A raft of changes to Australia’s fledgling Covid vaccine rollout will see millions more jabbed by the end of the year, as the nation races to stop the spread of the Indian Delta strain which has plunged millions into lockdown.
With just five per cent of the population fully vaccinated and the more infectious strain on the loose, Australia is at risk of being stuck in a cycle of lockdowns and border closures.
In a bid to end the unwelcome trend, anyone over the age of 16 can now get the AstraZeneca vaccine if agreed with their doctor, after many shunned the jab due to fears of incredibly rare blood clots.
The prime minister brought together state and territory leaders for an emergency national cabinet meeting on Monday night as virus clusters germinating across the country reignited calls for vaccinations to be increased.
A number of major changes were then announced, including opening the jab to young Australians, mandating vaccines for aged care and hotel quarantine workers, and changing the way hotel quarantine is organised.
Australia’s state and territory leaders on Monday endorsed mandatory vaccination for aged care workers. Pictured: A nurse receives the Pfizer vaccine
Around eight million Australians are currently under some form of lockdown restrictions after cases broke out in Brisbane (commuters seen on Tuesday morning), Darwin, Perth, and Sydney
Around eight million Australians are currently under some form of lockdown restrictions after cases broke out in Brisbane, Darwin, Perth, and Sydney.
Greater Sydney is in a two-week lockdown, with Darwin shut down until at least Friday and Perth in its own four-day circuit breaker with tough restrictions as of 12.01am on Tuesday.
Rushing to plug the gaping holes in the nation’s quarantine system, every worker involved in the program – either directly or indirectly – must now be vaccinated.
National cabinet are understood to have made the call after an unvaccinated Sydney man who drove international flight crews sparked the city’s outbreak.
So far, just shy of 7.4 million Australians have received the jab as the beleaguered rollout remains plagued by delivery delays and complications after AstraZeneca – the nation’s main supply – was deemed as having a low risk of blood clots for those under 60.
But in a bid to complete what was supposed to be the first phase of the rollout, the leaders on Monday endorsed mandatory vaccination for aged care workers and offered up the AstraZeneca jab to anyone willing.
‘This is not something any government should do lightly… we have been considering this matter for some time now based on the best possible medical advice,’ Mr Morrison said.
The move will help protect some of the country’s most vulnerable people, with aged care residents accounting for 685 of the 910 deaths in Australia from COVID-19.
Mr Morrison said the aim of the plan is to complete the aged care vaccination rollout by mid-September, through a combination of state health orders and commonwealth measures.
Under the new plan, vaccines will be mandatory for anyone who works in hotel quarantine, either directly or indirectly, including drivers (pictured, quarantine workers in Melbourne)
CHANGES TO VACCINE ROLLOUT AND QUARANTINE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Scott Morrison announced that quarantine workers, including those only indirectly working in the program, now have to be vaccinated
- The same applies to aged care workers, who will need to have at least one dose by mid-September this year
- Travellers in hotel quarantine must also take an additional Covid test 2-3 days after they finish the 14 day isolation
- There will be a ban on accommodating low-risk domestic travellers next to high-risk international arrivals in quarantine facilities
- The Commonwealth also signed off an $11million grant program to help related facilities get staff vaccinated
- An indemnity scheme has been put in place for GPs to give AstraZeneca to anyone under 60 who is willing and accepts the very rare risk of blood clots
In a bid to ensure there are no unintended consequences, such as aged care workers leaving the sector, the federal government will provide $11million to allow aged care facilities to provide paid leave to staff to be vaccinated.
National cabinet also agreed to mandatory post-quarantine testing for returned travellers, which must occur two to three days after they finish the 14-day hotel stint.
There will also be a ban on accommodating low-risk domestic travellers next door to high-risk international arrivals, which triggered an outbreak in Queensland.
This could be done by separating them into different accommodation or floors in the one facility, as is already done in the Howard Springs centre in the Northern Territory.
The prime minister said the mandatory vaccines would apply to anyone who worked, either directly or indirectly, in hotel quarantine – including drivers. He is pictured visiting a vaccine manufacturing facility in February
Talks will also be held with the air transport sector and resources companies on how best to deal with the issue of fly-in fly-out workers potentially spreading the virus, after an infected worker at a Northern Territory mine plunged nearly 800 into isolation.
In a bid to encourage broader vaccination, Mr Morrison said that Australians under 40 – who are currently not part of the rollout – could now receive the AstraZeneca jab after seeking medical advice.
Under the initiative, the federal government will provide a no fault indemnity scheme for GPs who administer COVID-19 vaccines, meaning they will be insured in the event of an adverse incident.
‘If they are willing to go and speak to their doctor and have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, they can do so. So the answer is yes, they can go and do that,’ Mr Morrison said.
Sydney’s latest outbreak began when an unvaccinated limo driver transporting flight crew caught the virus and started unknowingly spreading it around Bondi. Pictured: A woman wearing a mask walks through Newtown on Saturday after the city was plunged into lockdown
‘We will be implementing a new no-fault indemnity scheme for general practitioners who administer Covid-19 vaccines. So this relates to encouraging Australians to go and check in to their GP about the vaccination.’
