Children’s vaccination program starts – as it happened
That's it for today, thanks for reading
Here are the main stories on Monday, 10 January:
- Novak Djokovic wins a court appeal against his visa cancellation, but lawyers for the federal government flag the possibility that he could still be deported before the Australian Open;
- There are 5,097 people in Australian hospitals with Covid, prime minister Scott Morrison says;
- Victoria reports 34,808 new cases, NSW 20,293 cases and a record 18 deaths, Queensland 9,581 cases, South Australia 4,024 new cases, Tasmania 1,218 new cases, the ACT 938 cases, the NT 404 cases, with three cases in Western Australia who were thought to be in isolation while infectious;
- West Australian premier Mark McGowan says the state did not receive vaccines as promised from the federal government, and says he is planning on introducing tougher protocols soon that will apply to the unvaccinated;
- New isolation guidelines are introduced for essential supply chain workers;
- The vaccination program for children aged five to 11 starts, with Lieutenant General John Frewen claiming there is “more than enough” vaccine to go around.
We will see you all back here tomorrow.
Understandably a lot of reaction to the Djokovic decision ...
You can read more of that over here:
Perrottet could have showed a little more enthusiasm about the size of the fish Andrews caught on leave, but good to see they had a chat nonetheless:
There’s a bit more here on the news from earlier today about the Covid state of play in Western Australia, via AAP:
West Australian premier Mark McGowan has flagged harsher restrictions for the unvaccinated as the state forges ahead with its border reopening plan.
Three new local COVID-19 cases were reported on Monday, but all were already in quarantine and were not believed to have been infectious while in the community.
The state has so far avoided any major outbreaks despite the recent arrival of the Omicron variant and a cluster of cases linked to an unvaccinated French backpacker.
McGowan said WA would proceed with reopening its borders from 5 February, but warned the transition would come with harsh restrictions for the unvaccinated, who face being locked out of pubs, restaurants, cafes and gyms.
“This policy will come into force as we move closer to easing border controls,” the premier told reporters.
“We know that unvaccinated people are well and truly enormously over-represented when it comes to cases, serious illness, hospitalisations, intensive care presentations and deaths.
“Far too many resources are being used over east to care for individuals who would not take the basic steps to care for themselves.
“If you, for some reason, have not had your first dose yet my advice would be to make a booking today, otherwise life is about to get very difficult for you.”
Interim proof of vaccination requirements have already been implemented at pubs, hotels, nightclubs, music festivals and major events.
WA’s double-dose vaccination rate for people aged 12 and over has climbed to 86.3%, although the take-up has been much lower in some regional areas.
There are particular concerns about the vast Pilbara region where the rate is well below 60%.
McGowan said unvaccinated people faced being locked out of the Pilbara, home to some of the state’s most prized tourist attractions.
A new app designed to make it easier for people to show proof of vaccination will be launched by the government on Tuesday.
More than 5,000 people who attended the weekend’s Fremantle-West Coast AFLW derby were not required to show proof of vaccination but the premier said the exemption granted by the chief health officer was likely to be a one-off.
Djokovic wins court appeal
The decision to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa has been quashed in the federal circuit court. All the details here:
Here’s a more fulsome update on the South Australia Covid situation, via AAP:
Coronavirus cases in South Australia have fallen with premier Steven Marshall saying recent restrictions seem to be “stabilising” the state’s Omicron outbreak.
SA reported 4,024 new cases on Monday, down from 4,506 on Sunday. “So this is really a stabilising of our numbers, in fact we’ve got to go back four days to get a day that was lower than what we had yesterday,” Marshall said.
“I think the restrictions that were put in place on 26th of December are now clearly showing we’ve been able to stop that massive escalation that other states around the country are currently experiencing.”
Those restrictions include tougher density limits on most venues and a reduced cap on family gatherings.
The premier said he still expected the peak in virus numbers towards the end of January but a meeting with modellers on Tuesday would hopefully put a “finer point” on the likely date.
“People have said this is going to be short and sharp, I think they’re right,” he said.
“This is not going to be something that we’re going to be lingering with for six months or 12 months.
“We are cautious here in South Australia but we’re starting to see some real green shoots, some real improvement in our position over two weeks ago.”
Despite the drop in cases, two more people have died with the virus, a man in his 90s and a woman in her 80s, taking SA’s total deaths to 18.
The number of people in hospital has also grown to 188, with 21 in intensive care and four on ventilators.
Including those managing their infections at home, SA currently has 29,489 active cases.
Earlier on Monday, a parliamentary committee was told South Australia was considering using rapid antigen testing surveillance of teachers as part of a return to school strategy during the current surge in Covid-19 cases.
The state government is due to announce its plans for the new school year later this week, with health officials previously conceding there will likely be some disruptions.
Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier told the committee that SA Health was looking at RAT surveillance for teachers.
But she indicated that was unlikely to be extended to students at this stage, despite the fact most primary school children would not be fully vaccinated by the scheduled start date of 31 January.
Australia passes 1 million Covid cases – report
AAP has reported that Australians are now Covid millionaires. Well done us. Give yourself a RAT. That story here:
Australia has passed the major milestone of more than one million Covid-19 cases nearly two years to the day since the first case was reported in the country.
More than a quarter of Australia’s total cases were recorded in the past four days, largely attributed to the arrival of the highly infectious Omicron variant in December.
Compared to the rest of the world, Australia is late to the marker.
As of 7 January, the United Kingdom had passed 14 million cases while the United States was nearing the 60 million mark.
Yet UNSW infectious diseases associate professor David Muscatello says counting the number of cases is becoming impractical.
“You’ll never really know the true number of cases because the only ones we know are the ones we’re testing for,” he told AAP.
“With the rate cases are occurring, I think it’s going to be a worldwide trend to move away from counting each one and rather we’ll focus on hospitalisations.”
As the peak of the latest outbreak looms, so too does the federal election, where health care is expected to be a key issue.
Prime minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Monday: “Omicron changed everything.”
“Delta was a completely different variant of this virus, and so, as we have had to do on so many occasions during this pandemic, rules that were written for one situation have to be reconsidered,” he said.
Muscatello says it would have been difficult for anyone to predict the arrival of Omicron.
“In human history we have never seen a virus evolving in real time, we’ve never had the scientific ability to watch what’s happening,” he said.
“Australia has done very well with getting people vaccinated and in the end we’re in the best position we could be.”
Former senior federal health advisor Troy Bilsborough says health care influenced more votes than any other issue at the 2019 federal election and he expected the current outbreak to do the same.
“We’ve also seen roughly five months between the arrival of new variants like Delta and Omicron, meaning the major parties could be facing a likely May federal election in the midst of a new outbreak, not just this one,” he said.
Close contacts of Covid cases employed in critical supply chains will have their isolation requirements scrapped, in an attempt to address workforce shortages that have hit the food industry.
Announcing a shake-up of isolation requirements on Monday, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said the requirements would not apply to customer-facing roles, but those working in “critical supply chains”.
All states and territories, except WA, are expected to sign off on the changes on Monday, with NSW and Queensland already announcing similar changes over the weekend.
You can read more on that story here:
Pharmacists warn they may not be able to provide free rapid antigen tests to lower-income Australians under the national concession card scheme because of supply issues, as the government says it won’t procure extra kits for businesses.
The prime minister Scott Morrison on Monday said his government would not be distributing any rapid antigen testing kits to pharmacies as part of the concessional scheme, and that instead he expects chemists to source supplies themselves to meet the additional demand.
More on that story here:
Australia is spending $3.5b on new tanks, AAP report:
Australia will buy 127 tanks and armoured vehicles worth $3.5 billion as the federal government ramps up its land combat capability.
Under the deal, the army will receive 75 Abram tanks, 29 assault breacher vehicles, 17 joint assault bridge vehicles and six armoured recovery vehicles. The first vehicles are due to arrive in 2024 and will be able to be deployed from 2025.
Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr said the tanks would be essential in Australia’s participation with coalition forces.
“Because of their versatility, tanks can be used in a wide range of scenarios, environments and levels of conflict in the region,” he said.
“This system is the only part of the Australian Defence Force that can successfully operate in medium to high-threat land environments.”
Defence minister Peter Dutton said the new tanks would give Australian soldiers the best possibility of success and protection.
“The M1A2 Abrams will incorporate the latest developments in Australian sovereign defence capabilities, including command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems, and benefit from the intended manufacture of tank ammunition in Australia,” he said.
