The Hunter region continues to evade Sydney's COVID-19 outbreak as New Year's Eve looms.
Household parties can have up to 50 people across the region on Thursday, five times the number allowed in Sydney, where Premier Gladys Berejiklian has stretched the government's cautious approach into the new year.
The state recorded five new locally acquired cases on Monday, the lowest daily count since December 17 and the seventh day in a row in single figures.
Four of the new cases were linked to the cluster on Sydney's northern beaches.
A man in his 70s has become the 56th coronavirus fatality in NSW after dying of complications eight months after contracting the disease.
Ms Berejiklian announced that Sydney's midnight fireworks display on New Year's Eve would go ahead but without waterfront spectators. She urged revellers to stay home and watch the fireworks on television.
City of Newcastle cancelled its harbour fireworks display months ago but has organised a series of daytime celebrations in suburban parks across the city.
The Hunter New England Health district has not recorded a new case since a small outbreak in the Lower Hunter in July and August linked to the Crossroads Hotel cluster in Sydney.
HNEH public health physician Dr David Durrheim said getting the latest outbreak under control would continue to buy time for Australia to assess vaccines.
"Clearly we're not putting it through any emergency authorisation. We're going through a thorough review," Dr Durrheim said.
"We'll have a lot more data, which will hopefully provide a great deal of confidence to health providers and to the community as to the safety profile of the vaccine."
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday that Australia was ahead of schedule in producing and importing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine but would not start vaccinations until March. He expected the nation to be fully vaccinated by the end of October.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration plans to finish assessing the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines in the next four to six weeks.
Dr Durrheim said it was "really nice to have the luxury in Australia of being able to watch and learn from the US and UK experience".
"We know that it's challenging from a logistics perspective," he said. "Some of the challenges around the ultra-cold refrigeration of the vaccine will be perfected by the time we're able to roll it out, which is great."
He said data from smaller studies would assess the vaccines' safety in pregnant women and children.
The uptake of vaccines had been "overwhelming" in the northern hemisphere, where winter had produced a rerun of overwhelmed hospitals and high death tolls.
"To have a vaccine as a way out of a terrible situation I think is very welcome."
Germany was forced to delay its vaccination campaign in several cities on Sunday after temperature trackers showed that about 1000 BioNTech and Pfizer shots might not have been kept cold enough in transit.
The manufacturers stipulate that the vaccines must be kept below minus 70 degrees while in storage and below eight degrees for up to five days while being transported and administered.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is easier to store and transport.
The European Union began a huge vaccine drive on Sunday using the Pfizer drug, starting with the elderly and medical staff.
AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot told a newspaper in England that the company's researchers believed its vaccine would work against a highly infectious variant of the virus sweeping across the United Kingdom.
Initial test results suggest the AstraZeneca vaccine is 70 per cent effective in preventing illness, compared with 95 per cent for the Pfizer product, though the company hopes to improve this ratio.
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