Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd's press conference on 28 January 2021

Read the transcript of Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd's press conference on 28 January 2021 about coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Australia would now have 11 days with no cases of community transmission of COVID-19. The total number of cases seen in Australia is now 28,794. Over the past 24 hours, there have been 8 new cases of COVID-19 in Australia, all among overseas arrivals. These people are all in hotel quarantine, or in the Howard Springs' facility in the Northern Territory. The AHPPC met at noon today and discussed the 72-hour travel pause on green zone safe travel flights from New Zealand to Australia. As you know, on Sunday we were advised about a new case of COVID-19 in New Zealand, in a person who had been hotel quarantine at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. On Monday, following rapid gene sequencing, the authorities in New Zealand advised that that person was infected with one of the COVID-19 variants of concern, the B1351 variant. Which was first detected in South Africa in October. This new variant is more transmissible, and so presents a heightened level of risk. It's been reported in at least 26 countries, including among 13 people who have arrived in Australia and who's been in hotel quarantine. This variant is being reported as being 50 per cent more transmissible than previous strains of COVID-19. Following advice from the AHPPC on Monday, the Australian Government suspended the green zone arrangements with New Zealand for 72 hours. This has meant that anyone arriving into Australia from New Zealand since Monday afternoon has been required to go into hotel quarantine on arrival. Yesterday, we were advised that two more positive cases had been identified in New Zealand, in people who had also been in hotel quarantine at the same time, at the same hotel, the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. The AHPPC has today been advised by the New Zealand Chief Medical Officer, that all three confirmed community cases have been genomically linked to an international traveller in hotel quarantine in New Zealand. Meaning that they all have the variant of concern. The AHPPC was also advised that all close contacts of the first New Zealand case have now returned a negative result, and that five of the eleven close contacts of the subsequent two cases have also returned negative results, with the remainder awaiting their results. Results are still pending on a number of other people who were in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel, at the same time. Based on this updated information from New Zealand, including that there have been two additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community, in New Zealand since the initial case, and all being the variant of concern, B1351. The AHPPC has recommended that the Commonwealth extend the pause in safe travel zone flights from New Zealand, for a further 72 hours.

This recommendation has been made to the Australian Government, the Government has accepted the advice and so the travel pause on green zone flights from New Zealand to Australia has been extended a further 72 hours until 2pm on Sunday, January 31. This allows continuing protection of the people of Australia, while the extent of the situation in New Zealand continues to be clarified. I apologise to those people who have had their travel arrangements disrupted. People who have since arrived in Australia on red zone flights since Monday afternoon are currently still in 14 days of quarantine. We've also been advised that a small number of people who are hotel quarantine in the Pullman Hotel in Auckland at the same time as these other cases, have since travelled to Australia on green zone flights, before the pause was introduced on Monday afternoon. All these people are being followed up by the health authorities in the state where they landed. We know that 12 people who were quarantine at the Pullman Hotel, have arrived in Sydney. Three of these people have travelled on to Hong Kong, and the authorities have been advised. Two of these people travelled onto Queensland, and the authorities there have also been advised. The others are all being followed up in New South Wales, and are being tested.

If I receive additional information about further arrivals, I will provide further advice. On Monday, I advised that anyone who had arrived in Australia on a flight from New Zealand on or since 14 January should isolate and arrange to get tested and remain in isolation until their results are known. I am now extending that advice: Anyone who has arrived in Australia on a flight from New Zealand on or since 9 January is asked to isolate and arrange to get a test and remain in isolation until they've received a negative test result. In particular, if you were in hotel quarantine or a guest or a staff member at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland, between 9 January and 14 January, please isolate at your home, arrange to get tested for COVID-19, and follow the advice of the health authorities in your state.

I also want to speak briefly about what's happening with the vaccines. As set out earlier this week, the Government remains on track for a late February commencement of the Pfizer rollout, commencing with the availability of approximately 80,000 doses per week. In addition, the rollout of the AstraZeneca international dose is on track for an early March arrival, subject to approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and final shipping confirmation.

The latest guidance from the company is for supply of approximately 1.2 million AstraZeneca doses from offshore during March, and the company remains committed to the full supply of the 3.8 million offshore doses, and will confirm additional shipping dates once global supplies are confirmed. Further, Australia's certainty and continuity of supply is underpinned by the 50 million-dose domestic production agreement with CSL and AstraZeneca. This supply is now projected to commence in late March, earlier than previously expected, delivering 1 million doses per week. It's projected that 2 million domestically produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be supplied in late March.

These projections already take into account global supply challenges for both Pfizer and AstraZeneca and the European regulatory proposals. They have been confirmed by the country heads of Pfizer and AstraZeneca in discussions with the Australian Minister for Health, prior to Monday's announcement, and have subsequently been re-affirmed by both companies. So the guidance remains unchanged. All deliveries are, of course, subject to global production and supply and shipping processes. The precautions - sorry, the projections that we have are cautious and conservative. Our guidance remains for a late February commencement of Australia's mass immunisation program against COVID-19, with the rollout according to the National Vaccination Strategy and with all Australians who seek to be vaccinated having received their course of vaccination by the end of October.

Australia is in one of the strongest positions in the world, not only because of the work of all Australians in containing the COVID-19 virus, but also because of our onshore manufacturing agreement with CSL which provides certainty of vaccine supply at a time of intense national competition and uncertainty. In short, we remain on track for a late February commencement and completion by the end of October.

Finally, there will be a daily, sometimes hourly, stories coming from around the world on vaccine rollout. Some of these will affect Australia, but most will not, because we have the foundation of a strong, sovereign, national vaccine manufacturing platform.

Thank you very much. Thanks, all.


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