- Anyone from Victoria or NSW who has been at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane since December 30 – either as a returned traveller or a staff member – must immediately get tested for COVID-19 and isolate for 14 days since they were last at the hotel, regardless of the result.
- People previously in quarantine at Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor’s have begun settling into at least one other site across the CBD after fears of a COVID-19 cluster on the seventh floor forced an evacuation by health authorities.
- Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has chastised Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly over false COVID-19 treatment claims and stands firm behind the AstraZeneca rollout.
- Pressure about the border issue is set to increase today, with 1200 tennis players and officials from around the world starting to arrive in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open while some residents remain locked out.
- There have been more than 92 million cases of COVID-19 recorded around the world and almost two million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.
NSW health authorities 'working overnight' to track down guests of Brisbane quarantine hotel
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said health authorities have been "working overnight and into the wee hours of this morning" to track down everyone in the state who had been to Brisbane's Hotel Grand Chancellor, which has been linked to a minor outbreak of the new mutant strain of COVID-19.
"I do understand a number of people have been contacted," she said. "If anybody does know of a friend or relative who was there, please make sure they have had the test and are isolating for 14 days. I have every confidence we will capture every person in that situation."
While speaking on breakfast television programs Sunrise and Today this morning, Ms Berejiklian said it was important for the community to accept that there would be no way of stopping more virulent strains of COVID-19 from entering Australia via returned travellers.
"This UK strain as it is called exists now in over 30 countries. A lot of those countries have Australians waiting to come home. This virus strain is in all likelihood likely to become one of the dominant strains," she said.
The Premier said the reduction in weekly overseas arrivals – from 3000 to 1500 a week – would give NSW time to understand what the new strains were doing and tighten its quarantine system if necessary.
"There [are] a couple of cases in NSW we had which we suspect were actually transmitted through surfaces. What we do know is a disease is more contagious," she said.
"We can learn from what Queensland is going through. I think it's important to let Queensland authorities get to the bottom of how they think it happened and in NSW, we do use things like CCTV cameras and interview people, to make sure we have a good understanding of who and how the transmission may have occurred."
The tightened protocols will also mean some returned travellers with new strains of COVID-19 might have to spend longer than 14 days in quarantine. "We are finding that with these more contagious strains, on the 14th day some people are still too contagious to be allowed out into the community," Ms Berejiklian said.
"What's really important is making sure that whatever strains emerge, and there could be even worse strains that emerge into the future, we keep them confined to hotel quarantine. We don't let them out into the community."
NSW residents stayed at hotel linked to dangerous new COVID-19 strain
NSW Health is urgently tracing residents who stayed at a Brisbane hotel that is being evacuated by the Queensland government after six cases of a highly contagious strain of coronavirus were traced back to the site.
A public health alert has been issued for anyone who has been at the Hotel Grand Chancellor since December 30 with Queensland informing NSW Health that "there were NSW people staying at the hotel who have since returned to NSW".
The Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane’s CBD.Credit:Attila Csaszar
The hotel is believed to have been used for returned overseas travellers only and NSW Health said it was working with its Queensland counterparts to identify anyone from NSW who had been at the Brisbane CBD hotel.
"This variant of the virus is potentially a big problem for Australia and everyone needs to be on high alert," Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. "If you've been in the Brisbane hotel, please help us."
The alert from NSW Health came hours after Queensland ordered more than 200 recently released overseas arrivals back into isolation on Wednesday amid concerns the highly transmissible B117 coronavirus strain was circulating in the hotel in Brisbane's CBD.
Read more: NSW residents stayed at hotel linked to dangerous new COVID-19 strain
Brisbane remains on 'heightened alert' as it hopes to avoid another lockdown
Brisbane will have to wait another eight days before the risk of an outbreak of a super-contagious COVID-19 strain subsides.
The city will remain on "heightened alert" until January 22, which will mark the end of one incubation period of the virus and the riskiest period the state has endured since the start of the pandemic.
Ambulances at the ready to transport hotel quarantine guests from the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane on Wednesday.Credit:Matt Dennien
More than 600 people have been forced into quarantine and thousands are being tested after a man unknowingly infected five others from inside a locked room in Brisbane's CBD.
The mysterious spread is of "national concern" and infection control inside Australia's hotel quarantine system has been thrown into question.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has asked the national cabinet to re-evaluate hotel quarantine rules in order to stamp out the mutant strain of COVID-19 before it spreads through the community.
Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young has no idea how the mutant strain escaped the confines of the quarantined room, and health authorities are investigating every possible scenario, from the effects of flushing a toilet to the circulation of airconditioning vents.
"This has happened very quickly and we’re struggling to find out how it’s got out of that room," Dr Young said.
Read more: Brisbane remains on ‘heightened alert’ as it hopes to avoid another lockdown
Government races to secure more vaccines but stares down AstraZeneca critics
The Morrison government is seeking new deals to vaccinate millions of Australians by the middle of this year as it hits back at concerns it is relying too heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine when other options could be more effective.
