Britain has bailed out Australia by giving the country 4million doses of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine in a landmark deal.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the doses were ‘on the tarmac’ ready to leave London and would be distributed in the next few weeks, doubling the amount of vaccines arriving in the country this month.
It has struggled with its vaccine rollout and is scrambling to secure extra jabs from allies around the world after only initially ordering 10million doses in November last year.
Half a million Pfizer doses yesterday landed in Australia after it secured a swap deal with Singapore.
Australia has one of the slowest vaccine rollouts among wealthy countries, with just 36.4 per cent of people over the age of 16 fully vaccinated, according to the Australian Immunisation Register.
The country’s two most populous states — Victoria and New South Wales — are in lockdown and counting on getting their residents vaccinated to contain the outbreak of the Delta variant, which began in Sydney in mid-June.
Face masks are mandatory in all public indoor places — including shops, offices, and common areas of apartment buildings — and outdoors unless exercising.
Those over 18 who do not wear or carry a face mask can be slapped with a $500 (£268) fine, with $80 (£43) and $40 (£21) penalties in place for younger age groups.
Australia will return the same ‘overall volume of doses’ before the end of the year, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the agreement will share doses ‘at the optimum time to bolster both our countries’ vaccination programmes’.
The arrangement will allow the UK to better align timings of vaccine supply with future need, including for any booster programme or extension of the rollout to younger teenagers, the DHSC said.
Mr Morrison said: ‘This means from Downing Street to Down Under, we are doubling down on what the Pfizer doses are here in Australia.
‘Thanks Boris, I owe you a beer.’
Britain has bailed out Australia by giving the country 4million doses of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine in a landmark deal. Pictured: Australian High Commisioner to the UK and Health Secretary Sajid Javid sign off on the deal
Australia’s two most populous states — Victoria and New South Wales — are in lockdown and counting on getting their residents vaccinated to contain the outbreak of the Delta variant. Graph shows: Covid cases in Victoria
Israel is now the world’s Covid hotspot: Cases soar despite country’s trail-blazing vaccine roll-out
Israel has become the Covid capital of the world despite leading the charge on vaccines, in a clear warning sign that Britain, the US and other highly-immunised nations are still vulnerable to another wave.
Stats compiled by Oxford University-backed research team Our World in Data shows there were a record 1,892 Covid cases per million people in Israel on Wednesday — nearly 0.2 per cent of the entire population in a single day.
That was significantly higher than second worst-hit Mongolia, where the rate was 1,119 per million, and double the figures for Kosovo (980), Georgia (976) and Montenegro (909), which rounded out the top five.
The figure only looks at one day’s worth of tests and Israel’s high rate is thought to have been driven up by a huge testing push ahead of schools reopening there.
But the country has consistently reported some of the highest infection rates in the world since mid-August amid an unprecedented third wave, despite being one of the most vaccinated nations in the world.
For comparison, 522 people per million in the UK tested positive yesterday and the figure was closer to 595 in the US. It suggests protection gained from vaccines is starting to buckle in the face of the highly-transmissible Delta variant.
Daily Mail Australia yesterday revealed Mr Morrison was on the cusp of clinching his third international vaccine deal after previous agreements with Poland and Singapore but was not expecting any help from US President Joe Biden.
The vaccines will be distributed between the states and territories on a per capita basis and in return Australia will send 4million Pfizer doses to London in December to assist with the UK’s booster program.
Mr Morrison said: ‘It is a good deal because it makes the most of the doses that they have now, which we need. And the doses that we will have later that they will need.
‘So this is just a good deal and it’s a good deal between mates.
‘I want to thank very, very much Prime Minister Johnson. He and I started discussing this some time ago.
‘I want to thank him for his personal commitment to this. And his great friendship with Australia.’
Australia’s Prime Minister added the deal was also helped by his friendship with Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
He said: ‘I want to thank also health minister Sajid Javid who I have known for some time… and his ability to progress with Greg Hunt, our minister, and I thank Greg and all of his team.
‘There’s been some very late-night discussions and negotiations and legal work taking place, especially over the course of the past week, to bring this to conclusion.’
