Scott Morrison in no rush to further ease borders as trans-Tasman travel bubble finally opens

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes to set a pathway for future international travel when the national cabinet meets, but he is in no rush to open borders.

Two-way travel between Australia and New Zealand began from Sunday night and one of the tasks for the national cabinet is to plot how international borders can ease further in the coming months.

But Scott Morrison is in no rush to lift international restrictions when the COVID-19 pandemic is raging around the world.

The global death toll from coronavirus has now topped three million people and the prime minister said issues around borders and how they are managed will be handled very carefully.

“But the idea on one day that everything just opens, that is not how this will happen,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

“It will be happening cautiously and carefully, working very hard on the medical and health protections in place because I’m not going to put at risk the way that Australians are living today.”

The national cabinet will meet on Monday, the first of twice-weekly gatherings following the vaccine rollout being thrown into disarray after health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people over the age of 50 after blood-clotting was linked to younger people.

Included in discussions will be changes to Australia’s vaccination policy, including state vaccination implementation plans, in the wake of the new advice around the AstraZeneca vaccine and additional supplies of Pfizer doses.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the vaccine rollout has been a “debacle”.

“Scott Morrison has had more than a year to prepare for the rollout of the vaccine but what we have is him giving up on the timetable, giving up on telling Australians what they want to know,” he told reporters in Hobart.

“Australians want to know when they’ll be vaccinated.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is now approaching 1.5 million vaccinations after some 330,000 jabs were completed in the past week.

He said GPs continue to be the cornerstone of the program but going forward, with very strong support of the states, national cabinet will consider ways the states can assist with larger vaccination clinics.

From Wednesday, Victorians aged over 70 will be able to show up to a vaccine centre and get jabbed without an appointment as the state prepares to scale up its rollout.

“We’ve worked around the clock to find solutions to get vaccines in people’s arms as quickly and safely as possible,” Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said.

But Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein, who is in the heat of an election campaign, is concerned about the delays and lack of communication from the federal government about the vaccine rollout for residents and staff at disability and aged care residential facilities.

“We are in a good place but we cannot afford to go backwards,” he said in a statement.

A woman who died from blood-clotting last week was the third case linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The first two cases are still in hospital.

The nation’s chief nurse Alison McMillan recognises there could be hesitancy in being vaccinated, but encourages anyone with concerns to talk to their health professional, GP or nurse practitioner.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, who was until recently the minister for science and technology, did offer some hope for vaccine support in the future.

She says Australia has the capability to manufacture an mRNA type COVID-19 vaccine like Pfizer’s, but is currently not able to produce it at scale.

The Pfizer vaccine is recommended for people under 50, a treatment which the government has secured a further 20 million doses, but they won’t arrive until late in the year.

Ms Andrews said it is “absolutely” possible Australia could manufacture an mRNA vaccine, and that work is already under way to try and make possible its production at scale.

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Two STUNNING A-League strikes

A-League: Which was the superior A-League strike? A sidefoot stunner from Newcastle Jets midfielder Steven Ugarkovic, or a lovely top corner from the left boot of Perth Glory forward Joel Chianese.

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ServiceNSW app down, COVID check-ins and Dine and Discover vouchers affected

NSW Health has apologised after Sunday night plans were thwarted for millions of people across NSW as a technical glitch shut down the state government app used to check into venues for COVID safety.

NSW Health confirmed the app was back on board at around 9pm, but it is understood the outage affecting the MyServiceNSW app was due to a technical issue that started earlier on Sunday afternoon and is being investigated.

“We can confirm the app is back up,” a statement said.

“We apologise for any inconvenience and are continuing to monitor the app to ensure it’s stable.”

NSW residents attending pubs, restaurants and other venues on Sunday night were being told to check-in digitally via the ServiceNSW webform instead.

“It’s vital that customer contact details are still collected digitally,” the department said.

“Customers and businesses are encouraged to use the Service NSW check-in webform for all check-ins. The webform was not impacted by the outage.”

Affected residents have flooded social media expressing outrage at the technical glitch, which has also left them unable to redeem the NSW government’s $100 Dine and Discover vouchers.

In addition to COVID-related services, the app is used to manage digital driver’s licences and vehicle registrations.

Dine and Discover vouchers were introduced by the NSW government to encourage residents to visit hospitality, entertainment and cultural venues across the state.

Under the scheme, NSW residents aged 18 and older can apply for four $25 vouchers for a total of $100 on the MyServiceNSW app.

There are $25 vouchers to be used at restaurants, cafes, bars, wineries, pubs or clubs and they can be redeemed from Monday to Thursday, and two $25 experience vouchers to be used for entertainment and recreation, including cultural institutions, live music, and arts venues on any day of the week.

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