Victoria coronavirus vaccine rollout: Who is getting it first, and where will it be delivered?


Victorian hotel quarantine and airport workers will be among the first people in the state to be vaccinated for COVID-19 when the Pfizer rollout begins next week.

The PfizerBioNTech vaccine, which was the first COVID-19 vaccine to get regulatory approval in Australia, will be rolled out to priority groups across Australia from Monday.

While authorities have for weeks flagged at-risk workers will be the first to get vaccinated in the 1a phase of the rollout, today the Victorian government confirmed more details about how the first stage will work.

Here’s what we know.

Who will get the vaccine first?

In Victoria, workers who are most likely to come into direct contact with people who could have coronavirus will be vaccinated first.

The 1a phase will cover hotel quarantine workers, airport and port workers, high-risk frontline health staff, and public sector residential aged care staff and residents, the state government said in a statement today.

Health professionals will start delivering doses of the Pfizer vaccine to those groups from Monday.

“Our priority is to support the Commonwealth to make sure that the vaccine is administered to workers at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 as quickly and safely possible,” Health Minister Martin Foley said in a statement.

“Whether they work in hotel quarantine, at the airport, or a specialist COVID ward — we need to keep Victorians most at risk of infection safe, while they continue to keep Victorians safe.”

How many vaccines will Victoria get?

The Commonwealth government has allocated 12,000 vaccines to Victoria for week one of the 1a phase of the rollout.

Victoria will get a total of 59,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the first four weeks, the state government said.

Who will be rolling out the vaccines?

Vaccination “hubs” operated by three public health services in Melbourne — Austin Health, Monash Health and Western Health — will deliver the first vaccines next week.

Alfred Health will also work with the Monash Health hub during the rollout.

Barwon Health, which provides health services in the Geelong and Surf Coast regions, will vaccinate port of entry workers in Portland.

The regional health service will also start a public sector residential aged care program from next week, and trial an outreach model that will be implemented across regional Victoria.

The Commonwealth government will be responsible for vaccinations in the private residential aged care sector, Mr Foley said.

Other hubs in regional Victoria, at Albury-Wodonga Health, Ballarat Health Services, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health, and Latrobe Regional Hospital, will get up and running as more vaccine doses arrive.

Where are the vaccines being rolled out?

The Health Minister said much of the vaccination work will be conducted on-site at the dedicated vaccination hub sites — but not all of it.

The health services will also be administering vaccines in hotel quarantine settings, at the airport, or through mobile outreach teams.

Hotel quarantine workers will be vaccinated during their normal shifts, COVID-19 testing commander Weimar said.

A woman wearing personal protective equipment including a gown, face shield, mask and gloves.
Hotel quarantine workers, airport workers, and high-risk health staff will get vaccinated first.(ABC News: Daniel Fermer, File photo)

Western Health will be setting up a hub at Melbourne Airport for “airside” workers who have the greatest risk of coming into contact with overseas arrivals, the Health Minister said.

More community-based sites likely to be set up when stage two of the vaccination program gets underway, Mr Foley said.

When will the next stage begin?

No date has been set for the 1b phase of the rollout, which will deliver doses to the elderly, emergency services and those particularly susceptible to a life-threatening case of COVID-19.

It’s expected that it will commence later in March, Mr Foley said.

What does setting up a vaccine hub involve?

Midwife Kylie Roper will be among the first Victorians to get the Pfizer vaccination on Monday, when she’ll also be leading one of the teams delivering vaccinations at Melbourne Airport.

Ms Roper said an international lounge had been transformed into a “state-of-the-art” vaccination hub in the space of a week.

“We’ve got 10 cubicles, we’ve got walls up around all of those cubicles, we’ve got an area for a waiting space, so it’s all false walls that have gone up, we’ve got a lockable area for our vaccine to come in from the Sunshine Hospital,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Ms Roper said the vaccines would be defrosted at Sunshine Hospital before being brought to the site, where they could be stored between 2-8 degrees Celsius for five days.

Does this mean we can lift the restrictions?

No.

“This is a very important milestone — arguably the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” Mr Foley said.

“But that does not mitigate the need for us to continue all of the measures that we have in place — social distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitising.

“All of these measures will remain important for some time yet.”

Thank you for dropping in to My Local Pages and reading this news article on Victoria news named “Victoria coronavirus vaccine rollout: Who is getting it first, and where will it be delivered?”. This story was posted by My Local Pages as part of our news aggregator services.

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EU’s 200M Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to be delivered by September – POLITICO



All 200 million doses of the EU’s order of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine are scheduled to be distributed by September 2021, according to the European Commission.

