Vaccine passports for fully jabbed people will be trialled in parts of regional Victoria, testing how to enforce rules that will enable double-dosed patrons to take part in a “vaccinated economy”.
The series of trials will begin across some regional Victorian businesses and events from October 11 in areas with high vaccinations and low virus such as Buloke, Pyrenees, Bass Coast, Bendigo, East Gippsland and Warrnambool.
Among the issues to be explored are vaccine status verification and how to help businesses safely deal with aggressive customers who are denied service.
Around 20 trial sites will include hospitality, hairdressing, beauty services and tourism businesses, and events such as race meetings, community celebrations and concerts.
Workers will have to enforce the rules and Premier Daniel Andrews said it was “critically important” that businesses appoint someone qualified to oversee the operation.
The trials are timed for a fortnight before Victoria is expected to reach the 70 per cent full vaccination mark, around October 26, when there will be greater freedoms for the fully vaccinated.
“It is in everybody’s interests, particularly business, to take this seriously,” said Mr Andrews.
“These trials are about proving up, and in real terms, seeing where some of these issues might be.
“If we were completely certain that it would all be totally smooth, then we wouldn’t do the trials.”
Meanwhile Victorians will enjoy a “modest” easing of restrictions on Wednesday when the state is expected to pass 80 per cent single dose coverage.
Restrictions, including a return to golf and tennis, will ease slightly and residents of locked down areas will be able to travel 15km from home, up from 10km.
Patron patron caps in regional venues will increase from 20 to 30.
There was also good news for the city of Geelong, which was released from lockdown at midnight Sunday, despite the diagnosis of six new cases on Saturday, all of which were linked.
Victoria reported 779 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections and two further deaths on Sunday.
More than 77 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 47 per cent have had two doses.
Outdoor pools across NSW are re-opening and the construction industry is back to full capacity as NSW awaits details of the state’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Nine deaths were reported on Sunday, as the state recorded 961 new local cases of COVID-19.
None of the nine who died, aged from their 40s to their 80s, were double jabbed.
Ms Berejiklian confirmed the state’s roadmap to reopening would be revealed in coming days but a return to regional travel may be delayed.
The plan will extend the restoration of freedoms, which will commence at 70 per cent double dose vaccination coverage, to fully vaccinated Australians.
The new freedoms are expected to include larger gathering caps, increased major event crowds and the resumption of auctions and community sport.
But the government may delay the resumption of regional NSW travel until 80 per cent double dose vaccination coverage is reached.
On Sunday she expressed her hope that outbound travel, currently banned by federal authorities, would also be allowed again imminently.
It comes a day after Qld’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk expressed her strong aversion to the resumption of international travel any time soon.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously expressed his support for NSW residents resuming international travel before other states.
Freedoms for the unvaccinated will be also restored at an unspecified later date, Ms Berejiklian said, but not in the short term.
There are currently 1146 COVID-19 cases in hospital in NSW, with 222 people in intensive care and 117 on ventilators.
mRNA vaccine manufacturing
Health Minister Greg Hunt hopes to announce Australia has secured a deal to manufacture its own mRNA-type vaccines in coming months.
At the moment, mNRA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna have to be imported from overseas, but the AstraZeneca version is made by Australia’s biotech giant CSL in Victoria.
“mRNA vaccine production in Australia is our goal and intention and that is exactly what we’re doing at the moment,” Mr Hunt told reporters on Sunday.
“We are working on a number of fronts but we’re making progress and I am confident that we will be in a position to say more in the coming months about this if not earlier.”
Mr Hunt said the government was looking at the vaccination of even younger children.
He noted that Pfizer has already commenced a registration process in the US to vaccinate very young children, while Moderna has not progressed beyond clinical trials.
“But we have vaccine from both Moderna and Pfizer which is ordered for this year and next year,” Mr Hunt said.
“If that vaccine is approved as safe and effective for children, we already have access to it and will be able to supply to Australian families.”
Australia has 60 million doses of Pfizer ordered for 2022 and 50 million doses of the Moderna.
Norway’s unexpected freedom
Nowegians were out in force on Saturday after the government abruptly announced the end to COVID-19 restrictions the day before.
Police reported dozens of disturbances and violent clashes including mass brawls in the Nordic country’s big cities after streets, bars, restaurants and nightclubs were filled with people celebrating the end of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Norwegian government suddenly announced Friday that most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions would be scrapped beginning Saturday and that life in the nation of 5.3 million would return to normal.
The unexpected announcement by Prime Minister Erna Solberg to drop coronavirus restrictions the next day took many Norwegians by surprise and led to chaotic scenes in the capital, Oslo, and elsewhere in the country.
Rowdy celebrations across Norway by hundreds of citizens started Saturday afternoon and lasted until the early hours of Sunday.
Police said unrest was reported in several places, including in the southern city of Bergen and the central city of Trondheim, but the situation was the worst in Oslo.
Long lines were seen outside Oslo’s nightclubs, bars and restaurants late Saturday and police registered at least 50 fights and disturbances during the night. Neither vaccination status certificates nor negative test results are required to enter such venues in Norway.
“That’s exactly what I predicted would happen,” angry nightclub manager Johan Hoeeg Haanes in Oslo told Norwegian newspaper VG.
“It was a life-threatening situation in the city because (the government) didn’t give us at least a few days advance notice. This was a dangerous situation, as police said all places were packed.”
Among other incidents, Norwegian media reported that police received an alert about a man carrying a machete on a bus in Oslo and people fainting while waiting to get into pubs in Trondheim.
“There was a significantly greater workload (on Saturday) than during the summer. There were a lot of people out already in the afternoon and it continued during the night,” Oslo police spokesman Rune Hekkelstrand told the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.
Ms Solberg responded to criticism of the sudden move to reopen society by saying that Norwegian health experts had supported the measure.
“We shall not have strict (coronavirus) measures unless they are professionally justified. People must be allowed to live as they wish,” Ms Solberg told VG late Saturday.
Norway is the second country in Nordic region to lift COVID-19 restrictions after Denmark did so on September 10.
More than 76 per cent of Norway’s population have received one vaccine dose, and nearly 70 per cent have had both shots, according to official figures.