GPs warn over children’s vaccine rollout ‘failings’; 3,500 cases in hospital nationwide – as it happened

By Nino Bucci, Mostafa Rachwani and Caitlin Cassidy
Paramedics in Melbourne
Paramedics outside St Vincent hospital in Melbourne. Victoria premier Daniel Andrews says at least 4,500 healthcare workers in the state are unable to work as Covid-19 hospital admissions continue to rise. Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP

That's it for today, thanks for reading

Here are the main stories on Tuesday, 11 January:

We will see you back here tomorrow.

Updated

We’re well into this twilight zone where much of the latest economic data is a bit dated because it takes in the post-Delta blip as the lockdowns came off for NSW and Victoria (and the ACT), without capturing the subsequent and current Omicron drop.

For instance, we had November retail trade figures from the ABS, showing business rising 7.3% in November, or double the market consensus of 3.6%, according to the CBA. The CBA said in a note:

The post Delta lockdown recovery was strong.

We expect a cautious household will see January retail sales weaken, as isolation requirements and risk aversion returns to some degree. Staff shortages in hospitality and retail settings will also impact the demand and supply of some goods and services.

A flavour of that turmoil is picked up in this article by Ben Butler and I, with industry groups worrying that without the assistance given to businesses this time around, Omicron’s turmoil could be worse than during the depths of Delta’s.

The other big eco information out on Tuesday was Australia’s trade balance coming in at a $9.42bn surplus. That’s down on previous months, and the peak of $13.65bn last July, but Australia is exporting a little under a third more than we are importing so that supports our dollar, for one thing.

Anyway, the interesting bits are probably that coal, iron ore and gas exports dropped (as prices fell) in November, while rural goods exports jumped 13% thanks in large part to good rains in much of the country.

Imports, too, were on the up in November, rising 6.3%, with household electrical goods up almost 20% presumably filling up shops that had already moved so much home entertainment gear during the lockdowns they needed restocking.

Consumer confidence dropped 2.2% at the start of this year, though, as ANZ Roy Morgan noted in their survey out today.

Updated

Richard Forbes, the chief executive of Independent Food Distributors Australia, which supplies food deliveries to hospitals and nursing homes, says not enough has been done to support the sector during the Omicron wave. He told The Australian:

There is much discussion around keeping food on the shelves of supermarkets but little on the importance of maintaining food deliveries to the 1500 hospitals and nursing homes for patients, doctors and nursing staff.

Here is a full story on the unfolding issues we mentioned earlier today regarding the ambulance service in Victoria:

Poor access to testing and long delays in receiving results are compounding the challenges faced by regional and rural communities amid the Omicron wave of Covid-19, health professionals and local representatives say. The full story is here:

Finger lickin’ bad.

Serbian prime minister asks Scott Morrison to treat Djokovic with dignity

AAP reports that the Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabic told Scott Morrison earlier today to treat Novak Djokovic with dignity. While we brought you news of the phone call between the prime ministers earlier today, this AAP report outlines the Serbian view of the conversation:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Serbian counterpart has asked that the two governments work closely on issues concerning tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa.

The prime minister’s office said Mr Morrison had a constructive call with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Tuesday morning.

In the call, Mr Morrison explained Australia’s non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders agreed to stay in contact on the issue, and to further strengthening the bilateral relationship.

Serbia’s public broadcaster, RTS, reported the Serbian prime minister asked Mr Morrison to ensure the tennis star was treated with dignity.

“The (Serbian) prime minister especially emphasised the importance of the conditions for training and physical preparation for the upcoming competition, considering that Novak Djokovic was not allowed to train in the previous days, and the tournament in Melbourne starts this weekend,” RTS reported.

“The prime minister also asked (Mr) Morrison to be in direct contact in the coming days and for all information to be exchanged directly between the government of Serbia and the government of Australia.”

It comes as the fallout over the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa - which was then overturned - continues to make international headlines.

Following the court decision, which the government says was “on a procedural ground”, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is considering whether to use his discretionary powers to cancel Djokovic’s visa.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr Hawke’s spokesman said: “In line with due process, minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter.”

“As the issue is ongoing, for legal reasons it is inappropriate to comment further,” the spokesman said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the Australian Open was bigger than one player but that he was not lobbying Mr Hawke to act either way.

Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally said the Djokovic saga is a lose-lose for the federal government, as the fallout over his immigration detention and visa issue continues.

Serbia’s prime minister Ana Brnabic.
Serbia’s prime minister Ana Brnabic. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Thanks for the afternoon delight Mostafa. Let’s see what the evening brings.

And with that I return the blog to the capable hands of Nino Bucci. Thanks for reading.

An out of control bushfire is raging in south-west Western Australia, with authorities warning it could be too late to evacuate homes.

Eagle Bay, Naturaliste and Dunsborough near Busselton are all under threat, with emergency warnings still in place.

Residents are urged to shelter in their homes in a room away from the fire front and to make sure they can easily escape.

“If your home catches on fire and the conditions inside become unbearable, you need to get out and go to an area that has already been burnt,” the Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned.

A bushfire Watch and Act is in place for people north of Caves Road and west of Cape Naturaliste Road in parts of Naturaliste and Dunsborough.

Earlier today, WA police commissioner Chris Dawson said the fire was “uncontrolled and uncontained”.

It is a significant concern for those people that live in the Eagle Bay community. It’s too late for you to leave. If your home catches on fire and the conditions become unbearable, you need to get out.

Updated

Ambulance Victoria issues second 'code red' in a week

Last night, Ambulance Victoria issued its second “code red” in a week, with the latest one lasting for four hours, as a result of the pressures from the pandemic.

In a statement, the emergency services said it declared a “code red” between 11.20pm on Monday, and 3.30am on Tuesday.

The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant and unprecedented impact on health systems including Ambulance Victoria and hospital emergency departments.

Ambulance Victoria has a detailed Emergency Response Plan and escalation procedures to effectively manage a surge in workload and demand.

The Victorian Ambulance Union told the Sydney Morning Herald there were 135 “pending” cases during the night, with 20 at one point requiring an ambulance with lights and sirens.

Under code red protocols, people are directed to use taxis to get to the hospital, and non-emergency vehicles can be used for emergency events.

The declaration was previously used during the black Saturday bushfires and during the deadly thunderstorm asthma event of 2016.

It has now been issued twice in seven days.

Signage on a Victoria Ambulance

Updated

We begin where everything begins today: with Novak Djokovic.

This time, reports have emerged that immigration minister Alex Hawke will NOT make a decision today on whether to cancel Djokovic’s visa or not:

Updated

Good afternoon, and a thanks to Nino Bucci and Caitlin Cassidy for their stellar work today, Mostafa Rachwani with you for the next little bit.

I’m taking a break but Mostafa Rachwani has taken the wheel, so you’re in good hands.

Statement released by Djokovic's lawyers

The statement from Hall and Wilcox confirms tennis star Novak Djokovic received an exemption to the law firm’s office vaccination policy in order to be able to attend for yesterday’s hearing.

