News Coronavirus COVID: Hard borders come down despite Omicron spread

COVID: Hard borders come down despite Omicron spread

Everything you need to know about COVID-19 booster shots.
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It had been 229 days since Queensland put in a hard border to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Now the wait is over for locked-out residents – and for families and friends desperate to be reunited with loved ones.

As of 1am Monday (local time), the sunshine state has dropped entry restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and showing a negative PCR test.

In Western Australia, meanwhile, Premier Mark McGowan is set to announce a firm date for his state to reopen to the rest of the nation.

The federal government also looks likely to welcome international students and skilled workers on 15 December.

On the eve of Monday’s reopening, Queensland recorded one new case of COVID-19 in a traveller who arrived from Nigeria. That person is being tested to see if they have the new Omicron variant.

State and federal leaders were briefed by the chief health officer about the new variant at Friday’s national cabinet meeting and were told that it was more transmissible but likely less severe.

The emergence of Omicron has prompted health experts and leaders to ramp up calls for Australians to book in for a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has given approval to the Moderna vaccine as a booster shot for Australians aged 18 and over.

Like the other mRNA Pfizer booster vaccine, it can be used irrespective of what a person received for their primary course of vaccination.

ATAGI has also confirmed booster doses can be provided from five months after completion of the primary course.

This was previously recommended to be six months from a second dose.

Speaking in Melbourne after receiving his Moderna booster shot alongside Health Minister Greg Hunt, Health Secretary Brendan Murphy said booster shots would become “more important”.

“The Omicron variant is likely to spread around the world,” Professor Murphy said.

“It’s also very exciting that we now have Moderna as an alternative booster.”

The Moderna booster dosage is half that of the primary course dosage.

Mr Hunt and Professor Murphy had the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first two shots.

Mr Hunt said it didn’t matter whether you had Pfizer or Moderna as a booster shot.

“None of us think about the brand of our flu vaccine, we shouldn’t be thinking about the brand of our COVID vaccine,” Mr Hunt said.

The government will soon release a campaign to promote the booster shot in the run-up to Christmas and into the new year.

More than 670,000 Australians had already received more than two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Mr Hunt said Australia had 151 million vaccine doses that had been set aside for boosters.

“There’s enough for all Australians,” he said.

The announcement about the boosters being brought forward came as more Omicron cases were detected in Australia.

New South Wales recorded 485 new COVID-19 cases and two virus-related deaths.

Genomic testing into additional Omicron cases continues, with that state’s tally up to 45 as of Saturday.

There were 1069 new infections reported in Victoria and two deaths.

As of Saturday, Victorian authorities were responding to three existing Omicron infections.

South Australia added 10 infections to its COVID caseload, six of them close contacts and one which originated interstate, while the sources of the other three are still to be determined.

The Northern Territory counted three new cases in Katherine East and has introduced a 72-hour mask mandate for several communities where positive wastewater fragments have been detected.

The ACT recorded just one new infection.

Thousands heading to Queensland

The hard border that stopped people from “hotspots” including New South Wales and Victoria entering Queensland has come down on Monday morning.

Travellers may cross the border if they:

  • have had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine;
  • have a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to arriving in the state;
  • have a PCR test on day five after their arrival.

Travellers who do not meet those requirements and who come from places the Queensland government deems to be hotspots, must quarantine for 14 days.

The easing of border rules follows the state reaching the 80 per cent double dose vaccination milestone last week.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to travel north for the festive season in a much-needed boost for tourism.

While authorities have concerns over community transmission of the virus in the last week, police are confident their operations and border patrols are sufficient to deal with an influx of travellers.

“The current situation for COVID on the Gold Coast is one that we’ve been preparing for, for two years,” District Acting Chief Superintendent Rhys Wildman said on Friday.

“We are prepared and we are ready to deal with this and keep our community safe as we’ve done over the last nearly two years.”

Queensland Police will keep the same operations at five checkpoints on the NSW border, doing 100 per cent of compliance and border pass checks in quieter periods on the roads.

Border residents with ‘XV’ travel passes should expect stops from officers, police said, but those without should be prepared for officers to probe all required documentation.

-with AAP