Around half of the Australian population is either in lockdown or will be in lockdown within a few hours, as multiple states and territories battle rising Covid-19 cases.
NSW's Greater Sydney area, the Northern Territory's Greater Darwin region, Western Australia's Perth and Peel regions, and the south-eastern parts of Queensland are now all facing lockdown restrictions due to multiple coronavirus outbreaks. This adds up to more than 12 million Aussies living under stay-at-home orders as concern grows over the country's Covid-19 situation.
Sydney's outbreak rose to 149 cases today after 19 new infections were recorded. Residents in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour are currently under strict stay-at-home orders, with just a handful of reasons to leave home in place until at least 11.59pm on July 9.
In the Northern Territory, an outbreak linked to a Fly-in fly-out worker at the Newmont Tanami gold mine rose to seven cases on Monday after one new case was recorded. The situation prompted NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner to extend the Greater Darwin lockdown for a further 72 hours until 1pm on July 2. The NT confirmed two new cases today, bringing its outbreak to nine.
In Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced a snap three-day lockdown for the south-eastern part of her state after two new community cases were recorded overnight. Palaszczuk said yesterday the state was "on the verge" of a lockdown after it was discovered a Covid-positive miner linked to the NT outbreak had been infectious in the community with the Deltra strain of the virus.
The Perth and Peel regions of Western Australia were also plunged into lockdown overnight after two new Covid-19 cases were discovered, bringing the total number of infections there to three. The lockdown will be in place until at least 12.01am on July 3. WA recorded no new community cases today.
There are concerns the situation across the country could escalate even further, with head of the Kirby Institute's Biosecurity Research Programme, Professor Raina MacIntyre, warning there was still the risk of a larger outbreak.
"If by the end of this week we see [a trend] where numbers are coming down, it [the restrictions] may be enough, but if they're not, then it may not be," she told the ABC.
Vaccines now mandatory for some groups
Australia has now mandated Covid vaccinations for aged care workers under new pandemic directives agreed to at government crisis talks on Monday evening. All aged care workers will be required have their first jab by mid-September.
The government also agreed to mandating vaccination and testing of all quarantine workers, including those in transport, and their household contacts.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision to mandate vaccination was not taken lightly.
"Imposing on a person the requirement to have a vaccine or not be able to work in a particular sector is something that no government would do lightly," he said.
"We have been considering this matter for some time now based on the best possible medical advice. This is a serious situation we're confronting and as always we're doing it together."
There will be also be bans on accommodating international quarantine arrivals – including highly infectious and high-risk people – next to lower-risk domestic arrivals.
Morrison revealed the government would introduce a new indemnity scheme for GPs to enable them to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to any adult who wants it, regardless of their age.
Australian health authorities have said the AstraZeneca vaccine is preferred for those over the age of 60, but the advice does not preclude persons under 60 from getting the vaccine.
NZ to partly reopen transtasman bubble
Wellington will return to alert level 1 from 11.59pm tonight - eight days after a Covid-infected Sydney tourist flew out of the capital - while the transtasman bubble will reopen to some states from Monday.
From 11.59pm on Sunday, July 4, the pause on the transtasman bubble will lift for the states of South Australia, ACT, Tasmania and Victoria.
Travellers from Australia will require a pre-departure test within 72 hours of their flight, which will need to be negative.
Travellers must not have been in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia on or after 10.30pm (NZT) on June 26, when the pause first came into effect. They must also not have been in New South Wales on or after 11.59pm (NZT) on June 22.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said a high level of risk remained for NSW, and there was also risk associated with Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Cabinet will review the pause on those states on Monday, with an announcement expected on Tuesday.