TUESDAY, October 19
Seventy per cent of Australians aged 16 and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a national milestone in the government’s plan to reopen the country.
While vaccination rates differ between states, causing a staggered move to ease restrictions, the national rate has now reached the major target set by the government to begin moving out of the pandemic.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the milestone was a testament to Australians.
“I can officially confirm that Australia has now passed the 70 per cent double-dosed vaccination rate for the 16-plus population,” Mr Hunt said.
“To be precise, 70.007 per cent of Australians.
“It’s a memorable number, but it’s memorable above all else because it represents the movement at a national level to phase B of our national roadmap.”
Under the national roadmap, the move to phase B happens when the national average, as well as the average in a particular state or territory, has reached 70 per cent.
Lockdowns become less likely, restrictions are eased for fully vaccinated residents, international traveller caps are raised, and international students and other temporary visa holders are able to enter Australia.
It also marks the beginning of preparations to administer vaccine booster shots.
The details for booster shots are expected later this month.
*Novak Djokovic will not be allowed to enter Australia to compete in the Australian Open unless he is fully vaccinated, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says.
Djokovic has been refusing to say if he is vaccinated or not, and on Tuesday he conceded he did not know if he would be making the journey to Australia.
“Things being as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne,” Djokovic said.
“I will not reveal my status, whether I have been vaccinated or not. It is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.
“People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say, ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’, ‘I am thinking about it’, they will take advantage.”
On Wednesday morning Mr Hawke said Australia’s policy for incoming arrivals would also apply to international athletes.
“Our health advice is that when we open the borders everyone that comes to Australia will have to be double-vaccinated,” Mr Hawke said.
Djokovic has won the Australian Open a record nine times, including the last three times in a row.
He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 grand slam titles, and is one away from becoming the most decorated male player of all time.
On Tuesday, Djokovic suggested he would like to play in Melbourne but was waiting for more information on the regulations.
“Of course I want to go, Australia is my most successful grand slam tournament. I want to compete. I love this sport and I am still motivated,” Djokovic said.
“My manager, who is in contact with the Australian Tennis Federation, tells me they are trying to improve the conditions for everyone, both for those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.”
NSW recorded 283 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday.
The state also recorded 552 hospitalisations, with 124 people in ICU.
It is the third consecutive day with COVID-19 infections below 300 and the second day with hospitalisations under 600.
*The NSW government has announced a $530 million package to revitalise the pandemic-ravaged tourism industry as the state records another 283 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths.
NSW also recorded 552 hospitalisations, with 124 people in ICU.
It’s the third consecutive day with infections below 300 and its second day with hospitalisations under 600.
The state government also announced it would spend up to $530 million to provide every person in the state with a $50 voucher to spend on tourism accommodation.
The pilot program will run this year before vouchers are distributed statewide in March.
“This is all about turbo-charging our visitor economy,” NSW Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres said.
Mr Ayres said no sector had been hit harder during the pandemic than the tourism industry.
The government also allocated $60 million to a fund to attract airlines back to NSW.
Another $150 million will be allocated to support small, medium and large events in the city and in regional areas.
“This is about making sure that those events that might have fallen over in the last two years can get back on their feet,” Mr Ayres said.
NSW Health said it would resume non-urgent elective surgery at public and private facilities within Greater Sydney, including the Nepean Blue Mountains regions, from Monday, October 25.
*Victoria has recorded 1,841 new local COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths as the state moves closer to coming out of lockdown.
There are now 22,598 active cases of the virus in Victoria, and 175 people have died during the current Delta outbreak.
The new infections were detected from 78,928 test results received yesterday.
According to the latest Commonwealth vaccination numbers, 89.21 per cent of people aged 16+ in Victoria have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 69.28 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Restrictions will be eased in Victoria at 11:59pm on Thursday, after the state reaches the 70 per cent fully vaccinated milestone.
Call for early vaccine booster shots for health workers
The Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association wants vaccine booster shots to be approved for healthcare workers ahead of the federal government’s recommended schedule.
Australia’s vaccine advisory body ATAGI is yet to confirm when it will provide advice on boosters for essential workplaces.
But AMA Victoria’s president Roderick McRae said some healthcare workers would soon need more protection from the virus.
“The vaccine status of those healthcare workers in particular who have had those two booster doses, their protection against COVID-19 is waning,” he said.
“They should be looking after healthcare workers to ensure that they’re as protected as they possibly can be as they have made the decision to open up the community.”
The Queen has declined a magazine’s award of Oldie of the Year, saying “you are only as old as you feel”.
The 95-year-old “politely but firmly” turned down the award, but sent the Oldie magazine a message with her “warmest best wishes”.
The nation’s longest-reigning monarch, she is due to mark her Platinum Jubilee next year after 70 years as Queen.
Her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, was Oldie of the Year in 2011.
Author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, chairman of the awards, wrote to the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Edward Young, to ask if she would accept the title.
In a reply published in the magazine’s latest issue, her assistant private secretary, Tom Laing-Baker, said: “Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such The Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept, and hopes you will find a more worthy recipient.”
Two members of the gangland Hamze family, believed to be Salim Hamze and his father Toufik Hamze, were shot dead on Wednesday morning while sitting inside a parked ute outside a Guildford property.
Emergency crews were called to Osgood Street, Guildford, just before 9am following reports of a shooting.
Police found a red ute with two men inside.
Salim died at the scene and Toufik, who was fighting for life, died a short time later.
The deadly shooting comes just a few months after Bilal Hamze was shot dead in the heart of Sydney’s CBD.
Hamze, 34, was gunned down in a hail of bullets as he left an establishment on Bridge Street one night in June when persons opened fire from a black vehicle.
Hamze was the cousin of Brothers 4 Life founder Bassam Hamzy. He is the second member of the family to be shot dead since October.
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