“The introduction of the new M1A2 vehicles will take advantage of the existing support infrastructure, with significant investment in Australian industry continuing in the areas of sustainment, simulation and training.”
But post-graduate in strategic studies Declan Sullivan has said the Abrams tanks are too heavy for Australia’s needs, labelling the purchase a missed opportunity.
“The M1A2 SEPv3 is a continuation of the army’s tank capabilities: fast, powerful, reliable and overkill and overweight for Australia’s needs, with little room to manoeuvre for future developments,” he wrote in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s The Strategist in June 2021.
Australia purchased 59 Abram M1A1 tanks in 2007 but has not deployed a tank in combat since the Vietnam War.
South Australia records increase in Covid hospitalisations, daily drop in cases
SA Covid data just dropped, with an increase in hospitalisations (188 today, 176 yesterday) but drop in new cases (4,024 today, 4,506 yesterday):
A white van has left the Park Hotel after Novak Djokovic was allowed to move to another, unknown address, so he can watch the court proceedings remotely.
Guardian Australia cannot verify if the tennis star was inside the van, which had its windows blackened out and left the centre at around 3pm. There were extra police on the scene and a large crowd of media taking photos as it left.
On Monday afternoon, Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly ordered that the Australian Border Force must allow Djokovic out of the Carlton immigration centre so he can watch the hearing from another location.
He will come back to the hotel tonight if his appeal is not finalised. Kelly’s order reads:
The respondent, by her servants or agents, including the Australian Border Force, take all steps and do all things as may be necessary to bring the applicant to premises as specified by the applicant’s solicitors on Monday, 10 January 2022 (and each day thereafter, including upon the delivery of judgment), to permit him to remain there until the conclusion of each hearing and to secure his safe return to detention upon the conclusion of each hearing.
Tech dramas have plagued the hearing, which is expected to resume soon.
For our dedicated liveblog on the Djokovic hearing, click below:
McGowan says WA has not received vaccines promised by the Morrison government
McGowan, the WA premier, says the state has had to move some vaccine supply set aside for children to GP clinics to meet demand for appointments after the federal government did not meet its commitments.
We are also sharing some of our paediatric vaccine supply with GPs who didn’t receive the supply they were promised by the Commonwealth. It is disappointing this far into the pandemic after assurances were made. We received 33,700 doses on Friday and expect to receive that each week. But we will provide some of the doses where we can to GPs and pharmacies which have not yet received the doses they were expecting from the Commonwealth.
McGowan says the state will soon introduce broader restrictions relating to showing proof of vaccination ahead of the state opening to the country on 5 February. He said:
I also want Western Australia to understand, the current proof of vaccination requirements will be expanded further in coming days. We are currently finalising a longer term policy which will cover a wide range of licensed events and venues, restaurants as well as riskier environments like indoor fitness centres. This policy will come into force as we move closer to easing ... border controls.
McGowan says the vaccination rate in WA has reached 86.3% of those aged 12 and over, with a first dose rate of 93.9%.
WA premier Mark McGowan provides a Covid update
Western Australia has recorded three new local cases of Covid-19. All three were in quarantine and are not believed to have been infectious in the community, premier Mark McGowan says. One is linked to the Delta backpacker cluster, the other two are household contacts of a returned interstate travellers
The state is continuing to ease public health measures following the successful management of an Omicron leak from hotel quarantine, McGowan says.
The nation’s peak social services body has called for mutual obligations to be suspended due to the spread of Omicron, saying jobseekers are being placed in danger.
In a statement issued on Monday, Cassandra Goldie, the chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, said forcing jobseekers to attend provider appointments and other face-to-face activities was “exposing people to unnecessary risks and also placing the whole community at greater risk”.
The Acoss statement said Omicron was spreading so quickly and access to tests so limited that jobseekers were “currently being placed in danger while they meet mutual obligation requirements”.
We understand job service providers have been directed to be flexible, but our experience shows this rarely translates into universally safe practices. This is why the government must suspend mutual obligations as it has in the past. We should not be worsening the health crisis and placing people at risk.
Goldie also called on the government to “urgently address the adequacy of income supports for people who are being repeatedly hit by loss of paid work or inability to secure it”. She said:
The most obvious measure is to lift the adequacy or Jobseeker and Youth Allowance and associated key payments, and extend income support to all who need this safety net including those on temporary visas.
The government reintroduced mutual obligations in states where they were temporarily suspended in late October.
This can include attending meetings with an employment services consultant, and other activities such as training courses or work for the dole.
If you’re concerned that you’ve been told to attend a face-to-face employment services appointment and would like to tell your story, please email email@example.com
Here is a link to watch the Novak Djokovic court hearing when it resumes in about 15 minutes:
And our live coverage is over here:
AAP reports that the prime minister believes Omicron is impacting the economy (and not just because the treasurer has Covid).
Scott Morrison concedes the highly-infectious COVID-19 Omicron variant is having an impact on Australia’s workforce and consumer spending.
But the prime minister believes the economy will bounce back smartly, just as it did when virus lockdowns were removed in the past.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – from his COVID-19 sick bed – and Treasury are monitoring developments, but Mr Morrison says it is too early to provide an exact assessment Omicron’s impact.
“As the case numbers continue to rise, the volume of cases will of course have an inevitable impact on the workforce,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“This is an incredibly tough time on business. There aren’t lockdowns but there are many people obviously impacted by being close contacts or people being wary, or those indeed who have COVID themselves.”
He said it was having a “predictable and understandable” impact on consumer spending.
But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese warned if the government doesn’t get the health outcomes right, the adverse impact on the economy will be stronger.
“We are seeing that around the country, we’re seeing that with workers unable to attend work, with shortages on our supermarket shelves,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Townsville.
“And it’s extraordinary that in the third year now of this pandemic, the prime minister’s rhetoric is still the same.”
Official retail spending figures for November are due on Tuesday, which economists expect to show another strong outcome as a result of NSW, Victoria and the ACT all emerging from extensive lockdowns battling the Delta variant.
However, an analysis by ANZ last week showed spending in the week to January 5 has returned to the low levels seen during the Delta lockdowns as consumers showed caution about being in public places as the Omicron strain emerged.
Assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar is confident the Australian economy can overcome the Omicron challenge with households having the security of huge savings.
Mr Sukkar says new data shows households have built up $48 billion in offset mortgage accounts and more than $170 billion in other savings accounts during the pandemic.
“So that’s $220 billion of economic firepower that’s there - it provides a great foundation to continue to support our economic recovery,” Mr Sukkar told Sky News.
Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said building approvals bounced back by 3.6% in November after a sharp 13.6% drop in October.
The rising number of approvals was driven by the “private sector dwellings excluding houses” component, which increased by 9.7% to 5,315 approvals.
Private sector house approvals rose 1.4% to 10,892, following a 3.5% rise in October.
“The series has been at historically elevated levels over the past year, largely driven by government stimulus and record low interest rates,” ABS director of construction statistics Daniel Rossi said.
“While private house approvals are no longer at record highs, the November result remains 25.8% higher than the pre-pandemic level in November 2019, indicating ongoing strength in the detached housing market.”
Housing Industry Association chief economist Tim Reardon believes the boom in detached home building is set to be sustained well into 2023.
Two of New Zealand’s most prominent Covid-19 experts have warned that the country is unprepared to prevent the health system from being overloaded by an Omicron outbreak, with likely fatal consequences.
Otago University’s Dr Nick Wilson and Dr Michael Baker also said it was only a “matter of weeks” before the highly transmissible variant seeped into the community due to border failures.
Wilson said that despite New Zealand’s high vaccination rates, the number of adults who had received a booster dose of the vaccine – essential for minimising the effects of Omicron – remains dangerously low, and noted that the vaccine rollout for children between five and 11 still had not begun.
More on this story below:
The Northern Territory records drop in daily cases but increase in hospital admissions
The Northern Territory has recorded 404 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, the ABC reports.
There are reportedly 26 Covid patients in Territory hospitals, including two people in intensive care. On Sunday, the NT recorded 481 new cases with 24 in hospital and one in ICU.
Victoria and NSW will not push back the start of the school year in a bid to get more children vaccinated, AAP report:
The two biggest states have backed a federal push for schools to reopen in a coordinated way across the country.
Queensland has moved to delay the start of the school term by a fortnight, after health advisers said it would give more time for people to get vaccinated.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed on Monday his department boss Phil Gaetjens was working with states and territories to harmonise the start of the school year, laying down some ground rules for the process.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley called for a uniform reopening to schools, saying children had done it tough over the past two years.
