Coronavirus Qld: Check-In Qld app launched

Long queues, waiting times and filling out countless forms could be a thing of the past as a new QR code check-in app is launched across Queensland today.

The Check-In Qld app has been spruiked by the state government as a simple way to improve contact tracing.

The free mobile phone app remembers a person’s details, eliminating the need to re-scan QR codes and re-enter personal information when visiting a particular venue.

But ministers have assured the public only the most basic data will be retained by the government in case of an outbreak.

Businesses will need to sign up to the new app, which is not mandatory.

Doug Meagher, Venue Manager at the Orion Hotel in Springfield, said it simplified the check-in process for people visiting his business and the administration duties for his staff.

“It’s made it more efficient, I’ve been able to take a staff member from the front door and put them back into a service role,” Mr Meagher said.

“It was a convoluted system we previously had, we had excel spreadsheets we needed to send to Queensland Health, we had to retain the data for 28 to 56 days on premise.

“We had QR codes with onerous information … you couldn’t check people in with that.

“Now if you come in, scan it once, you’re done.”

Digital Economy Minister Leeanne Enoch said it was similar to the contact tracing app used in the ACT and had gone through extensive trials prior to the rollout.

She said the data collected by the app would be stored for up to 56 days before being deleted.

“Queensland Health will be able to access that immediately if they have to in order to carry out contact tracing,” Ms Enoch said.

Testing and trials of the new app began in January at selected venues from Cairns to Ipswich.

The app’s launch on Sunday comes as Queensland recorded no new cases of locally-transmitted coronavirus cases.

More than 207 businesses in the trial have registered and are using the new app and more than 29,000 people have checked in at these venues.

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Annastacia Palaszczuk’s shot at Gladys Berejiklian

Annastacia Palaszczuk has fired a warning shot to Gladys Berejiklian, telling Australia’s leaders if you criticise Queensland, don’t come to the state.

The rivalry between the premiers heated up again on Friday ahead of a national cabinet meeting about vaccines and the quarantine system.

Speaking on Today, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was asked when she would visit the Sunshine State.

But Ms Berejiklian said she hoped all premiers would come to NSW because it was the “only state where everybody is welcome, all of the time”.

“You don’t have to worry about being locked in or locked out, come to NSW,” she said in a gibe.

But the Queensland Premier wasn’t having a bar of it when asked about the remarks later in the program.

“Everyone from NSW is welcome to come here, Gladys used to go to Palm Cove,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But maybe if she will criticise Queensland, don’t come to Queensland.”

A showdown is also brewing between the pair over Australia’s vaccine rollout, scheduled to begin later this month.

Scott Morrison on Thursday revealed Australia had secured another 10 million Pfizer doses, doubling Australia’s order for a jab considered the world’s most effective protection from COVID-19.

Ms Berejiklian said she was keen to ensure quarantine workers across the nation were at the front of the queue for the vaccine.

“NSW has more of those workers as we are carrying the larger burden,” she said. “I hope that’s made available as soon as possible.

“Returned travellers are bringing it with them, so if we can make sure everybody in and around that system is vaccinated, that reduces the risk to the whole community.”

But Ms Palaszczuk said Australia’s most vulnerable needed to get the vaccine first.

“I think everyone needs to get their share, it’s not just for NSW people,” she said.

Elderly Australians, hotel quarantine and healthcare workers are in the government’s first priority group for the vaccine.

Ms Berejiklian denied the national cabinet meeting on Friday would be fiery, instead saying it would be “constructive”.

Australia’s international arrival cap will also be discussed after hotel quarantine capacity was halved last month in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia in response to the highly infectious UK strain.

There is also expected to be a war of words over Australia’s quarantine system, with Victoria and Perth both recording a case among hotel quarantine workers this week.

Ms Palaszczuk said more needed to be done to control the spread of coronavirus in hotels, which were not built for the UK variant.

“This virus is actually circulating in the corridors,” she said.

“We have got to do more – our quarantine is our last line of defence when it comes to protecting Australians.”

A report into Brisbane’s hotel quarantine infection in January will be handed down on Friday, prompting Ms Palaszczuk to ramp up calls for quarantine to be moved out of the cities to regional worker camps.

“You can only put options on the table,” she said. “It is up to the PM to come to the party and help.”

Ms Berejiklian has publicly opposed the move to establish regional quarantine facilities and raised concerns about the potential spread of the virus during the long travel from the airport to quarantine.

