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Covid-19 News Updates


NSW and VIC reopen borders to each other, Darwin in lockout, Katherine in lockdown

NSW and VIC reopen borders to each other, Darwin in lockout, Katherine in lockdown

Free travel between Australia’s two biggest states is now permitted after border restrictions between New South Wales and Victoria were eased overnight, well ahead of the busy Christmas travel period.

Meanwhile, a positive case of community transmission in the Northern Territory has sent Greater Darwin into a 72-hour ‘lockout’ and Katherine into a three-day lockdown as of midnight last night.

In a joint statement between NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and VIC Premier Daniel Andrews, the two have agreed to open borders because of high vaccination rates in both states.

Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer declared yesterday that from 11.59pm last night the ACT and all remaining orange zones in New South Wales would become green zones under VIC’s travel permit system.

This means, for the first time in more than six months, all local government areas (LGAs) in all states and territories across Australia will be green zones for the purpose of entering Victoria.

Travellers, including workers, who are entering Victoria from a green zone face no testing or quarantine requirements, but are still required to obtain a permit from Service Victoria before they arrive, to verify they aren’t COVID-19 positive or required to isolate as a close contact.

There are no requirements for fully vaccinated Victorians entering New South Wales unless they have been to a place of high concern in Victoria. A Victorian who is older than 16 and not fully vaccinated is not allowed to enter NSW for recreation or a holiday.

This comes as 93.8 per cent of people in NSW aged 16 and over have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 89.1 per cent have received both doses.

In Victoria 92.7 per cent of people aged 16 and over have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 82.5 per cent have had two doses.

“NSW is set to pass 90 per cent double dose vaccination in the near future, with Victoria not far behind, allowing family and friends to be reunited in the lead up to Christmas after many months of being separated,” Perrottet said.

“This milestone has only been made possible because people across NSW and Victoria have rolled up their sleeves and led the nation on the road back to normality thanks to our high vaccination rates.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews thanked people on both sides of the border for rolling up their sleeves and getting the jab.

“Thanks to the incredibly hard work of Victorians and people in New South Wales in getting vaccinated, we’re delighted to be able to have free travel between the two states once again,” Andrews said.

“Victoria and New South Wales have been through so much over the last few months, and we’re pleased that more families will now be able to reunite just in time for Christmas and the holiday season.”

The Victorian Chamber and Business NSW have united to welcome the joint announcement that Australia’s two most populous states will allow free travel between them.

“NSW and Victoria have led the way for Australia with the highest vaccination rates in the world which has now enabled us to live with COVID-19," Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter said.

“The effort that New South Wales and Victorian residents have made has been truly outstanding, and we are now able to reignite the two strongest economies and fast-track Australia’s economic recovery. 

“We are thankful for the collaboration between our State Governments to enable this to happen. We can now safely and securely plan interstate business trips, family reunions and holidays, and look forward to a wonderful Christmas period.”

Victorian Chamber chief executive Paul Guerra also welcomed the changes, saying it will help "turbocharge" the economies of both NSW and Victoria.

"Now that we are able to finally close this chapter, we should embrace the lessons learned and continue with this strong state collaboration so that we can drive the nation’s economic recovery," Guerra said.

“We can now all look forward to a wonderful summer, Christmas and New Years celebrations with family and friends, and a successful 2022 as a nation whole again.”

Single COVID case sparks NT lockdown

A positive case of community transmission in the Northern Territory - the first ever recorded in the Top End - has forced the Territory government to put Greater Darwin in ‘lockout’ and Katherine into lockdown for three days.

Effective midnight last night, the city of Katherine including Tindal will enter into a full lockdown for 72 hours.

Because of high vaccination rates in the Greater Darwin region, the below areas will enter into a ‘lockout’ for 72 hours. This means fully-vaccinated people will be able to continue to live life as normal within the following LGAs:

  • City of Darwin
  • City of Palmerston
  • Litchfield Council
  • Wagait Shire
  • Belyuen Shire
  • Dundee
  • Bynoe
  • Charlotte
  • Cox Peninsula

Unvaccinated residents, including those people who have received only their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, must stay at home for the 72 hour lockout period and are only permitted to leave for the following four reasons:

  1. Medical treatment, including COVID testing or vaccination
  2. For essential goods and services, like groceries and medications
  3. For one hour of outdoor exercise a day within 5 km from your home with one other person or people from your house
  4. To provide care and support to a family member or person who cannot support themselves.

