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Covid-19 News Updates
Lockdown orders for Greater Darwin will be lifted at noon today as planned, but people in Katherine will need to wait one more day as health authorities await testing results from casual contacts, most connected to the town's Woolworths.
There are still 12 casual contacts the territory government is trying to locate, and the town's wastewater continues to have traces of COVID-19. Detections of the virus are weak in Darwin.
"The lockdown for the Darwin-Palmerston and Darwin rural areas will end at noon today as scheduled," NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
"The lockdown for Katherine is being extended for a further 24 hours and is on track to end tomorrow," he said.
In areas where the stay-at-home orders have been lifted, people will still need to wear masks in indoor settings such as retail, but they can be taken off while seated and eating or drinking, and will not be necessary in offices when physical distancing can be maintained.
"These are the exact same rules as last time. If you're going to the supermarket or to a shop, chuck on your mask," Gunner said.
"If you're heading out for dinner or drink, wear a mask but you can remove it while you were seated, eating and drinking."
Gunner said there were 232 negative results that authorities were matching back to the original casual contact list.
"I thank all of our close and casual contacts for their cooperation and their patience this week. People have been truly terrific," Gunner said.
"We need Katherine to hang tight another day, given that we know the man was more infectious while in the community, given the movement between Katherine and remote communities, and given the number of tests that we are doing there."
Updated at 11:38am AEST on 19 August 2021.
Australian airline Qantas (ASX: QAN) has today announced it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 31 March 2022.
The move means all frontline employees - cabin crew, pilots, and airport workers - will need to be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021, and the remainder by the end of March next year.
There will be exemptions for those who are unable to be vaccinated for documented medical reasons.
"Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
"One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day. Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important and I think it's the kind of safety leadership people would expect from us.
"We provide an essential service, so this will help guard against the disruptions that can be caused by just one positive COVID-case shutting down a freight facility or airport terminal."
The policy follows consultation with Qantas and Jetstar employees, including a survey sent to 22,000 people to seek their views on vaccination.
The results showed that of those who responded:
- 89 per cent had already been vaccinated or are planning to be.
- 4 per cent were unwilling or unable to get the jab.
- Around three-quarters think it should be a requirement for all employees to be vaccinated and would be concerned if other employees in the workplace weren't vaccinated.
"It's clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again. This was one of the largest responses to any survey we've conducted, even with thousands of our people stood down, which shows just how important this is for them," Joyce said.
"Since vaccines became available, we've strongly encouraged all of our people to get the jab and are offering paid time off to get it done. We were really pleased to see from the survey that more than three quarters of those who responded have already rolled up their sleeve at least once and 60 per cent have had both jabs.
"We understand there will be a very small number of people who decide not to get the vaccine, and that's their right, but it's our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our employees and for our customers."
The move from Qantas comes after a decision by SPC to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all staff before the end of 2021.
The decision mirrors moves made internationally by other companies like Microsoft, Google and Disney, with SPC stressing the decision will ensure the health and wellbeing of all staff and the broader community.
Shares in QAN are down 0.23 per cent to $4.41 per share at 11.49am AEST.
Updated at 12.11pm AEST on 18 August 2021.
"What the data is telling us, in the last few days, is that we haven't seen the worst of it," New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
New South Wales health authorities are expecting case numbers in the state to get worse over the coming days after 633 new locally acquired cases were reported today - a new daily record for the state.
This sudden jump in case numbers, up from 452 yesterday, can be attributed to the exponential spread of the virus in NSW, according to Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
"According to the data that we have, every person who has the virus is spreading it to at least more than one person," Berejiklian said.
"Now for us to know that we've reached out peak - that can't continue.
"So what the data is telling us, in the last few days, is that we haven't seen the worst of it, and the way that we stop this is by everybody staying home."
Of today's new cases, 550 are from Southwestern or Western Sydney, but given the high viral load being detected in new cases the Premier says the next hotspot could be anywhere in the state.
"The vast majority of cases are in younger people in those areas of concern, and that is where our focus needs to remain," she said.
"Although given the high viral load, it could mean that there could be an outbreak anywhere if anyone from those communities moves to work in another community."
The state also reported three more deaths from COVID-19 today: one man in his 60s and two men in their 70s.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant expressed her fear that if numbers continue to rise the state will see more deaths.
"I can't express enough my level of concern at these rising numbers of cases," Dr Chant said.
"We will see more admissions and more deaths if these numbers continue to increase.
"We have a collective responsibility to do all we can to stop seeing those deaths and hospitalisations continue to increase."
