 November,  1.30 pm to 4.30 pm

Parafield Plaza Supermarket

  • Thursday 12 November,  10.30 am to 11.30 am

Star Discount Chemist, Hollywood Plaza

  • Saturday 14 November, 10.00 am to 11.00 am

Mint Leaf Lounge, 6/121-131 Mawson Lakes Boulevard, Mawson Lakes

  • Thursday 12 November, 5.30 pm to 6.30 pm

Updated at 9.32am AEDT on 16 November 2020.

South Australia opening Victorian border from 1 December

South Australia opening Victorian border from 1 December

South Australia will remove its border restrictions to Victorians from midnight on 1 December.

According to SA Premier Steven Marshall the decision to take down the border was made following an assessment of the COVID-19 situation in VIC.

"This will be a huge relief to people as we head into December," Marshall said.

"We've always said we don't want to keep the restrictions in place for one day longer than we need to, but we have had to have this border arrangement in place, and it has been our first line of defence and kept South Australia safe and strong."

"Victoria has done extraordinarily well, and that means Australia is in a much better position."

It comes as Western Australia is opening its borders to most of the country at midnight tonight, excluding those travelling from VIC or New South Wales who will have to complete two weeks of quarantine on arrival.

Premier Marshall has flagged the further easing of restrictions within SA which will be announced next Tuesday following a Transition Committee meeting.

"We will be making advice which will ease those restrictions across a range of venues and activities," he said.

"Once that is done, it is very likely that those restrictions will be in place for some time."

Updated at 3.16pm AEDT on 13 November 2020.

Queensland to ease a raft of restrictions from next Tuesday

Queensland to ease a raft of restrictions from next Tuesday

At 4pm next Tuesday, 17 November, a number of COVID-19 restrictions will ease in Queensland allowing more patrons to pack into a variety of different venues.

Of note is the major relaxation of restrictions on venues like pubs, restaurants and clubs, with the state to implement the one person per two square metre rule, effectively doubling the number of patrons allowed in a venue at any one time.

Gatherings inside homes and public spaces will see the maximum capacity rise form 40 to 50 people, and weddings will be allowed to have 200 people in attendance with dancing permitted for all those celebrating.

Funerals will also see the maximum capacity increase to 200 people in attendance.

Open air stadiums will see capacities increase from 75 per cent to 100 per cent, which Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says will allow for a full Suncorp Stadium at the upcoming State of Origin match on 18 November.

For indoor events that are seated and ticketed the state government has increased the capacity cap from 50 per cent to 100 per cent on the condition that patrons wear masks on entry and exit.

Performers at these shows can reduce the distance from the audience from four metres to two metres, except for choirs which must remain four metres away from the audience.

For outdoor events with a COVID Safe checklist up to 15,000 people may attend.

Music festivals will also become viable with the state to allow outdoor dancing.

"There is more good news for Queensland because we have done such a wonderful job," Palaszczuk said.

"Other countries are experiencing third waves with increasing numbers of daily cases.

"Queenslanders are able to enjoy our Queensland way of life and we have to keep up the good work."

Updated at 2.26pm AEDT on 13 November 2020.

PM flags Queensland opening by Christmas

PM flags Queensland opening by Christmas

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated Queensland is now part of the framework for a national reopening by Christmas, although the Western Australian Government has still not agreed to the scheme.

Following the National Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister noted the Sunshine State had agreed to the framework, having previously been in caretaker mode.

"That is a plan to have Australia open by Christmas with the exception of Western Australia," Morrison said.

"It also is a plan that importantly embeds public health metrics in ensuring that when Australia open safely, that it remains open safely, and that's incredibly important."

Queensland is currently open to travellers from anywhere in Australia except Victoria and Greater Sydney.

Speaking at a press conference shortly after the Prime Minister's announcement Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the "national aspiration to have the borders open before Christmas".

