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Covid-19 News Updates

Your unvaccinated friend is roughly 20 times more likely to give you COVID

Your unvaccinated friend is roughly 20 times more likely to give you COVID

As lockdowns ease in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT, and people return to work and socialising, many of us will be mixing more with others, even though a section of the community is still unvaccinated.

Many vaccinated people are concerned about the prospect of mixing with unvaccinated people. This mixing might be travelling on trains or at the supermarket initially. But also at family gatherings, or, in NSW at least, at pubs and restaurants when restrictions ease further, slated for December 1.

Some people are wondering, why would a vaccinated person care about the vaccine status of another person?

Briefly, it’s because vaccines reduce the probability of getting infected, which reduces the probability of a vaccinated person infecting someone else. And, despite vaccination providing excellent protection against severe disease, a small proportion of vaccinated people still require ICU care. Therefore some vaccinated people may have a strong preference to mix primarily with other vaccinated people.

But what exactly is the risk of catching COVID from someone who’s unvaccinated?

What’s the relative risk?

Recent reports from the Victorian Department of Health find that unvaccinated people are ten times more likely to contract COVID than vaccinated people.

We also know that vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the disease even if they become infected. The Doherty modelling from August puts the reduction at around 65%, although more recent research has suggested a lower estimate for AstraZeneca. Hence for this thought experiment, we’ll take a lower value of 50%.

As the prevalence of COVID changes over time, it’s hard to estimate an absolute risk of exposure. So instead, we need to think about risks in a relative sense.

If I were spending time with an unvaccinated person, then there’s some probability they’re infected and will infect me. However, if they were vaccinated, they’re ten times less likely to be infected and half as likely to infect me, following the numbers above.

Hence we arrive at a 20-fold reduction in risk when hanging out with a vaccinated person compared to someone who’s not vaccinated.

The Conversation, CC BY-ND

The exact number depends on a range of factors, including the type of vaccine and time since vaccination. But, in Australia we can expect a large risk reduction when mixing with fully vaccinated people.

The calculation holds true whether you yourself are vaccinated or not. But being vaccinated provides a ten-fold reduction for yourself, which is on top of the risk reduction that comes from people you’re mixing with being vaccinated.

So, dining in an all-vaccinated restaurant and working in an all-vaccinated workplace presents a much lower infection risk to us as individuals, whether we are vaccinated or not. The risk reduction is around 20-fold, but as individuals, we need to consider whether that’s meaningful for our own circumstances, and for the circumstances of those we visit.

There are also added complexities, in that there are three vaccine brands available, and eligibility is still limited to those aged 12 and older. Although, we do know kids are less susceptible and less likely to show symptoms.

However, as more information emerges, we can always update our estimates and think through the implications on the risk reduction.

What about people who can’t be vaccinated?

Some people haven’t been able to get vaccinated because they’re either too young or they have a medical exemption. Other people are immunocompromised and won’t get the same level of protection from two doses as the rest of the community.

Increasing our coverage across the board will help protect those who aren’t fully protected by vaccination (whether that’s by eligibility, medical reasons or choice).

Those at higher risk also enjoy the risk reduction if they’re able to mix primarily with vaccinated people.

And other choices we make can help reduce the risk of transmission when vaccination is impossible, for example, wearing masks, washing hands carefully, and so on.

Do rapid antigen tests help?

Some people have proposed that frequent testing could be used to suppress COVID spread for those who are unwilling to be vaccinated.

Health minister Greg Hunt said Australians can buy rapid antigen tests from November 1, so they can test themselves at home or before entering certain venues.

So how much does a rapid antigen test reduce risk to others?

To answer that question we need to consider test sensitivity.

Test sensitivity is the probability a rapid test will return a positive result, if the person is infected.

It’s challenging to get an accurate estimate. But rapid antigen tests are about 80% as sensitive as a PCR test, which are the traditional COVID tests we do that get sent off to a lab. The PCR tests themselves are about 80% sensitive when it comes to identifying someone with COVID.

So, if you did a rapid antigen test at home, it’s about 64% likely to pick up that you’re positive, if you did have COVID.

Therefore, rapid antigen tests can find about two-thirds of cases. If you’re going to a gathering where everyone has tested negative on a rapid antigen test, that’s a three-fold reduction in risk.

