Six vaccinated travellers test positive to COVID in hotel quarantine

Six overseas travellers who reported they were fully vaccinated have tested positive for COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine, authorities have revealed.

The numbers were released in this week’s NSW Health COVID-19 surveillance report as the federal government pushes forward with its vaccine passport plans.

The report states six people in the NSW hotel quarantine system tested positive over four weeks ending on May 1, despite reporting they were vaccinated prior to landing in Australia.

The figures raise concerns about the prospects of a vaccine passport system as Scott Morrison comes under increasing pressure to repatriate Australians stranded overseas.

NSW Health noted all six may have contracted the potentially deadly virus prior to their vaccination becoming fully effective.

The report stated a dose does not become fully effective until two weeks after the patient receives the second of a two-dose vaccine.

According to federal government figures 2.5 million Australians have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

But the government has received criticism for its slow roll out, falling well below its target of having four million adults given the jab by the end of March.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week said his government was working on a prospective vaccine passport system, which would allow those with the jab to travel more freely.

He noted a condition of such a system would be proof that vaccines protect travellers against the transmission of the virus.

The success of the rollout will play a big part in any planned vaccine passport system, which would allow Australians to travel abroad.

China unveiled its digital passport system last month, with other countries including the United States announcing similar plans.

It would allow travellers to prove that they had been vaccinated in order to enter another country.

“I think (a vaccine passport) is the next step, but I do think that next step is some way away,” Mr Morrison told 3AW.

“If you’re fully vaccinated, you would be able to travel, certainly around Australia, but maybe overseas, without the need for hotel quarantine.”

The report also reveals that 89 of the 180 cases came from overseas travellers arriving from India, followed by the United States (15) and Bangladesh.

India has been racked by the virus, prompting the government to ban anyone from travelling to Australia if they had been to India in the previous fortnight.

The ban will be lifted on May 15, Mr Morrison said.

He described the ban as a “pause” and said it would end on its intended date, with repatriation flights to begin after that.

They are currently 9000 Australians in India who want to come home, including 173 children who are in the country without their parents, a Senate committee heard this week.

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Water spouts form in incredible Port Macquarie storm event

It could be the start of an apocalyptic movie … or it could be Port Macquarie having a freak storm pass through.

NSW coastal towns were treated to an incredible weather event this afternoon when multiple water spouts formed offshore.

Social media platforms have been flooded with amazing photos and videos of the phenomenon this afternoon, which could be seen in Taree, Harrington and Old Bar.

“Harrington on the Mid North Coast got one impressive show this afternoon as multiple waterspouts formed along the coast,” the NSW Incident Reports Facebook page posted.

“A line of storms have formed along lower parts of the Mid North Coast with multiple waterspouts forming off the coast.”

Locals said it “looked like the start of an alien invasion”.

One person joked: “Hope they don‘t hit land, they will have to quarantine for 14 days”.

There were at least five water spouts seen at one point.

A hail event followed and more water spouts were predicted from the Bureau of Meteorology but the storm proved short and intense.

According to the bureau’s storm spotter’s handbook, water spouts can seen near the coast in the late summer and autumn.

“Cool, unstable air masses passing over the warmer waters allow vigorous up draughts to form, which can tighten up into a spinning column,” it says.

“The cool, moist air usually supports a full condensation funnel.

“Water spouts can be dangerous for boaters and shoreline locations but are no threat farther inland since they collapse soon after they move onshore.”

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New Zealand temporarily pauses travel bubble with WA after new cases

Officials at the New Zealand Ministry of Health have put an immediate pause on flights from Western Australia after new positive COVID-19 cases were recorded in Perth.

A worker in his 20s at a Perth isolation facility tested positive for COVID-19 as part of routine testing this weekend. Two of the man’s housemates have also tested positive.

“Scheduled direct flights from Western Australia to New Zealand should be immediately paused while a further assessment is carried out, including a further assessment and information from Australian health officials,” a Ministry of Health statement said in light of the news.

