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Covid-19 News Updates


Eight new cases in Queensland COVID-19 outbreak

Eight new cases in Queensland COVID-19 outbreak

Queensland has reported eight cases of community transmission overnight linked to two distinct clusters that have emerged, both arising from workers at the PA Hospital.

In total, 10 new cases of COVID-19 were detected including two cases in hotel quarantine, after the state's capital went into a three-day lockdown at 5pm yesterday.

Six of the community transmission cases are close contacts of confirmed cases, while two are still under investigation but are believed to be linked to a known historic infection.

There are now 78 active cases of COVID-19 in Queensland's hospitals, with the majority acquired overseas.

Based on genomic testing, the clusters have been divided into two groups: one connected to a doctor at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, and the other to a nurse from the same medical facility.

Of today's cases, five are linked to the nurse and her sister, and all attended a hen's night party in Byron Bay over the weekend. One of those five is a man living on the Gold Coast – an entertainer at the event.

The new cases come after 14,589 Queenslanders got tested for COVID-19 yesterday.

"We have seen a rapid escalation in testing numbers, which is fantastic, so we can find if we have further spread anywhere," Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said.

With an influx of overseas travellers from Papua New Guinea, the number of active cases in Queensland's hospitals has ballooned in the space of a month, up from five in late February to 78 today. Of the total active cases, 65 were acquired overseas.

Palaszczuk notes new mandates for health professionals working with COVID-19 cases are coming into effect, ensuring all health workers in Queensland's coronavirus wards have received at least the first of two vaccine doses.

In terms of vaccination efforts, the Premier notes 89 per cent frontline healthcare workers and hotel quarantine workers have received at least the first jab.

Palaszczuk notes the call to place Brisbane into lockdown yesterday was the right one, considering the number of new cases reported today.

"We want to get on top of this community transmission, so the steps that we took to go into this lockdown, as you can see by those numbers of community transmission today, was absolutely the right call," says the Premier.

Queensland Health continues to provide updates on locations where COVID-19 cases visited. Late yesterday Brisbane CBD locations were added, including the Hanwoori Korean BBQ Restaurant and the Wintergarden carpark, while other locations have been added including a cafe near the Mater hospital and a gym in Morningside.

This afternoon authorities added a cafe in Newfarm to the list of venues, in addition to a cafe and chemist in the southern Gold Coast suburb of Tugun near the NSW border.

NSW is also on high alert in response to the outbreak in Queensland after confirmed cases visited a number of venues in Byron Bay

While no new cases were recorded in NSW overnight, the state's Premier Gladys Berejiklian said "we need to brace ourselves".

Globally the COVID-19 situation is far different than here in Australia. Over the past month, daily case numbers have been climbing. Just yesterday 441,857 new infections were recorded and more than 7,000 deaths.

Most of yesterday's new infections were in the US (59,707), followed by India (56,199) and Brazil (42,666).

Originally published at 10.29am AEDT on 30 March 2021, and updated at 4:42pm AEDT.

NSW Health publishes alert for more Byron Bay venues

NSW Health publishes alert for more Byron Bay venues

NSW Health has issued a public health alert for several Byron Bay venues visited by two women who tested positive to COVID-19 in Queensland overnight, in addition to the Byron Beach Hotel and The Farm which were already named by authorities north of the border.

Greater Brisbane entered a three-day lockdown at 5pm AEST (6pm AEDT) in response to a growing cluster with the infectious UK variant of COVID-19, which has prompted new requirements around the country including stricter no-entry measures from the likes of South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.

NSW health authorities have urged everyone in NSW, especially in the Byron Bay area, to get tested if they have even the mildest of symptoms and self-isolate until they get a negative result.

Anyone who has been to Greater Brisbane since 20 March and is now in NSW is required to stay at home, although those who have travelled through Brisbane Airport are exempt from these orders.

Individuals travelling to NSW from the Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Ipswich and Redland local government areas (LGAs) will need to fill out declaration forms which are available on the Service NSW website.

"This form includes contact details and confirmation whether people have been to any venues of concern. Declaration forms can be completed within the 24-hour period prior to entering NSW, or on entry to NSW," NSW Health said.

"NSW Health is advising people in NSW against non-essential travel to the Greater Brisbane area at this time."

