The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, recent outbreaks of COVID-19 and the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy.

National Cabinet continues to work together to address issues and find solutions for the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.

National Cabinet discussed the outbreak in Greater Sydney and the additional measures introduced by the New South Wales Government to stop the spread of the virus. All leaders expressed their full support for NSW to get on top of the outbreak. National Cabinet noted the Commonwealth's extension of the COVID-19 Disaster Payments for Greater Sydney.

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 30,955 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 910 people have died. More than 21.7 million tests have been undertaken. Testing has increased nationally over recent days with 727,763 tests reported in the past 7 days.

Globally there have been over 185.4 million cases and sadly over 4 million deaths, with 514,654 new cases and 9,457 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in many countries around the world. National Cabinet noted the Commonwealth PPE and vaccine support for the Pacific and Indonesia to address growing outbreaks.

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out continues to expand. As of yesterday, 8,871,572 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Australia, including 164,773 doses in the previous 24 hours. In the previous 7 days, 901,419 vaccines have been administered in Australia.

To date, more than 32.2 per cent of the Australian population aged 16 and over have now had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including over 55 per cent of over 50 year olds and over 72 per cent of over 70 year olds. More than 10 per cent of Australians 16 years of age are fully vaccinated including more than 20 per cent of Australians over 70 years of age.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly provided an update on current outbreaks of COVID-19 in a number of locations and of both the Alpha and Delta variants.

Professor Brendan Murphy noted that Australia has built significant health system capacity since the beginning of the pandemic with over 2,000 ventilator capacity and 7,500 ICU bed capacity.

Lieutenant General John Frewen, Coordinator-General of Operation COVID Shield, provided a detailed briefing on the vaccination program.

National Cabinet welcomed the increased Pfizer supplies and detailed supply plans provided to states and territories. Australia will bring forward Pfizer doses to around 1 million per week from 19 July, this is an increase from an average of 300,000 to 350-000 per week in May and June. Pfizer supplies will increase from 2.8 million doses for July to 4.5 million doses for August 2021. This will mean increased access for Australians through state and territory vaccination clinics, Commonwealth vaccination clinics and 1,300 primary care vaccination sites.

All leaders reiterated the importance of Australians, especially those in vulnerable groups, to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

National Cabinet agreed to meet next on Friday, 16 July 2021.

National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID Response

The Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, provided an update on the COVID-19 Risk Analysis and Response Taskforce report and the Doherty modelling for the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID Response. To take into account economic and other perspectives, Secretary Gaetjens’ work is being coordinated with Commonwealth, state and territory Treasuries, Health Departments and First Secretaries Departments.

Aged Care Workers

All state and territory leaders, with the exception of Victoria, agreed to implement state public health orders or similar state and territory instruments to mandate vaccination of aged care workers by mid-September 2021, with limited exceptions. This is consistent with the approach taken for mandating influenza vaccinations for aged care workers.

In Victoria, an independent decision on mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for aged care workers rests with the Chief Health Officer in Victoria.

National Cabinet noted that the Commonwealth’s tender for aged care remains open for facilities to provide on-site vaccinations and this is expected to provide more than 25,000 workers, with a further process underway to support localised hubs in partnership with the aged care sector.

Mandatory Vaccinations for Disability Workers

National Cabinet agreed to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s (AHPPC) advice encouraging residential disability support workers to have their COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible, and in August 2021, consider mandating vaccination for disability workers by 31 October 2021.

The National Cabinet:

  • strongly encourages all disability support workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect their own health and the health of the people for whom they are caring
  • notes the AHPPC will consider the evidence for mandatory vaccination for disability support workers in August 2021 following redoubled efforts to encourage uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, including by giving disability support workers priority for appointments and improving communications to the sector, and taking into account an updated assessment by AHPPC of COVID-19 risk in a range of disability residential settings
  • notes in August 2021 the AHPPC will consider making it mandatory for disability support workers who support NDIS participants in high risk disability residential settings, to have had at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by 31 October 2021.

Vaccination arrangements for mobile workforces

National Cabinet agreed to the AHPPC advice strongly encouraging vaccination in sectors with high mobility, such as aviation, resources and freight. The Coordinator General of Operation COVID Shield, Lieutenant General John Frewen DSC AM, continues to discuss the vaccination rollout with business groups and will continue to engage with the sectors to maximise uptake.

International passengers

National Cabinet noted progress to implement decisions taken at its last meeting regarding international passenger arrivals.

The Commonwealth has informed airlines that international air passenger arrival caps will be temporarily halved by 14 July 2021. The following cap arrangements will commence by 12.01am Wednesday 14 July and end by 11.59pm Tuesday 31 August 2021, subject to review by the National Cabinet before the end of August:

  • New South Wales – 1,505 per week (215 per day);
  • Queensland – 650 per week (including surge capacity);
  • Victoria – 500 per week;
  • South Australia – 265 per week; and
  • Western Australian – 265 per week.

The Commonwealth has increased the number of facilitated commercial flights (FCFs) into Darwin for quarantine at the Centre for National Resilience at Howard Springs. To support returning Australians to access flights, 29 FCFs are being arranged for July and August.

The Commonwealth is closely monitoring the impact of the temporary cap reductions and will provide additional support as necessary through the International Freight Assistance Mechanism to ensure the maintenance of essential freight lines.

National Cabinet agreed that COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended and should be available for all outbound travellers under the Australian Vaccination Strategy.

Quarantine arrangements for returned travellers

National Cabinet noted the AHPPC paper on quarantine arrangements for vaccinated returned travellers (AHPPC Statement for Public Health Management of Persons Fully Vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2) and agreed to commence National Cabinet pilots of home quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers who had been vaccinated in Australia, with an Australian approved vaccination, arriving from low and medium risk countries..

South Australia has committed to commence the first trial.

To enable these trials the Commonwealth will update the Australian Travel Declaration (ATD) from 16 July 2021 to include information on inbound arrivals vaccination status. This will include date, country, brand and dose of COVID-19 vaccination. This ATD information will be provided to states and territories through the National Incident Centre from 16 July 2021 as per existing protocols, supporting decisions on pilot quarantine arrangements by states and territories.

Data Sharing Intergovernmental Agreement

National Cabinet today agreed and signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Data Sharing (IGA), developed by Data and Digital Ministers. The IGA gives effect to National Cabinet’s commitment to share data across jurisdictions as a default position, where it can be done safely, securely and lawfully. The work program will be finalised by Data and Digital Ministers in consultation with portfolio ministers.