Australia confirms coronavirus vaccine is close
Australians are close to getting access to a coronavirus vaccine, the Morrison Government says.
Meanwhile, Victoria has gone 34 consecutive days without recording a new coronavirus case, with more than 10,000 tests received on Wednesday.
The news follows the United Kingdom giving emergency approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 jab as it struggles to get on top of outbreaks.
Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the development, confirming the federal government was on track to offer vaccinations to health workers and aged-care residents in March.
"We are moving quickly but safely and we are making sure there are no compromises, because the safety of Australians is the number one priority," he said.
"Australia is doing magnificently but we won't be truly safe at home until the world is safe. That is why vaccines at home and abroad are so important."
Mr Hunt said vaccinations would be voluntary and confirmed there were no plans to impose a "no jab no play" rule, which would require children to be immunised before enrolling in childcare.
Scott Morrison, who addressed the media after 14 days in quarantine, said Australia would implement the vaccine according to its needs.
"The UK will need to deal with their situation and their circumstances in their way," the Prime Minister said.
"Our COVID-19 situation, at the moment, I would describe as very stable with the protections in place to ward against and deal with any outbreaks as they arise.
"Our first priority is that it be safe."
Australia's vaccine strategy is now in its "advanced stage of preparation" and will require further consideration from the federal cabinet.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has confirmed the airliner would require proof of vaccination for overseas travellers arriving in Australia.
Mr Morrison said the global community needed to work together to ensure an international recognition around vaccinations.
"It is important that there is a common understanding globally about vaccines and their efficacy," he said.
"We've indicated we are very happy to engage in such a global effort. I think we have a lot to contribute in that area, because we're doing quite well in this area being one of the world's leading immunisation nations."
He said the government was working through potential "green lanes" for international travel but warned Australia was still "some time away from that".
HOW OFFICES' RETURN HAS CHANGED PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Public transport patronage has surged with Victorians returning to work, with 720,000 daily trips now being recorded across the network.
The government's decision to allow up to a quarter of employees to return to offices have helped fuel a 20 per cent surge in passengers from the week before.
On Tuesday, Melbourne's train system was the most popular mode of public transport and recorded 265,000 customers.
Patronage is now at about 38 per cent of regular levels after months of record lows.
Motorists have returned to the road much quicker, with road traffic volumes now about 91 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
There are now more than 9.1 million vehicle trips across the state every day.
COVID BLOW AS NSW HOTEL WORKER TESTS POSITIVE
A NSW quarantine hotel employee who worked at two Sydney hotels over four days has tested positive to coronavirus.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard confirmed the new infection on Thursday morning but said it was "too new to know" if it would be considered a community transmission case.
"We would have been saying today is 26 days without any cases, this particular lady went into hotels in Sydney," he told Channel 7.
In a later interview on 2GB, Mr Hazzard said the woman worked at the Ibis on Friday, November 27 before working at the Novotel, a quarantine hotel, on Saturday, November 28, Sunday, November 29 and Monday, November 30.
Read the full story here.
HOW APPROACH TO CRISES IS SET TO CHANGE
Support could be fast-tracked to communities in emergencies under new laws that would give the federal government the power to declare a national emergency.
The laws, to be introduced in parliament on Thursday, were recommended by the royal commission into last summer's bushfires.
It means the federal government will be able to declare a national emergency and cut through "red tape" requirements for support - such as crisis cash payments - in disaster-affected areas.
The prime minister could order reports on stockpiles and response options, while the government could also compel telecommunications providers to help out, including by sending emergency alerts.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the legislation would "ensure communities get the help and support they need in times of crisis".
"The Australian community rightly expects and deserves swift and unambiguous action when natural disasters strike. This bill will ensure that action can be delivered," he said.
Originally published as Australia confirms coronavirus vaccine is close