Even though rapid tests provide a reduction in risk, they don’t replace vaccines.

When used in conjunction with high levels of vaccination, rapid tests would provide improved protection for settings where we’re particularly keen to stop disease spread, such as hospitals and aged care facilities.

Consequently, despite the high efficacy of COVID vaccines, there are still reasons a vaccinated person would prefer to mix with vaccinated people, and avoid mixing with unvaccinated people.

This is particularly true for those at higher risk of severe disease, whether due to age or disability. Their baseline risk will be higher, so a 20-fold reduction in risk is more meaningful.The Conversation

Christopher Baker, Research Fellow in Statistics for Biosecurity Risk, The University of Melbourne and Andrew Robinson, CEO of the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

TGA provisionally approves Pfizer booster shots for Australian adults

TGA provisionally approves Pfizer booster shots for Australian adults

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has today provisionally approved a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (COMIRANTY) for Australians aged 18 years and older.

The provisional approval means adults may receive a booster shot (third dose) of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months after being fully vaccinated, even if the first two doses were AstraZeneca or Moderna shots.

In addition, consistent with Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice, the TGA says a third dose may be given to severely immunocompromised people aged 12 years and over at least 28 days after the second dose.

“TGA provisionally approved the booster dose following careful evaluation of the available data supporting safety and efficacy,” the TGA said.

“The TGA's decision was also informed by expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Vaccines, an independent committee with scientific, clinical and consumer representation.

“The Australian Government's priority continues to be completion of a two-dose vaccination schedule as this enables strong protection against severe illness and hospitalisation. Further information on the vaccine roll out will subsequently be published on the Department of Health's website.”

Updated at 9.32am AEDT on 27 October 2021.

SA reopening interstate borders to fully vaccinated travellers from 23 November

SA reopening interstate borders to fully vaccinated travellers from 23 November

South Australia has today unveiled its roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions today, announcing its state border will reopen to all inoculated domestic travellers from 23 November, at which point health authorities expect 80 per cent of the local eligible population will be fully vaccinated.

In addition, remaining restrictions in the state such as mandatory mask-wearing and the prohibition of dancing will be eased once the population reaches the 90 per cent fully vaccinated mark - a milestone expected to be hit before Christmas although no date has yet been set for when that might be.

Under the roadmap, from 23 November anyone travelling interstate into South Australia will be permitted to do so as long as they have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes travellers from states like Western Australia and the Northern Territory where travel is currently unrestricted into SA.

At that time, the only local restriction that will be eased is the 20 person capacity limit on home gatherings. That will rise to 30 people per gathering.

All other restrictions will remain in place, but international arrivals into SA that have been fully vaccinated will only have to complete seven days of hotel quarantine rather than 14.

Once the state hits the 90 per cent fully vaccinated target SA’s international border will reopen to all fully vaccinated overseas arrivals, but unvaccinated travellers will still have to complete two weeks of quarantine in a state-run facility.

Most remaining COVID restrictions will ease at this time too, but “high-risk” activities like dancing at nightclubs and standing consumption of alcohol indoors will be reserved for vaccinated people only.

Masks will no longer be mandatory except in aged care settings and hospitals, and COVID management plans will still be required for large events.

“South Australians have worked extraordinarily hard over the last 19 months - they’ve stood shoulder to shoulder together in a time which can really only be described as one of the most turbulent in recent history,” SA Premier Steven Marshall said.

“I think South Australia is now enjoying a very enviable status and I’m very grateful to the people of South Australia for the hard work they have put in.

“I’m asking them to continue to work hard so make sure that we can get to as normal Christmas as possible.”

Updated at 3.19pm AEDT on 26 October 2021.

QLD sets out plan for return of international students

QLD sets out plan for return of international students

An international education sector that was worth $5.8 billion to Queensland economy before the pandemic could be on track for a revival, with the state government planning to use an under-construction quarantine facility to welcome student arrivals for the first semester of 2022.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced international students will be the first to use the regional quarantine facility being built at Wellcamp outside Toowoomba - a project slated to be partially operational by the end of this year and due for completion in mid-2022.

The announcement comes with two conditions. A proportion of students must study at universities outside of Brisbane, and priority will be given to medical and health students who will work for Queensland Health.

The Premier said Wellcamp provides the perfect solution so that the students do not displace returning Australian citizens and residents.