Unvaccinated people are not able to leave the Greater Darwin Region or attend their workplace, even if they are an essential worker.

The lockdown and lockout follows confirmation of a positive COVID-19 case - a man in his 20’s who is an NT resident and lives between Humpty Doo and Katherine where he works at the RAAF Tindal Base.

He is unvaccinated and is being transported by CareFlight to the Centre of National Resilience tonight. It is not known where he contracted COVID-19. Wastewater testing is negative at this time.

The man was tested for COVID-19 on 3 November 2021 and returned a positive test tonight. He was infectious in the community between 31 October 2021 and 3 November 2021. Contact tracing is underway and the man’s household contacts in both Darwin and Katherine are isolating at home.

The man visited various locations in Darwin and Katherine during his infectious period. The exposure site locations are available at coronavirus.nt.gov.au.

Updated at 9.28am AEDT on 5 November 2021.

Three new COVID cases detected in Goondiwindi, QLD

Three new COVID cases detected in Goondiwindi, QLD

Queensland has today recorded three new cases of COVID-19, all in the border town of Goondiwindi, but no lockdown will be ordered because of the town’s high rate of vaccination.

The three cases are all in the process of being transferred to a COVID hospital, and the cluster is linked to a New South Wales resident who was in Goondiwindi for one day doing essential shopping.

Two of the new local cases are unvaccinated and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged Goondiwindi residents to get tested if displaying COVID symptoms.

Of the three cases, one is a contact of a known cluster and is not of concern to QLD health officials.

The second has been in the community while infectious for five days and all household contacts have tested negative, while the third has been in the community for four days.

"We don't have to lock Goondiwindi down," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said, noting this latest outbreak is a wake-up call for the state.

"You can have a very, very high vaccination rate and this virus will hunt you down.”

The Premier also used the press conference to remind Queenslanders to get vaccinated as soon as possible before the state’s border reopens to NSW and Victoria.

In particular, those on the Gold Coast were urged to lift low rates of vaccination in the city, especially considering that 90 per cent of vehicles that cross into QLD travel through the Gold Coast.

Updated at 11.28am AEDT on 4 November 2021.

NSW brings forward major easing of restrictions to next Monday

NSW brings forward major easing of restrictions to next Monday

Some major changes to the New South Wales’ COVID-19 roadmap will be brought forward by nearly one month as the state hits vaccine milestones at a blistering pace, with eased restrictions to come into effect for vaccinated people from Monday 8 November.

The changes, which include the lifting of capacity limits, the introduction of the one person per two square metre rule for all settings, and full stadiums for major events will come into force from 8 November.

This is well ahead of the planned 1 December date previously pencilled in for these changes.

At the same time, the state government has decided to push back the easing of restrictions for those who are not fully vaccinated until 15 December, in line with when it is expected 95 per cent of the eligible population will have received two doses of a COVID-19 jab.

Currently, 87.7 per cent of the state’s eligible population aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated, with the state tipped to reach 90 per cent fully vaccinated mark this coming Sunday.

“We want to get to a point where New South Wales is open, one and free, and we believe that the changes we’ve made today will enable that to occur,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

“This is a long journey. Our challenges still lie ahead, but our success as a state and being able to open up safely is a testament to everybody in New South Wales who have gone out and made the effort to get vaccinated.”

As such, from 8 November restrictions will ease for fully vaccinated people in NSW including:

  • Density limits will shift to one person per two square meters across the board
  • Capacity limits will be lifted for all settings except for gym classes which will stay at 20 people per class
  • Visitors to homes will be uncapped
  • Outdoor gatherings can increase, but gatherings of more than 1,000 will need a COVID Safe plan in place
  • Indoor pools can reopen for all purposes
  • Amusement parks and play centres can reopen
  • Major events and stadiums can have 100 per cent capacity
  • Despite the changes, indoor mask wearing will still be mandatory until 15 December.