It does not say a whole lot other than that, but here it is in full:

Hall & Wilcox is acting for Novak Djokovic in relation to the successful motion to quash the cancellation of his visa to enter Australia. Natalie Bannister has led this matter since Mr Djokovic’s arrival in Australia, supported by Penelope Ford, Graydon Dowd and a team of lawyers and support professionals.

Hall & Wilcox briefed counsel including Paul Holdenson QC, Nick Wood SC, Nik Dragojlovic and Jim Hartley.

The issue involves whether Mr Djokovic was treated properly and provided procedural fairness when he entered the country. Judge Kelly ordered that the decision to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa be quashed and that Mr Djokovic be released from detention.

Natalie and the team have worked extremely hard and under intense pressure to support Mr Djokovic and successfully have his visa reinstated. We are proud of this result and delighted for our client.

Mr Djokovic attended our Melbourne office for the hearing. This attendance was in accordance with our COVID-19 vaccination policy, under a medical exemption approved by our COVID officer and Managing Partner.

We understand that there is a lot of interest in the case. We will comment further in due course.

Australian tennis player Bernard Tomic has claimed during a match to qualify for the Australian Open (which he lost) that he has Covid, but has not been able to be tested.

It might seem like an odd week in tennis, but then you see Tomic doing stuff like this and all seems well with the world again.

We’ve asked the government whether the investigation into Novak Djokovic’s declaration he hadn’t travelled in the fortnight before his travel will form part of the decision to cancel his visa.

A spokesman for immigration minister Alex Hawke said:

As noted yesterday in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, Minister Hawke is considering whether to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act.

In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter. As the issue is ongoing, for legal reasons it is inappropriate to comment further.

Here’s our full report on the Covid situation in Queensland, taking in the press conference earlier today:

Tasmania’s state health commander has contracted Covid, AAP reports:

Tasmania’s state health commander Kathrine Morgan-Wicks has tested positive to coronavirus and is isolating at home.

Ms Morgan-Wicks says she is asymptomatic and will continue working in the role, as well as in her position as health department secretary.

She returned a positive result on Tuesday afternoon after being tested in the morning.

“I am asymptomatic but undertook a PCR test ... following a member of my household developing mild symptoms and being confirmed as a positive case,” she said.

Ms Morgan-Wicks said she was “currently well”.

Members of her household are in quarantine as close contacts.

Tasmania recorded 1379 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with the number of people being treated in hospital for virus symptoms dropping to seven.

The cases are made up of 1015 self-reported positive rapid antigen tests and 364 PCR tests, taking the state’s number of active infections to 8356.

The health department says seven people are being treated in hospital specifically for COVID-19, down from 11 reported on Monday.

Another 11 people with the virus are in hospital for unrelated medical conditions.

Fifty positive cases are staying in community management clinics, while 278 are being monitored under the COVID-at-home system.

Tasmania’s Child Health and Parenting Service is reducing client service delivery until February 4 to allow nursing staff to focus on broader health system requirements.

Two inmates at Risdon Prison outside Hobart have reportedly tested positive.

Updated

WA records a new case suspected of being infectious while in the community

The state recorded four new cases, one of which is suspected to have been infectious in the community. If this is confirmed, it would be only the third Omicron case who was not in quarantine during their entire infectious period.

Exposure sites have been listed in Perth, including a supermarket, post office, and two pharmacies.

Updated

ABF investigating Djokovic travel declaration

The Australian Border Force is investigating whether Novak Djokovic incorrectly declared he had not travelled and would not do so for two weeks before his flight to Australia, in the latest twist in the tennis star’s visa cancellation saga.

Questions have been raised about the declaration completed by an agent for Djokovic, with social media posts seemingly showing he was in Belgrade on Christmas Day before flying to Australia from Spain on 4 January.

Djokovic’s agent and lawyers have been contacted for comment.

The full story is here:

South Australia records huge drop in cases, increase in hospital admissions

There were 2,921 new cases reported today (down from 4,024 yesterday) but hospital admissions increased from 188 to 211. The state also reported one death.

Updated

The NT records 594 new cases, but hospital admissions 'remain low'

AAP reports that the Northern Territory recorded 594 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours.

The Northern Territory has reported 594 new COVID-19 infections as authorities attempt to calm community fears about the spread and severity of the virus.

At Tuesday’s daily briefing, Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison focused on hospital admissions over case numbers, saying they remain low.

“There are 32 patients in hospitals across the territory but only 11 of them are classified as acute admissions,” she told reporters.

“This represents 0.42 per cent of all active cases, which still remains low.”

Across the NT there are about 2600 active COVID-19 infections, which is the equivalent of about one per cent of the territory’s population.

About 300 of these are in central Australia after 65 people, many in Alice Springs, tested positive overnight.

It includes five aged care facility residents at Old Timers Village.

Ms Manison said the facility’s vaccination rate was high and none of the infected residents were showing symptoms.

“The total case count for Alice is in line with the percentage of the territory population,” she said. “It is not surprising. It is not alarming.”

Ms Manison also urged infected Territorians to use the NT government’s COVID-19 website and online tools to declare they had tested positive after calls to its hotline tripled on Tuesday and wait times “blew out”.

Meanwhile, Yuendumu and Yuelamu, about 295km northwest of Alice Springs, remain in lockout until Saturday with another three people testing positive overnight.

It brings the total number of virus infections in low vaccination Yuendumu to 18.

Extra health staff have been sent to the town to help with virus testing and vaccinations.

“One thing I want to say which was very disappointing was that we only saw 11 vaccinations in the last 24 hours,” Ms Manison said.

Vaccination rates remain stubbornly low in the town, with only 65 per cent of the 675 residents aged 16 and over electing to have a jab, and just 41 per cent double dosed.

Ms Manison was also forced to clarify confusion about the territory’s day-old vaccine pass.

She said only business serving alcohol were required to check patrons were vaccinated, not all cafes and restaurants.

Updated

ACT records 1,508 new Covid cases, one death

ACT Health has reported a significant jump in cases, from 938 to 1,508. It recorded a slight increase in hospital admissions (28, up from 25). A man in his 80s has died.

Retail trade increased 7.3% in November, but the emergence of the Omicron variant in Australia since then has clouded the economic outlook, AAP reports.

Australians went on a record spending spree in November, buoyed by the end of last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns.

But the subsequent emergence of the highly infectious Omicron variant has clouded the outlook.

Retail trade soared 7.3 per cent in November, the fourth-strongest monthly rise on record, lifting sales to their highest level ever at $33.4 billion.

The previous record for sales was set in November 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday.

Victoria saw the largest increase in the month, rising 20 per cent after its Delta-variant lockdown ended in late October, and following the earlier opening up from restrictions in NSW and the ACT.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said retailers overall had a strong November, aided by the end of COVID restrictions, record-breaking Black Friday sales and early shopping ahead of Christmas.

