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Covid-19 News Updates
UPDATE (5.44pm AEST 5 May 2021): NSW Health has released new venues of concern in Sydney's eastern suburbs and CBD visited by the confirmed case of COVID-19. See below for details.
NSW health authorities are undertaking urgent investigations after a man unconnected to the state's hotel quarantine system or health services tested positive for COVID-19.
The man visited a number of locations around Sydney including a cinema, multiple BBQ stores, and a Rushcutters Bay restaurant.
The man in his 50s from Sydney's eastern suburbs underwent testing yesterday and returned a positive result today.
Because he has not travelled overseas in recent times and he does not work in a hotel quarantine, border or health role, NSW Health is conducting genomic sequencing to determine how the man contracted the virus. Results are expected in the next 24 hours.
Close contacts are being urgently contacted, tested, and ordered into isolation.
The man visited a number of venues while potentially infectious. As such, anyone who attended any of the following venues at the times specified have been asked to immediately get tested and isolate until NSW Health provides further information, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not:
- A screening of The Courier at Event Cinemas in Westfield Bondi Junction on Friday 30 April between 6-8pm
- Figo Restaurant in Rushcutters Bay on Friday 30 April between 8.45-11pm
- Joe's Barbeques & Heating in Silverwater on Saturday 1 May between 1-1.45pm
- Tuckers Barbeques in Silverwater on Saturday 1 May between 1-1.45pm
- Barbeques Galore in Annandale on Saturday 1 May between 2-3pm
- Barbeques Galore in Casula on Saturday 1 May between 4-5pm
- BP Mascot in Mascot on Saturday 1 May between 4.30-5pm
- The Meat Store in Bondi Junction on Sunday 2 May between 3-4pm
UPDATE: NSW Health has released new venues of concern in Sydney's eastern suburbs and CBD visited by the confirmed case of COVID-19:
- District Brasserie in Sydney CBD on Friday 30 April between 11-11.45am
- HineSight Optometrist in Sydney CBD on Friday 30 April between 12-1pm
- Barbetta in Paddington on Friday 30 April between 1.30-2.30pm
Updated at 2.21pm AEST on 5 May 2021.
Leading Australian technology companies including Canva, SafetyCulture and Airtasker are rallying their networks to lend a helping hand in India, where the COVID-19 crisis is rapidly deteriorating with almost 383,000 new cases recorded yesterday.
The country is struggling with an under-resourced health system as daily COVID-19 deaths reached a new record yesterday of more than 3,780. If that rate continues, total reported deaths from the pandemic in India would hit a quarter of a million within the week.
In less than 24 hours more than $400,000 has already been pledged to the Aussie Tech for India initiative, which is also supported by AirTree Ventures and Blackbird Ventures.
The initiative has been launched in partnership with the organisation Medical Oxygen for All which is sourcing medical supplies and coordinating their distribution on the ground.
"The evolving COVID-19 challenges in India aren't about a global shortage of oxygen the challenge is economical," says Canva's co-founder and COO Cliff Obrecht.
"The medical supplies are out there immediate and decisive action is required to save lives," he says.
"We have both a social and moral responsibility to do as much as we can to support our community in India."
Starting today, all proceeds from media purchases on Canva will be donated directly to relief efforts in India, with a message appearing in the Canva editor helping raise awareness across the company's global community of more than 55 million people.
The company has also launched a range of new India-specific templates with information from the local government and World Health Organisation to assist public health officials with sharing accurate and timely information.
"While each oxygen unit costs thousands of dollars, it only takes $92 to provide enough oxygen to save a life. We've been amazed by how quickly tech leaders in Australia have rallied together in response to the crisis unfolding in India," adds Anish Sinha, a co-founder and coordinator behind the Medical Oxygen for All program.
The Aussie Tech for India program has already seen a number of business and technology leaders across Australia join the campaign, highlighting the important role and responsibility of the Australian tech ecosystem to use its network and resources to support the global community in times of crisis and need.
"It's imperative we support India's critical care facilities as the situation escalates. I started SafetyCulture intent on finding a way to keep people in the workplace safe. We're committed to this challenge every day and eager to join the tech community in taking positive, pragmatic steps towards supporting this crisis," says Luke Anear, founder and chief executive officer of SafetyCulture.
"Our hearts go out to the people of India during this incredibly challenging time. One of our values at Airtasker is 'people matter' and we're grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside Aussie tech companies to support the people of India," adds Tim Fung, co-founder and chief executive officer of Airtasker.
