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Covid-19 News Updates


Australia lifts minimum age on AstraZeneca vaccine recommendations

Australia lifts minimum age on AstraZeneca vaccine recommendations

Australians aged under 60 are now being advised to receive the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 rather than AstraZeneca following changes to advice from the country's immunisation body.

The Australian Government is now recommending a minimum age of 60 to get the AstraZeneca shot, and to adapt to the new settings will be making Pfizer available to the 50-59 age bracket.

The latest advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is in response to analysis of case rates and demographics for a rare blood clot condition that to date has led to the deaths of two people out of more than three million people who were given the jab.

"This remains a very rare but sometimes serious event. We're picking it up much more commonly than other countries because we're looking more fully," says Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Kelly.

"We've got good diagnostic algorithms and very good treatment, modalities and understanding in the clinical community about the correct treatment, which has been given properly. 

"Our results really reflect that, so we've got 55 per cent of those 60 cases now have left hospital already - some remain in hospital and some are in ICU. We've had, unfortunately and very tragically, two deaths in that group."

However, Dr Kelly noted most people with the condition had been diagnosed early, and a large proportion have had a less severe form of the severe syndrome.

Secretary of the Department of Health Professor Brendan Murphy said he hoped the changes would mean more Australians will come forward to receive the jab.

"There are a number of people in the 50 to 59 year old age group who have been very hesitant and were probably not going to turn up for AstraZeneca, no matter how much we reassured them," Murphy said.

"This now gives some of those 2.1 million people an opportunity to get vaccinated earlier."

Updated at 1:40pm AEST on 17 June 2021.

QLD reinstates travel declaration form requirements

QLD reinstates travel declaration form requirements

Australians and New Zealanders wishing to enter Queensland will once again need to fill out online travel declarations before they arrive, although a cross-border zone will be re-established so certain residents in the Sunshine State and northern NSW won't need to complete multiple forms.

The new rules will come into effect from 1am this Saturday, 19 June, and have been made to support contact tracing efforts.

"It's vital that if an interstate exposure site or hotspot is declared, our health experts can quickly contact anyone who has travelled into Queensland from that area," Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D'Ath said.

"This is the next line of defence for Queensland - if we're able to reach people quickly, it will reduce the risk of COVID-19 in Queensland and manage outbreaks right from the get-go.

"The declaration is made online and is quick and easy, taking only a few minutes to complete, and operates in a similar fashion to the Victorian system."

Following Victoria's lead, Queensland will introduce green, amber and red areas, where green means no travel restrictions, amber signifies interstate exposure venues, and red alerts to a hotspot.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the declaration would need to be made up to 72 hours prior to travelling to Queensland.

"The travel declaration needs to be made close to your travel, to ensure it reflects the most up-to-date advice," she said.

"Things can change quickly with COVID-19 we've seen it time and time again, especially with the evolving situation in Victoria, so travellers will need to check the latest restrictions before travelling.

"We know there are a number of people living close to the Queensland border who either work or access important services regularly in Queensland or in northern New South Wales.

"We want to ensure they can continue to do that without making a declaration each time they cross the border, so we've established a border zone to cater for those situations."

The news comes as Queensland health authorities opt to maintain their hotspot declaration for Greater Melbourne for an extra week, while recent cases in Sydney have led Queensland's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to call on residents to reconsider any planned travel to the NSW capital.

Updated at 12:40pm AEST on 17 June 2021.

New Zealand reopening to Victoria from next Wednesday

New Zealand reopening to Victoria from next Wednesday

With Victoria recording zero new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 today, New Zealand has made the call to lift its travel bubble pause with the state from next Wednesday.

As such, from 11.59pm on Tuesday 22 June, the requirement for those from Victoria to complete two weeks of quarantine on arrival in NZ will be removed.

"It has been determined that the risk to public health in New Zealand continues to decrease and, at this time, public health officials consider it unlikely there is further widespread community transmission in the state," says the New Zealand Government.

"However, in line with our precautionary approach we consider this short extension to be prudent.

