Matt Canavan has condemned Telstra’s proposal to make the Covid-19 vaccine compulsory for a third of its workers, claiming it will lead to “medical apartheid”.
Welcome to our coverage of Australia’s Covid-19 situation.
Victoria reached another grim record on Monday, confirming 246 new Covid-19 cases.
The uptake in vaccines means residents could be seeing eased restrictions sooner than expected as the state barrels towards its 70 per cent first dose vaccination goal.
NSW recorded 1281 new cases and five deaths today, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian warning October would be the worst month for the state.
This live blog has now ended. Read below for the main updates of the day.
Canavan slams Telstra staff vax mandate
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan has condemned Telstra’s proposal to mandate the Covid-19 jab for roughly a third of its workforce, claiming it will lead to a “medical apartheid society”.
The telco’s chief executive, Andy Penn, said in a letter to employees that a vaccine mandate was an “important and necessary” step for the company, and would be enforced among staff who “are in regular contact with customers, the public or other employees, such as our frontline and business critical teams, and those who need to visit customer premises at times”.
Appearing on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, Mr Canavan – a vocal critic of Australia’s Covid-19 lockdowns – deemed the move as “incredibly divisive”.
“Most of us are going to come into contact with unvaccinated people through our daily lives. We have to move on to be in a normal existence. Unless we say people who don’t get the vaccine must stay in their homes permanently and not go out at all, we’re going to come into contact with them,” he said.
“If there are situations where there are vulnerable people in their homes [and] they don’t want someone to come in that is unvaccinated, there’s a decision someone else could make rather than applying a [rule] across the whole company where hundreds of thousands of people will lose their employment because of this.
“I make the point here that most of the people that vaccine mandates are being imposed on are our working class jobs. Probably lower paid, yet they come into contact with people all the time … That to me seems incredibly inequitable and goes to the point that this will create this medical apartheid society which is incredibly divisive and not necessary in my view to matters of coronavirus long-term.”
Moderna to arrive in Australia next week
The first doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine from the US will arrive in Australia next week and start rolling out from September 20 after being batch tested by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The vaccine will then be made available at pharmacists, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed late last night.
A spokesman for the Minister told The Australian that, after batch testing, the first doses would be cleared for distribution by thousands of community pharmacies.
However, pharmacists and some chemist groups said they were yet to receive an exact date.
Man fined for posing as essential worker
Tasmania Police have fined a Victorian man more than $3000 after he posed as an essential worker to enter the state.
The 22-year-old falsely entered the Apple Isle on August 22.
He falsely claimed to be a transport, freight and logistics worker and provided documentation to support his status as an essential worker.
The man was fined $3114 after Tasmania Police found he had breached two Covid-19 rules – knowingly provide false details to an emergency management worker, and fail to comply with direction of an emergency management worker.
Despite being out in the community for several days, he has been identified as low-risk. The man is now in quarantine.
– Additional reporting NCA NewsWire
Deputy Premier denies need for curfew
John Barilaro has told reporters that curfews imposed in Sydney’s west and southwest have not worked, and were brought into place following media pressure.
During a briefing of regional media this afternoon, the NSW Deputy Premier said he wasn’t in support of imposing the controversial measure in Dubbo, despite rising virus cases in the region.
Mr Barilaro said a curfew in Dubbo would do “nothing more than hurt the wellbeing of that community”.
“So the idea of a curfew is one that was put in place in an area that was so out of control and you would question its ability to work,” he said.
“If you look at the numbers since we put the curfew in, nothing has occurred, nothing has changed; numbers continue to rise.”
Iconic Aussie attraction closed for good
The iconic attraction, the Melbourne Star, has had its last ride and will now be shut down for good.
Citing Covid-19 lockdown and travel restrictions as the cause, MB Star Properties Pty Ltd said it was with a “heavy heart” the company had to announce the ride’s closure after 15 years in operation.
“The giant observation wheel has been a part of the city’s skyline for more than 15 years, during which time we have welcomed millions of guests from Australia and all over the world,” a statement read.
“Unfortunately, the global Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions and sustained shutdowns, adding to pre-existing challenges of operating amid increased high development and changes in the Docklands area, has made it impossible to sustain the business.
“The directors of the wheel are absolutely committed to doing the right thing by our dedicated team and have made arrangements to ensure all our employees will be paid their full entitlements.”
Major change to Aussie Covid testing
Australians will soon be able to test themselves for Covid-19 from the comfort of their own homes.