“We’ve all done it really hard but kids, in particular, haven’t been able to get vaccinated, they’ve missed a lot of school to protect the rest of the community,” he said.
“We want to make sure that their sacrifice, their effort is recognised by getting them back to school as quickly as possible ... but that we do so safely.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the further availability of rapid test kits would be central to school returning on time. He said he was determined children would be back in the classroom on day one of term one.
Queensland’s chief health officer John Gerrard said the delayed start in his state would allow more children to be vaccinated - with the five-to-11-year-old vaccine program starting on Monday - and for adults to get their booster shots.
Asked whether parents should be concerned about the health risks of sending their children back to school unvaccinated, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said illness had been less severe in children since the start of the pandemic.
“For the vast majority of children who have Omicron it is a very, very mild disease,” he said.
“It’s related to balancing the wider aspects and the importance of face-to-face learning in schools with the risk of COVID.”
Professor Kelly said there were important issues around mental and physical health to consider when looking at the safe reopening of schools, with advice due to go to a meeting of the national cabinet on Thursday.
Mr Morrison said he was encouraged by the fact that Queensland was allowing the children of essential workers to return to school as scheduled.
But he warned against other states delaying the start of term one.
“As we see the Omicron wave rise, sometimes you do things which just pushes the wave further out. You still get the same outcome.”
Here’s a full story via AAP, taking in comments made by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, at a press conference this morning:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has talked down concerns about the rollout of free rapid antigen tests for more than six million concession cardholders, saying they’re not for essential purposes.
One Victorian pharmacy northwest of Geelong said pharmacies were under the impression the government would provide the RATs, which they would then distribute to concession cardholders for free.
Bannockburn Pharmacy expressed its confusion at the model、 with pharmacies having to source their own stock and distribute the tests to cardholders before being reimbursed by the government.
“Pharmacies were under the impression that the federal government would be allocating stock they have ordered directly to us pharmacies,” it said in a social media post.
“This would have meant that pharmacies would have received stock around the same time, making it easier for the community (if they hold a concessional card) to know when they could start collecting them.”
More than six million concession cardholders will be able to access 10 free tests over a three-month period, with Mr Morrison calling the arrangements with pharmacies straightforward.
“They’re used to doing that with many other medicines and they follow a very similar process and that’s why we chose to do it with the pharmacies because they have the systems in place,” he said.
But Bannockburn Pharmacy said supply was already uncertain and it didn’t know when the RATs would be delivered or if orders would be delivered in full.
“Because pharmacies were under the impression we would be receiving stock directly from the federal government, it means now pharmacies have to go back to suppliers to increase our orders and we don’t know when and if these increased orders will be fulfilled.”
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia told AAP it was still working through the details with the government but free tests delivered directly to pharmacies were never the case.
The prime minister said the health minister continued to work closely with the guild and an announcement on arrangements will be made shortly.
Mr Morrison also said essential tests were still free for Australians.
“I want to stress - anyone who is symptomatic or a close contact gets a free test. Always has, always will,” he said.
“The additional supplementary tests that people will be getting concessional access to, they are not essential tests. They are discretionary tests.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the government needed to stop pretending there aren’t issues with the testing regime.
“People are queuing because they are sick and then being told to go and get a rapid antigen test which isn’t available and they can’t find,” he told reporters on Monday.
“The gap between what the prime minister says will happen and what actually does happen is something that is a cause of much frustration.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says panic buying and hoarding is leading to shortages of test kits.
Mr Joyce said while 200 million tests were on their way, Australians should only buy what they needed.
“Don’t take more than what you require because that means someone else misses out.”
Mr Joyce said while waiting for stocks to arrive, people should exercise personal responsibility.
“If you feel a bit crook ... stay home and be careful as you would do if you had the flu or so many other viruses or diseases you might catch,” he said.
“It is more important than a cold, but if you had a cold you wouldn’t go around coughing and spluttering on people.”
A previous post incorrectly stated that three Covid-related deaths had been recorded in the ACT today. No deaths were reported.
Here’s a short update on how the Kiwis are handling Omicron, freshly filed by the crew at AAP:
New Zealand’s border regime continues to defy Omicron as cases of the highly transmissible COVID-19 variant mount in quarantine.
On Monday, health officials reported 27 community cases of COVID-19, but 33 cases among international arrivals during the mandatory quarantine stay. Dozens of cases are arriving each day at the border, and are predominantly the Omicron variant, which is yet to spread widely in New Zealand.
There have been 273 cases of COVID-19 picked up at the border this year.
As of Friday, when 176 had been reported, 127 were identified as Omicron, eight were Delta and the balance were still being investigated. A sizeable minority of the cases are coming from Australia, where the variant is rampant.
University of Otago public health professor Michael Baker said every new case contributed to the chance of a leak from quarantine, known locally as MIQ.
“We’re getting more than 20 cases a day ... that’s going to put huge strain on the MIQ system, as we know everyone infected that arrives increases the risk of border failure,” he told Radio NZ.
The virus has also returned to Wellington, which has not had identified community transmission since August. On the weekend, two cases were reported in the capital with links to a music festival in Tauranga held the previous week.
On Monday, another Wellington case was found with links to an out-of-town music festival – a New Year’s Eve event in Auckland.
Of the 26 other community cases, most (16) were from Auckland, with handfuls in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Rotorua.
There are 35 cases in hospital with the virus, including one in intensive care.
Queensland case numbers unclear as private labs unable to report results
The scribes at AAP have provided this update on the Covid situation in Queensland, which includes the quite interesting tidbit that multiple pathology providers have not reported their results, meaning the daily numbers could be significantly higher than reported. They were significantly lower today (,9581) than yesterday (18,000):
Queensland’s COVID-19 outbreak is surging on the Gold Coast with case numbers unclear, possibly due to a software glitch.
The latest figure of 9,581 cases emerged after more than 21,000 tests in the 24 hours to 6.30am on Monday taking the total number of active cases in the state to at least 90,000. However, the numbers are lower than expected because at least four private pathology labs have been unable to report test results for Sunday, possibly due to a software glitch.
There are 419 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, with 21 in intensive care and five of those on ventilators.
Chief Health Officer John Gerrard says more than half of the ICU cases and a quarter of the ward emissions are on the Gold Coast.
“We’ve said from the beginning that this this epidemic would not occur in an even spread and all at the same time across Queensland, and it looks like at the moment the surge is probably occurring on the Gold Coast,” he said.
“It’s not surprising, given the sheer number of interstate visitors which would cause seeding events to occur particularly in the area.”
Dr Gerrard says due to the state’s high vaccination rate, Omicron was starting to becoming the dominant variant. He said 90 per cent of all cases in Queensland were that variant, with the state experiencing an “Omicron pandemic”.
“It will be interesting to see how that differs from what has been seen elsewhere,” he told reporters.
“Omicron definitely can still cause severe disease, it’s not trivial.”
The state will delay the January 24 return of classes for most students until February 7, with Year 11 and 12 students to start online learning on January 31. Dr Gerrard said the delay will allow children to get vaccinated before February 7, but there will still be a surge whenever children go back school.
Children are likely to only experience mild illness, he said, but he’s more concerned about them spreading it to adults.
“In reality, the biggest risk is not to the children themselves instead of people around them, to their parents and their grandparents,” the CHO said.
“So as much as anything else, [these] two extra weeks give us an opportunity, to others who might be at risk, to get that third dose.”
Education Minister Grace Grace said the delay would also help ensure there’s enough staff available when schools return. However, she has warned that the return could be impacted by tight vaccine supplies or high cases among school staff.
“Look, I don’t know exactly what’s going to come into the future,” Ms Grace told ABC Radio on Monday. “But at this stage, we’re hoping that we’ll get over the peak of Queensland, that the two weeks will be sufficient and we’ll have face to face (learning) as soon as possible.”
A three-year-old with a rare genetic condition has become the youngest person to die in Australia after contracting Covid-19, as the New South Wales government considers fines for people who do not register positive rapid antigen tests through a new app to be released this week.
On Monday NSW recorded 18 deaths from the virus, the second day in a row on which it has broken the previous record for the deadliest day of the pandemic.
Of those, five were unvaccinated, including a man in his 30s and a three-year-old with a rare genetic condition who was not yet eligible for the jab. The child was born with a rare condition known as Niemann-Pick, a terminal illness which, the ABC reports, had left him with a short expected life span.
Read more below:
AAP reports that there are grave concerns for a 14-year-old girl missing in Queensland floodwaters as the regional city of Maryborough assesses the damage to its CBD.