"New Zealand health officials will keep a close watch on developments in the state but at this point their advice is that we would expect to be in a position to lift the pause at the end of the five-day extension. This will be reviewed if the situation changes."

Everyone who is eligible can already return on "green flights", meaning they are not required to isolate when they arrive home. However, they must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Globally the COVID-19 situation is certainly different, with Brazil reporting more than 80,000 new infections and India recording 62,226 new cases yesterday.

The United States has recently surpassed more than 600,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 the most of any country in the world.

In comparison, Australia has only recorded 910 deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Updated at 10.06am AEST on 17 June 2021.

Bondi on alert after confirmed COVID case visited a number of venues

Bondi on alert after confirmed COVID case visited a number of venues

A new COVID-19 case who resides in Sydney's eastern suburbs has sparked a number of public health alerts for venues in Bondi, Vaucluse and Redfern that he visited while infectious.

Announced yesterday by New South Wales Health, the new confirmed case is a man in his 60s who works as a driver and has been transporting international flight crews.

Urgent investigations into the source of infection and contact tracing are underway, but a number of venues of concern have already been identified by authorities with attendees at specific times urged to get tested for the virus.

The following venue is a close contact venue. Anyone who attended the following venue at the time listed must immediately call NSW Health on 1800 943 553, get tested and self-isolate for 14 days from the date they were at the venue, regardless of the result:

  • Screening of The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, Cinema 1, Events Cinema, Bondi Junction on Sunday 13 June from 1.30-4pm (1.45pm screening)

If you were at any of the following venues of concern at the times listed, you must immediately call NSW Health on 1800 943 553, get tested and self-isolate until you receive further information from NSW Health:

  • Belle Café, Vaucluse on Friday 11 June from 9.15-9.50am
  • Sourdough Bakery, Bondi Junction on Friday 11 June from 12.40-1.10pm
  • Belle Café, Vaucluse on Saturday 12 June from 10.20-10.45am
  • David Jones, Bondi Junction on Saturday 12 June from 11-11.40am
  • Myer Bondi, Bondi Junction on Saturday 12 June from 11.40am-12.15pm
  • Washoku Vaucluse, Vaucluse on Saturday 12 June from 11.40am-12.15pm
  • Belle Café, Vaucluse on Saturday 12 June from 12-1.30pm
  • Belle Café, Vaucluse on Sunday 13 June from 11.30am-12pm
  • Events Cinema (all screening other than The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, Bondi Junction on Sunday 13 June from 1.30-4pm
  • Rocco's, Vaucluse on Monday 14 June from 10.55-11.30am
  • Coles, East Village Shopping Centre in Zetland on Monday 14 June from 11am-1pm
  • Taste Growers, East Village Shopping Centre, Zetland on Monday 14 June from 11am-1pm
  • Wax Car Wash Café, Redfern on Monday 14 June from 12-3pm
  • Belle Café, Vaucluse on Tuesday 15 June from 9.50-10.25am
  • Celeste Catering Macquarie Park Cemetery Café, North Ryde on Tuesday 15 June from 1-1.20pm
  • Harry's Coffee and Kitchen, Bondi Junction on Tuesday 15 June 3-3.40pm
  • NAB in Westfield, Bondi Junction on Tuesday 15 June from 2.45-3.10pm
  • David Jones in Westfield, Bondi Junction on Tuesday 15 June from 3.30-4.15pm
  • Field to Fork, Vaucluse on Friday 11 June from 12-4pm

Anyone on the following public transport service is a close contact and must immediately call NSW Health on 1800 943 553, get tested and self-isolate for 14 days from the date they were on the bus, regardless of the result:

  • 200 Bus, Bondi Junction to North Sydney on Tuesday 15 June, departed approx. 4.25pm arrived approx. 5pm

Anyone who attended the following venue at the listed time is a casual contact and must immediately get tested and self-isolate until a negative result is received. Please continue to monitor for symptoms and immediately isolate and get tested if they develop:

  • Fruitologist, Bondi on Tuesday 15 June from 1-2pm

A new pop-up testing clinic has opened today at the Albion Street Centre Laverty Pathology, 150 Albion Street (Crown Street entrance), Surry Hills, and will be open 8am to 6pm, seven days a week.