A flight from Perth due to land in Auckland at 5.50am this morning was stopped in its tracks due to the new information.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the positive case, a security guard at the Pan Pacific Hotel, had been at work between April 24-26 and previously tested negative for the virus.

He had already received his first dose of the vaccine by the time his result was returned positive.

He was reportedly working on the same floor two positive overseas cases were spending their isolation period.

“On his first day off, Tuesday, 27 April, is the day our health authorities expect he may have become infectious in the community,” Mr McGowan said.

“I understand on this day he dropped friends to their workplace and went to a friend’s house. We understand later that evening he developed symptoms which he thought were related to his COVID Pfizer vaccine.

“On Friday morning he visited a mosque for about 30 minutes and then went to a hotel quarantine facility for his weekly PCR test under the requirement we have in place for hotel quarantine workers. Test results came back and were confirmed to be positive.”

WA officials are currently weighing up whether to enforce another lockdown as contact tracers attempt to locate the cause of the spread. The state enforced strict mask-wearing rules after threats of a new cluster emerged, requiring all citizens in Perth and the neighbouring Peel region to cover up while indoors and on public transport.

“We are effectively in a holding pattern and I hope we can avoid going back into lockdown,” Mr McGowan said.

“What has helped enormously is that, due to the interim restrictions we have had in place since Tuesday, they have significantly reduced movement in the community and everyone has been wearing masks.

“That gives us some confidence that the risk of transmission is significantly lower than it would normally be. These factors and the fact we have picked up this case as early means we can avoid moving into a lockdown at this point. But it is possible this could change by tomorrow or the day after.”

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Travel loophole letting people come to Australia from India

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has placed a pause on all flights from India, but there is still a sneaky loophole travellers from the COVID-19-ravaged nation can use to get into Australia.

The decision to pause flights came in a bid to reduce the number of infected travellers arriving in Australia, with hotel quarantine cases across the country skyrocketing in recent days.

However, it is still possible for anyone with a valid travel exemption to get around the ban by transiting through another country.

Almost 20 countries have now stopped flights from India, but Qatar and China are still offering trips.

Flights from these countries have still been arriving in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airport, with more scheduled for the future.

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This means a person travelling from India could transit through one of these countries before coming to Australia.

News Corp contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and asked about the loophole but the department just referred to the comments Mr Morrison made about the travel pause on Tuesday.

In his statement, Mr Morrison mentioned indirect flights through Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have been paused, though he didn’t mention the possible transit through Qatar and China.

Other countries that have placed a temporary ban on flights from India include New Zealand, Iran, France, US, UK, Hong Kong, Canada,

The decision to pause all flights from India to Australia until May 15 has left thousands of Australians stranded in the country while it battles a deadly second wave of COVID-19 infections.

When flights resume, people wishing to enter Australia will be required to have both a negative PCR test result and a negative Rapid Antigen test result prior to taking off.

Mr Morrison said priority would be given to vulnerable Australians wishing to return home.

RELATED: India’s horrifying new COVID spike

Hotel quarantine cases still rising

It comes as multiple states and territories have experienced a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in hotel quarantine.

NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have all experienced a rise in infected returned travellers.

On Wednesday, NSW recorded nine new hotel quarantine infections, with Ms Berejiklian warning Thursday’s figures are expected to exceed this number.

“I was just advised that overnight we have already had double digit new cases in our hotel quarantine system, which we will report on tomorrow,” she said during Wednesday’s press conference.

“The increasing incidents of disease in some parts of the world is very substantial, it is impacting us in our quarantine system.”

Authorities are still working to determine the source of origin for the new hotel quarantine cases but chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant confirmed there has been a rise in infections coming from India.

“As you would expect we are seeing a higher rate of positivity in returning travellers from India,” she said.

It follows multiple days of high quarantine infections rates, with NSW recording 49 new quarantine cases since Friday.

Queensland, which had previously been recording low levels of daily infections in returned travellers, experienced a sharp rise with nine hotel cases confirmed overnight.

