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Victoria will open its borders to much of the state this weekend, with popular Queensland holiday destinations to be downgraded to orange zones.
Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay will go from a red zone to an orange zone from 11.59pm on Saturday.
Queensland’s remaining orange zones – including Townsville, Palm Island, Ipswich, Gold Coast and Noosa will all become green zones.
Northern Territory and the Perth and Peel region will also become a green zone from 11.59pm Saturday.
The eased restrictions is welcome news for Victorian holiday-makers in Queensland.
Existing red zone arrivals from now orange zones that have returned a negative test can exit quarantine unless they have been in contact with a case or at an exposure site.
Existing orange zone arrivals from now green zones no longer have to quarantine or return a negative result.
A decision is yet to be made on whether Victoria will slam its border shut to the whole of New South Wales, as authorities grow increasingly worried about leakages from the greater Sydney red zone.
It comes as Victoria recorded no new locally acquired Covid cases overnight on Friday, and one in hotel quarantine.
The total number of active cases is now 21.
Just under 26,600 people turned out to get a test on Thursday, while more than 15,600 vaccines were administered.
As the state woke to new-found freedoms, health authorities were scrambling to determine whether a hard border shutdown was needed to stamp out the virus threat.
Thousands of Victorian holiday-makers are eagerly awaiting an announcement, with school returning on Monday.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the main area of concern continued to be “areas north of the Murray” as NSW recorded 44 new local cases overnight.
“As their compliance operations indicate, it is very precarious in NSW and Sydney.”
He said Victorians wished NSW well in their fight against the virus.
“Their fight is all of Australia’s fight,” he said.
“Victoria will do what Victoria needs to do to keep community transmission of the virus out of our state.”
He urged Victorians to reconsider any plans to visit NSW.
Mr Foley said he would not rule out the possibility of harsher measures in a bid to protect the state’s Covid-free run.
“We might well see some circumstances of tougher arrangements applying across NSW as that position becomes more precarious,” Mr Foley said.
“We’re concerned that the situation is clearly not heading in the direction that all Australians want NSW to be in.
Under Victoria’s traffic light travel permit system, Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast remain a red zone, meaning nonresidents cannot enter, while residents must quarantine for 14 days.
Mr Foley said any Victorians in NSW whose holiday period was coming to an end to follow public health orders, to get a permit for the zone they are in and to follow the rules.
As he pleaded with Victorians not to travel across the Murray River, Mr Foley warned travel no-go zones would likely stay in place for the foreseeable future.
The remainder of NSW is considered an orange zone – meaning returning travellers must quarantine until receiving a negative test – but authorities will not rule out more drastic measures.
“We see no prospect, today, of those being lifted anytime soon. I know that will pose some challenges … but those provisions are in there for very good reason. We are concerned about the possibility of leakage out of greater Sydney and the other red zones into the wider NSW community,” Mr Foley said.
“The risk grows, and the threat grows and having worked so hard to get to this level that we have in Victoria, we do not need Victorians entering and coming back from NSW.”
Authorised officers continue to patrol Melbourne Airport and border towns to ensure potentially infectious Sydneysiders are not entering the state. A few people have been turned around each day, authorities said.
NEW RULES FOR NSW AS OUTBREAK GROWS
NSW has imposed tough new restrictions in greater Sydney as local coronavirus infections continue to grow.
The Delta variant of the virus has proven a tough challenge for authorities and Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the current restrictions weren’t enough to stop the spread.
Starting at 5pm on Friday, new rules will come into effect.
Read the full story here
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan on Thursday called on the NSW government to follow Victoria’s lead in pandemic handling, as Ms Berejiklian faces mounting criticism over the effectiveness of her lockdown.
Mr McGowan said anything other than a “crush and kill” approach to the virus put the entire nation at risk.
“NSW needs to do what Victoria did last year and crush and kill the virus,” he said.
“Any alternative approach which allows the virus to spread would imperil the whole country before such time as we have achieved mass vaccination.
“(Victoria) don’t have any virus now, they have a very strong economy. It is the model NSW should adopt.”
Ms Berejiklian scoffed at the comments on Thursday, stating: “At least he (McGowan) is consistent”.
Despite the worsening situation up north, Victorians woke to new freedoms on Friday.
Masks are no longer required in non-public facing workplaces and dancefloors can reopen to 50 people.
“It’s a cautious move, but it’s a careful move,” Mr Foley said.
ScoMo BACKS FREE POST-JAB BEERS BAN
Scott Morrison has vowed to “get it sorted” after a Melbourne pub was banned from offering free beers as an incentive to get vaccinated.
The Prince Alfred Hotel in Port Melbourne announced last week it would offer a free drink to anyone who got the Covid-19 jab at a nearby Town Hall vaccination centre.
Owners Anna and Tom Streater said the pub was happy to ”sling a few freebies” to encourage locals to “do their bit” to keep Melbourne open.
But the Therapeutic Goods Administration put the brakes on the initiative, contacting the pub on Wednesday to say alcoholic vaccine incentives were banned.
Read the full story here
MILLIONS OF PFIZER JABS DUE IN AUGUST
Australia will be importing a million Pfizer doses a week from later this month and the federal government hopes extra supplies can be fast-tracked in August.
A national plan for the rollout, released in June, forecast weekly Pfizer deliveries would be between 650,000 and 750,000 doses in July and August.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt has revealed Pfizer will ship a million doses a week in the last fortnight of July, with more to come in August.
“We’ve had excellent, fully reliable supplies from Pfizer,” he said. “I’m increasingly confident that we will have additional supplies arriving on shore in August, and we’ll have confirmation in the coming days. But we’re quietly working behind the scenes every single day to ensure that, and that’s beginning to bear fruit.”
The national cabinet meets on Friday to consider how to ramp up the rollout, after new vaccine tsar Lieutenant General John Frewen held talks with the states and business chiefs this week.
Originally published as Holiday reprieve as Qld hot spots downgraded