But he said businesses are facing fresh challenges with the rising cases of Omicron.

“We’ve entered new territory in the pandemic with Omicron decimating workforces and impacting supplies and deliveries of essential goods,” Mr Zahra said.

BIS Oxford Economics senior economist Sean Langcake expects the Omicron variant will have limited impact on the December sales figures, but will pose a challenge in early 2022.

“Consumer caution will reduce in-store foot traffic, while disruption to supply chains and labour availability will further limit sales,” he said.

Separate data showed consumer confidence has fallen across Australia as a result of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

In the first release for 2022, the weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index dropped 2.2 per cent compared to its pre-Christmas level, the last time the survey was conducted.

The ABS also released international trade figures for November, which showed the surplus shrank to $9.4 billion after a downwardly revised $10.8 billion in October. Imports jumped six per cent, outpacing a two per cent increase in exports.

Pedestrians walk past a shopfront in Pitt Street mall in Sydney on Tuesday.

Updated

A man has died in custody in Tasmania, AAP reports:

A man has died in custody in Tasmania, with the incident to be examined by the coroner.

The death occurred overnight, director of prisons Ian Thomas said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

“On behalf of the Tasmania Prison Service I extend my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the deceased man at this difficult time,” he said.

No further details, such as the man’s age or how or where his death occurred, have been released.

“The Tasmania Prison Service will not be making any further comment as the matter is now the subject of an examination by the coroner,” Mr Thomas said.

“This is standard practice whenever a death occurs in a corrections environment.”

Updated

GPs warn of serious failings in children’s vaccine rollout

General practitioners have called for “urgent improvements” to the children’s vaccine rollout, warning supply and delivery issues mean they are “trying to vaccinate the nation’s children with one arm tied behind their back”.

In a statement to the Guardian, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Karen Price said she has warned health minister Greg Hunt directly about the problems with the children’s rollout and called for urgent change. Here’s her statement in full:

The RACGP is calling for urgent improvements to recalibrate the children’s vaccine rollout so that our kids can receive at least one vaccine dose before returning to the classroom.

GPs and their practice teams are trying to vaccinate the nation’s children with one arm tied behind their back. We are hearing from GPs who can’t obtain enough stock to meet demand from patients, as well as orders being cancelled at the last minute. Some practices have been allocated 50 or 100 doses a week when they have around 1,500 children on their books. It’s not hard to do the math and see we can’t keep up with demand.

I have spoken with the Health Minister this morning to inform him of the challenges facing general practices. I was told any issues will be dealt with accordingly, and that GPs have already delivered 64% of the available childhood vaccinations yesterday. Most parents understandably want their children to be vaccinated before the school year begins, particularly as we’re seeing record cases in Australia and kids mixing at school has been a key driver of infections. But I can’t imagine we will achieve this at the current pace of the rollout. I am hoping our regular RACGP feedback will continue to inform and suggest areas of improvement.

Families queue on Monday, the first day of vaccines for children, at Kippa Ring Communication Vaccination Clinic, Brisbane.
Families queue on Monday, the first day of vaccines for children, at Kippa Ring Communication Vaccination Clinic, Brisbane. Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP

Updated

Circling back on the Queensland Covid numbers. A little hard to compare these with previous days, given the delays suffered by pathology providers, but today’s figures were:

  • 20,566 new cases (include additional data from the previous day) and 4,186 home test (RAT) results.
  • 502 patients in hospital (up from 419), 27 in ICU, six ventilated.
  • 109,524 active cases.
  • A vaccination rate of 87.5%, with a first dose rate of 91.1%.

Updated

Gerrard also said just before those comments below that there were 2,138 Queensland healthcare staff who have tested positive for Covid, and 2,715 who are close contacts. The Queensland Covid press conference has finished.

Gerrard is feeling it this press conference. He said:

When you see a few [Covid] patients ... you realise they are no different from other patients that we are used to looking after and that initial anxiety settles down. I have experienced that personally myself with Covid. I experienced that with Ebola in West Africa. When you see these patients, you realise they are people like other patients and I think that anxiety will settle.

[You] realise it is just another virus. There is nothing mystical ... about it. It is just a virus and in this case we have an effective vaccine, and I think that is it. I think it is what you said – fear of the unknown.

It is refreshing to hear a (somewhat) new voice on Covid as we almost tick over into the third year of the pandemic. Perhaps there should be a rotation of all state CHOs, as a treat?

Updated

Gerrard says he has read reports about “Covid parties”.

I have read about these reports of Covid parties. They are utterly ridiculous. There is one way, the best way to get immunity to this virus, is through vaccination, not through Covid parties. They are ridiculous, so please stop them. Please stop.

Interesting to hear Gerrard speak in a little more detail about the modelling (with the caveat that modelling throughout the pandemic has been rubbery, and that what the modelling shows for Queensland may not apply to Victoria, etc).

Gerrard says that he expects the peaks of hospitalisations will come a week after the peak in case numbers, and that it is looking as if this will happen in the first or second week of February.

This is part of the reason the Queensland government is delaying the start of the school year, he says: Gerrard is expecting the peak will be short and sharp, and removing school kids from the mix will reduce the pressures on the hospital system.

Updated

D’Ath says that if she can get the Morrison government to do one thing, it is to provide the state with more home test (RAT) kits. She said:

If I can get the commonwealth to do one thing, it is give us more of those self-assessment kits for people to take home, to take pressure off of the testing clinics.

Updated

The Queensland health minister, Yvette D’Ath, says a software problem affected private pathology providers, causing a delay in receiving PCR test results, but that the issue had since been rectified.

Updated

The chief health officer, Dr John Gerrard, says hospital admissions jumped from 419 to 502 people as of 7pm last night. A man in his 70s with significant underlying medical problems also died yesterday.

Gerrard says about the hospital admissions:

That is expanding fairly rapidly and that is what is expected to do. They will continue based on our predictions until the beginning of February. Those numbers will become quite significant in the coming weeks until the beginning of February and hopefully the mathematical modelling is correct, it will start to decline after that.

Queensland chief health officer Dr John Gerrard.
Queensland chief health officer Dr John Gerrard. Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP

Updated

Queensland authorities provide Covid update

Health minister Yvette D’Ath is speaking from a vaccination centre. The state recorded 20,566 cases (including some results from the previous day because of delays impacting pathology providers). There were 4,186 of these reported from home tests.

Updated

Morrison speaks with Serbian counterpart after Djokovic controversy

The prime minister’s office has released a read-out from the call between Scott Morrison and the Serbian prime minister, Ana Brnabić, this morning. The read-out said:

The PM had a constructive call with PM Brnabić this morning on Novak Djokovic.

The PM explained our non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting Australia during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They both agreed to stay in contact on the issue, and to further strengthening the bilateral relationship.

It is unclear who instigated the call.

Updated

Another (somewhat less well-known) tennis player who had their Australian visa cancelled hopes Novak Djokovic can contest the grand slam.

