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Covid-19 News Updates


Hazzard: regional quarantine not for NSW

Hazzard: regional quarantine not for NSW

Following yesterday's proposal from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to move quarantine services to regional mining camps, New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard has rejected a push to do the same in his state.

Speaking to ABC News Hazzard said NSW's current system is working well and is able to cope with the large number of returning overseas travellers the state receives every day.

"New South Wales has taken by far the majority of people coming back into our hotel quarantine system," Hazzard told ABC News.

"So it will be very challenging to find a regional area that can cope with that.

"Secondly, our public health officialsindicated that [regional quarantine] would create further risks for us, particularly in transporting people on busses."

Despite his rejection of the push for regional quarantine in NSW, Hazzard welcomes the proposal made by other states.

"We're not saying to Queensland don't do it that's their call, we're not saying to WA don't do it that's their call, they have mining camps and other areas that might work for them," Hazzard said.

"All of our systems around the country are based on people they're human systems, so it's a constant matter to try and find any little holes where there might be a hole.

"We've had over 115,000 people pass through the Sydney quarantine system, and I think we've maybe had three relatively small issued. So that's a very small number in a very, very big system."

NSW recorded zero new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 today for the second day in a row.

However, Premier Gladys Berejiklian was disappointed with the number of tests done yesterday, and has called upon those in the state to get testing numbers up so restrictions can be eased.

"I want to stress to the community that relief is on its way so long as we maintain low or zero numbers of cases on a daily basis and also so long as we get those testing rates high," Berejiklian said.

Updated at 12.41pm AEDT on 15 January.

 

Mask restrictions to ease as VIC goes eight days without local transmission

Mask restrictions to ease as VIC goes eight days without local transmission

Mask rules and capacity limits in office spaces will ease for Victorians on Sunday evening as the state goes more than a week without new local cases of COVID-19.

According to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the efforts of contact tracers to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus in the state mean he is comfortable to dial down restrictions.

As such, from 11.59pm AEDT on Sunday 17 January, masks will only need to be worn in "high-risk" environments like shopping centres, supermarkets, and on public transport.

Further, private sector business will be able to return to having 50 per cent of the workforce in the office, while the public sector will move up to 25 per cent of the workforce present.

"To produce eight days of zero is something that all of our public health team can be proud of," Andrews said.

"It doesn't mean that we should ever take for granted the precious things we've built. That's why we've had to make very difficult decisions.

"I think pausing for the week was the right choice to make, given there was some uncertainty."

The Premier also confirmed there are 18 people in VIC who stayed at Brisbane's Grand Chancellor Hotel during the period when a cleaner at the hotel contracted the UK variant of COVID-19.

As such, VIC health officials have asked those 18 people to either isolate and get tested, or just get tested, depending on when they were staying at the hotel.

"There's not one blanket answer, it depends on when they were in hotel quarantine," Andrews said.

"Because of the infections that have already been recorded in hotel quarantine between staff and residents...circumstances are very much based on each person's travel movements and when they were in hotel quarantine."

Updated at 12.29pm AEDT on 14 January 2021.

Palaszczuk proposes QLD mining camps as hotel quarantine alternative

Palaszczuk proposes QLD mining camps as hotel quarantine alternative

Those returning to Queensland from overseas could be completing their mandatory fortnight of quarantine in the state's mining camps if a proposal from the Premier is approved.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was looking at using QLD mining camps to accommodate international travellers instead of CBD hotels.

At this stage the idea is simply a proposal, but the Premier will be raising the concept at the next National Cabinet meeting to seek approval from the Federal Government.

According to Palaszczuk, accommodation at mining camps is ideal for quarantine purposes: the facilities are top quality, complete with balconies for fresh air, and staff can stay on site.

The proposal follows the latest case of community transmission in Queensland, contracted at CBD-based Hotel Grand Chancellor by a cleaner of the quarantine facility.

That case, a positive infection of the UK variant of COVID-19, sent the city of Brisbane into a three-day lockdown last week.

