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Covid-19 News Updates


ACT to exit lockdown on 15 October once territory hits vaccine milestone

ACT to exit lockdown on 15 October once territory hits vaccine milestone

A new roadmap unveiled today by the Australian Capital Territory forecasts Canberrans will see lockdown lifted on 15 October when an 80 per cent full vaccination target is due to be met.

In the meantime, lockdown restrictions will continue with some minor alterations from 1 October, allowing up to five people to gather outdoors and two people to visit another household at any one time.

This will be a precursor to the lockdown lifting just over two weeks later,  marking the second stage of a four-part easing of restrictions in the territory.

At that point most venues will reopen with capacity limits, gathering limits at home and outdoors will increase, and school will resume for year 11 and 12 students.

Restrictions will then ease again on 29 October, and all public health measures will align with the National Plan in late-November/early-December 2021.

While the territory is optimistic these targets will be hit, health officials will continue to monitor vaccination rates, health system capacity, case numbers and current trends, and testing rates and turnaround times before easing restrictions.

Click here to view the ACT’s full COVID-19 roadmap.

Updated at 2.24pm AEST on 27 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

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Travel stocks fly on news international travel may resume by end of year

Travel stocks fly on news international travel may resume by end of year

Gladys Berejiklian’s announcement today that international travel may resume before the end of the year, subject to Prime Minister Scott Morrison giving it the green light, has given travel stocks a shot in the arm this morning.

Shares in Qantas (ASX: QAN), Flight Centre (ASX: FLT), Webjet (ASX: WEB) and Camplify (ASX: CHL) are all trading at record highs for 2021 at the time of writing, flying high on the promise of greater freedoms come 1 December for New South Wales.

Of particular note is caravan-sharing platform Camplify, founded by two-time winner of the Australian Young Entrepreneur Award in the Hospitality and Tourism category Justin Hales, which at a current share price of $3.20 means investors who bought in on the company’s debut in June have more than doubled their money.

As of 11.45am, shares in Qantas are up 3.90 per cent, Flight Centre is up 8.08, Webjet up by 5.21 per cent, and Camplify by 8.78 per cent.

Today’s ASX movements reflect renewed confidence in US travel stocks too - last week the Dow Jones U.S. Travel & Tourism Stock Market Index (DWCTTR) rose by 11.5 per cent in just five days.

While Australian travel stocks still have a while to go until they return to pre-pandemic levels, for Qantas the rejuvenation is a far cry from its April 2020 bottom of around $3 per share.

The airline today announced changes to its flying schedule in response to the reopening plans, bringing forward the reopening date between Victoria and NSW from 1 December to 5 November, increasing regional flying within NSW from 25 October to around 40 per cent of pre-COVID levels, and delaying the restart of domestic flying between Western Australia and Victoria/NSW by two months to 1 February.

Qantas will continue to operate five return flights a week between Perth and both Sydney and Melbourne to maintain minimum connections for those with permits to travel.

Internationally, flights are still on track to gradually restart from 18 December 2021 onwards when Australia is expected to have reached National Cabinet’s ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80 per cent. 

"It’s great to see plans firming up for some domestic borders opening given the success of the national vaccine rollout," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.

“We’re now planning to ramp up flying between Melbourne and Sydney, which is usually the second busiest air route in the world, almost a month earlier than expected.  There are also a lot of regional destinations that will open up for the first time since June, which is great news for tourism as well as family and friends who can’t wait to see each other again.

“Get ready to see some emotional reunions at airports from late-October onwards."

Shareholders have every right to be excited today after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced residents may be able to consider travelling overseas as soon as the 80 per cent fully vaccinated target is hit - which could come as early as the end of October.

"We believe by 1 December we will be at that COVID normal state where, hopefully, we will be booking our international travel once the PM gives that green light, we will be able to go overseas as well,” Berejiklian said.

Updated at 12.22pm AEST on 27 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

NSW details next steps towards 1 December Freedom Day

NSW details next steps towards 1 December Freedom Day

More freedoms for residents of New South Wales are on the way in the coming months as part of the state’s three-stage reopening plan, the final two parts of which have been unveiled today by the government.

The state has previously announced what life will look like for the population once 70 per cent of people are vaccinated, but details about freedoms once 80 per cent of the population has been fully inoculated have been under wraps until today.

The first stage will kick into gear on 11 October when the 70 per cent double dose vaccination target is anticipated to be reached - currently, 60.1 per cent of people have received two jabs of a vaccine.

Two weeks later, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian expects the state to hit the 80 per cent double dose vaccination target, meaning even more freedoms are just around one month away.