On the second official day of the bloc’s coronavirus immunization campaign, countries are comparing notes about how many doses each received in their initial shipments — and finding cause for concern. Italy, for example, is slated to distribute some half a million doses per week starting on Monday. However, some Italian media noted that Italy’s first allotment of 9,750 doses was similar to tiny Malta’s, which received around 10,000 doses on Saturday, even though countries are set to be allocated vaccines based on their population.

The Commission insisted the allocations will ultimately reflect the formula by the end of the month.

“All Member States will receive doses in December on the basis of the same pro rata allocation (using the population-based distribution key),” a Commission spokesperson said in an email.

After December, deliveries of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will continue on a weekly basis, with the full order of 200 million expected to be out by September, the spokesperson said, confirming timing first reported by Reuters. The Commission and capitals are also working to secure an additional 100 million doses, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not respond to a question about timing for the distribution of Moderna’s vaccine, saying only that the first deliveries of “some” of the Commission’s advance purchase contracts are expected in the first quarter of 2021. The European Medicines Agency is expected to review that vaccine’s application on January 6.

While the EU27 have generally acted in unison on vaccines, some countries did jump ahead of Sunday’s official start date: In addition to Hungary and Germany, Slovakia also gave jabs on Saturday, starting with a member of the government’s pandemic commission.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.





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Petition urging withdrawal of Darwin Dan Murphy’s proposal delivered to NT Chief Minister


With just days before an NT Government bureaucrat hands down a decision on Woolworths’ drawn-out bid to build a Dan Murphy’s superstore in Darwin, health advocates and community leaders have produced an online petition carrying 137,000 signatures opposing the proposed development.

Before presenting the petition to the Northern Territory Chief Minister’s electoral office on Tuesday, health organisations and a local Aboriginal community leader made a last-ditch plea for Woolworths to abandon its plans to build the store before the Northern Territory’s Director of Liquor Licensing rules on the application by the end of the week.

The NT Liquor Commission last year ruled the store’s previously proposed location would not be in the public interest because of potential harm to Bagot, the Minmarama and Kulaluk dry communities as well as people in “bush camps” near the airport.

In November, Woolworths announced it was shifting the store’s proposed location about 1.4 kilometres from the original site, contending the new location would “alleviate some of the key concerns of health organisations and Aboriginal communities”.

Now, the decision on the Dan Murphy’s bid is in the hands of NT’s Director of Liquor Licensing after the NT Government last month rushed through legislation sidelining the independent Liquor Commission and forcing a decision on the application by December 20.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Dan Murphy’s megastore in Darwin.(Supplied: NT Airports)

Olga Havnen, the chief executive of Aboriginal health organisation Danila Dilba, said the response to the petition showed “people across the country are concerned” by the proposed Dan Murphy’s megastore.

“This was an astonishing number of people to sign up to this petition and what it says to me is that the country is watching to see what is happening here,” she said.

Ms Havnen said health organisations and concerned community members would continue to take the fight to Woolworths if the Director of Licensing ruled in favour of the store, even if NT Government legislation had allowed little recourse.

“My understanding is that the legislation doesn’t allow for further review or appeal, and so perhaps the decision is final, but we’d need to take legal advice on that,” she said.

“In terms of what do we do next, I guess we would continue to advocate and lobby, particularly key decisionmakers — be it in Woolworths or [Woolworths’ liquor retailing arm] Endeavour Group.”

Government’s new law removes ‘procedural fairness’

Ms Havnen also said the NT Government had not acted in good faith with the community in handing the final decision to the Director of Licensing.

“For the NT Government … to make this decision to go to the Director of Licensing for this particular decision is an absolute tragedy in terms of procedural fairness, natural justice and serious consideration about the impact on community,” she said.

Olga Havnen, Helen Fejo-Frith and John Paterson stand outside Michael Gunner's office.
Community leaders say the store will inflict serious harm on vulnerable members of the community.(ABC News: Steve Vivian)

Helen Fejo-Frith, the president of the Bagot community advisory group, accused Woolworths of marching ahead with plans despite the express opposition of Aboriginal communities like Bagot, which is located about 1.5 kilometres away from the proposed Dan Murphy’s site.

“[Woolworths] need to learn that you have to talk to people to find out how you can all sit and work things out together, instead of going ahead and doing it,” she said.

Ms Fejo-Frith said the looming decision was causing “heartache” in her community.

“Alcohol is a very big problem, especially where we are living, and Dan Murphy’s wants to put up a megastore down the road,” she said.

“I’ve seen in my time living at Bagot community that a lot of people, through alcohol, are getting killed on the road.