Anyone who has been to the following venue must immediately get tested and self-isolate and remain in isolation until further advice is provided by NSW Health:

  • Byron Beach Hotel, Friday 26 March from 7-9pm
  • Suffolk Beachfront Holiday Park women's communal toilets, 26 March from 6-6:30pm and 9:10-9:30pm, 27 March from 3:20-3:50pm
  • Mokha Café, 27 March from 10:30am-11:30am
  • The Farm Byron Bay, 28 March from 8:45am-10:30am

The following Byron Bay locations are listed as casual contact venues. Those who have been to any of these places at the listed times should immediately self-isolate and get tested regardless of symptoms, and stay in isolation until a negative result is received:

  • Ghanda Clothing, 27 March from 12:00-12:15pm
  • Tiger Lily, 27 March from 12:25-12:30pm
  • Black Sheep, 27 March from 12:30-12:40pm
  • Quiksilver, 27 March from 12:40-12:45pm
  • Suffolk Bakery, 27 March from 2:45-3:15pm
  • Park Hotel Bottle Shop, 27 March from 7:30-7:45pm

Updated at 6:09pm AEDT on 29 March 2021.

WA and VIC join SA in slamming borders shut to Brisbane

WA and VIC join SA in slamming borders shut to Brisbane

Update: Since this article was originally published, authorities in the Northern Territory and Tasmania have also announced various restrictions and requirements for anyone intending to travel from Queensland or the Byron Bay area. 

In response to a growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Brisbane, Western Australia and Victoria will introduced new hard-border measures aimed at containing the virus within Queensland.

The moves come after South Australia announced it will be implementing a hard border to Greater Brisbane from 4pm today, with only returning residents, essential workers, and those relocating able to enter the state.

WA has reclassified QLD as 'medium risk', meaning travel from the entire state into WA will no longer be permitted from 12.01am Tuesday 30 March, while VIC is only blocking out those who have been in Greater Brisbane from 6.00pm tonight.

The list of those exempt from WA's new restrictions is short and only includes essential travellers and Western Australians that may have travelled to QLD recently and need to return home.

Exempt travellers arriving after midnight tomorrow night will need to self-quarantine for two weeks, present for COVID-19 testing at Perth Airport and further testing on day 11 after arrival.

Further, anyone who has arrived from Queensland since 12.01am on Saturday 27 March is required to self-quarantine for 14 days and present for a COVID-19 test on day 11 after arrival in WA.

"The reintroduction of a hard border with Queensland is based on the latest health advice.

"We've been monitoring the situation closely and have scaled up our border controls as required, to keep our community safe.

"The hard border measure is necessary and is our best defence in keeping the virus out."

In contrast to WA, VIC's measures are directed only at the Greater Brisbane area, with the state government upgrading its classification of the region to a 'red zone'.

This means non-Victorian residents are not allowed to enter VIC without an exception.

Victorian residents in Greater Brisbane can apply for a 'red zone' permit to return, however on arrival they must go straight home and self-quarantine for 14 days.

More details regarding VIC's border closure will come later today.

As it stands, New South Wales is taking a self-quarantine approach based on venues of concern - those being locations visited by COVID-19 positive cases.

The Northern Territory has announced it will require visitors to enter a 72-hour self-isolation and get tested if they have been in Brisbane or the Moreton Bay region since 20 March, and the same requirements will apply to those who have been in Ipswich, Redlands, Logan or Gladstone since 25 March. 

Anyone who has been in the Byron Shire before entering the NT after 27 March will need to be tested. 

This afternoon the Tasmanian government announced anyone who has been in Greater Brisbane within 14 days of their travel to the state would not be allowed to enter, unless they are approved as an essential traveller.

Anyone travelling to Tasmania who has been in Queensland within 14 days of their arrival will have their Tas e-Travel registration, and they will need to reapply to identify if they have been in any high-risk areas.

"If approved you will be required to quarantine at a suitable premises on arrival for 14 days. If you don't have a suitable premises you will be required to quarantine in Government-designated accommodation (fees can apply)," Tasmanian authorities said in an update.

"If you are currently in Tasmania and have been in any of the five identified Local Government Areas since Saturday March 20 or NSW high-risk premises on the dates and time specified, you must self-isolate immediately and contact the Public Health Hotline to arrange a test even if you are not experiencing symptoms."

Tasmanian Public Health has also declared a number of premises in Byron Bay as high-risk.

Originally published at 3.58pm AEDT on 29 March 2021, updated at 5:45pm AEDT.

