The federal government has applauded New South Wales and Victoria’s responses to fresh COVID-19 outbreaks while urging Victoria to allow its residents back home.
The recent outbreaks in NSW could have been on a “vastly larger scale” than the disastrous second wave in Victoria, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Sunday, describing advice from Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly.
With seedings at multiple venues across Sydney, a “potentially enormous event” could have occurred but for the extent and speed of the state’s response and the capacity of its contact-tracing system.
Hunt said Victoria was in a “much stronger place” with dramatically improved systems since the 2020 crisis.
“Although the times are challenging … there is significant cause for hope in Australia,” Hunt said.
Amid controversy over border closures, Hunt cautioned that any response had to have a compassionate element and bringing people home was part of government’s role.
Victoria’s border is now closed to all travellers from NSW, with some Victorian residents complaining that they are unable to make it home.
“We’re confident that Victoria will work and find ways to bring people home to their home state,” Hunt said, adding Australia had no “domestic passports.”
But he reiterated the federal government’s position that border closures are a matter for the states.
Meanwhile, the federal government is providing $10 million in funding to COVID-19-related trials from its Medical Research Future Fund’s Clinical Trials Activity Initiative, Hunt announced in a media release on Sunday.
The funded projects include a next-generation vaccine program being developed by the University of Melbourne, which would use a spike protein but not require ultra-cold transportation.
Other trials are looking at infection control, recovery from the virus, and aged care.
The government has now completed all the paperwork for the American Novavax vaccine and is ahead of schedule for its vaccine rollout, Hunt says.
Hunt praised the NSW and Victorian governments for providing a “comprehensive explanation” of the origins of the 11 locally acquired cases reported on Sunday.
No Australians were currently on ventilation or in intensive care because of COVID-19, he said.
By Andi Yu