The decision to alter age-restrictions for AstraZeneca backflipped on guideline changes the Morrison government made earlier this month, when it bumped the minimum age for the Oxford University jab from 50 to 60.
The amendment followed the death of a 52-year-old woman from the AstraZeneca-linked rare blood-clotting condition thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, an incredibly rare side effect of the jab.
It was just weeks earlier that the federal government had initially declared Pfizer the recommended shot for under 50s due to the ultra-rare but potentially fatal side effect.
But on Monday, Mr Morrison said it was hoped with the changes to the program and improvements in supply, Australia could ‘move through the balance of the program over the course of this year’.
If the new policies prove effective, bolstered jab numbers could herald a shift in Australia’s fortunes after the latest lockdowns and border closures were blamed on the slow vaccine rollout.
Although it is anticipated a Pfizer shipment in October will see the national rollout completed by Christmas, accelerating jabs will put the federal government on track to reach its target of five out of six adults being vaccinated by the end of the year.
With a widely-vaccinated population, the country can expect to enjoy a number of eased restrictions, including an end to border closures and kickstarting overseas travel.
International borders have been shut since March 2020, leaving Australians locked away from the rest of the world and stuck with endless state border closures ruining even domestic trips.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has previously indicated her benchmark for opening international borders would be a vaccination rate of 80 per cent.
While the federal government has shied away from setting a goal for trips abroad, it has indicated high immunisation rates would mark the end of domestic travel restrictions.
The move will help protect some of the country’s most vulnerable people, with aged care residents accounting for 685 of the 910 deaths in Australia from COVID-19. Pictured: Healthcare workers transport a person a patient at Arcare aged care in Melbourne
Earlier this month, the government introduced ‘vaccine passports’ – digital certificates, which will be given after recipients have had their second jab.
Although the decision will ultimately lie with state leaders, Mr Morrison proposed the measure could be used to allow inoculated Australians to bypass local Covid restrictions when travelling interstate.
Meanwhile, several other counties with high vaccination rates – such as Britain and Singapore – have begun shedding restrictions and preparing to open.
Mr Morrison has warned Australia will not follow suit if there are still a considerable amount of deaths.
However, he said he expects more international arrivals later this year, which would help plug the employment gap after thousands of businesses – from the hospitality to farming sector – were left without enough staff when the border slammed shut in March 2019.
‘Even as the UK is finding with an 80 per cent vaccinated population, they’re not there either because they’ve got over 100 people dying every week,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘And so that’s not a situation that I’m prepared to countenance.
‘And one of the reasons why Australia is in such a unique position compared to the rest of the world is Covid is riddled through all of those countries.’
Mr Morrison said more international arrivals are expected later this year, however, he warned Australia will not reopen – even with high vaccination rates – if there is still a risk of considerable death levels
‘Their opportunity to ensure that the absolutely calamitous impact of this virus and the new strains doesn’t impact on them is much more limited than here in Australia, because of the success we’ve had to date. It would be unwise to surrender that advantage at this point and preferably at no point.’
In a late development on Monday night, two million people in Western Australia were plunged into a four-day snap lockdown.
Anyone living in the Perth or Peel regions will be under stay-at-home orders from 12.01am on Tuesday, and are only allowed out for essential reasons.
Gyms, shops, bars, restaurants and places of worship will be forced to close and all social gatherings are banned, with no one allowed to leave the metropolitan area for all but essential reasons.
Masks will also be mandatory in all indoor settings outside the home.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has announced anyone living in the Perth or Peel regions will be under stay-at-home-orders from midnight on Monday
PERTH IN COVID LOCKDOWN FROM 12.01AM TUESDAY – HERE ARE ALL THE RULES
From 12.01am on Tuesday, restrictions will be in place for a minimum of four days across the Perth and Peel regions:
- Mandatory masks indoors and outdoors – except while at home, doing vigorous exercise or in a car with other household members
- Stay at home orders are in place with only four reasons to leave the home:
– Essential work
– Buying essential goods within 5km of your home or at the nearest practical location
– One hour of exercise per day up to 5km from your home, with up to one other adult or any number of children from your household
– For medical and health purposes or to be vaccinated
- Ring of steel is put up around Perth and Peel, with travel to other regions banned
- Schools are open with masks required unless teaching or in primary school
- Private gatherings are banned
- Hospitality venues closed but allowed to do takeaway
- Non-essential shops closed but allowed to do click-and-collect
- Beauty/hairdressers, gyms, casinos, nightclubs, playgrounds, entertainment venues, skate parks, outdoor and indoor recreational facilities, higher education, places of worship and cultural institutions are all closed
- Visits to aged or disability care are banned except for end of life and advocacy
- Community sport cancelled
- Up to five people at weddings for compassionate reasons only and only 10 allowed at funerals
It comes as Western Australia records two new local coronavirus infections who came into brief contact with a previous case.