Water has begun to recede in the city, about three hours’ drive north of Brisbane, after the river peaked at just under 10 metres on Sunday night.
A levee was protecting the CBD until an underground stormwater mechanism failed just before 2pm on Sunday, allowing floodwater to surge up through the drains and into the streets.
More than 30 inner-city blocks were issued with an evacuation order after the remnants of tropical cyclone Seth dumped 600mm of rain on the Wide Bay-Burnett region in two days.
As damage to homes and businesses is assessed, emergency services continue to search for a missing teenager swept away while fleeing a car caught in floodwaters with a 40-year-old man near Gympie on Saturday.
“It is an extremely difficult area surrounded by water, which has created hindrances to our search effort,” Wide Bay Burnett District Superintendent Michael Sawrey said on Monday.
Water police, divers, volunteers and aerial support are assisting with the search, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his thoughts are with the girl’s family.
“I have a daughter who’s 14 years old, so I can understand the terrible, terrible time that family must be going through at the moment,” he said on Monday.
Mr Morrison also gave his condolences to the family of a 22-year-old man whose body was found in a submerged ute at Kanigan, north of Gympie, on Saturday.
Meanwhile, a father and his young daughter have survived two nights spent clinging to a tree before they were rescued over the weekend.
An RACQ rescue helicopter crew from Toowoomba airlifted the pair from a homestead in the Gympie region to hospital on Sunday after they were found at around 1pm.
“The father explained to the crew that his car had been caught between two sections of floodwaters on Friday night and water began filling the car,” RACQ LifeFlight said in a statement late on Sunday night.
“He and his primary school-aged daughter climbed onto the roof of the vehicle but were swept into the water in the darkness.”
They were washed into a tree, which they clung to.
On the first night, the father swam back to the submerged car and grabbed a rope, which he used to tie himself and his daughter to the tree.
After the water subsided on Sunday morning, the pair climbed down more than 10 metres to the ground and made their way to the homestead to raise the alarm.
“They had suffered exposure, dehydration and a lot of insect bites,” RACQ LifeFlight said.
It was one of at least two flood-related missions in the Gympie region for chopper crews on the weekend.
A reminder that all our coverage of the Novak Djokovic federal court hearing can be found here:
Here’s the update on the Victorian Covid situation from our friends at AAP:
Thousands of Victoria’s essential workers have until February 12 to get their COVID-19 vaccine booster, under a new state government mandate.
New pandemic orders which kick in at 11.59pm on Wednesday will demand workers in key sectors – including health and aged care, disability, emergency services and food distribution – get their third dose to continue working.
Those eligible for a third dose on or before Wednesday will be given until Saturday, February 12 to get their booster, with workers not yet eligible told to get it within three months and two weeks of their deadline.
This means residential aged care workers have until March 1, health care until March 29, and emergency, disability, quarantine, corrections and food distribution workers must get their third dose by March 12.
Food distribution workers include manufacturing, warehouse and transport workers but not retail supermarket staff.
Workers with a valid medical exemption are also not included in the mandate.
It comes as the vaccine rollout for children aged between five and 11 was marred by supply issues on the first day of the program.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Victorian chair Anita Munoz said supply was coming in “sporadically” with some GP practices given 100 doses a week and others given 100 doses a fortnight.
“That is, really, terribly inadequate numbers for general practices to vaccinate kids,” she told AAP.
“The supply itself is unreliable and sporadic, and we understand that’s in part because the logistics industry is affected by COVID itself.
“But it’s not just that, when supplies finally do arrive they’re coming in in inadequate numbers.”
She said the RACGP had given “a lot of feedback” to the federal government about how to ensure the latest vaccine rollout would run smoothly and efficiently.
“What we really wanted to avoid was repeating any of the mistakes we needed to learn from last year,” she said.
“I am disappointed that these kinds of issues are being repeated.”
Those Queensland Covid figures as compared to yesterday: 9,581 new cases (18,000 yesterday, including 4,321 self-reported RAT results); 419 cases in hospital (380); and 21 in ICU (22 yesterday, so down one).
Gerrard adds that the Gold Coast is the epicentre of many of the state’s Covid cases:
A substantial number of the cases are occurring on the Gold Coast. About half of the intensive care admissions or just over half, 11, out of the 21, and about a quarter of the ward admissions, 101 out of 419 are currently on the Gold Coast.
It looks like at the moment the surge is probably occurring on the Gold Coast.
It’s not surprising given the sheer number of interstate visitors which would have caused seeding events to have occurred, particularly in this area. We know we have a lot of travellers going to that region but I would also point out that the vaccination rates on the Gold Coast are ... I think the lowest in south-east Queensland at least.
He said that of the 11 people in ICU on the Gold Coast, six were unvaccinated.
Queensland records 9,581 new Covid cases
Queensland’s chief health officer John Gerrard says there are 21 Covid patients in the state’s hospital intensive care units, seven of whom are ventilated. There are 419 cases in hospital requiring treatment for Covid.
“The intensive care number overall is still a small number by Queensland standards,” he said.
Here’s how the ACT is coping with Omicron today, as per the update sent recently by the territory government:
New cases in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday: 938
Active cases: 5,681
Patients in ACT hospitals: 25, including four in intensive care and three ventilated (down from 27, four and four reported yesterday)
ACT residents aged 12 and over who are fully vaccinated: 98.5%
ACT residents aged 18 and over who have received their booster: 22.5%
Thank you Calla for your shift over morning tea. I’ll be with you all until early evening.
With that, I’ll hand you over to Nino Bucci.
Victoria mandates vaccine booster shots for some key workers
Martin Foley says the “profound increase in hospitalisation numbers” has prompted the chief health officer to recommend mandating a third dose, or booster shot, of Covid-19 vaccine for key workers.
The order will be mandated under new pandemic orders, passed by premier Daniel Andrews under the new pandemic legislation last night. The orders will be signed by Foley today.
Workers for whom a booster shot will be mandatory are:
- Healthcare workers
- Aged care workers
- Disability workers
- Emergency service workers
- People who work in prisons and corrections
- Hotel quarantine workers
- Food distribution workers, including manufacturing, warehousing and transport
- Supermarket and retail workers
- Abattoir, seafood, and meat processing workers
All of these people were required to get two shots under earlier vaccine mandates. Foley said further booster mandates may follow.
If people were eligible for their third dose before 12 January, they will be required to get their booster shot by 12 February.
If they are not yet eligible for a booster shot, they will have three months and two weeks from the date of their second dose to get a booster shot.
That means, given the mandatory cut-off for getting the second dose, that all aged care workers will be required to have their third dose by 1 March, all healthcare workers by 29 March, and all other listed workers by 12 March.
About 93% of Victorians over the age of 12 are double-dosed already. But Foley said the Omicron wave had showed “we need to increase our third dose coverage”.
I should stress that there are significant other sectors of the Victorian community also covered by that first and second mandate for vaccines and we are currently closely examining what further measures, based on this risk, and what consultation and support needs to be provided to those sectors to bring those sectors also into line with future vaccine mandates.
That work is quite active at the moment and will ramp up and we’ll have more to say about future vaccination mandates to achieve those same goals in the near future when that work is undertaken.
Some of the other public health and social measures that will also been acted based on the advice they’ve received will also be implemented as of January 12 when this new set of orders rolls in.
Significant jump in Covid-related hospitalisations in Victoria
The number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 in Victoria has increased from 752 to 818 overnight, Victoria’s health minister Martin Foley said.
Foley, speaking at that delayed press conference in Victoria, says that’s “a significant increase”. Last week, there were 491 people in hospital with Covid.
Of those in hospital, 118 people are in intensive care and 28 are on ventilators. Two people with Covid died in Victoria yesterday.
In terms of case numbers, 17,190 people reported a positive rapid antigen test result through the online reporting system, on top of 17,618 positive results through the PCR testing system. That’s a pretty even split, totalling 34,808 cases.
Through our rapid antigen tests reporting and engagement program, we now know that we’ve got a huge increase in Covid cases across our community. And that builds, of course, on top of our PCR system which faced being overwhelmed in this Omicron spike.
The last few days, we’ve seen pretty much the same number of PCR tests coming back positive and people self-reporting on rapid antigen tests their Covid status. And the system of ensuring that duplications and crossovers is now starting to work very effectively as we align that data for a better picture of what the Covid cases in the community are.
Search continues for 14-year-old girl missing in Queensland floods
Crews in Queensland are still searching for the 14-year-old girl who went missing in the floods.
