Coronavirus live: UK health secretary ‘not considering’ October firebreak; New Zealand rethinks opening borders | World news


Australia to support vaccine waiver after months of pressure from human rights groups



Victoria Police in Australia say future organised large gatherings will not be tolerated, and police will act on intelligence to stop them, after dozens of worshippers gathered near a synagogue in south-east Melbourne earlier this week, in breach of Covid-19 lockdown rules.

Six people so far have been fined $5,452 each for the illegal gathering in Ripponlea on Tuesday morning, held to mark the start of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

On Tuesday afternoon, officers surrounded both front and back entrances of the building, where an Orthodox Jewish group was believed to be congregating upstairs.

The standoff ended shortly after 8pm, with several people filing outside. Police are still looking to speak to some of those in attendance, and are investigating the alleged assault of a cameraman.

“Victoria Police will not tolerate anyone organising large gatherings or the encouragement of others to attend such events,” a Victoria Police spokesperson said.

“Our focus is to ensure community safety for all Victorians and we will continue to act on intelligence and information gathered targeting those organising such events and inciting breaches of [chief health officer] directions.”

Read more of Josh Taylor’s report: Victoria Police ‘will not tolerate’ anyone organising further gatherings against Covid rules



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The logistics of how Australia acquired and rolled out vaccines are under scrutiny again, as our Australian chief political correspondent Sarah Martin reports:

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer asked for a meeting with the Australian health minister Greg Hunt last June offering “millions of doses” of its coveted Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2020, documents released under freedom of information show.

But the correspondence with the company and the federal health department, released to Labor, shows that despite its request to meet with Hunt and senior departmental executives, a department first assistant secretary, Lisa Schofield, offered to meet company representatives instead.

In an email dated 30 June 2020, Pfizer Australia said the company would be “able to make senior members of Pfizer’s global leadership team available for this discussion, particularly if the Minister and/or Departmental leadership can be involved”.

“As the vaccine development landscape is moving swiftly, including through engagements with other nations, I am requesting this meeting occur at the earliest opportunity.”

In an attached letter to Hunt, the company said it was actively scaling up its manufacturing and distribution ability, and requested a meeting with Hunt to discuss Australia’s planned vaccination programme.

Read more of Sarah Martin’s report here: Pfizer asked to meet with Greg Hunt about ‘millions of doses’ of vaccine but was offered bureaucrat instead


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New Zealand to rethink plan to reopen borders amid Delta outbreak

New Zealand’s plans to reopen its borders to the world early next year will have to undergo a complete reworking, the government has warned, as the country races to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.

The nation recorded 15 new cases of coronavirus in the community on Wednesday, bringing the total number in the outbreak to 855.

It was the fifth day in a row that case numbers have been at or below 21, in an encouraging sign the country is on its way to stamping out the virus. But how the virus got into the community in the first place remains a mystery.

All of the new cases were in Auckland, which remains in a level 4 lockdown until next week, and all but two were epidemiologically linked to existing cases. There were 25 unlinked cases in total. Three-quarters of the recorded cases were in isolation throughout the period they were infected.

The rest of the country was in level 2, although some restrictions remained on gathering size and using masks in some public places.

The likelihood of New Zealand reopening its border to the world any time soon is looking less promising. The country has had strict border measures in place since the pandemic started:

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