Following the announcement of the agreement with Australia, Mr Javid said: ‘Vaccines have built a strong wall of defence in the UK and we want to support nations around the world in recovering from Covid-19 and improving access to vaccines.
‘Our agreement with Australia will share doses at the optimum time to bolster both our countries’ vaccination programmes.
‘By working with international partners to coordinate the rollout of life-saving vaccines, we will protect more people from this awful virus and save lives.’
The first batch of 292,000 doses to Australia is due to be shipped shortly.
Australia will get 4million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in a swap deal with the UK. Pictured: Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson in the UK in June
New South Wales declared a record 1,290 new cases as the nation struggles to contain the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, with over 1,300 nationwide
A man was filmed being arrested in George’s Hall, in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA in Sydney’s Covid hit south-western suburbs, for not wearing a face mask
Covid infections soar in Australia’s most populous states
New South Wales, on Friday reported its deadliest day of the pandemic with 12 fatalities and a record 1,431 new infections. The state government predicted the daily death toll will peak next month if the pace of vaccination is maintained.
The state government plans to triple the number of intensive care unit beds and staff in October when the number of Covid patients are expected to peak, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
She expects 70% of the population aged 16 and older in her state will be fully vaccinated by mid-October.
The outbreak that began in Sydney in June has spread to Melbourne, Australia´s second-most populous city and the capital of Victoria state.
Victoria reported 208 new infections in the last 24 hours and a single death.
New South Wales and Victoria are in lockdown and see increased vaccinations as the only way to safely ease pandemic restrictions.
The Australia Capital Territory still hopes that its lockdown will stamp out delta. The rest of Australia remains virtually free of the virus.
Last month the government bought 1million Pfizer doses from Poland and secured 500,000 from Singapore in a swap deal.
The latest deal with the UK means there will now be 10million MRNA vaccine doses entering Australia this month, including 9million Pfizer and 1million Moderna in the second half of September.
‘This means that every Australian will be able to come forward as early as possible to be vaccinated if they have not yet,’ Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
So far 36 per cent of over 16s are fully vaccinated and 60 per cent have had one dose.
The announcement came two hours before a national cabinet meeting in which the state premiers planned to discuss beefing up hospital capacity to deal with increased numbers of Covid patients.
New South Wales recorded and all-time high 1,4131 cases on Friday and 12 deaths as Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned of higher numbers in coming weeks.
‘The worst number of cases is likely to occur in the next fortnight,’ she told reporters.
‘Because after that time the number of vaccinations we’ve put into the community, especially in those local government areas of concern, will start having effect.’
This morning Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk insisted she would stick to the national re-opening plan which allows Australia to live with Covid when 70 per cent of over 16s are vaccinated.
She had previously come under fire for raising fears that children under 12, who cannot be vaccinated due to their age, would be vulnerable if she opened her borders – even though health experts say children normally only suffer a mild illness.
The Prime Minister has been scrambling to secure extra Pfizer from allies around the world after only initially ordering 10million doses in November last year.
The US is often described as Australia’s most important ally but President Joe Biden has not handed Canberra a single Covid-19 vaccine. Pictured: UK PM Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden at the G7 summit in the UK in June
The US is seen as Australia’s most important ally but President Joe Biden has not handed Canberra a single Covid vaccine.
The President has already donated more than 110million vaccines around the world — including 2.5million to Canada and 3.5million to Argentina — but his focus is on saving lives, protecting America’s neighbours and assisting poor countries, meaning wealthy Australia is down his donation list.
Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said it was embarrassing that Australia had to ask allies for help.
‘The fact that a country with Australia’s resources has to go around asking other countries for vaccines is another sign that this is the biggest government failure in memory,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It all comes back to Mr Morrison doing too little, too late — failing to order enough vaccines last year — and it’s Australians paying the price.’
The government initially ordered 10million Pfizer vaccines before upping this to 40million due to changing health advice around AstraZeneca.
Australia has ordered 85million Pfizer vaccines to arrive from early next year to act as booster shots.