#CoronavirusNewsDesk says here’s #COVID19 UPDATE: Victoria, Queensland confirm first cases of #Omicron as NT lifts Katherine lockdown — as it happened: More Just In
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Here are the key moments from Wednesday:
Get up to speed on all the coronavirus news from across Australia.
- Queensland has recorded its first cases of the Omicron variant
- The TGA has provisionally approved the Moderna booster shot for Australians aged 18 and over
- More than 1,900 WA government workers have failed to get vaccinated before the deadline set for them to receive the jab
- The Victorian government has reiterated that all players contesting next month’s Australian Open must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19
Catch up on all of Wednesday news as it happened on our blog.
That is all for the blog today
We have been given our cue to close the blog.
It has been another big day full of news and updates.
Thank-you to everyone who joined us throughout the day.
Until next time, stay safe and be well.
By court reporter Jamelle Wells
A group of NSW workers have had their appeal against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines thrown out.
The workers appealed against an October court ruling that upheld public health orders made by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, mandating vaccines for police, health and aged care workers, public school and preschool staff and construction workers.
The plaintiffs, from a range of industries, included construction worker Al-Munir Kassam and aged care worker Natasha Henry.
They sought to have the orders declared invalid, arguing they infringed on freedom, privacy, and the bodily integrity of people who did not want to be vaccinated.
The appeal against Justice Robert Beech-Jones’s ruling was based on several grounds, including that he did not adequately consider their right to earn a living.
In October, more than 40,000 people watched a live stream of the ruling online.
The workers argued their employment future was affected by compulsory vaccines and some of them lived in declared areas of concern, with travel restrictions imposed on them.
In dismissing the appeal today, Justice Andrew Bell said a Court of Appeal panel had concluded the public health orders “proceeded on the basis that persons, including authorised workers, could choose not to be vaccinated”.
‘Further, the impugned orders contained no sanction for the exercise of the choice not to receive a vaccination,” he said.
Justice Bell ordered the workers to pay court costs.
In upholding the orders in October, Justice Beech-Jones found they were legal and reasonable and authorised under the Public Health Act, which was designed to ensure public safety.
The judge said the orders curtailed freedom of movement, but noted that people’s bodily integrity was not violated because “the impugned orders do not authorise the involuntary vaccination of anyone”.
Justice Beech-Jones stressed that the plaintiffs “made an informed choice to refuse to be vaccinated”.
More than 1,900 WA government workers have failed to get vaccinated before the deadline set for them to receive the jab.
Under the McGowan government’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy that covers 75 per cent of the state’s workforce, workers in the Group 1 cohort needed to have had at least one shot by December 1.
The Group 1 cohort includes community care services, WA Police, corrective services, abattoirs and meat processing and staff working in remote Aboriginal communities.
Of the 77,552 government sector employees in Group 1, 2.5 per cent had not been vaccinated by December 1 and were no longer allowed in their workplaces.
Reporting by Rhiannon Shine.
The Victorian government has reiterated that all players contesting next month’s Australian Open must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, amid reports Novak Djokovic may seek a medical exemption to play in Melbourne.
Media reports suggest Djokovic — who has not revealed his vaccination status — has grounds to apply for an exemption that could enable him to avoid the 14-day quarantine period and defend the title he won for a record ninth time this year.
Victorian government officials have been adamant for months that only fully vaccinated players, entourages, staff and spectators will be granted entry to Melbourne Park for the season’s opening major from January 17-30.
Deputy Premier James Merlino said there were only a limited number of reasons why medical exemptions would be granted.
“My view on this is is really clear and really simple,” Mr Merlino said.
“Everyone’s looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend — spectators, players, officials, staff — everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.
“They’re the rules. Medical exemptions are just that — it’s not a loophole for privileged tennis players.
“It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances, if you have an acute medical condition.”
Border reopening for international students and skilled migrants likely to go ahead
Senior federal government figures are indicating the international border will likely reopen to international students and skilled migrants next Wednesday.
The reopening was delayed by a fortnight due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan has told Sky News a final decision hasn’t been made, but there’s no reason to push the reopening back further.
“All the signs are very, very positive,” he said.
“Obviously National Cabinet will meet on Friday, but everything we’re seeing from this new variant points to the fact that we should be able to progress on the 15th.”
By political reporter Tom Lowrey.
Federal Health Minister rejects senator’s claim of vaccine experimentation
Liberal senator Gerard Rennick has suggested that giving Pfizer vaccines to five to 11-year-olds amounts to experimenting.
Greg Hunt has been asked if Senator Rennick’s views undermine the vaccine rollout.
“We will continue to follow the TGA advice here and people will have their different views but my approach, our approach, the government’s approach, the PM’s approach through the pandemic has been to follow the advice of the medical experts,” he said.
