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Covid-19 News Updates

PM throws cold water on new NSW Premier's 'opening to the world' plan

PM throws cold water on new NSW Premier's 'opening to the world' plan

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shrugged off NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet's plans to open the state to any traveller worldwide who has been vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine.

Perrottet's bold announcement this morning is in conflict with the Federal Government's previously announced roadmap, agreed to by National Cabinet, which in the first instance was only announced for Australian citizens or permanent residents and also included home quarantine provisions.

In a press conference the Prime Minister reiterated the Federal Government was "not opening it up to anything other than Australian citizens and residents and their immediate families".

"That is what will happen from the 1st of November in New South Wales, and indeed all around the country for Australians departing," he said.

"To return to Australia, obviously they'd have to do that through Sydney or under the capped arrangements in other states and territories."

He said this meant international travellers and international students would not yet be returning, although he claimed the NSW Premier had not been hasty in suggesting international travellers could enter the country from the start of next month.

"What the Premier did today was advise me and announce today that when international students, when international travellers, when skilled migrants are permitted to return to Australia by the Commonwealth Government, then they will not be required to quarantine when they come," the PM said.

"The Premier understands that that's a decision for the Commonwealth Government, not for the state governments. And when we believe that's the right decision to make, we'll make it at that time.

"I'm going to progress steadily, but at the same time, carefully, and I welcome this first step. I think it's a positive step."

Morrison also said the Federal Government would continue to support home quarantine trials in different states and territories.

"Remember, no state or territory is coming from the same place. They're all starting in different positions, with different rates of COVID in their states and territories," he said.

"And, indeed, I understand today in Tasmania they're going into a very short lockdown. They're still in phase A. And it's a reminder, wherever you are in Australia, please get vaccinated."

Updated at 6:06pm AEDT on 15 October 2021.


Southern Tasmania to enter three-day lockdown from 6pm tonight

Southern Tasmania to enter three-day lockdown from 6pm tonight

Those living in Southern Tasmania will go into lockdown for three days from 6pm tonight to avoid an outbreak of the Delta variant after a COVID-positive man who escaped hotel quarantine was not cooperative with contact tracing authorities.

The man who escaped hotel quarantine “has not been cooperative, leading to inconsistency and non-disclosure of information”, according to Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, and was in the community for 18 hours.

So far, 36 people have been labelled close contacts of the man and another 19 casual contacts. As such, 12 local government areas (LGAs) in the state’s south, including Hobart, will go into lockdown until at least 6pm on Monday.

“Unfortunately, the COVID-positive man who absconded from hotel quarantine has not been cooperative, leading to inconsistency and a non-disclosure of information,” Premier Gutwein said.

“Unfortunately, it took two days to verify that he was at the Woolies and we’re growing concerned now that he has in fact several touchpoints within the community.

“We can’t continue to wait another two days to find out more about what’s been going on.”

In addition, a primary close contact of the man breached home quarantine last night. He has since been apprehended, fined and will spend time in a government hotel quarantine facility.

“Prior to reaching our vaccination goals and the readiness to open our borders before Christmas, we simply cannot afford for an outbreak to occur,” Gutwein said.

From 6pm tonight, the following LGAs will enter lockdown for three days:

  • Brighton Council
  • Central Highlands Council
  • Clarence City Council
  • Derwent Valley Council
  • Glamorgan-Spring Bay Council
  • Glenorchy City Council
  • Hobart City Council
  • Huon Valley Council
  • Kingborough Council
  • Sorell Council
  • Southern Midlands Council
  • Tasman Council

There will be only five reasons to leave the house including shopping for essentials, personal exercise, medical appointments (including testing for COVID and getting vaccinated), going to permitted workplaces and going to school if education cannot be undertaken from home.

Those under lockdown will also only be permitted to travel up to 5km from their house for exercise and shopping, and face masks must be worn.

No indoor or outdoor gatherings are permitted, and no more than 10 people can attend a funeral. Weddings can only occur for compassionate reasons and with just five people in attendance.