Supt. Michael Sawrey:
We have water police, we have police divers. We obviously have volunteers searching and SES and police searching that area. Unfortunately at this stage we haven’t found the missing 14-year-old girl and we have grave concerns for her, but we’re putting in whatever efforts we can to try to locate her.
To Queensland now, where superintendent Michael Sawrey is giving an update on the flood situation at Maryborough, about 250km north of Brisbane.
Sawrey says the flood waters reached a peak of 9.96m last night and are now receding.
Emergency services and the local council will conduct rapid assessments to determine damage levels today.
Early indications are 1,000 residents in different towns that may be isolated by floodwaters, but Sawrey says that just means they have been isolated and assessments will provide the accurate figure as to actual damage.
It will take “a number of days” for the floodwater to subside, he says.
So the clean up will take a while, as you would have seen. The water was slow rising and with that, it’s normally slow getting away. But as you can see from last night even, how much water has gone down. So that’s a positive thing for Maryborough.
Good morning everyone, and thanks to Matilda for taking you through the morning. We’ll take you to the Victorian press conference very shortly but, for now, the prime minister is still speaking.
Morrison was asked how to prevent essential workers who may work across state lines from being caught up in conflicting rules around isolation, after NSW and Queensland changed the rules around isolating as a close contact in certain essential industries.
He said he’d consult with states before pre-judging what action should be taken, but that he “anticipates ... that we will see agreement occur between the jurisdictions”.
And I think that that is very important ... You’ve got people working in food production, food processing, food distribution. It does move across borders. A really good example of that cooperation was last week with the seven-day rolling testing for truck drivers. That was something that we had put in place.
Now, if that had not been done and agreed by everyone, bar WA which has a different set of circumstances, that would have been problematic. But the premiers were very quick and very practical about that and I would expect a similar response here.
With that, I shall hand over to the fantastic Calla Wahlquist to take you through the Victorian press conference!
In relation to your encouragement to Australians to push through, looking at potential future new strains - are you satisfied with the level of preparation and contingency planning done ahead of Omicron? And has the government, the federal government, stepped up in relation to what’s occurred with Omicron, its future preparation and contingency planning for potential new variants?
Cool! Glad we got that sorted!
A number of medical experts are now saying that Australia is most certainly in the let it rip stage management of the pandemic. Why are we at that time now? And is there an acceptable death toll that’s just a reality now in the same way as the flu?
No, I don’t accept that analysis, because that’s not the approach that the government is taking at a commonwealth level or in the states and territories. I’d describe it more as I said before as pushing through.
I mean, we do have public health social measures in place. We do have other restrictions that are in place. But we also have a very practical understanding of how the Omicron variant works. And it works very differently to the Delta strain.
So no, I’ve heard those suggestions and I understand Mr Albanese has made this suggestion. Well ... you know... If Mr Albanese thinks that the answer is to put Australia back into lockdown, then I don’t agree with you.
I agree with the advice that we’re receiving, that we need to keep pushing through. And I’d encourage Mr Albanese to seek a briefing with the health authorities.
I understand that the last one he had was on December 2. And so, that is available to him. I’m sure that he’ll take that up.
'You can push through or lock down. We're for pushing through': Morrison
Scott Morrison says Australia isn’t “letting it rip” when it comes to the Omicron variant, but instead is “pushing through”.
You’ve got two choices here. You can push through or you can lock down. We’re for pushing through.
That’s [how] you get through this. You get through to the other side and it’s going to be tough. The whole pandemic has been tough and Australians have shown the resilience and patience and the determination. They’ve dealt with the circumstances, as they’re in front of them – not behind them. And the government is taking the same approach based on the best possible medical advice. And the best possible medical advice is to push through.
Morrison says, for the sake of the workforce, it’s important that most states send children back to school at the end of January as planned.
As you heard already from the New South Wales Premier, the Victorian Premier, the situation in both of those states are fairly similar.
And I do welcome the fact that in Queensland, the children of essential workers and others are able to go back at the same time. See, one of the big challenges we have is to balance that need to ensure that we have kids back at school, because we need kids back at school learning.
We need kids back at school because it also has very significant impacts on the workforce availability - particularly in the health sector. And so, that is very important. And obviously, of course, above and beyond all of those issues is the health and welfare of the kids and those who work in the schools.
So they’re the issue that is are being managed and I think that we can have some very clear principles around all of those that can be applied to the relevant circumstances on the ground in each state and territory.
We will be hearing from the Victorian Health minister in about 15 minutes.
The ACT records 938 new cases
This comes as the state records 938 new Covid-19 cases.
This blog previously reported that the ACT had reported three new deaths overnight; this was incorrect.
Morrison was asked if Australia will consider moving to the US isolation model, where fully vaccinated Covid-19 positive people are allowed to isolate for only five days after testing positive. But it doesn’t sound like it’s on the cards just yet.
As I said, our measures are never set and forget. They’re never set and forget. But they’re always set for Australia. Let me stress that.
Other countries are doing any number of things. We always look at what they’re doing, but that doesn’t mean that it works here. Other countries have different experiences, different health systems. They have different experiences of the pandemic. We set Australia’s rules for Australia. And Australia has one of the lowest death rates, one of the strongest economies coming through the pandemic and one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
By following the Australian way, these Australian results have been proved to be very good for Australians by and large. And so we’ve got to keep focus on making sure our settings are for Australia and for Australians.
Reporter: “On schools, national cabinet in November first discussed a test-to-stay approach for schools. Why is it that two months later, we still haven’t got a plan for the return to school?”
Well, Omicron is the answer. Omicron changed everything. Delta was a completely different variant of this virus.
And so, as we have had to do on so many occasions during this pandemic, rules that were written for one situation have to be reconsidered and have to be redone again for Omicron.
And that’s what is being done right now. And so, the applicability of those situations is being reconsidered by the medical experts and that’s what Paul and his team have been doing, quite thoroughly, and that’s what we set out to be able to be talking about this Thursday.
Here is what Kelly has to say about food supply workers being given exemptions from close contact isolation:
We cannot [PCR] test everybody when there are so many cases. Hence the discussions we have had around rapid antigen testing and that will assist in the coming weeks.
We cannot trace everybody as we used to. That contact tracing exercise has changed.
And there are reasons, very strong and good reasons for society to keep functioning, for our healthcare system to keep functioning, for our aged care residents to be cared for, and now in the food and grocery supply chain, to make sure we do have those products on the shelves that we do need to make a risk-based approach to those settings of isolation and quarantine.
Make sure you know where to get the best advice to assist you in those circumstances. And there are several ways of doing that.
If you develop severe symptoms then you should not hesitate and call an ambulance. But that is a very, very small proportion of what we are seeing.
The vast majority of those 500,000 active cases are mild or indeed asymptomatic. And that is an important part. But sometimes those more severe things can happen and so seek advice and seek it early.
The chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, says Australia has moved into a new stage of the pandemic, the “living with Covid” stage, which I think is safe to say is a pretty optimistic reading of the current mood in the country.
And what exactly is his big advice for “living with Covid”?
Keep some Panadol in the cupboard. Yep. Here is Kelly:
We are in a new phase of the pandemic as we have been talking about in the last few weeks. We are living with Covid and that brings with it many advantages but some issues that need us to change some of our settings in relation to living with Covid.
One of the key areas there was discussed by my colleague professor Michael Kidd yesterday in a press conference, which was about preparing yourself in case you are in contact with or actually contract Covid.
I’m sure everyone who is listening to this and seeing this knows someone now in Australia that has Covid. We have over 500,000 active cases at the moment. That is a very different situation to even a few weeks ago.
So those issues about being prepared, having some paracetamol or ibuprofen in your cupboard. Don’t wait to get symptoms to treat yourself if you have ... Covid. Make sure you know where to get the best advice to assist you in those circumstances.
The treasurer Josh Frydenberg is still at work despite contracting Covid several days ago, Morrison says.
The treasurer despite having Covid is still battling on. He’s improving.
I speak to him very regularly and he’s been speaking to the banks as well ... monitoring what the impact is on their customer base on their small businesses. And the reports we are getting back are that while this is a tough time, and it is really tough for businesses because of the impact of Covid.
That’s living with Covid – when there are a high number of cases it is difficult. But what we are seeing is there are strong balance sheets. Right across the economy.
Morrison says the federal government is working to ensure small to medium-sized businesses are not required to test their staff for Covid-19.
It is very tough on business and so we are working to ensure that we can alleviate the impacts on business, firstly when it comes to any regulatory issues and the first of those is occupational health and safety regulations.
