- Australia is witnessing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, mostly due to community transmission, as per experts.
- Spike in COVID-19 cases to take a toll on the government’s plan to lift most restrictions by end-July to aid economic recovery.
- Sydney's pub cluster is adding to the fear of second wave, as it is often visited by freight drivers who supply essentials.
- New South Wales government is set to begin charging international travellers for hotel quarantine as well as introduce new measures for pubs.
- Human trials of a COVID-19 vaccination began in Australia, with preliminary findings expected by the end of September.
As per medical experts, Australia is experiencing a second wave of coronavirus, and it is of more concern, as this time, most cases are due to community transmission. Also, the winter season has just started in Australia, which could be a likely factor for the spread of COVID-19 infection.
Increasing cases are posing a risk to Prime Minister Scott Morrison's plan to revive the economy under the 3-step recovery plan. By the end of July, the government was expecting to ease further restrictions of social distancing, but now with a new lockdown in Victoria, it is like going back on the recovery path.
Victoria is the hub of economic activities and contributes around one-quarter of the economic output of the country. A stage-three lockdown in the state is going to put enormous pressure on Australia's economy. The government implemented Stage 3 Stay at Home restrictions in the metropolitan area of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire on 8 July 2020. On Tuesday, Victoria state reported 270 new cases, which was the 9th consecutive day of triple-digit increase in coronavirus cases in the state.
NSW's Pub Cluster Adds to the Fear of Second Wave
In less than a week, when lockdown began in Victoria, New South Wales reported 13 new cases on Monday. Reportedly, a growing cluster at a Sydney pub is adding to the woes of medical authorities and the government.
NSW residents were being tested after five of the new cases were linked to the pub. The main concern is that the pub is frequently visited by freight drivers who supply essentials to all parts of the country, and they are not being tested.
Experts fear community transfer, as half of the new cases in New South Wales were spread through community transmission and the remaining were those who either returned from Victoria or abroad.
Agreed to by the NSW Australian Hotels Association, the state government is set to introduce new measures for pubs from 17 July 2020.
NSW to Charge International Travellers for Hotel Quarantine
The NSW government will begin charging returning overseas travellers for hotel quarantine accommodation from Saturday, 18 July.
The charges will be AUD 3,000 for one adult, and additional occupants will be charged as - AUD 1000 for each adult, AUD 500 for each child and no extra charges for children under the age of 3.
Those who have purchased their flight tickets prior to 11:59 pm 12 July AEST will not be charged, but even such travellers need to be quarantined in government arranged accommodations. Meanwhile, the NSW government will continue to fund transport, security, and logistics.
While commenting on the move, Premier Gladys Berejiklian stated that the NSW government's decision of making hotel quarantine mandatory for returning international travellers contributed significantly in reducing the spread of infection all over the nation.
Ms Berejiklian added that NSW is the gateway to the country and since 29 March 2020, more than 35,000 Australians citizens and permanent residents returned from foreign countries quarantined in the state’s accommodations.
Till now, over AUD 65 million has been spent on quarantine accommodation for overseas travellers returning to the country and the bill was on the NSW taxpayers. Moreover, the Australian residents were given enough time to return to the country, and now it is only fair that they cover some of the costs of their stay in these quarantine homes.
Human Trials for COVID-19 Vaccine Begin in Australia
On Monday, 13 July 2020, the University of Queensland (UQ) along with researchers from biotech company CSL began phase 1 human trial of an experimental vaccine for coronavirus. The initial findings are expected to be available by the end of September 2020.
For the trial, 120 participants have been selected from ~4,000 volunteers, who will receive two doses within a gap of 4 weeks.
The volunteers will be monitored for 12 months after the vaccination, and if the experiment becomes a success in terms of its effectiveness and safety, it is expected to be made available for COVID -19 treatment by mid-2021.
Professor Paul Young from UQ mentioned in a press statement that the human trials were allowed only after extensive pre-clinical trials that began when the first lead vaccine candidate was selected during mid-February 2020. The testing outcomes highlighted the vaccine as effective in building antibodies to neutralise the coronavirus. Also, studies showed that the vaccine was safe to be given to the people.
The Australian government is providing AUD 66 million through the Medical Research Future Fund for finding a vaccination and treatments for coronavirus along with better preparing for the future pandemics.
The new outbreaks show that there is no scope for any carelessness and Aussies strictly need to follow the guidelines of social distancing to keep themselves and their families safe.