Australia news LIVE: COVID-19 cases grow as nation nears 80 per cent double dose vaccination target; ICAC inquiry into Gladys Berejiklian continues

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Key posts

  • GPs, pharmacists keen to roll up sleeves for boosters with decision by week’s end
  • Victorian schools tested as high case numbers lead to hundreds of closures
  • Barilaro says Berejiklian’s relationship revelation would have pushed gun club off agenda
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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GPs, pharmacists keen to roll up sleeves for boosters with decision by week’s end

GPs are preparing to alert patients they’re eligible for a coronavirus booster shot as pharmacists call for access to the Pfizer vaccine, with a decision on Pfizer boosters expected before the end of the week.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s vaccine advisory committee met yesterday to consider the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 jab as a booster. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation will then consider the benefits of a broad booster program later this week.

GPs are gearing up to administer booster shots, while pharmacists want the federal government to allow them to use Pfizer – the only vaccine so far to be considered for boosters.Credit:Edwina Pickles

Health Minister Greg Hunt said last week the government was ready to roll out a booster program once it is approved by the medical bodies, and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said the Commonwealth was preparing to start a rollout on November 8.

Pharmacists are also keen to be involved in the booster rollout, but currently risk being left out unless the federal government allows pharmacists to dispense Pfizer doses, or unless Moderna applies for its vaccine to be used as a booster. Moderna is expected to submit data for consideration soon.

More on Australia’s vaccine rollout here.

Victorian schools tested as high case numbers lead to hundreds of closures

The staggered return to face-to-face learning in Victoria is coinciding with high coronavirus case numbers in the community and more than 200 schools have been forced to temporarily close this month.

New COVID-safe protocols mean schools no longer have to close for 14 days, but can reopen the next day in some cases.

New COVID-19 protocols and high case numbers in Victoria mean that schools need to offer a blend of face-to-face and remote learning in term 4. Credit:Eddie Jim

The new protocols enable more students to be in class, but also require schools to perform a new juggling act: educating both the students who are on campus and those who are in quarantine.

Berwick Lodge Primary principal Henry Grossek said the new protocols were particularly tough on primary school students, who are unvaccinated and so must spend 14 days isolating at home.

The large primary school in Melbourne’s southeast has been closed for the past week after 14 students tested positive last week, but will reopen today.

More on Victoria’s road map here.

Barilaro says Berejiklian’s relationship revelation would have pushed gun club off agenda

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has told a corruption inquiry he does not believe a controversial gun club grant would have come before a cabinet committee if then-treasurer Gladys Berejiklian had disclosed her secret relationship with Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

Mr Barilaro yesterday said he first learnt of the relationship during a public corruption hearing last year, with the revelation causing him to reflect on the funding decision for the club in 2016.

Former Deputy Premier John Barilaro arrives at ICAC to give evidence.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Had the relationship been disclosed, he said measures would have been taken to govern how the proposal was debated by the government’s expenditure review committee.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is examining whether Ms Berejiklian breached the public trust or encouraged corrupt conduct during her relationship with Mr Maguire.

The inquiry, in its second week, is probing two government grants sought for Mr Maguire’s Wagga Wagga electorate, including $5.5 million for a clay target shooting club.

Ms Berejiklian is yet to give evidence but has vehemently denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

Read the full story here.

Queensland ‘vax-a-thon’ starts to lift low first-dose rate before border deadline

The first-dose pace has picked up in Queensland since the Palaszczuk government’s road map and regional “vax-a-thon” launched last week, but remains at almost the lowest rate since September.

With just days left for so-far unvaccinated residents to start their weeks-long process to be fully protected before the easing of travel restrictions from hotspot states, authorities remain concerned about regional areas but confident the 80 per cent target will be reached statewide.

Staff at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre mass vaccination hub at Boondall, in the city’s north.Credit:Matt Dennien

The latest federal vaccine rollout data shows a total of 60.7 per cent of Queensland residents 16 and older were fully vaccinated as of Sunday, with 75.2 per cent having received a first dose.

Western Australia remains the only jurisdiction behind Queensland on double-dose coverage.

More on the situation in Queensland here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Tuesday, October 26. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started.

  • Australia is set to become one of the few countries in the world offering a third coronavirus jab. A decision on Pfizer boosters is expected before the end of the week. Pharmacists are also keen to be involved in the booster rollout, but currently risk being left out unless the federal government allows pharmacists to dispense Pfizer (they are only allowed to distribute Moderna jabs at the moment). It comes as the federal and Victorian governments decide whether to allow unvaccinated international tennis players to compete in next year’s Australian Open.
  • Crown will today learn whether it will retain its Melbourne casino licence. A royal commission heard the company failed to prevent money laundering and the infiltration of organised crime. Crown is one of Victoria’s largest employers, with more than 10,000 staff. Meanwhile, Victorian schools are grappling with the staggered return to face-to-face learning due to the number of coronavirus cases in the community. Hundreds of schools have temporarily closed over the past month. Victoria yesterday reported 1461 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths. There are 802 coronavirus patients in Victorian hospitals. Of those, 152 are in intensive care. In terms of vaccination, 74 per cent of Victorians aged 16 or over have had both jabs.
  • Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has told a corruption inquiry he believes Gladys Berejiklian should have disclosed her relationship to disgraced ex-MP Daryl Maguire. Ms Berejiklian has denied any wrongdoing and is expected to give evidence to NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption this week. NSW yesterday reported 294 new local cases of COVID-19 and four deaths. There are 474 coronavirus patients in NSW hospitals. Of those, 116 are in intensive care. When it comes to vaccines, 84.8 per cent of people aged 16 and over in NSW are fully vaccinated.
  • Police have revealed they are yet to speak to everyone who was at the remote Western Australian campsite where four-year-old Cleo Smith was last seen on the morning she went missing. It comes as her parents issue an emotional plea for their daughter to come home.
  • And in the ACT, there were nine new coronavirus cases reported yesterday. There are currently 20 coronavirus patients in Canberra hospitals. Of those, 10 are in ICU.
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