Protestors have hit one Melbourne suburb to rally against “segregated dining”, while Victorians eat in restaurants across the street.
Welcome to Saturday’s coverage of Australia’s Covid-19 situation.
Case numbers in Victoria have experienced a drop as fully vaccinated residents enter their first weekend of freedom. The state reported 1750 new infections overnight and sadly, nine new deaths.
Meanwhile, NSW has recorded 322 new Covid cases and two deaths, with cases expected to rise over the coming days due to the state’s eased restrictions.
Queensland is also on high alert after a rideshare driver was infectious in the community for 10 days. Authorities said the man is “so sick” he can barely speak with contact tracers.
Follow below for today’s top updates. Keep refreshing the page for the latest news.
Anti-vaxxers stage protest in Melbourne
Dozens of anti-vax protestors have staged a “takeover” of St Kilda as they rally against restrictions being eased but only for the fully vaccinated.
Footage shows the maskless protestors sitting down on the footpath, carrying banners calling for the “end of segregation”.
Meanwhile, people dine outdoors in restaurants across the road from the protestors.
One man on Twitter said the protest was about “segregated dining in Australia”, with only the double jabbed currently allowed to eat in restaurants.
Victorian Police can be seen monitoring the situation and have been seen speaking to protestors. One man was handcuffed and detained by police then released again after a fiery exchange where he yelled he was being “illegally detained”.
Many social media users were not impressed by the protest.
“No, this is not segregated dining. This is a bunch of people picnicking on a main street due to their choice,” wrote one person on Twitter.
“Funny how anti-vaxxers insist on the freedom to choose whether or not to vaccinate. That’s fine imo. But they don’t respect the freedom of others not to do business with them or associate with them. That’s hypocrisy. Freedom of choice by all means but not just for them, for all!” one man said.
“Segregated by choice – not because of some factor that is otherwise protected like race, religion, gender or sexuality. Hope this helps,” another woman tweeted.
“In St Kilda today Melbourne’s worst people were protesting against “discrimination” because they don’t want to get a vaccine. In Carlton people were protesting against actual discrimination: in support of refugees who‘ve been locked in a hotel with a COVID outbreak & denied help,” another said.
On Friday, Melbourne exited lockdown after it reached 70 per cent of the population being double vaxxed.
When Covid booster shots are coming
Vulnerable Australians could start to receive booster shots from November 8, provided medical regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration gives it the green light.
Residents and staff in aged and disability care would be first in line for the third shot, alongside those working in high risk occupations such as healthcare, quarantine and border control.
Booster shots are likely to be offered roughly six months after a person has received their second dose.
But Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said people shouldn’t be concerned about losing immunity and instead it was about preventing a risk of breakthrough infections.
“I should emphasise, if you’ve had two doses, you are fully vaccinated and very well protected against becoming severely unwell,” he said.
“There is little evidence that protection against severe disease wanes over time in those who are double vaccinated.
“But what we do know is that antibody levels fall over time and there is a risk of breakthrough infections where vaccinated people may become infected and at risk of transmitting Covid-19 to others.”
The exact timing of the rollout of booster shots would be based on advice from the government’s vaccine advisory body, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
The broader population is expected to be able to access booster shots before the end of the year.
Victoria hits new vax milestone
On Saturday, the state reached a key milestone with 90 per cent of the population receiving one vaccine dose.
Premier Dan Andrews has previously said he would like to see Victoria hit 94 or 95 per cent of the populaton being double vaxxed by the end of the year.
The state administered 39,126 vaccine doses on Friday
‘Eight days’: Anna’s urgent warning
Annastacia Palaszczuk has levelled a stern warning at her state, as Christmas approaches and Queensland prepares to open up.
“8 days. That’s how long you have to get fully vaccinated in time for our borders to open. The higher the vaccination rate, the safer we will be,” the Premier wrote.
“Make sure you’re fully protected before Delta arrives. It’s urgent.”
When Queensland hits 70 per cent double dose – which Ms Palaszczuk has said she expected by November 19 – fully vaccinated interstate residents from declared hotspots will be allowed to fly into the Sunshine State.
They will need to have received a negative Covid test within 72 hours of their flight and will then have to quarantine for 14 days at a home.
When Queensland hits 80 per cent double dose – expected on December 17 – fully vaccinated Australians from interstate will be free to drive or fly into the state. The negative Covid test within 72 hours of the flight will still be required, however home quarantine will be scrapped.
Education Minister Grace Grace told reporters this morning that Ms Palaszczuk had “locked in” December 17 as the state’s reopening date, and it would go ahead regardless of the 80 per cent milestone being met.
“What it means is that the virus will come into Queensland. There is no doubt about that, and it will seek out t aren’t vaccinated,” she warned.
“We want to make sure we protect as many Queenslanders as possible from the young, right through to the elderly, and we’re urging everyone to get vaccinated.”
Ms Grace pointed to a rideshare driver in the state currently in a “serious but stable condition” with the virus as incentive to get the jab.