"This is why we went it alone to make Wellcamp a reality," she said.

"It gives Queensland an opportunity other states don’t have."

Tourism, Innovation and Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said 20,000 students enrolled with a Queensland university had been studying offshore.

“While remote learning has made it possible for students to continue Queensland university studies from their home countries, we recognise it isn’t a sustainable, long-term substitute for to face-to-face tutorials and practical experience," Minister Hinchliffe said.

“We also know international students make an important contribution to the culture of Queensland cities and our regions.

“International students are an important source of workers for many businesses in Queensland’s regional and metropolitan areas."

He added the absence of international students had been particularly felt in the rural, hospitality and tourism industries.

Minister Hinchliffe explained a Student Arrivals Plan had been sent to the Federal Government in response to the Commonwealth’s Protocols and Preconditions for International Student Arrivals. 

"This plan is the first phase of scaling up from semester one and seeing more students return to Queensland over time," he said.

Professor Sandra Harding, Vice Chancellor and President of James Cook University, and Chair of the Queensland Vice Chancellor Committee, said the sector had worked collaboratively with the State Government.

“We are delighted the State Government has progressed plans to bring back international students,” Professor Harding said.

“These students have been studying online for almost two years waiting to return to Queensland and many of them need to undertake important practical assessments to complete their studies.  

“International students are such a vibrant part of all of our campuses and communities, and we look forward to welcoming them back to our state.” 

Updated at 2:08pm AEST on 26 October 2021.

Queensland records two new cases, exposure sites listed in Bundaberg, Glass House Mountains

Queensland records two new cases, exposure sites listed in Bundaberg, Glass House Mountains

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced the state has recorded two new cases of COVID-19 today, only one of which is of concern to health authorities, while three new exposure sites have also been listed in Bundaberg, the Glass House Mountains and the suburb of Crestmead in Logan.

Speaking in Parliament this morning, Premier Palaszczuk said the case of concern is an unvaccinated 17-year-old on the Gold Coast who presented to the Gold Coast University Hospital with a headache.

The second case is a woman in her 30s who arrived in Queensland from Melbourne and is currently undertaking home quarantine. As such, she is considered low risk.

Palaszczuk also announced a truck driver who tested positive to COVID-19 in New South Wales was infectious in Queensland while travelling to Bundaberg.

As such, three exposure sites have been listed by QLD Health:

  • Fresh Fields FoodWorks Thabeban, Bundaberg Central on 23 October from 4-4.45pm
  • Caboolture South Travel Centre (Truck stop area men’s toilet), Glass House Mountains on 23 October from 8.50-9.35pm
  • Graham Lusty Trailers, Crestmead on 21 October from 7-10.45am

The news comes just hours after the Western Australian government announced it was planning on reopening its borders to travellers from Queensland tomorrow.

As such, Queensland is set to become a ‘low risk’ jurisdiction at 12.01am on Wednesday - a change that was delayed following the detection of a case on the Gold Coast late last week.

However, the WA government notes the change is subject to no further outbreaks in QLD. As a result of the new cases today, this reclassification may be delayed once again.

Updated at 11.14am AEDT on 26 October 2021.

Victorian retail to reopen a week earlier, milestone set for scrapping masks and capacity limits

Victorian retail to reopen a week earlier, milestone set for scrapping masks and capacity limits

With Victoria poised to hit its 80 per cent double dose vaccination milestone almost a week ahead of schedule, the state has unveiled what its COVID-normal will look like with eased restrictions now confirmed for this Friday.

In addition, the state government has outlined that in one month’s time capacity quotients and most restrictions will be removed once the state hits the 90 per cent fully vaccinated mark.

As such, at 6pm on Friday 29 October more restrictions will fall away in line with the state’s eligible population reaching the 80 per cent double dose target.

Most indoor settings, including restaurants, pubs, gyms and hairdressers will open with no caps subject to a one person per 4sqm limit, if all staff and patrons are fully vaccinated. Most outdoor settings will remain at one person per 2sqm limit up to 500, where staff and patrons are fully vaccinated.

These indoor and outdoor settings will also apply to weddings, funerals and religious gatherings if all attendees are fully vaccinated. Caps of 30 people will apply for weddings, funerals and religious gatherings if vaccination status is unknown.

