Aussie bank taken over in $1.3 billion buyout; Fourth woman alleges she was sexually assaulted by person accused of raping Brittany Higgins; Australia coronavirus vaccinations begin



By Carly Waters22 Feb 2021 05:44Former Federal Court Judge Raymond Finkelstein QC will be the commissioner overseeing the inquiry.Ms Horne flagged the government would also consider establishing an independent casino regulator.”I think that’s an appropriate response to what has occurred in NSW and some of the admissions made by Crown, so that we can have the best form of regulation and a casino operator that is working within the law in Victoria,” she said.The minister said the findings of the Bergin report were “so severe” that the Royal Commission into the casino giant was imperative.

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Need to increase pace of vaccinations: Health Ministry tells states


While some states are carrying out vaccination twice a week some others are carrying out four or more than four times a week

New Delhi: The Union Health Ministry has written to all states and UTs highlighting the need to significantly enhance the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations, noting that a large number of healthcare and frontline workers still remain to be covered.

In a letter addressed to chief secretaries of all states and UTs, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the number of days of vaccination in a week should also be increased to a minimum of four days per week at the earliest to speed up the process of vaccination and gear up system to take up the vaccination of the 50+ population.

 

While some states are carrying out vaccination twice a week some others are carrying out four or more than four times a week.

Adequate provisions have been made in the Co-WIN software to support such expansion of services, he said. 

The letter dated February 19 stated a large number of healthcare and frontline workers still remain to be covered and the progress is variable across several states and UTs.

“As highlighted during several review meetings that have been conducted with the states and UTs, the pace of vaccination drive and its coverage needs to be accelerated exponentially to cover all identified beneficiaries in a minimum possible time.

 

“Further, the operational strategy for initiating the vaccination of next priority group of elderly population and persons with comorbidities to be taken up in March, 2021 is also being finalised,” the letter said.

“In view of the anticipated high number of beneficiaries to be vaccinated at a high speed in the forthcoming days”, Bhushan advised states and UTs to ensure that all public health facilities from tertiary level medical colleges, hospitals and institutes to district hospitals, sub-divisional hospitals, community health centres, PHCs, health and wellness centres, health sub-centres etc. should be prepared for offering COVID-19 vaccination services on all designated vaccination days beginning March 1.

 

“You are requested to kindly direct the concerned officials to immediately undertake measures for expansion of COVID-19 vaccination drive. Your continuous guidance to the state and UT teams has been instrumental in driving the ongoing vaccination process and the same is anticipated for upcoming phases as well. I look forward to your continued collaboration in this critical mission of national importance,” the letter stated. 

Till February 21, a total of 1,10,85,173 vaccine doses have been administered through 2,30,888 sessions, as per the provisional report. These include 63,91,544 healthcare workers (1st dose), 9,60,642 healthcare workers (2nd dose) and 37,32,987 frontline workers (1st dose).

 

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Japan launches COVID-19 vaccinations as Olympics approach


Japan began administering COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, starting with hospital staff in the Tokyo metropolitan area before expanding the rollout nationwide as the clock ticks down to the Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

The country has been slow to launch vaccinations against the coronavirus, starting its program later than around 80 other countries as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga faces criticism of a sluggish pandemic response.

Kazuhiro Araki (L), head of the Tokyo Medical Center, is administered a COVID-19 vaccine at his hospital in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward on Feb. 17, 2021, receiving the first shot under Japan’s vaccination program against the novel coronavirus. Japan is starting with an initial group of 40,000 health workers before expanding the rollout to the elderly and people with preexisting conditions. (Pool photo) (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

A total of 125 staff members were inoculated at eight hospitals in and around the capital on Wednesday, with the vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech SE due to be administered at 100 medical facilities across the country by next week.

Speaking in a parliamentary committee meeting, Suga reiterated that vaccines will be the “decisive factor” in fighting the coronavirus and vowed to move forward with the rollout while keeping the public informed.

Of the initial group of 40,000 health workers, 20,000 will participate in a study to track side effects potentially caused by the vaccine and the frequency with which they occur. They will be asked to keep daily records for seven weeks after taking the first of two shots. The shots will be administered three weeks apart.

A health worker injects COVID-19 vaccine from a bottle into a syringe at the Tokyo Medical Center in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward on Feb. 17, 2021. Japan began COVID-19 vaccinations the same day, with the first shots given at the state-run hospital. (Pool photo) (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Twelve staffers, including three doctors and five nurses, were inoculated at the state-run Tokyo Medical Center on Wednesday. Hospital head Kazuhiro Araki, who was first in the country to receive the shot, said he hopes participating in the study will “help both staff and patients prevent infections.”

