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    Vic on the fast track to COVID freedoms

    Victoria is on track to reach its next major vaccination target ahead of schedule as Melbourne prepares to exit lockdown, meaning more freedoms are fewer than two weeks away. The city will emerge from its sixth shutdown at 11:59pm on Thursday, five days…
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    Victoria ends lockdown five days early

    Victoria will end its sixth long-running lockdown five days earlier than planned, as the state races to its 70 per cent fully vaccinated target. Premier Daniel Andrews made the announcement on Sunday, saying now was the time for Victorians to celebrate. "As…
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    "Not out of the woods yet", 51 casual contacts of infected teen

    The number of casual contacts linked to the COVID-positive Launceston teenager who breached quarantine has risen to 51. "They're mostly people who were at the airport at the same time as the case, or at the IGA. Those numbers have come up a little bit since…
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    COVID case breached home quarantine without mask

    Investigations have revealed a COVID positive Launceston teenager left home quarantine without a mask to go to a local supermarket with his cousin. The IGA at Newnham between 2:20pm and 2:45pm on Saturday October 2 has been declared an exposure site. Anyone…
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    New Vic restrictions as Gutwein dismisses Flight Centre legal threat

    The Premier isn't fazed at threats of legal action from the Flight Centre boss about ongoing state border closures. Graham Turner has flagged suing lockout states including Tasmania if they don't reveal "reasonable" reopening plans in coming weeks Peter…
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    Vic roadmap unveiled, 7 day lockdown for Geelong

    Melbourne's controversial curfew will be scrapped, with people able to travel up to 25 kilometres and have a beer outside the pub once 70 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But the most substantial changes to the…
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    Regional Victoria exits COVID-19 lockdown

    A Lockdown will be lifted in regional Victoria, with the exception of the town of Shepparton which is still battling a coronavirus outbreak. The state has recorded 221 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, but most are in Melbourne. "Regional…
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    Virus 'ripping families apart': Syd nurse

    An intensive care nurse working in one of NSW's worst COVID-19 hotspots says the virus is "ripping families apart" and taking an enormous physical and emotional toll on healthcare workers. More than 870 COVID-19 patients are in hospital in NSW, with 143 in…
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    SA names sites linked to infected truckies

    South Australian authorities have identified petrol stations linked to truck drivers who travelled through three states in WA, before testing positive to COVID-19. The two drivers were tested as part of routine surveillance in NSW on Wednesday, but being…
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    Regional Victoria to return to lockdown

    Regional Victorians will re-enter lockdown at 1pm on Saturday as authorities scramble to contain a COVID-19 outbreak centred on the city of Shepparton. Victoria recorded 61 new locally acquired virus cases on Saturday, including 39 in the community while…
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    Launceston "clear" of COVID scare

    Tasmania's Director of Public Health says the coronavirus scare in Lauceston earlier this month is now well and truly behind us. A traveller from Sydney, who came without a border pass via Melbourne, tested positive in hotel quarantine at Peppers Seaport then…
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    Woman pinged for border breach

    There's a stark warning to travellers attempting to breach Fortress Tasmania. A woman who arrived in Launceston on a flight from Sydney at the weekend has become the first to receive the now-doubled fine of $1557. The Tasmanian, aged in her 70s, was fined…
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    Melbourne lockdown extended, curfew back

    Melbourne's lockdown has been extended by two weeks and a night curfew will be reimposed, in an effort to stamp out the state's latest outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant. Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday announced the extension, as well as a raft of…
  • Coronavirus latest news2

    QR codes for taxis and Ubers after Launceston scare

    Tasmania is yet to detect any COVID cases after an infected man's brief stay in a Launceston quarantine hotel last week. A total of more than 6000 tests have come back negative in the five days after the man's positive test and the situation is now considered…
  • Aurora

    Hawks vs Pies in Launceston called off

    Collingwood's first ever AFL match in Tasmania has been abandoned after the state's first coronavirus case in 238 days sent hundreds of Launcestonians into isolation. The highly anticipated Sunday fixture at UTAS Stadium was a sell out, despite the crowd…
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    Vic to enter its sixth lockdown at 8pm