Czech doubles specialist Renata Voráčová told Reuters she was frustrated at being forced to leave Melbourne due to her visa being cancelled. She had the same exemption as Djokovic – that she had contracted Covid in the past six months.

She said she contracted the virus last month and that, along with other medical issues, prevented her from getting vaccinated, but she planned to do so in future.

The full comments are in this ABC story here.

Renata Voráčová of the Czech Republic and Nao Hibino of Japan play doubles at the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open WTA 1000 tournament in May 2021.
Renata Voráčová of the Czech Republic and Nao Hibino of Japan play doubles at the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open WTA 1000 tournament in May 2021. Photograph: Rob Prange/REX/Shutterstock

Updated

Thanks for your stellar work Caitlin, although I would prefer if you did not mention fire during summer (there’s enough on as it is).

With that, I will pass the baton on to Nino Bucci, who will keep the fire burning this afternoon.

Prime minister Scott Morrison has reportedly spoken to his Serbian counterpart, who requested direct liaison between governments about issues over Novak Djokovic’s visa, AAP reports.

Serbia’s public broadcaster, RTS, reported the two spoke by phone on Monday morning. Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić asked Morrison to ensure the tennis star was treated with dignity.

RTS:

The [Serbian] prime minister especially emphasised the importance of the conditions for training and physical preparation for the upcoming competition, considering that Novak Djokovic was not allowed to train in the previous days, and the tournament in Melbourne starts this weekend.

The prime minister also asked Morrison to be in direct contact in the coming days and for all information to be exchanged directly between the government of Serbia and the government of Australia.

The two reportedly agreed to talk again in coming days.

Comment was being sought from Morrison’s office.

Updated

Australia’s biggest chicken supplier, Ingham’s, says staff shortages caused by the Omicron wave are “having a significant impact on the Australian supply chain, operations, logistics and sales performance of Ingham’s, and some of its suppliers and customers”.

“This has disrupted production and distribution capability, and impacted sales,” the company said in a statement to the ASX:

All Ingham’s major Australian sites are operational and have not experienced significant on-site transmission of Covid. However, they are currently experiencing significantly lower levels of staff availability. which is impacting production volumes and operational efficiency.

There are also reports that KFC is running short of some types of chicken.

Market sources have confirmed it is an Ingham’s customer.

Ingham’s shares were down about 6.6% at midday.

Updated

NSW might have reported 25,870 new Covid infections today, roughly in line with that 25,000 a day prediction for the end of January back on 15 December.

Of course, nobody believes the latest figures are a good reflection of how fast the virus is spreading in the community.

In fact, within the NSW government, the question is how soon will it reach 100,000 cases a day. That first six-figure day could come as early as the end of the week if that’s when the government starts releasing both the PCR and the rapid antigen test results.

Expect the tenor of that announcement to be one of qualification. Yes, it’s a shocking number but many of the cases will be double-counting (people getting a PCR and RAT result) and some accumulation (results of earlier days only being reported now).

Still, even with the qualification, the beefed-up figures will probably be only a portion of how much the virus is spreading given the difficulty of getting your hands on a RAT.

Every government is scratching for RATs of course, and the price tag will have to be swallowed by someone. For the NSW government, the RAT bill for the 100 million tests could be north of $500m, perhaps well north.

Taxpayers may be grabbing for the Bex (if it’s still a thing).

Updated

'Anomalies' in Novak Djokovic PCR test results: reports

Some news outlets including Der Spiegel are claiming the Serbian website displaying test results is showing anomalies for Novak Djokovic’s positive Covid-19 test, which granted him an exemption to enter Australia.

Der Spiegel said a QR code on his presented positive Covid test from 16 December – confirmation code 7371999-259039 – when scanned by them at 1.19pm local time on Monday showed a negative result. But when they tried again just over an hour later it was displaying a positive result.

Guardian staff tested the system this morning and did not find anomalies. We are not suggesting the test has been faked, or know for certain what documents Der Spiegel was using.

We have put questions to Djokovic’s team, the immigration minister and border force. If Djokovic’s test were to have been negative, it would completely undermine his case for being granted an exemption to enter Australia in the first place.

As we know, he isn’t vaccinated. In an interview with the Australian Border Force he told officers he had Covid-19 twice – in June 2020 and December 2021 – and court documents showed Djokovic’s reason for seeking a medical exemption from Australia’s vaccination requirements was that he contracted Covid on 16 December.

This was accepted by Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government medical panels, which granted him the exemption on 30 December.

Updated

We don’t have Covid numbers from Queensland yet. The state isn’t able to provide full data yet due to likely software glitch at some private clinics.

Health authorities are due to provide an update in the next hour or so.

Updated

Palaszczuk says there are concerns about rising Covid cases and hospitalisations on the Gold Coast. She says not enough people are wearing their masks and following health directives.

Just because you’re on holiday, doesn’t mean you can’t get Covid.

The police commissioner says 200 or 300 masks are being handed out every day - predominantly to travellers from interstate.

Back in Victoria, and Andrews says it is still the plan for children to return to school on time:

Updated

Queensland’s police commissioner Katarina Carroll says the search for the 14-year-old girl may be scaled down in the coming days:

At some stage we do get advice around survivability and it may be scaled down ... if that advice has come in that’ll be the case but we know ... people can only survive certain days ... To this point there has been an extraordinary amount of searching done for that child.

Updated

Search under way for 52-year-old in flood waters

Turning to missing persons, the search is continuing for the 14-year-old girl who has been missing since the weekend.

Another incident occurred this morning on the Mary River. Two females are safe and well but a 52-year-old male is currently missing. It is believed the group were out searching for cattle stock and were caught up in flood waters.

Updated

Palaszczuk is up from Maryborough.

She thanks “everybody working hard to ensure people get back onto their feet”. Assessments are continuing to work out what extra support is needed in the area.

Work is underway to get power up as soon as possible, and food supply chains are returning. Queensland rail will open at 6pm tonight.

Queensland police have revoked the emergency declaration for Maryborough, though a number of roads remain closed and services are continuing to several flood-impacted areas.

Good news on the cyclone front. Palaszczuk says “we are not hearing any bad impacts of tropical cyclone Tiffany”, which has been downgraded today. It will be monitored over the next 24 to 48 hours lest it reforms.

Updated

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, is due to provide a Covid/vaccination/flood/cyclone update in the next few minutes, but the health minister, Yvette D’Ath, and chief health officer Dr John Gerrard will also hold a press conference at 12pm local time from Queensland Children’s Hospital Vaccination Centre.

Updated

Andrews is asked again whether the vaccination exemption for Djokovic was granted by a Victorian panel. He says Tennis Australia “had a process”:

I will leave you to speak to them, if you want any further details of that. I am very conscious of the fact it’s one thing to speak to comments I made months ago, and we’ve been consistent on those comments, but not let’s get into the ins and outs by way of process. It’s been adjudicated, it may be appealed. Whilst we may have views on whether we would play a role in the granting of a visa, that’s what those questions basically relate to, we don’t grant them. And our view has been sought and we’ve been very clear about our view.

