The Federal Government yesterday extended the international travel ban for Australian’s for another three months, due to concerns over the control of the virus variants overseas.
The biosecurity emergency period, which has been in place since 17 March 2020, will now continue until 17 June 2021.
It extends emergency determinations such as pre-departure testing and mask-wearing for international flights, restrictions on the entry of cruise vessels within Australian territory, restrictions on outbound international travel for Australians, and restrictions on trade of retail outlets at international airports.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly advised that the COVID-19 situation overseas “continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants”.
“The extension of the emergency period for a further three months is about mitigating that risk for everyone’s health and safety,” Mr. Hunt said.
The Cruise Lines International Association said it would continue to advocate strongly for a phased and controlled return to domestic cruising following the government’s decision to continue its year-long biosecurity ban.
Meantime, the government has also announced that GPs to start receiving and administering COVID-19 vaccines this month.
Professor Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Health said in the week beginning March 22, general medical practices will start receiving vials of the vaccine.
Approximately 4600 GPs will receive the vials for the purpose of inoculating the most vulnerable members of the community, primarily those aged 70 and over.
More than 70,000 vaccinations have been administered across Australia. The first jab was administered on February 21, with the rollout well and truly underway across Australia.
Professor Murphy said it was a huge logistical operation, but thousands of Australians had already received a dose.
“We’ve seen well over 70,000 vaccinations, 241 residential aged care facilities and disability care facilities have been vaccinated, with well over 20,000 residents,” he said.
“They’re protected with their first dose now – that is a fantastic thing.”
Professor Murphy also allayed fears over whether Australians receive the Pfizer vaccine or the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“All of the data, particularly coming out of the UK and other places is showing that these two vaccines are both equally excellent, particularly in all age groups.
“We’ll get a lot more of the AstraZeneca vaccine. That’s the one I’m going to have, and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
Edited by Joe Cusmano