Australia’s Victoria declares city closure again as European drugmakers launch late-stage vaccine clinical trials

The southern Australian state of Victoria will implement a week-long city closure starting Thursday to control the spread of a new coronavirus outbreak.

The closure order comes after health authorities announced 12 new confirmed cases in Melbourne, raising the number of confirmed cases in the state capital to 26.

Acting Governor James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne that the new outbreak was due to “a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of the virus, that is spreading at a faster rate than is known.” The new case is linked to an overseas traveler who contracted a variant of the virus first identified in India during a mandatory hotel quarantine phase.

During the new closure, local residents will only be allowed out of the house for essential work, classes, shopping, nursing, sports and medical reasons, in addition to residents going out for scheduled vaccinations.

This is the fourth city closure in Victoria since the outbreak of the pandemic. The most intense closure was in mid-2020, which lasted more than three months. At the time, Victoria was in the midst of the second wave of the new crown outbreak. More than 800 people died during that wave of the epidemic.

Acting Governor Merino has imposed a series of new restrictions on the second most populous state in Australia, including limiting the size of public gatherings and requiring masks in restaurants, hotels and other indoor public places by June 4.

New vaccine enters clinical trials

Two European pharmaceutical giants, France’s Sanofi and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline, announced Thursday that smaller vaccine trials have yielded positive results and that the rDNA vaccine, which is still in the experimental phase, will soon enter late-stage clinical trials.

The larger-scale trial will be conducted in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the United States and will involve more than 35,000 adults.

The drug makers will test the efficacy of the new vaccine in two phases, with the first phase targeting the original version of the coronavirus and the second phase targeting the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa.

In the coming weeks, tests will also be conducted against the Sanofi-GSK vaccine to determine whether it can be used as a booster for previous vaccinations, regardless of what the recipient was originally vaccinated with.

A Sanofi executive said the vaccine could be licensed for use in the last quarter of this year if the Phase III trial is successful.