He says he isn’t calling on the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, to cancel the visa, and if you want to know what he’s going to do “get on the blower”:

The nature of quite extraordinary powers that are held by the immigration minister is I won’t be out there calling for him to use them or not use them. That’s a matter for him. He ought to do that free of any pressure, free of any public debate and discourse because otherwise you find yourself – I’m not a lawyer – you may find yourself back in the federal court again. Again, these are not matters for me. We have many things to do. Many things to get on with. Issuing visas is not one of the responsibilities that I have. Others have those responsibilities. And I direct you to them. If you want to know what Alex Hawke will do, get on the blower to him and have a chat.

Updated

The Australian Open is bigger than Djokovic, Andrews says.

You know, I think that Rafa and a few others have made the position very, very clear. This is – this tournament is much bigger than any one person. It’s a grand slam, the biggest thing in tennis in the first quarter of the year, every year. It’s a massive event for us. And it’s bigger than any one person, whether that be, you know, in the court, or on the court. This tournament is much bigger than any one person.

Updated

Andrews is asked whether Djokovic should be allowed to play in the Australian Open. He says that’s a matter for the federal government.

The issue of who gets into the country and their vaccination status is not an issue for state governments. I don’t issue visas, the commonwealth government does that. There’s a court ruling, whether that’s appealed is a matter for the commonwealth government. If the immigration minister wants to use his extraordinary powers, that’s a matter for him. I don’t want to offer comment on that. I stand by our comments. We have not sought to, in fact, quite the opposite, we have not sought to convince the commonwealth government to allow anyone else.

When we talked about exemptions previously, you would recall that Minister Hawke had said it was his expectation if you weren’t double vaxxed, you wouldn’t get into the country, if you’re playing tennis or doing anything else. That wasn’t the commonwealth government’s position and they have been letting people in who hasn’t been double vaxxed. It requires a state government to sponsor that person, or support that exemption from being double dose vaccinated. So, the notion of exemption was a little different then and the position was a little different there. Because there was the prospect that people won’t be allowed in at all unless they were double vaxxed.

I stand by our comments. I was asked the question, would we be asking the commonwealth government to exempt certain people from the requirement to be vaccinated, no, that was the answer then, that is the answer now.

Updated

Here’s the detail of what the ACTU secretary, Sally McManus, has asked Scott Morrison to do in order to support workers during the Omicron crisis, which has seen large numbers of people unable to work because they are either waiting for a hard-to-get test, isolating because they are a close contact or sick with the virus.

McManus laid out four demands in a letter to Morrison, sent yesterday, in which she also asked for a meeting with the prime minister.

The demands are:

1. Rapid antigen tests to be free and accessible for all. Until supply has been resolved, they should be prioritised for frontline and essential workers.

2. Paid pandemic leave must be extended to all close contacts. Close contacts must include those exposed at work, not just in households.

3. Workers be kept safe at work, including mask requirements to N95 or P2 standard, warning Scott Morrison that unions will fight any attempt to water down OHS laws.

4. Broaden and increase support payments for workers, people out of work and businesses affected by Covid.

Demand No. 2 would re-expand who counts as a close contact: the rules currently only capture those in a household-type situation with exposure of four hours or more.

McManus will hold a press conference at midday.

Updated

It is striking how much the rhetoric has changed this year. I remember when Andrews would warn Victorians if the state government didn’t enforce various health measures, there wouldn’t be dozens of cases, or hundreds of cases, there would be thousands of cases.

Now, we are discussing the possibility to have thousands of people in general wards, and hundreds hospitalised with Covid being a best-case scenario:

Please, can you just take the time, if you’re eligible, if you’ve got that letter, please go and make an appointment, whether it’s at a state clinic, a community pharmacy, or your local GP surgery to get your third dose. That’s how we’ll limit the spread of this.

Just finally ... we have some people that are gravely ill, some people in intensive care, but the vast majority of people are in hospital and not requiring that sort of care. If we were to stop isolating people, if we were to stop testing, if we were to let this rip, we’ll finish up not with hundreds of people in general wards, we would finish up with thousands, and we all know what that means. It means every non-Covid case that requires hospitalisation won’t be able to get that care.

Updated

'Significant pressure' on Victoria's health system, Andrews says

Andrews says there is “significant pressure” on Victoria’s health system amidst rising case numbers. There is currently a record number of people hospitalised with Covid in the state.

He says at least 4,500 healthcare workers are unable to work because they’re Covid positive or close contacts of cases.

There were 3,392 health – the hospital staff, not available to work, because they were either Covid-19 cases or close contacts of cases. There were a further 422 Ambulance Victoria staff unable to work as well. That’s at least 4,500. They’re self-reporting numbers. I expect that number to be in fact higher and that does put great pressure on our system.

It’s not a matter of money or machines, they don’t treat people anyway, it’s qualified staff, people who provide healthcare to other people, and our staff, because we’ve got so many cases in the Victorian community, this is so wildly infectious, like any group in the community, there’s a significant number of people who are getting this, have already got it, and others isolating because they live in households.

Updated

Another $4m of grants will be offered to GPs and pharmacists to vaccinate children after hours at schools, Andrews says.

Some 30 pop-up clinics will also be established in schools “very soon” additional to state vaccination hubs.

Updated

About half of those who are eligible for a third booster dose have received their vaccination, Andrews says.

We’ve got to do better than that in coming weeks. I know the holiday period, perhaps, getting your third dose is the last thing on people’s minds as they celebrate and spend quality time with family and friends. But now as we are getting into January, we need to focus on getting everyone who is eligible to be boosted, or to get a third dose, to go along, make an appointment, honour that appointment and get that additional protection, not just for yourself, but for all of us, and particularly for our health system, that comes with a third dose, particularly against this Omicron variant.

Some 39,000 bookings have been made for five to 11-year-olds since the system opened, and 3,000 children received a vaccine yesterday.

Daniel Andrews press conference begins

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is up now. He thanks everyone who has queued up to get a PCR test, and those who have taken a rapid antigen tests.

I thank them very much, and those who have undertaken a rapid antigen test at home and have then, if positive, have gone and registered. That is a much better system and it means people are getting their results as fast as possible. I know there’s some pressure in that testing system, it’s not just in Melbourne or Victoria, it’s across our whole country. Everyone wants the same thing at the same time and we have many cases in our communities right across our nation. That means more people with symptoms, more people with a reason to test, that does put pressure on symptoms. I thank the staff doing their very best, and people being patient waiting for their important results.

Updated

The latest standoff in Djokovic versus Home Affairs is Andy Murray versus Nigel Farage:

Updated

Tasmania reports 1,379 new cases

Tasmania’s case numbers are in, and there have been 1,379 new Covid-19 cases recorded overnight.