“With the alcohol outlets now there’s so much heartache and pain with people, funerals that are happening, children that are not getting looked after.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
The new proposed location is only 1.4 kilometres from the original site.

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance chief executive John Paterson urged Woolworths to withdraw the company’s proposal for good.

“The best thing that could happen today is if the Woolworths board pick up the phone to the Chief Minister and the Director of Licensing and say they want it withdrawn forever,” he said.

“This is causing enormous anxiety, trauma to Aboriginal communities.”

A spokesperson from Endeavour Group, owned by Woolworths, said the company had been engaging with Aboriginal communities and health groups in Darwin for almost five years.

The spokesperson said the company had agreed to move the proposed store away from its originally planned site after it received letters from Danila Dilba and Bagot community stating they would withdraw formal objections if the store was moved to the revised site.

Ms Fejo-Frith, however, has since conceded she regretted signing such a letter and has reaffirmed her opposition to a Dan Murphy’s at any location.

The spokesperson said the company wished to re-enter discussions with community groups and would “take feedback from community members very seriously”.

“We understand that they have since changed their minds — which is within their rights — and we do wish to speak to them and any other community groups to understand the specific issues that they have, and to see whether we can do anything to address their concerns,” the spokesperson said.

NT Chamber of Commerce chief executive Greg Ireland said he believed the Director of Licensing’s decision would be driven by “economics and logic”.

“I think it’s [a decision] that ultimately needs to be best for the community,” he said.

“The chamber is for improving our lifestyle at all sorts of different levels and that includes the comfort and security of the community.”

The Chief Minister’s office was contacted for comment.



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The Morrison government wanted tax cuts for the wealthy, and that is what they have delivered | Greg Jericho | Business


The Morrison government’s spin has become so divorced from reality that many of its policy justifications should be deemed false and misleading advertising. Whether it be IR policy that will suppress wage growth being pitched as good for workers, or a cashless debit card that clearly targets Indigenous people pitched as desired and justified on the basis of anecdotes, what they sell is not what is delivered.

And no more so is this the case with the government’s tax cuts.

Ever since the LNP has sought to make our income tax system less progressive, it has sold it as being about ending “bracket creep”.

In his 2018 budget speech, then Treasurer Scott Morrison stated the tax cuts would be “protecting what Australians earn from bracket creep”

The following day he told parliament “we are acting to remove the impact of bracket creep over that seven-year tax plan”.

By November that year he was boldly stating that “Australians going to work today on a middle income over the next 10 years will not see bracket creep, the vast majority of them, for their entire working lives”.

Alas, much as his claim that this weekend he would be attending the UN climate summit to “correct mistruths” and then not actually being invited to speak, his claims about bracket creep have been found to be utterly hollow.

This week the Parliamentary Budget Office’s annual “medium term budget predictions” revealed the reality behind the sales pitch.

Unlike the Treasury department, the PBO does not report to a minister and so can reveal the unvarnished truth.


Graph not appearing? View here

The PBO examined the change in people’s average tax rate from 2017-18 out to 2030-31, and rather than as Morrison would have had us believe that a vast majority of Australia “will not see bracket creep” it found that “individuals in the second and third quintiles (together spanning the taxable income range $20,001 to $58,000), are expected to face the largest effects of bracket creep.”

Bracket creep does not disappear because you remove a marginal tax bracket as the government has legislated to occur – even if your income stays within one marginal bracket your average tax rate will increase as your income increases.

The problem with bracket creep is purely due to a wage rise that occurs mostly to keep pace with inflation, your tax rate will go up because the tax brackets are not adjusted for inflation.

One reason why the government might not be actually delivering an end to bracket creep is it doesn’t know what it actually is.

Last year the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told parliament that “creating one major tax bracket between $45,000 and $200,000” would “tackle bracket creep”. He suggested that “if you get another job or a promotion, or you do some overtime, you won’t necessarily pay a higher marginal rate of tax.”

But that is not bracket creep. That is you getting a higher paid job and as a result paying a higher level of tax.

That is how progressive taxation has worked for over a century.

And this explains why the pitch to solve bracket creep was really just a distraction for what the government really wanted to do – reduce taxes for higher incomes.

And the PBO has found that is exactly what they have done.

Out to the end of this decade bracket creep will raise the average tax rate rise for middle-income taxpayers by 6.3%pts, but the tax cuts will only reduce that rate by 2.4%pts.

As a result, the average tax rate for median income taxpayers will by 2030-31 have risen 3.9%pts compared to what they paid in 2017-18.

Not exactly a case of “will not see bracket creep … for their entire working lives”.

