Victoria records no new local cases, one in hotel quarantine
Victoria has recorded no new local cases of COVID-19 and no deaths from the virus on Sunday morning, but one additional case was found in a woman in her 40s who travelled from overseas and is in hotel quarantine.
There were 5854 test results received across Saturday.
Ten cases remain active in Victoria: nine travellers who were infected with the virus overseas and remain in hotel quarantine, and one 15-year-old girl who travelled from NSW and remains in home isolation.
Hospital staff forced to isolate after patient returns positive COVID-19 test
The 58th day of no local Victorian cases comes after 30 staff at the Royal Melbourne Hospital were forced to isolate on Saturday after a patient returned an initial positive test to COVID-19.
The Department of Health and Human Services said an expert review panel was called in to review one case where a low positive result was returned from a coronavirus test.
A spokeswoman said the second test returned a negative reading.
“Last night the expert review panel reviewed one case with discrepant test results,” a DHHS spokesman said on Sunday.
“The review followed one case where a low positive result was returned following a coronavirus test. Following review of clinical, epidemiological and testing evidence, this case was rejected and deemed negative.”
The Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association praised the hospital’s decision to quickly send staff into isolation after the initial positive test.
“False positives occur,” AMA president Julian Rait said.
“It sounds as though all appropriate infection prevention protocols were followed on this occasion.”
Federal government signs final agreement for Pfizer vaccine
Australia has signed the final agreement with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and BioNTech for 10 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine.
The deal was struck on Christmas Eve and would signal a roll-out of the vaccine from March 2021, according to Nine News. Older Australians and front-line workers are expected to be given the Pfizer vaccine first in Australia.
Before it is administered, the vaccine will need to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use within Australia. Internationally, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Professor Jodie McVernon, director of epidemiology at the Peter Doherty Institute, told Today on Sunday morning that “vaccines are our hope to have a more definitive solution to this virus”.
“The emergency use authorisations in places like the US and the UK come in the face of tens of thousands of cases a day, many, many deaths. It is a very, very different scenario from what we have here,” she said.
“Our regulators have been expediting this review, they are committed to getting the vaccine into Australia as soon as possible but we are not in that same emergency. We do then have the extra time to give the public confidence that the vaccines have been used in public programs, we have had more opportunity to be sure that they are safe and effective.
“We do know that we still have some uncertainties around vaccines, whether they will be effective at stopping the spread of infection. So we should accept that ongoing social measures will be needed for some time.”
Residents of NSW’s northern beaches back in lockdown
NSW recorded nine new locally acquired cases on Saturday, including six people in one household. Almost 40,000 people were tested.
From midnight on Boxing Day until 11.59pm on December 30, residents of the northern part of Sydney’s northern beaches are restricted to outdoor gatherings of up to five people for exercise and recreation.
Residents of the southern part of the northern beaches can have outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people for exercise and recreation.
“Our strategy is to nip this in the bud as soon as we can, to make sure we do the hard yards now so we can have normality as soon as we can,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
With Rob Sharp, Melissa Cunningham
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Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at [email protected]