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As it happened: Victoria records three local COVID-19 cases as Scott Morrison reveals he will receive Pfizer vaccine ‘very soon’

Summary

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will be rolling up his sleeve to get a coronavirus vaccine “very, very soon”, telling reporters in Sydney that he and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly would receive the Pfizer vaccine. State premiers and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine from next month.
  • Victoria has recorded three new cases of locally acquired COVID-19, all linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak; NSW has continued its run of 33 days without community transmission of coronavirus, reporting just two new cases in hotel quarantine; and Queensland has also recorded no new cases in the community or hotel quarantine.
  • Less than 24 hours after the City of Melbourne cancelled the iconic Moomba festival for the first time in its 66-year-old history, they have announced it is back on.
  • PM Scott Morrison said he was “very proud” of his home state, giving a glowing review of NSW’s pandemic management. There was a “reasonable expectation” that a vaccine will lead to more freedoms, he said.

Pinned post from yesterday 5.36pm

That’s a wrap: the day in review

By Rachael Dexter

That brings us to the end of an eventful week. I hope you all enjoy your weekend.

A quick reminder of the big stories today:

  • Victoria has recorded three new cases of locally acquired COVID-19, all linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak; all three cases are from the same family: a child and both parents who were already in isolation.
  • NSW has continued its run of 33 days without community transmission of coronavirus, reporting just two new cases in hotel quarantine; and Queensland has also recorded no new cases in the community or hotel quarantine.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will be rolling up his sleeve to get a coronavirus vaccine “very, very soon”, flagging he will be vaccinated early in the rollout to boost public confidence.
  • Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd says people should go to trusted medical providers or the health.gov.au website rather than Facebook for vaccine information, after Facebook blocked all news websites yesterday.
  • Syringes designed to extract the maximum number of doses from Australia’s shipments of coronavirus vaccines will not be available when the national rollout begins on Monday. Instead, federal Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy said low dead space syringes – which are designed to minimise waste in the injection process – were still on order amid a worldwide shortage.
  • Victorian residents of Wantirna South/Boronia, Carrum Downs/Langwarrin and St Kilda East/Caulfield areas are all on alert after weak traces of COVID-19 were found in wastewater tests conducted earlier this week. Anyone with symptoms needs to come forward for testing as soon as possible.
  • Less than 24 hours after the City of Melbourne cancelled the iconic Moomba festival for the first time in its 66-year-old history, they have announced it is back on.

    Take care, stay safe this weekend and good night.

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yesterday 6.28pm

Breaking: Holiday Inn cluster case admitted to intensive care

By Rachael Dexter

Some late breaking news: one of the 22 cases linked to Melbourne’s Holiday Inn coronavirus cluster has been admitted to intensive care.

The Department of Health said the patient was in a stable condition in hospital late on Friday afternoon, but did not reveal their age, gender or how the person was linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak.

Another person who was in ICU earlier this week, known publicly for his use of a nebuliser which authorities claim is at the centre of the outbreak, was discharged from hospital on Wednesday.

yesterday 5.36pm

That’s a wrap: the day in review

By Rachael Dexter

That brings us to the end of an eventful week. I hope you all enjoy your weekend.

A quick reminder of the big stories today:

  • Victoria has recorded three new cases of locally acquired COVID-19, all linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak; all three cases are from the same family: a child and both parents who were already in isolation.
  • NSW has continued its run of 33 days without community transmission of coronavirus, reporting just two new cases in hotel quarantine; and Queensland has also recorded no new cases in the community or hotel quarantine.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will be rolling up his sleeve to get a coronavirus vaccine “very, very soon”, flagging he will be vaccinated early in the rollout to boost public confidence.
  • Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd says people should go to trusted medical providers or the health.gov.au website rather than Facebook for vaccine information, after Facebook blocked all news websites yesterday.
  • Syringes designed to extract the maximum number of doses from Australia’s shipments of coronavirus vaccines will not be available when the national rollout begins on Monday. Instead, federal Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy said low dead space syringes – which are designed to minimise waste in the injection process – were still on order amid a worldwide shortage.
  • Victorian residents of Wantirna South/Boronia, Carrum Downs/Langwarrin and St Kilda East/Caulfield areas are all on alert after weak traces of COVID-19 were found in wastewater tests conducted earlier this week. Anyone with symptoms needs to come forward for testing as soon as possible.
  • Less than 24 hours after the City of Melbourne cancelled the iconic Moomba festival for the first time in its 66-year-old history, they have announced it is back on.