SA closing border to Greater Brisbane from 4pm today

SA closing border to Greater Brisbane from 4pm today

The South Australian border to Greater Brisbane will be slammed shut from 4pm (ACDT) today as Queensland's capital goes into a snap three day lockdown.

In response to the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Brisbane, now at seven cases, South Australia has declared the city a hotspot and will impose a hard border.

Only returning SA residents, essential workers, and people relocating to the state will be permitted to cross the border and must isolate for 14 days on arrival.

People entering from Brisbane will also be required to get tested for COVID-19 on days one, five and 13 of the isolation period.

In addition, anyone who has entered SA from Greater Brisbane since 20 March must get tested and self-isolate, and only leave isolation once a negative result is received.

These people will also be banned from going to any venues with a COVID-management plan - venues with a capacity of more than 1,000 people.

"This would have been our Fringe and Festival, so thankfully that has now passed," SA chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said.

"But there may be some other events that have been planned in our state over the coming days and, again, that list will be put up on our website."

This weekend's AFL match between Adelaide and the Gold Coast has also been put into jeopardy as players are not considered to be 'essential workers' and will not be allowed into SA.

NSW Health has also updated those in Byron Bay about the evolving COVID-19 situation in the region.

More testing clinics with increased hours will be established across Northern NSW today after one of the COVID-19 positive people from Brisbane visited the region over the weekend.

Health authorities in both SA and NSW have encouraged anyone with even the mildest symptoms to get tested and self-isolate until a negative result is received.

Updated at 1.59pm AEDT on 29 March 2021.

Cynata COVID-19 treatment trial expanded to other respiratory illnesses

Cynata COVID-19 treatment trial expanded to other respiratory illnesses

Stem cell therapeutics company Cynata's (ASX: CYP) pool of eligible patients in a COVID-19 treatment trial will be increased after the company received ethics committee approval to include those suffering from respiratory failure.

The expansion is a boon for the company that is currently relying on testing the few COVID-19 patients in Australian hospitals, giving them access to those suffering from respiratory failure who meet the criteria for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).

The MEseNchymal coviD-19 (MEND) clinical trial was initially designed to investigate early efficacy of Cynata's proprietary Cymerus mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in adults admitted to intensive care with COVID-19.

The approved expansion will enable recruitment of patients with respiratory failure arising from other causes, with COVID-19 no longer a requirement.

With ethics committee approval secured, Cynata is seeking to enrol 24 adult patients admitted to intensive care with respiratory distress (or compromised lung function) at selected Australian hospitals.

Cynata CEO Kilian Kelly says ethics committee approval will significantly accelerate recruitment.

"The expansion of this clinical trial represents execution of our strategy to ensure that, despite the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will substantially increase the catchment of patients to accelerate the completion of the MEND trial," Kelly says.

"We have developed a solid pre-clinical data set in relevant diseases models of the severe respiratory distress and associated complications suffered by many patients affected by respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and influenza.

"This expansion will increase the number of patients eligible for recruitment into this trial, which is designed to investigate the potential benefits of our MSCs in treating these severely ill patients."

The expansion of Cynata's trial comes after the group's major competitor and fellow biotechnology company Mesoblast (ASX: MSB) had to discontinue its own COVID-19 treatment trial.

MSB's trial failed to live up to expectations after its proposed treatment, remestemcel-L, failed to show a lower mortality rate for patients in the prescribed 30-day timeframe of treatment.

Shares in Cynata are down 1.59 per cent to $0.62 per share at 11.48am AEDT.

Updated at 1.08pm AEDT on 29 March 2021.

Brisbane under lockdown from 5pm today as COVID cluster grows

Brisbane under lockdown from 5pm today as COVID cluster grows

UPDATE: Queensland Health continues to provide updates on locations where COVID-19 cases visited. Early this evening, locations were added in the Brisbane CBD, while NSW Health has also put out an extended list of venues concerned in Byron Bay.

Those living in Greater Brisbane will be placed into lockdown from 5pm today for three days after a cluster of COVID-19 cases grew by four overnight.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged anyone who has been in Greater Brisbane since 20 March to stay at home, and in declaring the area a hotspot has asked all other states and territories to do the same.

In addition, because one of the new COVID-19 cases travelled to Gladstone while infectious, the rest of Queensland will be subject to new restrictions including compulsory mask wearing and gathering limits.

Two of the new cases - a nurse and her sister - were both recently in Byron Bay. How they caught the virus is still under investigation.