There are now 18 people being treated in hospital with Covid, seven of which are hospitalised specifically due to symptoms.

It is a slight jump from 1,218 cases reported yesterday.

Updated

For some lighter content, and if you’ve missed it, this is quite funny:

Speaking of Covid updates, Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will hold a press conference outside Maryborough City Hall at 10.30am local time.

Updated

Daniel Andrews is back in the building:

Journalist and Human Rights Watch researcher Sophie McNeill says the Novak Djokovic case has served as a “jolting reminder of Australia’s abusive treatment of refugees and asylum seekers”.

While the world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic, spent four nights detained at an immigration hotel in Melbourne before a judge ordered his release, his case became a jolting reminder of Australia’s abusive treatment of refugees and asylum seekers who have been held in the country’s immigration detention system for years.

Australian politicians have long relied on “tough on borders” rhetoric to win elections. This populist tactic has helped to ensure these abusive policies have remained in place for as long as they have. Inhumane treatment of refugees is not an acceptable nor a lawful policy of deterrence. All Australians should voice their opposition to prolonged and indefinite immigration detention, because while Djokovic may now be free, hundreds of others are not.

Updated

Dairy and meat producers are pleading for more government help to cope with Covid disruptions in their industries as supermarket shelves empty and farm workers are hit by the virus.

One big abattoir in South Australia has requested its staff return to work, despite 140 of them testing positive, while other farmers are facing filling milk vats or rotting produce as goods are held back from the market due to the lack of staffing.

Grant Crothers, president of the Australian Dairy Products Federation, said as many as 40% of workers in some parts of the dairy food chain were absent because of Covid or because they were close contacts.

Consumer confidence takes hit from Omicron outbreak

Consumer confidence has fallen across Australia as a result of the rapid spread of the Omicron strain of Covid-19, potentially dampening the outlook for retail spending, AAP reports.

In the first release for 2022, the weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index dropped 2.2% compared its pre-Christmas level – the last time the survey was conducted.

ANZ’s head of Australian economics David Plank:

The rapid rise of Omicron cases across Australia is likely responsible for the dampened outlook in the first week of January. Confidence fell in all the major capitals, with Adelaide faring the worst.

Plank noted that in the decade from 2011 to 2020, consumer confidence had risen 2.6% on average in the first survey in January. Consumer confidence provides a guide to future retail spending.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release retail sales figures for November on Tuesday. Economists’ forecasts point to another strong result of 3.8%, building on the 4.9% increase in October as NSW, Victoria and the ACT emerged from last year’s extensive lockdowns battling the Delta strain.

However, an analysis by ANZ last week showed spending in the week to 5 January was at its lowest level since these lockdowns as consumers showed caution about being in public places because of Omicron.

Shoppers in Brisbane’s CBD on Monday.
Shoppers in Brisbane’s CBD on Monday. Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP

This has been compounded by staff shortages, while supply chain disruptions are leaving some supermarket shelves bare. Still, the confidence survey found respondents are still relatively happy about their own financial circumstances.

The sub-index for views on ‘current financial conditions’ increased by 1.4%, while ‘future financial conditions’ rose by 0.7%.

Updated

Thanks, I’ll take 10.

Updated

Lawyer Justin Quill says it’s unlikely Hawke will cancel Djokovic’s visa:

The reason I think they won’t do it is because they will know there’s a good chance if they do try and make that decision today that we will wind up back in court this afternoon or tomorrow morning in front of the same judge who was clearly very unimpressed by the Commonwealth’s conduct in the proceeding.

That judge will grant what’s called an interlocutory injunction, a temporary injunction allowing Djokovic to play.

In Western Australia, there is an emergency warning for a bushfire burning in the city of Busselton, two-and-a-half hours from Perth.

The warning is in place for people in southern parts of Meelup Regional Park in Naturaliste and Dunsborough.

Updated

You can hit the ‘Tube for Part 4 of the widely acclaimed Djokovic series.

This is quite a striking chart.

There have been an additional 842 people hospitalised and 79 deaths in the past week in NSW alone. We are not expecting the peak until at least the end of January.

I feel like I’m living in the film Groundhog Day but it’s just people hoarding toilet paper day after day until the end of time, and Bill Murray is nowhere to be seen.

In Victoria, 32.67% of Covid tests returned a positive result in the latest period.

I’m not sure how this factors in with rapid antigen tests – which are only reported when they are positive.

Updated

Rapid antigen tests are in high demand in Queensland. As they are, well, everywhere, it seems:

Turning to the positivity rate, 36.27% of tests in NSW returned a positive result in the latest reporting period.

Updated

NSW records 25,870 new Covid-19 cases

New South Wales daily Covid case numbers are in, with 25,870 new infections recorded. They remain relatively stable, but again, we’re only getting the numbers of positive PCR tests, not rapid antigen tests.

There are 2,186 people being treated in hospital, a jump of more than 100 overnight. There were 2,030 in hospital on Monday. There are 170 people being treated in ICU, a jump of 11 on yesterday’s numbers.

Test numbers are also down – there were 71,325 test results in the past 24 hours compared to just over 80,000 tests reported on Monday.

Sadly, there were 11 deaths.

Updated

Victoria records 37,944 new Covid-19 cases and 13 deaths

Victoria’s case numbers are in. There were 37,944 new cases detected – roughly half of which were from PCR tests and half from rapid antigen tests.

Sadly, there were 13 deaths recorded overnight.

There are 861 people being treated in hospital with Covid, including 117 in ICU. That’s a slight jump in hospital patients from yesterday, but ICU numbers remain steady.

It’s also worth noting 861 is the highest number of patients to be hospitalised with Covid in Victoria since the pandemic began. Previously, the record was 851 on 18 October.

Updated

Retired Australian soccer player and human rights activist Craig Foster has released a statement calling for the 33 refugees still languishing in Melbourne’s Park Hotel to be released immediately as they enter their ninth year in detention.

It’s vitally important because for a short period, the number one tennis player in the world was caught in the system that mistreats so many innocent people, kills them in fact and if nothing else, that alone shows what we’ve allowed ourselves to become.

Year by year, amendment by amendment, Act by Act and decade by decade a privatised detention system has emerged that would have seemed impossible not that long ago.

Updated

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd has told ABC Breakfast that 35,077 five- to 11-year-olds were vaccinated yesterday, the first day the cohort became eligible. There are currently 6,000 sites where children can receive a vaccine.

We have enough of the paediatric Pfizer vaccine for every five- to 11-year-old to receive their first dose by the end of this month. So there is no need to panic about not being able to get an appointment over the next few days. There will be appointments available over the next couple of weeks before children are starting to go back to school in Australia.

The hubs are playing a very important role in our vaccine rollout, as are our general practices and pharmacies and other centres as well, so it’s important that we have this distribution network of clinics available for people to be able to get their vaccines in a timely manner.