South Australia has also seen an increase in hotel quarantine infections, recording 14 new cases on Monday, up from the nine recorded on Friday.

Likewise, the Northern Territory has been battling a wave of international cases, recording four new infections on Monday, 10 on Saturday and 13 on Friday.

Of those quarantine cases, 24 had arrived on flights from India.

In the past two days, Western Australia has recorded eight new hotel quarantine cases, the majority of which have been linked to returned travellers from India.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan claimed more than half of Australia’s active COVID-19 cases were now from people who had returned from India.

“These days the rate is now over half of our cases are out of India,” Mr McGowan told reporters on Wednesday, labelling the situation “terribly tragic”.

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Victorian plane passengers waiting for tests 5 days after flying with infected traveller

Passengers on a flight from Perth to Melbourne that transported a COVID-infected man are still waiting to be tested for the virus almost a week after touching down.

All passengers on the Qantas flight QF778 were contacted and all ground crew tested after the man returned a positive test last week, sparking fresh community transmission fears.

All 10 staff exposed to the case tested negative.

Of the 241 passengers, 156 have all tested negative, but Victorian MP Ben Carroll confirmed there were still passengers who were waiting for a test.

“We’ve still got further outstanding tests that are happening today and tomorrow on that Perth flight, and we’ll have updates during the week,” Mr Carroll told reporters on Monday.

The man, 54, from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, flew to the city on Wednesday and returned a positive test result on Friday after becoming the third person to contract the virus at Perth’s Mercure Hotel.

His household contacts – a spouse and two children – have all returned negative test results.

The passengers on his flight, as well as hundreds of people who were at Melbourne Airport at the time, were last week asked to get tested and quarantine for 14 days.

The man, who was asymptomatic, was notified of his close contact status as he touched down in Melbourne and has been in isolation since then.

Victoria’s COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said efforts to test all remaining passengers were continuing.

“Yesterday we had people doing home visits to passengers who hadn’t picked up the phone,” Mr Weimar told ABC radio on Monday.

“We’re very confident we’ve got good engagement and response from all the people on the plane and we’ll continue on that vein.”

Meanwhile, players and staff from North Melbourne football club have all returned negative results after playing at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Saturday night.

The team was granted an exemption to return to Victoria on Sunday and were tested on arrival and forced to isolate.

Victoria recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday from more than 12,000 test results.

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PM Morrison confirms arrivals from India could be cut even further over COVID-19 outbreak

The number of passengers arriving from India could be cut even further if the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreak continues to run out of control.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday revealed arrivals from India would be slashed by a third, while travel the other way will be banned except in “very urgent circumstances”.

India recorded 314,835 cases on Thursday, the worst single-day case increase in any country since the pandemic began.

Direct flights from the country land in Sydney and the Northern Territory, and Mr Morrison said the federal government would work with the states and territory leaders to strengthen the measures if necessary.

RELATED: Australia limits arrivals from India over escalating COVID-19 outbreak

“If the state government wants to do more than that, we will work with them to that end,” he told reporters on Friday.

“If we need to go further (in the Northern Territory), they’re the discussions I’m having directly with Chief Minister Gunner.

“We’re all working on the same page there.”

COVID-19 cases in Australia’s hotel quarantine system linked to India have jumped from 10 per cent to 40 per cent since January.

Anyone who has been in India within the last 14 days will also be required to undertake a PCR COVID-19 test 72 hours before boarding in their last port of call before departing for Australia.

“That will put a brake, a filter, on those who are getting on the flights,” Mr Morrison said.

“It’s not a simple matter of just saying people from India can’t come to Australia because they are not coming directly from India.”

Mr Morrison said the measures had been unanimously agreed by national cabinet.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese accepted health advice underpinned the decision but said the outbreak in India showed an urgent need for the government to get its vaccine rollout back on track.

“It just shows as well, given that the situation in India had been improving prior to the latest outbreak, that we can’t be complacent,” he said on Friday.