But the PBO found that the highest 20% of taxpayers are “projected to have a lower average tax rate in 2030-31 compared to 2017-18, while all other quintiles are projected to experience increasing average rates over that time”.

The government wanted tax cuts for the wealthy, and that is what they have delivered.

Ignore the spin; focus on the delivery.



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Empty seats, delivered feasts as virus changes Thanksgiving


Vivian Zayas can’t keep herself from scrolling through photos of last Thanksgiving, when her mother stood at the stove to make a big pot of rice and beans and then took a seat at the edge of the table.

That was before anyone had heard of COVID-19 and before it claimed the retired seamstress. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement.

The family is having their traditional meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans — but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, New York, this year and putting her mother’s walker in its place as a reminder of the loss.

“It’s a painful Thanksgiving. You don’t even know, should you celebrate?” asked Zayas. “It’s a lonely time.”

Americans are marking the Thanksgiving holiday Thursday amid an unrelenting pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people in the United States.

Turkey and pies will still come out ovens, football will still be on TV, families will still give thanks and have lively conversations about politics. But this holiday has been utterly altered after months filled with sorrows and hardships: Many feasts are weighed down by the loss of loved ones; others have been canceled or scaled back with the virus surging.

Zoom and FaceTime calls have become a fixture at dinner tables to connect with family members who don’t want to travel. Far fewer volunteers are helping at soup kitchens or community centers. A Utah health department has been delivering boxes of food to residents who are infected with the virus and can’t go to the store. A New York nursing home is offering drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.

“The holidays make it a little harder,” said Harriet Krakowsky, an 85-year-old resident of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York who misses the big Thanksgiving celebrations of years past and has lost neighbors and friends to the virus. “I cry, but I get over it. We have to go on.”

On any normal Thanksgiving Day, Kara McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their Clearwater, Florida, home to one of two places: his family’s home in another part of the state or her family’s house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic. And when her in-laws offered to stop by, the couple said no.

She and her husband didn’t want to risk infecting anyone or getting the virus themselves.

Not everyone followed McKlemurry’s example. Millions of Americans bought tickets to fly somewhere for the holiday, crowding airports despite pleas from officials to avoid travel and gatherings.

Still, McKlemurry, 27, wanted to do something unique to mark this unusual holiday — something to let everyone know that she and her husband still feel blessed this year.

So, a week before Thanksgiving, armed with colored pens and stickers of owls with scarves, she hand wrote notes of gratitude to every member of the family.

“We’re so grateful to have you in our lives,” she wrote on a card with a cartoon fox, “even if we can’t actually be together this year for the holidays.”

In the nation’s capital, the convention center is empty unlike in previous years, when volunteers have worked together to serve a meal to about 5,000 people. In the era of social distancing, the sponsored event had to be reimagined.

Ahead of the holiday, organizers delivered to 20 nonprofits 5,000 gift bags, each with winter clothing accessories, hand sanitizer and a mask, and 5,000 boxes that included a turkey sandwich with condiments, a side potato salad, a cookie and utensils.

From start to finish, Thanksgiving is different this year for Jessica Franz, a nurse who works the graveyard shift at Olathe Medical Center, in a Kansas City suburb.

For one, Franz, 39, is celebrating without her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, who died of the coronavirus on Nov. 10, just one day before her 78th birthday. In previous years, her mother-in-law, who was Mennonite, would lay out a spread for her children and grandchildren. At Franz’s work, in a typical year, co-workers would bring food for a potluck.

None of that is happening this year.

The family is shifting the festivities to Zoom and FaceTime. It’s been hard for her daughters — ages, 2, 8 and 11. Her middle daughter was exposed to the coronavirus at school and is quarantined until Dec. 3, and her oldest daughter is struggling with the concept of a scaled-back holiday.

“We had a good conversation that was, ‘This year may be different, and that’s OK. It is one year. If things are different this year and that means we get to see all the rest of our family next year, it is OK,’” said Franz, who has personally cared for patients dying of coronavirus.

The Thanksgiving gathering at David Forsyth’s home in Southern California, meanwhile, comes with a uniquely 2020 feel: rapid virus tests at the door to decide who gets inside.

The kit costs about $1,000 for 20 tests, each of which involve pricking a finger and putting a drop of blood on a tray. Ten minutes later the results either show someone is negative, has antibodies or is positive.

Normally, about 15 to 20 people attend the family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Channel Islands Harbor. But this year, it will only be eight of them: Forsyth, his wife, her four adult sons and the partners of two of them.

