First, the exciting news: A record number of Australians rolled up their sleeves for a vaccine in the past day and that means we are on track to meet targets for getting back to some kind of COVID-normal life.
More than 80.5 per cent have received at least a first dose, with the ACT and NSW leading the nation in both categories.
On Wednesday night, NSW’s new premier took to Facebook to celebrate his state reaching the 70 per cent threshold to relax some restrictions.
Western Australia and Queensland are the only states languishing below 50 per cent double-dose coverage.
South Australia is at 52.4 per cent two-dose coverage, while Victoria is at 54.5 per cent.
Here’s a look at what else is happening around the states in lockdown.
With NSW’s 70 per cent COVID-19 vaccination target reached and more freedoms only days away, clarity on the rules for businesses amid the reopening is sorely lacking, the opposition says.
New Premier Dominic Perrottet confirmed in a Facebook post on Wednesday afternoon the state had reached the milestone that will trigger the easing of some restrictions on Monday.
From Monday, shops and hairdressers will also reopen to the fully vaccinated and the five kilometres-from-home travel limit will be ditched.
But NSW Labor says it is fielding questions from businesses that are still confused about their responsibilities.
Leader Chris Minns called for the government to urgently provide business with more clarity.
“What’s the protocol and procedure for business?” he said.
“What are the rules that will be in place to make sure that they’ve got the tools they need to make sure that their place of business is safe, their employees are protected and that their customers are able to come into their shop?”
Member for Murray Helen Dalton says she has also fielded calls from confused constituents.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP says many workers in regional NSW are unsure if they can attend work when the state re-opens on Monday following mixed vaccination messaging from the government.
Former premier Gladys Berejiklian had said all regional NSW staff would need to be fully vaccinated to return to work on October 11, Ms Dalton said.
But she said she had been inundated with confused callers after the government said workers were required to have only one vaccine dose.
“I’m in the same boat as everyone else. The NSW government can’t even tell me which of my own electorate office staff are allowed to work,” she said.
Mr Perrottet said he would be discussing the matter at crisis cabinet that evening.
Also on the agenda for the crisis cabinet meeting was potential changes to the state’s roadmap out of lockdown.
But Mr Perrottet remained coy on exactly what changes might be on the table.
The new premier also plans to rename the crisis cabinet to give it a more hopeful tone ahead of the reopening and will ditch the daily 11am press conferences.
The state reported 594 new locally-acquired cases and 10 more deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.
Authorities are racing to identify all vulnerable young patients who were exposed to a COVID-19 outbreak at a Melbourne children’s hospital cancer ward.
A patient’s parent spent at least four days at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville while infectious, with the exposure period stretching from October 1 to October 4.
A hospital spokeswoman said contact tracing was still underway on Wednesday night, and as a result these dates may change.
The hospital’s Kookaburra cancer care ward has been identified as a tier one exposure site, and its main street walkway has been listed as a tier two site for September 26.
RCH chief executive Bernadette McDonald said all affected patients, parents or carers have been placed into single rooms at the hospital to quarantine for 14 days, with contact tracing for all others underway.
No children in the cancer ward had tested positive as of Wednesday evening, but the hospital has 12 COVID-positive patients in its care, four in other wards and eight being treated at home.
Ms McDonald said some children are turning up to the hospital with other illnesses or injuries and then testing positive for COVID.
But she said: “We’re not seeing extreme illness in children.”
It comes as Victoria recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic’s third wave, after 11 people were reported to have died with COVID-19 on Wednesday. The state also reported 1420 new locally acquired cases.
The state government has announced Victorians stranded in the ACT and NSW will be able to return home as border restrictions eased overnight.
Areas considered red zones in NSW and the ACT have been downgraded to orange zones, allowing residents and non-residents to enter Victoria if they take a test within 72 hours of arrival and isolate until receiving a negative result. Extreme risk zone classifications for locked-down areas such as Greater Sydney have been downgraded to red.
Meanwhile, the principal of a school in Melbourne’s north has been stood down after it was revealed he had who repeatedly invited parents to send their children to school during lockdown.
The Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) has temporarily suspended Fitzroy Community School principal Timothy Berryman’s teaching registration, pending an investigation.
The Age reports that the VIT is the third authority to probe child safety standards at the small alternative school since the paper revealed the breaches of public-health orders.
Mr Berryman is the son of school founder Faye Berryman who last month defended the school’s choice to have children on campus during lockdown.
“We are not lunatic fringe, we are pretty conservative, deeply-thinking people,” she said, reading a statement through a window at the school,” Ms Berryman told ABC.
“Children’s emotional wellbeing, their feeling of insecurity, the unpredictable long-term psychological danger of raising them under a mantle of fear are the price we pay for not having children at school.”
Mr Berryman, a vocal critic of school closures during lockdowns, had reportedly invited all families to keep sending children into classrooms during Victoria’s fifth lockdown in July, until a visit from health officials prompted a change of heart.
In the ACT, the impact the virus has on children has again hit home for parents after a baby became one of the state’s latest cases hospitalised for COVID-19.
The baby is in the special care nursery at Canberra’s Centenary Hospital, with investigations continuing into how the virus was acquired.
On Wednesday, Canberra recorded its sixth death from the most recent outbreak, a woman in her 70s who was receiving end-of-life care at an aged care facility in Canberra’s north.
Meanwhile, the ACT’s health minister has hit out at the federal government for not mandating COVID-19 vaccines for disability support workers.
Rachel Stephen-Smith said she was extremely disappointed with Prime Minister Scott Morrison for not making the mandate issue an item on the agenda for upcoming national cabinet meetings.
It comes as the ACT is investigating options for mandating COVID vaccines for the sector, as the territory gets set to come out of lockdown.
“I think it’s really disappointing it hasn’t been prioritised as an item for national cabinet by the prime minister, he hasn’t asked the AHPPC (peak health advisory body) to bring this back,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“It reflects an ongoing attitude to support people with disabilities in response to the COVID pandemic by the Commonwealth government that continues to be extremely disappointing where they are not taking up their responsibilities.”
The ACT is already set to require frontline healthcare workers, such as those in hospitals, hospices and ambulance, to be fully vaccinated by December 1.
ACT health officials are considering what options they had available to lift the vaccination rates of disability support workers.
Ms Stephen-Smith said some challenges remained such as how public health directions could be applied to disability support workers who administer care at someone’s home.
The territory government outlined in its latest budget, handed down on Wednesday, that $90 million would be spent on the ACT’s COVID response.
Of that, $22.5 million would go towards the vaccine rollout for the 2021/22 financial year, while $65 million would be spent on managing the impact of the virus, such as through funding for contact tracing teams, testing and additional cleaning.
Meanwhile, the ACT has become the first Australian jurisdiction to have 95 per cent of its eligible residents receive their first COVID vaccine dose.
The latest figures show 68.8 per cent of residents aged over 16 are fully vaccinated.
The health minister said she expected the ACT to reach its 70 per cent fully vaccinated threshold in a matter of days.
Canberra’s lockdown, now in its ninth week, is set to end on October 15.