The attorney general is leading a process with the states and territories which we anticipate being concluded in time for national cabinet on Thursday which will remove any suggestion of a requirement that small medium sized businesses have to be undertaking testing of their staff.
There is some confusion about that. I should note and pretty much all states except possibly for Western Australia, there are no exposure sites anymore. And so the risk of a business becoming an exposure site is not something that they – as they were concerned about earlier in the year – that is now changed because of the definition of close contacts and the like.
So working out those occupational health and safety regulations and giving small business certainty around that is very, very important. We identified this issue last week and so that work has been done.
Morrison says the next step is taking the isolation exemptions into other critical sectors.
We are especially looking at ... both in aviation and in other distribution tasks.
So not customer facing ... on the food side, so talk about Coles and Woolworths, we’re not talking people working on checkouts. Anyone who is customer facing, they are not doing that.
But those who are driving the truck to deliver the food, those stacking the shelves at night, those in the distribution centres, those who are in the abattoirs, the manufacturing places that are producing food, all of those now caught up in those new critical supply chain rules, and we are looking to extend those to other sectors.
I note some premiers have noted that they would begin to look at how we can apply that in the hospitality sector. We’ll take that one step at a time. For now we are very focused ... on those critical supply chains and getting the workers where we need them to go.
As the case numbers continue to rise the volume of cases will of course have an inevitable impact on the workforce. And so we are looking to maximise those who can remain in the workforce.
PM announces national isolation guidelines for essential supply chain workers
Scott Morrison has announced a new set of national guidelines – endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – that will allow close contacts in some vital industries to come out of isolation if they are fully vaccinated and do not have any Covid-19 symptoms. They include workers in jobs that are vital for the food supply chain and in some healthcare settings.
Morrison says Victoria is likely to make a similar announcement on this later today.
The medical expert panel, the AHPPC, has endorsed a new set of arrangements that relate to workers in critical supply chains, and processing, food production, and distribution, as well as emergency services.
Now, as you know, some states have already moved on that ... I understand the Victorian government will make further announcements on that today. That paper is now before national cabinet for endorsement.
I was not going to wait until Thursday for that and [after] discussions with the chief medical officer ... we agreed it should immediately go to national cabinet for endorsement. [We] anticipate that will happen over the course of the morning. It was sent to them earlier today, so we will wait for that endorsement and that will enable them to take that up.
What that involves is asymptomatic close contact being able to go to work in those sectors.
Morrison says Australia currently has more than enough ICU and ventilator capacity, but medical staff shortages are still placing pressure on the system.
There are 78 patients who are on ventilators, which is well, well, well within capacity. The major stresses on the hospital system relate to workforce issues and they will come back to that in a moment.
Morrison says more than 5,000 people in hospital with Covid
Morrison says more than 5,000 people are in hospital with Covid in Australia. He says up to half of those patients aren’t in hospital due to their Covid infection:
Omicron is a gear change and we have to push through. That is what Omicron is about. We’re dealing with serious volumes of cases but not seeing the same impact proportionally from previous variants as to the impact on hospitalisations, ICU, and ventilated patients.
There are 5,097 patients in hospital who have Covid. That does not mean they went to hospital because of Covid, it means they are in hospital and have Covid. As we outlined a week or so ago, up to half or thereabouts of those patients who have been admitted are being admitted for other reasons and have Covid.
That still means they have to be treated in hospital as a Covid patient, but that is not the reason they went to hospital.
There has been a request for federal resources to support any response or recovery effort. That is well in hand with the local authorities.
But you would have seen this morning that minister McKenzie has announced that the commonwealth disaster payments, which are $1,000 for adults and $400 for children, have been activated.
You will be able to get those online or by ringing up tomorrow at 9am and get those payments if you were in the Gympie, Bundaberg or Fraser Coast areas, as defined.
There is also the disaster recovery allowance for those who have had income impacted, a payment for up to 13 weeks at the jobseeker rate. That will also be available from tomorrow morning.
Scott Morrison press conference begins
The prime minister Scott Morrison is speaking now in Canberra and starts by giving an update on the Queensland floods.
I want to express my condolences to the family of the 22-year-old man who was killed during the course of those floods and also we continue to hold out hope and prayers for the young girl, 14-year-old girl who was washed away in the floods and our thoughts are with her family as well. [We] have a daughter who is 14 years old, so we can understand the terrible, terrible time that family must be going through at the moment.
I want to thank all of those who are engaged in the rescue and search work up in Queensland at the moment. It was quite a deluge, as we know. The floodwaters peaked in Maryborough last night at 10 metres. That is a little less, I understand, them back in 2013, but a very serious flood.
An evacuation order was put in place for the CBD area and homes were obviously affected, as were parts of the CBD. There is an evacuation centre that has been established at the Brolga theatre, around 25 people are there, the plan was activated by the head of emergency management yesterday.
What that enables is all the disaster arrangements and request being facilitated through the commonwealth, through the emergency management authority.
Small earthquake in Victorian high country
There has been an iddy-biddy earthquake in the Victorian high country this morning. Tweet me at @MatildaBoseley if you felt it!
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet says that although the state government hasn’t ruled out opening close contact isolation exemptions for those in the hospitality industry, it’s not currently on the cards, despite calls for this from the sector.
I understand completely where the hospitality sector is coming from even before the outbreak of Omicron we have had right across the board significant staff shortages in a number of industries. And we want to obviously continue to deal with those as we go through.
We will work with our health teams in relation to that but we need to prioritise here and ultimately our number one responsibility is to keep people safe. But as we move through this period I would expect further adjustments will get made as we have from time to time. But obviously we have been in contact with hospitality industry completely understand their concerns.
Better to be open [and] have this issue, as I have said in the past, better to have the issue of labour shortages than be closed. But we will move through, I will continue to have discussions with them and work with the health teams. But at this stage we are completely focused on ensuring that those essential workers in those areas of food supply and manufacturing distribution networks have the labour force required to keep society moving through.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant says the man in his 30’s who passed away in the latest reporting period was unvaccinated.
The gentleman in his 30’s was not vaccinated. And in terms of underlying health conditions, I really haven’t been briefed adequately, and not all health conditions you would expect to lead to that. So I haven’t got that information available.
I think I just highlight the key points that we know that vaccinations is going to help us. We know that with Omicron having that booster is going to be really critical. And I do want to urge everyone particularly the elderly or those with chronic underlying health conditions to get into the boosters.
We will be getting Tasmanian health updates from the premier at 2.30pm today.
Chant says there have been issues communicating with all Covid-positive people in NSW and she is worried that people “fall through the cracks”.
Clearly I worry that people do fall through the cracks and that’s why we need - we have been doing the work we have been doing to make sure there is call lines, working with our GP colleagues and trying to get as much information out there. There are groups where there are therapies that are time critical.
The other thing we want people to do is present early. So not wait for them to be six or seven days into their illness before they seek testing. That often means that the window of opportunity for some of the therapies is diminished. So I think I would like to acknowledge the role that GPs are playing in supporting their patients.
Pharmacists are fantastic as a point of call as well. And our call lines. But I do acknowledge the challenges of communicating effectively with everyone.
NSW chief paediatrician Matthew O’Meara says Covid-related staff shortages are to blame for some children having their vaccine appointments cancelled.
As you have heard 63,000 children have already been booked in to NSW Health vaccine clinics. Many more, in fact the majority will get their vaccines through their local GP or local pharmacy. You can see where to get your child vaccinated through the vaccine clinic finder. Just book in.
I acknowledge some children who have been booked in for vaccines through their GP or pharmacy have had their appointments cancelled. There have been problems due to the supply chain and due to staff illness. Just like other vital industries.
I know that delay can be really frustrating, as you have tried so hard to protect your child as soon as possible. I appreciate your understanding and your patience. The interval between the two doses is eight weeks.
So children who get their first vaccine today will be eligible for their second vaccine in early March. That eight-week interval means that more children will be able to get their first dose of the vaccine even sooner.
Child under five dies with Covid at home in NSW
The NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant has confirmed a child under the age of five was one of the 18 NSW Covid deaths overnight. The child passed away at home.
Sadly we are announcing the deaths of 18 people, six women, 11 men and a child aged under five.
The child from south-western Sydney died at home and had significant underlying health conditions.
And a man [in] his 30s from eastern Sydney died at Prince of Wales Hospital. Can I just express my sincere condolences for those that lost their loved ones.