NSW Health's ongoing sewage surveillance program has detected fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 at the Yamba, Bathurst and Orange sewage treatment plants in recent days.
"These detections are of particular concern and everyone in these areas are urged to monitor for the onset of symptoms, and if they appear, to immediately be tested and isolate until a negative result is received," NSW Health said.
Dominello apologises for business grant backlog
With 15,000 business grant applications still to be approved by Service NSW that have been pending for more than two weeks the State's Minister for Customer Services has apologised for the slow processing times.
Victor Dominello today revealed more than 260,000 grants have been received so far, and of those 200,000 have been approved or paid.
However, there are 60,000 outstanding grants still to be approved, and of those 15,000 are more than two weeks old.
"Can I first begin by apologising to all the businesses that did not receive their grants on time or did not receive phone calls when they should have expected phone calls," Dominello said.
"The quality of service that we provided over the last month is not up to standard."
The Minister says the average waiting time for grant approvals is currently 7.5 working days, but some 15,000 grants are still not addressed despite having been lodged more than two weeks ago.
With 580 assessors attempting to clear the backlog currently, Dominello asked for patience as the Service NSW call centre has been seeing a 4,000 per cent increase in demand recently.
"When we were setting up this grant program in many ways we were flying and building the plane at the same time, but we are again making a lot of progress," Dominello said.
Updated at 11.48am AEST on 18 August 2021.
Businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions in the Australian Capital Territory will receive more financial support after the jurisdiction's lockdown was extended yesterday by two weeks to 2 September.
Business Support Grants will now deliver up to $10,000 for employing businesses and $4,000 for non-employing businesses over the three-week lockdown period if turnover has declined by 30 per cent or more as a result of the restrictions.
This is up from $3,000 for employing businesses and $1,000 for non-employing businesses as announced last week by the ACT government.
To receive the grants businesses must be registered in the ACT and able to demonstrate their primary operation in the ACT, have an annual turnover of more than $75,000, be registered for GST and have a total payroll of less than $10 million. They will also need to provide evidence of a 30 per cent reduction in their turnover.
The package will be split on a 50/50 basis between the Commonwealth and the ACT Governments, with the Territory government to administer the program.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the extended package would help keep people in jobs.
"We know that extended lockdowns are particularly hard for businesses, especially those who have been experiencing a downturn in trade for some months due to restrictions interstate," the Chief Minister said.
"The ACT Government will continue to work constructively with the Commonwealth Government to support businesses and keep people in jobs."
It comes as the ACT reported 17 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total number of cases in the Territory connected to the latest outbreak to 45.
Interstate, New South Wales reported 452 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections and Victoria reported 24 new cases. Queensland reported one locally acquired case - a person who was already in home quarantine.
Meanwhile, the Northern Territory reported no new COVID-19 cases today after the Territory Government sent Darwin and Katherine into a snap lockdown yesterday.
Updated at 2.33pm AEST on 17 August 2021.
"We are running alongside this virus at best, we are not in front of it," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
The Victorian Premier has today unloaded on Melburnians caught breaking COVID-19 restrictions over the weekend - behaviour that forced the state's health authorities to recommend strengthening the lockdown rules and extending it for another two weeks.
Those recommendations have been accepted by Premier Daniel Andrews who today announced a two-week extension of the state's lockdown until at least 2 September, the introduction of a curfew from midnight tonight as well as additional restrictions on workers and gatherings.
It comes as the state recorded 22 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in Victoria, with just 14 of those in isolation for their entire infectious period.
"We see too many cases, we see too many mystery cases, we now have 12 or 13 different chains of transmission - the origins of some are unknown to us," Andrews said.
"That means this is spreading in undetected way across the community.
"We are at a tipping point."
Victoria's Chief Health Officer has declared that from tonight the lockdown restrictions will be strengthened and extended in metropolitan Melbourne, until 11.59pm on Thursday, 2 September.
The strengthened settings will see a curfew imposed from 9pm to 5am every night. This will operate as it did last year, with very limited reasons to leave the home during this time.
In addition, at large scale construction sites, staffing must reduce to 25 per cent or five workers on site, whichever is higher.
Authorised workers will be required to carry permits when working, and when travelling for work, from 11:59pm on Tuesday August 17. The permits need to be certified by an employer. Permits will be available on the coronavirus website before these directions come into effect.
Permits will also need to be carried by higher education students who are on the Authorised Provider list.
The Premier also highlighted how a small number of people have been making "selfish choices" recently, including people going on pub crawls and gathering in large numbers in parks around Melbourne.