Blackbird and Airtree Ventures have also reaffirmed that the technology ecosystem is a global community, with an important responsibility to have a positive impact on the world.
"This is an incredible initiative. We are more than happy to support this work and hope together we can save some lives in India - a country that is a friend and neighbour of Australia," said Daniel Petre, co-founder and chair at AirTree Ventures.
"The technology ecosystem is a global community. We all have a responsibility to come together and do what we can to help India during this health crisis," says Rick Baker, general partner at Blackbird Ventures.
Not only is Indian culture an integral part of modern Australia - including the business community - but the nation is also one of our leading trading partners with two-way trade worth almost AUD$14 billion in 2020, according to UN Comtrade statistics.Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
Business News Australia
Western Australia is on high alert after three locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 were detected over the weekend, including two Uber Eats drivers who visited around 100 restaurants while infectious.
The revelation came today from WA Premier Mark McGowan, alongside the good news that there are no more instances community transmission in the state today.
The delivery drivers are two close contacts of a COVID-positive security guard who is a contractor at the Pan Pacific Hotel - a quarantine facility in Perth. The guard tested positive on 1 May after developing symptoms on 29 April.
According to McGowan, the two food delivery drivers visited around 100 restaurants while infectious and delivered food to 100 different people.
The Premier says these 100 locations are considered "very low risk" by the state's health authorities. Nevertheless, the 100 people who received food from the two delivery drivers are considered casual contacts and must get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until a negative result is received.
WA Health says anyone who accepted a delivery from Uber Eats or Menulog between 29 April and 1 May or visited a restaurant in the list of sites during the times indicated should monitor for COVID symptoms.
McGowan also detailed that the three most recent cases of community transmission have 58 close contacts. All 58 are required to quarantine for two weeks, and so far 26 of the close contacts have received negative test results.
In addition, 217 casual contacts have been identified, of which 43 have received negative test results.
After the three new community transmission cases were identified in Perth on Saturday the Premier implemented new restrictions, including the immediate closure of nightclubs, the banning of crowds at the AFL, and closing the main gambling floor at Crown Casino.
Everyone in the state has been asked to wear a mask until 12.01am on Saturday 8 May when the restrictions expire.
The news comes as Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout was expanded today, with those over 50 now permitted to get the jab.
Updated at 11.57am AEST on 3 May 2021.
After four months in the doldrums due to its COVID-19 treatment in severely ill patients missing the mark, Melbourne-based biotech Mesoblast (ASX: MSB) is now pinning its hopes on fresh results that showed reduced mortality for under 65s.
Mesoblast was dealt a blow in December when a US trial failed to meet its 30-day goal of a 43 per cent reduction in mortality for patients suffering from severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to COVID-19 infection, cutting enrolments short for the study as well as the group's share price.
But the company founded and led by Dr Silviu Itescu pressed on with its 222 enrolled patients, and today revealed age could be a determining factor for the success of its stem cell treatment remestemcel-L.
Today's results demonstrate a 46 per cent reduction in mortality for patients aged under 65 who are treated with remestemcel-L, but not for those aged 65 and older.
When combined with the corticosteroid dexamethasone which has become part of standard care for critically ill COVID-19 patients on mechanical ventilation, Remestemcel-L was found to reduce mortality by 75 per cent in the under 65 demographic.
"Reduction in mortality in mechanically ventilated patients under 65 years old remains a critical unmet need since as many as 72 per cent of currently hospitalised patients across the US with COVID-19 are in this age category," says Itescu.
"This is similar to other causes of viral ARDS such as influenza where 70-80 per cent of patients in intensive care units are under 65.
"The reduction in mortality seen with remestemcel-L in this age group highlights the potential to make a meaningful difference in the treatment of diseases of excessive inflammation."
Itescu emphasises the complementary effects of Mesoblast's treatment with dexamethasone are particularly noteworthy, acting to target the inflammatory cytokine process driven by inflammatory macrophages and T-cells.
"Mechanistically, there is an understanding of synergy between the two. That probably in part explains why we've seen such exciting results in mortality reduction," he says.
Mesoblast's experts have formed the view that the negative third interim analysis that set back it plans may have resulted from a progressively ageing cohort of patients with more co-morbidities, whose median age rose from 59 in the first half to 67 in the second half.
The company believes a different dosing regimen might be needed to achieve mortality reduction in patients aged over 65 with co-morbidities.
"The mortality benefit observed with remestemcel-L in ventilator-dependent patients younger than 65, particularly in combination with dexamethasone, has the potential to change the treatment regimen in this critical patient population," says Mesoblast chief medical officer Dr Fred Grossman.