    Take care, stay safe this weekend and good night.

yesterday 5.34pm

Video: Inside Sydney’s COVID-19 vaccination hub at Royal Prince Alfred hospital

By Kate Aubusson

On the third floor of a cream-coloured building in Camperdown, a face-masked pharmacist extracts a benign concoction of red dye and water from a glass vial no bigger than a thumbnail as if thousands of lives depended on the task.

But today is just the final dress rehearsal. Come Monday morning, the vials will be filled with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and Sydney’s quarantine and border workers will be among the very first Australians to roll up their sleeves to receive the vaccine at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s new COVID Vaccination Hub.

Watch a walkthrough of the clinic here:

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yesterday 5.13pm

Andrews says he will get his vaccine at local GP when it’s his turn

By Rachael Dexter and Paul Sakkal

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is in no hurry to get one of the first COVID-19 vaccines available but will get his jab from his local doctor when it’s his turn.

“I don’t think there’s necessarily been a lot of time spent at national cabinet talking about when we’ll [state premiers] will get the jab, I’m very keen to see frontline workers get it, and those that are at the highest risk,” Mr Andrews told reporters outside Parliament today.

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It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this morning that he and the country’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy would receive one of the Pfizer vaccines “very, very soon” during the first stages of the rollout starting next week.

Other political leaders, including Ms Berejiklian and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, would be waiting for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is expected to be available from March.

“It is important for us as leaders – and this is my health advice that I demonstrate,” Mr Morrison said.

“I’m happy to get it: I think it is important people understand it is safe. There is no way I can say that more than rolling up my sleeve and getting the vaccination.“

Mr Andrews said he would likely get his vaccine through his GP, and also said he wanted Victorians to take assurances about the vaccine.

“I will get it hopefully to send the most powerful message you to every single Victorian who might have any doubts,” he said.

“You’ve had the world’s scientific community, people who do these vaccines and this sort of science for a living, this is all they’ve done the world over for a year. It’s safe, it’s essential, and it’s going to change a lot and get us back to something much closer than normal.”

yesterday 4.26pm

‘Doesn’t define my business’: The battle to rebuild after being tied to a COVID-19 cluster

By Henrietta Cook

Business owners who unwittingly found themselves at the centre of a coronavirus cluster copped abuse, financial pain and brand damage and are now working extra hard to reassure customers they are COVID-safe.

The past year has been devastating for many small businesses, but the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant, the Chadstone Butchers Club and others have had to deal with a mountain of extra and unexpected challenges.

Smile Buffalo Thai Cuisine owner Navara Kingtada outside her Black Rock restaurant on Friday.

Smile Buffalo Thai Cuisine owner Navara Kingtada outside her Black Rock restaurant on Friday.Credit:Simo Schluter

Smile Buffalo owner Navara Kingtada hopes her restaurant’s name makes people think of mouth-watering buffalo chicken ribs, Barramundi in ginger sauce and beef salad.

But the first thing that springs to the minds of many Victorians is an ill-fated dinner that sparked a coronavirus cluster at the Black Rock restaurant.

“It was just bad luck,” Ms Kingtada said. “It could have happened anywhere, but it happened here.”

Ms Kingtada first became aware that an infectious diner from NSW had eaten at her restaurant when she turned on the news on the morning of New Year’s Eve.