His wife started cooking Tuesday. She’s planning a cold cucumber soup for a starter and bunch of appetizers for the early afternoon meal. The sons are bringing side dishes. Turkey and the fixings are the main course. Champagne may be cracked.

Forsyth hasn’t seen his family much during the pandemic but wanted to save the holiday.

“People are trying to live a normal life,” he said. “And, you know, with the second wave coming now, it’s not a bad idea to be prepared.”

Kerry Osaki longs to see his now-grown children, without masks, and hug them. But instead he and his wife are celebrating just the two of them after their traditions were upended.

Osaki’s 93-year-old mother, Rose, who lived with the couple in Orange County in California, died from the virus after all three got sick.

With his mother gone, Osaki, 67, and his cousin decided to pass on the family’s annual Thanksgiving get-together. His wife, Lena Adame, typically spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives — but some had seen virus cases at their workplaces, so the couple decided to skip that, too.

“It’s just been a long, rough and sometimes sad year,” he said.

In Ogden, Utah, Evelyn Maysonet stepped out of her home Tuesday morning to find boxes overflowing with canned goods, desserts and a turkey. She has been isolating with her husband and son since all three tested positive for COVID-19.

None of them has been able to leave to buy groceries, so they were thrilled to receive the health department’s delivery — and the chance to cherish the things that matter most.

“As long as you have a life and you’re still alive, just make the best of it with you and your family,” Maysonet said.

___

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Sophia Eppolito and Amy Taxin contributed to this report.



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You Can Now Get Prescription Medicine Delivered via Amazon Prime in Two Days – Review Geek


Amazon

If you thought, “Amazon couldn’t get any bigger,” you’re in for a surprise. The company is beginning to sell prescription medications on its site, offering two-day delivery to Prime members at no extra cost. And even if you don’t have great prescription drug coverage, you may be looking at savings up to 80 percent on generic brands. Amazon says it accepts “most” insurance plans.

The timing couldn’t be any more perfect. A lot of us are spending most of our time at home, and now more than ever, online shopping has become a quintessential part of our daily lives. Being able to open an app on your phone, look for the exact prescriptions you need, compare prices with or without insurance, and have it shipped to you in under 48 hours without ever leaving your couch is wild.

The transition into pharmaceuticals has been a long time coming for Amazon, which purchased the online pharmacy company PillPack back in 2018. Currently, both companies are still being operated separately. An Amazon spokesperson (via Vox) says that customers who have chronic illnesses and take multiple prescriptions per day “should still order directly through PillPack.”

But for now, Amazon wants to focus on the mainstream, for those who need things such as anxiety medication or blood pressure pills. If you’d like to use the online retailer for your prescriptions, simply tell your doctor to send them to Amazon Pharmacy, as if it’s any other physical location.

And if you’re a Prime member looking to purchase medication without insurance, Amazon uses Inside Rx to offer those discounts. The company has also built over 50,000 relationships with retailers such as CVS, Costco, Walgreens, and Walmart, allowing Prime members to pick up their medications in more pressing situations where you can’t wait for two-day delivery.

Regardless of your thoughts on Amazon, it has become super helpful in a time where we’re all stuck at home. Prescription meds are just another thing you don’t have to leave your house for.

Source: Amazon via Vox





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Trump says Covid vaccine won’t be delivered to New York


President Donald Trump said Friday that the U.S. government would not deliver a coronavirus vaccine to New York if and when one is available.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo “will have to let us know when he’s ready for it because otherwise, we can’t be delivering it to a state that won’t be giving it to its people immediately,” Trump said during a press conference from the White House Rose Garden.

“He doesn’t trust where the vaccine is coming from,” Trump added. “These are coming from the greatest companies anywhere in the world, greatest labs in the world, but he doesn’t trust the fact that it’s this White House, this administration, so we won’t be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so, and that pains me to say that.”

On MSNBC shortly after Trump’s comments, Cuomo said, “None of what [Trump] said is true. Surprise, surprise.”

“I have been an outspoken opponent to many of Trump’s policies over the last four years,” he said, adding that Trump lost in New York in the presidential election by “huge margin” and state prosecutors are also investigating the president for tax fraud.

“So, he has issues with New York and he likes to point to New York,” Cuomo said. “But this is his issue. It’s his credibility issue. It’s the fear that he politicized the health process of this nation, which is a well-founded fear.”

Shortly after Trump’s comments, New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement threatening to sue Trump if a vaccine is not sent to the state once available. “This is nothing more than vindictive behavior by a lame-duck president trying to extract vengeance on those who oppose his politics,” James said.

