Booster doses to be brought forward in NSW
20 January 2022
(See Translation in Arabic Section)
Sydney - M E Times Int'l: Millions more people in NSW are now eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccination after NSW Health brought forward the interval between doses by a
State-run vaccination clinics will begin offering COVID-19 booster vaccinations three months after people have received their second dose from Friday January 21.
The change from a four-month interval to three months means there are now an additional 3.55 million people in NSW who can book in for their third dose of vaccine.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said being triple vaccinated offers extra protection against the effects of the Omicron variant.
“The advice is clear – getting boosted means there’s less chance you’ll get the virus and, if you do, the effects are generally much milder,” Mr Perrottet said.
“That’s why we are offering more people the opportunity to get the booster sooner.
“I urge everyone who is eligible to get boosted to do so as soon as possible. This will help to protect our older population, as well as vulnerable members of the community.”
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said there are more than 40 state-run vaccination clinics spread throughout NSW as well as mobile outreach locations that these clinics visit.
“Along with public health safety measures including wearing masks indoors, working from home where practicable, not singing and dancing and minimising the size of gatherings in homes, the other big protection is getting a booster vaccination. Being able to get that booster at 3 months after your second dose gives the opportunity to be much safer, much sooner,” Mr Hazzard said.
Student and Working Holiday Maker visa holders
Canberra: The Morrison Government has announced a series of visa measures to provide an incentive for fully vaccinated Student and Working Holiday Maker visa holders to return to Australia as soon as possible to help address current workforce shortages caused by COVID-19.
Refunds of Visa Application Charges
Working Holiday Maker visa holders who are currently offshore and come to Australia during the next 12 weeks will be eligible for a refund of their Visa Application Charge.
Any Student visa holder who is currently offshore and comes to Australia over the next 8 weeks, will be eligible for a refund of their Visa Application Charge.
The current Visa Application Charge for a student is $630 and for a Working Holiday Maker it is $495.
These changes will also apply for new applications, which will be processed quickly so applicants can come to Australia during the refund window.
As well as providing an incentive for existing offshore visa holders to bring forward their travel, these changes will generate new interest in Australia and new visa applications.
The provision of refunds and priority visa processing, together with a Tourism Australia advertising campaign, will generate fresh interest in Australia from students and Working Holiday Makers who contribute greatly to our economy and fill vital skills gaps.
International Student – Working Hours Flexibility
The Morrison Government has supported Australian businesses during the pandemic by allowing Student visa holders to work additional hours in critical sectors.
Due to current workforce shortages, the Government is temporarily extending this arrangement by removing the limit on Student visa holders’ working hours across all sectors of the economy.
This measure takes effect immediately for all ongoing students as well as new student arrivals who start a job prior to their course commencement, and will be reviewed in April 2022.
Working Holiday Makers – Employer Flexibility
In addition, effective immediately and until the end of 2022, there will be no limit on the length of time Working Holiday Makers can work for the same employer.
The above measures are temporary and designed to provide immediate assistance to Australian businesses that are currently facing critical workforce shortages, to enable them to continue delivering goods and services to the community.
There are currently around 150,000 Student and 23,500 Working Holiday Maker visa holders offshore.
All international arrivals must be fully vaccinated or hold a valid medical exemption.
Further details will be available on the Department of Home Affairs website.
WHO Director-General warns COVID-19 pandemic is 'nowhere near over' and new variants are 'likely' to emerge
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the coronavirus pandemic is “nowhere near over” as Omicron continues to sweep the globe and new variants are “likely” to emerge.
Director-General of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the grim remarks during a COVID-19 media briefing on Tuesday.
“Last week, there were more than 18 million reported cases,” Dr Tedros said.
“The number of deaths remains stable for the moment but we are concerned about the impact Omicron is having on already exhausted health workers and overburdened health systems.
“In some countries, cases seem to have peaked, which gives hope that the worst of this latest wave is done with, but no country is out of the woods yet.”
Dr Tedros said he remains particularly concerned about countries with low vaccination rates as the virus continues to circulate “far too intensely with many still vulnerable”.
“Vaccines may be less effective at preventing infection and transmission of Omicron than they were for previous variants, but they still are exceptionally good at preventing serious disease and death,” he said.
“This pandemic is nowhere near over and with the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge, which is why tracking and assessment remain critical.”
Omicron wave is ‘levelling out’
Sydney: Australia’s Omicron wave could be “levelling out,” according to Deakin University’s Chair of Epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett.
Professor Bennett said despite Wednesday’s case spike in both New South Wales and Victoria, the numbers still seemed stable.
“We always see Wednesday numbers bump up a bit, if you map them as I’ve been doing, you actually see a pulse,” Professor Bennett said.
“Nonetheless, the numbers are still relatively stable when you look at those seven-day averages.”
By-election for Berejiklian’s seat announced
Sydney: The date for New South Wales’ super Saturday by-elections has been released, with voters in Willoughby, Bega, Monaro and Strathfield set to head to the polls on February 12.
State government speaker Jonathan O’Dea made the announcement earlier today, after weeks of deliberation due to the Omicron outbreak and issues with the government’s digital voting system.
