Australia’s Prime Minister has announced mandatory vaccinations for certain sectors and said that the AstraZeneca vaccine is now available to those under 60, as Covid cases rise in the country.
The Australian national cabinet met on Monday to discuss containment and vaccination policies. Sydney is witnessing an outbreak of the Delta variant and new cases of the virus have been reported in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. This marks the first time in months that the virus had simultaneously emerged in different parts of the country.
Less than 5 per cent of the Australian population is fully vaccinated, with just 1.2 million people having received both jabs.
Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said that the national cabinet had agreed to make it mandatory for residential aged care workers to have the coronavirus vaccine. To enable this to happen, he also announced an AUD$11mn (£6mn) grant programme to pay for leave for aged care staff to get vaccinated.
He said that this would allow the staff the time needed to go and receive their jab, as well as any time required to recover from “discomfort” caused by the vaccination. Staff in the residential aged care homes will be expected to have at least one dose of the vaccine by mid-September.
Similarly, he announced that it will now be mandatory for all quarantine workers in Australia to be vaccinated, although this guidance will be the responsibility of individual states rather than a national mandate.
Mr Morrison also said that all returning travellers must now be tested for coronavirus two to three days after leaving their 14-day hotel quarantine. Close contacts of those leaving the hotel quarantine must also be tested.
These tests are in addition to the numerous tests that are conducted during the quarantine period. They are intended to ensure that no asymptomatic or late-onset coronavirus cases escape the national testing regime.
Mr Morrison added that travellers needing to quarantine would now be separated based on their risk profiles. Australian travellers crossing domestic borders where quarantine restrictions are in place should be kept separate from those returning from abroad, to ensure that they do not catch the virus from the higher risk international travellers, he said.
And finally, he announced that anyone under 40 who was not yet eligible for a Pfizer vaccine could go to their GP and receive the AstraZeneca vaccine instead, with their doctor’s approval.
He said that the national cabinet had agreed to implement a new no-fault indemnity scheme for GPs who administer Covid vaccinations — including GPs who agree to vaccinate those under 60 with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
While current guidance from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation expresses a preference for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be used among those 60 and older, he said: “The advice does not preclude persons under 60 from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine”.
And added: “And so if you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to go and have that discussion with your GP”.
He confirmed that this meant those under 40 could go to their GP and receive the AstraZeneca vaccine immediately — until today, only those aged 40 and above had been eligible to book a vaccine.
More than five million residents in Sydney are currently under a 14-day stay-at-home order, and more than 18 million people, or 70 per cent of the Australian population are under some form of coronavirus restrictions.
To date, the country has recorded 30,528 Covid cases and 910 deaths throughout the pandemic.
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