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Covid-19 News Updates


SA to expand Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility to all aged 16 and older

SA to expand Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility to all aged 16 and older

South Australia will become the first Australian state to make both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccination appointments available to all people aged 16 and over at state-run clinics from Monday, Premier Steven Marshall has announced.

The appointments will open from Monday 16 August, with 127,000 extra booking slots to become available for inoculations in September and October once more Pfizer shots arrive in Australia.

"This nation-leading move is a huge milestone in our vaccine rollout with South Australia leading the way as the first state in the nation to open up to everyone aged 16 and older," SA Premier Steven Marshall told The Advertiser.

"While our COVID recovery plan remains focused on supporting business, protecting jobs, and shielding South Australians from the health threat posed by the pandemic, vaccination is our pathway out of the pandemic and we are determined to ensure everyone has access to the vaccine as soon as possible to keep our state safe and economy strong.

"Thanks to the increase in supply and massive interest from our community, we can expect to see a significant increase in the number of vaccinations delivered over the coming weeks and months."

 

 

It comes just days after a vaccination clinic in Adelaide briefly opened up its calendar to any South Australian aged 16 and over wanting to get a Pfizer jab - a move described as an "error" by SA Health.

That clinic in Highgate Park mistakenly made appointments available to SA's adult population according to the state's health authorities, as it was previously only vaccinating aged care workers.

At the time, workers at the clinic said the decision to open up eligibility for Pfizer appointments was made because of an oversupply of the mRNA vaccine.

However, texts sent out today to those who booked in at Highgate Park on Monday clarifies that anyone aged over 16 who managed to secure an appointment during the brief window availabilities were open will see their booking honoured.

SA also eased COVID-19 restrictions today, increasing density limits for venues and shops, and allowing private gatherings outside of home.

The new restrictions are as follows:

  • Density limits for seated activities have increased to three people per 4sqm. This includes for the seated consumption of food and beverages at cafes, restaurants and pubs.
  • Density limits for standing activities, such as retail shops, or mixed standing and seating, are now one person per 2sqm.
  • All private gatherings outside the home are capped at 50 people (home gatherings remain capped at 10).

Queensland opens up to South Australia

Today's news comes as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced travellers from South Australia would be permitted to enter the sunshine state from midday today, as long as they fly in.

In addition, anyone from South Australia currently in home quarantine in Queensland will be able to leave isolation as long as they have a negative test result.

Updated at 9.53am AEST on 12 August 2021.

Eight Western NSW LGAs in lockdown, Newcastle stay-at-home orders extended

Eight Western NSW LGAs in lockdown, Newcastle stay-at-home orders extended

Eight local government areas (LGA) in Western NSW entered a one-week lockdown at 7pm last night after two new locally acquired COVID-19 cases were reported in the region.

The stay-at-home restrictions apply to the LGAs of Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Narromine, Walgett and Warren and are expected to last until 19 August.

"The rules for this area will be the same as those already in place across Greater Sydney, as well as Dubbo, Tamworth, Northern Rivers, Armidale, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Cessnock," NSW Health reported in an update.

"Everyone in these areas must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. They also cannot have social visitors in their home from outside their household, including family and friends.

"People still can have one visitor at one time to fulfil carers' responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons, including where two people are in a relationship but do not live together."

The two new cases in the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) are members of the same household and will be included in today's numbers for the state.

Hunter and Newcastle lockdown extended

With additional cases being reported in the Hunter and Upper Hunter region today, the NSW Government has extended the region's lockdown by an additional week.

The area, which includes the eight LGAs of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton and Muswellbrook was set to come out of lockdown tomorrow.

"I think given what the area's experiencing the community would understand why that's the case," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

Elsewhere in regional NSW the areas of Armadale, Tamworth and the Northern Rivers recorded zero cases of COVID-19 today, and five cases were reported in Dubbo.

In total, 345 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases were reported today, of which 116 were isolating while infectious, 34 were in isolation for part of their infectious period, and 57 in the community while infectious. The isolation status of 138 cases remains under investigation.

Updated at 9:46am AEST on 12 August 2021.

Rhinomed shares up 82 per cent as first orders received for patented COVID nasal swabs

Rhinomed shares up 82 per cent as first orders received for patented COVID nasal swabs

Update (4:47pm AEST): At the time of writing this article shares were up 82 per cent, but in the last 10 minutes of the market trade it shot up further to double for the day, sitting at $0.40 per RNO share. 