Updated

'Damaging on all fronts': ATP releases statement on Djokovic

The ATP Tour has just released a statement on Novak Djokovic. It says the events in Melbourne have been “damaging on all fronts” and welcomed the outcome of Monday’s court hearing.

The ATP fully respects the sacrifices the people of Australia have made since the onset of Covid-19 and the stringent immigration policies that have been put in place. Complications in recent days related to player entry into Australia have however highlighted the need for clearer understanding, communication and application of the rules.

In travelling to Melbourne, it’s clear Novak Djokovic believed he had been granted a necessary medical exemption in order to comply with entry regulations. The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak’s well-being and preparation for the Australian Open. Player medical exemption requests are made independently of ATP, however we have been in constant contact with Tennis Australia to seek clarity throughout this process. We welcome the outcome of Monday’s hearing and look forward to an exciting few weeks of tennis ahead.

More broadly, ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination for all players on the ATP Tour, which we believe is essential for our sport to navigate the pandemic. This is based on scientific evidence supporting the health benefits provided and to comply with global travel regulations, which we anticipate will become stricter over time. We are encouraged that 97 per cent of the Top 100 players are vaccinated leading into this year’s Australian Open.

Updated

Labor MP Mark Butler appeared on ABC News earlier, echoing Kristina Keneally who told Sunrise the decision on whether to re-cancel Djokovic’s visa was one for the government. Butler said the saga had been an “embarrassing soap opera”.

Any individual who comes to this country should be able to satisfy the entry tests, so if Mr Djokovic can’t satisfy those tests then he shouldn’t be in Australia. That’s really ultimately the decision the government has to make, but they will have to make it lawfully because this has been a deeply embarrassing soap opera for Australia and I’m sure for Mr Djokovic as well.

... It is a deep embarrassment. They’ve just got to get it right.

Updated

Amidst all the Djokovic content, it is well worth reading Guardian reporter Cait Kelly’s story today on the refugees left behind at Melbourne’s Park Hotel.

Since December 2020 refugee advocates have stood outside the former hotel every day, trying desperately to bring awareness to the plight of the 30-plus men stuck indefinitely inside.

When the world’s No 1 male tennis player unexpectedly joined refugees and asylum seekers inside, it brought a new group of protesters and an international media spotlight.

But that unlikely alliance ended on Monday night, as a court ordered Djokovic’s release from immigration detention after quashing the Australian government’s decision to cancel his visa.

Read the full story here:

Updated

Calling upon residents of Ipswich. Police are seeking help from the community to find police dog Quizz, who went missing from Redbank Plains this morning.

Queensland police said:

Around 3am, the dog squad were called to track an offender who allegedly ran from a stolen vehicle near Greenwood Village Road. Police Dog Quizz commenced a pursuit, however he became separated from his handler.

Officers have commenced a search of the surrounding area but have not been able to find him. PD Quizz is a three-year-old Sabel German Shepherd with a black and tan hide. He is wearing a black tracking harness with a long tracking lead.

He is not considered dangerous, however PD Quizz should not be approached. If ... sighted please contact police immediately.

We’ve got to get this guy home!

Updated

Health Services Union warns of 'unprecedented crisis' in aged care sector amid Omicron

The Health Services Union has warned the aged care sector is experiencing an “unprecedented crisis” with “chronic understaffing, excessive workloads and extended shifts” hitting the sector amid the Omicron wave of Covid-19.

According to a survey of more than 1,000 HSU members:

  • 82% believe their facility was unprepared for the current Omicron “let it rip” approach
  • 90% are experiencing understaffing
  • 84% are experiencing excessive workloads
  • 36% are working in facilities that have implemented 12 hour shifts

Staff have also reported working 16-hour shifts, working seven days consecutively, care staff without food safety qualifications working in kitchens, a shortage of PPE for workers and a shortage of rapid antigen tests.

The HSU national president Gerard Hayes says the federal government didn’t prepare the sector for the outbreak:

The Morrison government comprehensively failed to plan before allowing Omicron to rip through the community and modestly paid workers, and residents in aged care facilities who built this country, are paying the price. Only just over a third of members surveyed have received their booster shot, despite working overtime in high risk settings.

There are active outbreaks in almost 500 aged care facilities across the country. Yet workers can’t access RATs, they can’t access PPE. They are on the front line with very little protection. Not only are staff at risk but vulnerable residents are at a heightened risk of severe disease or death.

Updated

More support for cancelling Djokovic’s visa:

A 14-year-old girl swept away in floodwaters north of Brisbane on the weekend is still missing as residents in the region assess the damage after days of extreme weather, AAP reports.

Water levels started to drop on Monday after the remnants of tropical cyclone Seth dumped more than half a metre of rain on the Wide Bay-Burnett region in two days.

Many of the affected homes and businesses are in the regional city of Maryborough, which was issued with an evacuation order on Sunday after an underground stormwater mechanism failed, allowing floodwater to surge up through the drains.

Meanwhile a GoFundMe page for the missing girl, Krystal Cain, said she was swept away “in a torrent of water” on Saturday while travelling to Agnes Water to visit her grandparents.

“Krystal is still missing and we hold hope that she is still alive somewhere,” it says, describing the girl as a loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend.

Water police, divers, volunteers and aerial support are assisting with the search.

Updated

The opposition has been out and about this morning critiquing the government’s pandemic response and handling of the Djokovic situation.

Labor senator Kristina Keneally told Sunrise it had been an “incredible mess”, but it was “up to the Morrison government” to decide whether to revoke his visa for a second time:

Prime minister Morrison and home affairs minister Karen Andrews have a whole lot of explaining to do because what we have seen from this is Australians now know they cannot trust the Morrison government to enforce the rules at the border and they have done incredible damage.

The Morrison government looks like a pack of idiots that could not organise a meat raffle in a local RSL. Come on, here. This is extraordinary circumstances. The Morrison government issued Novak Djokovic a Visa on 18 November. The Australian Open is not a secret event, the fact Novak Djokovic, a known anti-vaxxer, wanted to come to Australia and play was not a state secret and yet Mr Morrison, as he has done at every stage in this pandemic, failed to plan, failed to act. Quite frankly, his failures, whether around ordering rapid antigen tests, ordering enough vaccines, making sure the supermarkets are well stocked and enforcing the rules at the border, all of these failures from Mr Morrison are hurting real Australians.

Right now, what does it say if you get deported? And what does it say about if he gets to stay? If you get deported it does incredible damage to Australia, if he gets to stay it does incredible damage to our tough border laws and is a real insult to the Australians who did the hard work of lockdowns and vaccination is the Morrison government fails to make the right decision.

The shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally.
The shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Updated

Uncertainty remains on how students will be able to return safely to schools as Covid-19 cases soar, AAP reports.

The country’s leading medical advisory panel met on Monday to discuss the start of the 2022 school year, ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Thursday.

NSW and Victoria have backed a federal government push for a coordinated approach, with the premiers of those states meeting virtually on Monday to discuss virus-related issues including in schools.