"In relation to Victoria we're very encouraged with what's happening down there, and we will be looking very closely at the end of the month at Victoria and also New South Wales," she said.

"There may be some hotspots. [Chief Health Officer] Dr [Jeannette] Young will assess this at the end of the month, but we are very encouraged with what we are seeing in Victoria at this stage.

Western Australia, having recently hit the milestone of seven months with no community transmission of COVID-19, will be open to most states and territories tomorrow but will still require a fortnight of quarantine for those entering from Victoria or New South Wales.

The Prime Minister also announced the publication of Australia's National Contact Tracing Report, which had attracted the interest of US President-Elect Joe Biden and will be sent to his team soon.

Scott Morrison was optimistic about Victoria's potential to open up to receive international flights, and he plans to discuss the matter with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in Melbourne next week.

Such a reopening would boost the country's capacity to bring more Australians home, but the PM said the opportunity to receive international students through quarantine arrangements still hadn't presented itself.

"It's Australians coming home first. That is the Commonwealth policy, that is our policy, and that is the policy that is also being followed by the National Cabinet," he said.

"We need to use every available space that we have in quarantine.

"We need to continue to be careful, and we will be, so sadly that will delay any ability to be bringing international students to Australia soon."

All National Cabinet members also endorsed a national vaccine strategy today. 

Updated at 1:09pm AEDT on 13 November.


UQ COVID-19 vaccine "ahead of schedule", Phase 3 trials to commence soon

UQ COVID-19 vaccine "ahead of schedule", Phase 3 trials to commence soon

A COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Queensland (UQ) and pharmaceutical giant CSL (ASX: CSL) is tracking "ahead of schedule", with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt claiming it should be ready for deployment in mid-2021.

Speaking today at UQ, Minister Hunt said the vaccine was proving to be safe and producing a positive antibody response.

"That means it's doing its job," Hunt said.

The Minister said CSL had completed manufacturing of the vaccine for Phase 3 clinical trials, which are already in a position to commence once regulatory approval is granted.

"That may come as a positive surprise to many people here in Australia and around the world, but what it shows is that we are ahead of schedule," Hunt said.

"As a consequence, CSL will now move for regulatory approval to commit to phase three clinical trials before the end of this year, and that's an extraordinary development.

"It means that this vaccine will potentially be available, subject to the results of those trials, for delivery to Australians early in the third quarter of 2021."

Hunt also said the vaccine had so far demonstrated it was particularly good at producing a positive antibody response in the elderly.

"That's an especially important outcome, given the global vulnerability to elderly around the world from COVID-19," he said.

The Federal Government recently signed an agreement with CSL to acquire 51 million doses of the vaccine.

In addition, agreements have been reached with other developers of vaccine candidates like AstraZeneca, Novavax and Pfizer to ensure those wanting to be vaccinated in Australia will be by the end of 2021.

"The vaccines are on track to do what they are intended to do, and that's to save lives," Hunt said.

"We've invested $5 million in the research as a Commonwealth Government.

"It's an Australian vaccine, but for the world."

Updated at 12.19pm AEDT on 13 November 2020.

Restrictions on ACT venues to ease tomorrow, patron cap will increase to 500

Restrictions on ACT venues to ease tomorrow, patron cap will increase to 500

The improving COVID-19 situation in Victoria and New South Wales has encouraged health authorities in the ACT to ease restrictions on venues in the territory from 9am tomorrow.

As such the gathering cap will be increased to a maximum occupancy of 500 patrons (up from 200), and those in outdoor spaces will be allowed to eat and drink while standing rather than having to be seated.

All other current restrictions and venue capacity rules will remain the same.

"The decision to further ease restrictions has been driven by the improving situation in Victoria, the situation in NSW remaining relatively stable and the strong position we are in here in the ACT, with Canberra businesses, venues and facilities having established COVID Safety Plans in place," says the ACT government.