The proposal mirrors the approach taken by the Northern Territory government where returning travellers are accommodated at the Howard Springs quarantine facility - a disused workers camp.

"With this new strain, we have to put all options on the table, and these are sensible, rational options," Palaszczuk said.

"Howard Springs works very well in the Northern Territory, and there's no reason why we couldn't do something similar here in Queensland.

"We are looking at alternative plans to hotel quarantine that is based right in the midst of the CBD where you have a whole lot of staff that come in from all around and you have people flying in and out of airports."

The announcement comes as QLD reported four new cases of COVID-19 today, all in hotel quarantine. None of the new cases were detected in Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Hotel Grand Chancellor public health alert issued in NSW

NSW Health has asked anyone who stayed at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane since 30 December 2020, either as a returned traveller or as a staff member, to isolate for two weeks.

The alert comes after six cases of the UK variant of COVID-19 were linked to the hotel.

According to NSW Health the Queensland Government said there were people staying at the hotel who have since returned to NSW.

"NSW Health is working with Queensland Health to identify these people so our contact tracers can provide public health advice and updated information as it becomes available," NSW Health said.

"This variant is known to spread more easily from person to person than other strains of the COVID-19 virus."

Photo via AUSCO Modular

Updated at 10.57am AEDT on 14 January 2021.

SA to open to regional NSW, but remains closed to Brisbane and Sydney

SA to open to regional NSW, but remains closed to Brisbane and Sydney

People living in regional New South Wales will be permitted to travel into South Australia from 12.01am ACDT tomorrow, but a hard border will remain to those from hotspots in Sydney and Brisbane.

According to SA Premier Steven Marshall low case numbers in regional NSW means the state's transition committee is comfortable to relax border restrictions.

The only requirement for those travelling into SA from regional NSW is that they get tested on days one, five and 12 on arrival in the state.

A hard border will stay in place for hotspots in NSW including Greater Sydney, Wollongong, Central Coast and the Blue Mountains.

Travellers from Greater Brisbane will also not be allowed to enter SA.

"I know that it's been hugely inconvenient, and I know people were hoping that we could do that [open to Brisbane] yesterday or today," Marshall said.

"But we're not in that position at the moment and there are still some worrying concerns there.

"We're hopeful it will be done in the coming days."

SA recorded two new cases of COVID-19 today, both in hotel quarantine.

Updated at 4.54pm AEDT on 13 January 2021.

Brisbane: Hotel Grand Chancellor guests to be moved

Brisbane: Hotel Grand Chancellor guests to be moved

Genomic testing has revealed six cases of the mutant UK strain of COVID-19 at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane, which has been taking in quarantine guests since September according to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The state government has announced a precautionary measure to try and stamp out the cluster through further tests of the remaining 129 guests, as well as moving them to other hotels.

"They will not be charged for their time at the Grand Chancellor or the hotels that they are going to be moved to."

"226 people who worked in the hotel since December 30 [the date the first case of the UK strain arrived in Australia] are going to be contacted and they will go into quarantine and get tested."

She said 250 quarantine guests who have left the hotel since December 30 are now currently being contacted, and they will be quarantined and tested as well.

"No more guests have gone into the hotel since the variant was discovered on January 7," she said.

"Everybody is cooperating, everyone is doing the right thing, the investigation is ongoing, but what we are seeing is that this UK variant is unknown.

"I think we need to immediately look at the way in which we are handling people coming into the country - international arrivals and also to looking at the quarantine hotels that they are going into.

"Of course, we have to put in additional precautions and we are doing that immediately."

There were two new cases in Queensland overnight, both in hotel quarantine, but the number of active cases has also gone down by two to 26.

So far, all the cases of the UK COVID-19 strain have been on the seventh floor of the hotel.

"We're going to be very, very careful about floor seven, of course, and see whether that's where it's spread," said Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.

