vaccine oxford astrazeneca
(Image: University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)

UNDER STRAIN

A small-scale, not-peer-reviewed trial by the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg has suggested the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine provides only minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infections of the South African COVID-19 variant, which was first identified in mid-November 2020.

While The Guardian notes that researchers are still hopeful the drug offers significant protection against more serious infections — which were not studied; the “10% efficacy” claim only relates to the mild-moderate cases — South Africa has nonetheless halted the vaccine’s roll-out.

Pofessor of vaccinology at Oxford University Sarah Gilbert has told the BBC developers are likely to have a modified jab by spring [autumn in the UK] to combat the new variant.

PS: The news comes after Victoria announced a new daily testing scheme for hotel quarantine workers even on their days off, while genomic testing is yet to show which, if any, variant the state’s latest case may have. The NT has also removed 10 declared hotspots from the state and added three more.

PPS: To stay up-to-date on COVID-19 variants, be sure to check out this excellent SMH explainer.

THOUSANDS PROTEST IN MYANMAR

Police in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw have used a water cannon on protesters, as Al Jazeera reports that thousands enter their third day of nationwide strikes against the military coup.

Martial law has also been declared in parts of Myanmar’s second-largest city, Mandalay, with ABC noting that protests for the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi were met with unspecified threats of “action” via state TV.

As The Guardian reports, Myanmar’s junta has “imposed a curfew and banned gatherings of more than five people in the country’s two biggest cities”, with gatherings “now illegal in at least seven areas in Yangon and Mandalay”.

PS: A little further west, the ABC reports that thousands of Indian farmers blockaded several major highways near Delhi on Saturday in the wake of controversial farming laws and police tactics i.e. the suspension of internet services and “sedition” charges filed against journalists.

GIVEN A COAL RECEPTION

According to The Australian ($), ANZ has refused to keep funding the world’s largest coal export port at Newcastle as part of its new climate change policy, with National Australia Bank now set to step in and underwrite the gateway.

The news comes after AGL Energy last week issued a historic write-down of its production assets and contracts by $2.7 billion, along with similar devaluations by Origin Energy and the Queensland government’s coal generators.

And, as the Morrison government continues to tease a diluted, resoundingly insufficient 2050 target and defends a do-nothing electric vehicle plan, The New Daily explains that Australian products entering the EU are on track to be hit by a cross-border carbon tariff because we put no price on carbon.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

What we call pork barrelling is investment … I dare you to turn up to these communities and tell them why they don’t deserve these projects.

When you think about it, every single election that every party goes to, we make commitments. You want to call that pork barrelling, you want to call that buying votes, it’s what the elections are for.

John Barilaro

The deputy NSW premier bravely hits out at “the mistruths spun about pork barrelling” by labelling it a necessary byproduct of governing regional areas. Except when a council lands in a Labor-held Blue Mountains seat, in which case it’s an application issue.

CRIKEY RECAP

Eric Abetz’s war on Chinese Australians has Beijing rubbing its hands

“Last week Liberal Senator Eric Abetz doubled down on his personal attacks against three respected Chinese Australians who appeared before a Senate committee looking into issues facing diaspora communities in October last year.

“Speaking at the tabling of the committee’s report, he called them ‘apologists’ and described their actions as ‘heinous’.

“What had they done to earn this latest rebuke? Nothing in the opening statements of the three witnesses back in October suggested they were apologists for Beijing. No. It was their response to Abetz’s gotcha demand to ‘unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dictatorship’ that put them in his sights.”


Morrison’s non-target target is vanishing before it even existed

“To get an example of why climate politics in Australia is so enraging, witness the last 24 hours.

“Michael McCormack, acting Nationals leader, yesterday decided to push back against any suggestions of a 2050 net zero emissions target by saying agriculture would be exempt.

“His specific reason? The basis for exempting what, in non-drought years, makes up about 16% of Australia’s emissions? ‘We are not going to hurt those wonderful people that put food on our table.’”


Who swats a national treasure? Opera Australia’s PR coup turns into a farce

“As if our leading arts company didn’t have enough to worry about with COVID restrictions and financial pressures. The last thing Opera Australia needed right now was Nicole Kidman getting ‘swatted’ in the stalls.

“In the most bizarre story of the weekend, it emerged that Nicole and hubby Keith Urban were involved in a fracas with another audience member while attending a recent performance of The Merry Widow at the usually sedate Sydney Opera House.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Nick Kyrgios beats Frederico Ferreira Silva in straight sets to warm into Australian Open campaign

NSW transport boss to receive more than $800,000 payout

Andrew Forrest’s philanthropic foundation condemns China’s treatment of Uyghurs

China confirms detained Australian Cheng Lei is accused of leaking state secrets, as her family break their silence

Sydney lockout laws: NSW government to abolish final remaining rules ($)

‘Unacceptable and insulting’: Open letter calls on McGuire to quit

Nick Scali repays JobKeeper following political pressure

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu pleads not guilty as corruption trial resumes weeks before election

THE COMMENTARIAT

Canberra must take the initiative in quarantine systemEditorial (The Age): “When hotel quarantine was first implemented last year after a meeting of the national cabinet on March 27, each state was given less than two days to establish their own program. There was little in the way of national guidelines or ground rules they had to follow. Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered some logistical and other support, but he made clear that ‘arrangements will be run by the state and territory governments in each state’.”

Labor must connect with ‘anger in the suburbs’ ($) — Troy Bramston (The Australian): “Chris Bowen has outlined a persuasive roadmap for Labor renewal and revival, combining public policy and political strategy, in a new book to be published this month. He examines why centre-left political parties, including his own, have lost voters to the centre-right in recent decades and articulates how to win them back to the fold.”

What if we never recover? — Lucia Osborne-Crowley (Meanjin): “Some patients who are infected with the COVID-19 virus find they continue to have debilitating symptoms for months after the illness has left their bodies. They report crippling fatigue, pain all over the body, and particularly in the joints, inexplicable heart palpitations and a near-constant racing heart, diarrhoea, cramping, insomnia, and most of all, a terrifying brain fog. They report a loss of short-term memory, as if something has just disappeared.”

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Canberra

  • Shadow minister for government accountability Kristina Keneally will deliver “Who does the Morrison government stand for?” at the National Press Club.

Peter Fray

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