“You don’t want to be, as a gentle reminder, the Uber driver who unfortunately was unvaccinated, has caught Covid and is in a very serious condition in hospital … We don’t want to see Queenslanders in that position.”
Weimar drops big hint about new freedoms
Asked today whether Victoria could hit 80 per cent double vaccination levels before anticipated – meaning further freedoms – Jeroen Weimar said the targets “are coming really close to us now”.
“We can taste the benefits of success,” he told reporters.
“We can see those 80/90 per cent deadlines are coming really close to us now.”
Mr Weimar said it’s likely the state will hit the milestone “next weekend”, adding that the weeks to come will help determine how Christmas and Boxing Day in Victoria will look, using major events like the Melbourne Cup as a guide.
“If we can see that these case numbers don’t go crazy, if we can ensure that we can keep the hospitalisation numbers as low as possible so we can keep Victorians out of hospital, and the way we do that is by getting more people vaccinated,” he said.
“If all those things happen over the coming weeks then we have a really good run in to see how that’s going to play and what it means for December and events like the Boxing Day tests.”
‘Welcome trend’ in Victoria numbers
There has been a “welcome trend” in Victoria’s hospitalisation numbers over the past week, Covid commander Jeroen Weimar told reporters.
While there are currently 770 Victorians in hospital, including 144 in intensive care, 90 of whom are on a ventilator, Mr Weimar said the number of infected people requiring hospitalisation has “stabilised”.
“[It’s] a welcome trend to see a lower number today, 770 numbers over the last few days. My thanks, hugely, to everyone working physically on the hospitals dealing with Covid patients and our wider health force, healthcare workforce for the phenomenal work they are doing to support those with Covid-19 and those with other conditions who need their care and attention at this time,” he added.
The majority of patients being treated in hospital with the virus are those who haven’t been vaccinated.
“We continue to see it’s the unvaccinated ending up in hospital. Yesterday of the 770 people in hospital, 86 per cent were not fully vaccinated. Of the 144 in intensive care yesterday, 93 per cent were not fully vaccinated,” Mr Weimar said.
“It highlights time and time again that the vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the ongoing pandemic we see all around us.”
‘We are not out of the woods yet’
Victoria’s Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar has urged his state to remain vigilant as it slowly opens up.
“As we start to open up and socialise more and do all those wonderful things that are now possible again, remember if you have any symptoms, whether you are vaccinated or not, make sure you’re tested and that’s the best way you can keep protecting yourself and those around you,” he told reporters.
“We now have over 23,000 active cases of coronavirus in the state. That highlights that although we can continue to enjoy these freedoms, remember there are a lot of people with Covid-19 in our community.
“We are delighted and glad that so many of them are getting tested and isolating effectively when they find out they have the virus, but it’s so important that we all act with some restraint and respect and that we are likely to see people around us who may have Covid.
“Get yourself vaccinated and keep all these good practices over the days and week ahead.”
ACT records 24 new cases
There have been 24 new cases of Covid-19 local cases in the ACT in the last 24 hours.
There are currently 19 people in hospital with the virus, including 12 in the ICU, four of whom require ventilation.
‘We want people to get back into work’
In NSW, Premier Dominic Perrottet has told reporters that as his state continues to open up, “we want people to get back into work” as businesses report labour shortages.
“Hang in there, we are opening up. It’s a lot of built-up demand. If you look at the numbers coming through, it’s incredibly encouraging and pleasing about where the state is economically at the moment, as we’ve opened up,” Mr Perrottet said.
“Now, there are going to be challenges with labour shortages. We’ve raised that with the federal government.
“In relation to the disaster payment – this is one of the reasons as well, we supported the Commonwealth government in winding back the disaster payment. We want people to get back into work, particularly in those areas that need staff.
“And you know, it’s a challenge but it’s a better challenge to have than having high unemployment.”
Booster program could start next week
Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine booster program could start as early as next week, The Australian reports, with the federal government rushing to boost the immunity of aged care residents and health care workers.
While peak aged care bodies and frontline workers who were vaccinated at the start of the rollout have expressed concern about waning immunity, health department secretary Brendan Murphy said there’s yet to be “any good evidence that [vaccine] protection from severe disease” has dropped.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said that approval for a third dose of Pfizer could come “by the middle of the next week”, adding that the booster program would then “able to begin immediately”.
“We’ve said the commencement date for aged-care inreach is the 8th of November, but indeed some facilities may be able to begin by the end of next week. And if we were to receive that approval by the end of next week, we will be in a position to start the general population on a booster as they come due,” he added.
Welcoming the move too fast track the booster rollout, Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Paul Sadley said it’ll “hopefully” put them “ahead of any wave from the opening up of society”.
“We can’t be closed to the world like we have been over the last few months but we’ve got to step carefully,” he said.
Infected Uber driver in ‘serious but stable position’
Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace also provided an update on the wellbeing of a rideshare driver who was infectious in the community for 10 days.
Authorities had previously said the man was “so sick” he could barely speak with contact tracers.
Ms Grace said the Uber driver is now in a “serious but stable condition”.
“He’s not in intensive care, but he is unwell,” she said.