Cafes, restaurants and hotels can open for takeaway and delivery services only, and personal care businesses like hairdressers and gyms must close.

Construction will also pause for three days except for emergency repairs.

Those affected by the lockdown can apply for the Federal Government COVID disaster payment.

“We might get to Monday evening at 6pm and see no more cases. We may get to Monday evening at 6pm and see many more cases,” Gutwein said.

“One of the things that we do not want to be in this state is either Sydney or Melbourne who acted too late in both instances when dealing with Delta.

“It is important at this point in time, as we cannot be certain about the information that we have, that we ensure that we take every step that we possibly can to ensure that the state doesn't have a Delta outbreak of scale that would impact this community.”

So far there are four exposure sites in Tasmania relating to the man who breached hotel quarantine:

  • Jetstar flight JQ715 from Melbourne to Hobart arriving 8:27pm, October 11
  • Hobart Airport arrival area male bathroom between 9:10pm and 9:15pm and 9:25pm and 9:30pm, October 11
  • Hobart Airport arrival hall including baggage pickup between 8:54pm and 10:07pm, October 11
  • Woolworths Bridgewater between 3:30pm and 4:00pm, October 12

Updated at 3.17pm AEDT on 15 October 2021.

Victoria reopening to fully vaccinated NSW travellers from next Wednesday

Victoria reopening to fully vaccinated NSW travellers from next Wednesday

Changes to state border arrangements are coming in thick and fast today, with Victoria this morning announcing it would permit fully vaccinated travellers from New South Wales to enter the state from Wednesday 20 October.

Anyone from a NSW ‘red zone’ will be permitted to enter Victoria from next Wednesday so long as they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and have received a negative PCR test result no more than 72 hours prior to departure.

Once travellers enter VIC, they must isolate until they receive another negative test within 72 hours of arrival. From there, they’re free to go ahead and explore Victoria as long as they abide by local restrictions.

VIC Minister for Health Martin Foley said the changes could be made thanks to the high rates of vaccination across NSW.

“As the risk profile between the two Staes changes and as we get both states moving towards a more integrated reopening position we’ve got further announcements to make,” he said.

“These changes are made on the advice of the public health team and the chief health officer and come as the Victorian community rapidly approaches and passes today 88 per cent of our population aged 16 and over having received at least one dose and 63 per cent having two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The new rules also apply for anyone coming from ‘orange zones’ under Victoria’s traffic light border system.

These announcements come as Victoria today reports 2,179 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and six deaths attributed to the virus.

Updated at 11.53am AEDT on 15 October 2021.

NSW reopening to the world on 1 November, regional travel from Sydney deferred

NSW reopening to the world on 1 November, regional travel from Sydney deferred

“We are opening Sydney and New South Wales to the world,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

Travellers from anywhere in the world who have been fully vaccinated with a Therapeutic Goods Administration-approved vaccine will be allowed to fly into New South Wales without having to quarantine from 1 November, marking a major milestone for Australia.

In addition, the state government has deferred the decision to permit regional travel for those in Sydney due to lower rates of vaccination in local government areas (LGAs) outside of the state’s capital, also until 1 November.

The major announcements come ahead of the state reaching the 80 per cent fully vaccinated milestone, expected to occur over the weekend. As such, NSW will move to the next stage in its COVID-19 roadmap on Monday, allowing even more freedoms for those in the state.

NSW will work with the Commonwealth Government in changing its international border arrangements, but for tourists wanting to visit the state they can do so from 1 November without quarantining as long as they are fully vaccinated and receive a negative PCR test before boarding the flight.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet labelled the reopening of the state to the world as “the most significant announcement”.

“We want people back,” Perrottet said.

‘We’re leading the nation out of this pandemic. Hotel quarantine, home quarantine is a thing of the past. We are opening Sydney and New South Wales to the world.”

This marks a major departure from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s plan, agreed to by National Cabinet, that international arrivals would undergo home quarantine once states cross the 80 per cent fully vaccinated threshold.