Shares in Rhinomed (ASX: RNO) have charged 82 per cent higher today after the wearable nasal and respiratory technology company received purchase orders from the NSW Government for its patented, self-administered nasal swabs.

The group has begun supplying NSW Health Pathology with an initial one million Rhinoswabs as part of a program to support testing capability.

The orders are expected to be fulfilled over coming weeks, while Rhinomed is now scaling up its manufacturing facilities to respond to growing domestic and international demand for its innovative technology.

The company's points of difference are the comfort and convenience of its swabs, as well as the fact they can capture a larger sample and accelerate the sample collection process, significantly reducing waiting times.

It is a technology that works with existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) pathology workflows and equipment, with an equivalent cost and quality to the US and European standard of care nasopharyngeal swabs.

"We are thrilled to receive this support for this Australian innovation," says Rhinomed CEO Michael Johnson.

"The Rhinoswab can make a meaningful impact on the SARS-CoV-2 testing process and enable more people to be tested quickly and easily.

"With approximately two billion SARS-CoV-2 tests having been carried out globally over the last 18 months (close to 26 million* in Australia alone), there is a major opportunity for Rhinoswab to radically improve the testing process, clinical outcomes and user experience."


Today's announcement is in stark contrast to where Rhinomed found itself in August 2020, its shares having fallen by three quarters in the preceding year. Even though the commercialisation of its Pronto Sleep technology was expanding in the United States, Rhinomed had pinned its hopes on a vapour inhaler for medicinal cannabis; an oversupplied market that was in decline.

But just as the company's leadership had pounced on the opportunities of what was a booming medicinal cannabis market in 2018, in September 2020 it announced the fruition of a logical COVID pivot; not just an intention, but the declaration of advanced development for a high-yielding nasal swab that can collect samples from the nose to test for the presence of upper respiratory tract diseases. Shares rose by 50 per cent in one day, from 8cps to 12cps.

"An increasing body of evidence and research supports the proposition that mass, high-frequency testing could be a vital tool in managing epidemics, pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks," Johnson said at the time.

"Rhinomed believes that an effective, easy-to-use and comfortable nasal swab that everyone can use, every day, could play an important role in achieving this outcome."

He said the company was rapidly scoping out manufacturing solutions and would register the device in Australia, the USA and the European. Less than year later, all these goals have been achieved as Rhinoswab is registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Australian Therapeutic Goods Association and has a European CE (Conformité Européenne) mark. 

Today RNO shares jumped to $0.365 each today on the news, with expectations revenue from the initial order would represent 25-35 per cent of unaudited FY21 revenues of $3.9 million. Investors clearly believe profits will follow suit, as the company's market capitalisation is at more than $92 million at the time of writing.

Interim results from a recent comparison study with 204 participants, completed at CWZ and Radboud University Medical Center, a leading teaching hospital in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, are in line with previously announced user study results and showed participants' strong preference for the Rhinoswab when compared to the traditional nasal swab:

  • 89 per cent of respondents preferred Rhinoswab to the Nasopharyngeal swab
  • 98 per cent of respondents felt no pain with Rhinoswab vs 48 per cent with Nasopharyngeal swab
  • 98 per cent of respondents needed little or no guidance when using Rhinoswab

Dubbo to go into lockdown as virus continues to spread in regional NSW

Dubbo to go into lockdown as virus continues to spread in regional NSW

The Central New South Wales town of Dubbo will go into lockdown for one week from 1pm today after two cases of COVID-19 were detected in the region overnight.

The town is the latest regional NSW hub to see the virus enter the community from Sydney, and joins the local government areas (LGAs) of Byron Bay, Lismore, Ballina, Richmond Valley, Tamworth, Armidale, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Cessnock in lockdown.

“As has been foreshadowed, in Dubbo there were two cases overnight, and that follows…our health experts have told us a few days ago there was some sewage detection in Dubbo,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“Sewage detection has been a good way of identifying or pre-empting where there may be cases.”

As such, everyone in Dubbo must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave.

They also cannot have visitors in their home from outside their household, including family and friends.

People still can have one visitor at one time to fulfil carers' responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons, including where two people are in a relationship but do not live together.

