Troy Cassar-Daley performs during the 2020 Tamworth Country Music Festival (Image: AAP/Peter Lorimer)

Vaccine trial paused

Days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison triumphantly announced that a deal with AstraZeneca could mean Australians were vaccinated by January, the company’s stage three clinical trial has been paused over safety concerns.

The trial, conducted by the company and the University of Oxford, was suspended after a participant in the United Kingdom had a serious adverse reaction.

We don’t know much about what that reaction is, but AstraZeneca called the pause “a routine action whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in a large trial”.

In other vaccine news, nine drug companies, including AstraZeneca, have signed a pledge that they will only put forward vaccines that had been thoroughly tested.

Their commitment doesn’t mention US President Donald Trump, but he has claimed there could be a vaccine ready before the November election, which scientists are worried could undermine public confidence in any vaccine.

The magic number

Overnight, Victoria recorded 76 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths. The latest figures mean the state’s 14-day average is still 81. That’s well above the magic number of 50, which the state government has set as necessary to loosen restrictions from September 28.

UK cracks down on gatherings

The UK will limit social gatherings to six people from September 14 over concerns about rising COVID-19 infections. On Sunday it recorded nearly 3000 new cases, the highest daily figure since May.

The new restrictions come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock blamed young people not complying with social distancing rules for the spike.

At the same time, the British government has been trying hard to push people back towards normal, pre-pandemic behaviour in an attempt to stimulate a dormant economy. The country’s Eat Out Help Out scheme subsidised restaurants to lure diners back out with the promise of subsidised meals. And Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants Britons to return to working from offices.

Meanwhile, British tabloid The Sun has reported that Victoria and David Beckham (“POSH & BUGS”) are worried they’re “super-spreaders” of the virus after catching it in Los Angeles and returning to the UK.

COVID-19 silences country

Tamworth’s Country Music Festival is the latest event to fall victim to COVID-19 after the northern NSW town’s council voted to suspend the January event.

The festival, which has run every year since 1972, is the second-largest country music festival in the world after Nashville’s. And unsurprisingly that means a major tourism boost for the region every January.

Its cancellation comes less than a week after Victoria’s Meredith Music Festival was also forced to pull the plug.