At long last, entertainment venues will reopen. For indoor seated venues including cinemas and theatres, there will a 75 per cent capacity or one person per 4sqm limit up to 1,000 people and for non-seated indoor entertainment venues there will be a one person per 4sqm limit with no patron cap.

Outdoor seated and non-seated entertainment venues including stadiums, zoos and tourism attractions will be open with a one person per 2sqm limit up to 5,000 where staff and patrons are fully vaccinated.

Events – such as music festivals – will be able to host up to 5,000 attendees, subject to any restrictions related to the venue.

Masks will remain mandatory indoors but will no longer be required outdoors.

At the 90 per cent double dose vaccination target, predicted to arrive as early as Wednesday 24 November, gathering caps will be removed for all settings and masks will only be mandatory in some high-risk settings such as hospitals, aged care, public transport and justice and correctional facilities.

There will also be no restrictions for indoor and outdoor events provided they follow COVIDSafe rules including vaccination requirements.

“We made a deal with the Victorian community – we asked them to get vaccinated and promised that when they did, we would open up and begin to live alongside the virus. Today we are delivering on that promise,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“Victorians have met this challenge beyond any of our expectations and these vaccination rates are an incredible achievement. We’re on our way to being one of the most vaccinated – and therefore one of the safest – places in the entire world.”

The changes to the Victorian roadmap have been welcomed by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra who notes they allow for an earlier reopening for ‘non-essential’ retailers for double vaccinated customers and staff, so they can maximise their trading potential during the critical pre-Christmas sales period.

“Every day counts for retail as we enter the most important trading period of the year - particularly for small businesses on the brink of collapse," Zahra said.

"Victorian retailers were losing $55.2 million a day in retail trade as a result of the most recent lockdown. Most discretionary retailers make up to two thirds of their annual profits during the all-important Christmas trading period so we need to ensure they can open and trade at their full potential.

“Victorians are forecast to spend $15.4 billion in the pre-Christmas sales period – a 1.3 per cent increase on last year, and a significant increase on pre-pandemic conditions. There’s a lot of pent-up demand for people to get back out and shop and we’re looking forward to seeing double vaccinated people being rewarded."

Updated at 9.29am AEDT on 25 October 2021.

Victoria opening to vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November

Victoria opening to vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November

With lockdown lifting today in Victoria the state’s government has more good news, announcing international borders will reopen to fully vaccinated travellers without quarantine requirements from 1 November.

In addition, there will no longer be a cap on fully vaccinated returning Australians wishing to enter Victoria, as long as they demonstrate their vaccination status to the Commonwealth with a vaccine approved or recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Arrivals will also be required to test negative to COVID-19 within 72 hours of their departure and must undertake testing within 24 hours of arrival in Victoria.

At the same time, Victoria will cap the number of unvaccinated or unverified international travellers at 250 per week - they will also still be required to undergo two weeks of quarantine.

“The Commonwealth's new quarantine facility at Mickleham is under construction and is on track for becoming operational in January to house unvaccinated arrivals, as emergency accommodation following natural disasters such as bushfires or for use in future pandemics,” the Victorian government said.

“With our first-dose vaccination rate at 90 per cent and growing every day, these changes will help our returning Australians come home safely while preserving our health system and ensuring Victorians can still get the healthcare they need when they need it most.”

1 November also coincides with the date Victorians will be permitted to travel internationally without having to seek an exemption from the Commonwealth Government.

Victoria came out of lockdown at 11.59pm last night after hitting 70 per cent double-dose vaccination. The next milestone in the Roadmap will be when Victoria hits the 80 per cent double dose vaccination target, which is predicted to be the first week of November.

“Victorians have achieved something incredible, and I couldn’t be prouder. Thank you, Victoria,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“Today’s welcome news was made possible because of the hard work Victorians did to get vaccinated. With our first-dose vaccination rate at 90 per cent, we’ll open Victoria’s vaccinated economy – and we can’t wait to welcome the rest of the world.”

Updated at 1.10pm AEDT on 22 October 2021.

As Melbourne cautiously opens up today, what lies ahead?

As Melbourne cautiously opens up today, what lies ahead?

This morning, Melburnians are waking up to the end of the city’s sixth lockdown.

Since March 2020, Melbourne has spent more time in lockdown than any other city in the world. It’s been a long and arduous journey for its five million people, as well as other parts of Victoria at certain times.