139 students across NSW achieve Top Result in 2021 HSC
Sydney: The students who have obtained first place in a 2021 Higher School Certificate course will be acknowledged today for their extraordinary academic achievement.
Premier Dominic Perrottet congratulated students on their outstanding results, achieved despite two challenging years.
“To top the state in an HSC course is an incredible achievement at the best of times; to do so today highlights even more so the grit, dedication and talent of the students being recognised,” Mr Perrottet said.
“Congratulations to all the exceptional young people who have achieved First in Course for the 2021 HSC. You should be very proud of your efforts.”
About 76,000 HSC students who sat at least one exam in 2021 will receive their results by SMS, email and online from 6am tomorrow.
Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said 149 certificates will be presented to 139 students, with 9 topping more than one course.
“The future looks so bright for the inspiring young people who we will celebrate today, and for all HSC students who showed great perseverance and resilience in their final years of school,” Ms Mitchell said
Australia and New Zealand sending aid ships as UN prepares for COVID-distanced relief operations
Canberra: Australia and New Zealand have been loading naval ships and aircraft with aid for Tonga as the United Nations said it was preparing for distanced relief operations to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak in the Pacific island nation.
Tonga is reeling under the impact of an undersea volcanic eruption — located about 65 kilometres north of Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa — that triggered a tsunami of up to 15 metres high and sent wave surges across the Pacific.
All the homes on one of Tonga's small outer islands were destroyed and three people have so far been confirmed dead, the government said in its first statement since Saturday's devastating eruption.
With communications badly hampered by the severing of an undersea cable, information on the scale of the devastation so far has mostly come from reconnaissance aircraft.
Fiji-based United Nations co-ordinator Jonathan Veitch said in a media briefing that the agency will conduct most operations remotely, and may not send personnel to the island.
"We believe that we will be able to send flights with supplies," Mr Veitch said.
"We're not sure that we can send flights with personnel and the reason for this is that Tonga has a very strict COVID-free policy."
Construction of Western Harbour Tunnel to begin in mid-year
Sydney: Construction of the Western Harbour Tunnel will begin within months, after a $722 million contract was awarded to deliver the first stage of tunnelling.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the joint venture between John Holland and CPB will build about 1.7 kilometres of tunnels from Rozelle to Birchgrove.
“This is a critical milestone which will support hundreds of jobs and ensure significant benefits for drivers, including improved travel times and reduced congestion,” Mr Perrottet said.
“The tunnel will not only revolutionise how we get around Sydney but also take the pressure off other major roads including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Harbour Tunnel, Anzac Bridge and Western Distributor.”
The Western Harbour Tunnel will link WestConnex at Rozelle with the Warringah Freeway at North Sydney via 6.5 kilometre tunnels under Sydney Harbour, with three lanes in each direction.
Minister for Metropolitan Roads Natalie Ward said the new tunnel is part of a major infrastructure boost to expand our motorways and serve our growing city.
“We all want to have the quickest and smoothest journey possible and this terrific project will slash travel times from one side of the harbour to the other,” Mrs Ward said.
“You’ll save up to 20 minutes in a journey from Sydney Olympic Park to North Sydney and up to 15 minutes from North Sydney to the airport at Mascot.”
Member for North Shore Felicity Wilson said that early works, including geotechnical investigations into the detailed tunnel design, will start this month.
“Major construction will begin in the middle of this year and I know drivers can’t wait to reap the rewards of this much-needed additional harbour crossing,” Ms Wilson said.
NSW government 'should consider' school vaccination hubs
Sydney: Students in New South Wales are due to return to classrooms on February 1 despite teachers expressing concerns around student vaccination numbers.
New South Wales Opposition Leader Chris Minns told Sky News Australia the government should consider using schools as vaccination hubs.
“We need to lift the number of children that have got vaccinated between the ages of 12 and 16,” he said.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19 and when should you seek medical attention?
Sydney: For almost two years Australians have been warned that COVID-19 is a serious illness, with asymptomatic people kept in isolation wards in a bid to stop the spread.
But as the world enters its third year of the pandemic, health authorities have changed the messaging to along the lines of 'keep calm and stay home'.
It comes as hospitals and ambulance services are under increasing pressure from people unsure about how to manage their COVID-19 symptoms.
Mild symptoms can be managed at home
For most people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, it is a mild illness that can be managed at home by staying hydrated and resting.
There is an increased risk for people who are unvaccinated, have underlying health conditions, are immunosuppressed, or pregnant.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may also be at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
• Dry cough
• Sore throat
• Loss of taste
• Loss of smell
• Muscle aches and pains
• Red or irritated eyes
• Skin rash
• Discolouration of fingers or toes
It is recommended you keep a diary to track your COVID-19 symptoms while in isolation.
You may consider having a thermometer to check your temperature and a pulse oximeter to monitor your oxygen levels.
However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has warned against over-reliance on pulse oximeters.
"The TGA recommends that home use of pulse oximeters is safest and most effective when done as part of treatment provided by a doctor," it said in an update this month.
Mild symptoms of COVID-19 can be managed with:
• Pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
• Rehydration tablets, sachets or icy poles
• Heat or cold packs
• Throat lozenges
• Bed rest