News Coronavirus Leaders to meet to discuss Omicron threat

Leaders to meet to discuss Omicron threat

Scott Morrison
China has accused Scott Morrison of double standards after he joined social media app TikTok. Photo: AAP
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Scott Morrison will meet state and territory leaders for an emergency national cabinet meeting, amid rising COVID-19 cases across the country.

Leaders will meet on Tuesday for an update on the Omicron variant as cases mount in NSW and Victoria.

National cabinet was initially not scheduled to reconvene until early next year.

The prime minister said leaders needed to fine tune approaches to Omicron as more became known about the new variant.

But Mr Morrison urged states and territories not to bring back restrictions on travel ahead of Christmas.

“We would urge (state and territory leaders) be calm, and consistent messages be given about travel arrangements and the requirements,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Monday.

“It’s not unusual we would be meeting more regularly with Omicron being where it is.

“When we last met, we made some decisions, and it’s a good opportunity to update on all of that before Christmas.”

Experts are warning of a surge in cases in Australia during the Christmas and New Year period due to interstate travel and large gatherings.

NSW recorded 2501 new daily cases, with 261 people in hospital. Of those, 33 are in intensive care.

Victoria reported 1302 additional infections. The state has 406 people in hospital including 81 in intensive care.

South Australia recorded 105 new infections, while there were 59 in Queensland. The ACT recorded 13 cases and Tasmania three.

Three new infections were also confirmed in the Northern Territory as it extended a lockdown in the town of Tennant Creek until Wednesday.

It has also opened to fully vaccinated travellers and has scrapped quarantine requirements for arrivals.

Labor deputy leader Richard Marles accused the coalition government of leaving Australia behind other nations when it came to booster shots.

“Scott Morrison has stuffed up the rollout of the vaccine initially this year, now we’re seeing it happen again with the booster,” he said.

“The Omicron variant, obviously, creates another dimension to needing to deal with the virus and I think it’s going to continue to throw challenges up for us.”

More than one million people have already received their COVID-19 booster shot, with take up growing as Omicron cases increase.

The decision to reduce the gap between second and third doses to five months means up to four million people will be eligible for a booster this year.

The prime minister maintained Australia had enough boosters to meet demand, with 13 million doses in the country.

“There was some pressure, but that’s been overcome now and people will be able to get on and (get their booster) over the course of the summer break,” he said.

Mr Morrison played down the prospect of states and territories bringing back harsher pandemic measures as is happening in Europe.

Masks will be mandatory indoors in Tasmania from Tuesday.

Queensland has mandated masks in hospitals and retail shops considered essential, but recommends people wear them elsewhere indoors.

NSW is resisting calls to tighten its pandemic response including bringing back masks indoors.

Premier Dominic Perrottet says it’s a matter of “personality responsibility”.