“It is one of the reasons why we need vaccinations to occur and for Scott Morrison to do it properly.”

But the Prime Minister revealed there had only been a slight increase in cases in hotel quarantine despite the outbreak in India, which has been listed as ‘high risk’ by the federal government.

He predicted on Thursday that list would expand in the coming days.

“We need to put in place the risk management that protects it going over the next few weeks and the pandemic is raging around the world,” he said.

“I don’t expect this to be the last time when we have to make such a decision.”

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Victorians returning from NZ urged to get tested

Victorians returning home from New Zealand are being urged to monitor for coronavirus symptoms and “get tested immediately” following an Auckland Airport worker who contracted the virus.

The Department of Health on Wednesday advised: “Anyone who has travelled to Victoria from Auckland since April 17 to monitor for symptoms and isolate and get tested immediately should symptoms develop.”

The New Zealand Ministry of Health has released a number of exposure sites since the worker was confirmed to have contracted the virus on Tuesday.

Anyone who has visited these exposure sites on the listed dates and times needs to get tested, isolate until they get a negative result and phone the Victorian Department of Health on 1300 651 160, it was advised.

All close contacts of the Auckland case have so far tested negative to COVID-19.

It comes amid revelations the coronavirus-infected airport staffer who cleaned planes from high-risk countries also worked on an aircraft bound for Australia, with fears the staffer may have passed the infection on just two days after the trans-Tasman bubble opened.

New Zealand’s director of public health Caroline McElnay said authorities believed the case was linked to a returning passenger from Ethiopia.

“The person who has become infected works at cleaning planes from international flights,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

“This includes countries that are deemed red zone where COVID-19 is widespread, but also includes having cleaned green zone planes flying back to Australia on Monday.”

Dr McElnay noted it was the same protocol used in Australia.

“The person wore full PPE while cleaning and we have been in touch with Australian authorities to notify them about this case,” she said.

“Our assessment is that there is no additional risk to any passengers who travelled on those flights cleaned by the infected person.”

The worker has received both doses of the COVID-19 jab, which means the risk to the community is low.

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Comedian shocked as Qantas ticket with extra legroom costs almost a billion dollars

An Aussie comedian who tried to buy extra legroom on his flight said the ticket had come with an eye-watering, almost billion-dollar price tag.

Dave O’Neil shared a screenshot of his booking for return flights from Melbourne to Perth, which he’d been trying to purchase extra legroom for. The quoted price was for $987,999,999.00.

“Hey @Qantas all I wanted was extra leg room on my flight to Perth, very happy to pay for it but this seems a bit expensive,” he wrote.

The excessive price gathered a huge amount of attention on social media with the tweet attracting more than 2000 likes and hundreds of replies.

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“They always lower the price by a few bucks so you don’t feel like you’re spending a full billion,” Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall wrote.

“Just use Afterpay to spread the cost out,” another joked.

“On behalf of all Qantas shareholders, thank you Dave for the dividends,” another said.

Qantas also replied to Mr O’Neil telling him the cost did look unusual, and to get in touch.

Qantas told it hasn’t been able to replicate the charge, but is still investigating.

“While we know that customers really value extra leg room, the price displayed was definitely a bit of a stretch,” a spokesperson told in a statement.

“We can confirm the passenger was charged the correct amount of $70 per sector for the extra legroom and we’re investigating what caused the incorrect amount to be displayed.”

It comes as Australian airports were once again filled with emotional travellers as the trans Tasman bubble officially launched on Monday.

It means for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Kiwis and Aussies are allowed to freely travel across the ditch without quarantining.

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Scott Morrison wants overseas vaccination travel plan

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urgently asking medical experts to formulate a plan on how vaccinated Aussies can travel overseas and skip hotel quarantine upon return.

The PM said the country’s “main goal” was vaccinating the most vulnerable parts of the population, but said an international travel plan was “what I’d like to see happen next”.

“This is what I’ve tasked the medical experts with, is ensuring that we can know when an Australian is vaccinated here with their two doses, is able to travel overseas and return without having to go through hotel quarantine,” he told 6PR Perth Radio.