Also in response to Trump, a senior advisor to Cuomo said on Twitter that the governor “is fighting to ensure the communities hit hardest by COVID get the vaccine.” Trump “has failed with his pandemic response, lied to Americans about how bad it was when he knew otherwise & was fired by voters for his incompetence,” Rich Azzopardi said.

Trump’s comments were his first in-person remarks since NBC News and other news outlets projected over the weekend that Joe Biden won the presidential election.

Cuomo announced in late September that the state would form an independent task force of scientists, doctors and health experts that would review data from every Covid-19 vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The governor said the state would independently review the vaccines after many questioned whether the White House was attempting to rush the approval process ahead of Election Day for political reasons.

“Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion and I wouldn’t recommend to New Yorkers based on the federal government’s opinion,” the Democrat governor said in a statement.

Other states followed New York’s lead. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Oct. 19 that the state wouldn’t distribute a vaccine until its own panel of experts reviewed the data to determine its safety. Washington, Oregon and Nevada joined California’s vaccine safety review group on Oct. 27, appointing their own experts to review any vaccine that receives federal approval and verify its safety before it’s made available to the public.

Over the past week, the U.S. coronavirus outbreak has worsened, with the nation reporting more than 150,000 new infections Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average of daily new cases stands at 131,445, which is 32% higher than a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data.

On Monday, Pfizer said that the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with German drugmaker BioNTech was 90% effective in a late-stage trial. Pfizer said its analysis evaluated 94 confirmed Covid-19 infections among the trial’s 43,538 participants. It said the case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received a placebo indicated a vaccine efficacy rate of above 90% at seven days after the second of the company’s two-dose vaccine.

Trump said Friday that it was an “unfortunate mistake” when Pfizer said earlier this week that it wasn’t part of Operation Warp Speed. While Pfizer did strike a deal with the U.S. government for vaccine doses in July, the company had been working on a vaccine for the coronavirus long before.

Trump said his administration would work to “secure” an emergency use authorization for Pfizer, which he said should be coming “extremely soon.” He called it a “great” and “safe” vaccine, even though Pfizer still needs to release more phase three trial safety data.

“It’ll be approved very, very quickly,” he said. “The vaccine will be distributed to front-line workers, the elderly and high-risk Americans immediately. It’ll be a matter of weeks. Get out very, very much ahead of schedule.”

Trump also said the economy was “rebounding beyond expectations.” He pointed to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which closed up nearly 400 points on Friday.

— CNBC’s Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.



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Fact check: has the Coalition delivered on its spending promises? | Coalition


Just two weeks after returning from a disastrous holiday in Hawaii in the middle of the summer bushfires, Scott Morrison announced a new agency and $2bn to recover from the emergency.

The policy was the first of a string of announceables after a tone-deaf tour of bushfire affected areas, which included victims refusing to shake his hand in Cobargo.

With incidents like that in the rear-view mirror, it was easier for the prime minister to project that he was present and hard at work by doing what governments do best: bringing the cash and coordination to solve problems like the recovery of bushfire affected communities.

In public policy, announcements come fast and delivery comes slow. Governments can be assured a day’s good press for having the right idea, but proving the program wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be can be the work of months or years for the opposition.

Labor has spent much of 2020 constructing that narrative, first with bushfires and then with Covid-19, that Morrison is “there for the photo-op, not for the follow-up”.

Two weeks of Senate estimates scrutiny have helped Labor frame Morrison as the ad-man who has failed to deliver. Here are the major promises the Coalition has made and where they’re up to.

Budget surplus

One of Morrison’s most notorious unmet promises was his claim before the 2019 election that the Coalition was “bringing down the first budget surplus for next year”, a projection that never materialised.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg during the budget delivery in the House of Representatives on 6 October 2020. Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

Of course the deficit in 2020 was necessary to boost an economy battered by Covid-19, but the Coalition was chipped for the certainty with which it claimed Australia was Back in Black. Mugs emblazoned with the slogan were removed from the Liberal store.

In October, Josh Frydenberg delivered a budget with $98bn of new spending and a deficit of $214bn.

Integrity commission

When the government is on the wrong side of popular opinion, sometimes a backdown is in order. At times it has announced an intention to fix a problem, but the solution gets stuck on the backburner.

In December 2018 Morrison announced it would create a commonwealth integrity commission and had been working to do so since January.

No legislation has been introduced, despite a draft being ready in December 2019, a fact the government is now blaming on Covid-19 despite other non-Covid priorities being delivered in 2020.

Bushfires

Remember that $2bn fund? Labor’s Murray Watt went on the attack after discovering in estimates that the Bushfire Recovery Agency said it had spent $1.2bn but, of that, $717m was spent by the commonwealth and the rest by states who will later be reimbursed.