Queensland has postponed the start of its school year by two weeks, saying the delay was needed to allow more time for students to get vaccinated before classes resume. South Australia officials have said rapid antigen tests would be needed to help teachers keep track of the virus.

The school year starts at the end of January, roughly at the same time cases of the Omicron variant are expected to peak. Children aged five to 11 were cleared to receive a Pfizer vaccine from Monday, with an estimated 2.3 million children now eligible for their first dose.

Scott Morrison said plans for the return to school would be worked through in talks this week. The prime minister reiterated his preference for students to be back in the classroom on the first day of term, rather than learning from home:

It’s obviously a key issue for parents as they are thinking about their children going back to school in a few weeks’ time. We’ll look to have those arrangements very clear by the time that occurs.

The chief medical officer Paul Kelly said health-based issues would be taken into account before a unified approach was decided:

It’s related to balancing the wider aspects and the importance of face-to-face learning in schools with the risk of Covid.

Updated

John Alexander says Djokovic's visa should not be cancelled again

There is mixed messaging emerging this morning on whether immigration minister Alex Hawke should intervene and cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time.

Federal government MP and former professional tennis player John Alexander says his visa should not be cancelled again after the court’s decision:

I see it as something that should not become a political problem. It is not political at this point ... The rules regarding visa applications and approvals are quite clear, they’re complex, but they are clear, and the judge has looked at this obviously very, very carefully and he has made a very strong decision.

Liberal MP and former tennis star John Alexander.
Liberal MP and former tennis star John Alexander. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Others disagree. In an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, Deakin University epidemiologist Hassan Valley said cancelling his visa would send a “strong message” that rules apply to everyone equally:

So, as one of the most privileged human beings on the planet who has ignored the science and refused to be vaccinated I think an incredibly strong message could have been sent by upholding Djokovic’s visa cancellation. The message being that the rules apply to everyone equally.

Immigration lawyer Simon Jeans told Sunrise this morning the right decision was made in court:

The judge was very critical of the way Novak Djokovic was treated while he was at the airport, the way he was interviewed, the way he was not given an opportunity to talk with his lawyers before they made a decision and that they had taken his phone away and he was not able to contact anyone.

The process that was conducted in the airport was at fault. There were mistakes made in that process and there were mistakes made in the decision, so the judge was quite critical of how he was treated and that became quite obvious, if you like. The judge applied the blowtorch to the minister and the minister took the hint and conceded the case before a judgement was made.

Updated

McManus appeared on ABC News this morning, discussing the ACTU’s list of demands to the federal government.

She said changing the definition of a “close contact” to someone who has spent four hours in a household with a confirmed Covid case was “really crazy”:

Working people might be spending eight hours with someone who is Covid-positive and they are no longer considered a close contact ... Those people who have worked next to someone for a really long time and aren’t included in that definition of “close contact” no longer get isolation payments.

So if you run out of sick leave or if you never had any in the first place, it means you are stuck with nothing during that period of time. So this is, I hope, just an oversight, but an oversight the prime minister has made and it has got to be fixed.

We are told to live with the virus, but the idea was not for everyone to get sick at once and this is what has happened unfortunately. Health care workers, whether they be ambos or whether they be in the emergency departments, or in the hospitals are absolutely exhausted, absolutely exhausted. It is mayhem for them and extremely stressful. And it is very, very anxious time for people who are sick.

I’ve never seen so many sick people not knowing whether or not they need to go to hospital or not. We really just need to know that the prime minister actually understand the depth of this crisis and the burden that is being placed on us, on frontline workers, both a financial one for people now losing their jobs

Updated

New guidelines being considered by national cabinet will see a return of fruit and vegetables to the supermarket shelves within the week, AAP reports.

Supermarkets have been overwhelmed by panic-buying just as transport and logistics companies and suppliers are hit by large proportions of workers calling in sick or dealing with tough Covid-19 quarantine rules.

Australian Fresh Produce Alliance chief executive Michael Rogers had warned that fruit and vegetables could rot in the fields because of the supply chain issues and a shortage of workers.

Guidelines issued by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee have changed the definition of close contacts for those exposed to Covid-19 working in critical food and grocery production, manufacturing, logistics and distribution facilities.

Rogers:

The measures that change requirements for close contacts which have been announced are very welcome because they put capacity back in the system, but it’s still going to be a very tight situation.

The decision by Queensland, NSW and Victoria will put fruit and veg back on shelves in those states, the national guidelines go a long way to a nationally consistent approach. Other states won’t see disruption to supply in the same way as it’s been seen in Sydney.

It is expected supermarket shelves will begin to fill over the next week.

The national cabinet is set to discuss the guidelines on Thursday but the prime minister wants action before then. Morrison said governments were determined to minimise the impact of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 on the workforce.

Close contacts who test negative but are asymptomatic will be able to continue to work, but be monitored using rapid antigen tests. The rules won’t apply to frontline retail workers such as supermarket checkout operators.

Updated

ACTU calls for urgent meeting with PM over essential workers crisis

Amid supply chain and staff shortages, Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus has written to prime minister Scott Morrison overnight calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the impact of Omicron on exhausted essential workers.

In a statement, she said:

The prime minister has not heard from working people and we are on the front lines. Australian workers are not ok at the moment. We have never had so many working people sick at once. Healthcare workers are exhausted, people are anxious and uncertain.

The unions’ list of demands includes restoring pandemic leave for close contacts of infected colleagues, free rapid antigen tests and priority for frontline workers until supply issues are resolved, and mandating N95 or P2 standard masks.

McManus:

Many are losing pay while sick as they have no sick leave. Others are losing hours and their jobs as businesses close or cut back in what is turning into an unofficial lockdown.

Updated

Good morning

Good morning,

We’re 11 days into the year, Novak Djokovic is still in the country, and I am back to knowing what day of the week it is.

Caitlin Cassidy here to guide you through this morning’s news, and all eyes are on the Serbian tennis player, who yesterday won an appeal against his visa cancellation after spending four days in an immigration detention centre.

A wild 24 hours saw ecstatic Djokovic’s fans pepper-sprayed by police as they celebrated his release in Melbourne. But the victory comes with the threat that immigration minister Alex Hawke may revoke his entry visa for a second time, using powers granted by Australia’s Migration Act. Djokovic said he was “pleased” and “grateful” for the ruling, and was still determined to stay and compete at the Australian Open.

Meanwhile, Australia is still in a pandemic and passed the grim milestone of 1m active Covid-19 cases yesterday. There have been 250,000 Covid cases since Friday alone.

There were a record 18 deaths in NSW yesterday, as Nine newspapers flag the state government is set to mandate the registration of positive rapid antigen tests.

With public hospitals under increased pressure, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is calling on the commonwealth to increase resources in the aged care sector as a matter of urgency, citing a “staffing crisis” and lack of equipment including correct masks and RATs.

There’s much to get through, so let’s dive in.

Updated


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