Australia’s death toll from the coronavirus has climbed to 107 after a Victorian man in his 90s died overnight.
It came as the outbreak-hit Victorian state recorded another 216 COVID-19 cases on Saturday.
It had confirmed a record 288 cases on Friday, the same day as the World Health Organisation reported the biggest one-day increase of new cases globally at 228,102.
However, there was some positive news as the Therapeutic Goods Administration gave provisional approval in Australia to a drug – Remdesivir – that can improve the recovery time of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
The intravenous drug by US company Gilead Sciences is the most promising treatment so far to reduce hospitalisation time for those suffering from severe coronavirus infections, the TGA said in a statement.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said the TGA approval is significant although warned none of these medications have yet to prove to be a “silver bullet”.
“None of the international trials that have been conducted in Remdesivir have shown marked results, but they have shown some results that indicate it might be effective in patients with moderate to severe coronavirus disease,” Dr Coatsworth told reporters in Canberra
On the timing of a vaccine he remained cautious.
“I think we need to prepare ourselves for a world where a vaccine is not available for potentially 18 to 24 months,” he said.
“(But) there is so much effort going into this, we should be hopeful that we can get a vaccine for COVID-19.”
Meanwhile in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews concedes the renewed lock-down in metropolitan Melbourne is frustrating.
“As inconvenient and as challenging as it is, we cannot deny the reality of the situation we face, and we cannot pretend that doing anything other than following the rules will get us to the other side of this,” he said.
He also asked Victorians not spend time trying to find ways to get around the lockdown rules and instead follow them.
One of seven new NSW infections was a male in his 20s from Melbourne, who had towed his caravan up from Victoria on July 7.
The number of confirmed cases across the country now stands at over 9580 after there were also two more cases in Queensland and two in Western Australia.
In both states these were people returning from overseas, as are five of the NSW infections.
Such has been the pace of the COVID-19 spread on home soil, the federal government is halving international flight arrivals to ease pressure on hotel quarantine systems.
Returning Australians will also be made to pay for their two-week stay in hotel quarantine.
Federal government minister Darren Chester said Australia needs to get on top of the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure there is capacity to cope with those entering the quarantine period.
“We’ve seen the case here in Victoria where the quarantine hasn’t worked for a variety of reasons,” Mr Chester, a Victorian himself, told ABC television.
“But we need to make sure that we are able to cope with the number of returning passengers from overseas.”
Labor frontbencher Josh Wilson hopes the cost of quarantine doesn’t become a barrier for Australians needing to return home.
“It’s not unreasonable to consider people making a contribution to the costs of quarantine but … you’d hope that that cost is reasonable, and that there’s some consideration of people’s capacity to pay,” Mr Wilson told ABC television.