    Victoria will enter a seven-day lockdown in an effort to contain a growing outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant in Melbourne's western suburbs. Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the lockdown will begin at 8pm on Thursday, after the state recorded eight new…
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    Qld arrivals nabbed for flagrant COVID rule breach

    Police appear to have finally lost patience with those flouting Tasmanian Health's stay-at-home orders in the wake of the Queensland COVID-19 Delta outbreak. Two people who recently arrived in Launceston from south east Queensland have been fined $774 each.…
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    SA considers tougher Queensland rules

    South Australians in Queensland have been urged to consider returning as soon as possible as the Sunshine State continues to battle a COVID-19 outbreak. With southeast Queensland in lockdown, SA residents are still allowed to return provided they spend 14…
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    Victoria tightens border bubble with NSW

    Victoria is tightening the NSW border bubble, banning non-essential movement across state lines over the threat of Sydney's worsening COVID-19 outbreak. From 11.59pm on Tuesday, border bubble residents will only be able to cross state lines for six reasons…
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    No new virus infections in South Australia

    South Australia will end its COVID-19 lockdown on schedule after reporting no new virus infections. Premier Steven Marshall says the result is a "huge relief" and will allow the shutdown to end at one minute past midnight on Wednesday. "So a massive thank you…

Ferrets will reveal if virus vaccines work

Generic image inside a lab at the CSIRO's high-containment facility in Geelong, Friday, January 31, 2020. CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, has commenced key research in the rapid global response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. (AAP Image/David Crosling) NO ARCHIVING

Australian scientists from the CSIRO have been trusted to determine if the two vaccine candidates are effective and safe enough to test on humans (AAP Image/David Crosling)

Ferrets at a high-security Victorian lab will determine if two potential coronavirus vaccines can proceed to human trials within months.

Australian scientists from the CSIRO have been trusted to determine if the two vaccine candidates are effective and safe enough to test on humans.

If all goes well with the ferrets, phase-one human trials could begin later this month or in early June.

But even then, a vaccine won't be widely available until the end of the year at the earliest.

"The end of the year would be an optimist's view. Early next year would be closer to the reality, all things working well," the CSIRO's director of health and biosecurity Rob Grenfell told reporters on Thursday.

The agency will spend the next few months working out if the candidates - developed by the University of Oxford and US company Inovio Pharmaceuticals - are effective and harmless.

The ferrets, deliberately infected at a high-containment biosecurity facility in Geelong, were vaccinated a few days ago.

They seem relatively well so far apart from having slight fevers.

"Eventually we will challenge the ferrets - we'll inoculate them with some of the virus and see how they compare to unvaccinated controls," said Professor Trevor Drew, the director of the CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

If the vaccines are effective, immunised animals should no longer shed the virus.

Scientists will also be looking for any sign the ferrets' health is worsening, with previous trials for the SARS virus showing vaccines can sometimes make a disease worse.

"When cells of the immune system see an infected cell, they tell it to kill itself. This can cause overt damage to the lung, if there are a lot of cells in the lung which are infected at that time," Prof Drew said.

"We need to be able to measure defence responses and make sure it does not cause overt damage."

The work the scientists are doing would usually take a couple of years. But the urgency of the pandemic means everything is being done safely, but at break-neck speed.

Several rounds of human trials will be required if the ferret trials are deemed successful.

The potential vaccines are among six to be tested around the world.

They were identified by Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, in consultation with the World Health Organisation, as the most promising solutions to a virus that has infected more than 900,000 people and killed at least 45,000 globally.

Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has warned the virus will not be beaten without a vaccine, as the nation's number of diagnosed cases approaches 5000 with 23 deaths so far.

Asked how much hope people should have, Dr Grenfell said the world was seeing unprecedented cooperation among scientists and the public and private sectors.

"That, in itself, gives us a lot of hope."

Ferrets were chosen as the test animal because it has the right receptor cells in its lungs to allow infection, and has proven to be a suitable animal model in the past for research into SARS, influenza and even ebola.

© AAP 2020

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