Australian Government says Omicron COVID variant appears ‘manageable’, border pause only temporary


Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says the government’s “overwhelming view” is that the Omicron variant is “manageable” and that advice is that it may be milder than other variants.

Mr Hunt said the government’s decision to pause planned easing of border restrictions for international students and other eligible visa holders was done out of an “abundance of caution”.

Wednesday’s planned partial border reopening has been pushed back until December 15.

“All of this is done on the presumption that we will recommence from 15 December, but medical advice will guide our decision-making throughout,” Mr Hunt said.

“We’re doing this out of an abundance of caution but our overwhelming view is that while it’s an emerging variant, it’s a manageable variant.”

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the five people who had tested positive to the Omicron variant in Australia were experiencing “mild or, in fact, no disease”.

However, he said, there were still many unknowns about the variant.

Australia hits 80% vaccination target


Australia has passed another vaccine milestone, with more than 80 per cent of residents over 16 now fully vaccinated against coronavirus, as Victoria recorded 1268 new cases and seven deaths from the virus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked those who had been involved in the “extraordinary effort” to drive up the vaccination rate, saying it will allow the country to remain safely open.

“That’s four out of every five [Australians vaccinated]. How good is that?” he said in a video posted to Facebook.

“This has been a true national effort: in cities and suburbs and towns, in hospitals and pharmacies, in aged care facilities, disability homes.

“Australians haven’t just kept themselves safe, we’ve kept each other safe over these two years. I know it’s felt like a long journey, and that’s because it has been. But together, we’ve saved well over 30,000 lives.”

Around 36 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered across the country.

Returning Australians touch down in Sydney as COVID-19 restrictions on international flights are eased


Tearful reunions have returned at Sydney Airport for the first time in 20 months with landing Australians able to hug relieved family and friends waiting to greet them.

From this morning, hotel quarantine and the cap on arrivals have been scrapped for fully vaccinated travellers.

Fourteen international flights are expected to land in Sydney today.

One of the first passengers to land was desperate to see his sick mother.

“I am really scared and emotional because I really want to see my mum because the doctors say she hasn’t got long,” he told reporters.

Passengers are required to take a COVID-19 test before boarding and again upon landing.

Priority has been given to Australian citizens and permanent residents and their immediate families.

The borders are not yet open to overseas tourists and international students.

“Today Sydney has reopened Australia to the world,” NSW Jobs, Investment and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said.

“It is so great to be here in the arrivals hall seeing the smiles on people’s faces, the heartfelt, warm embraces of family members reuniting for the first time in many months.”

Melbourne bids farewell to COVID-19 lockdown and the controversial curfew


Victoria has finally downed one of the bluntest and most controversial public health tools used during the pandemic.

As of today, the lockdown has lifted from Melbourne, and along with it, the curfew.

There are hopes the measures will not be needed again any time soon in a highly vaccinated population.

With the eased restrictions come a raft of returned freedoms, including dine-in hospitality, more outdoor activities and limited household visits.

Counts of days spent under lockdown vary, but most find Melburnians have now spent the longest period under COVID-19 lockdown as any city in the world.

But while the usefulness of lockdown in curbing movement and preventing a catastrophic overwhelming of health systems has been broadly accepted, the curfew has remained a controversial measure.

Western Sydney residents enjoy ‘Freedom Day’ after months of harsher lockdown restrictions


They’ve suffered more than most during NSW’s lockdown, but excited Western Sydney residents have today been out in force, enjoying their new freedoms.

After 106 days in lockdown, queues of shoppers counted down the final minutes of the Sydney lockdown while waiting in line outside Kmart stores in Casula and Mount Druitt.

Retail shops, restaurants, pubs and hairdressers were permitted to reopen on the stroke of midnight to customers fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Subjected to harsher restrictions than the rest of Sydney, residents of the 12 local government areas (LGAs) of concern endured nighttime curfews and strict limits on how far they could travel.

NSW Premier Dominic Perottet said the Canterbury-Bankstown area and Western Sydney would continue to be monitored but he hoped today’s reopening conveyed a message of unity.

Queensland records zero local cases of COVID-19, one in hotel quarantine, as state reaches 70% first-dose mark


Queensland has recorded zero locally acquired cases of COVID-19, with just one case detected in hotel quarantine.

It comes after a passenger who flew into Queensland without a valid border pass tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

Queensland Health announced the Brisbane Airport as a close contact site over the weekend, after a person from New South Wales landed at the domestic terminal on Saturday morning.

“They’re no risk to the community here, but the airport itself is an exposure site around that gate,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.

Queensland has not recorded a locally acquired cases since October 5, with parts of the state’s south-east and Townsville easing some restrictions last Friday.

There have been 6,825 COVID tests over the past 24 hours, with 21,712 vaccines administered yesterday, meaning Queensland today passed the 70 per cent mark for over-16s who have received their first jab.

Queensland records no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 as vaccination push in regional areas steps up


Queensland has recorded no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants a number of regions to pick up their lagging vaccination rates.

Ms Palaszczuk said today’s results were “unbelievable” and thanked Queenslanders for doing the “right thing”.

But the Premier once more refused to be drawn on how quickly state borders would reopen when Queensland reaches 80 per cent double vaccination target.

So far, of eligible Queenslanders, 48.89 per cent have received both vaccine doses and 67.76 per cent have received their first.

New South Wales Australia sees ‘dramatic drop’ in COVID cases, with 667 new cases and 10 deaths


New South Wales has recorded a “dramatic drop” in COVID-19 cases, with 667 infections and 10 deaths as the state announced an easing of self-quarantine rules for the fully vaccinated.

The cases recorded in the latest reporting period were the lowest since August 19 and were cautiously celebrated by Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

“It’s quite a dramatic drop,” he said.

“All the hard work that we have done … to have gone from 1,599 cases just three weeks ago to 667 cases today has taken a lot of hard work.

Australian border to reopen for first time in pandemic


Australia will reopen its international border from November, giving long-awaited freedoms to vaccinated citizens and their relatives.

Since March 2020, Australia has had some of the world’s strictest border rules – even banning its own people from leaving the country.

The policy has been praised for helping to suppress Covid, but it has also controversially separated families.

“It’s time to give Australians their lives back,” PM Scott Morrison said.

Australia has recorded more than 1,300 deaths from Covid-19 and more than 107,000 cases of infection.

People would be eligible to travel when their state’s vaccination rate hit 80%, Mr Morrison told a press briefing on Friday.

Travel would not immediately be open to foreigners, but the government said it was working “towards welcoming tourists back to our shores”.