"As cases continue to surge in younger patients across the US, we plan to meet with the FDA to discuss next steps in the regulatory process."
Itescu says if remestemcel-L were to be approved for emergency use, Mesoblast still has a commercial agreement in place with Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis.
"We have plans for a factory scale-up, we have proprietary media that contains recombinant cytokines that enables substantial yield improvement, and potentially we could move from two-dimensional to three-dimensional bioreactor production," he says.
"We are preparing ahead of the curve, should we be in a position to launch such a product, particularly in the US."
He says vaccine roll-outs in places can be very effective, reducing new cases by as much as potentially 80 per cent, but that still leaves room for treatments like remestemcel-L should it be given the green light.
"Nonetheless, the continued emergence of variants, particularly from third world countries, the continued social interactions particularly in younger people who in the northern summer now will be outdoors and enjoying life I think means there will be continued endemic cases of this virus in various pockets," he explains.
"There will be continued surges, resurgences, etcetera and there will be a steady state of patients who will need ICU care, mechanical ventilation, and treatments for the worst outcomes and the highest mortality risks of COVID-19 - ARDS.
"We clearly see this as a potential therapeutic for the steady state, even in the setting of large numbers of patients being vaccinated.
"Even if an 80 per cent reduction in infectivity is a success through vaccination, that still will result in a large number of potential fatalities that could be prevented by the use of remestemcel-L, together with dexomethasone."
Updated at 10:04am AEST on 30 April 2021.
The regions of Perth and Peel in Western Australia will snap back to life tomorrow when many COVID-19 restrictions ease, but minor transitional controls will remain in place for another week.
The easing of restrictions from 12.01am on Saturday 1 May will see the two regions move closer to the return of pre-lockdown life, but the state's chief health officer says Perth and Peel will need to see through the full 14-day incubation period before all restrictions can be removed.
The changes come after the WA regions emerged from a three-day lockdown at 12.01am on Tuesday 28 April, imposed in response to the state recording a case of COVID-19 last week - WA's first instance of community transmission in over a year.
The following eased transitional restrictions will take effect from tomorrow until 8 May:
- Masks are not required outside except where physical distancing is not possible;
- Masks are mandatory for indoor public venues, including in the workplace and on public transport.
- Anyone who has been in the Perth or Peel regions since April 17 but has since travelled to another region must also wear a mask subject to the above conditions;
- 30-person limit in all homes for private gatherings;
- Nightclubs can open subject to the four square metre rule, with masks mandatory;
- Indoor and outdoor community sport can resume with spectators;
- Indoor weddings and funerals permitted for up to 200 guests without an exemption;
- Outdoor gatherings can take place with up to 500 people without a COVID event plan;
- One household can visit a patient per day in a hospital, aged care or disability facility; and
- Major stadiums, including Optus Stadium, RAC Arena and HBF Park can operate at 75 per cent capacity.
The following pre-lockdown measures will resume from 12.01am Saturday, 1 May:
- Seated hospitality venues, including restaurants, cafés, food courts and bars that provide seated service only, can open at 75 per cent capacity or apply the 2sqm rule - whichever is greater;
- Gyms, fitness centres, dance studios, beauty salons and hairdressers can open with the two square metre rule in place; and
- Public venues, including community centres, libraries, museums, galleries and recreation centres, can open with the two square metre rule in place.
Schools and childcare centres will remain open with the mandatory mask rule applying to all school staff and secondary students.
Further, all elective surgeries can resume, and places of worship can reopen to 100 per cent capacity.
"I'd like to personally thank each and every person in the Perth and Peel regions for their efforts during this difficult time. We are not out of the woods yet but so far things are looking very positive," says WA Premier Mark McGowan.
"The easing of restrictions means all businesses and workplaces will be able to reopen. It will see some of our hardest hit sectors - like hospitality - snap back to pre-lockdown restrictions - providing welcome relief for many small operators.
"It is my hope - and my expectation - that from Saturday, May 8, these relatively minor restrictions will be able to come off - and we completely return to where we were at before the lockdown."
Updated at 9.53am AEST on 30 April 2021.
Planning for a new purpose-built quarantine accommodation hub in Victoria will soon be underway after the state government settled on a preferred site in Mickleham for the proposed facility today.
Subject to the Commonwealth Government agreeing to cover construction costs and taking ultimate ownership of the hub, planning will start on the 500-bed quarantine facility at Donnybrook Road, Mickleham.