The massive shake-up to the country’s testing regime was confirmed by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt today.
The government has approved 28 types of rapid-antigen tests, with the final decision now with the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA).
Mr Hunt said up until now there hadn’t been enough support for the change from some of the states’ chief health officers.
“But right now I think we’ve got that momentum,” he told talkback radio host Ray Hadley today.
“They’re being used in workplaces, in aged care and elsewhere and the next frontier is to move for approval on the home front.”
Mr Hunt said the rapid home testing kits could be approved “within the coming months, if not weeks”.
– Additional reporting NCA NewsWire
Ethnic communities being targeted by anti-vaxxers
Anti-vaxxers have been targeting ethnic communities in Victoria as a way of spreading fear and misinformation around Covid-19 and the vaccines.
Ahmed Hassan, co-founder and Executive Director of Youth Activating Youth, experienced this kind of attack first hand after he was hospitalised with Covid-19 in Melbourne last year.
Speaking to ABC News Breakfast, Mr Hassan said he spent two stints in the hospital between June and July 2020, which he described as a “very terrible experience”. His grandmother and aunty were also hospitalised with the virus.
“Straight after I came out, I wanted to let not only young people across Victoria, but across Australia, know about what is Covid, and that it’s real, that it can impact you. It can impact your life. I was one of the lucky ones that I actually came out of hospital. Many people didn’t at the time,” he said.
“Basically, I was targeted by people who didn’t believe in the virus. People who were conspiracy theorists. People who were saying some wild and bizarre stuff about me and my family, that we had contributed to the second wave. And as a result, that’s why the lockdowns happened.”
Mr Hassan then sifted through the information being circulated by these conspiracy theorists and found much of it was deliberately misleading.
“And unfortunately, it’s still spreading in 2021. And it’s spreading wildly in many communities and it’s worrying, because a lot of people can’t make up their mind because of this misleading information,” he said.
Mr Hassan said there is a lot of fear around the vaccines across different communities because of this misinformation, which is then leading to people being hospitalised because they don’t understand the true risks of Covid-19.
“There is a lot of misinformation and it is so consistent and persistent in terms of targeting different cohorts and in social media,” he said.
Victoria warned of ‘significant’ Covid transmission
Victoria’s Covid-19 cases are showing no signs of slowing down, with the state’s Covid Response Commander Jeroen Weimar warning residents to prepare for “significant” community transmission.
“With the numbers we are seeing in recent days we need to be prepared for significant community transmission to occur,” he said.
“We need to do everything we possibly can to stop every single possible case in order to get us through this over the weeks and months ahead.”
Mr Weimar said the majority of the transmission events were occurring in households, particularly in the northern and western Melbourne suburbs.
“We are also seeing significant transition particularly in small businesses that are embedded in our community. In places like Somerton Road in Roxburgh Park and Coolaroo we are seeing a number of small community businesses with very high levels of positive cases among their customer base and their staff,” he said.
Plans for easing of restrictions in regional Vic
Despite today’s spike in Covid-19 cases, Health Minister Martin Foley said there were still plans to ease lockdown restrictions in the majority of regional Victoria this week.
“As the Premier and the chief health officer have indicated, there are still plans for, not a snap back, but certainly an easing of restrictions for regional Victoria. With the likely exception of the Shepparton, Goulburn Valley area, because of the cluster there,” he said.
“And that would be focusing around support measures, wellbeing measures and a gradual easing.
“It shouldn’t be seen as a snap back to where we were, say in April or May, but certainly a recognition that the chains of transmission in the regions are different, and in most of the regions, very different, to what they are in Metropolitan Melbourne.”
Mr Foley said the main risks to regional Victoria continue to be things like truck drivers and other workers unknowingly spreading the virus.
Victoria records 246 new cases
Victoria has recorded 246 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours to midnight last night.
This is the highest number of daily infections the state has seen during this outbreak.
Of the 246 new local cases, 121 are linked to known cases and outbreaks and the source of the other 125 cases are under investigation.
Rent relief package for Victorians
The Victorian government has announced a new rent relief package for residents who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and recent lockdown.
This package will provide a one-off grant of up to $1500 to Victorians who have lost income as a result of the pandemic and are experiencing rental hardship.
The payment is for renters who are paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent and will be targeted to those who have lost at least 20 per cent of their income from the pandemic, backdated to May 27, 2021.