Today’s relaxations reflect the fact that Victoria has reached its milestone of 70% of eligible adults fully vaccinated against COVID earlier than expected.

So what can Melburnians do from today, how did this happen earlier than expected, and will hospitals cope?

What will change today?

People are no longer confined to five reasons to leave home. Ten people are able to visit households and the nightly curfew will end. There will be no distance limit for travel within metropolitan Melbourne.

Hospitality venues can open to 20 fully vaccinated people indoors and 50 outdoors. Most outdoor settings – cafes, cinemas, and physical recreation facilities including pools – will open with up to 50 fully vaccinated people per venue. At last, fully vaccinated Melburnians can get a haircut and have their dogs groomed.

To the relief of many parents exhausted by home learning, the start of the staggered school return of Grade 3 to Year 11 in metro Melbourne commences today.

Has the roadmap changed?

Yes, the previously announced roadmap has been modified and some restrictions have been eased ahead of time, such as the ceiling on household gatherings and travel limits.

The school opening schedule has also been brought forward.

The reasons given by Premier Daniel Andrews for these changes have been the accelerated pace of COVID vaccinations, facilitated in part by increasing vaccine supply, and the shortening of intervals between first and second doses.

Modelling by the Burnet Institute conducted in mid-October provided more optimistic and reassuring estimates of the impact of reopening on health services than earlier modelling.

In addition to the faster than anticipated uptake of vaccines, this is in part because assumptions made in the revised model are based on real world Victorian data, rather than projections based on international evidence. The anticipated length of hospital stay has been on average much shorter than previously anticipated. The chances of overwhelming the hospital system after reopening have dropped from 63% to just 23%.

As of yesterday, 3.4% of active cases in Victoria were hospitalised and 0.6% were in ICU. These are much lower rates than those experienced in NSW at the peak of its outbreak.

What can we expect next?

Modelling by a number of institutes, including Doherty and Burnet, predicts an increase in cases after lockdowns end. Victoria will be able to observe the outcomes of easing restrictions in NSW.

However, there are important differences between the two states. Cases began to steadily decline in NSW once 50% of eligible adults were fully vaccinated, and average daily case numbers were down to 530 on the day the lockdown ended. On the other hand, Victoria’s seven-day average of new daily cases is almost 2,000.

Meanwhile, we can learn from the experiences of other countries that eased restrictions at comparable levels of vaccination. A lot has been said about Denmark’s relative success at controlling COVID after lifting restrictions.

However, Denmark didn’t remove restrictions until more than 70% of its entire population was fully vaccinated (83% of eligible adults). Melbourne has just over 55% fully vaccinated when considering the total population.

When Denmark began to ease restrictions, it was reporting around 500 cases a day (similar to NSW) and the number continued to decline to around 300 ten days later. Since then, the number of cases has steadily increased to a current average of 700 per day. However, the health system is coping with around 126 people hospitalised and 11 in ICU.

Portugal currently has the highest vaccination rate in the world – 85% of the entire population is fully vaccinated. The COVID infection rate and hospital admissions have dropped to their lowest levels in nearly 18 months.

However, it was cautious about easing restrictions and only allowed bars and nightclubs to reopen last month when the entire population vaccination coverage was greater than 80%. Even now, customers at entertainment venues have to show a digital vaccination certificate or a negative COVID test and masks are still compulsory in specific settings.

The safe road ahead

Today should not be seen as “freedom day”. But it is the first step towards a time when the pandemic won’t dominate our daily lives.

Victorians have made significant sacrifices over 2020 and 2021, and will now be able to enjoy a wide range of social choices as our vaccine coverage increases.

But it’s important the community understands the breadth and sustainability of these freedoms will depend on remaining vigilant around a few key prevention behaviours, especially recognising COVID symptoms, testing, and short periods of isolation for people who contract COVID.

Modelling has shown better outcomes when vaccinated people continue to test when they have symptoms. We need to continue to get vaccinated and aim to reach and perhaps exceed global leaders in vaccination levels, as we prepare for booster shots later this year.

Experience overseas indicates the Delta wave is also disproportionately affecting the young, including school children. Safe schools are an absolute necessity – improved ventilation, vaccinated teachers and children 12 and above, and indoor masks can mitigate the risk of infection.