Berejiklian says once that target is hit, people will be allowed to travel freely throughout NSW, stand up for a drink at the pub, resume community sport and even consider international travel.

Restrictions will also be removed for fully vaccinated people attending weddings, funerals and hairdressers and unvaccinated people will be allowed to attend places of worship.

From there, Berejiklian said the third stage of the reopening will occur on 1 December 2021 - essentially the State’s ‘Freedom Day’.

By then, 90 per cent of the population will be fully vaccinated, giving health authorities the confidence to ease capacity rules to one person per four square metres, and allowing unvaccinated people to participate in daily life like those vaccinated had been enjoying a month prior.

Further, masks will also no longer be required and nightclubs will reopen.

“Thank you so much for your patience,” Berejiklian said.

“It is just this week and next week that we have to hang in there for, we’re nearly there, and let’s not give up at the last minute.

"We believe by 1 December we will be at that COVID normal state where, hopefully, we will be booking our international travel once the PM gives that green light, we will be able to go overseas as well.”

The news comes as NSW today reported 787 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths.

Business NSW welcomes three-phase roadmap

New South Wales' peak business organisation Business NSW says today's confirmation of the three phases of reopening is a positive step, providing much-needed certainty to businesses.

“It’s been an uncertain time for many businesses with lots of confusion about which businesses will be able to open and under what rules,” said Business NSW Chief Executive Daniel Hunter.

“The release of the Public Health Orders in coming days will reconfirm that the onus will be on individuals to do the right thing and abide by the rules.

“Business owners can’t be expected to also act as security guards, so long as they have a COVIDSafe plan and appropriate registration in place at their entry, they can get on with the business of being in business."

Updated at 11.33am AEST on 27 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

Gold Coast tourism sector records $1 billion in losses

Gold Coast tourism sector records $1 billion in losses

Gold Coast tourism companies have lost $1 billion in visitor expenditure over the last three months compared to the same period in 2019, according to new figures released today by Destination Gold Coast.  

The city's tourism body estimates local businesses will have lost $326 million in September alone - a 68 per cent decrease on pre-COVID numbers.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 20,094 full- and part-time jobs within the sector have been lost, with a 4,000 further positions expected to be slashed by Christmas. 

The tourism industry employs “one in six jobs on the Gold Coast”, says Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O’Callaghan, making it one of the largest drivers of employment in the area. 

The Griffith Institute for Tourism previously noted a 37 per cent decrease in visitors and an expenditure decline of 47 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, primarily due to lockdowns during peak travel periods. 

It is against this backdrop that O'Callaghan emphasises the industry has been "hurting".

"Our industry has been facing some of its darkest days having persevered through more than 18 months of hardship, but if we get through the next 100 days we can rebound exceptionally strongly," O'Callaghan says.

"We’ve seen support flow in from Federal and State Governments recently that’s going to go a long way, however COVID has left a hole in the pockets of our tourism operators and any additional support is always welcome from both sides of government."

The release of these latest forecasts coincide with Global Tourism Day, which Destination Gold Coast chairman Paul Donovan says would usually mark a time for celebration, but "this year looks very different".

"What’s most important is ensuring our local operators are OK," Donovan says.

In a bid to connect with industry peers experiencing losses and check, Destination Gold Coast is carrying out a walk and talk with tourism operators to "check in" on its members today.

"Fresh air, light exercise and connecting with industry peers has never been more critical," O'Callaghan says.

The tour began at Vibe Hotel, moving through the usually busy accommodation precinct of Surfers Paradise and stopping at big names like the JW Marriot before moving along the foreshore.

Hopes are high for the post-COVID era, says O’Callaghan, and she hopes the day can signal a moment of optimism for a renewed future. 

“Though our norm has been well and truly shaken up, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder at every turn," she says.

Updated at 11:09am AEST on 27 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

Regional Victoria to trial post-lockdown settings in mid-October

Regional Victoria to trial post-lockdown settings in mid-October

With Victoria expected to hit the 80 per cent first dose vaccination target tomorrow, some of the state’s regions will begin trialing the rules which will govern life after lockdown from mid-October.

Up to 20 regional areas that are highly vaccinated will take part in the trials in the fortnight before 26 October - the date when Victoria is aiming to reach the key 70 per cent full vaccination mark, triggering greater freedoms for vaccinated people.

Scheduled to start on 11 October, the trials will cover hospitality, beauty services and tourism businesses, and events such as race meetings, community celebrations and concerts, allowing higher patron numbers if all attendees are confirmed as being fully vaccinated.

