Ground staff with PPE welcoming passengers disembarking from their flights at Sydney Airport on 10 October 2020. Photo / Provided
Vaccination certificates “very likely” will be required for international travel, the Federal Minister for Australian Government Services said today.
“There are still a number of decisions to be made by the government, it is very likely that a certificate will be required for international visitors to Australia and we will continue to work with our international partners on our framework for vaccination certificates,” said Stuart Robert.
“Australians can have the assurance that the certificate they are going to have will be strong, it will stick with them, so they will know it is their certificate, and it will be widely accepted.”
He did not confirm, however, whether it would lead to faster opening of international borders, saying he would leave “any comments” to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“But any requirement to open borders will require vaccination and that will require widespread use of certificates and that is what we are talking about today,” added Robert.
“Australians can be very confident that their digital or paper-based certificates will be strong.”
Australia’s coronavirus record broke with 16 new cases today, 10 in NSW and 6 in Victoria.
Ten cases of the new virus have been revealed in New South Wales, with five linked to the northern coast cluster.
Three are linked to a new outbreak developing in Croydon after several members of the same family tested positive yesterday, sparking fears of the virus spreading across Greater Sydney.
“One is a link to the transport worker cluster that we have previously discussed and another is under investigation,” said NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian.
“It’s possible it’s an old case or a false positive but serologists are looking at that.”
Meanwhile, Victoria has recorded six new cases, with the state returning to harsh restrictions within hours in a bid to stop the spread.
Authorities in both states have appealed to the public to avoid New Year’s celebrations tonight amid fears that it could lead to a “supersebar” event, and have urged the public to take the current threat seriously and follow public health advice.
In response to the outbreak, Sydneysiders, and those in the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong, were only allowed five visitors for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 30 people.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard lashed out at comments made by Australian WA Medical Association president Dr Andrew Miller who said NSW was no longer the gold standard and the lockdown “won’t go very far”.
“If the president (WA) of the AMA has any particular views, I leave it to him in WA. He must be an instant expert on what is happening here in NSW,” he said.
“I am delighted to continue working with our health authorities who have done an extraordinary job.”
There were 18 cases yesterday, with nine of them linked to the north coast outbreak.
NSW Health is still unclear about the origins of the Croydon cluster, but Dr Kerry Chant said he expects the results this afternoon.
Sharing more details about the Croydon cluster, Dr Chant said members in the three households associated with the original cluster had attended “a number of events” that took place between Christmas and Boxing Day.
These cases also exist in the community even though they are unwittingly contagious, although it is still “too early” to know whether transmission has occurred as a result of this.
“So that means, and I’m very sorry for this, but your New Year’s Eve plans must change,” he said.
Dr Chant continued to emphasize the importance of testing and appealed to NSW residents not to attend meetings of any kind if symptomatic.
“Please may I submit a request not to attend family events, family gatherings, New Year’s Eve gatherings, going in and out, if you have symptoms,” he said.
“I think we want everyone to see a much brighter 2021 and we have hope on the horizon when it comes to vaccines.
“We all have a role to play. So thank you for following that advice.”
Victoria’s case is on the rise
Three additional cases of Covid-19 have been found in the community in Victoria to bring the total number to six, Acting Prime Minister Jacinta Allen said today.
He said three additional cases were found through contact tracing after three positive cases were found in Victoria yesterday.
The first three cases were linked by a Thai restaurant in Black Rock that was also linked to a traveler returning from NSW, Health Minister Martin Foley said.
“In less than 24 hours, the cross between Mitcham and Hallam and the Mentone people has become a facility in Black Rock, and a direct link to travelers returning from NSW,” he said.
“Now that we have a connection with the NSW outbreak here in Victoria, we are responding very, very quickly to get it out.”
Three additional cases today were linked to the cluster and were found through contact tracing, he said.
Anyone who visited the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant on December 21 was urged to get tested immediately.
The first three cases came from the Melbourne suburbs of Mitcham, Hallam and Mentone – all of whom visited the same place in Black Rock.
Victoria’s Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said the state was “deploying our full outbreak approach”.
“We’ve been in this position before,” he said.
“Extensive contact tracing is being carried out and as a result there are currently more than 40 close primary contacts supported for immediate isolation.”
He said the three positive cases were self-isolating at home.
They are two women in their 40s and a woman in their 70s.
Five locations have been designated as high risk, having been visited by people who tested positive for COVID-19 while potentially transmitting:
• Black Rock: Smile Buffalo Thai Restaurant on December 21st
• Doveton: Holy Family Parish Catholic Church of Doveton on December 26 between 4pm and 6pm
• Fountain Gate Shopping Mall: Kmart, Big W, Target, Millers, King of Gifts, Lacoste on December 26 between 9am and 11am
• Mentone: Mentone / Parkdale Beach on December 27 between 10am and 4.30pm
• Glen Waverley: Century City Walk and Mocha Jo’s on December 28 between 1:30 PM and 5:00 PM
• Oakleigh: Katialo Restaurant, Eaton Mall on December 28 between 19:00 and 20:15
Victoria also imposed new border restrictions yesterday.
Anyone who has entered or visited the Blue Mountains or Wollongong region from December 27 has until 11:59 a.m. on New Year’s Eve to go to Victoria.
No one who has visited this area will be able to enter Victoria after 31 December.
Anyone wishing to return to Victoria from this area before midnight must apply for a new travel permit through Service Victoria, must undergo a test within 24 hours of returning to Victoria, and must self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the last time they left the region. . .
It follows a woman who tested positive last week after returning from a trip to Sydney’s north coast, Covid-19 epicenter.
