Australia’s vaccination program is poised to hit a key milestone on the road to freedom, with 70 per cent of the country receiving one dose.
It comes ahead of a meeting of state and territory leaders on Friday to discuss the national plan to reopen Australia.
By Friday morning, 69.8 per cent of eligible people had had a first jab and just under 45 per cent of those aged over 16 were fully vaccinated.
The milestone coincides with Friday’s national cabinet meeting, with Australia’s transition out of COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinations expected to dominate discussions.
Victoria will become the latest jurisdiction to hit 70 per cent of its residents getting their first dose. It is expected to reach the target on Friday.
Some lockdown restrictions will also be lifted in Victoria from midnight Friday, because of the 70 per cent figure.
In NSW, two more regions are waking up to their first full day back under COVID-19 lockdowns, as a parliamentary inquiry into the state’s Delta outbreak resumes.
Lismore and Albury have re-entered lockdown for at least a week, after three cases across the two regional council areas at either end of NSW.
The NSW upper house public accountability committee is exploring the state government’s handling of the outbreak. It will hold a further hearing on Friday.
Elsewhere, the ACT is set to enter its sixth week in lockdown as its government walks back from a COVID-zero strategy.
National cabinet meeting
The plan to transition out of COVID restrictions and the vaccine rollout are expected to dominate discussions when the national cabinet meets on Friday.
It’s the first meeting of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders in a fortnight.
Epidemiology, vaccine take-up levels, the ongoing coronavirus situation in NSW and the national plan will be among the main items on the agenda.
Leaders will also hear updates on virus modelling from the Doherty Institute.
Friday’s meetings will coincide with Australia reaching 70 per cent of over 16s having received their first dose of a vaccine.
The most recent figures from the federal government showed there were more than 305,000 doses distributed on Wednesday.
“That 70 per cent double dose and 80 per cent double dose mark is within plain sight. Keep going Australia,” Mr Morrison said.
Melburnians have been urged not to abuse COVID freedoms allowing up to five fully vaccinated adults to gather for a walk or picnic from this weekend.
To mark Victoria reaching its 70 per cent first dose vaccination target, Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday announced “modest” restriction changes for Melbourne from Saturday.
They include small outdoor gatherings. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adults will be able to meet up with one other person from a different household for a walk or picnic. The figure grows to five from two households, plus dependents, for fully vaccinated adults.
Mr Andrews said police won’t go from park to park to check the vaccination status of people enjoying the outdoors, but he hoped Victorians would “do the right thing”.
“There’s a degree of good faith in this,” he said.
However, an exemption to the ban on removing masks to drink alcohol outside home has not been granted, effectively making it illegal to have a tipple during picnics unless done through a straw.
Other rule changes from 11.59pm on Friday include doubling the amount of time allowed outdoors to four hours, expanding the travel limit from five kilometres to 10, and reopening outdoor gym equipment and skate parks.
The state government’s full roadmap out of lockdown, outlining restrictions through to November, will be released on Sunday.
A NSW parliamentary inquiry into the state’s Delta coronavirus outbreak will resume as more regional areas toggle in and out of lockdown.
The upper house public accountability committee that is exploring the state government’s handling of the outbreak will hold a further hearing on Friday.
Committee chair David Shoebridge said the virtual hearing will focus on issues in Sydney’s west. Local mayors, ethnic community leaders and government agency representatives are scheduled to speak.
“The committee will be taking evidence from those who have borne the brunt of the government’s lockdown of certain Sydney LGAs, with a particular focus too on the management of the justice system during this extremely difficult time,” the NSW Greens MP said.
It comes as Lismore and Albury re-entered lockdown for at least a week, after infections in both LGAs. The sources of all three infections are unknown, but deputy chief health officer Dr Marianne Gale suspected they were linked to Sydney.
The Lismore case has prompted a change in the “border bubble” arrangement negotiated only days ago by the Queensland and NSW governments.
With the city of Lismore declared a restricted zone again, anyone who has been in the area in the past 14 days will be unable to enter Queensland.
The cross-border community of Wodonga has not joined Albury in lockdown, but Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews flagged the potential of some “knock-on effects”.
Just hours before Lismore and Albury were plunged back into lockdown, stay-at-home orders were repealed across 12 other regions.
NSW reported 1351 local cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths on Thursday. It’s toll for the three-month virus outbreak has risen to 210.
Twelve people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in three social housing buildings in inner-Sydney Redfern.
While nearby local councils in NSW will spend their first full day out of lockdown, Canberrans face four more weeks of restrictions.
Bega Valley and Snowy Mountains local government areas were among the 12 regions in NSW that had lockdowns lifted on Thursday.
However, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro urged residents to remain vigilant.
The ACT’s lockdown was initially slated to end on Friday, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced a four-week extension this week.
While he is confident the ACT will be able to contain the virus, he would not predict no cases by the time the lockdown is forecast to end on October 15.
The ACT is days away from having 80 per cent of its residents over 16 having received their first dose of a COVID shot.