Andrew Colvin, the head of the recovery agency, rejected Watt’s claim this was “dishonest”.

A fire rages in Bobin, 350km north of Sydney on November 9, 2019.
A fire rages in Bobin, 350km north of Sydney in November 2019. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

“In my travels I’m yet to have someone ask me what the accounting treatment is behind the money that’s in their account,” Colvin said. “They’re interested that the money has been given to them.”

There’s also a separate $4bn emergency response fund legislated in October 2019, an endowment intended to pay out up to $150m a year for emergency response and recovery and $50m for mitigation.

Marc Ablong, the home affairs department’s deputy secretary of national resilience, told Senate estimates that none of the $4bn has been spent.

Ablong said “there may be” Australians still living in caravans after the summer bushfires – it isn’t in his knowledge – but the legislation states the department can’t release emergency response fund money while other sources of funding are available.

Recycling fund

In May 2019, the Coalition promised a $100m Australian recycling investment fund to provide concessional loans of $10m to large-scale recycling projects.

The chief executive of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Ian Learmonth, told Senate estimates that no recycling projects had been approved for loans despite “a very active pipeline of transactions and some active negotiations with proponents”.

Covid-19 economic response

The Covid-19 response didn’t get off to as slow a start as the bushfire response, but it has still produced programs that critics claim don’t do what they say on the box.

There was a $1bn “relief and recovery” fund for the hardest hit industries including aviation, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and the arts.

A person wearing a face mask walks past a street art mural in Melbourne, Australia, 3 August 2020.
A person wearing a face mask walks past a street art mural in Melbourne, Australia, 3 August 2020. Photograph: James Ross/EPA

Spending in the tourism sector was limited to transport links such as airlines and airports, and major attractions such as supporting zoo animals.

Margy Osmond, the chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, told the Covid-19 committee in August there was “considerable concern” tourism operators missed out and it is an “ongoing bone of contention that it was not spent extensively in the industry”.

Coalition MPs have lobbied the government to do more for travel agents, and on Tuesday Morrison conceded in the party room they may need a new package of support due to the “unique pressures” they face processing refunds.

According to new figures provided by assistant treasurer, Michael Sukkar, the homebuilder program has had 14,599 applications.

Earlier in October, just 1,022 applicants had received their money, because the program requires applicants to buy a house and land or conduct substantial renovations then claim in arrears. But treasury officials confirmed the program is on track to reach estimates of 27,000.

The arts

It was the photo op par excellence, when singing star Guy Sebastian was on hand to help Morrison announce a $250m support package for the arts in June.

Communications department officials told Senate estimates $50m has been spent, and all of that has gone to Screen Australia to help 20 film and television productions.

With 80% of the money still unspent, Sebastian said his heart “breaks” for the industry. Sebastian has followed up with the prime minister’s office to find out how the money will be spent.

Jobkeeper shrinkage

It was the $130bn wage subsidy program designed to keep Australians attached to their jobs. Until, suddenly, it became a $70bn program.

People queue outside a Centrelink in Bondi Junction, Sydney, 24 March 2020.
People queue outside a Centrelink in Bondi Junction, Sydney, 24 March 2020. Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA

First, Treasury overestimated how many people needed to claim the jobkeeper payment. Then the tax office took until late May to advise its figures were also inflated because some businesses were mistakenly entering the value of payments they were claiming instead of the number of eligible staff.

The lower cost was spun as a good thing – fewer Australians needed the payment than first thought and debt would be lower as a result. Still, the government refused to extend jobkeeper to millions of workers who had missed out including short-term casuals, visa-holders, and employees of public universities.

In July, jobkeeper was extended but the payment rate was cut from September, with lower rates particularly for part-time workers. Treasury had warned the government against cutting rates because it was “not clear that the net benefit of these changes would be positive for such a time-limited program”.

The program has already paid out $69bn and is estimated to cost a total of $101bn by March.

Covidsafe app

Morrison described it as like sunscreen, because nobody should leave home without it. But despite more than 7m downloads, the Covidsafe app has detected just 17 close contacts of people with coronavirus not discovered by contact tracers.

The acting chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, has said Covidsafe is “a very useful tool when used correctly and integrated into a well-functioning system of contact tracing”.

People in Melbourne’s CBD as coronavirus restrictions were eased, 28 October 2020.
People in Melbourne’s CBD as coronavirus restrictions were eased, 28 October 2020. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Health minister Greg Hunt claims the app’s data was also used to identify an “unrecognised exposure date” at Mounties in New South Wales, resulting in an additional 544 contacts being found.