International arrivals that have not be fully vaccinated will still be required to complete 14 days of hotel quarantine, and NSW is going to cap unvaccinated arrivals at 210 people per week.

In response to the announcement Qantas (ASX: QAN) says it will bring forward the restart of its international flights by two weeks to 1 November.

The airline will operate up to five return flights per week from Sydney to London, and up to four from Sydney to Los Angeles.

The announcement has been welcomed by general manager of Flight Centre's (ASX: FLT) corporate travel arm FCM, Melissa Elf, saying the change would "mean the world to businesses".

“Having to quarantine for any period of time when travelling from overseas for business has been a big obstacle for companies wanting to do deals with Australia and I commend NSW for taking the lead on opening us to the world – Australia is open for business once again,” Elf said. 

“Intrastate travel has been incredibly strong for businesses throughout the pandemic, especially in Queensland and Western Australia, but this announcement will give global business the confidence to fly into Sydney without the hindrance of any form of quarantine. "

The Australian Tourism Export Council was similarly jubilant, labelling the move as "the key the industry has been desperately waiting for".

"Australia's tourism industry has borne the brunt of international border closures with many businesses suffering with no income since March 2020,” ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley said.

“This announcement not only gives tourism businesses their income back but also lets the world know they are welcome back in Australia.  

“While New South Wales tourism businesses will be ecstatic to see borders reopen, tourism businesses in other states will continue to suffer from both domestic and international travel restrictions which are stifling their income and threatening their future."

On 1 November, travel between Greater Sydney and regional NSW will also be permitted to allow those in the regions more time to receive their second vaccine.

To support regional businesses likely to be impacted by this change the NSW government will defer the second taper of the JobSaver program until October 31. Eli­gible regional businesses will receive 30 per cent of weekly payroll, before tapering payments to the scheduled 15 per cent from 1 November.

“We have reached this vaccination milestone quicker than anyone thought we could, and that is a testament to the hard work of people across the State turning out to get vac­cinated," Perrottet said.

“Welcoming back fully vaccinated travellers will not only mean families and friends can be home in time for Christmas, it will also give our economy a major boost.”

In addition, on 1 November, hospitality venues and restaurants will receive further reprieve, with the state government to remove a cap of 20 people per booking.

This comes on top of significant easing of restrictions coming into effect from Monday after the state crosses the 80 per cent fully vaccinated threshold, permitting 20 people at home gatherings, 50 outside, standing up at pubs, and no limits on those allowed at weddings and funerals.

NSW today recorded 399 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and four deaths from the virus.

Updated at 10.30am AEDT on 15 October 2021.

NSW eases border restrictions with ACT and Queensland

NSW eases border restrictions with ACT and Queensland

As the Australian Capital Territory leaves lockdown today and Queensland continues its streak of no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, New South Wales has decided to welcome travellers back from the two jurisdictions.

As of 11.59pm last night, restrictions for people entering NSW from the ACT and QLD eased - but rules for travellers from both locations differ.

NSW no longer considers the ACT an area of concern as the territory inches toward hitting the coveted 80 per cent rate of its eligible population fully vaccinated - expected to occur over the weekend.

As such, ACT residents no longer need to complete a declaration form on entry into NSW or follow stay-at-home rules on arrival.

However, NSW will consider travellers from the ACT the same as those living in regional local government areas (LGAs) in the state, meaning Canberrans are not permitted to enter Greater Sydney.

Additionally, due to low rates of community transmission, QLD will no longer be considered an affected area.

As such, QLD residents will no longer need to complete a declaration form on entry into New South Wales.

Unlike those in the ACT, Queenslanders can enter Sydney but once there cannot leave to visit regional areas and are subject to the same COVID-19 restrictions that Sydneysiders are. On the flip side, if Queenslanders travel to regional NSW they cannot then enter Sydney.

The changes come as New South Wales today records 399 new locally acquired cases and fourth deaths from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Victoria today reported 2,179 locally acquired cases and six deaths from the coronavirus.

