Federal Government to give financial support to three more potential COVID-19 vaccines
A further three potential COVID-19 vaccines being developed in Australia will receive financial support from the Federal Government.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced nearly $6 million funding from the Medical Research Future Fund will be split between the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney.
The University of Melbourne is developing two vaccine candidates, using different techniques to either introduce a protein to maximise the antibody immune response or using messenger RNA (mRNA) to help the body create the protein.
Sydney University will put its funding towards a Phase 1 clinical trial to test a DNA-based vaccine which could be administered without using needles.
“We want to make sure that we have all bases covered,” Mr Hunt said.
“There’s never a guarantee on any one vaccine and there’s always the possibility of the disease mutating, although at this stage it appears stable.
“And so we want to maximise the opportunities for protection of Australians.”
Bangkok’s Thammasat University had refused the protest organisers’ request to hold the rally on its campus grounds, but they pushed through the locked gates anyway.
Saturday’s protests moved from the campus of the university, a traditional hotbed of opposition to the military and royalist establishment, and on to Sanam Luang — translated as Royal Field — outside the Grand Palace.
September 19 is the anniversary of the coup against the populist then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.
Among the protesters were many of his red shirt followers, veterans of clashes a decade ago with pro-establishment yellow shirts.
THE OPPOSITION PARTIES have announced their intention to table an interpellation accusing the government of abandoning its economic and employment objectives, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
The interpellation is backed by all four opposition parties in Finland: the Finns Party, National Coalition, Christian Democratic Party and Movement Now.
The Finnish government announced the conclusions of its much-anticipated budget session on Wednesday, saying it has agreed on measures that – together with its earlier decisions – should grow the ranks of the employed by 31,000–36,000 by the end of the decade. The announcement was met with criticism from the opposition parties, which described the measures as insufficient and the 10.8-billion-euro increase in central government debt as excessive.
“The coronavirus is no excuse to do less and run up more debt. Finland is pretty much at the end of the road of borrowing and raising taxes,” stated Ville Tavio, the chairperson of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group.
The National Coalition declared early this month it intends to submit an interpellation if the government fails to come out of its budget session with measures to break the debt cycle, new employment targets and solutions to boost competitiveness.
The other opposition parties voiced their backing for the move this week, a spokesperson for the party told STT.
At a meeting on Wednesday night, the government’s chief scientific adviser and medical officer predicted another serious outbreak of the disease.
They forecast that there would be a significant number of deaths by the end of October if there were no further interventions.
The possible measures being discussed include asking some hospitality businesses to close, or limiting the opening hours of some pubs and restaurants nationwide.
No final decisions have yet been reached on the next course of action.
The virus is now understood to be doubling every seven to eight days, with more than 3,300 new cases reported on Thursday.
It comes as nearly two million people in north-east England are the latest to face local lockdown rules, which came into force on Friday. The restrictions will ban people from meeting other households, and restaurants and pubs will have to shut at 22:00 BST.
New local lockdown rules are also set to be brought in for Lancashire – with the exception of Blackpool – the BBC understands.
The four nations of the UK are all in charge of their own lockdown restrictions, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland implementing slightly different rules to England.
Options for ministers
Under the so-called “circuit break”, restrictions could be reintroduced in some public spaces nationwide for a period of a few weeks, but schools and workplaces would be kept open.
One of the ideas suggested by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is that some parts of the hospitality sector could be asked to close.
No 10 is also considering the possibility of limiting the opening hours of pubs and restaurants across the country, as has already happened in some areas.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to be deeply reluctant to order another national lockdown, where everyone would be asked to stay at home and businesses to close.
On Thursday morning, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is understood to have presented warnings of the damage to the economy.
And ministers are also concerned about the impact of more restrictions on daily life on those who need treatment for non-Covid related illnesses.
However, the government has not yet taken any final decisions about the next course of action.
It is not yet clear what impact this week’s new rule banning social gatherings of more than six people will have on the rate of increase, and No 10 is continuing to monitor the data and take scientific advice.
But it seems increasingly likely that within the next week, the prime minister will tighten the national rules again, our correspondent said.
On Friday, parts of north-east England joined other areas across the UK in being under local lockdown rules.