Severe storm warning in far north Queensland as Cyclone Tiffany bears down
A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for Port Douglas, Mossman, Daintree Village, Julatten and every other town in far north Queensland. This is as tropical Cyclone Tiffany approaches the shore.
Dr Kerry Chant has urged people, even if they test positive on a RAT, to connect with health services to ensure they are safe for the duration of the disease.
One of the key issues we just want people to be linked with care. If you fall into the categories where you are unvaccinated, you are pregnant, you have chronic underlying medical conditions, please don’t delay getting a Covid diagnosis.
It is critical that you are linked with care and also please a reminder do not take symptoms such as breathlessness, particularly in young people when that is not your underlying usual condition, without taking that very seriously.
I think you have heard before from some of our intensivists and respiratory physicians we don’t expect young people to get breathless or dizzy and that’s a sign you really need to escalate your care.
The NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant is up now to run us through the (not particularly accurate) Covid-19 case tally for the day.
So today we have around 2,030 Covid cases admitted to the hospital with 150 people in intensive care, 47 of whom require ventilation. There were 20,030 cases detected by PCR testing reported in NSW from the 24 hours to 8pm last night. And 84,000 tests, PCR tests were reported in that period. That clearly is an underestimate as people are moving and transitioning to RAT testing, the rapid antigen testing.
But just to let you know that’s certainly hopefully freeing up quite a lot of the capacity for PCR testing for those who need it and if you can’t access a RAT, and need to be tested, please proceed to get a PCR test.
Perrottet says his preschool-aged daughter was vaccinated last week:
As a parent I know it can be daunting. You are getting your children vaccinated, we had our daughter just last week being vaccinated who is in preschool.
I think she screamed the GP centre down. But what I know here with our hubs we are supporting that GP network here in NSW is that it’s a very kid-friendly environment – highly supportive to ensure there is as much comfort for parents, anxious parents and children as we go through this period.
The NSW premier Dominic Perrottet is speaking now:
Today we commence here in our state the rollout of vaccinations for our five -to 11-year-olds. And that will occur in GPs, pharmacists, in many of our hubs right across our state. We here in NSW want to particularly support that system as we move through.
We appreciate that and acknowledge that vaccination is being key to keeping our community safe and efforts that people have made right across our state during this vaccination program [have] insured that NSW is in a particularly strong position to deal with this phenomena, the global phenomena, and vaccinations and boosters have been key to that.
Please forgive me for saying the prime minister’s press conference was an hour and a half away. As previously mentioned I’m stuck in Queensland and forgot about that whole pesky daylight saving thing!
Scott Morrison’s press conference is, in fact, about half an hour away!
FYI, here are the links to register your positive RATs with your state government (for those that have a system in place).
Scott Morrison to hold press conference this morning
We will be hearing from prime minister Scott Morrison at 10.30am AEDT this morning. That’s in about half an hour.
They haven’t said what’s it about just yet, but I reckon the primary school vaccination program is a pretty safe bet.
If you want to stay up to date on all the Novak Djokovic updates from his hearing today, you can head on over to our dedicated live blog headed by the amazing Josh Taylor.
But like, just open it in a separate tab, because there are lots of general Covid-19 updates still to come over here as well!
A reminder that we are set to hear from NSW’s leaders (sans the deputy premier who is isolating at home with Covid) in about 20 minutes. It seems like the big topics will be the vaccination of children aged five to 11, when primary schools will come back from summer break, and how the state will go when including RAT tests in the daily cases tally.
Media have gathered outside the Park Hotel in Melbourne’s Carlton, as Novak Djokovic prepares to fight his deportation in Australia’s federal court this morning.
The court is set to meet at 10am to decide the fate of the men’s tennis world No 1, who has been confined to the Park Hotel, where a group of refugees are also being held, since Thursday.
Government lawyers made their submission late on Sunday evening, saying the automated email that Djokovic received confirming he was eligible to enter Australia was not an “assurance” he was permitted to enter.
There is no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia. Rather, there are criteria and conditions for entry, and reasons for refusal or cancellation of a visa.
The email from the department stated that the applicant’s responses to his Australian Traveller Declaration indicated that he met the requirements for ‘quarantine free’ travel into Australia.
Djokovic fans had gathered outside the centre until late on Sunday night, dancing, singing and protesting against the detainment of their hero – but there is no sign of them yet this morning.
There are a small number of refugee activists already gathered. They have laid banners on the ground and are calling for Djokovic to help them advocate for the men stuck inside the immigration hotel.
Djokovic’s lawyers have prepared a suite of arguments, including that the tennis star’s Covid-19 infection in December means he is within Atagi’s guidelines.
Federal disaster payments available to Queensland flood victims from Tuesday
The minister for emergency management and national recovery and resilience, Bridget McKenzie, says Queenslanders in communities impacted by the current flooding will be able to apply for financial support from the federal government from Tuesday afternoon.
And gosh she is saying “Liberal and Nationals Government” a lot in her statement.
By making this financial support available, the Liberal and Nationals Government is helping people get back on their feet as soon as possible.
The Disaster Recovery Payment is a one-off, non-means tested payment of $1,000 for eligible adults and $400 for eligible children. This payment is available to anyone in those affected local government areas who has suffered a significant loss, including a severely damaged or destroyed home or serious injury.
The Disaster Recovery Allowance provides a short-term income support payment to assist individuals whose income has been affected because of this disastrous event. The Allowance is available for up to 13 weeks, equivalent to the maximum rate of Jobseeker Payment or Youth Allowance.
The Liberal and Nationals Government continues to provide support in the hope of strengthening and uplifting communities, as they overcome the significant damage caused by these events.
We are getting close to the start of tennis star Novak Djokovic’s hearing from 10am at the federal court today. We will bring you all the updates when that starts.
In other news, well known Melbourne charity figurehead Father Bob Maguire has also tested positive for Covid-19 but has been released from hospital to isolate at home.
Here is the full statement from health minister Greg Hunt on children aged five to 11 becoming eligible for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine this morning.
So just for context, it’s worth remembering that the Victorian case numbers include RATs that have been registered by individuals but the New South Wales numbers are currently only reflecting PCR test results. Basically, Victoria might not actually have more cases than NSW, and take everything with a grain of salt for the time being.
Victoria records 34,808 new Covid cases and two deaths
NSW records 20,293 new Covid cases and 18 deaths
Hold by for Covid-19 numbers. T-minus one minute.
Man abducted in south-west Sydney
A man has been allegedly kidnapped from south-west Sydney as police investigate whether a car fire nearby is connected, reports AAP’s Greta Stonehouse.
Police say the 39-year-old man was abducted from a Condell Park home in Third Avenue on Sunday at about 7.30pm.
The state’s robbery and serious crime squad are assisting Bankstown detectives while investigations continue into a Greenacre car fire hours later.
The vehicle was set alight in an open carpark at a Lawford Street unit block on Monday about 1.25am, spreading to a second car before it was extinguished by firefighters.
Authorities are calling for anyone with information or who may have dashcam footage of the incidents to come forward.
A 14-year-old girl remains missing as parts of Queensland continue to be affected by major flooding.
The aftermath of ex-tropical cyclone Seth has caused “unexpected” heavy rains and storms across parts of the state, with further cyclone activity expected this week.
Severe thunderstorms were no longer occurring across Capricornia, Wide Bay and Burnett but a tropical cyclone may be brewing further north in the wake of Seth, with a tropical low developing east of Cape York Peninsula.
The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the cyclone was forecast to hit the coast as a category one system at about 4am on Monday, local time.
You can read the full report below:
Woolworths works to quell supply issues
The head of Woolworths has worked to quell concerns about supply shortages as supermarket shelves are left bare, reports AAP’s Dominic Giannini.
Bradford Banducci told ABC on Monday that customers won’t be left hungry but some concessions needed to be made due to the increased demand.
There is enough product in our supply chain to meet the needs of our customers [but] it might not always be their favourite brand unfortunately.
Banducci said supply issues would likely last for the next two to three weeks as the country comes to the predicted peak of Omicron cases.
He noted he was taking a conservative estimate, with his team saying supply would be able to meet demand by the end of the week.
NSW and Queensland have moved to try and ease pressure by easing quarantine requirements for close contacts.
It’s a move that’s been branded as reckless by the Transport Workers’ Union which is worried it would only exacerbate shortages if there were breakouts in workplaces.
National secretary Michael Kaine expressed his dismay at the changes.
Close contacts are more likely now than ever to have the virus, because of Omicron and definition of close contacts ...
The concern is they will be required to work. That means you have people [who are] the most likely to have the virus in workplaces.
