Victoria disappoints, doubts over vaccine

Colin Brinsden
·3-min read

It wasn't just Daniel Andrews who delivered disappointing news on the COVID-19 crisis, telling Victorians they will have to wait a further day or two for details on the much-anticipated reopening from lockdown.

Federal cabinet minister Karen Andrews also raised doubts over how quickly a coronavirus vaccine could be up and running, saying its depends on whether it proves to be protein or non-protein based.

Mr Andrews quickly drew the wrath of business groups after he stalled on Sunday in announcing the promised steps to reopening by up to 24 hours.

Health authorities are waiting on results of about 1000 swabs after 3000 people were tested over an outbreak in Melbourne's north.

Mr Andrews said it would have been irresponsible to "wing it" when so many tests haven't been cleared.

But he clarified the state is still on track to be to have an opening before November 1.

'We had intended to be able to make announcements today, but it is just not appropriate while we wait for these test results to be assuming we know what the results are," the premier said.

But the federal government said Victoria's public health system is either up to the task of dealing with future outbreaks or it is not.

"The decision to keep businesses closed suggests that there is still not sufficient confidence within the government that their systems can support reopening," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a joint statement with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minster Greg Hunt.

"This is a profound disappointment."

It also wasn't good enough for Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott.

"We cannot go on like this. Victorians cannot hang on week to week. People are at a financial and mental breaking point,'' Ms Westacott said in a statement.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox described it as yet another "hammer blow" for business confidence.

"That a city of five million people can continue to be locked down because of a handful of cases in a contained geographic area beggars belief," Mr Willox said.

Victoria reported seven new cases on Sunday, with six linked to the concerning outbreak in the city's north which involves 39 people across 11 households.

Elsewhere, NSW has recorded no new locally transmitted cases for a third consecutive day while seven new infections were reported in overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

Meanwhile, federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews warned a vaccine could take longer to produce if it proves to be non-protein based.

She said biotech company CSL already produced protein-based vaccines and would be in a position to start rolling out a vaccine immediately once it was approved.

However, she said there was still significant work to do if the vaccine needed to be non-protein based and it could take longer to roll out.

"I would hope that we would be able to do it in about the nine to 12-month time frame, but I think we need to be really conscious that with a vaccine, there are a lot of variables in there," she told ABC's Insiders.

But Mr Hunt told reporters Australia is in a very strong position with the AstraZeneca protein-based vaccine, and that Ms Andrews was responding to a hypothetical question.

"When you take away that hypothetical, when you look at the broad reality, Australia is on track for first quarter commencement of that roll-out," he said.