New Zealand has also chimed in on the update from NSW, with health authorities reviewing details of the case which "appears to have a clear link to the border".

It is expected that further information from NZ will be provided on the NSW cases later today.

Updated at 9.39am AEST on 17 June 2021.

COVID restrictions to ease in Melbourne from midnight tomorrow

COVID restrictions to ease in Melbourne from midnight tomorrow

Melburnians will once again be able to travel into Victorian regional areas when the intra-state border comes down from 11.59pm tomorrow.

In addition, a raft of restrictions in both Greater Melbourne and the state's regions will be eased tomorrow night, allowing larger public gatherings, increased capacities for hospitality businesses, and the reopening of gyms.

It comes after the state recorded five new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, including two announced yesterday afternoon and a further three linked to current outbreaks.

This latest outbreak led to an apartment complex in Southbank being placed into lockdown yesterday after an Arcare worker who lived at the complex tested positive and transmitted the virus to another resident.

Concurrently, South Australian health officials announced yesterday the state's border would soon reopen to those living in regional Victoria.

Once that change is in place, people entering SA from regional Victoria will still need to be tested for COVID-19 upon entry, but the conditions will be more relaxed on the border.

Further, with the snow season rapidly approaching, those intending on travelling to Victorian resorts must get tested at least 72 hours before departure and receive a negative result.

Restrictions to ease

From 11.59pm tomorrow several restrictions in Victoria will ease, with the rules differing for Greater Melbourne and the state's regions.

For Melbourne the following restrictions will ease:

  • The 25km travel limit will be removed
  • Public gatherings will be allowed for up to 20 people
  • Gatherings in the home will be allowed with up to two visitors per day plus their dependants
  • A number of businesses will reopen including gyms, indoor entertainment and electronic gaming with density limits and a COVIDsafe plan in place
  • Hospitality venues can welcome 25 patrons before applying a density quotient
  • Melburnians are still encouraged to work from home, but office sites can accommodate up to 50 per cent or 20 people, whichever is greater
  • Community sport competitions will resume
  • Masks are still recommended outdoors but remain mandatory for indoor settings

For regional Victoria the following restrictions will ease:

  • Public gatherings will increase to up to 50 people
  • Restaurants and cafes will have a maximum of 300 patrons for seated dining
  • Smaller hospitality venues will have up to 25 people before any density quotient applies
  • Religious ceremonies will have a maximum of 300 people in attendance
  • Funerals will have 100 people in attendance
  • Weddings will have 50 people in attendance
  • Office sites will have up to 75 per cent of capacity on site, or 30 people whichever is greater
  • Up to five adults will be allowed to visit another home per day plus their dependants

In addition, the state government is permitting a crowd of 7,000 people at the Geelong AFL game this weekend, provided all attendees are local and members of the two clubs playing.

These settings will be in place for the next seven days.

Updated at 12.47pm AEST on 16 June 2021.

Victoria pledges $20 million in grants for lockdown-hit events sector

Victoria pledges $20 million in grants for lockdown-hit events sector

The Victorian Government has stepped up to provide $20 million in support to events businesses in the state that were impacted by the May-June 2021 COVID-19 restrictions on the sector.

New support grants are up for grabs as part of the Victorian Events Support Package, designed to support the industry that was suddenly closed down due to the state's most recent lockdown.

The package delivers grants in five areas and is part of more than $500 million allocated by the state government to businesses over the past two weeks.

The Sustainable Events Business Program provides payments of up to $250,000 to major event organisers, hosts and suppliers who have had the ongoing viability of their event or business significantly affected during the restrictions that began in late May.

Successful applicants must have most of their operations in Victoria and have experienced a minimum 50 per cent decline in annual turnover in the three months prior to 27 May 2021 compared with the same period in 2019.

They will also have a payroll of more than $3 million in metropolitan Melbourne or $500,000 in regional Victoria.