The Victorian Government expects the planning stage of the new project will cost around $15 million - a price it is ready to pay considering the delayed vaccine rollout in Australia and an increasingly dire COVID-19 situation around the world.
The preferred site is on Commonwealth land and is next to an existing animal quarantine facility.
If the Commonwealth agrees, it will operate the facility like it does Australia's only other standalone quarantine site - Howard Springs in the Northern Territory. To date, no outbreaks of COVID-19 into the community have been traced back to the hub near Darwin.
The final decision on whether to proceed with construction will be made in September, pending support from the Commonwealth and future insight on a range of matters, including the progress of the vaccine rollout, the efficacy of vaccines in preventing COVID-19 transmission, and Commonwealth decisions on rules governing travel into and out of Australia.
"It's clear this virus will be with us for some time," VIC Acting Premier James Merlino said.
"While we can't control how well or how fast other countries deal with the pandemic or their vaccine rollout, we can make sure our own quarantine system is as strong and safe as possible."
"The best time to start work on a standalone quarantine hub would have been 12 months ago - the second-best time is now."
The master plan for the new hub includes dedicated onsite services, including catering, that will support strong infection control and prevention measures. It is also designed with the ability to increase to up to 3,000 beds as part of a scalable build if a larger facility is determined to be required at any point.
The new hub will also be designed with relocatable cabins so that it can be utilised for alternative and future needs, including ongoing quarantine arrangements, crisis accommodation and other emergencies.
"We've seen how wildly unpredictable and dangerous this virus can be. This is our insurance policy to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep Victoria and Australia safe," Acting Minister for Police and Emergency Services Danny Pearson said.
"We've done the work to stack this project up and now we're asking the Commonwealth to get on board and help deliver it."
Updated at 1.15pm AEST on 29 April 2021.
Brisbane-based biotech firm AnteoTech (ASX: ADO) has officially launched its overseas expansion today following a trademark breakthrough in Europe two weeks ago for its low-cost, high-sensitivity rapid COVID-19 test.
The company's 'AnteoBind' technology - originally developed to test for the life-threatening infection Sepsis - already forms part of its customer Ellume's at-home COVID-19 diagnostics platform that is sold to the US, but now the group plans to sell its own product directly in the EU and UK.
Marketed as the 'EuGeni COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test', AnteoTech's single-use, disposable product will be rolled out across Europe where more than 46 million people have contracted COVID-19.
Unlike Ellume's tests which can be sold over the counter in the US at pharmacies such as CVS, EuGeni is currently only marketed as intended for healhcare professionals.
AnteoTech also plans to make the product available by mid-year in Australia, where strict rules are in place that prevent at-home testing for notifiable diseases such as COVID-19.
To fund its European expansion plans, AnteoTech has announced firm commitments to raise $12 million by issuing new shares at $0.26 each, representing a 20 per cent discount to the weighted average over the past 10 days. This will be followed by a $4 million share purchase plan (SPP) opening on 4 May.
Investors appeared undeterred by the capital raising discount however. At the time of writing, shares had surged 12 per cent this morning to $0.465 each.
"AnteoTech now has the necessary financial flexibility to scale up operations and accelerate its roll-out of its EuGeni reader platform and COVID-19 ART test, as well as our growing pipeline of other assay tests which will provide us with a considerable competitive advantage in the current market," AnteoTech CEO Derek Thompson said.
"This is a major milestone for the company, with our sights set on finalising approvals here in Australia and in the US where our technology is already being used by another Brisbane company (Ellume) to target the home test market."
AnteoTech's technology attracted the support of the Queensland Government, which provided a $1.4 million grant to help progress the COVID-19 rapid test through to commercialisation.
Thomson said as well as capturing a large slice of the European rapid test market, AnteoTech was ready to roll out a saliva-based version of the test, ending the need for invasive nasal swabs.
"We believe we have a superior test with high sensitivity and specificity based on our unique AnteoBind technology," Thomson said.
"We will soon enhance this offering with a saliva use case and new COVID-19/Flu A/FluB Multiplex test, which will give us a very strong competitive advantage over other products currently on the market."
Thomson added the company would also be delivering the vital Sepsis test, which is a very time-critical condition that is often missed, resulting in a very high global morbidity rate.
"From very humble beginnings, our very small scientific team has been working around the clock to bring forward this test platform, given its importance in helping to tackle the global pandemic," says Thompson, whose company had less than 20 employees a year ago.
