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As it happened: TGA approves Moderna vaccine; NSW records 283 new local COVID-19 cases; Victoria, Queensland cases grow

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading. Here’s a summary of today’s action:

  • Australia’s medical regulator has provisionally approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for its use from September when one million doses are due to arrive.
  • NSW recorded 283 new local COVID-19 cases, including at least 106 infectious in the community. The Byron, Ballina and Tamworth regions have entered a seven-day lockdown. Year 12 students have begun receiving Pfizer vaccinations at a new mass hub. Meanwhile Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would rather prioritise giving residents freedoms through high vaccination rates and some eased restrictions than pursuing a zero COVID strategy to encourage other states to reopen their borders.
  • Victoria recorded 11 new local cases and announced the state’s regional areas will be released from lockdown. But police have warned Melburnians face fines for leaving the metropolitan area without a lawful reason. Meanwhile some people under 39 received the AstraZeneca vaccine at the state’s vaccination hubs for the first time today.
  • Queensland recorded four local cases and found a link to the Cairns case which sparked a three-day lockdown.
  • And Australians who live abroad are already being denied permission to leave the country, contradicting a promise made by the federal government.

We’ll be back again in the morning. Have a good evening.

A school in Sydney’s east will be closed on Tuesday after a student tested positive to COVID-19, one of four schools across NSW to be most recently affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Less than two months after a fire broke out in a classroom, Bondi Beach Public School will be closed again on Tuesday for cleaning and contact tracing after a student tested positive to COVID-19.

Kingswood is among the suburbs under stricter COVID-19 restrictions.

Kingswood is among the suburbs under stricter COVID-19 restrictions.Credit:Wolter Peeters

“All staff and students are asked to self-isolate until they receive further advice,” a NSW Department of Education spokesperson said.

“The NSW Department of Education will continue to work closely with NSW Health to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff is maintained.”

Shortland Public School, north-west of Newcastle, will also be shut on Tuesday for contact tracing and cleaning after NSW Health were advised that a member of the school community had tested positive to COVID-19.

Kingswood Public School, in Sydney’s west will reopen on Tuesday after a member of the school community tested positive to COVID-19.

Armidale Secondary College will also reopen on Tuesday after a student tested positive.

“NSW Health has requested anyone who has been unwell or if you develop any symptoms – such as fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of smell/taste, muscle/joint pains, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting and/or extreme tiredness – to be tested at one of the COVID-19 testing clinics,” the NSW Education spokesperson said.

In June, the Bondi school was closed after a fire broke out in a classroom. A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said at the time of the fire there were more than 50 students and three staff members at the school’s after-hours care service and all were accounted for.

NSW Health has issued alerts for more venues in Sydney and Newcastle that were visited by COVID-19 cases.

Anyone who attended the following locations is a close contact and must get tested and isolate for 14 days since they were there, regardless of the result.

  • Penrith, Astina Apartments, all day August 3, 4 and 5.
  • Newcastle West, Air Locker Training Kotara on August 2 between 8.15am and 9.15am, and August 3 between 6.15am and 7.15am.
  • Warners Bay, Subway on August 3 between 11am and 5pm, August 4 between 11.30am and 5pm and August 5 between 11am and 6pm.
  • New Lambton, Wests – lower alfresco gaming area, main bar and Hopsmith bar smoking area on August 4 between 7.50pm and 10pm.
  • Newcastle, Bus 269, Teralba to Warners Bay on August 3 between 10.45am and 11am and August 5 between 10.45am and 11am.

A number of casual contact venues have also been added to the list which can be found here.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading. Here’s a summary of today’s action:

  • Australia’s medical regulator has provisionally approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for its use from September when one million doses are due to arrive.
  • NSW recorded 283 new local COVID-19 cases, including at least 106 infectious in the community. The Byron, Ballina and Tamworth regions have entered a seven-day lockdown. Year 12 students have begun receiving Pfizer vaccinations at a new mass hub. Meanwhile Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would rather prioritise giving residents freedoms through high vaccination rates and some eased restrictions than pursuing a zero COVID strategy to encourage other states to reopen their borders.
  • Victoria recorded 11 new local cases and announced the state’s regional areas will be released from lockdown. But police have warned Melburnians face fines for leaving the metropolitan area without a lawful reason. Meanwhile some people under 39 received the AstraZeneca vaccine at the state’s vaccination hubs for the first time today.
  • Queensland recorded four local cases and found a link to the Cairns case which sparked a three-day lockdown.
  • And Australians who live abroad are already being denied permission to leave the country, contradicting a promise made by the federal government.

We’ll be back again in the morning. Have a good evening.

