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Covid-19 News Updates
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.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will enter a strict, seven-day lockdown from 5pm tonight following a positive detection of COVID-19 with an unknown source.
The new case is a man in his 20s who resides in Gungahlin, and has been considered infectious in the community since 8 August. Click here for a list of exposure sites.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Canberrans had "one opportunity to stamp this out", explaining the only reasons people can leave home would be for essential reasons such employment, health care, getting vaccinated, purchasing essential groceries and supplies, and up to one hour per day of exercise.
"We do not currently know the source of the infection, but extensive investigation has been underway for many hours," the Chief Minister said.
"This is the most serious public health risk that we have faced in the territory this year, and really since the beginning of the pandemic, and it's why we will be introducing a strict lockdown in response," he said, adding mask mandates will also be introduced for outside the home.
"We've said throughout the outbreak that we've witnessed 300 kilometres up the road from Canberra in Sydney, that the lessons we've learned from that and from elsewhere around Australia are that immediate and significant public health responses are needed to get ahead of this Delta strain."
He said 'general' retail would be shut and called on residents not to browse when they go shopping, and to remain within their local community. Hospitality venues will only be open for takeaway.
"So if you live in Belconnen, exercise in Belconnen. Get your groceries, your essential supplies, in Belconnen...do not be travelling across the ACT for exercise or essential supplies," he said.
"This is not an opportunity to go to Bunnings to browse. This is not an opportunity to hang around the local shops. Get in, get what you need and leave.
"Many people will need to travel outside of their district in order to get vaccinated or to work for essential purposes or to access essential health care - that is reasonable and understood, but where a service is available in your local area, please stay in your local area."
It has been more than a year since the last locally acquired case was recorded in the ACT, and 105 days since the territory recorded a case - a diplomat who was in quarantine.
Updated at 12:36pm AEST on 12 August 2021.
The Victorian Government has announced a series of top-ups to funding schemes to help businesses get through another week of lockdown, following a joint funding deal with the Commonwealth Government to provide $367 million to more than 100,000 businesses across Melbourne.
The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments have combined to allocate $1.16 billion over the past two weeks alone to back Victorian businesses that are doing it hard, so they can continue to pay their bills and the wages of workers and be in the best shape possible to recover.
Under the new initiative, businesses including sole traders will get an automatic payment if they received or were approved for recent rounds of the Business Costs Assistance Program or the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund.
A significant boost to the new Small Business COVID Hardship Fund that opens today will take the one-off payments for eligible businesses that do not qualify for existing programs to $10,000.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Morrison Government has delivered more than $45 billion in direct economic support to households and businesses in Victoria.
"This is a very difficult and challenging time for all Victorians," the Treasurer said.
"Along with the state government we will continue to support Victorians through the crisis to ensure households and business can bounce back from this latest set of restrictions."
"Victorian businesses have shown remarkable resilience during the pandemic. We will continue to stand by them during this crisis with support they need to get through."
The Victorian Government has provided more than $7 billion in direct economic support for businesses over the course of the pandemic, including $1.4 billion in cash grants paid to more than 97,000 businesses since the May/June restrictions period.
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said that the Victorian Government will continue to directly support businesses affected by restrictions.
"As we continue to fight the Delta strain, we are not forgetting the toll that this has taken on our business community," Pallas said.
"We've backed businesses with direct, targeted and consistent support where it has been needed most and we'll continue to do so."
Victorian Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula said that the funding will provide vital support and reassurance.
"Thousands of businesses will benefit from this new injection of support and we know that the funds are essential to back businesses through this difficult period," Pakula said.
"We're acting decisively to get on top of the Delta outbreak and also to give businesses the best chance to emerge in decent shape on the other side."
The new package contains three main elements, with agreement also reached between the two Governments to extend Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payment arrangement for workers and eligible businesses affected by the metropolitan Melbourne lockdown extension.
COVID-19 Disaster Payments
Eligible workers across the state who lose hours due to the lockdown will be able to access the Commonwealth's COVID-19 Disaster Payment, as will individuals who are sole-trader businesses who lose work and that do not qualify for Victorian Government support programs.