Updated at 10.03am AEDT on 15 October 2021.

NSW offers hospitality businesses $5,000 grants for outdoor dining initiatives

NSW offers hospitality businesses $5,000 grants for outdoor dining initiatives

A year after first announcing an outdoor dining pilot program to breathe new life into Sydney's hospitality businesses, the NSW Government has today announced a $66 million statewide Alfresco Restart package for the streets to "come alive" post-lockdown.

Treasurer Matt Kean says as the state opens up to the fully vaccinated, NSW will be ready for people eager to enjoy a meal and a day out with friends and family.  

“Alfresco dining is not only a great way to dine, it’s a safe way to socialise as we open up. That’s why we are supporting new outdoor entertainment and dining precincts to pop up right across the state through our $66 million Alfresco Restart initiative,” Kean says.

Minister for Digital and Customer Service Victor Dominello says the NSW Government is doing all it can to revive the hospitality and entertainment industries, while ensuring people can safely socialise in the sunshine.

“After a long winter, it’s time for Sydney to enjoy a meal or drink in the sunshine and the NSW Government is committed to helping businesses do that in time for summer,” Dominello says.

“We’re providing 5,000 hospitality businesses a $5,000 grant to get their outdoor dining venture off the ground - whether that’s to help set-up curb-side dining or a pub-style courtyard, we’re here to turn their ideas into reality.”

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes says the Government’s Alfresco Restart Package will help the hospitality, arts, and music sectors get back on their feet after a long winter in lockdown.

“After many months in lockdown, the people of NSW are ready to enjoy themselves, so we’ve thrown out the rule book with new temporary alfresco measures, while also making last year’s trials permanent,” Stokes says.

“In addition to the permanent easing of rules for dining on footpaths and public spaces, we’re temporarily allowing outdoor dining on privately-owned bowling greens and carparks, meaning businesses can expand outdoors on almost any piece of land they own to welcome more customers."

The Alfresco Restart initiatives being rolled out from November include:

  • The Festival of Place - including the Long Summer Nights Program at the Rocks, Darling Harbour and The Domain, Streets as Shared Spaces Program, Summer Night Fund Program and Open Streets Program;
  • Emergency temporary alfresco measures for outdoor dining in parks or on private land with the owner's consent; and
  • $5,000 grants for hospitality businesses to establish new alfresco settings;
  • Permanent outdoor dining as an exempt development for pubs and small bars state-wide.

Updated at 12:52pm AEDT on 14 October.


Pfizer jab closer to approval for children, IDT to make new Monash vaccine

Pfizer jab closer to approval for children, IDT to make new Monash vaccine

Australian children aged five to 11 years of age could receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine soon after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) granted a provisional determination to the company in relation to the jab.

The provisional determination does not mean the Pfizer jab is approved for children now, rather it opens up a pathway for the pharmaceutical giant to submit an application to the TGA to have the vaccine approved.

Pfizer still has to submit data to the TGA in order to receive approval, but the provisional determination will speed up the process.

“In making its decision to grant Pfizer a provisional determination for use in individuals five to 11 years, the TGA considered eligibility criteria, including factors such as the evidence of a plan to submit comprehensive clinical data in relation to use in this age group - and the seriousness of the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the TGA said.

Currently, everyone in Australia 12 years and older is eligible to book an appointment to receive a Pfizer jab.

IDT secures manufacturing agreement with Monash University for COVID vaccine

Australian pharmaceutical manufacturing company IDT (ASX: IDT) has entered into a deal with Monash University to produce a new COVID-19 vaccine as part of a clinical trial.

Trials of the proposed Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences’ (MIPS) vaccine, an mRNA jab, are funded by mRNA Victoria and the Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

IDT says the initial clinical trial will commence in the fourth quarter of this calendar year.

The vaccine candidate has been developed by MIPS in conjunction with The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and is Australia’s first locally developed mRNA vaccine candidate to progress to the clinical trial stage.

If successful, IDT believes it will be the first-ever Australian manufactured mRNA finished product.

Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AC said Monash is home to Australia's largest network of RNA and mRNA researchers.

“We are building an RNA ecosystem that will lead to the rapid development of life-saving vaccines and therapeutic treatments for communities across the country,” Professor Gardner said.

“To enable Australia to avoid ongoing issues around vaccine supply chains from other countries, we need our own mRNA production connected to research and development, and late-stage clinical trials capability.

“This partnership agreement with IDT and the ongoing support from the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments is a significant step in Australia moving towards establishing unlimited capability."

IDT Australia CEO Dr David Sparling said he was thankful to the Australian and Victorian Governments for their assistance in preparing the company’s sterile manufacturing facility for production of mRNA vaccines.

“We are very appreciative of the Australian Government’s support in getting IDT’s sterile manufacturing facility ready to take on a project of this nature; and for allowing IDT to utilise the facility for this work,” Dr Sparling said.

“We are also very appreciative of the Victorian Government’s support for this project. Being Australia’s first locally developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, all of the team here at IDT are excited to be a part of the MIPS project.

“It is a great opportunity for IDT to develop and showcase our cGMP manufacturing capabilities in mRNA product manufacture.”

IDT shares are up by more than 4 per cent at $0.625 each at 11:20am AEDT.

Meanwhile, following media reports that bio-medical giant CSL (ASX: CSL) would cease producing the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine by Christmas, the company has reaffirmed its commitment to its deal with the Federal Government to produce the jabs into 2022.

In a statement, CSL said it was committed to the manufacture of approximately 50 million doses of the vaccine.

“Already over 20 million doses have been produced to protect Australians and those in the Asia Pacific region, and it is expected that the remaining production will be completed early next year,” CSL said.

CSL shares are up 1.84 per cent at $299.45 each at 11:20am AEDT.

Updated at 11.20am AEDT on 14 October 2021.

TGA approves 15-second COVID-19 killer Nanocyn

TGA approves 15-second COVID-19 killer Nanocyn

Able to kill COVID-19 in 15 seconds, Nanocyn, a hospital-grade disinfecting solution produced by Adelaide-based MicroSafe Care Australia, has received approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Compared to traditional products that can take between one and 10 minutes to kill viruses, Nanocyn claims it stands alone as the only natural disinfectant and sanitiser in the world that can kill COVID-19 within 15 seconds, and the only hospital-grade disinfectant of its kind in Australia that eliminates the virus so quickly.

It is also able to eliminate Norovirus (Gastro), Influenza, fungi and mould by up to 99.9999 per cent.

“Nanocyn is a game-changer for any hospital, aged care or health service, transport-provider, business, school, tourism or hospitality venue and even office space wanting to ensure their premises are COVID-safe, not just from a pandemic point of view but also having been disinfected with a product that does not leave any harmful residues behind that could cause other health issues in the long-term,” said MicroSafe managing director Matt Seifert.

Nanocyn can also be used as a fogging agent in a variety of sizeable locations, such as commercial buildings, schools, hospitals, and health and aged care facilities.

Certified by all major aviation manufacturers, the product can clean aircraft without damaging materials.

Coming in a range of three sizes, the hospital-grade disinfectant is registered with the TGA and entered into the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

It is also the only disinfectant to also be certified by Good Environmental Choice Australia.

“It’s the fastest-acting product in Australia, leaves no residue and is non-toxic, which means it’s safe for those whose immune systems are compromised,” said Seifert.

“The TGA additional approval has also been timely as we know states will be re-opening borders before Christmas.

“Ensuring COVID-19 can be eliminated quickly in public areas will be reassuring for millions of people.”

Updated at 12:43pm AEDT on 13 August.

Vaccine-only approach not enough for ongoing workplace safety post-lockdown, says OzSAGE

Vaccine-only approach not enough for ongoing workplace safety post-lockdown, says OzSAGE

Independent expert organisation OzSAGE has urged employers to extend the usual health and safety measures to areas like ventilation, workplace hygiene and mask wearing, emphasising "a vaccine-only approach is not enough" as workers return to offices from lockdowns.