Dr Young noted authorities were tracing back any people who had been in contact with the hotel since 30 December, including maritime staff who may currently be at sea. She also called for people with even the mildest symptoms to get tested, especially if they have been to the following venues at the stated times:

  • Sunday 3 January, Woolworths Calamvale, North Calamvale - 11.00am to 12.00pm
  • Tuesday 5 January, Coles Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown, Sunnybank Hills - 7.30am to 8.00am
  • Tuesday 5 January, Nextra Sunnybank Hills Newsagent, Sunnybank Hills - 8.00am to 8.15am
  • Tuesday 5 January, Bunnings Warehouse, Acacia Ridge - 2.00pm to 2.40pm
  • Wednesday 6 January, Sunnybank Cellars (formerly Lucky Star Bottler) New Hellawell Road, Sunnybank Hills -  2.05pm to 2.15pm
  • Wednesday 6 January, Cappriccios Italian Pizza Restaurant, Maleny - 6.30pm to 7.00pm
  • Thursday 7 January, Purple Palate Cellars, Maleny - 4.15pm 4.25pm
  • Thursday 7 January, Woolworths Supermarket, Maleny - 4.30pm 4.50pm

Updated at 10:11am AEST on 13 January 2020.

ACT lifts restrictions on several NSW regions

ACT lifts restrictions on several NSW regions

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has today made it easier for people to travel into the nation's capital from NSW, lifting quarantine restrictions on those who have been in the Central Coast, Wollongong, Campbelltown, Wollondilly, Penrith and the Blue Mountains.

These local government areas (LGAs) have been removed from the list of the territory's COVID-affected areas.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said this meant the following 11 LGAs in Greater Sydney remain on the list:

  • Northern Beaches
  • Blacktown City
  • Burwood
  • Canada Bay
  • Canterbury Bankstown
  • Cumberland
  • Fairfield City
  • Inner West
  • Liverpool City
  • Parramatta City
  • Strathfield

"ACT residents and non-residents currently in quarantine from those 11 specific local government areas that I have just listed still need to complete their 14-day quarantine period," Barr (pictured) said.

"If you are uncertain about your status, you will of course receive information from ACT Health, so everyone will be informed of this change.

"These changes that affect some areas within the New South Wales are of course a positive step forward, but it's not a sign that we can all collectively drop our guard to the virus."

NSW recorded five new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 overnight, while Queensland recorded three new cases who are all currently in hotel quarantine, one of whom is the partner of the hotel cleaner who contracted the more infectious UK strain of the virus. 

More health alerts have been made for venues in Brisbane due to the new case's movements while infectious to Bunnings Warehouse in Acacia Ridge and Sunnybank Cellars on 5 and 6 of January respectively. 

Updated at 3:10pm AEDT on 12 January 2021.

Victoria to introduce traffic light permit system for all travel into state

Victoria to introduce traffic light permit system for all travel into state

A new travel permit system based on a traffic light structure will be introduced in Victoria this afternoon for all incoming domestic travellers, giving Australians further clarity and certainty when they travel.

The traffic light system see the chief health officer declare other regions in parts of Australia as green, orange, or red, depending on the COVID-19 risk.

Depending on a state's status, certain restrictions will apply for travellers from a given area.

The new structure will come into effect from 5.59pm today.

"Until we have a vaccine, we'll need to continue to react and respond to changing circumstances," Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.

"This system will make sure we can do just that, while supporting the rapid response of our contact tracing team.

"With an easy to understand traffic light system, Victorians and Australians will understand exactly what the latest public health advice means for them, and their travel plans."

The type of permit will depend on where you have been, with applicants required to provide details on where they are coming from and where they are traveling to. These details will allow the contact tracing team to rapidly reach people should a new risk emerge.

The traffic light system

A red zone means if travellers have visited this area in the past 14 days they will not be allowed to enter Victoria without an exception or exemption. If they try to enter Victoria at a land border they will be turned away.

Returned Victorian travellers arriving by plane or by water without a valid reason or exemption will be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days and will receive a fine of $4,957.

Interstate residents presenting at an airport or seaport without a valid reason or exemption will be fined $4,957 and returned to their destination on the next available flight.

