News Dedicated vaccination unit planned as COVID moves north
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Dedicated vaccination unit planned as COVID moves north

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A special task force of health teams would be sent to virus-infected regions to pop up vaccination hubs at sports stadiums under a plan to curb outbreaks and raise vaccination rates.

Australians can also expect to see more government-run vaccine advertisements rolled out across the country from mid-August.

Revealing new details of “Operation COVID Shield”, the National COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce coordinator general has written about a new unit to be on call and ready to be sent anywhere in Australia.

The goal would be to get “all eligible people in Australia” vaccinated by the end of 2021.

“Continued outbreaks and the resultant lockdowns will continue without a vaccinated population, protected against the spread and severity of this ever-evolving virus,” Lieutenant General John Frewen wrote in the plan published on Tuesday night.

He told The Australian: “The National Response Option will be dedicated solely to the task of administering vaccinations and will maintain a high level of readiness in the event of a callout, being dispatched to the location directed to provide between 2000 and 3000 additional vaccinations daily over the course of a two-week campaign.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced ‘Operation COVID Shield’ in June but this is the first time the government has released further detail about how the resources would be used.

The plan would be for health teams to mobilise to large public places like sports stadiums, shopping centres or schools. Key to the task force’s work would be communicating with the public about vaccine safety.

“As of the date of publication, there are four phases of advertising that are planned to be launched before December 2021,” the plan reads.

“These will focus on motivating specific demographic groups in line with eligibility criteria and driving uptake for those who are not yet vaccinated.

Called a ‘Motivate Campaign’, the advertisements would be due to run in July, mid August, late September and mid November.

They would aim to provide information about choice of vaccine as well as point out the personal freedoms that could come from being vaccinated. The government would consider giving out “gift vouchers” as incentives.

The news of the plan comes as Wednesday marks seven weeks since the first COVID-19 case of the Bondi cluster and while Queensland deals with a case detected in the north of the state.

Authorities are working to determine if an infection in North Queensland poses a risk to the community.

The cluster based in Brisbane’s west has risen to 47 cases, with 16 new infections announced on Tuesday.

New exposure cases in North Queensland

A 17th case was reported in North Queensland on Tuesday afternoon, with contact tracing locations announced in Cairns, Trinity Beach and Yorkey’s Knob. A Qantas flight from Brisbane to Cairns on Thursday morning has also been listed.

New exposure sites in Cairns include:

  • Bayleaf Balinese Restaurant
  • 1300 Smiles Dental Practice
  • Fitzroy Island Adventures ferry

The circumstances are currently being investigated and Queensland Health advised more information would be released at Wednesday’s press conference.

“Tests are currently being performed to determine whether there is any infection risk to the community,” it said in a statement.

The number of close contact exposure sites is approaching 150, with recent additions including Kmart, McDonalds and Aldi in Indooroopilly, a swim school in St Lucia and a netball court in Graceville, as well as a site on the Gold Coast.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said high testing numbers are crucial with uncertainty remaining about how the outbreak is linked to the initial two cases who arrived from overseas in late June.

“It’s really important so that we can just make sure that we don’t have any other transmission events,” Dr Young said.

There is still hope the lockdown that stretches from the southern border to Noosa will lift as planned at 4pm on Sunday.

“Everyone just stay at home if you can at all, and that way we’ll get through this, and we can lift on Sunday. That’s absolutely my aim,” Dr Young said.

Meanwhile, Queensland Police is installing RBT-style roadblocks to ensure drivers have a valid reason for travelling.

“We’ll start RBT-type stops at intersections to check if people are allowed out for a valid reason,” Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said.

“There is nothing to fear if people are doing the right thing.”

  • Click here for the full list of Queensland exposure sites

Sydney may not be through the worst

In Sydney, an apartment block at Campbelltown is reportedly in lockdown after several residents were infected with COVID-19.

NSW Police were called on Tuesday night to secure the building after numerous residents in different apartments were diagnosed with the virus, according to the ABC.

It would be the third unit complex to be locked down during the Sydney outbreak because of the virus, following similar action at other premises at Blacktown in Sydney’s west and Bondi Junction in the east.

NSW recorded 199 new locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, 82 of which were in the community while infectious.

“I have to be honest about this – (we don’t know yet) whether we’re through the worst of it or not,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

“There’s clearly been a plateauing in the last week but we don’t know if we’ll see (the numbers) worsen before they get better.”

Meanwhile, two nursing homes are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, including 21 cases at Wyoming Nursing Home in Summer Hill.

  • Click here for the full list of NSW exposure sites