"Every time even a small number of people make really bad choices, selfish choices, it takes away from the hard work that so many millions more are doing, and it extends these lockdowns," Andrews said.
"We've seen people turning the footpath into an impromptu beer garden and doing pub crawls. We've seen people gathering in parks in large numbers. We've seen lots of people flouting these rules not doing as they should, making really poor choices.
"That's not good for anybody."
Andrews also highlighted a particular engagement party during which it has been confirmed there was transmission of COVID-19.
"I'm angry about that event," he said.
"What makes me really angry about it is that there were 69 people at that event. And no matter what you're told or what you read, the facts are these: there has been transmission.
"We'll have to spend literally thousands of hours dealing with hundreds and thousands of people connected to that engagement party. That is the work they must do. But it's all entirely preventable."
As a further strengthening of restrictions there will be a closure of playgrounds, basketball hoops, skate parks and outdoor exercise equipment.
People will not be able to remove their masks to drink alcoholic beverages in public.
Exercise will be limited to just two people from the same household, plus dependants if they can't be left at home.
To monitor compliance, police will be conducting a blitz this weekend with $5,500 fines per adult caught breaking the rules. At that rate, Police Commissioner Shane Patton expects the engagement party would have clocked up about $350,000 worth of fines.
"Last night I was made aware of an engagement party that occurred last week, whereby there was 69 people in attendance...I expect that every one of those people will be getting an infringement," Patton said.
"We've been trying to apply discretion, we've been trying to be fair, and we have been fair with a mixture of enforcement, infringements and warnings. If anyone gets a warning moving forward from here on in, they're going to be very lucky.
"The time for discretion is over. We will be issuing infringements. I am advising all of my officers today that that's an expectation where it's a deliberate and blatant breach."
Andrews reiterated that these restrictions are tough, but necessary to combat the spread of the virus in Victoria.
"This is a tough time, no one is enjoying this lockdown," Andrews said.
"I know people are weary. I know people are sick and tired fo this. But each of us have to find it in ourselves to make good choices for these next couple of weeks to drive down these case numbers and to be in a position that we can reopen."
Updated at 1.06pm AEST on 16 August 2021.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has taken urgent action in response to a positive case of COVID-19, announcing a 72-hour lockdown that will start at midday in Darwin, the Palmerston-Darwin rural area and Katherine.
A $1,000 business lockdown payment will be brought back, which Gunner recognised was "not heaps" but government officials are in conversations with their Commonwealth counterparts about ways to provide further help.
"The best thing we can do is to lock down fast so it's as short as possible," Gunner said.
While the lockdown is in place until noon on Thursday there will only be five reasons people in affected areas can leave the home:
- Medical treatment, including COVID testing and vaccination;
- To buy essential goods and services such as groceries and medicines;
- For work that is considered essential and can't be done at home;
- One hour of exercise per day with one other person or the people that you live with, and no further than 5km from your home; and
- To provide care and support to a family member or person who cannot support themselves (including for separated families who can continue to share the care of their children, or for people who need to leave a location to protect their own safety).
The NT Government is adding an additional layer of restrictions when it comes to retail.
"For everything that isn't groceries, food or medicines, where possible you'll be required to use the click and collect service to get your essential goods," the Chief Minister said.
"For example, Bunnings will not be open for the purposes of entering the store and browsing. If you need goods from Bunnings, from other essential goods providers that aren't food, groceries or pharmacy outlets, you must order the goods online first. You are then permitted to visit the store and collect them.
"This measure has been introduced to further limit all unnecessary movements in direction."
As was the case for the region's last lockdown, masks will be required when leaving the home, and this includes during exercise.
"Don't tell me you need to do vigorous exercise without a mask. Take a break from the burpees and the springs for a couple of days," he said.
"Take a walk instead. Wear your mask, we should all know how this works, and if there is a deliberate non-compliance - if Nightcliff starts looking like Bondi, police will come down hard on it.
"Your ordinary place of residence is where you are now. If you own more than one house, your residence is the place that you are now in."
It is still not known which variant the new case has, and it is because of the many unknowns that the difficult decision to escalate the health response was made.
"The positive case is a man in his 30s who traveled to the territory for legitimate work purposes on Thursday, the 12th of August," Gunner said.
"As a recent international arrival, he had been in 14-day quarantine in Sydney, departing hotel quarantine on the 12th after returning a negative test on the 10th, prior to his exit.
"On Thursday he transited from Sydney to Darwin via Canberra Airport. The ACT was a declared COVID hotspot at the time, but as per usual policy, airports are not considered part of the hotspot."
It is understood the man wore a mask during his transit.
