Canberra (Tribune International, PM Office Release, 1 Oct 2021); National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, recent outbreaks of COVID-19 and the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy.
National Cabinet expressed its gratitude to outgoing New South Wales Premier, the Hon Gladys Berejiklian. As a founding member of National Cabinet, the Premier has made a significant contribution to the national pandemic response and been a driving force to lead New South Wales through the pandemic, saving lives and livelihoods.
National Cabinet continues to work together to address issues and find solutions for the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 107,171 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 1,307 people have died. More than 38 million tests have been undertaken, with 1,350,083 tests reported in the past 7 days.
Globally there have been over 233.6 million cases and sadly over 4.7 million deaths, with 486,746 new cases and 9,002 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in many countries around the world.
Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out continues to expand. To date, over 28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including 341,129 in the previous 24 hours.
In the previous 7 days, more than 1.9 million vaccines have been administered in Australia. More than 78.4 per cent of the Australian population aged 16 years and over have now had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including over 89.4 per cent of over 50 year olds and more than 94.8 per cent of over 70 year olds.
More than 55 per cent of Australians aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated, including almost 72 per cent of over 50 year olds and more than 79 per cent of Australians over 70 years of age.
Today, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly provided an update on current outbreaks of COVID-19. The Chief Medical Officer noted the outbreaks in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.
All leaders reiterated the importance of Australians, especially those in vulnerable groups, to get two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination.
Professor Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health, provided an update on the work being done by the Commonwealth and all states and territories looking at health system capacity for managing COVID-19 cases during Phases B and C of the National Plan, and the Chief Medical Officer provided an update on the Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine (TTIQ) work underway through Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).
National Cabinet received a briefing from Lieutenant General John Frewen, DSC, AM, Coordinator General of the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce (Operation COVID Shield). Specific workstreams are underway to support a higher level of vaccination uptake amongst Indigenous Australians and the disability sector. mRNA vaccines are now available for Australians aged 60 years and above across the majority of Australia, including all primary care settings.
National Cabinet agreed to meet next on Friday, 5 November 2021.
Lieutenant General John Frewen, DSC, AM provided a detailed update to National Cabinet on plans to increase vaccination rates amongst disabled and Indigenous Australians. With sufficient supplies available in October to vaccinate all Australians, and with around 10,000 vaccination sites, additional measures are being enacted to support uptake and reduce hesitancy.
National Cabinet noted the preliminary advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) on booster doses, published on 23 September 2021. ATAGI will provide further advice on third dose requirements for specified individuals to complete their primary course vaccination in October. The Commonwealth will provide an update on boosters and third dose vaccinations following advice from ATAGI, with significant planning underway with states and territories to commence a booster/third shot program in late 2021, subject to ATAGI advice.
National Cabinet noted the AHPPC statements on schools, mandatory vaccinations of health care workers, ventilation and visitation in aged care, which recommend increased visitation for families of people in residential aged care facilities and actions to support schools to remain open.
Health System Capacity
National Cabinet received advice from the Health System Capacity Cross Jurisdictional Working Group on surge planning and that all states and territories confirmed that effective systems were in place at a state and territory level. National Cabinet requested further analysis of regional reports of the Local Health Network (LHN)/Primary Health Network (PHN) collaborative care pathways.
National Plan to Transition Australia’s COVID-19 Response
National Cabinet received an update from Professor Jodie McVernon from the Doherty Institute. National Cabinet noted but did not yet endorse the interim analysis showing that TTIQ measures continue to contribute to controlling transmission of the Delta variant, and that case-initiated contact tracing, as has been used in the recent NSW Delta outbreak, can effectively assist health responses in outbreaks involving high case numbers to deliver an effective partial TTIQ impact. National Cabinet further noted the interim update on 7-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals and infection risk. To assist with further planning for possible future 7-day quarantine arrangements, all states and territories committed to providing more detailed data on COVID cases recorded in their hotel quarantine systems.
National Cabinet noted the Commonwealth’s updated progress to adjust border settings to allow for safe and secure international travel by vaccinated Australians.
International travel for fully vaccinated
The Commonwealth will introduce an International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate for outbound travellers to present at foreign borders and at the Australian border. This certificate has been designed to meet the new standards specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and endorsed by the World Health Organization.
The international certificate will display a Visible Digital Seal (VDS), as specified by the ICAO standard. A VDS is a QR code that’s as secure as a passport chip, using the same highly secure e-passport technology. VDS is compatible with existing passport control systems around the world and with COVID-19 travel apps such as the IATA Travel Pass that many airlines are using.
The new international certificates will become available for Australians by the end of October, both digitally and in printable form, through a simple process in myGov.
TGA ‘recognition’ of two new vaccines
The TGA has provided advice that Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India) vaccines be considered ‘recognised vaccines’ for incoming international travellers to be regarded as appropriately vaccinated. This is in addition to the four vaccines approved for use in Australia – Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
This advice follows detailed assessments by the TGA to determine the protection against infection and serious illness offered by vaccines not registered for use in Australia.
‘Recognition’ status does not constitute Australian regulatory approval, as regulatory approval would enable a company to provide that vaccine for administration within Australia.
Recognition of these vaccines supports Australians to be able to return who have had these vaccinations overseas, and will enable reopening to other groups such as international students who have been vaccinated with these vaccines in countries such as Indonesia, India and China.
Facilitated Commercial Flights
The Commonwealth outlined its offer of assistance to source and coordinate suitable cohorts of returning Australians for a home quarantine trial.
Implementation of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements
National Cabinet received an update on progress with the implementation of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. National Cabinet noted that while delivery of many of the recommendations were underway, more needed to be done to be prepared for the coming high risk weather season.
National Cabinet agreed that jurisdictions would focus on urgently delivering the seven priority areas identified by the National Federation Reform Council. Emergency Management Ministers have been asked to identify additional actions for immediate delivery before the end of the year.
At the next meeting, National Cabinet will receive a briefing on the 2021-22 high risk weather season.
Energy – National Cabinet Reform Committee
National Cabinet endorsed the final package of reforms for the post-2025 National Electricity Market, as agreed by the Energy National Cabinet Reform Committee.
The proposed reforms act on the recommendations of the Energy Security Board (ESB), following two years of widespread consultation and in-depth analysis.
The full suite of reforms set out immediate, initial and long-term changes to deliver a fit-for-purpose electricity market into the future. This includes further work and design principles for a potential capacity mechanism to deliver investment in an efficient mix of capacity that meets reliability at lowest cost. The ESB will also continue further work on a congestion management model.
This outcome demonstrates the shared commitment across all National Energy Market jurisdictions to deliver affordable, reliable electricity to consumers.