Despite the high rate of vaccination in NSW, after Greater Sydney emerged from lockdown yesterday the multidisciplinary network of Australian experts is adamant that in addition to vaccine requirements, further optional health orders are necessary.

NSW has made it optional for office workers to wear masks as part of the Perrottet government’s revised roadmap, and has suggested scrapping general indoor mask mandates earlier than the originally proposed date of 1 December. 

However, Professor Raina Macintyre from OzSAGE says this decision could result in a dramatic surge in infections, and that masks should remain a core part of workplaces’ health response. 

“Once we accept that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne, it is clear that safe indoor air is essential and that masks indoors will play a role in safe working for some time,” says Macintyre. 

“The current vaccines are not enough to control the Delta variant - If we open up with safe indoor air and a vaccine-PLUS as a strategy, we may avoid a crippling cycle of repeated lockdowns.” 

OzSAGE says these measures are particularly important given that many small businesses do not have the adequate resources or information to be reasonably “COVID-safe”.  

As a result, workplace risk management now falls into the hands of workers and employers, which OzSAGE representative Professor Jason Monty says will ultimately benefit businesses if followed correctly. 

“Embedding layers of controls against pandemic disease into your business, such as safe air and masking when needed, will make it far more likely that your business will remain open, not be subject to disruptions, nor lose key staff or clients to illness,” Monty said. 

“Despite vaccination levels, all controls are important to protect health as immunity to the vaccine wanes, and reduce transmission.” 

Updated at 12.52pm AEDT on 12 October 2021.

ACT to leave lockdown on Friday as planned

ACT to leave lockdown on Friday as planned

The Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Andrew Barr has today confirmed lockdown restrictions will ease at 11.59pm on Thursday 14 October as planned, after the jurisdiction passed the 70 per cent fully vaccinated milestone this week.

As of today, 72 per cent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated, meaning ACT residents will enjoy some freedoms come Friday once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

While those in the ACT will be free to leave their homes, visit loved ones and shop for non-essential items, there will be some restrictions in place for the meantime.

These restrictions include:

  • A 25 person capacity limit for indoor gatherings
  • A five person limit for at-home gatherings
  • Licensed venues can welcome five customers across the venue indoors or enforce the one person per four square metre rule (whichever is less)
  • However, up to 50 patrons will be able to sit outside at a licensed venue
  • Sports teams can resume training and pools will be able to reopen with limits
  • Hairdresser and personal care services can resume trading at a limited capacity

For the most part, non-essential retailers will return to a click and collect model until 29 October, but these businesses will be allowed to have up to two people from the same household book an appointment to shop in-person from this Friday.

Barr says this will enable certain retailers to operate, like car dealers performing test drives and clothing shops permitting customers try on clothes and shoes.

While Barr says he expects case numbers to rise once restrictions ease, modelling predicts the ACT will have 99 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated by the end of November.

“As we’ve seen around the world, and even in places that have very high vaccination levels, the virus will continue to spread,” Barr said.

“There will be pressure on the health system. There will be Canberrans who will need acute health care, even if they are fully vaccinated.

“Being fully vaccinated provides you with protection. It may not prevent you from getting the virus, but it does reduce the likelihood, and being fully vaccinated provides a very effective protection against severe disease.”

The Chief Minister also announced some changes to its border bubble with New South Wales, allowing people living in areas immediately surrounding the ACT to travel in and out of the state.

Details on which postcodes will be included in the expanded bubble will be announced on the ACT’s COVID-19 website later today.

“New South Wales residents in these regions, as well as the border postcodes that are already covered by the existing expanding exemption, will be permitted to travel to and from the ACT to undertake work or study to access schools or essential shopping and healthcare without needing to apply for an exemption,” Barr said.

"Residents in these postcodes can also enter the ACT to visit family and friends under the existing ACT gathering limits whether inside the household or outside."

Updated at 12.09pm AEDT on 12 October 2021.