Budget 2020 and beyond

The 2020 budget contained $73bn over four years in new jobmaker measures – including income tax cuts, business tax concessions and youth wage subsidies.

We have not evaluated these because it’s too soon to compare delivery with the announcement.

On 9 October Morrison said the government wants to enable investment in the private sector, “to bridge [the] gap during the course of this Covid-19 recession”.

“We don’t see government as the solution forever.”

Perhaps the private sector will take up the incentives in the budget to bring forward investment and hiring.

Or perhaps the estimates of how many jobs will be created will be a further rod for the government’s back as Labor hammers the announcement delivery gap.



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RBI policy meet: Status quo! Yet, RBI delivered more than a rate cut, and how!


In the expected line, the newly-constituted MPC decided to keep the repo rate unchanged at 4 per cent. It didn’t come as a surprise, since the inflation rate was above 6 per cent for last five consecutive months. That left little room for the MPC to cut policy rate as the central bank has a mandate for inflation-targeting. RBI says it will continue with the accommodative stance as long as it is necessary, taking rate hikes off the table, as the domestic economy is passing through one of the worst recessions.

Though the rates were kept unchanged, RBI Governor announced various other measures to improve credit growth in the economy, and to deal with the risk aversion among banks.

Targeted LTRO worth of Rs 1 lakh crore has been announced, and it has been clarified that the liquidity availed under the scheme needs to be deployed in corporate bonds, commercial sectors non-convertible debentures issued by entities in specific sectors that can have multiplier effects on growth.

Similarly, for all new housing loans, RBI has rationalised the risk weightage and linked them only to loan-to-value (LTV) ratios till March 31, 2022.

Now, the question is whether these measures would nudge banks to step up lending or will the scare of NPAs still continue to haunt the banking sector. The Supreme Court verdict on loan moratorium would have an important role to play in this context.

With both the central and state governments facing severe revenue crunch, RBI announced measures to facilitate government borrowing. The ways and means advances (WMA) of the central government has been raised to Rs 1.25 lakh crore, and the 60 per cent increase in the WMA limit for states will be extended till March 31, 2021. The excess supply of government securities in the bond market could put pressure in bond yields. However, to ease the pressure, RBI announced Open Market Operations (OMOs) of the size Rs 20,000 crore. The fall in bond yields would be beneficial to the private sector, as they would be able to avail credit at a cheaper rate from the market.

Further, to support the borrowing programme of the state governments, RBI announced OMOs in state development loans (SDLs) as a special case. However, in the wake of increased market borrowing by the government, RBI would announce more measures to keep the yields in check.

RBI expects the GDP growth rate to contract 9.5 per cent in FY21, turn positive only from Q4FY21 onwards. Though there are visible green shoots in the economy, it would be too early to say that the economy has entered the recovery zone.

On the inflation front, RBI expects it to be closer to the target by Q4FY21. Currently, rising inflation rate has been due to the supply-side disruption caused by localised lockdowns. And, the economy would feel the inflationary pressure until the supply-side resumes back to the normal level.

Rate cuts had played its role, and there is sufficient liquidity in the market. Now, the focus should be on other measures, which the MPC has deliberated in its latest bimonthly meeting.





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Extraordinary budget needed, weak budget delivered: Nalder


The state government’s response to COVID-19 is smaller than investment after the Global Financial Crisis, shadow treasurer Dean Nalder claimed on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Nalder leveled a stinging criticism of the WA budget today.

“Western Australia deserved an extraordinary budget for these extraordinary times,” he said.

“What has been handed down is a weak and insipid budget that does not provide anything resembling a clear, strong plan for local jobs, for local small businesses and for Western Australia’s economic recovery.

“There is no jobs target other than to return to pre-COVID levels and unemployment is forecast to reach a very concerning 8 per cent.

“This is not an infrastructure blitz – the $27 billion is similar to normal government investment.

“As a comparison, following the GFC the Liberal government invested $8.3 billion in response – the highest on record.

“This year Labor is spending just $7.5 billion – that is 10 per cent less despite a much bigger economy and a much bigger economic crisis.”

Mr Nalder’s criticism comes after Treasurer Ben Wyatt posted a $1.2 billion operating surplus.

But that number does not take into account infrastructure investment.

In cash terms, the budget is in a $3.4 billion deficit, meaning the government will be heading to bond markets for cash.

The government benefited from the strong iron ore price in recent months.

Royalties from the steel-making commodity were forecast to be 2.3 billion more this financial year than previously projected in the December 2019 mid-year review.

Last financial year, the government posted an operating surplus of $1.9 billion.





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