There is a real danger here that this might make matters worse.
The Australian Retailers Association said access to rapid antigen tests needed to be a priority for workers, calling for them to be made free and immediately available for essential frontline retail and distribution centre workers.
Lieutenant general John Frewen has once again refuted claims that there is a vaccine shortage for those aged five to 11, telling ABC radio that Australia “will have more than enough vaccines for every kid to have their first dose before the end of the year”.
If there have been circumstances of people having trouble finding a booking I’m not going to contest that, but for every one of these anecdotal stories there are many thousands of positive stories.
Close contacts of people with Covid-19 will be allowed out of isolation to work if their job is critical for food supply or emergency services under new rules in New South Wales and Queensland.
The two state governments announced the relaxed restrictions to ease food shortages on Sunday as federal health officials revealed isolation rules may soon change nationwide.
With case numbers spiking due to Omicron, Australians are adjusting to growing hospitalisations, workforce disruptions and an increasing onus on managing the pandemic themselves by recording rapid antigen test results.
NSW reported its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic on Sunday with 16 deaths in the preceding 24 hours – eclipsing the highest daily totals of the Delta wave. Eight men and eight women in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s died.
You can read the full report below:
School return locked in, says NSW premier
January 28 is the non-negotiable date for NSW children to return to school, the premier says, with rapid antigen testing critical to the plan, reports AAP.
A further 50m at-home rapid test kits have been purchased by the state in addition to the 50m already held in reserve, the premier, Dominic Perrottet, said on Sunday.
The announcement came as NSW reported its deadliest day of the pandemic, recording 16 deaths related to the coronavirus.
There are currently 1,927 virus patients in NSW hospitals, 130 more than the previous day. Of them, 151 are in intensive care with 38 needing ventilation.
There were also 30,062 new infections reported from less than 100,000 conventional PCR lab tests.
NSW is yet to launch a system to report rapid test results, but Perrottet says he’s advised the switch will happen by mid-week, at which point case numbers are expected to surge afresh.
The newly purchased rapid tests would be instrumental in getting kids back to school, he said.
We are finalising our back-to-school plans at the moment. This will be a core part of the plans getting kids back in the classrooms ...
There will be challenges as we move through the return-to-school program but ultimately we can’t let perfection be the enemy of good. We need kids back in class.
While just over 78% of children aged 12 to 15 in NSW have been fully vaccinated, primary school-aged children, those between five and 11 are only become eligible for their first dose from today.
Very few will be fully vaccinated when classrooms open their doors amid the nation’s biggest outbreak.
That has prompted the Queensland government to delay the return to classrooms by two weeks, to 7 February.
Lawyers for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs have insisted Novak Djokovic was never given any assurances his medical exemption would allow him to enter Australia.
While also confirming that the world No 1 is unvaccinated, the legal team from the Australian government said ahead of Monday’s appeal hearing that there is no valid reason for Djokovic to be granted access to Australia for the tournament which begins on 17 January.
Djokovic had his visa cancelled after arriving in Melbourne last week, and his lawyers have submitted a lengthy document arguing the 34-year-old fulfilled the criteria for a vaccine exemption certificate because of a recent Covid infection.
You can read the full report below:
NSW opposition leader Chris Minns has told Sydney radio station 2GB that children in the state should still return to school come February despite their northern neighbour issuing a two-week delay.
In many parts of the country hospitals are under stress, as more patients turn up for treatment and many staff are required to be absent because of Covid.
The rise in cases means hospitals are nearing capacity. One concern worrying health officials is there will be an unexpected event, such as a train or bus crash, that will suddenly present a lot of people needing urgent care but with no beds spare.
Another issue looming in the near future is the resignation of exhausted medical or other staff, tired of the demand for long overtime or even bullying or abuse from patients unhappy at the attention they are receiving.
At Byron, which is without its two top executives because of resignations, three more senior emergency department staff have quit, according to a nurse from the Nurses and Midwives Association. The trio includes the ED’s nursing unit manager.
According to one Facebook post from the region, “currently four doctors and eight nurses who work in Byron hospital are off sick with Covid. My friend says that none of this is due to poor practices, they are just being swamped with cases. Instead of being offered sick pay or worker’s compensation, they have been told to use their leave entitlements/holidays.”
Similar issues are popping up across the country.
Feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know your concerns.
By the way, we will be hearing from NSW Health officials at 10am today.
'Absolutely more than enough' vaccines for kids, Frewen says
Jumping back to the Covid vaccine and Lieutenant General John Frewen is out and about this morning defending the rollout of vaccines for five-to-11-year-olds, stating there is “absolutely more than enough” jabs for children.
There is more than 10,000 places where vaccines are being administered across the country. The majority of those will also be doing kids. So what I would say to people is there is absolutely more than enough of the paediatric dosage to get everybody their first dose before they get back to school.
The real challenge here is just lining people up with where the capacity is at any given time. What I say to parents is if they can’t get an appointment with their primary health provider or their GP, then they should try around the pharmacies.
They should try some of the state and territory clinics but there is enough vaccine and there are enough points of distribution, it is just about a little bit of patience.
Speaking of the Maryborough situation, the Queensland fire and emergency services assistant commissioner, Stephen Smith, told ABC that the peak of the flood waters has now passed.
So the peak has occurred overnight and is expected to stay for a little period of time and then slowly drop away.
There has been significant inundation and impacts through the area but that has been lessened overnight working very closely with Fraser Coast regional council in reducing the impacts in the CBD and the temporary levy in place there.
So a lot of work was done by crews with council overnight to minimise the impact and as a result, the businesses impacted will be greatly reduced.
Back up to Queensland and the city of Maryborough is still under water this morning.
According to Nine News, another man has been detained by police outside the Park Hotel in Melbourne where unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic is being held alongside a number of refugees.
NSW deputy premier tests positive for Covid-19
NSW deputy premier Paul Toole has tested positive for Covid-19 but says he is only experiencing very minor symptoms.
In a social media post last night the politician said he was already in isolation after a number of family members tested positive.
It’s been a long week in our house, with my oldest daughter getting Covid-19 at the start of the week, followed by my wife and youngest daughter, and then my son ...
Today my results have come back and I have tested positive too.
Fortunately I have very minor symptoms including a sore throat and a little bit of a temperature from time to time.
Let’s remember to respect our health workers out there who are working around the clock to keep us all safe ...
At least the dog’s still happy to see me whilst we’re working together in the backyard.
Good morning everyone!
It’s Matilda Boseley back on deck for the first time in 2022, and I come to you today from Queensland (not by choice – I’m in close-contact isolation), which is why I reckon we should start today by talking about the deadly floods that are affecting the state.
According to a spokesperson for the Bureau of Meteorology, tropical Cyclone Tiffany has strengthened to a category 2 storm and is just hours from making landfall in far-north Queensland.
People between Cape Tribulation and Coen, including Cooktown, should complete preparations quickly and be prepared to shelter in a safe place.
The cyclone (which formed in the Coral Sea) is expected to cross into Queensland between Cooktown and the Lockhart River sometime on Monday night, and communities have been told to expect wind gusts of up to 130km/h as the centre of the cyclone makes landfall.
After moving through far-north Queensland it’s expected to move into the Gulf of Carpentaria on Tuesday and intensify as it moves towards the Northern Territory coast.
Of course, we also need to chat about Novak Djokovic, whose visa case will be heard in federal court this morning, his lawyers challenging the rejection of his visa by Australian border force officials.
In their appeal document sent to the court, they say the 34-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 in December, and it was on those grounds that they sought a medical exemption that would allow him to defend his Australian Open crown.
But lawyers for the federal government will argue in a hearing that it had not given Djokovic any assurance that his medical exemption would be accepted.
The Serbian has to await the outcome of this hearing which will determine if he’s allowed to play for a 10th Australian title or whether he will be deported.
And of course, finally, today is the day that children aged between five and 11 will finally be eligible for the Pfizer jab, with federal health minister Greg Hunt insisting there will be sufficient supply.
He insists there will be 3m vaccine doses available over January for the 2.3 million children who will be eligible for a jab, but opposition leader Anthony Albanese said parents are anxious because they can’t get appointments for their children.
Hunt conceded that as there are 8,000 vaccination points around the country, each will have a limited number of doses a day, and therefore not every child will be able to get the jab right out of the gate. This is to make sure people in rural and regional areas, non-English-speaking areas and lower socioeconomic areas have the same access.
OK! What a morning, so why don’t we jump right into the day.