This latest lockdown comes as a cluster of the UK variant of COVID-19 grew to seven overnight after four new positive infections were detected on Sunday.

Queensland Health reported six other cases of COVID-19 today too, however they are all overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

As such, from 5pm today for three days, those in Greater Brisbane will need to stay home except for four purposes: to buy food and medicine, to exercise, to conduct essential work, or to receive medical care.

Schools will close in the Greater Brisbane region which includes five local government areas: Brisbane, Logan, Moreton Bay, Redlands, and Ipswich.

Masks will be compulsory everywhere, except for in the home. For the rest of the state, people will need to wear a mask if they cannot physically distance, are inside, or are on public transport.

Those in Brisbane will still be allowed to have up to two visitors in the home and will be permitted to exercise in a family group.

Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young also outlined new requirements for the rest of the state.

"We will also be limiting visits to aged care, to disability accommodation services, to hospitals, and to prisons, because they are the most vulnerable in our society, plus people can only have gatherings in their own home of up to 30 people in total," Young said, with regards to areas outside of Greater Brisbane.

"Anyone who is going out to dine or to go to pubs needs to be seated, so the one per two-square-metre requirement remains with that additional requirement that people must be seated. And that's very important because we know that reduces mingling."

The lockdown will be reviewed again on Wednesday night, ahead of the busy Easter long weekend.

The Premier understands the Prime Minister has agreed to halve international arrivals in Queensland as the state grapples with the highest rates of COVID-19 positive arrivals in hotel quarantine, particularly due to an influx of travellers from Papua New Guinea. 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says this lockdown is a protective measure and the right thing to do based on health advice.

"I do not take these measures lightly," says the Premier.

"This is the UK strain. It is highly infectious. We need to do this to avoid a longer lockdown.

"We've done this before, and we've got through it over those three days in the past, and if everyone does the right thing I'm sure that we will be able to get through it again."

Of the 10 new cases detected in Queensland overnight, six are overseas arrivals in hotel quarantine, while four are cases of community transmission.

Out of those four, two are known contacts to the previously identified 26-year-old man from the northern Brisbane suburb of Stafford who was infectious in the community from 19 May.

The remaining two cases are under investigation, but authorities believe one to be a nurse from the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane who worked in the COVID-19 ward. 

"What this says to us is the fact that there is now more community transmission, and these people have been out and about in the community," says the Premier.

"I didn't sleep last night, so I'm very worried."

Premier Palaszczuk has also urged people in Brisbane not to panic buy, noting the supermarkets will be loaded with supplies and will remain open as usual.

She has also encouraged employers to let staff go home early today if possible.

States and territories respond to the outbreak

Over the weekend Australian states and territories took different approaches to the COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane, with some closing borders and others applying lighter restrictions.

More than 20,000 arrivals into New South Wales from QLD are being contacted, with authorities telling them to undergo a COVID-19 test and to self-isolate for 14 days if they have been to a venue of concern.

These venues are the locations identified by Queensland Health, which can be accessed via the state's dedicated portal, and include Black Hops Brewery in East Brisbane and Eatons Hill Hotel in Eatons Hill.

Victoria has deployed its traffic light permit system, labelling the local government areas (LGAs) of Brisbane and Moreton Bay as orange zones. This means travellers from those LGAs must apply for a permit to enter VIC.

In order to enter VIC, travellers must agree to the requirement of self-quarantine, get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival and remain isolated until a negative test result is received.

South Australia is requiring those who visited Brisbane in the past week to seek an urgent COVID-19 test and to isolate while awaiting results.

Any arrival from QLD into Western Australia must get tested for COVID-19 and self-quarantine for 14 days.

The Northern Territory is asking all arrivals who visited Brisbane or Moreton Bay to get tested. Those who have been told they are close contacts of a positive case must self-quarantine for 14 days.

All travellers into the Australian Capital Territory from Greater Brisbane since March 11 must self-isolate until a negative COVID-19 test is received.

While in Tasmania, anyone who has been in one of the designated locations by QLD Health cannot enter the state. Anyone currently in TAS that has been in any of the specified locations must self-isolate.

Further, anyone in TAS who has been in Brisbane or Moreton Bay on or after 8 March is asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.

Updated at 9.56am AEDT on 29 March 2021.

Brisbane man was infectious with COVID-19 in community since Friday

Brisbane man was infectious with COVID-19 in community since Friday

Update (1.46pm AEDT 26 March): Queensland Health has released a detailed list of locations visited by the infectious man.