She received a call from the Department of Health shortly afterwards and immediately shut her restaurant, cancelling all bookings. It was to have been the biggest night of the year, with the restaurant’s three sittings all booked out.

That first day was the most difficult, Ms Kingtada recalled.

“We were very sad,” she said.

“We couldn’t eat and we couldn’t sleep. We tried to answer all the questions from our customers. We received hundreds of phone calls.”

Most people were understanding about the mini super-spreading event that took place on December 21 and led to 11 of the restaurant’s 37 patrons testing positive as well as a staff member. But some were abusive and left messages on Ms Kingtada’s voicemail blaming her for the incident.

Read the full story here.

yesterday 4.09pm

Six Melbourne testing sites close due to heat

By Rachael Dexter

Half a dozen COVID-19 testing sites have closed early today across Melbourne with the health Department citing the heat as the reason.

The city has just hit its forecast top of 33 degrees, and sites from Dandenong to West Footscray have closed for the rest of the day.

Closed sites due to heat today:

  • Monash Health – Carroll Lane, Dandenong – Drive Through, Dandenong
  • Banyule Community Health – Greensborough, Greensborough
  • Monash Health – IYU Recreation Reserve, Pakenham, Pakenham
  • Darebin Arts Centre, Preston
  • Wyndham City Council Civic Centre, Werribee
  • Shorten Reserve Car Park, West Footscray

It’s not clear at what temperature sites are directed to close. The Department has been approached for response.

yesterday 3.57pm

Two young women in Florida ‘dressed up as grannies’ to get vaccinated, health official says

By Washington Post

The coronavirus vaccine is so coveted in the US that two women in Florida went to extremes on Wednesday to get inoculated: they dressed as if they were elderly, health officials said.

The women, both younger than 45, wore bonnets, gloves and glasses to disguise themselves as older than 65, the cut-off age to be prioritised to get the coronavirus vaccine in Orlando, according to Raul Pino, the director of the health department in Orange County. He attributed the deception to growing interest in the vaccine, giving the example of the women while explaining how high demand was in the area.

Two women were caught trying to pass as elderly to be able to get their second COVID-19 vaccine.

Two women were caught trying to pass as elderly to be able to get their second COVID-19 vaccine.Credit:Virginia Star

“This is the hottest commodity that is out there right now so we have to be very careful,” Pino said on Thursday.

The geriatric guise is the latest instance of people trying to jump the queue to get vaccinated from the deadly virus. Last month, authorities identified a wealthy Canadian couple who had posed as locals in a remote Indigenous community to take doses meant for elders. An Indiana health department issued a warning earlier this month against what they called “a substantial lack of morality” after people had lied to vaccination site workers about their addresses, jobs and ages.

The Florida women’s costumes may have succeeded before – both had the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention card indicating they had received their first doses. Pino said he did not know how they could have been previously vaccinated, but on Wednesday workers at the site at the Orange County Convention Centre caught on.

Once the staff at the site noticed the discrepancy with their birthdays listed on their driver licences, the women, 44 and 34, were referred to deputies, who issued trespass warnings against them, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

The women, whom The Washington Post is not identifying because they have not been charged, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday evening.

They did not get their second shot, and security at the site was heightened in the wake of the incident, said Kent Donahue, a spokesman for the health department.

Pino said there had been a few cases of people trying to trick health workers into getting vaccinated, including a man who had the same name as his elderly father.

“As we are engaged in this process trying to move quickly, some people could squeeze in, so it’s probably higher than we suspect,” he said of the number of people who might lie to get vaccinated.

Asked if it was frustrating to him that the two women skipped the queue, Pino said it wasn’t up to him to determine who should be next in line, referring to the prioritisation scale set up by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican.

“Our job as a health department is to vaccinate as many people as possible,” Pino said.

DeSantis was criticised this week after he unveiled a pop-up clinic offering vaccines in an affluent, mostly white neighbourhood of Manatee County, Florida.

