World looking to Australian virus response

Daniel McCulloch
·2-min read

Australia has recorded a second straight day of no locally acquired coronavirus cases as infection rates accelerate across the world.

The world has eclipsed 50 million cases and 1.25 million deaths.

There have been more than 400,000 new cases recorded worldwide each day for the past two weeks.

And yet, Australia has recorded no local coronavirus cases four times in the last nine days.

There are also no Australians with coronavirus on ventilation.

"Against that background, the world is looking to Australia," Health Minister Greg Hunt told federal parliament on Monday.

"And what they see is a nation which took early action, which approached this right from the outset listening to the science, taking action and delivering on the outcomes."

Mr Hunt attributes the nation's success to closing international borders early in the pandemic, conducting widespread testing and contact tracing, and adhering to social distancing rules.

Thirty million doses of coronavirus vaccinations have entered production ahead of a planned rollout in the first half of next year.

Biotech giant CSL has begun manufacturing the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine in Victoria.

CSL will also produce 51 million units of a vaccine being developed at the University of Queensland.

The vaccines will not be released until clinical trials are finalised and regulatory approval is granted.

Mr Hunt said vaccination could begin in March.

"That would start with, of course, health workers and the elderly if it is approved for them," he said.

"But we will work through and make sure the whole country has availability to vaccines during the course of 2021."

Mr Hunt reconfirmed the vaccine would be voluntary but said the government would encourage as many people as possible to receive the jab.

"We're confident that we'll have a very high take-up amongst the Australian population," he said.

"Our job is to make sure it is safe and effective and available but also to provide the public with the confidence that this is something that can save lives and protect lives."

National immunisation rates stand at almost 95 per cent and the figure is even higher among Indigenous Australians.

Victoria recorded no coronavirus infections or deaths for the 10th straight day on Monday.

The state has scrapped its ring of steel separating metropolitan Melbourne from the regions.

Melbourne's 25km travel limit has also been dropped as more hospitality restrictions are eased.

NSW recorded a second consecutive day of no locally acquired cases, while there were another seven infections among returned travellers in hotel quarantine.