A second round of accommodation vouchers designed to help the tourism sector during the Covid-19 pandemic has provided a $19m boost to the South Australian economy, AAP reports.
Premier Steven Marshall said the vouchers generated 36,000 bookings, bringing cash to the state’s regions and the Adelaide CBD.
“Across round one and two of the vouchers, we’ve created more than 60,000 bookings, worth more than $31m, getting people booking up the CBD and regions, and spending in our restaurants, cafes, bars and experiences around them,” he said on Sunday.
“We will now take away any lessons we have learned from the second round of the Great State Vouchers, talk to the industry and gear up for round three.”
South Australian Tourism Commission chief executive Rodney Harrex said the voucher scheme had resulted in some regional venues breaking occupancy records.
He said there had been a particularly strong interest in vouchers for CBD accommodation in the second round.
More than 39 million Covid vaccines administered in US
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had distributed 59,304,600 doses of Covid vaccines in the US and that 39,037,964 doses had been administered as of Saturday morning.
The tallies are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines as at 6am, it said. According to its tally posted on Friday, the agency had administered 36,819,212 doses of the vaccines and distributed 58,380,300 doses.
The agency said 30,250,964 people had received one or more doses, while 8,317,180 people had got the second dose as of Saturday. A total of 4,628,962 doses of vaccine have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.
Australia to introduce Covid vaccination certificates
Here is a bit more detail on the news that the Australian government plans to introduce vaccination certificates for Covid-19.
Government services minister Stuart Robert said an immunisation history statement, available through the government’s MyGov or Medicare sites and apps, would display proof of Covid-19 immunisation status. Hard copies will also be available.
Last week prime minister Scott Morrison said that although Covid vaccines are largely voluntary, some people may be required to get one. The exact circumstances are yet to be announced.
Employer groups including the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia have asked for clarity about whether they can require employees to get a vaccine, after several employment law experts argued they could.
Australia’s Covid vaccination policy states:
While the Australian government strongly supports immunisation and will run a strong campaign to encourage vaccination, it is not mandatory and individuals may choose not to vaccinate. There may however, be circumstances where the Australian government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination.
Australia’s vaccination campaign is expected to begin in weeks.
South Australia to consider boosting quarantine testing
South Australia will consider adding an extra Covid-19 test for Australians returning from overseas to bolster the security of the hotel quarantine system, Australian Associated Press has reported.
At the moment, anyone forced into quarantine in SA is tested on days one, five and 12. But New South Wales has introduced a test on day 16 which while not mandatory is highly recommended.
It’s designed to pick up cases that might have developed at the tail end of the 14-day period. Premier Steven Marshall said South Australia would continue to follow the best medical advice.
“We’re learning more and more about this disease every single day that goes past,” he said on Sunday. “We’re getting more information in from other states; we’re getting information in from overseas.
“We’ll look at that very carefully. If we need to do that in South Australia, that’s what we’ll do.”
Mainland China reported 11 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, down from 12 cases a day earlier and the lowest daily increase since mid-December, the national health authority said on Sunday.
The National Health Commission said only one of the new cases was locally transmitted and it was identified in China’s north-eastern Jilin province.
The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at 13, including 11 imported cases.
The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China stands at 89,692, and the death toll remains unchanged at 4,636.
Mexico’s health ministry reported 1,496 new confirmed deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, bringing the country’s total to 165,786.
In a normal year, Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome would preparing for its great moment of the year: the world’s most famous Carnival parade. But a week before what should be the start of Carnival, the pandemic has replaced pageantry, Associated Press reports.
The Rio mayor’s office opened a drive-through immunisation station Saturday at the Sambadrome, where a line of cars queued on a broad avenue built for floats.
“This is usually a place of pleasure. Today it is too, because we are exercising an act of citizenship and we are opening the Sambadrome to vaccinate,” said Paulo Roberto Machado, a 68-year-old nurse who teaches at the Veiga de Almeida University.
Machado has taken part in 40 years of Carnival parades here, but on Saturday he was coordinating 20 volunteer nursing and medical students vaccinating people over 90.
“The vaccine represents the hope of better days, of returning to normality, to what we did before,” Machado said.
Rio’s city government officially suspended Carnival and warns it will have no tolerance for those who try to celebrate with open street parades or clandestine parties, saying it is monitoring social media to detect any.
Rio’s hotel occupancy rate normally reaches about 80% in the hot summer months and 100% during Carnival. It’s now at roughly 50-60%, according to Alfredo Lopes, the president of Rio’s Hospitality Workers Union.
The pandemic has hit hard in Rio, where the authorities have counted more than 17,600 deaths from Covid, the most of any city in Brazil, topping even Sao Paulo, which has nearly twice its population.
Oxford Covid jab less effective against South African variant, study finds
Here is a bit more detail on the study that suggests AstraZeneca does not offer protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant of Covid-19.
The so-called British, South African and Brazilian variants, which appear to spread more swiftly than others, are among the strains causing most concern to public health experts.
The Financial Times has reported the findings of a study from South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University. “In this small phase I/II trial, early data has shown limited efficacy against mild disease primarily due to the B.1.351 South African variant,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson to the newspaper.
None of the more than 2,000 trial participants had been hospitalised or died, according to the report. “However, we have not been able to properly ascertain its effect against severe disease and hospitalisation given that subjects were predominantly young healthy adults,” the AstraZeneca spokesperson said.
The company said it believed its vaccine could protect against severe disease, given that the neutralising antibody activity was equivalent to that of other Covid-19 vaccines that have demonstrated protection against severe disease.
While thousands of individual changes have arisen as the virus mutates into new variants, only a tiny minority are likely to be important or change the virus in an appreciable way, according to the British Medical Journal.
On Friday Oxford said the vaccine had similar efficacy against the British coronavirus variant as it does to the previously circulating variants.
Hello, Rebecca Ratcliffe here in Bangkok bringing you the latest global Covid-19 developments.
A quick update:
- AstraZeneca has reportedly said its vaccine developed with the University of Oxford appeared to offer only limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African Covid variant, based on early data from a trial. The study was relatively small, with 2,000 participants and the results have not been peer reviewed.
- The Australian state of Victoria has recorded another day without locally acquired cases, after nearly 15,000 tests were conducted.
- The UK government said a further 828 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 112,092.
A total of 10,302,620 vaccinations have taken place in England, as of 5 February.
- The Netherlands surpassed a million confirmed Covid infections since the start of the pandemic.
- Hospitals in France treated 27,369 people for the disease on Saturday, down 245 from the previous day, marking the fourth consecutive daily fall in Covid-19 hospital numbers.
- The number of Covid patients requiring intensive care in Portugal’s struggling hospitals also dipped on Saturday from the previous day’s record high, as the country reported fewer daily deaths and new infections.