The Impacted Public Events Support Program will deliver grants of $25,000 to event organisers and $10,000 to suppliers of Tier 1 and Tier 2 events - events with crowds above 1,001 people - that have incurred costs as a direct result of the recent public health restrictions.

Victoria's cinemas will benefit from the Independent Cinemas Support Program, which provides eligible independent operators required to close due to restrictions with a payment of $12,000 per cinema venue.

Producers of live performance events are eligible for up to $7,000 under the Live Performance Support Program - Presenters. Suppliers to live performance events are eligible for up to $500 per event, with a maximum of four events, under the Live Performance Support Program - Suppliers.

Promoters, venues, producers and artists who promote their own shows are eligible to apply for the Live Performance Support Programs, along with contracted suppliers such as artists, performers, technicians and other crew members.

Applications for the grants will open shortly at business.vic.gov.au/events-support.

Updated at 12.06pm AEST on 15 June 2021.

 

New COVID case on the Sunshine Coast after woman travelled from Melbourne

New COVID case on the Sunshine Coast after woman travelled from Melbourne

Update (10 July): The husband of the positive COVID-19 case has tested positive to the virus after previously testing negative, which leads health authorities to believe both individuals are towards the end of their infectious period. The man's parents have also tested negative to the virus, as has one other person out of a list of 17 immediate contacts.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath has confirmed a new COVID-19 case on the Sunshine Coast after a 44-year-old drove with her partner from Melbourne and yesterday got tested for the virus.

The Queensland Government held a press conference this afternoon after the test came up positive today, confirming the individual had travelled through NSW, and visited the Goondiwindi McDonald's and a Caltex in Toowoomba on the morning of 5 June on her way to Caloundra.

In Queensland itself the individual visited these listed venues on the days that followed:

  • Sunnys @ Moffatt, Caloundra - 2:45-3pm (6 June)
  • Coffee Cat on Kings Beach - 3:30-4:30pm (6 June)
  • Stockland Shopping Centre, Caloundra (specifically The Coffee Club and Kmart) - 10:45-11:30am (7 June)
  • Bunnings Caloundra - 12:10-12:45pm (7 June)
  • Kawana Shoppingworld (Foodcourt and female toilets near JB Hi-Fi) - 1-2pm (7 June)
  • Female toilets near IGA Baringa - 3:50-4:10pm (8 June)

"These are only initial sites. We will be getting more sites as we talk to the lady and her family," says Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.

"We'll be putting those up on the website. It's very, very important that people please check them.

"I know that people in the Sunshine Coast have always been fantastic at getting tested. We've always seen large numbers come out - there are more places that you can be tested and hours are extending, so please come forward and get tested."

The woman left Melbourne on 1 June, and this evening NSW Health has confirmed that between that date and her arrival in QLD she stopped at places in Gillenbah, Forbes, Dubbo and Moree, signing in to several venues using QR codes.

This evening NSW Health published a list of venues she visited over that five-day period. These include Caltex Narrandera in Gillenbah and the Vandenberg Hotel in Forbes on 1 June; the Brew Coffee Bar in Forbes and several locations in Dubbo over 2-3 June including CSC - Church Street Cafe, Reading Cinemas Dubbo and the Homestead Motel; and a few locations in Moree between 3-5 June including Gwydir Carpark/Motel & Thermal Pools, Cafe Omega and the Amaroo Tavern.

Earlier today the state's authorities also advised Woolworths Moree and the Shell Petrol Station in Dubbo were potential exposure sites. 

"Anyone who lives in or has visited these areas since 1 June, is asked to be especially vigilant for the onset of even the mildest of cold-like symptoms, and is urged to come forward for testing immediately if they appear, then isolate until a negative result is received," NSW Health reported.

"NSW Health will be providing pop-up clinics and extended hours at existing clinics to support increased testing for the communities in these areas."

Dr Young believes the person may have been infectious since 1 June because she displayed symptoms on 3 June.

"I'm waiting for serology results to see how long she's had this infection," Dr Young said.

"She may have been infectious while travelling through NSW, so I am working with my colleagues in NSW to work through that."