“We should really look at making sure the systems we have are foolproof as much as possible,” she said.

But the sentiment was rejected by Ms Palaszczuk who said: “If Gladys had an outbreak like we have had in other states, she might change her mind.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the advice to the government was that hotel quarantine remained the most effective way forward.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said: “If you have to quarantine people, it’s better to quarantine people away from large populations”.

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Call to be made on quarantine-free NZ travel

Arrivals from New Zealand have been given hope as “tremendous” work across the Tasman could lift the travel suspension as early as Saturday.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed the government will decide on Saturday whether to end a freeze on quarantine-free travel from New Zealand.

Arrivals from New Zealand were forced into 14 days quarantine on Monday after Wellington confirmed the highly contagious South African strain had skipped the country’s quarantine system.

The suspension was extended for another 72 hours on Thursday after NZ confirmed four community transmission cases of the strain over the two preceding days.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine: Scott Morrison says Australia won’t be hostage to overseas schedules

Anyone arriving from New Zealand before Monday will be required to undergo 14 days in quarantine under current arrangements.

But with zero cases confirmed on Friday, Health Minister Greg Hunt was optimistic travel would soon resume.

“They are doing a tremendous job in terms of widespread testing of staff relating to the hotel quarantine facility, guests, contacts and community,” he said on Friday.

“This provides a basis for them to be reconsidering the current travel pause for the green zone on a 24-hour basis.

“If there are continued excellent results out of New Zealand, which is commensurate with their entire performance over the course of the pandemic, then we hope to be in a position to resume that in the coming days.

“I think that should give hope to everybody who is looking at friends or family arriving from New Zealand.”

The South African variant, which is 50 per cent more transmissible than previous strains of COVID-19, has caused alarm among Australian authorities.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was critical of the suspension on Tuesday, saying Wellington had the situation “well under control”.

A worker in an Auckland quarantine hotel has been sacked after a 20-minute bedroom encounter with a person undergoing their 14 days in isolation.

It comes as Germany recommended against administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 65 amid fears it would not be approved by the European Union regulator.

The UK’s regulator has approved the vaccine for over 65s and stood by its decision, while AstraZeneca denied its was ineffective for the elderly.

The AstraZeneca jab, which is yet to receive approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), makes up the bulk of Australia’s vaccine response.

Drug manufacturer CSL was set to produce 50 million doses in Melbourne, while 1.2 million additional doses were set to arrive from overseas.

Mr Hunt assured Australians the jab would only be administered in circumstances deemed safe by the TGA.

“The TGA makes full consideration of all data available to them,” he said.

“They very clearly have said that they will make the decision based on safety and effectiveness and that safety has and always will be the number one priority.”

But Mr Hunt is confident Australia is prepared for any ruling from the TGA, saying the government expects 140 million vaccine doses from various manufacturers.

It comes as Australia confirmed its 12th consecutive day with no community transmission cases and no Australians in intensive care units.

Mr Hunt described the milestone as a “testament” to the hard work done by medical professionals and the public in following health guidelines.

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Saturday weather: 40C temperatures forecast across QLD

Slap on some sunscreen because hot conditions are forecast across Queensland on Saturday, certain parts of the state set to reach as high as 47C.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast maximum temperatures over 40C in 33 towns.

They include 47C in Birdsville and 43C at Mt Isa across the west, 47C at Longreach in the central west, and 42C at Goondiwindi on the NSW-Queensland border.

Temperatures are expected to reach 30C in Coolangatta, 31C in Surfers Paradise and 33C in Brisbane, where the day is expected to be sunny.

Beachgoers had flocked to Sydney’s Manly beach on Friday.
Camera IconBeachgoers had flocked to Sydney’s Manly beach on Friday. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire/Flavio Brancaleone

But the same can’t be said for Sydney, where showers and a possible late storm are forecast with a maximum of 27C.

Showers are also developing in Canberra with a top of 29C forecast.

As a cold front moves east across South Australia, Adelaide can expect a maximum of 28C with cloudy and windy conditions during the morning and early afternoon.

A windy 28C day is also expected in Melbourne, where showers and the chance of a thunderstorm could occur during the afternoon and evening.

Rain is also developing in Hobart where a cloudy 23C day is forecast.

However, a warm front is developing just south off the coast.

A low pressure system has swept across the middle of Australia, while Darwin experiences showers with a likely storm clearing and a maximum of 31C.

A 24C day is forecast in Perth with cloud clearing to a sunny afternoon.

