Coronavirus-linked deaths in Victoria and NSW have marred a continuing improvement in the number of cases being recorded in Melbourne, while the federal government announced further funding for vaccine research.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews reported five new deaths linked to aged care facilities on Sunday, while NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said a man in his 70s died at the Royal North Shore Hospital.
It brought Victoria's death toll to 762, NSW's to 55 and the national count to 849.
A previously reported Victorian death connected to the virus was reclassified.
However, Mr Andrews reported just 14 new infections, the smallest number since the beginning of the state's second COVID-19 wave.
It also pushed Metropolitan Melbourne's 14-day average down to 36.2, well below the state's target of 50 to lift some virus restrictions later this month.
"That is proof positive, beyond any question, that this strategy is working," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in regard to his lockdown policy.
NSW recorded two new cases, one in hotel quarantine, and Queensland also reported two new cases. Both were already isolating.
In Western Australia, a 13-year-old boy tested positive to the virus while in quarantine in Perth after recently returning from overseas.
Meanwhile, the federal government is investing almost $6 million in additional research and development for three Australian COVID-19 vaccines.
Under the funding from the Medical Research Future Fund, the University Of Melbourne will receive almost $3 million to develop two vaccine candidates.
The University of Sydney will also receive almost $3 million for a clinical trail to test the safety and effectiveness of a novel DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.
"The rapid development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is a critical Australian government priority," Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Sunday.
"Subject to further work, the resulting vaccines could eventually be deployed in Australia and around the world."
The Morrison government has also come to the aid of families and childcare providers in Victoria, announcing $305 million in additional funding which primarily aimed at the state.
The package includes a childcare fee freeze for Victorian families until January 31, 2021, while there is a relaxation of the activity test for Australian families whose activity level has been affected by COVID-19 will also be extended to April 4, 2021.
"Victorian families and providers will continue to be supported by the federal government so they can get back on their feet following the second wave," federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said in a statement.
Already the federal government has provided $205 million in support for Victorian families and childcare services to keep families connected to care and services open and viable."
Australian Associated Press