Another positive case of Covid-19 in Victoria recorded in the last two months has come from travelers returning to hotel quarantine.
Restrictions in Victoria
Masks will become mandatory indoors in Victoria from 5pm today outside your private residence, Acting Prime Minister Jacinta Allan announced.
“If you are planning to leave the house at this time, we are asking people to bring their masks, we are now asking them to wear masks if they are indoors in any location that is not their private home,” he said.
The limit of people gathering in private homes will also be reduced, from 30 to 15.
The limit for indoor meetings will also take effect from 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Allan said.
“If you’re planning a party tonight, you need to reduce your numbers from 30 to 15,” he said.
“We apologize to those who have made plans, who want to hold the event in their home, or at someone else’s house, but this is a necessary step.
Unfortunately, what we know as this virus, the virus is difficult to run, it does not end at midnight.
No changes to outdoor gatherings, hospitality venues and shops were announced.
Melbourne residents have previously been advised not to travel to the city for New Year’s Eve unless they have a booking.
Players train at the Auckland ASB Tennis Center in January under an orange sky, due to smoke emanating from Australian bushfires. Photo / Jason Oxenham
The unusual nature of Australia’s Black Summer bushfires may have marked the beginning of a fire-fueled “ice age” and the world appears to have “crossed the threshold” into a more dangerous future, said a global fire historian.
Professor Emeritus Stephen Pyne at Arizona State University is a former firefighter in the US who has previously studied Australian fires for his 1991 book, Burning Bush: A Fire History of Australia.
Pyne said the 2019/2020 fires, which tore through 24 to 40 million hectares of scrub in several states and territories, marked the start of a global fire year.
“I think there will be a legacy because the fires are not limited to Australia, they continue to hit the western United States, they are in Europe and Siberia.”
Pyne said the scale of the Black Summer fires set it apart from fires in previous years.
“While there are no individual fires in Australia or elsewhere that are unprecedented, I think the scale is different because they come as a herd.”
Pyne previously thought the Black Saturday fires, which claimed the lives of 173 people in Victoria in 2009, had set a limit for what a single fire can do, but last year’s fire season swelled to months of continuous burning.
“What makes fires different in general is the large-scale swarm effect. It’s not two or three days apart outbreaks, they continued.
“I think of it as the ‘rolling thunder effect.’ When they come in a sequence like that, it just keeps expanding.”
Pyne said California is also a spectacular example of this, with the state experiencing the fourth consecutive year of historic fires.
He said that not all fires have the same cause, the fires in the Amazon are also related to land clearing and those that occur in Indonesia are related to draining tropical peatlands.
“But everywhere, fire seems to be a manifestation of the broken relationship between humans and nature,” he said.
“I think we have the potential to cross the threshold this year.”
NEW ‘AGE OF FIRE’
Pyne believes the way humans manage natural landscapes, combined with the treatment of fossil fuels, may have given birth to a new “ice age”.
“We take stuff from our geological past and burn it without understanding the effect, and this is released into our future.”
He said that the increasing severity of fire was a manifestation of this activity, which also changed sea levels and caused widespread extinctions of plants and animals.
“We are reshaping the planet directly and indirectly.”
In the same way that ice is seen as a physical manifestation of changes in Earth’s temperature during the Pleistocene era, fire can be a manifestation of a new era that Pyne calls the Pyrocene era.
“For the fires in Australia, it turns out to be what led to an extraordinary global fire year, and it can also be taken as an indisputable marker for what I think of as our new fire age.”
Pyne believes that the smoke from fires, which obscure cities like Sydney and Canberra for days, could eventually get people to notice what’s going on around them, just as the dust storms of the 1930s sparked action in the dust bowl in America. .
He said action was being taken about agricultural practices when Washington DC began to feel the effects of massive dust storms spreading far from central US areas.
“This changed the discourse and suddenly it became a national issue. This gives extra urgency to many conservation programs and makes the issue visible to the public and Congress.
“My feeling is the smoke will do it for this last year’s fire.
“It makes visibility of impact clear to a larger audience and it can lead to change.”
Smoke from the Australian fires reached New Zealand and was reported to other areas around the world, while the smoke from the US fires was spreading to places people said were immune to fire, making it an unprecedented public health problem.
“I think people have a very high tolerance for fire images – they’re dramatic but limited to certain places, but smoke can spread widely,” said Pyne.
This way, the Black Summer fires can have a longer impact.
“I was tempted to think that it was a historical fire, but it might also be a fire depending on our response.”
Pyne said that fire is in our future no matter what we do.
“We have to control the fossil fuel burning party but even after this stabilizes or reverses, there will still be a lot of fires and we have to do a lot more than we did before.
“They are not leaving… we have a huge debt and we also have to put a lot of fire back into the environment.
“Even if we stop burning fossil fuels and step up our action on climate change, there will be a lot of fires in our future.
“It can be wild or devastating, or it can be controlled and actually produce good benefits.
“But it won’t go away.”
With the US still facing the repercussions of the presidential election, which Donald Trump still rejects, Pyne said Australia was in a better position to take action.
“You are really at the forefront, you are equipped with world-class fire science and forest fire fighting skills,” he said.
“I hope Australia can make the move and start responding in an engaged and informed way, in a way that the US and even Canada cannot.
“This is something that Australia can really lead, can engage with landscapes and fires, and cultural discussions are an interesting part of that too.”
Pyne said it’s not just about doing one big thing to solve climate change and fix the problem, there are lots of little things that can be done too, and these actions may differ in many areas.
“We need to decide what the problem is in each particular place and what kind of treatment suite makes sense there.”