Navigating the next few months will require a whole-of-community effort. Victorians have done it before and can do it again.

We acknowledge the valuable assistance by Burnet Institute researcher Scott Umali.The Conversation

Michael Toole, Associate Principal Research Fellow, Burnet Institute and Mark Stoové, Head of Public Health, Co-Head HIV Elimination Program, Head of Justice Health Research, Burnet Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

"Wake-up call" for the Gold Coast as rideshare driver tests positive to COVID-19

"Wake-up call" for the Gold Coast as rideshare driver tests positive to COVID-19

An unvaccinated Gold Coast-based rideshare driver in his 30s is reportedly too sick and breathless from COVID-19 to fully assist Queensland Health officials with contact tracing, but it is believed the Broadbeach resident may have contracted the virus while interstate in Melbourne on 10 October and was infectious in the community for 10 days.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young told a press conference in Mackay this morning that it was difficult to get answers from the individual due to their condition, and the fact he has not used the QR check-in app since 18 September.

The news comes as the Sunshine State prepares for a vaccination blitz on Saturday in a bid to improve jab rates that are lagging behind the rest of the country, thus putting the state at a much higher risk of outbreaks and hospitalisations upon reopening.

Dr Young said the new case lives in an apartment complex in Broadbeach and started developing COVID-19 symptoms on 11 October, which means his infectious period dates back to 9 October.

She said he presented to the emergency department of Robina Hospital yesterday, where two separate COVID-19 tests returned positive results.

"So he then was transferred later that evening to the Gold Coast University Hospital where he is now. He lives by himself, he works as an Uber driver, so we're working very closely with Uber who have been excellent this morning to get information about whether he has had any drives during the time that he was infectious," Dr Young said.

"He is so sick that he is having difficulty communicating with us and difficulty remembering as you can imagine. So this was very difficult for him, but it is also very difficult for the Gold Coast community because I can't give you those areas that he's been."

A spokesperson for Uber claims the driver has not driven with the platform since 19 September.

"We work with public health authorities in each state, and have processes in place to temporarily remove an individual’s access to the Uber app if authorities report an infection," the spokesperson said.

"We may also limit other individuals’ access to the app if health authorities advise there is a risk.

"The well-being of those who use the Uber platform is a key priority for us, and we have a dedicated team working around the clock to support them the very best we can."

Dr Young urged anyone from the Gold Coast with any symptoms at all to come forward for testing.

"Please don't wait like this poor gentleman has," she said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the latest case as a "wake-up call" for the city, where 156,000 eligible people are still unvaccinated out of a population of more than 710,000 including ineligible children.

Dr Young clarified there are also a further 20,000 kids aged 12-15 who haven't yet been vaccinated.

"People who are not vaccinated, you can go this Saturday to Pimpama State Secondary College, Upper Coomera State College, Southport State High School, Palm Beach Currumbin State High School, Coombabah State High School, Nerang State High School, Varsity College, Miami State High School, Elanora State High School, or Helensvale State High School," the Premier said.

"We need people to be vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated you are more than likely ending up very sick from COVID or in hospital or in ICU (intensive care unit). I don't want to see that happen to residents across Queensland.

"Come on and get vaccinated, and support our super Saturday vaccination blitz."

While the push is on for people around the state to get vaccinated, Dr Young urged Gold Coast residents to do so immediately.

"We've got a 10-day window to get every everyone vaccinated because then you'll be fully protected when we open up our borders in December, so this is so important," the CHO said.

The Premier said 73.12 per cent of Queenslanders have had their first dose of the vaccine, and 58.07 per cent have had their second dose.

"I'm absolutely concerned about regional Queensland. So in Mackay these showgrounds here can do up to 500 doses a day on average but it can actually ramp up to 900," she said.

"Mackay's vaccination rate is 66.4 per cent first dose and 49.5 per cent second dose...but I am concerned about some of the regions' vaccination rates, for example Bowen - 48.4 per cent have had their first dose."

She noted some areas that are major tourism hubs had low vaccination rates as well, including Proserpine (67.2 per cent) and the Whitsundays (63 per cent).

"We know Mackay and Proserpine and the Whitsundays are absolutely gateways to tourism, and we know that on the 17th of December  there will be tourists coming here from all around Australia, so please, please go and get vaccinated."