The state has been allocated 3.4 million doses and administered more than 2.5 million first doses, according to data compiled by the Post.

Orange County has vaccinated more than 200,000 people, Pino said, adding that the county is increasing its capacity to keep up with desire in the community.

“It’s great to see that demand,” he said. “We haven’t had any lack of willing arms to get vaccinated… we have people faking to be old to get vaccinated.”

yesterday 3.26pm

Tasmania to let Victorians in from tomorrow

By Rachael Dexter

G’day readers, Rachael Dexter here again to take you through to the day’s end. Hope you’re enjoying your Friday. What a week it’s been.

On the topic of the weekend, since the end of Victoria’s five-day lockdown on Wednesday, the nation’s borders are returning to some level of normality for travelling Victorians from tomorrow.

As it stands, Victorians are allowed to travel freely into the Northern Territory and NSW. The ACT is enforcing restrictions only on anyone who has been at one of the Victorian Department of Health’s exposure sites at the listed times.

Regional Victorians are able to enter South Australian freely, but those from metropolitan Melbourne are barred from entry until Tuesday (14 days after the last public exposure).

From midnight tonight, Tasmania is reopening for Victorians, and anyone already undergoing quarantine from Victoria will be released. Like the ACT, there are limitations on entering Tasmania if you’ve been caught up in any of the Victorian Department of Health’s exposure sites.

As has been the case in the past, Western Australia is enforcing the strictest limitations on Victorians. Today the state again changed itself advice for Victorians, upgrading travellers to ‘medium risk’, which means you will need to apply for an exemption to enter the state and then
undergo 14 days of quarantine at home and multiple COVID-19 tests.

It’s a similar situation for Queensland, which allows regional Victorians in freely but requires Melburnians to undergo 14 days of quarantine. The Queensland government has also flagged a lifting of these restrictions on February 27.

yesterday 2.20pm

Check out our new COVID-19 vaccine data tracker

By Craig Butt

ICYMI, we’ve launched a new vaccine data dashboard, which tracks how many people around the world have been vaccinated so far and which countries are leading the charge.

Once vaccine doses start being administered in Australia on Monday, we’ll be adding a pane to focus on local progress.

We’re going to keep updating this new vaccine data centre – much like the virus data centre we launched last year.

Our tracker uses the total number of people fully vaccinated as our main metric of success rather than the number of doses administered.

That means the dashboard may look like it is understating the level of progress worldwide, because most vaccines require two doses at least one month apart to achieve their optimum efficacy, and the pace of progress worldwide means most people who have started their course have not yet received their second shot.

yesterday 1.50pm

PM to get coronavirus vaccine in first phase, Berejiklian to wait her turn

By Mary Ward and Kate Aubusson

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will wait her turn for the coronavirus vaccine, ensuring critical workers receive the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. She flagged there would be incentives for NSW residents who chose to be vaccinated.

NSW continued its string of days without community transmission of coronavirus on Friday, reporting two new cases, both in hotel quarantine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on a tour of Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on a tour of Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.Credit:Kate Geraghty

It has been 33 days since NSW last reported a locally acquired coronavirus case.

The cases bring the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 4956.

The Premier was joined by Prime Minister Scott Morrison for a tour of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s coronavirus vaccination hub this morning to watch a simulation of the facility’s processes. Vaccines will be administered from Monday.

The simulation involved dozens of practice “patients” lining up to help staff prepare for the rollout, which will vaccinate 35,000 front-line quarantine and healthcare workers as part of phase 1A over the next three weeks.

In this initial stage, vaccines will also be administered in hubs at Liverpool and Westmead hospitals and in western Sydney, as well as in aged care facilities.

The Prime Minister said he was most impressed by how “sympathetic” the process had been in the trial run.

“I know for many this may be a very anxious process and I think the plans here have taken that into account,” he said.

Read more here.

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