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State border controls in question ahead of Christmas

Border restrictions keeping families separated ahead of Christmas will be debated at national cabinet as states with no COVID-19 cases push back against plans to lift restrictions in line with the national plan.

All Australians aged 60 and older are now eligible to get Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, with 11 million doses of both mRNA vaccines scheduled to arrive in Australia in October. So far, nearly 78 per cent of everyone aged 16 and older has had one dose, and 54.2 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

National leaders will debate when state and territory borders should reopen when they meet at national cabinet on Friday.

National leaders will debate when state and territory borders should reopen when they meet at national cabinet on Friday.Credit:James Brickwood

The international vaccination certificate is almost ready, a parliamentary committee was told on Thursday, while the federal government has also completed the work required before vaccination certificates can be integrated into state and territory check-in apps.

In Friday’s national cabinet meeting the country’s leaders will also get an update on vaccine supplies, epidemiology and health system capacity. They will discuss the national recovery plan, which does not currently include an explicit agreement about when state borders should open.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the national plan focused on 70 per cent and 80 per cent double dose rates, and pointed out that NSW, the ACT and Victoria have all administered first doses to 80 per cent or more of their eligible populations. The ACT has vaccinated more than 90 per cent so far.

“All of the states and territories committed to the national plan, and as the Prime Minister has said, that was a partnership not with the Commonwealth, but with the Australian people,” he told reporters on Thursday.

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“What we are seeing is the fact that states and territories, in many cases, will far exceed the national plan. And that capacity to get to 90 per cent does exist in, I think, many of the jurisdictions.”

But there has been no consensus between jurisdictions about when hard borders should be lifted. On Wednesday, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said the state was unlikely to reopen its border until 90 per cent of the local eligible population was fully vaccinated.

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