The resumption of clinical trials of the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine offers genuine hope for Australians as the death toll continues to climb.
Clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccine resumed after getting the go-ahead from UK medical authorities and following the suspension last week over a reported side-effect in a patient.
The Australian federal government has a deal for 34 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine to be distributed next year if trials succeed.
Mr Hunt said the suspension was an ordinary part of a safeguards process whenever there is an adverse event and people don’t know at the time of the event whether it is related to the vaccine or not.
“For us, number one is safety, that trumps everything,” Mr Hunt told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
“There is genuine cause for hope and optimism for Australians.”
The positive news came as Victoria reported seven more deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 723 and the national count to 810 since the start of the pandemic.
Still, Victoria also announced 41 new infections, keeping the state on track for its plan to ease lockdown restrictions in coming weeks. Regional Victoria is expected to ease its restrictions within days.
Victoria’s two weeks of low infection rates has prompted Premier Daniel Andrews to indicate the possibility that regional Victoria could jump two steps out of lockdown by mid-next week.
This will allow, among other things, regional residents to go out for a coffee or meal.
Mr Hunt also announced that from Monday Victorians will have access to additional mental health support with 15 new dedicated clinics opening.
“Our government recognises that the ongoing restrictions are having a significant impact on the wellbeing and mental health of individuals and communities in Victoria, and is committed to ensuring that support is available,” Mr Hunt said.
He said these new clinics, branded with the HeadtoHelp logo, are a free service and, over the next 12 months, will provide a place within the community for people to access mental health care as early and as conveniently as possible.
The clinics are part of a $31.9 million mental health package announced in August.
Virus hotspots are expected to be a focus at this week’s national cabinet meeting as the federal government wants the states to adopt a similar approach to the Northern Territory.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s self-described “nation-leading” policy, recently including a decision to let in Sydneysiders without quarantine from October 9, is in contrast to the states with hard border closures.