No new cases in Qld
In good news for the Sunshine State, Education Minister Grace Grace has confirmed there have been no new local cases in the last 24 hours.
“We have zero new cases in the community, and zero cases detected in hotel quarantine,” Ms Grace told reporters, declaring it was a “double doughnut day”.
“Currently that leaves us with 26 active cases and 2082 total cases here in Queensland. We’re up to 74.1 per cent single-dose vaccination.
“And we’re nearly at the 60 per cent double dose, with 59.3 per cent of the population, 16 and over, double vaxxed.”
Major drop for Vic cases on first freedom weekend
Case numbers in Victoria have experienced a drop as fully vaccinated residents enter their first weekend of freedom.
The state reported 1750 new infections overnight and sadly, nine new deaths.
NSW records 322 new cases
There’ve been 322 new cases of local Covid-19 in NSW in the 24 hours up to 8pm last night.
Two people died with the virus in the same reporting period.
Aussie group who shouldn’t skip booster
Australians who fast-tracked their second AstraZeneca jab have been warned not to delay their booster shot by GPs.
According to data from the Australian Immunisation Register, reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, more than 177,000 people in NSW received their two vaccine doses just four weeks apart, after the recommended interval was shorted from 12 weeks to between four and eight.
Another 140,000 people received their second jab eight weeks after their first (with doses 55 and 57 days apart), while about 616,000 people in NSW received AstraZeneca with the initially recommended 12-week interval.
While NSW chair of the Royal Australian College of GPs, Dr Charlotte Hespe, said it was “wonderful” that so many people had followed the updated advice to get fully vaccinated quicker.
But, she said, “if you did have your AstraZeneca at a time frame of less than 12 weeks, please do try and make sure your booster is at six months rather than, perhaps, delaying it until 10 months; do not wait for your booster”.
State reveals border change with NSW
South Australia has changed its border rules with NSW, meaning some travellers from the state will now be permitted to enjoy more freedoms amid surging vaccine rates.
State Covid-19 co-ordinator and police commissioner Grant Stevens has authorised restriction-free transit travel through Sydney Airport, and quarantine rules that forced international travellers who had quarantined in Sydney first to undertake an additional fortnight of isolation in SA have also been scrapped.
The NSW Cross Border Corridor has also been reinstated – meaning anyone who hasn’t left the corridor or associated with someone outside the corridor within the past 14 days will be permitted to travel anywhere within SA.
The changes come as Health Minister Stephen Wade told reporters that SA’s borders will reopen “within weeks”.
Speaking before the Covid Transition Committee meeting on Friday, Mr Wade declined to specify a deadline, but said modelling would show the way forward for his state.
A parliamentary committee on Thursday heard that SA would reopen once double vaccination rates hit 80 per cent – with the state currently standing at 61 per cent.
Victorian businesses targeted by anti-vaxxers
On Friday – the first day of freedom for vaccinated Victorians – a disgruntled group of anti-vaxxers came up with a plan to short-circuit the state’s vaccine passport system.
A poster shared by organisers of the so-called Melbourne “freedom rallies” is doing the rounds on social media, urging the unvaccinated to visit shops and restaurants to see whether they would be denied entry.
Under Victoria’s current rules, only fully vaccinated members of society can dine at restaurants, bars, cafes and pubs. They are expected to show their vaccine certificates on entry when they check in.
But anti-vaxxers are attempting to shame those who deny them access.
“Be a part of #Danslockoutfail by highlighting how the Victorian Government will once again fail to enforce its disgraceful mandates,” the poster reads.
“Step 1: Visit a restaurant or shop without showing a vaccine passport and post proof on social media.
“Step 2: If you are denied access to a business because they choose to segregate you from society, shame (them) by posting them on social media.”
But business owners are not having it. One operator who saw the poster on social media responded with the following message:
“I own a retail store. If you try this in my shop, I will film you and post you being a d***head all over social media.
“I will also contact television networks, they love a story involving Chads and Karen’s being twats in public.”
However, many flaunted that they were able to dine in or get a haircut without being vaccinated.
Some suggested using a friend’s phone had worked, others said no check-ins were required and businesses were not enforcing the new rules.
“I had a nice lunch out in Errol Street, North Melbourne. Not vaccinated and not asked for cert,” one person wrote.
Another wrote that they were “going everywhere”, to which one commenter wrote “except overseas or interstate”.
Tasmania reveals when borders will open
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein has revealed that the state’s border will open when 90 per cent of the adult population are double vaccinated against Covid-19. That is estimated to happen on December 15.
“So today I’m signalling to every eligible Tasmanian over the age of 12, if you’re not vaccinated, get it done, and get it done as soon as possible,” he said.
“Don’t wait until 14 December.”
The rules outlined by the Tasmanian Premier mean that fully vaccinated Australians from any other state and territory will be eligible to enter the state from December 15 but they will require a negative Covid test within 72 hours of arriving.
The Premier said there would be no turning back after that point, but a number of restrictions will remain.
Originally published as Australia Covid news live: Anti-vaxxers stage protest in Melbourne