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Qantas CEO accused of ‘throwing workers to the kerb’

Qantas has been accused of using COVID-19 as cover to sack thousands of Australian workers and replace them with cheap labour from overseas.

Qantas on Monday confirmed 2000 ground service jobs would be axed as part of the embattled airline’s cost overhaul which has been sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. Ground servicing at 10 major Australia airports will be outsourced to a number of overseas aviation operators.

A union delegation arrived in Canberra on Thursday, demanding the government intervene to prevent the cuts.

Sean Toohey has been a Qantas groundworker at Canberra Airport for four years, before finding out his job had been cut via a prerecorded message on Monday.

He was told he would be required to stick around until the company transitioned away, and said finding a new job in the pandemic-stricken economy would be almost impossible.

“(Qantas CEO) Alan Joyce said we were a family and then pretty quickly threw us to the kerb,” he said.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been accused of ‘throwing his workers to the kerb’.
Camera IconQantas CEO Alan Joyce has been accused of ‘throwing his workers to the kerb’. Credit: AAP, AAP/Bianca De Marchi

“We’re hoping the Australian public and the government get behind us to say this isn’t right. (Then) I can then tell my three girls that we do the right thing, that we look after each other.

“It’s not even about whether I did a good job or not. It’s just them bringing in someone who can do it cheaper than me.”

The decision came after months of reviews aimed at reducing the size of Qantas’s workforce. The airliner claimed the cuts were necessary given the devastating financial impact of COVID-19, despite receiving more than $800m in federal government support since the beginning of the pandemic.

Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine has accused Qantas management of using the pandemic as cover to force through a long-held plan to outsource work to cheaper, “substandard” companies.

Sean Toohey (left) was told he’d lost his job via a prerecorded message.
Camera IconSean Toohey (left) was told he’d lost his job via a prerecorded message. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

“There are 2000 Australian families who are absolutely devastated as a result of a decision we now know was premeditated by Qantas management,” he said.

“A spear has been put through these families’ hearts. These are families who have worked for Qantas for up to 30 years. These are families who have literally built the Spirit of Australia.

“One hand on that spear is Qantas management, who have no excuse for this action.”

He said there was no financial justification for the decision, saying Qantas retained the JobKeeper supplement until March and was on the cusp of breaking even.

Qantas said the decision to retrench the workers would save the financially struggling airline $100 million per year.

Chief executive of domestic and international operations Andrew David said the industry had been turned “upside down” and would take years to recoup the financial damage caused by the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, COVID has turned aviation upside down. Airlines around the world are having to make dramatic decisions in order to survive, and the damage will take years to repair,” Mr David said in a statement on Monday.

Qantas said it will take years for the airline to reach pre-pandemic travel numbers, with international travel not expected to resume until at least the middle of 2021.

“International travel is likely to be at a virtual standstill until at least July next year, and it will take years to fully recover, which means we’re carrying the overhead for billions of dollars worth of aircraft in the meantime,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said on Thursday morning.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the government of having an ad hoc strategy over aviation cutbacks, but stopped short of demanding the government revoke subsidies for Qantas’s domestic flights.

Anthony Albanese is calling on the government to intervene on behalf of the workers.
Camera IconAnthony Albanese is calling on the government to intervene on behalf of the workers. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

“(These workers) have done nothing wrong; they’ve just worked hard for their families to put food on the table. They’ve worked hard for Qantas, that great Australian business. They’ve been loyal, and throughout the country they’ve made a difference,” he said.

“But what we’re seeing in this market is there are too many people being left behind.”

Mr Albanese said one of the broader lessons of the pandemic was Australia’s need to shift away from casualisation towards secure, well-paid jobs.

The comments mirror those made by Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus on Wednesday, when she labelled casualisation a “virus” that had exposed Australia to coronavirus outbreaks.

Qantas is pushing ahead with plans to outsource 2000 Australian jobs.
Camera IconQantas is pushing ahead with plans to outsource 2000 Australian jobs. Credit: News Corp Australia, NCA NewsWire/James Gourley

ACTU president Michele O’Neil criticised the government for offering Qantas an economic parachute during the pandemic, without guarantees the airliner would not outsource Australian jobs.

“We’ve got government money going to companies without strings attached,” she said.

“At the very same time that money is being paid to a company like Qantas, that they have treated these workers in a cruel way, asking them to bid for their own jobs.

“And then after not even a week of considering that, they announced via recorded message that they weren’t wanted anymore.”

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