The payment is set at $450 for people who have lost from eight and up to 20 hours work or a full day of work (over seven days), and $750 for 20 hours or more of work lost. People who receive certain Commonwealth income support are eligible to receive a $200 payment.
Small Business COVID Hardship Fund
An allocation of $41 million will boost the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund to $180 million, with grants of $10,000 available to small- and medium-sized businesses across the state.
The fund opens for applications today through the Business Victoria website and will help up to 18,000 businesses that have been ineligible for business support programs and have experienced a reduction in revenue of at least 70 per cent.
Businesses that are legally allowed to operate but are restricted in their ability to generate revenue, such as a food store located at a shopping centre or a manufacturer supplying goods for closed venues, will be among those that that could be eligible.
Businesses that have lost custom due to restrictions affecting foot traffic such as pharmacists located in the CBD could also be eligible.
Business Costs Assistance Program
More than 95,000 businesses in metropolitan Melbourne will automatically receive payments of $2,800, with grants scheduled to be paid within seven business days.
This new $271 million Business Costs Assistance Program assistance will allow businesses across multiple sectors to continue paying overheads and other costs despite significant impacts on revenue.
Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund 2021
Automatic payments of $5,000, $10,000 and $20,0000 will be made in coming weeks to more than 7,000 licensed hospitality venues in metropolitan Melbourne that have previously received or been approved grants under the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund program. A total of $55 million has been allocate to the new licensed venue initiative.
Payment amounts will be tiered according to premises capacity: $5,000 for a capacity of up to 99 patrons, $10,000 for a capacity of 100 to 499 patrons and $20,000 for a capacity of 500-plus.
Updated at 12:09pm AEST on 12 August 2021.
South Australia will become the first Australian state to make both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccination appointments available to all people aged 16 and over at state-run clinics from Monday, Premier Steven Marshall has announced.
The appointments will open from Monday 16 August, with 127,000 extra booking slots to become available for inoculations in September and October once more Pfizer shots arrive in Australia.
"This nation-leading move is a huge milestone in our vaccine rollout with South Australia leading the way as the first state in the nation to open up to everyone aged 16 and older," SA Premier Steven Marshall told The Advertiser.
"While our COVID recovery plan remains focused on supporting business, protecting jobs, and shielding South Australians from the health threat posed by the pandemic, vaccination is our pathway out of the pandemic and we are determined to ensure everyone has access to the vaccine as soon as possible to keep our state safe and economy strong.
"Thanks to the increase in supply and massive interest from our community, we can expect to see a significant increase in the number of vaccinations delivered over the coming weeks and months."
It comes just days after a vaccination clinic in Adelaide briefly opened up its calendar to any South Australian aged 16 and over wanting to get a Pfizer jab - a move described as an "error" by SA Health.
That clinic in Highgate Park mistakenly made appointments available to SA's adult population according to the state's health authorities, as it was previously only vaccinating aged care workers.
At the time, workers at the clinic said the decision to open up eligibility for Pfizer appointments was made because of an oversupply of the mRNA vaccine.
However, texts sent out today to those who booked in at Highgate Park on Monday clarifies that anyone aged over 16 who managed to secure an appointment during the brief window availabilities were open will see their booking honoured.
SA also eased COVID-19 restrictions today, increasing density limits for venues and shops, and allowing private gatherings outside of home.
The new restrictions are as follows:
- Density limits for seated activities have increased to three people per 4sqm. This includes for the seated consumption of food and beverages at cafes, restaurants and pubs.
- Density limits for standing activities, such as retail shops, or mixed standing and seating, are now one person per 2sqm.
- All private gatherings outside the home are capped at 50 people (home gatherings remain capped at 10).
Queensland opens up to South Australia
Today's news comes as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced travellers from South Australia would be permitted to enter the sunshine state from midday today, as long as they fly in.
In addition, anyone from South Australia currently in home quarantine in Queensland will be able to leave isolation as long as they have a negative test result.
Updated at 9.53am AEST on 12 August 2021.
Eight local government areas (LGA) in Western NSW entered a one-week lockdown at 7pm last night after two new locally acquired COVID-19 cases were reported in the region.