“I think we’re still some time away from that. The states, at this stage, I’m sure wouldn’t be agreeing to relaxing those hotel quarantine arrangements for those circumstances at this point in time.

“But what we need to know from the health advisers is what does make that safe and what does make that possible.”

Mr Morrison warned reopening the international borders now could result in more than 1000 cases of coronavirus a week.

“Vaccinations are not a silver bullet. We’ve never said they are,” he said.

“Australians have become very used to the fact … of having zero case numbers and zero community transmission.

“I don’t think Australians … would welcome restrictions and closures and borders shutting and all of those things, again, out of states concerned about the rising numbers of case numbers.

“So everyone needs to get on the same page with that. And so they’re the important threshold issues we’ve got to work together through as a national cabinet.

“And that’s why I’m calling them back together again to work on that same operational tempo that we were during the pandemic, because these are the challenges we need to solve together now.”

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton backed the PM’s plan and said he hoped for a home quarantine setup for vaccinated Aussie travellers “soon rather than later”.

“As quickly as we can and as the Prime Minister pointed out, if people have had properly recognised the vaccine, if they are living in London or the United States or anywhere else in the world and they want to come back home and see family or see their grandparents, bring their newborn grandchild back home, then we want to facilitate that as quickly as possible,” he told the Today show on Friday morning.

“But we just need to do it in a safe way.

“And if we are having a situation where people are coming back and bringing the virus back with them, then we will see community transmission – So again it is trying to get that balance right.

“But if we can get people away from hotel quarantine into home quarantine and people do the right thing, then you can scale up the numbers obviously much more significantly than if we are just relying on hotels.”

But Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Australians should have been home already.

“There are more than 40,000 Australians still stranded overseas,” Mr Albanese said.

“Scott Morrison said that Australians would be home by Christmas; that‘s Christmas 2020.”

Australia slammed its borders shut in March last year when the global coronavirus pandemic first began to unravel.

Just two weeks ago, Australia entered into an agreement with New Zealand allowing travel between the two countries.

Mr Morrison hinted at a travel bubble agreement with more countries ahead of the trans-Tasman travel arrangement’s official start on April 19.

“I think I can see a future where we could be in a similar arrangement with Singapore and we’re working on that now,” he said.

“Other Pacific countries, that’s possible. But when you’re talking about countries, you know, for example, like Indonesia or India or Papua New Guinea or countries where we know that the virus is in a very strong form, including in Europe and even still the United Kingdom, the United States. Australians, I don’t think would welcome the incursion of the virus into the country. So we have to weigh all of that up.”

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Woman claims Walgreens photoshopped hair bun out of passport photo

A woman was left in hysterics after receiving a very baffling passport photo due to an awkward Photoshop job.

TikTok user Katie was told that her large bun was too big for the picture when visiting a US Wallgreens store, so staff edited it out – leaving her unrecognisable to friends and family.

Katie, who posts under the TikTok username @katiefiore898, shared the photo on TikTok and it has since gone viral and been viewed over 300,000 times.

She explained: “Wore a bun to get my passport pictures but they said it was too big so they just had to cut it off.”

After the blunt bun removal, Katie was left mortified at the finished result.

However, her passport mishap appears to have entertained internet users, with one person joking: “Went from Katie to Kyle.”

Another added: “Why would you wear a bun for a picture that’s going to last at least ten years.”

A third joked: “I’m dead. I’m sorry for laughing so hard at this.”

Another person said they had a similar dilemma and staff told her she couldn’t have hair on her shoulders after she tried to take her bun down.

In Australia, the required standard for passport photos means images cannot be retouched in any way and the size of the face from chin to crown can be up to a maximum of 36mm, with a minimum of 32mm.

In the US, however, passport photo regulations state that hair cannot obscure a person’s face and the head must be sized between 25 and 35mm.

It is understood that Katie went in for a new set of photos, this time without a bun.

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