The government is in talks with a dozen companies to boost vaccine supply but has been unable to get more doses from Pfizer or any doses from Moderna, another company with a promising candidate to counter COVID-19.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly rejected calls for a pause in the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in a day of heated scientific debate.Credit:Getty Images
Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly rejected calls for a pause in the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in a day of heated scientific debate about interim results that suggested it was not as effective as the alternative from Pfizer and would not generate herd immunity.
"Lives will be saved by the AstraZeneca vaccine, I have no doubt about that," Professor Kelly said.
"It's not whether one is better than the other. What do we have available? We have the AstraZeneca [vaccine] available for the whole country."
Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen accused the government of failing to sign enough agreements with vaccine developers, adding this meant it would be wrong to pause the AstraZeneca rollout.
"A pause only works if you've got something to replace it with," Mr Bowen said.
The federal government has arranged to buy 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is enough for five million people given the requirement for two doses per person, but it has to rely on supplies from the United States or Europe because the product cannot be manufactured in Australia.
The government has relied more heavily on AstraZeneca under a deal to buy 53.8 million doses, enough to vaccinate the Australian population, with pharmaceutical giant CSL making the product in Melbourne.
Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday the AstraZeneca vaccine was "not one that I would be deploying widely" because it had a lower efficacy rate than other options.
Read more: Government races to secure more vaccines but stares down AstraZeneca critics
New York pleads for more COVID-19 vaccine as daily US death toll hits record
As the United States recorded its highest single-day death toll since the coronavirus pandemic began nearly a year ago, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said the city would fall short of its inoculation goals unless it could get more vaccine.
The mayor said short supplies were hampering New York City's efforts to increase its immunization campaign. His appeal comes as the country as a whole struggles to meet an overall goal, with vaccinations now running far behind a target of 20 million people by now.
Healthcare workers administer doses of the Covid-19 vaccination at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.Credit:Bloomberg
"We need the federal government, the state government and the manufacturers to step up and get us more supply immediately,” de Blasio said at a briefing.
The country's most populous city is adding vaccination sites across its five boroughs, including its two Major League Baseball parks, and has succeeded in loosening restrictions on who is eligible for vaccination, de Blasio said.
New York is on track to inoculate 1 million of its more than 8 million residents by the end of the month, but only if it gets enough vaccine, he said.
"I confirmed with our healthcare team yesterday that even with normal supplies that we expect to have delivered next week, we will run out of vaccine at some point next week, unless we get a major new resupply," he added.
Nationwide, only about one-third of the 29.4 million doses distributed to states have been administered, according to data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The country's struggle to inoculate its population comes as the number of people to die from the disease hit a daily record 4,336 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally.
That brought the number of U.S. COVID-19 casualties to 380,524, with the number of cases at 22.7 million by Tuesday night, more than any other country.
Global economy can shake off pandemic in 2021, policymakers say
Vaccines and fresh economic stimulus promised by US President-elect Joe Biden will give the global economy a chance to put the coronavirus pandemic behind it in 2021, policymakers and industry leaders say.
Their optimism voiced at a Reuters conference came despite a resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has prompted the World Bank to downgrade its growth forecast for year and warn that delays in vaccination programs could pinch recovery even further.
The fight against the pandemic has entered a critical stage as countries around the world roll out vaccination campaigns.Credit:AP
The head of German engineering giant Siemens said China is currently driving the world economy but was optimistic about recovery in the United States, where Biden has promised a faster roll-out of vaccines and more economic stimulus.
"In the US … they are holding all the cards and if they put the money to work in a wise way, there is going to be a very, very, strong second half of 2021 and especially 2022," Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser told the digital forum.
The fight against the pandemic, which has claimed 1.9 million lives globally, has now entered a critical stage as countries around the world roll out vaccination campaigns aimed at immunising large sections of their populations by year-end.
Read more: Global economy can shake off pandemic in 2021, policymakers say
Good morning, I'm Kate Rose and I'm here to bring you all the coronavirus developments as they happen through the day.
Let's start with a recap of what happened yesterday:
- People in quarantine at Brisbane's Hotel Grand Chancellor were evacuated to other hotels after the hotel was linked to six cases of the highly-contagious UK strain of COVID-19. The situation has been described as a "national concern".
- Health authorities in NSW and Victoria are urgently tracing residents who visited or stayed at the hotel before returning to their home state. Anyone who was at the Hotel Grand Chancellor since December 30 must get tested and isolate for 14 days.
- Sydney's Luna Park has been fined $5000 for breaching COVID-19 regulations by hosting a large crowd for a New Year's Eve event. The venue says it received legal advice that it was not in breach, but will pay the fine anyway.
- NSW authorities say it could be three to four weeks before the state stamps out any lingering community transmission, and now is not the time to be complacent.
- South Australia opened its borders to residents of regional NSW from midnight overnight.
- It may be too little, too late, but all international travellers heading to the US will need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a plane, starting from January 26.
- Australia's Chief Medical Officer has revoked the national hotspot definition for Sydney’s northern beaches, on the back of satisfactory suppression of the outbreak.
And with that, let's get going on today's news!
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