The stay-at-home restrictions apply to the LGAs of Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Narromine, Walgett and Warren and are expected to last until 19 August.
"The rules for this area will be the same as those already in place across Greater Sydney, as well as Dubbo, Tamworth, Northern Rivers, Armidale, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Cessnock," NSW Health reported in an update.
"Everyone in these areas must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. They also cannot have social visitors in their home from outside their household, including family and friends.
"People still can have one visitor at one time to fulfil carers' responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons, including where two people are in a relationship but do not live together."
The two new cases in the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) are members of the same household and will be included in today's numbers for the state.
Hunter and Newcastle lockdown extended
With additional cases being reported in the Hunter and Upper Hunter region today, the NSW Government has extended the region's lockdown by an additional week.
The area, which includes the eight LGAs of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton and Muswellbrook was set to come out of lockdown tomorrow.
"I think given what the area's experiencing the community would understand why that's the case," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Elsewhere in regional NSW the areas of Armadale, Tamworth and the Northern Rivers recorded zero cases of COVID-19 today, and five cases were reported in Dubbo.
In total, 345 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases were reported today, of which 116 were isolating while infectious, 34 were in isolation for part of their infectious period, and 57 in the community while infectious. The isolation status of 138 cases remains under investigation.
Updated at 9:46am AEST on 12 August 2021.
Update (4:47pm AEST): At the time of writing this article shares were up 82 per cent, but in the last 10 minutes of the market trade it shot up further to double for the day, sitting at $0.40 per RNO share.
Shares in Rhinomed (ASX: RNO) have charged 82 per cent higher today after the wearable nasal and respiratory technology company received purchase orders from the NSW Government for its patented, self-administered nasal swabs.
The group has begun supplying NSW Health Pathology with an initial one million Rhinoswabs as part of a program to support testing capability.
The orders are expected to be fulfilled over coming weeks, while Rhinomed is now scaling up its manufacturing facilities to respond to growing domestic and international demand for its innovative technology.
The company's points of difference are the comfort and convenience of its swabs, as well as the fact they can capture a larger sample and accelerate the sample collection process, significantly reducing waiting times.
It is a technology that works with existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) pathology workflows and equipment, with an equivalent cost and quality to the US and European standard of care nasopharyngeal swabs.
"We are thrilled to receive this support for this Australian innovation," says Rhinomed CEO Michael Johnson.
"The Rhinoswab can make a meaningful impact on the SARS-CoV-2 testing process and enable more people to be tested quickly and easily.
"With approximately two billion SARS-CoV-2 tests having been carried out globally over the last 18 months (close to 26 million* in Australia alone), there is a major opportunity for Rhinoswab to radically improve the testing process, clinical outcomes and user experience."
Today's announcement is in stark contrast to where Rhinomed found itself in August 2020, its shares having fallen by three quarters in the preceding year. Even though the commercialisation of its Pronto Sleep technology was expanding in the United States, Rhinomed had pinned its hopes on a vapour inhaler for medicinal cannabis; an oversupplied market that was in decline.
But just as the company's leadership had pounced on the opportunities of what was a booming medicinal cannabis market in 2018, in September 2020 it announced the fruition of a logical COVID pivot; not just an intention, but the declaration of advanced development for a high-yielding nasal swab that can collect samples from the nose to test for the presence of upper respiratory tract diseases. Shares rose by 50 per cent in one day, from 8cps to 12cps.
"An increasing body of evidence and research supports the proposition that mass, high-frequency testing could be a vital tool in managing epidemics, pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks," Johnson said at the time.
"Rhinomed believes that an effective, easy-to-use and comfortable nasal swab that everyone can use, every day, could play an important role in achieving this outcome."
He said the company was rapidly scoping out manufacturing solutions and would register the device in Australia, the USA and the European. Less than year later, all these goals have been achieved as Rhinoswab is registered with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Australian Therapeutic Goods Association and has a European CE (Conformité Européenne) mark.
