PM on COVID recovery: ‘Back to work by Christmas’
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is feeling optimistic about the nation's ability to bounce back post-coronavirus.
Encouraged by last week's better than expected unemployment figures, Mr Morrison expects more jobs to come back from the pandemic recession as Australia's economy rebounds.
According to The Australian, Mr Morrison still plans to reduce JobKeeper and JobSeeker rates in coming weeks, and announced on Sunday that he expected a continued jobs recovery as the economy opened back up and Victoria's COVID-19 cases fell.
"The figures that came out this week were a pleasant encouragement in terms of their improvement, but for those who still don't have a job, that is of no comfort to them. People are still out of work and we need to get them in," Mr Morrison told ABC News.
"I'm pleased that we've seen over 400,000 jobs come back. I think we will see more come back.
"I think there will be hundreds of thousands of more jobs come back in between now and Christmas, particularly if we get this next step right in Victoria."
It comes as Mr Morrison saw a boost in support as preferred leader in the latest Newspoll.
OBESE PEOPLE JEOPARDISE VACCINE SUCCESS
As researches across the globe race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, scientists fear the treatments in development may be less effective in fat people.
The fear spurs from the fact that vaccines against flu, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies are less effective in obsese than in the general population, The Times reports.
"We had a study where we had 3,400 adults enrolled and everybody received the flu vaccine. You had twice the risk of developing flu despite vaccination if you were an individual with obesity. That finding makes us worry about the COVID-19 vaccine," Melinda Beck, a Professor of Nutrition at North Carolina University, told The Times.
Danny Altmann, a Professor of Immunology as Imperial College London, held similar concerns.
"It couldn't be more serious. In vaccines that are already in routine use, people who are more obese tend to make a less effective response to the vaccine." He said he had been "shown quite scary data that the more overweight you are, the more you drop your immune response".
VICTORIAN CASES DROP AMID ANGER OVER 'DOUBLE STANDARD'
Victoria has recorded just 14 new cases of coronavirus overnight, along with five deaths.
Sunday has seen the lowest daily increase since 13 cases were recorded on June 19.
Metropolitan Melbourne's rolling 14-day average has dipped to 36.2, but 52 mystery cases remain.
In regional Victoria, the average remains stable at 1.8, with no mystery cases.
But the latest fatalities bring the state to a grim milestone, with the death toll reaching 761 on Sunday.
Premier Daniel Andrews said Sunday was "a good day" and he was "confident" restrictions would be wound back for metropolitan Melbourne on September 28, but warned that the decision would be made based on data.
Melbourne is set to take its second step from coronavirus restrictions next Sunday, which includes small public gatherings, the phased return of workplaces and reopening of outdoor pools.
Mr Andrews stood by the decision not to fine the "Casey cluster" rule-breakers, saying it could jeopardise contact tracing efforts.
Concerningly, the outbreak in Melbourne's southeast has grown overnight, with 40 cases now linked to the cluster - an increase of six.
"It just gives you a sense of one person, just a single person, can infect many, many other people," Mr Andrews said.
"And the contact tracing work has seen us pull that up. There is still, I'm sure, close contacts and others will be very much monitored to make sure that if they exhibit symptoms, that we can further isolate them.
"But they're all isolated there. We believe that we can pull it up at that number, but again, it's always subject to and events as they unfold. Whether it's there for in Colac, where one person ended up infecting through chains of transmission, 25-plus people."
He expressed frustration and anger at families that had broken lockdown rules, but said the "truth was worth everything".
Victoria's Opposition leader Michael O'Brien slammed the Premier over the fining of anti-lockdown protesters while those who had broken the rules in the Casey cluster were given a free pass.
"Andrews shouldn't be protecting those who spread the virus while fining others … Labor's double standards are as toxic as this virus," Victoria's Opposition leader Michael O'Brien told the Sunday Herald Sun.
"It's a disgrace that Labor has locked up innocent Victorians under a curfew while those who break the law and spread the virus get off scot-free.
"This is the same Andrews hypocrisy that saw teenagers fined for learning to drive while 10,000 Black Lives Matter protesters were ignored."
HOPE OVER VIRUS STRAIN DISCOVERY
As coronavirus cases spike again in many countries, with cases surging towards 31 million and deaths globally passing 953,000, hope may be on the horizon.
Infectious disease researchers in France have identified several new mutant strains of COVID-19 that might be more contagious but also seem to be less severe than the original strain.
According to The Sunday Times, the new strains were discovered by experts at one of France's leading research hospitals into infectious diseases.
Scientists at IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseilles believe they can explain why a recent surge in reported cases in France and Europe has not seen an equivalent spike in hospital admissions and deaths.
The head of the hospital, Didier Raoult, said his team's analysis of COVID-19 tests had identified seven mutations of the virus.
One of the strands may have been brought to the Southern port city of Marseilles from Africa by boat when ferry service was reinstated after June lockdown ended.
"Something is happening with this virus, which makes it different," Dr Raoult, 68, told the French senate in a testimony.
"The mutations we have are a rather degraded version of the initial form. At least that is our impression", he said.
Prof. Raoult came under fire when he said hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, may work against the virus.
His assertion that COVID-19 is mutating has been challenged by several scientists, including Professor Jean-Francois Delfraissy, an adviser to the French government on the virus.
But Prof. Raoult's studies are based on substantial data and his hospital pioneered early mass testing, enabling the city to escape the first wave of the virus.