Some protests have caused ‘anxiety’, Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles says
Labor’s deputy leader Richard Marles say some behaviour by demonstrators have caused him anxiety.
He said on Afternoon Briefing he believed everyone had the right to express their views in a free society but some people had taken their actions too far.
“At least some of the demonstrations have occurred in a way which certainly causes me anxiety,” he said.
“The exercising of free speech needs to be done in a way which is peaceful and civil, and obviously when you are walking down Spring Street with gallows, that does not meet the criteria and there is absolutely no place for that and that kind of protest should be called out.”
Gold Coast businesses not expected to ‘police’ vaccine mandate but what ‘reasonable steps’ must they take?
Both health authorities and state ministers have consistently said businesses will not be expected to police vaccine mandates.
But according to Small Business Minister Di Farmer they must take “reasonable steps to enforce the mandate”.
With fines for non-compliant businesses reaching $13,785 or six months imprisonment, understanding what ‘reasonable’ means will be vital for business owners.
There’s also confusion around at what point businesses should contact police and how adequate their response will be, given resources are already stretched around border checkpoints and hotel quarantine.
Read more on this story by Nicole Dyer and Dominic Cansdale.
Moderna vaccine approved by TGA for COVID-19 booster shot in adults
The national medicines regulator has approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be used as a booster shot in adults.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) was now considering whether to approve its use.
If approved by ATAGI it will become the second option after Pfizer for Australians who are eligible for a booster.
Queensland scientist says they have found ‘Omicron-like’ variant
Authorities say Queensland scientists have picked up some differences in the COVID infection of a man who flew into Brisbane from South Africa last Friday.
The main Omicron variant has 30 genetic mutations but this lineage has 14.
It is the first known case and has been classified as “Omicron-like”.
A second man — from Nigeria — who tested positive in hotel quarantine in Cairns has the standard Omicron strain.
He flew into Queensland on Jetstar flight JQ-950 from Sydney last Friday. Authorities say both men are “well” and have not been in the community.
Greg Hunt’s press conference has finished
There was not a lot of new information, other than the TGA provisionally approving the Moderna booster shot for those aged 18 and over.
Health Minister says it is still too early to says if Omicron is a milder variant of COVID-19
TGA provisionally approves Moderna booster for those over the age of 18
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has provisionally approved the Moderna booster shot for those aged 18 and over.
It now needs the approval from ATAGI to pass the next step.
Greg Hunt’s press conference has begun
We are not talking about COVID-19 yet.
Three new cases in South Australia
There have been three new cases of COVID-19 reported in South Australia today.
The cases are two women in their 30s and 50s and a man in his 60s.
Of these cases, one has acquired their infection locally and is a close contact linked to the Norwood cluster, and another has acquired their infection overseas and has been in a medi-hotel since their arrival.
A third case acquired their infection interstate and has been classified as historical.
The woman in her 50s and the man in his 60s remain in the Royal Adelaide Hospital in a stable condition.
There have been 976 cases reported in South Australia to date.
Nothing from WA yet. Still waiting on Greg Hunt
WA update? Or press conference on the cards today?
Watch Greg Hunt’s press conference here
Have not heard anything from SA yet
Hey guys, when do we expect an SA update?
ps love your work.
WORLD NEWS: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces accusations of illicit parties during lockdown
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s staff appeared to joke about holding a Christmas party last year while much of the country faced tough COVID-19 restrictions, in a leaked video released by broadcaster ITV.
As the Christmas party season gets underway in Britain, Mr Johnson’s government is struggling with mixed messages on COVID-19 while denying reports it broke rules on staff bashes last year.
Mr Johnson has faced questions and criticism since the Mirror newspaper reported last week there were many social gatherings at Mr Johnson’s 10 Downing Street office over the Christmas period in 2020.
The Daily Mirror reported that Mr Johnson gave a speech at a packed leaving party for a senior aide in November — after a national lockdown came into force.
Then his team members — without Mr Johnson present — held an unofficial festive party days before Christmas, after indoor mixing was banned in London, the newspaper reported.
ACT records another COVID-19 death as hundreds of Canberrans still in pre-Christmas isolation due to Omicron variant
A man in his 80s has died from COVID-19, becoming the 12th death linked to the ACT’s Delta outbreak.
Health officials confirmed the man died last night at Calvary Public Hospital and had been receiving treatment in intensive care.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the man’s infection was not linked to an outbreak at an aged care home.
His vaccination status has not been released, but health authorities confirmed he had underlying health conditions.
There are now more than 300 people undergoing 14 days of isolation after being identified as a close contact of someone with the Omicron variant.
As of last week, close and secondary contacts linked to the new strain must undertake 14 days of quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status.
Reporting by Selby Stewart:
#AceHealthDesk report ……….Published: Dec.09: 2021:
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