Today the Premier also announced there were no new cases in Armadale, Tamworth or the Northern Rivers which represent “positive signs”.

However, with the Hunter New England region reporting 14 new cases today the Premier believes it is unlikely that area will come out of lockdown as planned later this week.

In total NSW reported 344 cases of community transmission today, of which 143 were in isolation throughout their entire infectious period, 36 were isolating for part of their infectious period, and 65 were infectious in the community. The isolation status of 100 cases remains under investigation.

Two more COVID-related deaths were reported overnight - one was a man in his 90s from Southwestern Sydney, and the other a man in his 30s from Northern Sydney.

This brings the number of COVID-related deaths during the current outbreak to 34.

Updated at 11.55am AEST on 11 August 2021.

New mystery cases see Melbourne lockdown extended until next Thursday

New mystery cases see Melbourne lockdown extended until next Thursday

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a one-week extension of Melbourne’s lockdown today after a number of “mystery cases” were included in the state’s COVID-19 infection numbers.

Of the 20 new locally acquired cases, 15 were linked to current outbreaks but the remaining five are still under investigation or are unlinked to the current outbreaks, meaning contact tracers cannot determine where or how they were infected.

“Overnight we have added to the number of mysteries, the number of unanswered questions out there,” Andrews said.

“That’s why, sadly, today the Cabinet of the Government we have met and we have determined to accept the advice of the Chief Health Officer to extend for a further period of seven days until 11.59pm next Thursday.”

As it stands, health officials are currently grappling with 116 active locally acquired cases, nearly 300 exposure sites and more than 12,000 active primary close contacts around Greater Melbourne.

“We cannot afford to open up and let this variant run free – we need to get in front of this, just like we have done before,” Andrews said.

As such, for the next seven days Melburnians can still only leave home for five reasons: to get food and supplies, to exercise for up to two hours, for care or caregiving, for permitted work or education if you can’t do it from home or to get vaccinated at the nearest possible location.

Shopping and exercise must be done within 5km of your home or the nearest location. Face masks will remain mandatory indoors (not at home) unless an exception applies – this includes all workplaces, and secondary schools.

As Victorian officials remain concerned about the level of COVID-19 coming into the state from New South Wales, residents of cross-border community local government areas (LGAs) will now be required to obtain a permit to enter Victoria from 6pm, Friday 13 August.

Residents will be able to apply for a permit from Thursday afternoon at the Service Victoria website, service.vic.gov.au and via the Service Victoria app.

“If this virus can get from Sydney to Byron Bay, to Dubbo, to Armidale, to Tamworth then only a fool would think that it couldn’t get to Aubrey,” Andrews said.

“That’s why we need to go beyond just a bubble - we need to have permits.”

Updated at 11.32am AEST on 11 August 2021.

Cairns to exit lockdown today as planned

Cairns to exit lockdown today as planned

A “short, sharp lockdown” in Cairns, Queensland, has been declared successful in stopping the potential spread of COVID-19 in the region, meaning the state’s health authorities will lift the tough restrictions today.

As planned, Cairns will exit its snap three-day lockdown from 4pm, which QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said was “absolutely tremendous’ news.

Some restrictions will however remain in place.

“Who would have thought a week ago we would be in this position today, so well done Queensland,” Palaszczuk said.

The easing of lockdown restrictions in Cairns comes after QLD reported four new cases of community transmission today, all linked to the Indooroopilly school cluster and all isolating for their entire infectious period.

The ongoing restrictions in Cairns will mirror the current restrictions Southeast Queensland is under, and will apply until 22 August:

  • No more than 10 people are allowed in homes, including those who live there, and in public spaces. Visits to patients in hospital and residents in aged-care facilities are permitted unless a person is subject to a home quarantine order.
  • Weddings and funerals are allowed a maximum of 20 people.
  • Businesses and venues, including places of worship, conventions centres, retail, dining, gyms, hairdressers, beauty and personal cares services are allowed to operate on the one person per 4sqm rule - or 50 per cent with ticketed or allocated seating for venues.
  • Community sports are not permitted.
  • Masks must continue to be worn in the workplace and indoor areas where social distancing is not possible.

“A week ago I think everyone was worried about where we would end up with this cluster - it was our biggest challenge and Queensland absolutely rose to that challenge,” the Premier said.