"The change to allow eating and drinking while standing in outdoor spaces reflects the considerable evidence that outdoor spaces present a lower risk of transmission of COVID-19 compared to indoor spaces."

Health authorities have encouraged venues to register to use the free Check In CBR app.

The app allows for venue operators to record visitor details digitally, making contract tracing easier for public health workers and taking the burden off venues to keep those records themselves.

The move comes as Victoria has gone 13 days without any new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 today.

Updated at 4.23pm AEDT on 12 November 2020.

Victoria's lockdown sends Retail Food Group coffee sales plunging

Victoria's lockdown sends Retail Food Group coffee sales plunging

Victoria's strict COVID-19 restrictions have bitten a big chunk out of franchise operator Retail Food Group's (ASX: RFG) first quarter results.

The Gold Coast-based group, which counts Donut King, Crust Gourmet Pizzas and Gloria Jeans among its stable, saw same store sales for the first quarter dip by 2.5 per cent on the prior corresponding period.

However, this was exacerbated by results from the Victorian market where that figure was about 18 per cent.

When the Victorian figures are removed, the group reported modest growth of 0.2 per cent.

Gloria Jean's, which a reported a sales decline of 41 per cent, and Di Bella coffee were hit by Victorian residents making their cuppas at home.

RFG executive chairman Peter George said the company was anticipating increased competition within the independent wholesale coffee market.

"These factors also lend themselves to potential market consolidation and rationalisation of existing industry players which may present future opportunities for RFG's coffee busines," George said.

Across the group's domestic franchise network, total sales to 1 November were about $162 million - 14.5 per cent down on the prior corresponding period.

The announcement comes one day after funds manager Washington H Soul Pattinson (ASX: SOL) grabbed a $10 million slice of the franchisor.

Crust and Brumby's Bakery kept the dough rolling in for the company, with RFG executive chairman Peter George saying the two have been standout performers.

"Brumby's has enjoyed year-to-date same store sales growth of 10.8 per cent, underpinned by strong average transaction growth of 9.2 per cent, and Crust has sustained 7.4 per cent SSS growth," he said.

The impact of lockdowns was apparent, particularly in Victoria, where 18 per cent of the Group's domestic outlet population is based.

43 per cent of the difference between total sales in in the first quarter compared to the previous period was attributable to reduced performance in Victoria.

George said brands in shopping centres were particularly impacted, as seen in results for Donut King where Victoria accounted for 47 per cent of the sales decline.

The group first revealed the toll the pandemic lockdowns were having in June, pointing out customer counts in shopping centres had declined by about 50 per cent at one stage.

George said temporary outlet closures attributable to COVID-19 peaked at 36 stores during early September.

"While seven of these outlets remain temporarily closed, the remainder have reopened for trade," he said.

"We anticipate additional positive momentum as Victoria's COVID-19 measures are further eased, marketing activity returns to more normal levels, and the group continues to execute on its broader turnaround plan."

George said the group had also fielded new franchisee interest, with the group involved in advanced discussions for 15 potential new sites or territories across the Donut King, Crust and Gloria Jean's brands.

RFG shares were trading at 8.5 cents this morning as the company continues to slowly rebuild its reputation with franchisors.

In June corporate watchdog ASIC announced it would not be taking any enforcement action in relation to two concluded investigations of the franchise operator.

In September RFG announced it would shed its Victorian cheese business Dairy Country, which was devoured by New Zealand-based dairy giant Fonterra (NZX: FCG) for $19.23 million.

Updated at 11.48am AEDT on 12 November 2020.

Western Sydney residents urged to get tested after COVID-19 fragments found in sewage

Western Sydney residents urged to get tested after COVID-19 fragments found in sewage

More than 18,500 residents in Western Sydney have been urged to get tested for COVID-19 by NSW Health after virus fragments were discovered in sewage at local pumping stations.