The Bass Coast, Greater Bendigo, Pyrenees, Warrnambool, Buloke and East Gippsland will be the first invited to participate in the trials, as these regional hubs have high population rates and low or no COVID-19 cases.

Pending the outcomes of the first phase, a second phase of trials using 80 per cent double dose settings will be held, prior to Victoria achieving that threshold. These trials will be used to hold larger events in metropolitan Melbourne to test the systems and technologies with larger crowd sizes.

"Businesses and events are on the front line of this vital campaign to keep Victorians safe and our economy recovering strongly,” Victorian Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula said.

“We’ll do the work on these trials and provide businesses with the support they need to maintain and build on the gains that continue to be enabled by vaccination.”

It comes ahead of Victoria expecting to hit the 80 per cent first dose vaccination target tomorrow, enabling the State’s health authorities to recommend a “modest” easing of restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Residents of metropolitan Melbourne and regional areas in lockdown will be able to undertake ‘contactless’ recreation at outdoor facilities, such as boating, tennis or golf.

In regional Victoria, outdoor settings for restaurants and cafes will have their outdoor venue cap increase from 20 to 30 people. Masks may be removed if the service requires it in hair and beauty salons, so facials and beard trimmings can recommence.

The gathering size outdoors can increase to up to five adults, from two households, if all adults are fully vaccinated. The 10km radius will also expand to 15km – so exercise and shopping can take place up to 15km from the home.

Personal training will be able to take place with five fully vaccinated people outside plus a fully vaccinated trainer. The additional restrictions on playgrounds will be lifted – normal public gathering limits apply, and masks can be removed to eat and drink at the playground.

Separately, the City of Greater Geelong and Surf Coast Shire exited lockdown at 11:59pm last night – with public health teams confident that caseloads, which are largely contained to existing contacts, can be well managed by the local public health unit.

Mitchell Shire – with more than twice the number of active cases as Greater Geelong – will remain in lockdown due to its close proximity to areas of highest concern in metropolitan Melbourne.

Updated at 10.06am AEST on 27 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

Victoria opens up pathway for stranded residents to return home

Victoria opens up pathway for stranded residents to return home

Victorians stranded in ‘extreme risk’ zones in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory will soon have a pathway to return home, with the State Government today announcing an alteration to border crossing rules.

From 30 September, Victorians in ‘extreme risk’ zones, which includes Sydney, a number of regional hubs in NSW and Canberra, will be permitted to return home if they fit certain criteria.

They can only return if they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and can display a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to leaving the ‘extreme risk’ zone.

Returnees will still have to complete 14 days of quarantine on arrival in Victoria, however they will be allowed to do that at home.

If those returning to Victoria have no safe place to quarantine on arrival, the state government will make arrangements to house them for the duration of the two weeks.

Unlike the home quarantine systems being trialed in New South Wales and South Australia, the two weeks will not be monitored by technology.

“We don’t think we need to do that,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“We think, however, given the number of cases that are here and the number of cases that are in New South Wales, the growing vaccination numbers and our proximity if you like to those double dose thresholds that this is proportionate and the right thing to do.

“That’s a big step forward. This has been a real inconvenience and a real challenge for those people and their families.”

The current ‘extreme risk’ zone rules will remain for Victorians who aren’t fully vaccinated, meaning they can still apply for an exemption to enter the state under the existing limited criteria.

The changes come as Victoria reported a new daily record for locally acquired COVID-19 infections today, with 766 new cases confirmed today and four deaths.

Updated at 11.53am AEST on 23 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

Glen Innes and Orange to leave lockdown tonight

Glen Innes and Orange to leave lockdown tonight

As of midnight tonight, stay-at-home orders for Glen Innes and Orange will be lifted, but the local government area (LGA) of Hilltops will remain under lockdown conditions for a further week from tomorrow.

While residents of the two LGAs will be free to leave their homes, they will be subject to some restrictions to ensure community safety.

Meanwhile, due to ongoing community transmission of COVID-19 in Hilltops, which includes the town of Young, the LGA’s lockdown will last until Friday 1 October.

“We need all people throughout NSW to continue to come forward for testing at the first sign of even mild symptoms,” NSW Health said.

"High vaccination rates are also essential to reduce the risk of transmission and protect the health and safety of the community.”

The changes to rules in regional New South Wales comes one day after stay-at-home orders lifted in Albury and Lismore, and two days after Byron, Tweed and Kempsey went back into lockdown.

Updated at 2.15pm AEST on 23 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

Lockdown to lift tonight for Albury and Lismore

Lockdown to lift tonight for Albury and Lismore

Stay-at-home orders introduced last week for the New South Wales local government areas (LGAs) of Albury and Lismore will no longer apply from midnight tonight.