No severe side effects were immediately reported from any of the eight hospitals.

A further 3.7 million front-line health workers are to begin being inoculated in March, followed by 36 million people aged 65 or older from April.

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People with preexisting conditions such as diabetes or heart disease and those working at elderly care facilities will come next, and then finally the general population.

Japan is starting its vaccine rollout more than two months after Britain and the United States. Asked in the House of Representative’s Budget Committee session about the cause of the delay, Suga accepted the criticism and admitted that the need to conduct clinical trials domestically had held up the process.

The minister in charge of vaccination efforts, Taro Kono, said Tuesday that foreign residents will become eligible for the free shots in the same order of priority as Japanese citizens.

Japan received the first shipment of about 386,000 doses from Pfizer’s factory in Belgium last week and granted fast-track approval for domestic use on Sunday.

Kono said at a press conference that the second shipment had been cleared by the European Union under its new vaccine export controls and was expected to arrive next week but declined to say how many doses it would contain.

Late-stage clinical trials showed the Pfizer vaccine to have an efficacy rate of around 95 percent, compared with 40 to 60 percent for influenza vaccines. Japan also has supply deals with AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc. to receive enough doses for its population of 126 million.

But public skepticism could be a hurdle for Japan’s vaccine rollout, with only 63.1 percent of respondents in a…

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Health workers prepare to give COVID-19 vaccinations



Frontline health workers in the Northern NSW Local Health District will receive the jab for COVID-19 ahead of the general population rollout, as soon as the Federal Government gives the signal to roll out the vaccine.

On Friday, NNSWLHD chief executive, Wayne Jones said while the Federal Government was responsible for securing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, staff were focusing on preparing every detail to be completely ready for the rollout.

“Northern NSW Local Health District has been working to prepare our health facilities to be ready to commence a staff vaccination program as soon as the COVID-19 vaccine is received,” he said.

“(This is) under the direction of NSW Health and the Federal Government.”

Mr Jones said NSW Health planning was underpinned by a strong public health network and existing successful immunisation programs.

“When the vaccine becomes available, we urge everyone who can be vaccinated to do so,” he said.

“Further information on the vaccine rollout will be provided by NSW Health and the Federal Government as soon as it becomes available.”

According to the Federal Government’s Department of Health website, initially, vaccine doses will be made available for priority groups in 30 to 50 hospital hubs in urban and rural locations around Australia.

“Vaccination teams will go out to aged care and disability care facilities,” the website said.

“These teams will be managed by the Australian Government.

“As the roll out continues, other locations will also be made available at GP respiratory clinics, general practices that meet specific requirements, Aboriginal controlled community health services, and state-run vaccination clinics.

“When vaccines become broadly available, some workplace vaccination sites and community pharmacies that meet specific requirements will be added.”

The website also said that along with frontline healthcare workers the other two groups who have priority on receiving a vaccine are quarantine and border staff and residential aged care and disability residents and staff.



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Flu jabs likely be delayed for priority COVID-19 vaccinations in South Australia



The seasonal flu shot for aged care residents and workers will likely be postponed while the first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations are administered, South Australian stakeholders have heard.

At a COVID-19 vaccine forum for the sector held in Adelaide on Monday, SA Health representatives reportedly said the flu shot could be delayed to prioritise the vaccine rollout’s first phase and that legislative changes could be required.

It prompted questions by Eldercare chief executive officer Jane Pickering, whose organisation was given the go ahead in mid-December to begin its 2021 seasonal influenza vaccination program, which starts in March.

“The concern I raised was around ensuring different areas of the department line up so they are consistent with each other and we’re not proceeding with one particular vaccine program that may place the other vaccination program at risk,” she said.

COVID vaccines are slated to begin incrementally in mid-February for first priority populations, which includes aged and disability care residents and workers, frontline health workers, and quarantine and border staff.

“We have an external provider who does that and we have to book them well in advance and I can tell you that all of the large aged care providers would have booked their influenza programs.

“I understand everybody’s trying to do the best they can, but nobody knows the detail yet and we’ll all respond when we get it.”

Logistics to be negotiated

A SA Health spokesperson said the department would work with the Commonwealth Government, which had determined priority groups and timelines, to distribute the vaccine.

“We are still working through the logistics to determine if any legislative changes are required,” she said.

