Australia is well on the way to reopening to the world as the nation nears a crucial vaccine milestone, with 80 per cent of the population receiving their first dose.
The country is days away from passing the milestone of 30 million jabs, with four million vaccines administered in the past fortnight alone.
It all but guarantees the country will also see 80 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – the threshold for reopening the nation’s international border.
States and territories will access the new freedoms at different times, with vaccination coverage and home quarantine programs varying across jurisdictions.
It comes as national cabinet has endorsed a plan to start third-dose and booster vaccines later this year, subject to advice from ATAGI.
ATAGI says it is reviewing international data on the efficacy, effectiveness and safety of additional doses for specific high-risk patients and the general population.
A third dose is defined as that required by certain high-risk individuals, such as the immunocompromised, as part of their primary course to reach a comparable level of protection.
A booster dose is for the population at large to optimise protection due to immunity waning over time.
“ATAGI anticipates that additional booster doses for other populations may be required in the future,” an ATAGI statement says.
More than 79 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while about 56 per cent have been fully inoculated against the virus.
New South Wales recorded 813 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections and 10 deaths on Saturday, while there were 1488 infections and two deaths in Victoria, where protesters again took to the streets of Melbourne.
Another 52 new cases were reported in the ACT on Saturday — equalling the record high for the territory.
Fears of a postponement or relocation of Sunday’s NRL grand final have begun easing, with Queensland reporting just two cases on Saturday, both linked to existing clusters.
There were two cases reported in South Australia – one a historical hotel quarantine infection – and none in Western Australia.
On Saturday evening, Tasmania reported a male teenager who had flown into Launceston from Melbourne had tested positive to the virus.
He is currently isolated and in quarantine along with his family close contacts.
The construction industry that was shut down in Melbourne, Geelong and Mitchell is preparing to reopen on Monday, two weeks after tradies were forced to put tools down.
Victoria reported 1488 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, the state’s highest ever daily increase.
Two men aged in their 60s died — from Hume and the Mornington Peninsula.
There are 429 people in Victorian hospitals with the virus, a rise of 34 on Friday, with 97 people in ICU and 54 requiring a ventilator.
Among the new cases is a contracted service provider at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation in Broadmeadows, the Australian Border Force confirmed.
Contact tracing, quarantining, testing and deep cleaning is underway at the facility, which as of June housed 239 people.
It is unclear how many of those have been vaccinated, with an ABF official saying “consenting detainees” had been offered the jab since a vaccine rollout began at the facility in early August.
Meanwhile, state treasurer Tim Pallas announced $196.6 million in cash grants for 70,000 businesses in Melbourne, Geelong and Mitchell impacted by the construction shutdown from September 21 to October 4.
There were 71 new cases reported in regional Victoria, as Shepparton and Moorabool begin their first day under a week-long lockdown to contain growing cases in those areas.
Shepparton’s active cases grew by 10 to 34 on Saturday, while Moorabool recorded another two cases bringing its total to 32.
NSW residents are being warned to remain vigilant and not fall into the trap of disregarding COVID-19 restrictions while enjoying the NRL grand final as Sydney recorded 100 days in lockdown.
Although the rugby league decider is being held out of state in Queensland for the first time, Sydney fans will be buoyed by the fact two of their own teams are contesting the event — South Sydney and Penrith.
However, with daily cases remaining stubbornly high, NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty has urged supporters not to drop their guard against the virus.
“I hope everyone enjoys the game but in order to remind people to continue to follow the safety rules … social gatherings are not permitted,” he told reporters on Saturday.
“Because you run the risk of spreading the virus … the number of fully vaccinated adults who can gather outdoors remains limited to five.”
The state reported 813 new locally acquired virus COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths on Saturday.
The ACT’s roadmap out of lockdown remains intact for now at least, despite consecutive days of COVID-19 case highs.
The territory recorded 52 new infections on both Friday and Saturday.
Thirty of the latest batch have been linked to known outbreaks while 22 are under investigation.
Ten of the 52 cases were in quarantine, the status of 13 remains unknown and 29 were circulating in the community for at least part of their infectious period.
Health chief Dr Kerryn Coleman said while she’s not a betting person, she was still reasonably confident the territory would be able to reopen as scheduled in mid October.