In other news, Queensland authorities have responded to changes announced today for easing restrictions in Victoria, opting to open the border to travellers coming from regional Victoria from 1am this Friday, 11 June.

"But those in the Greater Melbourne area, which will be 31 local government authorities, will still require an exemption to be able to travel to Queensland if they're a non-resident, and if they are a resident they will be required to go into hotel quarantine," Minister D'Ath said.

Originally published at 4:11pm AEST on 9 June 2021, updated at 8:20pm AEST.

Victoria to lift lockdown, flags compulsory QR codes in all workplaces

Victoria to lift lockdown, flags compulsory QR codes in all workplaces

Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino has announced Melbourne's lockdown will end on 11:59pm tomorrow night, but masks will still be mandatory indoors and authorities are also planning to make QR codes required in all workplaces.

"This is a good day. Everyone should be absolutely proud of what we've all achieved together, but we know that this isn't over yet," Merlino said after just one new locally acquired case was reported today.

This takes the total number of cases linked to the latest outbreak to 68, with the Acting Premier encouraged by the fact 28,000 Victorians got tested for COVID-19 yesterday.

"Thanks to these very high testing numbers our public health team are getting a better sense of these outbreaks that are moving through our community," he said.

On the advice of Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, the State Government will remove the five-reasons-to-leave home rule from tomorrow night and extend the 10km travel limit to 25km.

"That means the only reasons to go further than 25 kilometers will be for work, education, caregiving or getting a vaccination," he said.

"Travel into regional Victoria still remains a no-go for now," he clarified, noting that if all goes to plan the division between the capital and the rest of the state would be lifted at 11:59pm next Thursday, 17 June.

Merlino noted people would be able to return to offices in Melbourne at a 25 per cent or a cap of 10, whichever is greater, although the government was still asking people to work from home where possible.

Restaurants and cafes can reopen for seated service with up to 100 people per venue with a maximum of 50 inside, while retail can reopen in line with density limits of one person per four square metres.

Hair and beauty therapy can also resume for treatments where masks can be worn, schools will resume face-to-face learning on Friday, and masks will no longer be required outdoors unless you cannot maintain a 1.5-metre distance.

Some businesses such as gyms, amusement parks, dance studios and nightclubs will need to remain closed for a little while longer. In an attempt to alleviate the impacts, the Acting Premier has announced a further $8.36 million to provide an additional $2,000 grant to support thousands of businesses that are eligible for the Business Cost Assistance Program that remain closed under the restrictions announced today.

Unless there is an exemption by the Federal Government or Australia's Chief Medical Officer maintains the declaration of Melbourne as a hotspot, workers in the aforementioned industries would be unlikely to have access to the COVID-19 disaster payment as outlined by the Prime Minister last week.

"Another thing I want to put on people's radar is in regards to QR codes. On the advice of the Chief Health Officer we will be moving to make QR check-ins compulsory for all workplaces with very limited exemptions," Merlino said.

"Previously it's only been mandatory for customer-facing businesses, but through this outbreak we have seen a number of cases occur in office settings, so we want to take the next step on this.

"We will be looking to consult with industry over the next few days around implementation, and we'll finalise the details next week ahead of the requirements coming into effect."

New settings for regional Victoria

Regional Victoria's already relaxed settings will also improve from 11:59pm tomorrow, with visitors allowed at the home at a maximum of two people and their dependants per day, and gatherings of up to 20 will be allowed in contrast to the limit of 10 for Greater Melbourne.

Restaurants and cafes in regional Victoria will be able to have a maximum of 150 people per venue with seated service, and no more than 75 allowed outdoors. Offices will remain capped at 50 per cent and community sport will be back for all ages both for training and competition.

"Finally, regional Victorians will still be able to travel around regional Victoria, Melburnians will not," Merlino said.

Updated at 12:06pm AEST on 9 July 2021.

PM announces $500 per week package for some lockdown-hit workers

PM announces $500 per week package for some lockdown-hit workers

Workers affected by state-imposed COVID-19 lockdown periods that last longer than a week may be eligible to take up a support payment from the Federal Government aimed at assisting those left without any income.

