A special meeting of Australia’s leaders has been brought forward to discuss the coronavirus and potential changes to international travel rules.
A national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders was due to be held the first week of February, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison says that will now happen on Friday this week.
Leaders will consider a proposal to strengthen the safety of end to end travel processes, from airport arrival to clearance of hotel quarantine.
“This is being done particularly in the context of the UK strain,” Mr Morrison said in a statement on Wednesday.
The bringing forward of vaccination rollouts will also be on the agenda.
The federal government had set a target of late March for the first vaccinations but now believes earlier in the month is achievable.
Australia will be among the first countries to conditionally approve the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. It’s one of four vaccinations the government has purchased.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has set an October target for broad community vaccination.
Frontline workers including those involved in hotel quarantine and border control, health workers and aged care residents would be included in the first round of the rollout.
“It’s a very common-sense approach – you simply follow the vulnerability and the risk of either transmission or the consequence of infection,” he said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the vaccine should be available for rollout as soon as it’s approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is working with Pfizer on safety and efficacy data as part of the approval process.
The UK has been inoculating people with the Pfizer vaccine on an emergency basis for the past four weeks and on Monday became the first country in the world to start deploying the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is also subject to an order from Australia.
The Pfizer vaccine is harder to manage than the AstraZeneca jab because it must be stored and transported at minus 70 degrees Celsius, while the latter can be kept in a refrigerator.
Agreements are also in place with the COVAX and Novavax vaccine programs.
Victoria is embarking on a “needle in the haystack” search for the source of a mystery coronavirus case who attended the Boxing Day sales and day two of the MCG Test.
The COVID-positive man in his 30s is understood not to have been infectious during his visits to the Chadstone Shopping Centre on December 26 and the MCG on December 27 for the Australia-India Boxing Day Test.
But authorities are urging anyone who attended the venues at the time to come forward for testing so the infection source can be identified.
NSW recorded four new locally acquired coronavirus cases.
One, a man in his 30s from western Sydney, is still under investigation and has no direct links to the Berala cluster which now totals 16.