Coronavirus Australia: the week at a glance

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison says national cabinet has endorsed a national vaccination policy making it available free to all Medicare-eligible Australians and most visa holders. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Here are all the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. This is Nino Bucci and it’s Friday 13 November. This is the penultimate edition of Coronavirus Australia: the week at a glance. We will put the series on hold after next week.

National Covid-19 vaccination policy endorsed by states and territories

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced on Friday that the national cabinet had endorsed a national vaccination policy.

The vaccine will be available free to all Medicare-eligible Australians and most visa holders.

It will be voluntary, but the federal government reserved the right to make it a condition of entry when Australia opens its borders.

On Tuesday, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced its vaccine, which the federal government has secured access to, proved 90% effective in protecting people from Covid-19 in global trials.

Hotel quarantine set to continue

It was also confirmed on Friday that the federal government did not believe there were any safer alternatives than hotel quarantine to ensure people flying into Australia did not spread Covid-19 throughout the community.

The government had investigated other methods such as the use of electronic ankle bracelets, rather than hotel quarantine.

It had also considered on-campus or at-home quarantine, which could have been used for exchange students or Australians returning from overseas.

Morrison described these alternatives as not ones that “we can safely take on”. He clarified that the government was still looking at whether there were other viable options.

Australia’s acting chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, made clear that there did not appear to be any large-scale alternatives to hotel quarantine.

A fortnight of double donuts in Victoria

Victoria did a victory lap, posting another week of zero new cases and zero deaths, as the state emerges from the harsh lockdown that quelled its second wave.

The rolling 14-day average is now, of course, zero; a feat few thought imaginable when the ambitious roadmap was released.

It is the first time since 22 February that the state went two weeks without a new case.

But the premier, Daniel Andrews, ruled out any earlier easing of restrictions, which are set to be relaxed again on 23 November.

Borders open in Western Australia

For the first time in 222 days, Australia’s longest border is open (unless you’re from New South Wales or Victoria).

The WA premier, Mark McGowan, welcomed residents from all other states, and said that if Victoria and NSW went 28 days without a case of community transmission, people would also be able to travel from there to WA without quarantine.

He praised Victoria’s efforts, saying “they have succeeded not just for themselves, but for the entire country. They are an example to the world.”

People from interstate will need to complete a pass declaring if they have Covid-19 symptoms, and will need to declare they haven’t travelled to NSW or Victoria or come into contact with anyone who has in the past 14 days.

People from NSW and Victoria will need to self-quarantine at a suitable location for 14 days and have a Covid-19 test.

Under the current threshold, Victoria could get access to WA before NSW, which had local cases a week ago.

South Australia announces plans to reopen to Victoria

The South Australian premier, Steven Marshall, said from 1 December the state’s eastern border will reopen to Victoria.

“We’ve always said that we don’t want to keep the restrictions in place for one day longer than we need to.

“But we have had to have this border arrangement in place, and it has been our first line of defence and kept South Australia safe and strong.”

He also said he was pleased the Western Australian border was set to reopen.

Queensland eases restrictions, capacity crowd at State of Origin decider

Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced a further easing of restrictions, which includes a return to capacity crowds for things like the State of Origin rugby league match.

The changes mean seating capacity at open-air stadiums will be lifted from 75% to 100%.

That means a crowd of 52,000 people will be able to cram in to Suncorp Stadium for the Origin decider next Wednesday night.

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Thank you

Next Friday will be our final Coronavirus Australia: the week at a glance. We will be putting the newsletter on pause but may be back with major developments in the future. Thanks very much to everyone who signed up to receive this newsletter.

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