"I also thank the Queensland Government for its contribution to the commercialisation of the test and platform."Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
Business News Australia
The Federal Government has announced a temporary pause for incoming flights from India, where a new wave of COVID-19 has pushed hospitals to breaking point with one person reportedly dying from the virus every four minutes in New Delhi alone.
Given the pressure returning travellers from India are placing on hotel quarantine, the government has put flights from the South Asian country on hold until 15 May.
In the meantime, Australia will also be sending medical supplies to India, including one millions surgical masks and 500 ventilators.
The Prime Minister said it was a concern to see an increase in the percentage of cases in hotel quarantine with origins from India.
From 16 April there was a jump in hotel quarantine numbers from all origins, rising from 90 in a week to 143 in the most recent week.
"In this past week we saw that rise, and that was particularly in areas such as the Northern Territory and New South Wales, where we have direct flights into both of those areas.," the Prime Minister said.
"Proportionally, we saw higher numbers in Western Australia and South Australia, but in terms of the total number of cases originating in India then the overwhelming majority of those were in New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
"We don't think the answer is to forsake those Australians in India and just shut them off as some seem to suggest - that's not what my government's going to do. We will stand with the Indian community here and our friends in India as one of our closest and most strategic partners."
He said the pause was necessary to enable those quarantine facilities, particularly in the Northern Territory, to work through the system and return to lower case levels so that direct flights can resume and repatriate Australians.
"One of the challenges going forward is the testing regime for those embarking on flights, and so having the rapid antigen testing in place we think will support that, but that will give us several weeks to put those arrangements in place with the commercial operators," he said.
"Qantas has already indicated that they're able to do that, but working with other operators we'd want to be assured that those mitigations were in place."
The Prime Minister said the situation was escalating rapidly, and he welcomed the fact embarkation points such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore had also been closed off.
"Those flights that were coming from Malaysia and other places were carrying Australians back from other parts of the world where the risk is not as great as it is in India, and so that means Australians will still be able to come home through those flights.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said more than 19,400 Australians have returned from India since March last year.
"Since March of last year we have facilitated 38 flights out of India - 28 flights with Qantas from Delhi, from Chennai and from Kolkata, which have brought back 5,000 passengers," she said.
"When circumstances do allow through this temporary pause, we will resume those flights and if possible seek to review those flights and if possible seek to increase their frequency if we are able to," she said.
"We currently have just over 9,000 Australians registered in India - 650 of those are registered as vulnerable. As you would expect in the circumstances, this number will certainly increase in the coming days and weeks as people's circumstances change."
Minister Payne assured Australians in India and Indian-Australians here that four Indian network posts remain staffed by Australian diplomats who will continue to provide consular assistance to Australians in distress, including through DFAT's financial assistance program.
"Our posts will also be redoubling their efforts to maintain contact with Australian citizens in India to ensure that they are informed about travel settings, about any changes and about assistance programs."
Those consular contact numbers are 1300555135 from within Australia and (+61) 62613205 when calling from outside the country.
"I also want to reaffirm the great leadership and generosity that India has shown to the global community and throughout this pandemic," Minister Payne added.
"They have in fact exported over 66 million WHO-approved vaccines across the world. I know in our own region how important this has been in the Pacific - it includes gifting vaccine doses to Nauru and to Fiji. It has has also manufactured vaccine doses for Papua New Guinea, for the Solomon Islands, which have been delivered through the COVAX facility.
Updated at 3:30pm AEST on 27 April 2021.
Update (27 April): The lockdown was lifted overnight, but Western Australians must continue to wear masks in public at indoor and outdoor areas, practise physical distancing where possible, and maintain good personal hygiene at all times. Fitness clubs, gyms, casinos and nightclubs will remain closed, while other business will have a four square metre capacity rule and 20 patron limit in place. "The lockdown was the circuit breaker that we needed to help crush and contain the virus, and keep the community safe," WA Premier Mark McGowan said.
The Western Australian Government has called a snap three-day lockdown from midnight in the Perth and Peel regions, after a year-long run of no community transmission was broken by a hotel quarantine intra-room infection that has led to two known positive cases.
People in these areas will need to wear masks from 6pm tonight, and must remain home except for the usual exceptions such as essential work, shopping for essentials including groceries, medical or health care needs, and exercise with a maximum of four people.
Anyone who has left Perth or Peel since 17 April will need to wear self-isolate and the same mask rules will apply outside where they are staying.
The decision was made after it was revealed a man in his 50s who completed 14 days of quarantine at Perth's Mercure Hotel tested positive to the virus once he arrived in Melbourne this morning.
