Australia Moves COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout to Early March

Guest Writer

With the community transmission not giving up, particularly in Sydney, Melbourne, and now Brisbane where from 6:00pm tonight people living in greater Brisbane, will be required to stay home until 6:00pm Monday in a bid to stop the spread of the highly infectious United Kingdom strain of the virus. It comes after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel in Brisbane tested positive yesterday to the mutant strain and was in the community for five days.

Australian health authorities are bringing forward the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines by a few weeks to late February or early March, even as recent outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne appeared to stabilize.

“We will continue to follow the safety and medical advice and will update our plans where new evidence or advice is available… our number one priority is safety,” Health Minister Greg Hunt’s office said in an email, noting the rollout had been progressively brought forward.

The government plans to complete a mass inoculation program for its 25 million citizens by the end of this year. Vaccinations will begin with doses from Pfizer Inc, officials have said, with the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine expected to be in use by March-end.

New South Wales state has recorded nearly 200 cases in recent outbreaks, mostly in Sydney, where some northern seaside suburbs are under a lockdown until Jan 9, while Victoria state has reported 28 cases in recent weeks. Both states reintroduced tougher restrictions on movement and made masks mandatory indoors to contain the spread of the virus.

Officials issued a new alert in Melbourne on Wednesday after discovering a subsequently infected man attended an international cricket match and shopped at a large mall over the Christmas holiday period.

Officials said the man was likely not infectious when he attended the Boxing Day test match between Australia and India but called for 8,000 spectators in the same stand – the match capacity was 30,000 – to be tested to trace the source.

NSW officials have made masks mandatory for spectators at the third test match in Sydney starting on Thursday.

NSW reported 4 local cases on Wednesday, none yesterday and today while Victoria added 1 to its tally. The virus has been effectively eliminated in other states and territories.

Australia has reported a total of just over 28,500 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths, with border closures and speedy tracking systems helping keep numbers relatively low.

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