“In line with national advice, the influenza vaccination should not be administered at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Pfizer vaccine questions

Ms Pickering said Australia’s response to reports that up to 30 frail people with co-morbidities had died after being administered the Pfizer vaccine in Norway would also have to be “cleared up”.

“If they [Therapeutic Goods Administration] are going to say the Pfizer’s not suitable for them, they’ll move on to AstraZeneca, which we’re getting in March anyway.

“They’re not going to take any risks.”

The Pfizer vaccine is yet to be approved for use in Australia by the TGA, which is reviewing information supplied by its manufacturer.

Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt said safety was “Australia’s number one priority” and the Government had also requested information from the Norwegian Government.

“We’ll continue to follow the processes of the medical regulator because that’s going to keep Australians safe and ultimately provide confidence.”

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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Australian Open under COVID-19 cloud after more positive tests; MPs call on government to lift travel cap for stranded Australians; India begins vaccinations



Dozens of Australian Open players will be forced to quarantine for 14 days – without training – after new tournament arrivals tested positive for COVID-19.

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Russia Starts Mass Vaccinations in Cosmonaut Center


Russia’s cosmonaut training center said Tuesday it has begun vaccinating employees against the coronavirus ahead of future space missions.

The press service of the Yuri Gagarin Training Centre told AFP that around 40 of its nearly 1,500 employees had received the first dose of Russia’s homemade coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V. 

Named after famous Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person to travel to outer space, the center is located in Star City, a short drive from Moscow.

“Training continues and we are prioritizing the vaccination of employees who are in close contact with crews preparing for mission,” the center’s spokeswoman said.  

The center said that the main and backup crews of a new expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) had been vaccinated earlier and will receive their second dose on Friday.

Sputnik V has an efficacy of over 90 % according to its developers. It is administered in two doses with an interval of three weeks. 

By mid-December, Russia had vaccinated several cosmonauts ahead of future flights and some of them have already received both doses.

The next Russian crew to the ISS cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Pyotr Dubrov and Sergei Korsakov is due to depart from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan in April 2021.

Novitsky and Dubrov have received their first doses, the centre said on Tuesday, as quoted by TASS news agency.

The two Russian cosmonauts currently on the ISS Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov had not been vaccinated before their take-off in late September. 

At the time the Russian vaccine had just started its third phase of trials, and the cosmonauts indicated that they would wait for further testing. 

Russia began mass vaccinations with Sputnik V in early December, while batches of the vaccine were sent overseas to Belarus, Serbia and Argentina.

According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which financed the development of Sputnik, more than one million people have been vaccinated in Russia.

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Vaccinations, boosting economy top Cuomo 2021 agenda – Long Island Business News


Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged New York will vaccinate millions and jumpstart its flagging economy in 2021 as part of his annual address to the state that began Monday.

The governor’s address — which will continue throughout the week — comes as the state tries to balance reopening its economy with ending a pandemic whose death toll is now nearing 40,000 people, according to data collected by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. New York’s hospitals and nursing homes have recorded nearly 4,100 new deaths of people with COVID-19 over the past 30 days, and the state is now seeing more new COVID-19 cases per-capita than 35 other states.

Hospitals statewide have added thousands of additional emergency beds and are now caring for about 8,500 patients — less than half the mid-April peak of 18,000. But Cuomo warned continued spread — potentially exacerbated by a highly contagious COVID-19 variant widespread in the United Kingdom — could devastate hospitals around the state.

“We are hurt, we are frustrated, we are in mourning, we are anxious,” said Cuomo, who delivered his televised address to a small in-person audience. “We are shocked that an invisible enemy could reach such death and destruction especially in this, the most wealthy and powerful nation on earth.”

The Democrat opened up vaccine eligibility to essential workers and individuals over 75 years old in a Friday announcement — a shift that followed criticism of his restrictive approach of first waiting to vaccinate all healthcare workers.

The governor announced he’s launching a new public health corps that will bring aboard 1,000 fellows to help roll out vaccinations. He also pointed to a new state website launched Monday that allows New Yorkers to check their eligibility and find out where they can sign up for a vaccine.

Cuomo called on the federal government to boost shipments to states and urged the incoming Biden administration to release more doses. New York has used just half of its roughly one million vaccine doses so far, and Cuomo said New York won’t have enough doses for roughly four million eligible New Yorkers until mid-April, based on the state’s federal allotment of 300,000 vaccines per week.