“It’s through your hard work that we’re in this fantastic situation today.

“Well done Cairns. Every single person in the community needs to be commended.”

Updated at 10.40am AEST on 11 August 2021.

Record daily case numbers in NSW as Premier aims for 5 million vaccine doses by the end of this week

Record daily case numbers in NSW as Premier aims for 5 million vaccine doses by the end of this week

NSW Health reported 356 cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, representing the state's highest daily increase since the pandemic began.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian reported there were four deaths from the virus, one of which was a returned traveller from overseas and not related to the current outbreak.

There have been no additional cases in Tamworth or Armidale, while another potential case is under investigation in the state's north but not in connection to the individual who tested positive in Byron Bay.

"We had a gentleman and two of his children test positive, and there were a number of exposure sites. We have had no further cases linked to that exposure site," Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

"We have had additional cases in relation to Newcastle, and there are a number of exposure venues that have been placed on the website for Newcastle.

"I do just want to also mention that we have had a confirmed case at the St George Aged Care Centre in Bexley...the staff member worked one shift whilst infectious on one level at the facility where four out of eight residents have tested positive, and all eight of the residents were vaccinated and the staff member had received their first dose of vaccination."

The Premier said getting vaccinated was key for NSW residents getting back to normal life, and hoped she would see vaccination rates continue to rise.

"I assume that by today we're at 4.5 million already, and I'd like to see us get to five million by the end of next week, and then we look forward to having the sprint towards six million by the end of August," she said.

Elsewhere in the country, there were 20 new locally acquired cases reported in Victoria and three new cases of community transmission in Queensland.

Updated at 11:51am AEST on 10 August 2021.

 

 

Liquor licensing fee waiver and COVID cleaning rebate among new schemes in QLD $70m support deal

Liquor licensing fee waiver and COVID cleaning rebate among new schemes in QLD $70m support deal

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick has today unveiled a new $70 million business support package targeting the tourism and hospitality industries, of which $22 million alone will relieve liquor licence fees for these sectors.

The Treasurer said there would be payroll tax deferrals, refunds or waiving for businesses that are doing it tough in these industries, applied state-wide for the entirety of the current financial year until 30 June, 2022.

“We’re also extending our $5,000 business support grants to all large tourism and hospitality businesses across Queensland,” he explained.

“The government is also setting aside $20 million for a COVID cleaning rebate. The government will pay 80 per cent of small and medium sized businesses’ cleaning costs if they are a COVID-exposed site, up to a maximum of $10,000.

“We hope that will help businesses who may become COVID exposed sites.”

He said these initiatives were about the government “flexing” in response to what COVID is doing to businesses and to the economy, and follows close consultation with business groups and peak industry bodies.

“We obviously want to help businesses get back on their feet as soon as possible, to rebound as soon as possible, and every Queenslander can play a role there when we come out of lockdown to spend – to spend particularly in your local small and family businesses,” Treasurer Dick said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk reported there were only three new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, all linked to the Indooroopilly school cluster.

"They haven't been out in the community infectious, and they're all in home quarantine," she said.

"We've had 20,484 tests in the past 24 hours, and just received some updated figures that in Cairns we've had over 4,200 tests," she said of the Far North Queensland city, which is currently in lockdown with authorities reporting high compliance levels with the stay-at-home orders.

The testing levels equate to almost 3 per cent of the Cairns population getting tested in one day, and the Premier urged people to continue to come forward for testing if they have any symptoms.

Since yesterday's call-out for vaccine registrations and the announcement of a new mass vaccination centre in South Brisbane that will open tomorrow, there were 11,000 vaccines administered in the state in the past 24 hours.

"Yesterday we announced that we were taking registrations for people aged 16 to 59 for our mass vaccination centre, and we've had 50,000 registrations already to date," the Premier said.

Updated at 10:45am AEST on 10 August 2021.

Byron Bay, Lismore, Ballina and Richmond Valley in lockdown for one week

Byron Bay, Lismore, Ballina and Richmond Valley in lockdown for one week

The four New South Wales North Coast local government areas (LGAs) of Byron Shire, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Ballina Shire have tonight joined the list of regional hubs under lockdown following updated health advice.