A 26-year-old man from the northern Brisbane suburb of Stafford was infectious in the community from Friday last week, sparking new contact tracing efforts by Queensland's health authorities.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has revealed the individual visited a number of locations in Stafford including Bunnings, Aldi, and the Guzman y Gomez drive-through, as well as the Carindale Shopping centre, the Fresh Food Market stall at Gasworks in Newstead, Mamma's Italian Restaurant in Redcliffe and various locations in Fortitude Valley over the weekend. 

Since Palaszczuk's announcement a list of locations visited by the 26-year-old was released by Queensland Health, but does not include Aldi in Stafford or any locations in Fortitude Valley. The official list is as follows:

SATURDAY 20 MARCH:

  • Carindale Shopping centre at around 11am
  • Baskin-Robins ice cream in Everton Park at 8pm

SUNDAY MARCH 21:

  • Fresh Food Market stall at Gasworks in Newstead at 9am
  • Mamma's Italian Resraurant in Redcliffe at 12.20pm

MONDAY MARCH 22:

  • Worked in Paddington as a landscaper
  • Guzman y Gomez drive-through in Stafford at 12.30pm
  • Bunnings in Stafford at 1pm

The Premier said the case was "no cause for alarm", but it was a timely reminder for people to keep up social distancing habits.

"We absolutely want people - especially over the next two to three days - to come forward and get tested if you are feeling unwell and you have symptoms," she said.

"From 12 noon today our aged care, our hospitals, our prisons, people caring for people with a disability, will be closed to visitors but this will be confined to the Brisbane City Council areas and to Moreton.

"These are sensible precautions to look after our most vulnerable."

She called on people in the Brisbane City Council and Moreton Bay Regional Council to return to wearing masks in crowded areas, pointing to sporting matches and crowded trains as prime examples.

Premier Palaszczuk also made the observation from various functions she's attended that people weren't taking the same precautions as before.

"We really need people to social distance, and the other thing that's coming back is people are doing handshakes again," she said.

"Please, we are still in the midst of a pandemic now is not the time to break our social distancing, our good hand hygiene.

"I'm sorry everyone, but we need to abide by these things if we're going to get through this."

More information on the new case is yet to come, but the Premier explained she wanted to advise the public as soon as possible, and will provide ongoing updates over the weekend if new cases are reported.

Seven new cases were reported today of which six were in hotel quarantine - three from Papua New Guinea, the most common source of new cases in the state, one was from Ethiopia and another was an historic case.

There are currently 69 active cases in Queensland, where more than 53,000 vaccines have been administered to date. 

Updated at 11:24 AEST on 26 March 2021.

Victorian COVID-19 restrictions to ease from Friday

Victorian COVID-19 restrictions to ease from Friday

With no active cases of COVID-19 in the state, Victorian health officials are poised to ease restrictions from Friday, allowing more visitors in the home, reduced mask wearing, and larger public gatherings.

Ffrom Friday 26 March, masks will no longer be required in retail settings but Victorians will still need to wear one on public transport, in rideshare vehicles and taxis, and in aged care facilities and hospitals.

Home gatherings will be able to have up to 100 people in attendance per day, and outdoor public gatherings in public places can increase to 200 people.

Density limits in venues still operating under more restrictive settings - like casinos, karaoke venues and nightclubs - will move from one person per four square metres to one person per two square metres. This is in line with restrictions on cafes, pubs and restaurants.

Additional people will also be allowed in indoor non-seated entertainment venues with an increase from 50 per cent to 75 per cent capacity. However, the limit of 1,000 people per space remains.

Dancefloors will move to the same density limit of the venue and the 50 patron cap will also be removed.

There will no longer be limits on class sizes for outdoor and indoor physical recreation or fitness classes, and unstaffed gyms will be moving from a density limit of one person per eight square metres to one person per four square metres.

The 75 per cent cap on private and public offices workers will also be removed, which coincides with a revised flexible work policy for the Victorian Public Service (VPS) released today.

While all workplaces are still required to ensure people can work from the office in a COVIDSafe way - with a density limit of one person per two square metres - they will no longer be required to permit workers to work from home.

Following a successful first round of the AFL, crowds at games will be able to increase to 75 per cent of total capacity for Round 2.

"We know the risk is far from over but thanks to the incredible work of all Victorians, we're continuing to open up and see the Victoria we all love, return to life again," Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino said.

