New vax definition, mask mandate on cards

Australia’s leaders will discuss whether mask mandates should be resumed, shortening the timeframe for booster shots and if people will soon need to have had three jabs to be considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will convene an “informal” national cabinet in a virtual meeting with state and territory heads on Wednesday to discuss the threat of the new Omicron variant.

He is due to update the leaders with the most recent information on Omicron and call for calm and consistent border arrangements ahead of the Christmas holidays.


The time frame of booster shots is due to be discussed, with South Australia pushing for a shortened interval of three months, as Omicron continues to spread.

Australia’s vaccine advisory body is reviewing whether three doses will be required to be considered fully immunised.

Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is also considering whether the booster shot timeline should be shortened to three months, from five now.

Federal frontbencher David Littleproud said on Tuesday reassured Australians there are enough booster shots available.

“We have enough to go around. People don’t need to panic” he told the Nine Network.

“As we start to understand Omicron a lot better … and its severity, I think over the coming weeks we will get a better picture, then the premiers will be able to make decisions on mandates around masks.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Kelly has also reportedly recommended a mask mandate in all indoor settings in an effort to curb an escalation in Omicron cases.

Mr Morrison said on Monday the government would follow health advice on mask mandates, noted there were some circumstances when mask-wearing was “commonsense”.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has resisted a push to reintroduce a mask mandate as daily cases in the state soared to record levels over the past week.

NSW recorded 2501 new daily cases on Monday with 261 people in hospital. Of those, 33 are in intensive care.

Victoria reported 1302 additional infections with 406 people in hospital including 81 in intensive care.

South Australia recorded 105 new infections, while there were 59 in Queensland. The ACT recorded 13 cases and Tasmania three.

Three new infections were also confirmed in the Northern Territory as it extended a lockdown in the town of Tennant Creek until Wednesday.

The nation’s principal health advisory body, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, has also reportedly recommended the increased use of rapid antigen tests as cases continue to grow.

Asking whether the government would answer calls for the tests to be made free in a bid to minimise the risk of transmission over Christmas, Mr Morrison responded he had worked practically through the issues “all the way through” the pandemic.

Meanwhile, new research shows Australians think they have been overwhelmingly diligent when it comes to complying with COVID-19 measures.

But the national survey of 1700 people by the Australian National University also shows people are less inclined to believe their peers are doing the right thing, with more than four in five people saying their own compliance was higher than those around them.

Lead author Dr Zoe Leviston said this showed Australians tended to be more conscious of non-compliance after the sacrifices made during lockdowns.

“If you walk through a shopping centre and see 10 people wearing a mask and the eleventh person is not wearing a mask, you tend to ignore the 10 people who are doing the right thing,” Dr Leviston said.

“All of your attention focuses on the one person doing the wrong thing, even though this stranger might have a valid reason for not wearing a mask.”

© AAP 2021