Australians who live abroad are already being denied permission to leave the country after a sudden rule change last week, contradicting a promise made by Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews.

The Herald and The Age have so far seen four refusals for travel exemptions for Australians who usually live overseas that were issued over the weekend.

While citizens and permanent residents have been forced to apply for a travel exemption to leave Australia since March last year, to date this has not applied to those who are “ordinarily resident overseas”.

Elite ballerina Heléna Blackberry at her Brisbane home.

Elite ballerina Heléna Blackberry at her Brisbane home. Credit:Paul Harris

However, on August 1 the federal government changed the rules to close what it regards as a “loophole” to force Australians who ordinarily reside overseas to also apply for an exemption. The change takes effect Wednesday.

Australian Border Force has declined an exemption request for Heléna Blackberry, 17, who is attending an elite ballet school in Switzerland to return for her second year of study.

Her mother, Gina Blackberry, criticised the “back-handed” way the government made the change but did not announce it, leaving people to find out on Facebook, and the “hypocrisy” given the allowances made for athletes to attend the Tokyo Olympics.

“My daughter’s just as elite as they are,” she said.

Read more here.

A US judge has allowed Norwegian Cruise Line to demand that passengers show written proof of coronavirus vaccination before they board a ship, dealing a major blow to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s effort to ban “vaccine passports.”

In a preliminary ruling issued on Sunday, US District Judge Kathleen Williams in Miami said Norwegian would likely prevail on its argument that the “vaccine passport” ban, signed into law by DeSantis in May, jeopardises public health and is an unconstitutional infringement on Norwegian’s rights.

The Norwegian Encore cruise ship at the Port of Miami last year.

The Norwegian Encore cruise ship at the Port of Miami last year.Credit:Getty

The judge blocked DeSantis from enforcing the law against Norwegian, allowing the cruise ship operator to proceed with a plan to resume port activity in Miami on August 15. Violations of the law could have triggered a penalty of $US5000 ($A6800) per passenger, potentially adding up to millions of dollars per cruise.

The ruling comes as big business and some government entities are responding to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus with vaccination requirements, prompting legal challenges from vaccine sceptics and civil libertarians.

Read more here.

Victorian health authorities have identified several new exposure sites, including supermarkets, Bunnings, a medical centre and a major shopping centre.

They’re a mix of “tier 1” (close contact) and “tier 2″ (casual contact) sites.

The new tier 1 sites are:

  • Sydenham Medical Centre, Sydenham – Saturday, August 7 between 1.15pm and 2.15pm
  • O’Brien Glass (Home and Business), Tullamarine – Thursday, August 5 between 2.30pm and 3.30pm and Friday, August 6 between 11.30am and 12.30pm
  • Plum Heating and Cooling (offices and showroom), Point Cook – Wednesday, August 4 between 8am and 3.30pm
  • TyrePlus, Hoppers Crossing – From Monday, August 2 to Saturday, August 7 between 8am and 6.30pm
  • Kebabs @ Hoppers, Hoppers Crossing – Wednesday, August 4 between 8am and 9.45pm
  • Silver Water Car Wash Service, Highpoint Shopping Centre, Maribyrnong – Sunday, August 1 between 11.30am and 4pm
  • YPA Real Estate, Caroline Springs – Monday, August 2 between 9am and 5.30pm, Tuesday, August 3 between 9am and 4.50pm, Wednesday, August 4 between 9am and 3.30pm, and Thursday, August 5 between 9am and 4.20pm
  • Kockums Bulk Systems PTY Ltd., Heidelberg West – From Thursday, August 5 to Friday, August 6 between 8am and 5pm
  • Newport v West Footscray football game, Shorten Reserve, West Footscray (Newport seniors players and seniors reserves, West Footscray seniors players, seniors umpires, reserves and reserves umpires, and Wyndham women’s players) – Saturday, July 31 between 12.10pm and 5.30pm
  • Myer (cosmetics fragrance department), Highpoint Shopping Centre, Maribyrnong – Sunday, August 1 between 1.30pm and 2pm

The new tier 2 sites are:

  • Coles, Taylors Hill – Thursday, August 6 between 2.50pm and 3.50pm and Friday, August 7 between 1pm and 2.15pm
  • Bunnings, Taylors Lakes – Saturday, August 7 between 11am and 5.30pm
  • Highpoint Shopping Centre, Maribyrnong – Sunday, August 1 between 11.30am and 4pm
  • Nando’s, Highpoint Shopping Centre, Maribyrnong – Sunday, August 1 between 11.30am and 4pm
  • Silver Water Car Wash Service, Highpoint Shopping Centre, Maribyrnong – Sunday, August 1 between 2.45pm and 3pm
  • Newport v West Footscray football game, Shorten Reserve, West Footscray (Wyndham women’s umpires, West Footscray women’s players, and spectators) – Saturday, July 31 between 12.10pm and 5.30pm

A full list of exposure sites can be found here.