The grant will be allocated to the landlord, with Victorian officials asking landlords to show compassion to people who are struggling financially as a result of the pandemic.
Case numbers could peak in the 2000s
An epidemiologist has warned with the rate Victoria’s cases were increasing, the state could soon be seeing more than 2000 infections a day.
University of Melbourne’s Professor Tony Blakely told ABC News Breakfast that the state will need to expect more cases as restrictions begin to ease.
“Here in Victoria, we’re probably heading towards 2000 or so,” he said.
“But we make trade-offs all the time in society. So for example, if we allow some businesses to open up in October or November or let the kids back to school, that will increase the transmission a bit.
“We need to find ways elsewhere in society that we can reduce it to try to walk our way through to about the first week of November when the case numbers should peak and the vaccine coverage is catching up with it.
“So we have quite a balancing act here and quite a discussion to have about trade-offs. You know, how much do we value getting kids back to school versus the stress on the health services? And this is where we’re at the moment.”
More freedoms coming sooner than expected
Victorians could be enjoying eased lockdown rules sooner than originally thought, with the state making impressive progress on it’s Covid-19 vaccination goals.
Last week, Premier Daniel Andrews announced when 70 per cent of the population has received one dose of the vaccine then modest eased restrictions could be brought in.
This was initially due to happen on September 23 but with vaccination rates ramping up, the rules could be eased as soon as September 19.
When that goal is reached the following changes will apply:
• The 5km travel radius will increase to 10km
• Exercise will increase from two to three hours a day
• Outdoor gym equipment and skate parks will reopen
• Outdoor personal training will be allowed with up to two people plus the trainer
• Childminding for school-age children will be allowed if both parents are critical workers
• Construction sites will increase to a 50 per cent capacity when 90 per cent of workers have received at least one vaccine dose
• Inspections of unoccupied premises will be permitted
The Premier also noted that the majority of regional Victoria was on track to exit lockdown this week, though he said some restrictions would still remain in place.
There are also plans to trial a new check in system that will allow business owners to see if residents are vaccinated. This comes as part of plans to later reopen extra freedoms like pubs, sporting games and cinemas to fully vaccinated Victorians.
Mr Andrews said regional Victoria was a “safe place” to trail the technology.
“That will be predominantly outdoors, we’re already talking with the hospo industry for instance so there will be trials,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get regional Victoria out of the lockdown next week. That’s great news for regional Victoria but it would also be a pretty logical place for us to do some of this piloting work.
“It doesn’t mean that regional Victoria would only be opened to vaccinated people, it would be open to everyone in regional Victoria, but that’s a safe place where we can do some of these trials and pilots.”
Dan defends strict lockdown rule
Premier Daniel Andrews has defended his decision to enact a curfew for Melbourne after criticism the harsh measure hasn’t helped to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The state government enforced the curfew last month, with people in greater Melbourne required to stay home between 9pm and 5am every day.
The tough measure, which was put in place during last year’s second wave, has received widespread criticism after health experts last year admitted it made no difference in curbing the spread.
Asked on Sunday why it was necessary this time around, Mr Andrews said there were specific and targeted reasons for bringing back the curfew in the outbreak of the more infectious Delta strain.
He said road and public transport travel was down by 20 per cent during curfew hours.
“What that tells me is that it wasn’t people doing their shopping at midnight or 1am, it was people going and visiting others, which they are not allowed to do, and they were taking the virus with them, perhaps,” Mr Andrews said.
“So that‘s what the curfew achieves. It means less people out and about.”
– Additional reporting NCA NewsWire
‘Every possibility’ Victoria is following in NSW’s footsteps
With Victoria’s seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases in the past few days, there are concerns the state could be on the same trajectory as NSW.
On Saturday, chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton admitted there was “every possibility” Victoria was following in the footsteps of its northern neighbour.
“I think a lot of people are a bit concerned now that we’re on the same trajectory as Sydney and we’re maybe three or four weeks behind Sydney,” Professor Sutton said.
“I mean, we could be. That is a scenario. There’s every possibility that we’re following a slow and steady increase in the way that NSW has.”
Premier Daniel Andrews warned last week that cases would continue to rise as he announced the state was moving away from a Covid-zero strategy and focusing on vaccination rates.
Over the weekend, Professor Sutton said it was still unclear when the state’s infections would peak.
“The trend over seven-day periods has been incremental increasing and I expect that to happen until we get higher vaccination coverage,” he said.