Australia has gone a week without a single community transmission of Covid-19, as other nations across the world continue to buckle under the strain of the virus and its ever changing and increasingly dangerous mutations.
While a day without any local cases may seem impossible for other countries battling the virus, for Australia it is slowly becoming the new normal.
But experts are now fearing the Australian government has backed the wrong horse when it comes to vaccines, after not putting in a single order for the highly-effective Moderna jab – which is 94.1 per cent effective.
NSW recorded three Covid-19 cases on Sunday all of which are in hotel quarantine, meaning the infected are returning citizens, after the state contained recent outbreaks in the Northern Beaches and Berala in Sydney’s west.
In Victoria, the state has gone an incredible 18 days without a single community transmission case following fears the Northern Beaches cluster would completely ruin their long standing streak after it spread across the border.
A group of bikini-clad women are seen enjoying the warm temperature on Sunday at St Kilda beach in Melbourne (pictured) as Australia recorded an entire week without a single new coronavirus case
St Kilda Beach in Melbourne was packed on Sunday as the state records no community transmission of Covid-19 for the 18th day in a row
After enduring a hard three-day lockdown in Brisbane, Queensland also recorded zero new cases of Covid-19.
The rest of the country have continued to record no community transmission as the virus is once again under control.
There is now a total of just 129 active cases of Covid-19 nationally with the rest in hotel quarantine as Australians enjoys some normalcy ahead of a vaccine rollout in February.
Most Australians will have the AstraZeneca vaccine and others will have access to Novavax, with just five million citizen getting Pfizer.
Moderna, of which Australia has zero orders for, and Pfizer have proved to be the most effective in clinical trials.
The reason for the government’s failure to secure a Moderna order has been shrouded in mystery, with the nation’s top doctor Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly only hinting that the company had been unwilling.
Victorians dressed up on a scorching hot day on Sunday in St Kilda, Melbourne, with restrictions eased to allow people to dine, drink and party – in stark contrast to huge swathes of the world
A group of friends cool down in the water at St Kilda beach after the state records zero cases of Covid-19 for the 18th day in a row
A health care worker tests people at a COVID-19 drive through testing clinic at Murarrie in Brisbane, Queensland (pictured) after the state brought its quarantine outbreak under control
In the meantime, beaches around the country were packed over the weekend with restrictions eased many weeks ago, in stark comparison to the strict lockdowns experienced across Europe.
Many of Australia’s close partners, including the UK and the US, are recording huge numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths.
In the past 24 hours, the United Kingdom recorded a massive 33,652 new Covid-19 cases and has suffered a total 97,518 deaths.
The situation is even more dire in the United States, where its Centre for Disease Control predicts there will be 465,000 to 508,000 total COVID-19 deaths by February 13.
So far, 417,000 deaths have been attributed to the deadly respiratory virus.
Brazil recorded almost double that of the UK total with 62,334 cases in the past 24 hours and a total of 216,445 deaths since the pandemic began.
Emergency staff carry a patient outside Royal London Hospital on January 22 (pictured) as the country suffers a brutal lockdown and a spike in deaths
A medical worker stands outside of a mobile COVID-19 testing lab in Brooklyn as the city begins to run low on the vaccine doses on January 22 (pictured). New York City was one of the places worst hit when the pandemic began
Theater for the New City, aka TNC, in Manhattan’s East Village remains closed following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on January 22 (pictured). In Australia, life is continuing relatively normally
AUSTRALIA’S CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE
Shortly after the World Health Organisation officially declared a pandemic on March 12, Australia initiated a number of strict lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
The borders were closed to all non-residents on March 20 and social distancing rules were introduced.
Anyone arriving from overseas were made to quarantine for two weeks in a hotel funded by the government. This later changed to guests having to pay for their own stay.
Hospitality venues, such as pubs, cafes, restaurants and clubs were forced to close, offering a take away service only.
The rules saw the number of cases drop significantly by April, with fewer than 20 cases reported each day by the end of the month across the whole country, allowing the tougher restrictions to be eased.
A second wave in Victoria in May was brought under control by a strict 112-day lockdown.
Masks are also mandatory on planes across the country, as well as airports.
But there are growing fears that the tables could be turned if Australia is unable to secure different vaccines, which are already being rolled out across the world and due to start Down Under in February.
Epidemiologist Zoe Hyde from the University of Western Australia told The Australian the country ‘urgently’ needed to diversify its vaccine purchases.
‘We should start by acquiring the Moderna vaccine,’ Dr Hyde said.
‘Its absence from Australia’s strategy is puzzling. We should seriously consider using the Moderna vaccine in preference to the Oxford/AstraZeneca one.
‘Not only does it have superior efficacy, it’s a more reliable long-term option.’
She said not only will the vaccine prevent disease, but it has a better change of delivering herd immunity.
AstraZeneca has been shown to be between 67 to 90 per cent effective, depending on a range of factors, including time between each of the two injections.
Cars line up at a drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site at Jones Beach State Park on January 14 in Wantagh, New York (pictured) as the nation battles a deadly new wave of the virus
Meanwhile in Australia, a couple enjoying the warm weather at St Kilda beach on Sunday are seen taking a selfie on Sunday (pictured) as locals enjoy eased restrictions and a relatively normal life
There are concerns Australia hasn’t secured enough vaccines from different supplies (pictured, the AstraZeneca vaccine, of which Australia has ordered 53.8 million doses)
The government has vowed to start its vaccine roll-out in February, beginning with vulnerable people in aged care facilities as well as healthcare workers.
It is understood that health chiefs haven’t been willing to rush through vaccine approval, as has been done elsewhere, as Australia isn’t suffering large outbreaks of the virus.
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese congratulated Australia’s efforts following a week of no community transmission.
‘Well done, Australia. A week without community transmission – all because of your hard work and your determination,’ he wrote.
‘Don’t forget – wearing masks and washing your hands are the real life savers. Now let’s keep going.’
Despite the nation recording a full week without new locally-acquired Covid-19 cases, three infections of the UK mutant strain have been detected in Australian Open hotel quarantine.
The strains were found after genomic testing, and extra precautions will be taken.
Health officials are still urging Australians to come forward for testing saying the numbers are too low.
Sewage testing also detected coronavirus fragments at Warriewood on the northern beaches and North Head, which takes in Manly. Recent sewage testing has also uncovered coronavirus fragments at Liverpool.
Victorians flocked to St Kilda beach on Sunday to cool down from scorching temperatures ahead of Australia Day on Tuesday (pictured) with parties planned across the country – a far cry from our overseas neighbours
A group of boys make the most of the hot temperature and cool down in the water while throwing around a ball (pictured in Melbourne on Sunday) as Australian life slowly returns to normal
WHICH VACCINES HAS AUSTRALIA SECURED?
Due to arrive early 2021, but is already being rolled out in the UK and elsewhere.
Australia secured a deal for 10 million doses. Each person would need two doses, meaning Australia’s initial order would only cover five million Australians.
Australia has ordered 40 million doses but it is still in the trial phase.
An extra 11 million doses have been ordered in recent weeks, taking the total to 51 million.
University of Oxford:
There have been 33.8 million doses secured for Australia. 20 million more doses have now been ordered, taking the total to 53.8 million.
University of Queensland:
Australia had ordered 51 million doses. However, the deal has been scrapped after trial participants returned false positive results for HIV.