“I really extend my appreciation to the community for understanding that this is a really important risk mitigation strategy for indoor settings,” NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

The news comes as NSW recorded 173 new COVID-19 cases overnight and four deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

Updated at 11.06am AEDT on 2 November 2021.

Australia to allow quarantine-free travel to Singaporeans this month

Australia to allow quarantine-free travel to Singaporeans this month

In three weeks' time Singapore will join New Zealand as part of an exclusive club of countries whose citizens are allowed to travel to Australia without spending two weeks in quarantine on arrival.

However, where exactly they can do so will depend on the decisions of states and territories, with New South Wales and Victoria announced as the first jurisdictions to participate in the new travel bubble.

New quarantine-free arrangements will commence on November 21 for fully vaccinated Singaporeans travelling from the city state who present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, and they need not have spent the fortnight prior in Singapore itself to be eligible

The news follows Singapore's decision to allow Australia into its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme from 8 November, and was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Rome after a meeting with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong.

"Australia is slinging its doors open to fully vaccinated Singaporean travellers in November,” the Prime Minister said.

“This is another significant milestone in our step by step approach to safely reopening to the world that we outlined in the National Plan.

"It follows the announcement this week that fully vaccinated travellers from New Zealand will be welcomed back in October."

The PM emphasised this meant within weeks Australia would be welcoming tourists from two of our top 10 travel destinations.

"This is the billion dollar boost that Australia’s tourism industry has been waiting for," he said.

"Step by step, everything that we know and love about Australia is inching back to normal."

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator Marise Payne, highlighted many Australians live and work in Singapore, and vice versa.

"The strong exchanges over many decades have been to the benefit of both our nations,” Minister Payne said.

"It attests to the strength of our friendship and the effective management of COVID in each of our countries that we have been able to agree this early step in the reopening of normal travel.

"As we continue with our shared regional recovery from the pandemic, the resumption of travel between Singapore and Australia will provide great opportunities to move forward.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said this was the next logical step in reopening to the world.

“Australia remains a popular, world-leading destination and this is just the start of our international tourism comeback,” Minister Tehan said.

“Australia’s tourism operators and the sector’s 660,000 workers will welcome back with open arms visitors from Singapore.

“Quarantine-free arrivals demonstrate the success of our National Plan and the strength of our recovery.”

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has welcomed the news Singaporean tourists will be able to visit quarantine-free, as well as the fact the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recognised more vaccines - Covaxin (India) and Sinopharm (China).

"Our industry has been waiting for this announcement for 20 long months and there will be a great deal of relief felt today as export tourism businesses start to see the signs of returning international visitors,” ATEC managing director Peter Shelley said.  

"Thousands of Australian tourism businesses have been waiting patiently for our borders to open to welcome back international guests and this announcement will provide some energy for those businesses.  

"Despite much talk of ‘pivoting to domestic travel’ the reality is both our domestic and internationally focused tourism businesses have suffered heavily with both state and international border closures."

Shelley noted Singaporeans spent more than $1 billion in Australia in 2019.

"And we remain a strongly desirable destination and with proximity and motivation on our side, we hope this market will offer strong opportunities," he said.

"Along with thousands of tourism operators and all the hundreds of thousands of businesses who rely on the international tourism revenue they generate, we welcome this announcement and look forward to the expansion of this travel list in the near future."

According to World Atlas, Singapore was the sixth largest source of international tourists in Australia in 2019 with 407,000 visitors.

Australia's combined trade in goods with Singapore in 2020 was worth more than US$10.6 billion (AUD$14.1 billion), according to data from Trade Map based on ABS and UN Comtrade statistics.

Updated at 5:10pm AEDT on 1 November 2021.

Australia welcomes back New Zealanders as one-way bubble reopens

Australia welcomes back New Zealanders as one-way bubble reopens

As NSW welcomes back international arrivals for citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members, Australia has also reopened the quarantine-free travel bubble with New Zealand.