The owner of a popular South Melbourne hotel has been fined $10,000 for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

Paul Dimattina, a former AFL player, said he was hit with the fine for letting Lamaro’s Hotel trade past the 8pm COVID lockdown cut-off last Thursday.

He stressed he had nothing negative to say about the police, but was upset and confused given the hotel wasn’t trading past 8pm.

Lamaro’s Hotel owner Paul Dimattina, left, says the venue was not trading past 8pm.

Lamaro’s Hotel owner Paul Dimattina, left, says the venue was not trading past 8pm.Credit:Joe Armao

Mr Dimattina said a few friends were in the hotel having a drink with him and consoling him in the face of yet another lockdown. He asked for privacy and said he was struggling with a physical health condition and his mental health.

Victoria Police Commander Deb Robertson flagged during a press conference earlier on Monday that a South Melbourne venue had been fined, but she didn’t say it was Lamaro’s.

“That proprietor did receive just over a $10,000 fine,” she said. “If you are in breach of any of the Chief Health Officer directions, then of course if it’s blatant and deliberate, then police will fine.”

Mr Dimattina has been an outspoken critic of the state government during the pandemic. Last year, he was among a group of signatories to “Victoria, Let’s Be Open” ads which ran newspapers in October calling for an immediate reopening of the state.

The owner of The Pastoral Hotel in Echuca was fined $22,000 for operating during the state’s fifth lockdown.

A person working at a military base north of Newcastle has tested positive to COVID-19.

Defence confirmed a “comprehensive public health response” is now under way after the positive case over the weekend at RAAF Base Williamtown.

“Defence can confirm that a person working at RAAF Base Williamtown has tested positive for COVID-19,” a Defence statement said.

“A comprehensive public health response is now underway under the direction of New South Wales (NSW) Health.

“RAAF Base Williamtown was already subject to the Hunter Region stay-at-home orders, and all appropriate measures are being taken in accordance with NSW Health requirements.”

A strict one-week lockdown has been imposed on the Byron Shire, Richmond Valley, Lismore, and Ballina Shire local government areas in northern NSW, to begin 6pm tonight.

The lockdown, which will run until 12.01am Tuesday next week, follows updated health advice from NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, after a man who travelled to the region late last month tested positive for COVID-19.

Anyone in these areas must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. No visitors are permitted to any homes, including family and friends. The order also applies to anyone who has been in the LGAs on or after July 31.

The rules mirror those already in place across Greater Sydney, Tamworth, Armidale, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Cessnock.

A NSW Health statement on Monday said people can have one visitor at one time for carer’s responsibilities or compassionate reasons, “including where two people are in a relationship but do not live together.”

“People also cannot enter the Byron Shire, Richmond Valley, Lismore, and Ballina Shire LGAs, without a reasonable excuse to do so.”

There are more than 150,000 people in these areas.

Read more here.

While the federal government has sketched out the categories of businesses most likely to be able to mandate vaccines (aviation, healthcare, essential retail) under existing industrial law, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is so far steadfastly resisting pressure from business groups to give clear legal protection to firms that choose to use the law.

“We are not seeking to mandate vaccines,” Mr Morrison said when asked if the government would indemnify firms as it has promised to do for general practitioners who deliver vaccines.

“That is not the government’s policy. That is not how Australia has successfully run vaccination programs in the past.

“We are not going to seek to impose a mandatory vaccination program by the government by stealth.

“Now, I set out on Friday that there are already existing powers that employers have, both in terms of lawful directions [and] reasonable directions to their employees. Equally, business owners have property rights in terms of who they can allow to come in and out of their premises. Those property rights, those authorities that they have for their employees already exist.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt insisted that all aged care facilities will have their staff vaccinated by a mid-September deadline but noted that there could be exemptions granted.

“Every aged care facility in Australia is expected to and on the advice that I have does have a plan to complete that vaccination process over the course of the period between now and the middle of September,” Mr Hunt said.

“In particular, as part of that, there is also an exceptional circumstances provision that if there was a barrier such as for example a lockdown which prevented workers being vaccinated.”

In fact, that provision is broader and refers to areas where vaccine supply may be insufficient to allow all workers at an aged care facility to be vaccinated.

A little over half of aged care workers have had at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far.

The Prime Minister did not directly answer a question about whether it was time for aged care providers to begin sacking staff who are refusing to be vaccinated to ensure they had time to hire fresh staff in time for September.

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