Australia’s prime minister has said he wants to make any potential Covid-19 vaccine mandatory as he outlined plans to “return the country to normal life” after battling a second wave of the virus.
With governments around the world anticipating resistance to compulsory inoculation from anti-vaxx groups and a sceptical public, Scott Morrison said the aim was to get 95 per cent of the population to have the jab and that he was "expecting" that it would be compulsory except on medical grounds.
"I would expect it to be as mandatory as you can possibly make," Mr Morrison said in a radio interview. "We're talking about a pandemic that has destroyed the global economy and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands all around the world, and over 430 Australians. So, you know, we need the most extensive and comprehensive response to this to get Australia back to normal."
But the difficulties in ensuring take-up of the vaccine were highlighted by a survey in the UK this month that concluded that only half of British people would definitely have a jab to guard against Covid-19.
The coronavirus has now infected more than 22 million people around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University tracker, driven by continuing large numbers of cases in the United States, Brazil and India. More than 777,000 people have died.
A leading scientist has suggested that the increasingly common mutation of the coronavirus found in Europe, North America and parts of Asia may be more infectious but less deadly than the strain that hit China in January and February.
Paul Tambyah, senior consultant at Singapore's National University Hospital and president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, said that evidence suggested the proliferation of the so-called D614G mutation in some parts of the world had coincided with a drop in death rates, suggesting it was less lethal than previously feared.
“Maybe that’s a good thing to have a virus that is more infectious but less deadly,” he says, adding that most viruses tend to become less virulent as they mutate.
However, the virus is continuing to wreak havoc across the world with South Korea recording its biggest increase in new daily cases since March on Wednesday.
New cases rose by 297, including 283 local infections, raising the total to 16,058, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New daily cases have been running in three figures for a week, forcing renewed social distancing measures and the closure nightclubs, bars and cafes.
There is particular concern about the virus taking hold in the capital, Seoul, where a large cluster has been linked to the Sarang Jeil church.
In New Zealand, about 500 extra defence force personnel will be deployed to quarantine hotels, making a total military deployment of 1,200 to combat the latest outbreak in the country which saw six new cases on Wednesday.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said: "This boost in staff will be progressively rolled out over six weeks ... by scaling up our defence force staff we can stop using private security contractors, and replace them with defence force staff."
New data released by Statistics New Zealand also showed 1,200 fewer people died this year than during the same period last year. It was also the lowest death rate since 2016.
Though a definitive conclusion is not yet available, Professor Nick Wilson at the University of Otago told local media that fewer respiratory diseases had been circulating this year, and the air was clearer of pollution during the two months of lockdown.
Wilson said. “Lockdown must have just stopped these things... There will have been fewer elderly people dying of pneumonia because of reduced circulating viruses. – Guardian