WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17
Australia will send 8,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine supply to Papua New Guinea, in response to a worsening outbreak of the virus in the country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed this today as he described the outbreak in PNG as presenting a “very real risk” to Australia.
He said, as a result, a number of restrictions will be brought in.
From midnight tonight all passenger flights from PNG to Cairns will be suspended for a fortnight, with authorities to reassess the situation after that time.
All charter flights from the country to Australia will also be suspended, apart from limited exemptions such as medevac and other critical flights.
All outbound travel exemptions by Australians to PNG will be suspended, unless you are an essential worker. FIFO workers will not be included in the list of exempted parties.
Australia will also be offering more medical support to the neighbouring country, with more medical supplies and vaccines to be shipped out from next week.
The federal government will also contact AstraZeneca and European authorities, seeking access to 1 million doses of the vaccine which are already on order, with the aim of sending them to PNG.
Further medical support will also be made available, including masks, gowns, gloves, ventilators and sanitiser.
In other COVID news, online bookings are now being taken for Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, with appointments available from next Monday.
Phase 1B will include anyone 70 years or over, along with more healthcare and frontline workers, and people with particular medical conditions.
Roughly 1,000 GP clinics will be able to start vaccinations from Monday, and the government says that figure will climb to 4,000 by the end of April.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said about 200,000 people had been vaccinated so far, but the program would now accelerate.
“This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online,” he said.
Bookings can be made online through the vaccine eligibility checker on the health.gov.au website.
People are required to step through the checker before they are given an option to see participating GPs.
However, many GPs listed on the site offer only the option for phone bookings.
Under the government’s vaccine rollout, 678,000 people are to receive vaccinations in Phase 1A.
This group includes border, quarantine, health and aged care workers, and aged care residents.
Phase 1B — the second group for which bookings can be made now — includes Australians 70 or over, Indigenous Australians 55 or over and younger Australians with underlying medical conditions.
The latter group totals more than 6 million people.
The government intends all Australians to be offered an initial vaccine dose by the end of October.
Prince Philip has been discharged from hospital in London and was seen leaving by car after a four-week stay and a heart operation.
The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, was admitted to King Edward VII’s private hospital in Marylebone a month ago after feeling “unwell”.
Buckingham Palace initially said it was just a “precautionary measure” but the Queen’s husband, who turns 100 in June, ended up facing his longest-ever hospital stay.
The Duke was treated for an infection and was transferred to a specialist cardiac unit at the state-run St Bartholomew’s Hospital for heart procedure before returning to King Edward VII.
“His Royal Highness wishes to thank all the medical staff who looked after him at both King Edward VII’s Hospital and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and everyone who has sent their good wishes,” said a statement from the Palace.
Staff were seen setting up a white, folding screen next to a black BMW at the rear of the hospital on Tuesday morning before Philip was walked to the vehicle and helped into the backseat.
The Duke of Edinburgh looked wan but was dressed smartly in a white shirt as he departed, it is believed heading to Windsor Castle to join the Queen.
It is his longest-ever stay in hospital, and comes after a series of health issues in recent years.
After a “successful procedure” for his pre-existing heart problem at St Barts, one of the country’s leading specialist cardiac centres, Philip returned to King Edward VII’s ten days ago.
Camilla Parker-Bowles said at the time that the prince was “slightly improving” but his treatment for an infection and pre-existing heart condition “hurts at moments”.
Prince Charles was able to visit his father, looking sombre as he left, despite reports that the Queen and other royals would only be allowed inside during “exceptional circumstances” due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Prince Edward said last month that he had spoken to his father on the phone and he was “looking forward to getting out”.
Prince Harry reportedly rang the Queen to ask after his grandfather and was quarantining in California in preparation to fly back at a moment’s notice should Philip’s condition worsen.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s health scare has coincided with the blow-up in the royal family, with Harry and wife Meghan making bombshell revelations of racism and a lack of care in their CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey. There were even calls to delay the interview out of respect for his condition.
Philip retired from public duties in 2017 and rarely appears in public after completing more than 22,000 solo events and thousands more alongside the Queen. He is now by far the longest-serving consort of any British monarch.
Outgoing federal government MP Nicolle Flint has broken down in tears on the floor of Parliament while describing the harassment and stalking she has endured during her time in politics, and calling for the safety of women to be “above politics”.
The member for the marginal South Australian electorate of Boothby last month announced she was quitting politics at the next election.
Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening, Ms Flint criticised her political opponents, including Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and lobby group GetUp, which launched a push to unseat her during the last election.
She used a well-known phrase previously used by former prime minister Julia Gillard, as she denounced Mr Albanese for his recent comments on sexism.
“I say to the Leader of the Opposition, I will not be lectured by you, I will not be lectured by your side of politics about the treatment of women in this place,” she said.
On Monday, the Labor leader condemned Prime Minister Scott Morrison for refusing to attend the March 4 Justice protest against gendered violence and for telling Parliament it was a triumph that protesters outside Parliament House were not “met with bullets”.
But Ms Flint started to cry as she accused Mr Albanese of crawling “down into the gutter” with his criticism of the Coalition.
“The safety of women in this place, of female staff and female MPs and senators should be above politics,” she said.
“The need to change the culture of our parties and of this place should be above politics.”
The second-term MP has been vocal about the treatment she has faced since entering federal politics, including being targeted by a male stalker and having her campaign office defaced with graffitied words “skank” and “prostitute”.
During her speech to Parliament, she suggested the Opposition Leader and members of his frontbench should have openly defended her during the last election campaign.
“I ask the Leader of the Opposition, where was he and where was his predecessor and where were the senior Labor women when GetUp, Labor and the union supporters chased, harassed and screamed at me everywhere I went in the lead-up to the 2019 election?”
She started to cry again as she accused the Opposition of failing to support her.
“What I say to the Labor Party today is they may not have held the spray can to vandalise my office with sexist slurs, they may not have held the camera pointed at me by the stalker or called me evil in GetUp’s phone calls, but they did create the environment in which hate could flourish,” she said.
“I say to the Leader of the Opposition, this can’t be about politics anymore.
“We all bear the responsibility for change.”
Ms Flint’s electorate is held by the Liberals on a margin of just 1.4 per cent. While she is quitting politics, she has said she will continue to campaign on issues like endometriosis and stillbirth.
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