The man had tested negative on day 12 of hotel quarantine, was released on 17 April and according to Premier Mark McGowan is presumed to have been infectious in the community for five days.
After leaving hotel quarantine, the individual stayed with a friend and her two children in the Perth suburb of Kardinya and went to a Malaysian restaurant.
That friend tested positive to the virus after taking a rapid COVID-19 test today.
"We need to act and do what is necessary to prevent further community transmission," says Premier McGowan.
"We've gone more than 12 months of no community transmission and our lives in Western Australia have been normal compared to what we have seen around the world.
"We need to do everything we can to protect our way of life. That's why from midnight tonight, Perth and Peel will enter a three-day lockdown over the weekend until Monday night."
The decision also means ANZAC Day services will be cancelled, but the Premier urged people to take part in a driveway dawn service again this year.
"I know this is hard to take, and I wish we didn't need to be doing this, but we can't take any chances with the virus. We just can't," he said.
Premier McGowan confirmed the first case had also visited a swimming pool in Perth's southern suburbs on 18 April, had coffee in Leeming, ate dinner in Northbridge and stayed at St Catherine's College at the University of Western Australia (UWA).
"On the 19th he visited a Chinese traditional medical doctor, went to Northbridge again, and again stayed at St Catherine's College that night," McGowan said.
"On the 20th he visited Kings Park and Northbridge again, on the 21st he had breakfast in a common area at St. Catherine's College, before being driven by his friend to the airport."
The man then boarded flight QF778 from Perth to Melbourne at 1:05pm that day. Victoria Health is in the process of contact tracing the 257 passengers who were on board that flight.
"Locations for both the Victorian case and his friend will be finalised and released publicly as soon as possible. If you have been to these locations during the times listed, you will need to get tested and isolate until you return a negative test result," McGowan said.
"If people are deemed a close contact by public health officials, you will be tested and required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
"We're also obtaining CCTV vision to piece together more details. We know his accommodation at St Catherine's College at UWA has a separate bathroom, which is good news."
The Premier said contact tracing and COVID testing teams were being scaled up, with health officials to visit St Catherine's College to test people.
"Anyone at UWA if you're feeling unwell, you need to get tested as soon as possible," he said.
From tomorrow pubs, clubs, cafes and bars will close but will be allowed to provide takeaway food and beverages.
There will also be closures for gyms and indoor sporting venues, playgrounds and skateparks, cinemas, casinos, places of worship, libraries and other cultural institutions.
However, weddings and funerals will be allowed to go ahead with a maximum of 100 attendees (not including staff), but masks must be worn.
Updated at 2:48pm AWST
The Victorian Government will invest $50 million to establish mRNA vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing in Melbourne through partnerships with universities, researchers and Australian and international manufacturing companies.
Onshore production of mRNA vaccines, based on messenger RNA which is the molecule that essentially puts DNA instructions into action, has been identified by the Commonwealth Government as a national priority.
Victoria is already home to world-class vaccine manufacturing facilities owned by CSL (ASX: CSL) in the Melbourne suburbs of Broadmeadows and Parkville.
The state will work closely with the Commonwealth and world-leading experts from Monash University, the University of Melbourne, The Doherty Institute and other leading research institutes to develop the first mRNA manufacturing capability in the Southern Hemisphere.
mRNA vaccines are a promising alternative to traditional vaccines because of their high efficacy, capacity for rapid development, low-cost manufacture, and safe administration.
This has been highlighted by the success of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna which are manufactured in Europe and the United States.
"It's vital that we can develop and manufacture mRNA vaccines and treatments locally to ensure we have vaccine security here in Australia and across our region," VIC Acting Premier James Merlino said.
Not only is the move important in the fight against COVID-19, mRNA and other forms of RNA nanomedicines can be used in the treatment of cancer, rare diseases, cellular engineering and protein-replacement therapy.
"There are major advantages to this technology including high efficacy, rapid speed in development, and flexible manufacturing processes. Victoria is well positioned to be at the forefront of this effort," VIC Minister for Health Martin Foley said.
To date, the Federal Government has secured up to 170 million doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines, including 20 million extra doses of the jab from Pfizer.
The Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine was recently recommended as preferred over the AstraZeneca alternative for recipients aged under 50, following advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) in response to blood clot risks.
As of today, 1.66 million vaccine doses have been administered in Australia, with 399,313 of those delivered in Victoria.
Updated at 12.11pm AEDT on 21 April 2021.
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