Australia’s medical regulator has approved use of its first coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for inoculations to begin next month

SYDNEY — Australia’s medical regulator has approved use of its first coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for inoculations to begin next month.

Australia has an agreement for 10 million doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine and an option to buy more if supplies allow.

Australia is aiming to complete inoculations by October. The nation of 26 million people has reported fewer than 30,000 virus cases and a little over 900 deaths.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— A lockdown in part of Hong Kong’s Kowloon neighborhood was lifted Monday after thousands of residents were tested for the virus. The lockdown that began early Saturday covered 16 buildings in the working-class Yau Tsim Mong district. During the lockdown, residents were not allowed to leave their premises until they had tested negative for the coronavirus. The district has been at the center of a worsening coronavirus outbreak, with over 160 cases reported over the first three weeks in January. Higher concentrations of the virus were also found in sewage samples, prompting fears the virus could be transmitted via poorly installed plumbing systems in subdivided units that lack ventilation. The government said in a statement early Monday that about 7,000 people were tested for the coronavirus during the lockdown, with 13 positive infections found. As of Sunday, Hong Kong has reported 10,086 cases of the coronavirus overall, with 169 deaths recorded.

— Health officials in New Zealand say genome tests indicate the country’s most recent COVID-19 patient in the community contracted the virus from another returning traveler just before leaving quarantine. The case represents the first time the virus has breached a quarantine facility in more than two months, after New Zealand eliminated community spread of the virus. However, there was no evidence Monday that the virus has spread any further. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the 56-year-old woman had recently returned from Europe. During her mandatory two weeks in quarantine, she tested negative twice. She developed symptoms at home later and tested positive. Officials say the woman appears to have caught the more infectious South African variant of the virus from another traveler on her second-to-last day in quarantine, and they’re investigating how the health breach happened.



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