Ten million tests hailed as achievement

Health Minister Greg Hunt says hitting the mark of 10 million coronavirus tests is a significant national achievement.

However, the fact that the global death tally is about to get to 1.5 million this week – and Australia continues to record deaths – shows the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.

A Victorian woman aged in her seventies has died from coronavirus – the first death in over a month – taking the national toll to 908.

The death came as Australia received international praise for its efforts in containing the pandemic.

White House virus adviser Dr Anthony Fauci used several media interviews to applaud Australia’s ability to “uniformly implement public health measures” to deal with surges.

“Dr Anthony Fauci said … Australia has been the epitome of success and that is an outcome that is to be attributed to many, many people,” Mr Hunt told federal parliament on Monday.

“In particular we owe our work to the very clear plan that Australia set out right from the outset, containment to flatten the curve and the building of capacity to protect Australians.

“That proposal with regards to capacity saw us reach over 40 million telehealth consultations last week (and) we are likely to pass 10 million tests … an extraordinary national achievement.”

The woman who died was a previously-cleared case who suffered complications relating to her original diagnosis.

“She was part of a small group of cases diagnosed in late July,” the Victorian health department said on Monday.

“She was cleared as an active case in late September. In line with the national case definition, this is a COVID-related death as no recovery occurred from time of infection.”

The most recent Australian virus fatalities were two Victorians on October 28.

Australia’s coronavirus tracing app is set to receive a major upgrade to better identify close contacts after coming under fire for its track record.

Federal officials revealed last month the app had identified just 17 people not picked up through manual contact tracing methods.

The overhaul will incorporate a new Bluetooth protocol to improve performance and better identify potential contacts.

Meanwhile, Australia has accepted its first flight of international students in many months.

More than 60 international students arrived in Darwin as part of a pilot program to bring more back to Australia.

The students, who are all enrolled at Charles Darwin University, will quarantine for two weeks at Howard Springs before they can return to class.

Critics of the charter flight have pointed out more than 30,000 Australians stranded overseas are desperate to come home in time for Christmas.

But their returns have been delayed by weekly caps on incoming international passengers, which have been imposed to ease pressure on hotel quarantine systems across the states and territories.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously declared arrivals would be based on an “Australia first” policy that preferenced returning citizens over international students.

But universities and colleges battered by the coronavirus pandemic have been crying out for solutions.

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