However, the temporary COVID disaster payment can only be taken up by those living pay cheque to pay cheque. People with liquid assets of $10,000 or greater are completely left out of the plan. 

This implies aspirational homeowners who are still saving for their deposits will not receive this support, in contrast to some peers who already own homes and spent the equivalent savings on a deposit.

Announced today, the payment to be made on a week-by-week basis will be $500 for those who would ordinarily work more than 20 hours per week, or $325 for those who would work less than 20 hours in a seven-day period.

There are a number of caveats to the Commonwealth's plan; first, it only activates once state governments impose lockdown restrictions of more than seven days.

Further, it can only go to those living or working in an area deemed a 'hotspot' by the Federal Government's Chief Health Officer.

Under these restrictions, the support is expected to help many currently living under the Victorian Government's two-week COVID-19 lockdown in Greater Melbourne.

In addition, recipients must be an Australian resident or a holder of a visa class permitted to work in Australia, be engaged in paid employment immediately prior to the lockdown restrictions and have had their income impacted by state-imposed restrictions.

They must also self-declare that they would have worked during the relevant period of lockdown, that they have lost income during the period, and have insufficient leave entitlements to cover them. Applicants will not be required to take annual leave.

Those currently receiving Federal income support payments like JobSeeker are ineligible to claim under the proposed program.

"We're talking about someone getting through the next week, who would ordinarily be in an economic situation where every dollar counts," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"Where those who have independent means of supporting themselves for a week, then I think they would agree that reaching out for Commonwealth taxpayer funded assistance is not something that we consider reasonable for such a short period of time."

Updated at 1.32pm AEST on 2 June 2021.

 

Southern NSW exposure site list grows

Southern NSW exposure site list grows

More locations in southern New South Wales have been classified as "venues of concern" by the state's health authorities, with the original timeframe expanded as three household contacts of the original case test positive.

Nearly 250 people have been identified as casual contacts of the family from Melbourne which visited the Jervis Bay area between 19 and 24 May while potentially infectious.

NSW Health is continuing to investigate the movements of the family and this list of venues may expand still.

Those who were at the following venues at the times listed have been asked to immediately call NSW Health on 1800 943 553, get tested and isolate until further information from authorities is provided:

  • Shell Coles Express Big Merino, Goulburn on 19 May between 1.45-2.05pm
  • The Coffee Pedaler, Gundagai on 19 May between 9.30-11.1am
  • Green Patch campground, Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay from 4pm 19 May to 9am 24 May
  • 5 Little Pigs, Huskisson on Friday 21 May between 8-11.30am
  • Huskisson Treasure Chest, Huskisson on 21 May between 11.30am-12pm
  • Coles Vincentia Shopping Village, Vincentia on 21 May between 12-1pm and 22 May between 12-1pm

Anyone at the follow venues at the times listed must immediately be tested and isolate until a negative result is received:

  • Gundagai Craft Centre, Gundagai on 19 May between 11am-12pm
  • Junque and Disorderly Antique Shop, Gundagai on 19 May between 11am-12pm

Anyone who lives in Jervis Bay, Vincentia, Huskisson, Gundagai or Goulburn, or has visited these areas since 19 May, is asked to be especially vigilant for the onset of even the mildest of cold-like symptoms, and is urged to come forward for testing immediately if they appear, then isolate until a negative result is received.

The locations above are in addition to previously announced venues of concern to NSW Health in the Jervis Bay area:

  • Shell Coles Express Big Merino, Goulburn on Monday 24 May from 10-11.30am
  • Trapper's Bakery, Goulburn on Monday 24 May from 10.30-11.30am
  • Cooked Goose Café, Hyams Beach on Sunday 23 May from 10am-12pm
  • Green Patch campground, Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay on Sunday 23 May all day until 9am on Monday 24 May
  • Coles Vincentia Shopping Village, Vincentia on Sunday 23 May from 12-1pm

Updated at 9.45am on 3 June 2021.

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