The allowance only goes one way however, and was put into effect by the Federal Chief Health Officer t last night at 11:59pm for all Australian jurisdictions that are willing to adopt the setting.

All travellers are subject to the following pre-departure measures:

  • Proof of a negative pre-departure PCR test within 3 days of the departure flight to Australia, and a completed declaration to this effect; and
  • Evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 consistent with the ATAGI definition of fully vaccinated with a TGA approved or recognised vaccine.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan says the resumption of quarantine-free arrivals from New Zealand would be a major boost for tourism and confidence.

"In 2019, Australia hosted 1.434 million visitors from New Zealand – making it our second largest source market – and they spent $1.6 billion in the Australian economy supporting local jobs and businesses,” says Minister Tehan.

"Australia delivers what Kiwis want in a holiday, including safety and security, value for money and world class natural beauty and wildlife.

"Tourism Australia will look to scale up its marketing activities in New Zealand, with an immediate focus on building confidence and broadening knowledge of the depth of Australia’s tourism offering."

In October the Australian Passport Officer received more than 102,000 passport applications, an average of more than 5,000 every work day compared to 82,000 applications in September and 53,000 applications in August.

There has also been strong demand for the new International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate, with more than 717,500 certificates generated since it was launched on 19 October.

Updated at 11:10am AEDT on 1 November 2021.

First quarantine-free international arrivals in Sydney as NSW hits roadmap milestone

First quarantine-free international arrivals in Sydney as NSW hits roadmap milestone

Sydney has today welcomed its first incoming passengers with no border or quarantine restrictions as NSW reaches its 1 November milestone, with new freedoms for the double-vaccinated including the ability to travel between the state capital and regional areas.

Under a further easing of restrictions in NSW, bookings for hospitality venues are also no longer capped.

Sydney Airport (ASX: SYD) received its first quarantine-free international flight - Qantas (ASX: QAN) flight QF12 - from Los Angeles this morning at 6am.

"This day has been a long time coming for our people and our customers. It’s wonderful to see Australians able to reunite with loved ones after such a long time apart," says Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

"It’s been very challenging time for our international crew, with many of them stood down since March 2020. We are in the process of standing up our Australian-based team members who are excited to get back to doing what they love.

"We are back in the air earlier than anticipated thanks to the millions of people who turned out in droves to get vaccinated. This made it possible for the Federal, and NSW and Victorian governments to open up Australia’s borders and remove quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers."

The news comes nearly 600 days after Australia closed its international borders, while this evening at 6:30pm an outgoing flight will depart from Sydney to London via Darwin.

While the national carrier has flown hundreds of Federal Government repatriation flights during the COVID-19 pandemic, and operated under a temporary border bubble arrangement with New Zealand earlier this year, these are the first regular Qantas international passenger flights after the Australian and NSW governments relaxed restrictions on overseas travel.

The NSW Government has removed quarantine requirements and caps for overseas arrivals who the Commonwealth Government recognises as fully vaccinated with a TGA-approved vaccine. 

Fully vaccinated travellers already in quarantine will also complete their quarantine requirements on November 1, even if it is less than 14 days.

Overseas travellers who are not fully vaccinated must undergo managed 14-day hotel quarantine, and the cap will remain at 210 people per week. However, there will be exemptions for children aged under 12, or 12-17 year old travelling to Australia with their family or guardian or who have an exemption.

Parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents can also travel to Australia from today, with applications made through the Department of Home Affairs Travel Exemption Portal.

"International travel may be a little different for a while with some new requirements and guidelines in place, but one thing that hasn’t changed is Qantas’ commitments to safety and premium service. We are absolutely thrilled to welcome everyone back on board," Joyce says.

"Today is a day many people have been waiting for and our high vaccination rates have allowed us to re-open in a safe and considered way," says NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

"Families and friends across NSW can now get together as well look forward to welcoming back home Australians who have been overseas trying to get home."

As of today, 87.7 per cent of the NSW population aged 16 and over have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, while even regional NSW is outpacing all other states and territories with 82 per cent of its population fully vaccinated.