If this requires an overnight stay, these individuals will need to stay in hotel quarantine until their departure.

An orange zone means that travellers will be able to apply for a permit and will need to take a coronavirus test within 72 hours after arriving in Victoria, isolating both before and after your test, until they receive a negative result.

Under this system regional NSW, including the Central Coast, will be reclassified as an orange zone.

A green zone means that travellers will be able to apply for a permit and enter Victoria.

As part of the permit application, travellers will also be asked whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms, whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are a close contact with someone who has and whether they have visited particular exposure sites.

Until then current permits, including transit and worker permits, will remain valid.

"The necessary public health restrictions in place for the New South Wales border have been without doubt a challenge but they've also been integral to making sure we protect the wins of every single Victorian," Minister for Health Martin Foley said.

Updated 3.29pm AEDT on 11 January 2021.

Lockdown to be lifted in Greater Brisbane, but mask rules remain

Lockdown to be lifted in Greater Brisbane, but mask rules remain

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured) has thanked residents in Greater Brisbane for their sacrifice during the pre-emptive long weekend lockdown, with encouraging results allowing stay-at-home directives to be lifted as planned at 6pm this evening.

A positive case of the highly infectious UK strain of COVID-19 led the state to take what Palaszczuk described as a "world-first" course of action on Friday, in a bid to nip a potential spread in the bud through a three-day lockdown in Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Redlands and Logan.

For the first time millions of Queenslanders were required to wear masks outside the home, and most were compliant after seeing the devastating effects of outbreaks and extended lockdowns in Melbourne and more recently in Sydney's Northern Beaches.

Premier Palaszczuk reported the "wonderful news" of zero new cases of community transmission overnight, with four new cases in hotel quarantine - two being Emirates flight staff - taking the state's total number of active cases to 25.

"Can I thank people in the Greater Brisbane region for responding the way that they did. It has been absolutely, truly remarkable," she said.

"So I can announced that the reward for this sacrifice is that we are able to end our lockdown after three days."


Follow live coverage and background on our COVID-19 feed


However, if the virus has seeded there is still a timeframe where continued abatement measures are needed, leading Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young to advise the continued use of masks until 1am on 22 January.

Requirements apply to anyone who has been in Greater Brisbane since 2 January, regardless of where they might be now. 

The new rules in Greater Brisbane from 6pm will be more relaxed, but the Premier's message is "when in doubt, wear a mask".

"You'll have to carry a face mask with you at all times. It is not dissimilar to what has happened in other jurisdictions," Premier Palaszczuk said.

She confirmed mask wearing would be required in the following locations:

  • Shopping centres
  • Supermarkets
  • Retail outlets
  • Indoor markets
  • Hospitals and aged care facilities
  • Churches and places of worship
  • Libraries
  • Indoor recreational facilities such as cinemas and art galleries
  • Indoor workplaces where social distancing is not possible
  • Public transport, taxis and ridesharing services
  • Airports and on planes

People will not need to wear masks when driving alone in their own cars, or with family members in their own cars.

The State Government also set the following gathering and social distancing rules that will be in place until 1am, 22 January.

Businesses and venues

  • Indoors: 1 person per 4 sqm
  • Outdoors: 1 person per 2 sqm
  • Seated eating and drinking only
  • Smaller venues up to 200 sqm: 1 person per 2sqm up to a maximum of 50
  • No dancing except for weddings

Gatherings

  • Up to 20 in homes and public spaces
  • Weddings: up to 100. No restriction on dancing
  • Funerals: up to 100
  • Indoor concert venues or theatres: 50 per cent capacity or 1 person per 4 sqm whichever is greater
  • Outdoor stadiums: 50 per cent capacity with COVID-safe plans

Updated at 9:26am AEST on 11 January 2021.

 

Victorians in Brisbane urged not to leave

Victorians in Brisbane urged not to leave

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has called on residents who happen to be in Greater Brisbane to stay put for a few days, in line with the National Cabinet agreement to declare the Queensland capital and its surrounds a hotspot.

