A fresh outbreak of infections in Victoria’s coronavirus hot zone in Australia seemed to have eased on Wednesday, as the nation signed an agreement to obtain a new COVID-19 vaccine it plans to carry out to its people at no cost. Australia signed an agreement with British drugmaker AstraZeneca (AZN.L) to manufacture and distribute ample doses of a possible coronavirus vaccine for its 25 million-strong population, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said late Tuesday.
Last month, AstraZeneca said strong data on its COVID-19 vaccine had come in so far, already in large-scale clinical trials and generally seen as the front runner in the quest for a shot at the novel coronavirus. The vaccine, known as AZD1222, was developed by Oxford University of Britain, and licensed to AstraZeneca. A flare-up in infections in the second most populous state of Victoria in Australia prompted authorities two weeks ago to enforce a nighttime curfew, tighten controls on the movements of people and order major sections of the state economy to close.
In recent days, the southeastern state has seen a slowdown in new cases, allaying concerns of a second national outbreak of infections. In the last 24 hours Victoria registered 216 new daily incidents, compared to 222 a day earlier. It announced 12 deaths on Tuesday, as opposed to 17. Despite seeing a surge in new infections over the past month, Australia narrowly escaped other nations’ high losses with just under 24,000 infections and 450 virus deaths.