"He landed in Darwin very late Thursday night just before midnight, and travelled by a taxi to the Hilton Hotel on Mitchell Street. Later on Friday morning, he traveled back to the airport in an Uber car to collect a hire car.
"The man visited various locations in the Darwin CBD over the next few days for a limited period of time. There are a number of exposure sites because of this.
"On Sunday morning the man attended the Royal Darwin Hospital Pandemic Clinic for a COVID test. This is a requirement we have for everyone who arrives in the territory after exiting hotel quarantine. They are required to take a test on the third day."
After his test, the man drove the hire care to Katherine where he was required for work, arriving at his hotel in Knott's Crossing just after midday on Sunday.
"He then met a friend and they travelled together to the Woolworths and Catherine," Gunner said.
"Last night, we received his positive test result. He is in isolation in his hotel in Katherine with the assistance of health staff and police. He is asymptomatic. He is being transferred to the Centre for National Resilience today."
Updated at 12:09pm AEST on 16 August 2021.
Tens of thousands of eligible authorised workers in western and south-western Sydney local government areas (LGAs) of concern have today been offered priority COVID-19 vaccinations as the state expands its rollout of the jab.
Workers must fall into the following authorised categories:
- health care, aged care and disability care
- freight and transport; including bus drivers
- meat processing
- food production/processing/retail
- Primary, Secondary and Early Childhood school staff
They must also live in one of the LGAs of concern including: Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Bayside, Burwood, Strathfield, and Penrith for the following suburbs: Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair and St Marys.
Eligible workers will receive a unique link to book their vaccine appointment and will be required to bring photo ID as well as proof of their place of work to receive their vaccination.
It is anticipated that around 100,000 workers will receive a vaccination over the course of the week.
It comes after the Federal Government acquired an additional 1 million Pfizer vaccines from Poland over the weekend, of which 530,000 will be prioritised for express delivery to the 12 LGAs of concern in Sydney.
The total number of vaccines administered in NSW is now 5,009,457 with 1,840,778 doses administered by NSW Health to 8pm Saturday night August 14 and 3,168,679 administered by the GP network and other providers to 11.59pm on Friday 13th August 2021.
Regional NSW in lockdown
Over the weekend the entirety of regional NSW was sent into a one-week lockdown following updated advice from NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant.
The move, which was announced via a tweet on Saturday, means the whole of NSW is currently under stay-at-home restrictions.
Meanwhile in Queensland no new locally acquired cases were reported yesterday; a major milestone for the state considering concerns the Indooroopilly COVID-19 cluster had spread widely through the state's south east.
Victoria however is still in the midst of an outbreak, with 22 new locally acquired cases reported in the state today and 25 on Sunday.
Of today's 22 new locally acquired cases in VIC, 14 were in isolation during their infectious period.
Updated at 9.42am AEST on 16 August 2021.
The Federal and Queensland Governments have struck a deal to lift the latest business support package to $600 million for the Sunshine State in a bid to soften the blow from recent lockdowns.
The dollar-for-dollar agreement will see Queensland's contribution to the scheme rise from $260 million to $300 million - a figure that will be matched by the Commonwealth.
Businesses that report a 30 per cent decline in revenue will be able to apply for the package, including a $1,000 grant for non-employing sole traders across the state, a $5,000 grant for small businesses with payrolls below $1.3 million, and a $10,000 grant for those with payrolls of $1.3-10 million.
Large-sized tourism and hospitality operators with payrolls above $10 million can also apply for a $25,000 grant.
Earlier this week the Queensland Government announced other measures to help businesses, including $22 million to relieve liquor licence fees for the tourism and hospitality industry and a $20 million COVID cleaning rebate for businesses that become exposure sites.
Queensland Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick said the agreement would boost support, not just for businesses that have been affected by recent lockdowns, but by those that continue to suffer because of lockdowns in other jurisdictions.
"We know that across Queensland, the lack of international and interstate visitors is affecting businesses every day, especially those in tourism and hospitality," the Queensland Treasurer said.
"From Monday 16 August, our $5000 COVID-19 Business Support Grants program will be open to businesses across Queensland, but this agreement with the Federal Government is in addition to that and means that we will be able to extend our support even further.
"It comes on top of the nearly $70 million in additional support and benefits for Queensland tourism and hospitality businesses that I announced earlier this week."
The Queensland Treasurer thanked his Federal counterpart Josh Frydenberg for his rapid response to the evolving impact that COVID-19 is having on businesses in the state.
"The Morrison Government recognises the impact that lockdowns across the country are having on businesses in Queensland," Treasurer Frydenberg said.
