Australia’s National Cabinet met on 5 February 2021 to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy and management of Australia’s borders in the context of the emergence of new variants.
The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, provided an update on the latest epidemiological data and medical advice in relation to COVID-19.
There have been 28,842 confirmed cases with 909 died and currently 9 people in hospital.
It was reported that more than 13.1 million tests have been undertaken in Australia.
To date Australia’s existing systems built around social distancing, testing, tracing, local health responses and quarantine have effectively mitigated the broader spread of COVID-19 virus and new variants of COVID-19 into the Australian community.
“Australia has done well on both the health and economic fronts compared to most countries around the world. National Cabinet noted the significant increase in COVID-19 cases in many countries and the comparative strength of Australia’s effort in addressing COVID compared to most other developed economies.”
Professor Brendan Murphy reiterated the latest guidance that the COVID-19 vaccination rollout is on track to commence in late February 2021.
It is hoped that the COVID-19 vaccines will further strengthen Australia’s ability to control the virus.
National Cabinet reaffirmed its commitment to the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy and the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, which sets out the roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth, states and territories in rolling out COVID-19 vaccination.
Professor Paul Kelly outlined the importance of new COVID-19 vaccines in preventing severe disease and potentially transmission.
“A COVID-19 vaccination program which prevents severe diseases will ensure Australia can manage the virus in the same way as we manage other common diseases in society and will change the risk environment in Australian to COVID-19.”
National Cabinet further noted that the Commonwealth Government had entered an Advance Purchase Agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech for an additional 10 million vaccines in 2021. Australia now has access to over 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, with spare capacity (after Australians have been offered vaccines) to be made available for partners in the Pacific and South East Asia.
It welcomed the extension of the free access to COVID-19 vaccines for all visa holders in Australia.
“It is vital that we offer vaccines to all people living in Australia in order to achieve a maximum level of coverage for all Australians.”
It was also noted that to date there have been a small number of instances of COVID-19 linked to hotel quarantine in Australia.
National Cabinet agreed that hotel quarantine will continue to be the model used to quarantine returning Australians.