Updated at 10:54am AEST on 21 October 2021.

NSW tourism and events sector gets $530m shot in the arm

NSW tourism and events sector gets $530m shot in the arm

As New South Wales blasts through vaccine milestones, the state government is stepping up to invest $530 million in the tourism and events industry which has been hard hit by pandemic restrictions.

The package, unveiled today, sees the Stay & Rediscover scheme expanded, support extended to major events across the state, and the introduction of a Festival Relaunch package among several other programs.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said this package would bring back tourists and supercharge the businesses and attractions that contribute $38 billion to the local economy.

“Millions of people around the world dream of visiting Sydney and our regional areas. This package not only ensures they can, but that they’ll experience the very best of what we have to offer,” Perrottet said.

“It’s also great news for people right across our state, reviving events and businesses and bringing our major drawcards back to life.  

“Importantly, more than 300,000 people rely on our tourism industry and our aim is to reclaim our position as one of the world’s favourite destinations.”

The tourism and events recovery package includes:

  • $250 million for the expanded Stay & Rediscover scheme providing a $50 voucher to all NSW adults to redeem at accommodation premises across NSW.
  • $150 million to support the recovery of major event activity across the state including $50 million for a Regional Events Package to support major events, festivals, agricultural shows and community events across the regions.
  • $60 million for an Aviation Attraction Fund to incentivise international airlines to re-commence flights to Sydney.
  • $6 million to bring business events back to the city.
  • $50 million for the CBDs Revitalisation Program to support events and activations in CBDs across Greater Sydney and surrounds.  
  • An Event Saver Fund to provide immediate support to organisers if events are cancelled or disrupted by any public health orders during the 2021-22 summer.
  • $25 million for the Festival Relaunch package – to stabilise established commercial and not-for-profit festivals, big and small, so they can program with confidence into 2022/23.
  • $10 million for a Recovery Marketing Campaign including an extension of the successful roadtrips campaign launched in 2020.

Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres said the much-needed investment will help revive shuttered businesses and bring tourism providers back to their vibrant best.

“This was a one in one hundred year event which severely damaged our tourism industry,  operators barely hung in there as they lost bookings, customers and staff, now as we rebuild we can do so with confidence,” Ayres said.

“For our visitor economy to reach its full potential we need event owners to dream big, airlines to fly in and for locals and visitors to embrace our world class venues and hospitality with enthusiasm once again.”

The package has been welcomed by peak industry bodies today which have applauded the government for supporting the state’s tourism and events operators.

“The uncertainty of snap lockdowns has crippled the events industry; this new fund will allow organisers to start planning today for a cracking 2022,” NSW Tourism Industry Council executive manager Greg Binskin said.

“This in turn will encourage more visitor spending, providing social and economic benefits to all those towns and villages who have tourism and events as a key source of income.”

Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter was pleased the package supports businesses state-wide, not just those operating in Greater Sydney.

“Business NSW has been telling government since the start of the pandemic that different industries were being impacted in different ways, but the tourism, hospitality and events sector has been the hardest hit,” Hunter said.

“What is particularly pleasing is this is not a Sydney centric package but recognises that all of NSW has a part to play in the economic recovery through regional events and tourism, with support for satellite CBD’s a cornerstone of this funding.

“The exciting part about this support package is that it will actually encourage more business investment and drive a collaborative partnership between business and Government in securing events and once again making NSW the number one destination in the Asia Pacific region for both business and travel.”

It comes as the peak body representing the Australian tourism export sector, Australian Tourism Export Council, has called on the Federal Government to provide a date and a framework for reopening international borders so tourism businesses can plan for 2022.

“Since the announcement by the NSW Government last Friday, our members have been fielding inquiries from intending travellers looking to book an Australian holiday or visit their family but they still can't make these bookings with any certainty,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said. 

“We simply can't afford to continue to keep our borders closed to high spending international travellers and miss critical ‘booking windows’ as these people simply will choose to holiday in other competing destinations, putting Australia at the bottom of their bucket list. 

“Right now we are heading into the northern hemisphere's annual booking season when the US, Europe and the UK are facing a long winter and typically plan their travel to warmer climates like Australia. If we miss this booking window it will not surface again for another 12 months."

Updated at 12.10pm AEDT on 20 October 2021.