News National Doherty Institute’s change in advice for reopening Australia at vaccine milestones

Doherty Institute’s change in advice for reopening Australia at vaccine milestones

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Australia should maintain “medium” restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders, and ban travel during concerning outbreaks even after reaching 70 per cent full vaccination, according to the Doherty Institute’s analysis of its own modelling.

The updated advice was presented to National Cabinet on Friday as state and territory leaders remain at loggerheads about when is the right time to open up to the virus.

The “sensitivity analysis” of the modelling found that even after reaching the key milestone of 70 per cent double dose, it would be “prudent” to maintain restrictions in areas of concern where there are thousands of cases per day.

The medium restrictions include stay-at-home orders except for work, study or other essential purposes, capacity restrictions at public venues and group size limits.

Under the national plan, restrictions can begin to ease when 70 per cent of the adult population is fully jabbed, and more freedoms would be introduced at 80 per cent double dose.

The latest analysis of the modelling follows Queensland and Western Australia remaining reluctant to open to other states like NSW which has committed to the 70 per cent freedom target.

Victoria is expected to announce its roadmap to reopening on Sunday which The Age reports is expected to include crowds returning to Melbourne sporting events by November and a “no jab, no entry” policy for major events, restaurants or pubs.

Enjoying a picnic in Sydney after restrictions were lifted on Monday. Photo: AAP

Also at National Cabinet, it’s been reported that all states and territories have agreed on the process for vaccine passports which will be used as proof when attending venues in the future.

A person’s vaccine status will be included in their check-in apps, meaning the apps will act as vaccine passports, the ABC reports.

Australia tipped over a key milestone on Friday with 70 per cent of the country having received one dose of a Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine.

Meanwhile the first shipment of 345,000 doses of the nation’s third vaccine, Moderna, arrived on the Friday night, with a second batch expected soon after — totalling 1 million doses.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Moderna doses meant more GP clinics would be able to administer the vaccine to the public.

“These are very important because they simply provide not only more vaccines, but more points of access for Australians everywhere,” the minister said.

“My hope is that everybody who has not yet taken the vaccine will come forward over the coming days and weeks and there is sufficient vaccine for every Australian before the end of October, if not slightly earlier.”

Pallets of the first shipment of the Moderna vaccine as it arrives in Australia. Photo: AAP

Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws said the new vaccine would be crucial to lifting the vaccination rate of young Australians.

“The young who have been placed at the back of the queue can actually get Moderna into themselves very fast, and they can be doing it for Pfizer as well,” she told ABC.

“I’m really pleased for Australians to get Moderna, because it doesn’t need ultra-cold storage, which basically means that GPs can roll it out easily, pharmacies can roll it out.”

While Australia is now at 70.5 per cent of over 16s with one dose, the figures for young age groups remain significantly lower, with just 22 per cent of 25 to 29-year-olds and 19 per cent of 20 to 24-year-olds being fully vaccinated.

Travel changes

Kuta’s Beach Walk Mall where restrictions have been relaxed. Photo: Getty

Indonesia may allow foreign tourists to start returning to the popular resort island of Bali and other parts of the country by October after a sharp slide in COVID-19 cases, senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan says.

South Korea, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, are among countries the government is considering accepting foreign nationals from first, given the low virus spread in those nations, he said.

The Southeast Asian nation intends to move cautiously to reopen its borders following a devastating second virus wave, driven by the Delta variant.

Meanwhile England has set out measures to boost international travel, abandoning expensive COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers, scrapping its traffic light system and adding eight countries to its safe list.

From October 4, there will be a single red list of countries from where travellers to England must stay in a government-supervised hotel.

People who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations, and from later in the month will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.

It comes as NSW will trial home-quarantine in a bid to rapidly scale-up international arrivals, with the premier saying stranded citizens could be home by Christmas.

The test run, announced by the state government on Friday, involves 175 vaccinated people quarantining at home for seven days, monitored by geolocation and facial-recognition technology.

If successful, it is expected the NSW government would move to rapidly scale-up the program to allow many more international arrivals.

Hotel quarantine arrangements would remain for unvaccinated people under the plan.

The Business Council of Australia has welcomed the plan, saying the nation needs to get rid of bottlenecks, such as hotel quarantine, that stop Australians returning home and prevent skilled workers entering the country.

“We urge all state and territory leaders to follow the NSW example, put the nation first and start planning to re-join the rest of the world,” BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said in a statement.

Lockdown protest

Victoria’s police force will embark on its biggest operation in two decades to quash a Melbourne anti-lockdown protest, as “picnic day” arrives for pandemic-fatigued residents.

The Melbourne CBD will effectively be turned into a no-go zone for Saturday’s planned rally, with most public transport to and from the city suspended and a “ring of steel” erected around its fringe.

Authorised workers and those with COVID-19 vaccination bookings at two city-based hubs will need to show proof to board limited buses and pass through checkpoints from 8am to 2pm.

The partial public transport shutdown was made at the request of police after 4000 people attended a violent anti-lockdown protest on August 21.

Some 2000 officers will be deployed during Saturday’s operation, which will involve road checkpoints, barricades and roving patrols.

Chief Commissioner Shane Patton previously labelled it the biggest Victoria Police operation since the 2000 World Economic Forum was held in Melbourne.

Organisers have flagged the protest will be moved, with a new location set to be revealed on Saturday morning.

-with AAP