The COVID-19 virus fragments were detected by New South Wales' ongoing sewage surveillance program and found at pumping stations serving North Kellyville, Rouse Hill, Box Hill, The Ponds, Kellyville Ridge, Parklea, Quakers Hill and Acacia Gardens.

"While detection of the virus in sewage samples could reflect the presence of older cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in these areas, NSW Health is concerned there could be other active cases in the local community in people who have not been tested and who might incorrectly assume their symptoms are simply a cold," NSW Health said.

"People who live and/or work in these areas must be aware of any symptoms of illness, and immediately isolate and get tested should even the mildest of symptoms appear that might appear to be just be a cold. Symptoms such as a runny nose or scratchy throat, cough, tiredness, fever or other symptoms could be COVID-19."

To facilitate COVID-19 testing in the area a new drive-through pop-up clinic has been established in The Fiddler car park on the corner of Windsor and Commercial Roads in Rouse Hill.

NSW recorded no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 yesterday from 20,586 tests.

However, four new cases were reported in overseas travellers in hotel quarantine, bringing the total number of cases in NSW to 4,289 since the start of the pandemic.

It comes as Victoria has gone 13 days without any new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.



Updated at 9.34am AEDT on 12 November 2020.

Mesoblast rebounds on COVID-19 treatment update, puts vaccine concerns to bed

Mesoblast rebounds on COVID-19 treatment update, puts vaccine concerns to bed

Melbourne-based med-tech company Mesoblast (ASX: MSB) has rebounded on the share market this morning after announcing the trial of its COVID-19 treatment will continue.

It comes a day after the company watched its share price tumble on the news US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had successfully developed a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Securityholder concerns that Mesoblast's treatment for COVID-19 would be made irrelevant if a vaccine is produced seem to have been shrugged off today, with shares in MSB up more than 4 per cent this morning.

MSB's bounce back follows an update from the Australian regenerative medicine company about remestemcel-L, a drug being developed for patients with moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a common complication in the most severe COVID-19 infections.

Mesoblast has received a recommendation to continue its randomised controlled Phase 3 trial of remestemcel-L from the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), following completion of the trial's second interim analysis.

"We are very pleased with the recommendation by the DSMB, as we seek to confirm whether remestemcel-L improves survival in ventilated COVID-19 patients with moderate to severe ARDS," Mesoblast chief medical officer Dr Fred Grossman said.

ARDS is the principal cause of death for COVID-19 patients, and with new infections of the coronavirus surging globally Dr Grossman said remestemcel-L would be a vital drug even if the Pfizer and other vaccines are distributed.

"Patients who have co-morbidities or are older are likely to continue to be at high risk of ARDS and death, even if COVID-19 vaccines become available.

"This is why having a potential treatment that reduces mortality in these patients is so important."

Yesterday, 490,690 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the globe, with 127,231 new cases diagnosed in the US alone.

In addition, 6,705 people died due to COVID-19 complications yesterday.

Of the 14.1 million active cases of the coronavirus globally, 94,806 are considered "serious or critical", further underscoring the urgent need for an ARDS treatment.

"Despite improved treatment and earlier intervention in hospitalised COVID-19 patients overall, the mortality rate in COVID-19 ARDS patients who are over 60 years old remains more than 60 per cent," Mesoblast said.

Mesoblast was just one of many Australian companies slammed by the market's reaction to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine news yesterday.

Retailers like Kogan (ASX: KGN) and Temple & Webster (ASX: TPW) tumbled, while buy-now pay-later success stories Zip Co (ASX: Z1P) and Afterpay (ASX: APT) also dropped.

Meanwhile, travel stocks like Helloworld Travel (ASX: HLO), Flight Centre (ASX: FLT), and Webjet (ASX: WEB) soared as the market realised international travel may be back on the cards sooner than previously thought.

Based on current projections Pfizer expects to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

Shares in Mesoblast are up 4.47 per cent to $3.27 per share at 12.19pm AEDT.

Updated at 12.54pm AEDT on 11 November 2020.