The four LGAs entered lockdown at 6pm AEST today, and will remain under stay-at-home restrictions until 12.01am Tuesday 17 August, after a positive case was detected in the region.

The new restrictions came into effect just hours after the NSW state government put Tamworth into lockdown at 5pm today, and two days after Armidale entered a snap seven-day lockdown on Saturday.

The rules for these areas will be the same as those already in place across Greater Sydney, as well as Tamworth, Armidale, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Cessnock.

Everyone in these areas must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. They also cannot have visitors in their home from outside their household, including family and friends.

People still can have one visitor at one time to fulfil carers' responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons, including where two people are in a relationship but do not live together.

People also cannot enter the Byron Shire, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Ballina Shire LGAs without a reasonable excuse to do so.

“We understand this is a difficult time for the community and appreciate their ongoing patience and cooperation,” the NSW Government said.

“We are asking people not to seek exceptions to the rules, but to ensure they comply with them so we do not see further cases of COVID-19 in the community.”

The lockdown comes after a man in his 50s tested positive to COVID-19 after arriving in Byron Shire.

He travelled from Sydney in late July and is currently being treated at Lismore Base Hospital.

The NSW Government has also confirmed the man did not enter Queensland during his infectious period.

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon said Council was told about the situation this morning and staff are now working with authorities on getting additional testing facilities open, including the Cavanbah Centre on Ewingsdale Road at Byron Bay.

“The first message is - if anyone is not feeling well please, please go and get tested,” Lyon said.

“Details about the positive COVID case are still emerging and NSW Police and NSW Health are working on this.

“While these investigations are being done and information is being gathered people should be making sure they are checking in with QR codes whenever they go into a shop or business, wearing a face mask and social distancing."

Updated at 6.19pm AEST on 9 August 2021.

First Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in September as TGA gives green light

First Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in September as TGA gives green light

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has granted provisional approval to another COVID-19 vaccine, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes puts Australia on track to having 70 per cent of the population vaccinated by the year's end.

The Administration has granted provisional approval to provide Moderna's Spikevax (elasomeran) vaccine as an immunisation against COVID-19 for individuals aged 18 years and older.

Like Pfizer/BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccine which is currently the preferred option for younger people, Moderna's product is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.

"We will have 10 million of the Moderna doses arriving before the end of this year," the Prime Minister said.

"The first one million doses is on track to arrive next month and will go to pharmacies. Then we’ll have three million in October, three million in November and three million in December.

"This is another important tool that we have in our battle against COVID."

A further 15 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been secured for 2022, but the PM is optimistic for the nearer term as well.

"We have more Pfizer, we have more AstraZeneca, and now we have Moderna," he said.

"With more than 1.3 million vaccine doses delivered in just one week, that is almost the population of the city of Adelaide, with 676 pharmacy sites, with 5,765 GPs enlisted and out there providing jabs and providing important advice, and with the state hubs that are in place and rolling out, the national plan to get jabs in arms...is working with a plan to get 70 per cent of Australians vaccinated before the end of the year."

It is recommended that the Moderna vaccine is given in two doses that are administered 28 days apart.

"The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has shown strong efficacy preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and severe COVID-19 in clinical trials," the TGA stated.

"The vaccine has also received regulatory approval or emergency authorisation in several countries and is being widely used in the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

"Provisional approval of this vaccine in Australia is subject to certain strict conditions, such as the requirement for Moderna Australia Pty Ltd to continue providing information to the TGA on longer-term efficacy and safety from ongoing clinical trials and post-market assessment."

The TGA will make a separate announcement in due course about people aged under 18.

"Data to support the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years are currently under evaluation and no specific concerns have been identified to date," the administration stated.

"Australians can be confident that the TGA's review process of Spikevax (elasomeran) was rigorous.

"The decision to provisionally approve the vaccine was also informed by expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Vaccines (ACV), an independent committee with expertise in scientific, medical and clinical fields including consumer representation."

The TGA highlighted mRNA vaccines use a synthetic genetic code called RNA to give our cells instructions about how to make the coronavirus’ unique spike protein.

"When our body has made the protein encoded by the mRNA vaccine, it then recognises the spike protein as being foreign and launches an immune response against it," the administration stated.

"The RNA from the vaccine does not change, or interact, with our DNA in any way."

Updated at 4:59pm AEST on 9 August 2021.

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