In contrast, 80.3 per cent of Victorians are double-vaccinated and just 63.9 per cent of Queenslanders have received two doses.

Way ahead of other parts of the country, NSW's vaccination rates have given authorities the confidence to allow for more intrastate travel, which Deputy Premier Paul Toole says will provide a huge boost to the state.

"Today is a great day for regional NSW. I know Sydneysiders are busting to head to the bush and we can’t wait to welcome them back with open arms and for families and friends to get the chance to reunite," the Deputy Premier says.

"Around 82 per cent of the population in regional NSW has now been fully vaccinated - this an exceptional result and I want to thank every single person who has rolled up their sleeves so travel can resume and businesses can start to bounce back."

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres says it is time for Sydney to regain its title as the gateway to the nation with Australians coming home in time for Christmas. 

"NSW is again open for business. People can come together in a safe way whether it be returning home from overseas or getting together for an end-of-year gathering at your favourite venue," Ayres says.

More than $530 million has been invested in reviving events across the state and getting tourism back on track as part of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan. 

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said NSW was leading Australia out of the pandemic, with the state close to now reaching the 90 per cent double-dose vaccination rate. 

“The people of NSW can be proud of our vaccination rate, and there’s no reason we can’t reach 95 per cent double-dose vaccination to help ensure we get on top of this pandemic,” Mr Hazzard said. 

“NSW can be one of the highest vaccinated jurisdictions in the world.” 

NSW residents across the state will still need to comply with COVID-Safe check-ins and provide proof of vaccination to staff in most settings. 

Updated at 10:59am AEDT on 1 November 2021.

Pack your suitcase: ’Do not travel’ advice lifted for outbound Aussies

Pack your suitcase: ’Do not travel’ advice lifted for outbound Aussies

With Australia’s international borders set to progressively reopen from 1 November in line with the New South Wales COVID-19 roadmap, the Federal Government has lifted its global ‘do not travel’ advice for those who are fully vaccinated.

As such, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) smartraveller.gov.au platform is updating travel advice levels for 177 destinations based on the latest assessment of risk - both COVID-19 and other threats to safety and security.

Prior to today, Australian travellers have been given Level 4 advice - ‘Do not travel’ - but that will be downgraded for a number of locations for those looking to go overseas, as long as they’ve received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The four travel advice levels are:

  • Level 1: Exercise normal safety precautions
  • Level 2: Exercise a high degree of caution
  • Level 3: Reconsider your need to travel
  • Level 4: Do not travel

According to smartraveller.gov.au, no destination will be set lower than Level 2 due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 globally, and some destinations will remain at Level 4 if there are “extreme security and safety risks”.

“When you’re planning to travel overseas, it’s your responsibility to be informed about all the destinations you're visiting and to take all precautions for your safety,” says smartraveller.gov.au.

“COVID-19 remains an ongoing global health risk. Border settings and quarantine requirements are complex and can change at short notice.”

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said the Federal Government was committed to easing restrictions for fully vaccinated Australians, in line with soaring vaccination rates and the National Plan to transition Australia’s COVID-19 response.

“Our first priority is Australian citizens and permanent residents and today we are delivering on that by removing restrictions on fully-vaccinated Australians travelling out of Australia. The easing of these restrictions is possible thanks to our impressive national vaccination rates, and I thank all those who have done the right thing and rolled up their sleeve,” Minister Andrews said.

“I look forward to further easing restrictions over coming weeks and months as more and more Australians become fully vaccinated. Before the end of the year, we anticipate welcoming fully vaccinated skilled workers and international students.

“Our system of border exemptions has kept Australia free from widespread COVID transmission for more than 18 months, but as Australia’s vaccination rate continues to climb, and the end of the year approaches, the Morrison Government stands ready to once more welcome a significant number of fully vaccinated people across Australia’s international border.”

Those that are not fully vaccinated will continue to require a travel exemption to go overseas and will be subject to current passenger caps and state-determined quarantine arrangements when returning to Australia.

Updated at 9.45am AEDT on 28 October 2021.

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.

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