"This package will help to keep businesses in business and Queenslanders in jobs and builds on the almost $30 billion in economic support the Morrison Government has provided Queensland households and businesses during the pandemic.
"As we have done so throughout this crisis, we will continue to work with the Palaszczuk Government to ensure the Queensland economy continues to recover from the impact of COVID-19."
Updated at 3:44pm AEST on 13 August 2021.
The Western Australian Government has created a new border control category of 'extreme risk', strengthening restrictions on would-be travellers from New South Wales into the state.
The State's Premier Mark McGowan said the new category was created to further protect Western Australians from the sustained outbreaks of the COVID-19 Delta strain in the country's east.
Based on the latest health advice, the 'high risk' category has been upgraded and a new 'extreme risk' category has been added to WA's controlled border arrangements.
In addition to 14 days of self-quarantine and COVID-19 tests on days two and 12 for approved travellers only, additional conditions will be applied under the 'high risk' category:
- proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test in the 72 hours prior to departure;
- proof of receipt of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, where eligible;
- a mandatory requirement to use the G2G Now app on arrival in WA.
Additional conditions under the new 'extreme risk' category will include:
- mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days at a State quarantine facility;
- exemptions restricted to Commonwealth, State and specialist functions only; and
- COVID-19 tests on days one, five and 12.
As a guide, the trigger point for the 'high risk' category will be an average of more than 50 new community cases per day and the trigger point for the 'extreme risk' category will be an average of more than 500 new community cases per day.
"The health advice is clear in that the Delta strain is significantly more contagious than previous strains of COVID-19 and there is emerging evidence that it leads to more severe outcomes," Premier Mark McGowan said.
"We only have to look to NSW to see the devastation that this strain can cause in people and to the economy.
"My Government's priority is to protect Western Australians' health and ensure we have one of the freest and open economies in the world."
Updated at 2.01pm AEST on 13 August 2021.
The Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have announced a support grant to support small and medium businesses in the territory that have been impacted by the lockdown measures introduced yesterday.
For employing businesses, $10,000 will be delivered in financial support. Non-employing businesses will be able to access $4,000 over the three week lockdown period. The businesses' turnover must decline by 30 per cent or more as a result of the COVID 19 health restrictions.
The package will be split on a 50/50 basis between the Commonwealth and ACT governments, with the territory to administer the program.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has welcomed the support.
"We understand that this lockdown comes off the back of a period of slower economic activity as a result of outbreak of the virus in Sydney. ACT businesses have been supporting the Government's efforts to respond to the pandemic in the Territory, but that has come at a cost", Barr said.
"We want to protect jobs during this period, and it was important that the ACT and the Commonwealth were able to come together quickly and have this package ready for businesses that may be worried about their future as a result of this lockdown."
"Should the lockdown in the ACT be extended beyond this seven day period, further jointly funded support programs will be considered."
The ACT government will also open a COVID-19 Small Business Hardship Scheme, whereby eligible businesses can apply for credits on the cost of eligible fees and charges of up to $10,000 (including GST) per ABN.
The program will provide credits for payroll tax, utilities, rates and certain business licence for the small to medium businesses that can demonstrate a 30 per cent loss in revenue.
Small businesses with a turnover between $30,000 and $10 million per annum can apply.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the business support package builds on the $2.1 billion the government has delivered to households and businesses in the territory.
"The ACT is facing its most challenging period this year, but it has shown remarkable resilience throughout the pandemic," he says.
"This package will help to keep businesses in business and people in jobs."
"As we have done so throughout this crisis, we will continue to work with the ACT Government to ensure the ACT economy recovers from the impact of COVID-19."
Canberra reports two new cases of COVID-19
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has announced two new cases of COVID-19 since yesterday evening, bringing the total number of active cases in the community to six.
One of the positive cases is a 14 year old boy from Gold Creek School in Gungahlin. All students, staff and construction workers at the school are considered secondary contacts and will need to get tested immediately and quarantine, including the families of those students and staff.
A significant number of close contacts have been identitfied - with 1,862 contacted by ACT Health. Authorities are urging people who are considered close contacts to come forward to get tested immediately. To see a list of exposure sites, click here.
"If you do not have symptoms and you are not identified as a close contact you do not need to be tested today," says Barr.
"Please stay at home, there'll be an opportunity to be tested in the days ahead, but the priority right now is to test those people who ACT Health have contacted."
The territory has also conducted 2,000 tests since yesterday - a record for the jurisdiction. Of those, 1,330 have returned a negative result so far.
Updated at 10.03am AEST on Friday 13 August 2021.
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