Hunt says nation on track for internal borders to open by Christmas

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia is on track for internal borders to be lifted by Christmas, as Victoria recorded one new COVID-19 case overnight.

Mr Hunt said free movement between Queensland and NSW should occur "as soon as possible", saying there was a mounting medical case for the state to open its border to greater Sydney.

"I am very hopeful that now the [Queensland] election is over that this will continue to be a medical decision. If it is a medical decision the very low case numbers … will provide the strongest possible basis for moving to the next step," Mr Hunt said on Sunday.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says the case is mounting for internal border restrictions to be removed by Christmas.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

He said the continued low case numbers in Victoria and NSW meant the push for a "single internal national bubble" was growing.

"We are on track to meet the Prime Minister's goal of a country which is internally open before Christmas," Mr Hunt said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, whose government was re-elected on Saturday night, announced last week that the state's border would reopen to all of NSW bar the greater Sydney area from Tuesday.

The partial reopening triggered a strong rebuke from the NSW government and business leaders, including Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce who called it "ridiculous".

West Australia Premier Mark McGowan also announced he would remove his state's "hard border" from November 14, but will still require travellers from NSW and Victoria to quarantine for two weeks.

Outlining Australia's rollout plans for the COVID-19 vaccine, Mr Hunt said the government was still planning for the first doses to be available to Australians by March 2021 with priority given to health workers and the elderly.

"That guidance has been reaffirmed in recent days and then it will be progressively rolled out through the course of the year," he said.

"We would like to see everyone who seeks to be vaccinated, on what would be a voluntary program, completed during the course of 2021 [and] the middle of the year seeing the vast bulk of the population given that access."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will take the final rollout plans to cabinet in the coming weeks.

Mr Hunt also confirmed the government was close to securing two additional contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines, including the widely-touted mRNA vaccine.

"An mRNA vaccine, which has never been produced anywhere in the world previously but which is emerging as a very positive class of vaccine, will be part of our portfolio," he said.

Australia has already struck deals for access to 33.8 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and 51 million doses of a University of Queensland vaccine by CSL if clinical trials are successful.

Mr Hunt said the results of those trials had been "more positive than we expected".

Get our Morning & Evening Edition newsletters

The most important news, analysis and insights delivered to your inbox at the start and end of each day. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here, to The Age’s newsletter here and Brisbane Times‘ here.

Most Viewed in Politics

Source: Read Full Article