A physiotherapist who visited an infected Bondi cafe in Sydney passed the disease onto a 32-year-old woman after ‘fleeting contact’ at the Mobius Health and Performance Gym in Joondalup, Perth.
A second case of community transmission has also been found, a man in his 30s who worked at the Indian Ocean Brewing Co in Mindarie, after one of the infected women dined there.
They were sat at different tables and did not know each other, pointing to the worrying infectivity of the Indian Delta variant.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has also released a number of potential exposure sites, including the gym, a dog grooming centre and a supermarket.
With Sydney also in lockdown, NSW recorded 18 new coronavirus cases on Monday with all but one confirmed as being linked to existing cases.
The snap four-day lockdown comes as Western Australia records two new local cases who came into brief contact with an infected woman who had travelled from Sydney (pictured, locals in Perth during its last lockdown in April)
The number was down from 30 on Sunday and came from 59,000 tests.
Queensland is on the verge of its own lockdown in the state’s southeast after two new local cases, with more than 160 returned mine workers being tested.
Masks will be mandatory across large swathes of the state, home visits will be capped at 30 guests and venues will need to adhere to a one person per four square metre rule.
In South Australia – which hasn’t recorded a new case – beefed up restrictions include masks in high-risk settings and reduced densities in pubs, cafes and restaurants.
In the Northern Territory, an outbreak linked to a central Australian mine has grown to seven cases, sparking an extension of a snap lockdown until at least Friday.
MONDAY’S MOST IMPORTANT COVID NEWS
- Western Australia has entered a four-day snap lockdown after recording two new local coronavirus infections
- NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned that local COVID-19 case numbers may ‘go up considerably’ and remain high for at least five days after the state recorded 18 new infections. The Bondi cluster which has triggered a lockdown across Greater Sydney and surrounds now numbers 130 people.
- Ms Berejiklian also said the Morrison government had failed to recruit enough GPs to administer the COVID-19 vaccine doses Australia is expecting in coming weeks, accusing her federal counterparts of failing to plan for the future.
- A snap lockdown in the Northern Territory has been extended to Friday afternoon after a seventh local COVID-19 case was reported from an outbreak linked to a central Australian mine.
- Southeast Queensland is ‘on the verge’ of a lockdown after recording two new local cases of COVID-19, with the government moving to mandate mask use indoors and outdoors.
- Despite no community cases of COVID-19, South Australia has imposed a range of new local COVID-19 restrictions including mask use in high-risk settings, lower density regulations and caps on wedding and funeral attendees.
- Federal cabinet’s national security committee has met to discuss the unfolding situation with lockdowns and tighter restrictions emerging around the nation.
- A national cabinet meeting of the prime minister and state and territory leaders took place on Monday evening, with Scott Morrison announcing a series of change’s to Australia’s vaccine rollout.
- Authorities have emphasised that while Pfizer vaccine supplies are constrained, AstraZeneca jabs for those aged over 60 are plentiful, and called for those eligible to seek vaccination.
- Two naked men who got lost in a national park south of Sydney after nude sunbaking are among 44 people who have been fined for breaching COVID public health orders in NSW.
- Supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have imposed a two-packet limit on toilet paper purchases in their NSW stores amid renewed panic buying.
- NSW wants rugby league’s State of Origin III to be played on its home turf even if it can’t be held in Sydney, with the NRL considering its next step.
AUSTRALIAN VACCINATION NUMBERS:
- There have been 7,374,666 doses administered in the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout up to Sunday, including 48,346 in the previous 24 hours.
- Of the total, 4,286,720 have been administered by the Commonwealth (an increase of 8931 in the previous 24 hours).
- 3,859,909 have been issued in primary care (+8865) and 426,811 in aged and disability facilities (+66).
- 3,087,946 have been administered by the states and territories, including 39,415 in the previous 24 hours.
- 1,033,384 have been administered in Victoria (+12,470), 790,322 in NSW (+10,652), 521,731 in Queensland (+5740), 277,936 in Western Australia (+4577), 217,379 in South Australia (+3204), 108,743 in Tasmania (+1343), 80,889 in the ACT (+1085) and 57,562 in the NT (+344).
AUSTRALIAN CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS:
- Australia reported 22 local cases in its tally for Monday: 18 in NSW, one in the Northern Territory, two in Queensland and one in WA.
- There were seven new overseas-acquired cases in hotel quarantine: four in NSW, two in Victoria and one in Queensland.
- The national death toll is 910: Victoria 820, NSW 56, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 7, SA 4, ACT 3 (Two Queensland residents who died in NSW have been included in the official tolls of both states).
GLOBAL CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS:
- Cases: at least 181,094,000
- Deaths: at least 3,923,000
- Vaccine doses administered: at least 2,889,152,000
Data current as at 1700 AEST on June 28, taking in federal and state/territory government updates and Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre figures