News COVID update: Singapore opens quarantine-free travel to Australians
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COVID update: Singapore opens quarantine-free travel to Australians

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Another travel bubble is emerging for Australia, with Singapore confirming it will start accepting fully vaccinated Australians next month.

It’s also been confirmed that fully vaccinated Australians will no longer have to apply for travel exemptions to leave the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the exemption rule will be dropped from Wednesday, ahead of the resumption of international travel from November 1.

“Over half a million Australians have already been able to download the international vaccine certificate,” Mr Morrison told the Seven Network.

“We are very close now to the reciprocal arrangements with Singapore.”

The Singapore government has agreed that vaccinated Australians won’t have to quarantine after November 8.

Travellers will need a to take two tests, one before departing and another on arrival at Changi Airport.

They must self-isolate until their test result is confirmed as negative.

Singapore recently also opened travel for people from the US, Britain and Germany.

Tourism Minister Dan Tehan welcomed the news, saying Australians could expect more flights to be scheduled.

“That is welcome news for the Singapore tourism industry and for the Australian tourism industry – and for Australians wanting to return home,” Mr Tehan said.

It comes despite rising virus case numbers in Singapore, where 253 people have died of the coronavirus in the past month.

The country has had 25,000 cases in that period, according to Johns Hopkins University data, while just over 82 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, at least four states are gearing up for quarantine-free international arrivals as Australia is on track to hit the 80 per cent full COVID-19 vaccination mark within a week.

The latest forecast on covid19data.com.au has a best case scenario of 80 per cent – a target set by national cabinet for major changes to restrictions – being hit on November 2, which is Melbourne Cup day.

The federal health department’s latest data shows 74.1 per cent of Australians over 16 are fully vaccinated, with 87.1 per cent having received a first dose.

Now here’s a wrap of the other COVID news across Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

Victoria

The QR code check-in app Victorians use to register at cafes, shops and even playgrounds, will also be able to let them know if they have visited an exposure site.

An update to the Service Victoria app will mean it can notify people if they have visited a tier one exposure site, according to an update issued by the office of the chief health officer.

Previously, Victorians had to keep a close eye on government exposure site listings, which can run to hundreds of locations, or wait for health authorities to contact them directly.

“This new feature is another way Victorians can be aware if they have visited a tier one exposure site, allowing them to isolate faster to protect the community,” the update said.

Exposure sites named on Tuesday include:

  • The Coffee Club in Bendigo;
  • Pastry and Pieces Bakery in Sale;
  • Kiah Schoen Beauty in Traralgon;
  • Lovism Hair in Traralgon.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Melbourne’s north-west continue to fall after record growth in vaccination rates.

In the local government area of Hume, once the centre of the state’s COVID outbreak, about 70 per cent of people are fully vaccinated, up on 35 per cent four weeks ago.

The south-eastern LGAs of Greater Dandenong and Casey have overtaken Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs for new infections, and there are also an increasing number of cases in Albury and Wodonga on the Victoria-NSW border.

Victoria had 1510 COVID-19 cases and four deaths on Tuesday, bringing the toll from the state’s latest outbreak to 234.

About 90.8 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have had one COVID-19 vaccine dose while almost 76 per cent are fully vaccinated, paving the way for restrictions to ease further at 6pm on Friday.

It comes as the legislation giving the premier the power to declare a pandemic have been introduced to parliament.

The bill includes penalties for people or businesses who fail to comply with the rules despite knowing it would lead to a “serious risk” to the health of others.

Based on the proposed penalty units, individuals could face a jail sentence of two years or a $90,000 fine, while businesses could be fined more than $450,000.

The state opposition has described the proposed laws as “the most extreme, dangerous and excessive laws ever brought before our state”.

The bill is expected to pass the lower house with support from the crossbench when it is debated on Thursday.

NSW

A COVID outbreak continues to bubble away on the NSW border with Victoria, as the NSW premier hints that freedoms could be restored sooner than expected.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District had the second-highest number of cases in the state on Tuesday, accounting for 45 of 282 infections.

Some 40 were in the Albury local government area.

The Murrumbidgee district has recorded 393 cases and two deaths since the start of the Delta outbreak. Albury was the location of 301 of those cases.

The district’s daily case numbers have exceeded 40 for three consecutive days, after the surge began in earnest in mid-October.

With regional areas such as Albury soon to welcome back travellers from Sydney, Premier Dominic Perrottet has hinted other freedoms may also be restored soon.

Regional travel is slated to get the green light on November 1, after being delayed due to lagging vaccination numbers in the regions.

In Albury, vaccination numbers are below the state average – while more than 95 per cent of over-16s have received their first dose, 79.9 per cent were fully vaccinated by Sunday. That’s about five points below the state average.

Mr Perrottet said his COVID economic recovery committee would examine “aspects of the roadmap” this week.

“The vaccination rates have provided an opportunity to revisit some areas and we will look at that,” he said.

The state exceeded 12 million COVID-19 jabs on Tuesday.

Of the NSW residents aged 16 and over, 93.2 per cent have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 85.5 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated.

In the 12-15-year-old age group, 78 per cent have had their first dose and 53 per cent are fully vaccinated.

ACT

ACT health authorities have warned Canberrans not to use government COVID clinics if they require a negative test to travel interstate.

With Queensland set to reopen its borders next month, once the state hits 70 per cent fully vaccinated, travellers from Canberra will need a negative COVID test 72 hours before they arrive.

However, ACT Health said its large testing clinics were only for monitoring and managing COVID cases in Canberra and not for travel prerequisites.

“People should not attend an ACT government-run testing clinic unless they have symptoms of COVID, are a close or casual contact or a public health authority has asked them to be tested,” an ACT Health spokesman said.

“If people require a COVID-19 test prior to interstate travel, they should visit their GP and get a referral to a private pathology clinic.”

Queensland is the only state or territory where a negative COVID test will be required to enter.

Quarantine-free travel is expected to be in place in most states except Western Australia by Christmas, with jurisdictions requiring travellers to be fully vaccinated to enter.

ACT Health said there were no plans to scale back testing sites.

Health authorities in the capital are expected on Wednesday to provide a detailed epidemiological update for the COVID outbreak.

The ACT is inching closer to 90 per cent of its over 12s being fully vaccinated, with the double dose rate standing at 89.3 per cent.

There were 12 cases in the national capital on Tuesday, with an increase in testing numbers.

The number of COVID patients in hospital has fallen to 15, with nine of those in intensive care and nine on a ventilator.

-with AAP