"More Victorians back at work means more people supporting their local cafes, restaurants and live music venues - boosting the economy where it's needed most."

Updated at 12.18pm AEDT on 23 March 2021.

New US trial finds AstraZeneca vaccine 79 per cent effective

New US trial finds AstraZeneca vaccine 79 per cent effective

A Phase III trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the US has demonstrated the shot is 79 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

Further, the vaccine has been proven to be 100 per cent effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalisation for those infected by COVID-19.

Importantly, in participants aged 65 years and over, vaccine efficacy was 80 per cent.

The interim safety and efficacy analysis was based on 32,499 participants accruing 141 symptomatic cases of COVID-19, with efficacy consistent across ethnicity and age.

"These findings reconfirm previous results observed in AZD1222 trials across all adult populations but it's exciting to see similar efficacy results in people over 65 for the first time," University of Rochester School of Medicine Professor of Medicine Ann Falsey said.

"This analysis validates the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a much-needed additional vaccination option, offering confidence that adults of all ages can benefit from protection against the virus."

The trial showed the vaccine was well tolerated, and an independent data safety monitoring board (DSMB) identified no safety concerns relating to the vaccine.

Following reports in Europe that the vaccine was causing blood clots in a small number of those that received the jab, the DSMB conducted a specific review of thrombotic events.

The DSMB found no increased risk of thrombosis or events categorised by thrombosis among the 21,583 participants that received at least one dose of the vaccine.

AstraZeneca executive vice president of BioPharmaceuticals R&D Mene Pangalos says these results from the US add to a growing body of evidence that shows the vaccine is well tolerated and highly effective.

"We are confident this vaccine can play an important role in protecting millions of people worldwide against this lethal virus," says Pangalos.

"We are preparing to submit these findings to the US Food and Drug Administration and for the rollout of millions of doses across America should the vaccine be granted US Emergency Use Authorization."

The results come days after the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) gave biotech company CSL (ASX: CSL) approval for the company's subsidiary Seqirus to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine.

It also comes as Australia's vaccine program is scaled up, with Phase 1B of the rollout commencing yesterday.

Updated at 9.56am AEDT on 23 March 2021.

 

CSL gets green light to manufacture AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

CSL gets green light to manufacture AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Melbourne-headquartered biotech CSL (ASX: CSL) has passed a critical hurdle in its plans to produce 50 million COVID-19 vaccines in Australia, after the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) today gave approval for the company's subsidiary Seqirus to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The announcement allows for Australia's vaccine program to be scaled up as Phase 1B oriented towards the elderly and vulnerable starts tomorrow involving more than 1,000 general practices nationwide, to be ramped up progressively to 4,000 by the end of April.

In that timeframe the vaccine will also be rolled out at more than 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth-operated, GP-led respiratory clinics, while authorities are aiming to redirect one million vaccines produced in Europe to Papua New Guinea (PNG) where the virus has become widespread.

The latest decision follows TGA approval on 16 February for overseas-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines to be administered to patients in Australia. 

"Today's approval is a critical and very exciting milestone in Australia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic," the TGA said today.

"Manufacture of biological medicines such as vaccines is a highly-specialised process and the establishment of Australian manufacture of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca by CSL - Seqirus has involved extensive work by both industry and the TGA over the last six months.

"Specific approval of Australian manufacturing by TGA was required to ensure that the locally-manufactured vaccine had exactly the same composition and performance as overseas-manufactured vaccine, was made to the same quality and is free of contaminants."

The active raw vaccine material is being manufactured at CSL-Behring Australia in Broadmeadows, while the final doses are manufactured with the vials filled and packed at Seqirus in Parkville.

Quality testing is also being carried out at both these Victorian sites.

"The final step for the Australian-manufactured vaccine is TGA batch release, which is required for each and every batch of any vaccine supplied in Australia," the TGA said.

"This involves a review of documents supplied by the commercial sponsor describing how the vaccine batch was made, tested, shipped and stored as well as TGA's in-house laboratory testing to ensure the vaccine has been manufactured according to the required standards.

"Receipt of the final batch release documentation from AstraZeneca is anticipated imminently and it is anticipated that the first batches will be released in the next few days."

The Australian Government has purchased 50 million doses of the vaccine, which will be manufactured by CSL on AstraZeneca's behalf.

The first doses out of 20 million Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Australia in mid-February.

Updated at 8:23 AEDT on 21 March 2021.

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