Australia has officially reached 80 percent full vaccination against COVID-19, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
Morrison said a further nine percent of the population aged 16 or over has also received a first vaccine dose although inoculation levels vary from state to state.
Morrison has called the achievement “another magnificent milestone.”
“A huge thank you to everyone,” he said on Facebook on Saturday morning.
“This has been a massive Australian national effort and the work doesn’t stop here. We are on track to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The more people protected with the jab, the safer we all are so please go and get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so. It’s going to help us to continue to safely reopen and stay safely open.”
Morrison also made special mention of older Australians for leading the way.
“Ninety-nine percent of Australians aged over 70 have had a first jab and over 90 percent have had a second,” he said. “That’s just extraordinary.”
Meanwhile, hospitals, aged care facilities, and schools are among the high-risk settings where workers and visitors could face rapid testing under an Australian plan to be developed.
National cabinet on Friday agreed the federal health department and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee will work on creating a nationally consistent framework for the use of rapid antigen tests.
It will guide authorities across the nation on how often the tests should be done and the implication of positive results, while also recommending high-risk settings for the screening.
Australian health authorities have previously been cautious to expand the use of rapid antigen tests given they are less reliable than PCR swabs.
In a further take-out from the first national cabinet meeting in more than a month, states and territories will consider changes to isolation requirements for fully vaccinated primary close contacts, including no or minimal quarantine for up to seven days.
Casual contacts would only be asked to seek testing and isolate if experiencing symptoms, but avoid high-risk settings until they return a negative result.
Victoria and New South Wales have already reduced the time most fully-vaccinated primary close contacts have to serve in isolation from 14 to seven days, while casual contacts can leave quarantine once they return a negative test result.
The federal government has also pledged to start vaccinating five to 11-year-old children, if backed by the national medicines regulator and immunisation advisory group.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly informed leaders of the emerging scientific evidence showing the benefits of vaccinating the age group, after US regulators approved the Pfizer vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan on Friday revealed long-awaited plans to reopen the state to eastern jurisdictions after months of hard border policies, as NSW and Victoria effectively reopened their borders to each other.
By Callum Godde