The measures affect Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Northumberland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and the County Durham council area.
As well as the ban on households mixing and early closures for pubs and restaurants, people should also only use public transport for essential travel and care homes are closed to visitors.
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WHEN DEMOCRACY came to Spain in the late 1970s, it arrived through agreements between moderate supporters of the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco, the victor in the Spanish civil war, and a realistic democratic opposition. At their heart was an amnesty law and a broad understanding not to use the past as a political weapon—arrangements often misleadingly dubbed a “pact of forgetting”. This largely seamless transition was widely hailed as a success. But younger generations, mainly on the left, now worry that Spain never acknowledged the crimes of its past.
A first attempt to redress this came with a law of “historical memory” in 2007, which aimed to remove fascist symbols from public buildings and recognise the mistreatment of Franco’s victims, but was only partly implemented. Now the minority left-wing coalition government of Pedro Sánchez has unveiled a draft law of “democratic memory” that would go further.
The draft is a mixed bag. Many welcome a plan to recover the remains of victims of the civil war and the repression that followed its end. The government hopes to find up to 25,000 skeletons in five years or so. The law would also annul the verdicts of Franco’s summary trials and withdraw titles and medals awarded by the dictatorship. The Valley of the Fallen, the grandiose basilica from which Franco’s remains were removed by the government last year, will be redesignated as a civilian cemetery (rather than a church) and run by the state (rather than the Benedictine monks on whom Franco bestowed it).
More questionable are powers to shut down groups that “exalt” or “apologise for” the dictatorship, such as the Francisco Franco Foundation, a private archive for nostalgics run from an obscure Madrid flat. The foundation says this is an “attack on freedom of thought” and threatens to move to the United States. The law would also require schools to incorporate “democratic memory” into the history curriculum. Whether that will lead to good history or official propaganda is unclear.
Most troubling is that the bill sets up a special prosecutor to investigate human-rights abuses from 1936 to 1978. This is largely futile, since most perpetrators are dead. It also comes close to overturning the amnesty law, out of a conviction that justice and truth should retroactively outweigh peace and reconciliation.
The conservative opposition claims the bill is a smokescreen to hide government mismanagement of the pandemic. It objects, too, to the likelihood that it will be approved with the parliamentary votes of Basque and Catalan separatists, who reject the current constitution.
The bill’s defenders contrast Spain’s tolerance of Franco with Germany and Italy. But Spain’s history is different. If the government really wants to resolve unfinished business from the past, it should have tried to agree on the bill with the opposition. For all its virtues, the bill uses the past as a political weapon. And that is bad for Spanish democracy.
This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “A law to fight Franco”
The government is extending the COVID health measures for a further six months, until the end of March, in its latest acknowledgement that pandemic assistance will be needed on various fronts for a longer period.
The extension, costing $2 billion, covers the telehealth services provided by doctors and a range of allied health professionals, home medicine delivery, and free COVID-19 pathology tests.
It also includes the cost of funding for further personal protective equipment for the national medical stockpile, GP-led respiratory clinics, half the cost of activities to respond to COVID-19 in hospitals, and continuation of the private hospital agreement to ensure access to beds.
Telehealth, which started in March, has proved highly popular with three out of every ten GP services at present done virtually. So far, over 30 million services have been provided to more than ten million patients, delivered by more than 77,000 practitioners. Some $1.55 billion has been paid in benefits.
Given the convenience and high usage of telehealth, the government will be under pressure to build it into the health system permanently.
Scott Morrison said telehealth and home delivery medicine services reduced the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community while supporting people in isolation.
“Importantly this also includes mental health services, delivered over the phone, by trained specialists and GPs,” he said.
The extension of the health funding comes as national cabinet meets on Friday, when it will discuss the increase in the cap – from 4,000 to 6,000 a week nationally – that the government has announced for people coming home from overseas.
Western Australia has been critical of the government for pre-empting the national cabinet with its announcement.
Morrison was adamant on Thursday the increased cap was a fait accompli, not a request to the states.
“The planes will land with people on them … It’s a decision. It’s not a proposal. The Commonwealth government has made a decision that those caps have been moved to those levels and planes will be able to fly to those ports carrying that many passengers a week,” he said.