The move comes as other states and territories put in place varying quarantine and isolation requirements for people who have arrived, or will be arriving, from Greater Brisbane.

In Western Australia's case, this means a hard border not just for Brisbane but all of Queensland

The approach from Victorian health authorities has been to put more onus on the individual and hopefully avoid any last-ditch attempts to beat the Brisbane lockdown.

"Anyone who has been in, visited or travelled through the local government areas of Brisbane City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council, Redland, Ipswich or Logan city councils since 2 January should not leave those areas until at least Monday," the DHHS said.

"The Queensland Government has ordered a three-day lockdown of the area.

"All Victorians in these areas are advised to follow the guidance of the Queensland Government and any Victorian with plans to travel to these areas should cancel them."

As is the case in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales, anyone in Victoria who has been in the local government areas (LGAs) concerned since the relevant date will need to get tested.

While other jurisdictions' advice ranges from a fortnightly self-isolation to just urging social distancing, authorities in Victoria are asking these people to stay at home until Monday when a further assessment will be made.

"We are working with our counterparts in other jurisdictions to address this matter which is obviously of national concern. The department is working through the implications for our current permit system and will provide more information on this shortly," the DHHS said.

"The border with NSW remains closed and the department is working though more than 4000 exemption applications for travel to Victoria for compassionate and medical reasons. 

"579 exemptions have been granted so far and staff are processing the most urgent cases first with priority given to Victorian residents. 

"Every exemption is assessed on a case-by-case basis and is being processed as quickly as possible."

The number of active cases in Victoria is now 39, made up of 28 locally acquired cases which is no change since yesterday and 11 cases in hotel quarantine, an increase of one in the past 24 hours.  The number of active cases linked to the Black Rock Restaurant cluster remains at 27.

Updated at 4:52pm AEDT on 8 January 2021.

WA to shut out QLD travellers over UK COVID strain concerns

WA to shut out QLD travellers over UK COVID strain concerns

The Western Australian Government will close its border to travellers from Queensland from midnight tonight, as authorities await impacts from the nation's first community transmission of the highly contagious UK COVID-19 strain in Brisbane.

In a statement on his Facebook page following a National Cabinet meeting, which agreed to a 50 per cent reduction in WA's international arrival cap among other new measures, Premier Mark McGowan said the new super-fast spreading strain set a new benchmark in the fight against COVID-19.

"The rulebook continues to evolve, as does COVID. As result, we cannot hesitate - we cannot sit back, wait and watch. With COVID-19 and this new strain we cannot assume anything," he said.

"Given the number of contacts and potentially affected venues and locations, we need to move fast. Queensland and the whole of Australia are on high alert."

The National Cabinet agreed today to set restrictions nationwide for travellers from Greater Brisbane or who have been there since 2 January, but WA has taken a stricter approach with a hard border to come into place from 12:01am on 9 January.

The measures will be the same as WA's hard borders for NSW and those set for VIC at the start of 2021, with exemptions in place for certain government officials and defence personnel, freight and logistics workers and other special cases including on compassionate grounds.

Those who are currently in WA and have been in QLD since the date concerned - some 7,500 arrivals according to state police and a further 1,400 on flights scheduled today - will need to self-quarantine and get tested

"Our thoughts are with our friends and family in Queensland," Premier McGowan said.

"Tonight, when they go into lockdown, they are not just doing it for Queensland they are doing it for the whole nation."

Recent arrivals will need to be tested or COVID-19 by Tuesday, 12 January.

"Obviously today is 41 degrees so from a health perspective, we are NOT telling people to rush to a COVID clinic today," said McGowan, who is also dealing with a bushfire emergency north of Perth at the moment.

"But you do need to expect delays just like we see everywhere around Australia and the world - so we ask everyone to be patient and to bring water and sun protection, in case the wait is long.

"They will also need to be tested on Day 11 of their quarantine."

Western Australia has now been free of community transmission of COVID-19 for 272 days, or almost nine months.

Updated at 11:49am AWST on 8 January 2021.

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