However, the two LGAs will remain under some restrictions in order to ensure community safety, according to NSW Health.

“We thank the communities of Albury and Lismore for their co-operation and for coming forward for testing in large numbers,” NSW Health said.

“We need all people throughout NSW to continue to come forward for testing at the first sign of even mild symptoms. High vaccination rates are also essential to reduce the risk of transmission and protect the health and safety of the community.”

The easing of restrictions comes one day after Byron, Tweed and Kempsey went back into lockdown after COVID-19 cases were detected in the region.

Updated at 4.58pm AEST on 22 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

Byron, Tweed and Kempsey to go back into lockdown

Byron, Tweed and Kempsey to go back into lockdown

The northern New South Wales local government areas (LGAs) of Byron Shire, Tweed and Kempsey will go back into lockdown for one week from 5pm today after COVID-19 cases were detected in the region.

The lockdown will be implemented due to the heightened COVID-19 public health risk according to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

The stay-at-home orders also apply to anyone who has been in Kempsey since 14 September, or Byron or Tweed since 18 September.

Everyone in the affected LGAs must stay at home unless it is for an essential reason, which includes shopping for food, medical care, getting vaccinated, compassionate needs, exercise and work or tertiary education if you can’t work or study at home.

People who are fully vaccinated can attend an outdoor gathering of up to five people for exercise or outdoor recreation, as long as all of those aged 16 or older are fully vaccinated.

“I encourage everybody in those areas to take this very seriously,” Hazzard said.

“So far those areas have been kept relatively safe, but we need the community to keep getting tested so that the public health team can be very certain of what we need to do at the expiration of those seven days.”

The order comes after NSW reported 1,022 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases today and 10 deaths, with most of the new cases being detected in Sydney’s west and south-west.

Updated at 11.24am AEST on 21 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

Melbourne’s construction industry shut down for two weeks

Melbourne’s construction industry shut down for two weeks

Rising COVID-19 case numbers in Victoria's construction sector has led to a shutdown of the entire industry for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne and other local government areas (LGAs) currently in lockdown.

The change, announced overnight, comes after violent protests erupted at the industry’s main trade union office in Melbourne yesterday where multiple people were arrested.

In a statement issued by Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, the industry shutdown is aimed at the movement of the highly mobile workforce.

In addition, the Government is concerned about the sector’s compliance with public health measures and directions.

"We’ve been clear: if you don't follow the rules, we won't hesitate to take action – we have seen widespread non-compliance across the industry and that’s why we're taking necessary steps to protect every single Victorian,” Pallas said.

“We put the industry on notice just a week ago, we have seen appalling behaviour on site and on our streets, and now we're acting decisively and without hesitation.”

The total shutdown came into effect at midnight last night and is expected to last until 4 October.

All construction projects in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire will be closed, with a strictly limited exemption for workers to attend the sites to respond to an emergency or perform urgent and essential work to protect health and safety.

An amnesty will be put in place so that a limited number of workers can attend construction sites in order to shut them down safely.

All government construction projects in metropolitan Melbourne and the relevant LGAs will be closed, with no new work to be completed other than work required to make the site safe and secure.

All sites will be required to demonstrate compliance with Chief Health Officer directions prior to reopening, including the requirement for workers to show evidence to their employer of having had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before they return to site on 5 October.

From 11.59pm 23 September, all construction workers require at least their first dose of the vaccine.

CFMEU reacts to protests

The complete shutdown of the construction industry follows a violent protest at the sector’s main trade union office in Melbourne, with demonstrators clashing over the government’s decision to make vaccines mandatory for the construction workers.

In response to the violence, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) condemned the protests, saying the crowd was inflamed by far-right extremists.

“The CFMMEU condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack on the CFMEU Victorian Branch office and the mindless acts of violence perpetrated by members of the mob,” the CFMEU said.

“This crowd was heavily infiltrated by neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremist groups and it is clear that a minority of those who participated were actual union members.

“We thank the officials, delegates and rank-and-file members of the union who came to protect their office and their officials, and note that a number of people received minor injuries from acts of violence including the throwing of bottles.”

The union said it would continue to defend its members’ rights to work safely across Australia and would not be intimidated by far-right extremism.

“These are not actions of people who care about their workmates and the construction industry,” the CFMEU said.

“They are the actions of extremists or people manipulated by extremists.”

Updated at 9.24am AEST on 21 September 2021.

This update is brought to you by Employment Hero.

Click here to go to Employment Hero’s COVID-19 Resource Hub for essential resources to help employers, managers and HR specialists navigate the ongoing pandemic. 


 

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