People wait in line at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing clinic at Mona Vale Hospital in Sydney, Australia. File/Reuters
Gulf Today Report
Australia may not fully reopen its international borders this year even if most of the population is vaccinated against coronavirus, Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy said on Monday.
Asked if the borders would re-open this year, Murphy, the head of its health department said, as the country recorded zero local COVID-19 cases, told the media, “It is a big open question. I think the answer is probably no.”
Australian authorities are also looking at potential adverse effects of the Pfizer vaccine after Norway reported a small number of deaths in old people who received the shot, according to Reuters.
People in hazardous material overalls are seen outside of a public housing tower in Melbourne, Australia. File/Reuters
“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” Brendan Murphy told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Australia, one of the few countries in the world to ban its citizens from leaving the country, has to start vaccinating the population next month. The vaccines available are proved to reduced illness and death but were not proven to stop the virus spreading
Australia, which has managed the coronavirus better than many other nations through targeted lockdowns and high rates of testing and contact tracing, reported zero local COVID-19 cases on Monday.
Victoria, which is hosting the Australian Open, reported four positive cases in overseas travellers, all associated with the tennis, taking the total to nine.
The cases have prompted authorities to send three Australian Open charter flights into hard quarantine, forcing more than 70 players into a 14-day hotel room isolation.
“I know that there’s been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules. Well, the rules apply to them as they apply to everybody else,” Victorian state Premier Daniel Andrews said, responding to player complains about the strict quarantine.
Members of the medical personnel are seen outside the Florence Aged Care Facility in Melbourne. File/Reuters
Australia has reported more than 22,000 local COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began.
The main COVID focus in Australia is currently in Sydney in the state of New South Wales (NSW), where an outbreak in Sydney’s west has prompted other states to impose travel restrictions on either all of NSW or people in outbreak suburbs.
NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would consider permitting venues to ban entry to people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Australia will begin its immunisation programme next month.
“Already airlines have indicated that if you’re not vaccinated you can’t travel overseas and I think that’ll be incentive to a lot of people,” Berejiklian told 2GB Radio.
“We’ll also consider whether we allow venues ... make up their own rules if they have a business or run a workplace about what they feel is COVID safe.”
Australian states imposed quarantine and hard border restrictions for travellers from New South Wales (NSW) state after an outbreak in Sydney in late December, throwing Christmas holiday plans of thousands of Australians into chaos.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the ban on anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident coming to Australia "will be in place from 9pm tomorrow evening".
The decision announced on Monday marks the first time the border between Victoria and New South Wales has been shut in 100 years. Officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.
Australia's biggest city is now in its seventh week of lockdown as the cluster hit 5,805 cases with 32 deaths to date. New South Wales state announced 356 new cases, a fresh record for a Delta-variant outbreak that began in mid-June.
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