Jane Halton, a former health department secretary who is on the government’s COVID-19 commission and has done an audit of quarantine arrangements around the country, will brief Friday’s meeting.
Meanwhile tensions remain over state border restrictions, especially in relation to the Queensland border. But with the Queensland election looming and the state government’s policy favoured by many voters, Morrison on Thursday was treading carefully.
“I’ve never said the Queensland border should be taken down,” he insisted. “What I’ve said is it should be managed sensibly. What I’ve said is it should be managed compassionately. What I’ve said is that they should explain to people what the rules for it are and the medical basis of it are,” he said.
“No doubt people in Queensland may feel that the borders are protecting their health situation. I understand that. But there’s also the impact that it is having more broadly on jobs and business and industry in Queensland.”
The 14-day quarantine rule operating in Queensland will mean neither Morrison nor Anthony Albanese will be able to campaign on the ground for the late October election.
Morrison said NSW and Victoria and South Australia were working to get their borders down.
“The border between New South Wales and Victoria is likely to come down before the one in New South Wales and Queensland,” he said.
Author: Michelle Grattan – Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra
The scheme was due to lapse at the end of September.
Telehealth for “essential specialist services”, such as consultant physician, geriatrician, and neurosurgery services, will also continue with bulk billing and regular billing practices to apply.
Mr Hunt said the package would also support the maintenance of other coronavirus health measures.
“There will be support for home medicine delivery, continued free COVID-19 pathology tests, as well as further personal protective equipment, respiratory clinics and the state and private hospital partnership agreement,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the extra money brings the Commonwealth’s investment in COVID-19 health responses to $16.5 billion.
“By providing telehealth and home delivery medicine services we are reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community while also supporting people in isolation to get the care they need.”
He told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “It’s not something that I’ve heard about, I know there’s speculation in the press today.
“But it’s not something I’ve seen within the department.
“The prime minister has been very clear about this, he doesn’t want to see another national lockdown.
“He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work and get that infection rate down.”
Anthony Costello, a former director of maternal, child and adolescent health at the World Health Organisation (WHO), had claimed that England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty was recommending the two-week lockdown.
He posted on Twitter on Wednesday night: “I’m hearing from a well-connected person that government now thinks, in absence of testing, there are 38,000 infections per day.
“Chris Whitty is advising PM for a two week national lockdown.”
But Mr Argar said: “We are guided by the science but we’re not necessarily guided by the speculation in the press.
“It’s not something I’ve heard from Chris. And it’s something the prime minister clearly doesn’t want to see.”
On Wednesday, the prime minister firmly dismissed the prospect of a second national lockdown and suggested the economic impact of such action would be “disastrous”.
“I don’t want a second national lockdown, I think it would be completely wrong for this country,” he told a group of senior MPs.
“We are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.
“Can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous.”
The government has said it will now prioritise COVID-19 tests for some groups after it admitted fixing issues with the system could take a matter of weeks.
Mr Johnson has pointed to a “colossal spike” in demand for tests as being to blame for shortages in some areas.
On Wednesday, there were 3,991 new confirmed cases of coronavirus.
In a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to confirm new local lockdown measures for northeast England.
He is set to announce a ban in the region on socialising with people from different households, a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants and curbs on travel.
Mr Argar told Sky News that northeast England was seeing a spike in cases similar to that in northwest England.
He said: “In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West.
“We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action.”
Mr Argar said, in northwest England, the rise in infections was due to people not adhering to social distancing rules with different households meeting up in close proximity.
He added: “Obviously a night-time economy can fuel that when people have been to the pub, people have been out late into the evening.
“That’s one of the ways in which that transmission can increase.”
Labour’s shadow communities secretary Steve Reed accused the government of having failed to prepare for the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
“Now that we’ve got more people going out and about as the economy opens, people are being encouraged to go back to work, children are going to school, young people are going to university, the risk of infections spreading is greater,” he told Sky News.
“But we don’t have the test, track and trace system that could keep everybody safe.