The pandemic is still hitting large swaths of the state: about 136,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 1 alone, while nearly 8,900 new COVID-19 patients have entered hospitals. The governor has set high standards for new restrictions on businesses and houses of worship in hard-hit areas of New York that could only kick in once hospitals are nearing crisis capacity levels, and is urging the state to emphasize boosting its ailing economy.

“We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass,” Cuomo said.

New York’s unemployment rate has improved in recent months: from 15.3% in April to 8.4% in November. Still, that’s higher than the national unemployment rate, which has shrunk from 14.7% in April to 6.7% as of November.

Cuomo pledged to invest in green energy to help create more jobs, and to increase revenue by legalizing mobile sports betting and recreational marijuana, which could bring in $300 million years in annual revenue after several years.

New York lawmakers and Cuomo have planned to reduce state spending by as much as $8 billion to make up for the state’s expected large drop in sales and income tax revenue.

And Cuomo has held back at least $2.4 billion in state payments to localities as of September: that includes $486 million in aid to higher education, $475 million for transportation, $289 million in health care, $252 million for human services and housing, $300 million in school aid and $362 million in education and arts funding.

It’s unclear whether the state will ever pay out that local aid.

Cuomo said it’s up to Congress to provide enough federal aid, and said he’s hopeful that the newly Democratic-led Senate will provide enough state and local aid to help with state-level shortfalls.

“I believe they will do justice,” he said.

But he’s facing pressure from Democratic legislative leaders and the party’s left wing to increase taxes for the state’s wealthiest rather than rely on potentially sweeping budget cuts or federal aid.

“It is urgent and necessary that our representatives in Washington bring home relief,” New York Working Families Party State Director Sochie Nnaemeka said. “But federal relief never was, and is not today, sufficient to meet the needs of people up and down our state.”

Meanwhile, minority Republicans who oppose broad new tax increases said New York has a spending, not a revenue problem.



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UK steps up vaccinations as coronavirus-related deaths and case numbers hit record highs



The United Kingdom is facing its worst weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, its Chief Medical Officer says, with deaths and cases in the country hitting record highs ahead of the rollout of a mass vaccination program.

According to Johns Hopkins University, deaths from the virus have now exceeded 81,500 in the UK — the world’s fifth-highest toll — with 3,081,368 people testing positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

A new, more transmissible variant of the disease is surging through the population, with one in 20 people in parts of London now infected.

In a bid to get on top of the pandemic and to try to restore some degree of normality by the spring, the UK is rushing out its largest ever vaccination program, with shots to be offered to all those in its top four priority categories — about 15 million people — by the middle of next month.

But the Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Chris Whitty, warned the situation would deteriorate in the meantime.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS (National Health Service),” he said.

“Anybody who is not shocked by the number of people in hospital who are seriously ill at the moment and who are dying over the course of this pandemic, I think, has not understood this at all. This is an appalling situation,” he told the BBC.

NHS facing ‘a significant crisis’

During the peak of the first outbreak in April about 18,000 people were in hospital but now there are 30,000.

Professor Whitty said the health service was facing “a significant crisis”.

“Everybody says that this is the most dangerous time we’ve really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,” he said.

Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city’s hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, and ministers and health chiefs pleaded with people to respect lockdown measures and stay at home unless it was essential to go out.

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New York expands vaccinations to elderly, essential workers – Long Island Business News


Faced with mounting criticism over the slow pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that, starting next week, New York would allow a much wider swath of the public to get inoculated, including anyone age 75 or older.

The governor warned that, initially, the supply of vaccines available to people other than health care workers and nursing home patients would be very limited.

Cuomo said a beefed up statewide distribution network will include pharmacies, doctors’ networks and county health departments. The 3.2 million New Yorkers newly eligible for the vaccine includes teachers, first responders and public safety workers.

“Caution, caution, caution, because the supply is a major problem,” Cuomo said at his regular briefing. “You’ll wind up having 3,000 distribution points in a couple of weeks, but none of them will have nearly enough vaccine.”

The announcement came as many local officials argued it was time to distribute the vaccine beyond health care workers. Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized the state government Friday for keeping New York City from immediately vaccinating people older than 75 against the coronavirus, saying the city had 270,000 doses that could be quickly administered.

“The state of New York will not allow us to vaccinate them. This is really dangerous if we can’t vaccinate the people who are most in danger. We’re going to lose lives we did not need to lose. Let’s change that now,” de Blasio said at his regular briefing.

Cuomo had been insisting on focusing on the state’s front-line health care workers as cases and hospitalizations surge this winter.



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