Today RNO shares jumped to $0.365 each today on the news, with expectations revenue from the initial order would represent 25-35 per cent of unaudited FY21 revenues of $3.9 million. Investors clearly believe profits will follow suit, as the company's market capitalisation is at more than $92 million at the time of writing.
Interim results from a recent comparison study with 204 participants, completed at CWZ and Radboud University Medical Center, a leading teaching hospital in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, are in line with previously announced user study results and showed participants' strong preference for the Rhinoswab when compared to the traditional nasal swab:
- 89 per cent of respondents preferred Rhinoswab to the Nasopharyngeal swab
- 98 per cent of respondents felt no pain with Rhinoswab vs 48 per cent with Nasopharyngeal swab
- 98 per cent of respondents needed little or no guidance when using Rhinoswab
The Central New South Wales town of Dubbo will go into lockdown for one week from 1pm today after two cases of COVID-19 were detected in the region overnight.
The town is the latest regional NSW hub to see the virus enter the community from Sydney, and joins the local government areas (LGAs) of Byron Bay, Lismore, Ballina, Richmond Valley, Tamworth, Armidale, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Cessnock in lockdown.
“As has been foreshadowed, in Dubbo there were two cases overnight, and that follows…our health experts have told us a few days ago there was some sewage detection in Dubbo,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
“Sewage detection has been a good way of identifying or pre-empting where there may be cases.”
As such, everyone in Dubbo must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave.
They also cannot have visitors in their home from outside their household, including family and friends.
People still can have one visitor at one time to fulfil carers' responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons, including where two people are in a relationship but do not live together.
Today the Premier also announced there were no new cases in Armadale, Tamworth or the Northern Rivers which represent “positive signs”.
However, with the Hunter New England region reporting 14 new cases today the Premier believes it is unlikely that area will come out of lockdown as planned later this week.
In total NSW reported 344 cases of community transmission today, of which 143 were in isolation throughout their entire infectious period, 36 were isolating for part of their infectious period, and 65 were infectious in the community. The isolation status of 100 cases remains under investigation.
Two more COVID-related deaths were reported overnight - one was a man in his 90s from Southwestern Sydney, and the other a man in his 30s from Northern Sydney.
This brings the number of COVID-related deaths during the current outbreak to 34.
Updated at 11.55am AEST on 11 August 2021.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a one-week extension of Melbourne’s lockdown today after a number of “mystery cases” were included in the state’s COVID-19 infection numbers.
Of the 20 new locally acquired cases, 15 were linked to current outbreaks but the remaining five are still under investigation or are unlinked to the current outbreaks, meaning contact tracers cannot determine where or how they were infected.
“Overnight we have added to the number of mysteries, the number of unanswered questions out there,” Andrews said.
“That’s why, sadly, today the Cabinet of the Government we have met and we have determined to accept the advice of the Chief Health Officer to extend for a further period of seven days until 11.59pm next Thursday.”
As it stands, health officials are currently grappling with 116 active locally acquired cases, nearly 300 exposure sites and more than 12,000 active primary close contacts around Greater Melbourne.
“We cannot afford to open up and let this variant run free – we need to get in front of this, just like we have done before,” Andrews said.
As such, for the next seven days Melburnians can still only leave home for five reasons: to get food and supplies, to exercise for up to two hours, for care or caregiving, for permitted work or education if you can’t do it from home or to get vaccinated at the nearest possible location.
Shopping and exercise must be done within 5km of your home or the nearest location. Face masks will remain mandatory indoors (not at home) unless an exception applies – this includes all workplaces, and secondary schools.
As Victorian officials remain concerned about the level of COVID-19 coming into the state from New South Wales, residents of cross-border community local government areas (LGAs) will now be required to obtain a permit to enter Victoria from 6pm, Friday 13 August.
Residents will be able to apply for a permit from Thursday afternoon at the Service Victoria website, service.vic.gov.au and via the Service Victoria app.
“If this virus can get from Sydney to Byron Bay, to Dubbo, to Armidale, to Tamworth then only a fool would think that it couldn’t get to Aubrey,” Andrews said.
“That’s why we need to go beyond just a bubble - we need to have permits.”
Updated at 11.32am AEST on 11 August 2021.
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