“So we risk further local or even national lockdowns. The fault of this has to be laid squarely at the feet of the government.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield holds up a CDC document that reads “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations” as he speaks appears at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on a “Review of Coronavirus Response Efforts” on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
OAN Newsroom UPDATED 12:00 PM PT – Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Federal health agencies and the Department of Defense have revealed a coronavirus vaccine “playbook,” which outlined how shots will be administered across the U.S. This comes as several companies are nearing the final stage of vaccine trials.
In a report to Congress, the CDC put forward a plan they said is “much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak related vaccination responses.” Their “playbook” is geared toward state and local governments, which will take on the responsibility of developing precise plans for receiving and distributing the vaccine.
Other key details of the distribution campaign included its source of funding. The plan is currently set to be backed by taxpayer dollars, which will enable any American to be vaccinated without having to pay out of pocket.
The plan will also require most people to get two doses of the vaccine. They will reportedly need to get the second dose between 21 and 28 days later from the same manufacturer.
FILE – In this July 30, 2020 photo, Kai Hu, a research associate transfers medium to cells, in the laboratory at Imperial College in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
The government is hoping to launch the campaign gradually in January, or possibly later this year. Resources will first be prioritized for certain populations, including at risk groups, health care workers and other essential employees.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar has reaffirmed the government will be working on all levels to “ensure Americans can receive the vaccine as soon as possible and vaccinate with confidence.” He also said “Americans should know the vaccine process is being driven completely by science and data.”
There are over 170 possible coronavirus vaccines being developed across the world right now. At least 35 of those are under clinical evaluation.
THE RULING COALITION has agreed on “numerous measures” to improve the employment situation and promote the transition to a carbon-neutral society in Finland, according to Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP).
The government yesterday announced it has wrapped up its budget negotiations, revealing it decided on measures that should add 31,000–36,000 people to the ranks of the employed.
The package of measures laid out by the five ruling parties also includes a few measures that were announced earlier, such as the scaling down of the unemployment path to retirement, which is expected to have an employment impact of 6,500–7,000.
One of the key new measures is reforming employment services to provide more support to job seekers at the start of their periods of unemployment and after each six-month period of unemployment. The reform will also oblige job seekers to apply for up to four openings a month depending on their work capacity and the regional labour market situation.
A failure to apply for the requisite number of openings could lead to a suspension of unemployment benefits.
Branded the second coming of the activation model for unemployment security, the reform is expected to grow the ranks of the employed by 9,500–10,000.
Raising the school-leaving age, lowering early-childhood education fees and expanding the wage subsidy scheme, in turn, are expected to grow the ranks by 1,600, 2,500–3,600 and 500–1,000, respectively.
The government additionally asked labour market organisations to draft measures to bring 10,000–12,000 over 55-year-old job seekers back to the ranks of the employed and improve both their labour market position and ability to cope in working life. The organisations must come up with a credible proposal to meet the target by November.
“If the labour market organisations don’t give an answer that meets the target, the government will make the decisions itself,” said Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko (Centre).
Industrial energy tax cut, rebates abolished
The government also announced a handful of measures designed to make the country carbon-neutral by 2035 and carbon-negative shortly thereafter.
The industrial energy tax, it confirmed, will be slashed to the lowest level allowed by the European Union. The rebates for industrial energy tax will be abolished after a four-year transition period during which the existing energy subsidies will be used to encourage industries to shift to emission-free technologies.
The scheme to compensate for indirect costs arising from emissions trading will be scrapped.
“A new temporary electrification subsidy will be created for energy-intensive industries, which provides a more effective incentive for carbon-neutral production and the electrification of energy-intensive companies while taking cost competitiveness into consideration,” its press release reads.
The tax on heating fuels such as coal, natural gas and fuel oil will be increased to generate 105 million euros in additional tax revenue as of the start of 2021. The tax on peat will be raised by 2.7 euros per megawatt hour and incorporated with a price floor mechanism that, together with the cost of emission rights, ensures the energy use of peat decreases by at least 50 per cent by 2030.
Emma Kari (Greens) tweeted that the decision will almost double the tax on peat.
The government is proposing a budget worth 64.2 billion euros for 2021. The budget shows a deficit of 10.8 billion euros, raising total central government debt to 135 billion euros during the course of next year.