Last month, America's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID), shows a transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient, captured and colour-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. - US scientists are developed a strain of coronavirus that could be used to deliberately infect volunteers in so-called "challenge studies," as the US government is continues to prioritise clinical trials of vaccine candidates.
Meanwhile, Victoria saw a dramatic drop in new cases after 45 cases were recorded on Friday, bringing metropolitan Melbourne's rolling 14-day average to 39.3.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Melbourne needs to reach a 14-day rolling average of between 30 and 50 cases to see an ease in restrictions by September 28.
Despite the promising drop, experts say Victorians must remain vigilant in the coming weeks to ensure a new spike in cases does not occur.
Meantime, three new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in NSW overnight.
STRANDED AUSSIES DEMAND CAP INCREASE
Stranded Australians are demanding the government increase flight caps further to clear a backlog of up to 60,000 people stuck overseas.
The government increased crippling flight caps from 4000 a week to 6000 a week at a National Cabinet meeting on Friday.
But airlines have warned that they will not be able to clear a backlog of Australians wanting to get home before Christmas.
Australians stuck overseas claim they have been abandoned, and many said their circumstances had changed since the government urged people to go home in March.
Some have sold cars to pay for business class flights that have then been cancelled because flights into Australia have been capped at as little as 30 passengers.
Bob Newton moved to the UK with his partner Andrea and children Dylan, four, and Harry, two, in 2019 to care for his father who had brain, lung and kidney cancer, but died when the lockdowns started in March.
His family has been bumped from two flights so far and is now worried they might miss out on their flight back home on October 3.
Mr Newton said his lease on a property near Norwich, two hours north of London, was running out and his family would have nowhere to live if the flights were cancelled again.
"This leaves us in a situation where we are homeless, or at least reduced to living in Airbnb's and hotels with two children, with no work, and also a mortgage on a house in Melbourne to pay. It will not take long for this situation to financially ruin us," he said.
Amber Griffiths and her husband Mark Griffiths are stranded in the United States, where they are worried they won't be able to pay for medical bills.
Ms Griffiths, from Adelaide, has been bumped off three flights and now has a booking with a new airline for October but was worried she would still not get back.
The 26-year-old has suffered heart palpitations in the United States and has blood pressure problems but has delayed medical tests until she gets home.
"The doctor told me my blood pressure was concerningly high for my age, that was scary. But for the sake of not wanting to go into debt getting tests done here, I've kept putting it off knowing we'd be coming back to Australia," she said.
Her Crohn's disease medicine also ran out in May but she cannot afford to get more because it's five times more expensive than in Australia.
"I have always been so proud to be Australian, but this is an embarrassment," she said.
Carmelina Ciampa has been separated from her family since October last year, when she went to Italy with her youngest son to care for her mother.
She was in Milan with her mother Rosa for medical treatments, who died in August, and now she cannot get back.
"Spinning in my head, the words, 'You are on your own' because this is the message that passes, when an embassy, due to the choices of a Government, raises their arms saying that they cannot do anything to help a citizen, in such a moment," she said.
"I think the Government should remove the cap, and should consider any available option to help its stranded citizens."
Mohammad Umair Khan, 27, has been stuck in Pakistan since March, paying a mortgage on an empty house in Brisbane.
His wife Marium Zameer, 22, needs to get to Australia before December so she can take up her spouse visa.
"I've already spent a fortune during this pandemic and now had to get my car sold back in Brisbane to buy a business class ticket," he said.
Elspeth Clarke, a higher education librarian, had lost her job after her contract ran out while she was waiting for a flight back to Melbourne from London.
"It seems like Australia has turned its back on us," the 29-year-old said.
VACCINE ROAD MAPS RELEASED
A comprehensive road map for potential vaccines has been released by two major drug companies in a bid to stem speculation from world leaders.
Moderna and Pfizer have revealed detailed information on their trials, including how participants are selected and monitored, the conditions for trial pauses or cancellations, and the evidence required by researchers to determine the vaccine viable.
According to the new information, Moderna's study will involve 30,000 participants, while Pfizer's will use 44,000.
Neither company's plan provided a set date for a vaccine delivery, despite US President Donald Trump declaring earlier this week that a vaccine could be ready by October.
Hours earlier, the head of the US's Center for Disease Control had said a vaccine would not be widely available until mid-2021 at the earliest.
While pharmaceutical companies traditionally share information only after studies and trials are completed, Pfizer said in a statement they recognise "that the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique circumstance and the need for transparency is clear."
A spokesman for AstraZeneca, who is producing the Oxford vaccine, said the company intends to make its road map public within the coming weeks.
CANADA, US TRAVEL BAN EXTENDED
Meanwhile, Canada and the United States have extended a ban on non-essential travel between their two countries to October 21 in order to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, Ottawa announced.
The world's longest border has been closed to nearly everything but goods trade since March 21, with the travel ban extended several times since then.
"We are extending non-essential travel restrictions with the United States until October 21st, 2020," Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said via Twitter.
"We will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe."
Both Canada and the United States have seen an uptick in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
Canada recorded almost 700 new cases on Friday (local time) while the US reported 44,000. Nearly 200,000 people in the US and more than 9200 in Canada have died of COVID-19 illnesses.
Travel between Canada and the United States, which usually sees 400,000 border crossings per day, has fallen off by 95 per cent since the pandemic restrictions were put in place.
Originally published as PM on COVID recovery: 'Back to work by Christmas'