PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Morrison, Scott

Period of Service: 24/08/2018 - 11/04/2022
Release Date:
Release Type:
Media statement
Transcript ID:
National Cabinet Statement

Prime Minister

National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s response to COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, the ongoing safe reopening of Australia, resumption of cruising in Australia, approaches to test, trace isolate and quarantine and the vaccine rollout and booster programme.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, provided an update on the spread of the Omicron variant. Overall case numbers continue to decline in Australia and the Omicron case variant continues to be the predominant variant in Australia and globally. Omicron continues to show greater infectivity than the Delta variant, but with much less severity in terms of hospitalisations, ICU and ventilated patients.

National Cabinet noted that the Omicron wave has peaked in most states and territories. Since peaks in mid-January, cases have fallen to 20 per cent of peak levels, hospitalisations to 63 per cent of peaks, ICU admissions of peaks and ventilated cases to 54 per cent of peaks.

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 2,462,729 confirmed cases in Australia and, sadly, 4,431 people have died.

Globally there have been over 402.6 million cases and, sadly, over 5.7 million deaths, with 2,241,749 new cases and 11,664 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in many countries around the world.

National Cabinet noted that since the COVID-19 Rapid Test Concessional Access program began, approximately 6.8 million Rapid Antigen Tests have been distributed to 1.6 million eligible concession card holders through community pharmacies.

Lieutenant General John Frewen, DSC, AM, Coordinator General of the National COVID Vaccine Taskforce (Operation COVID Shield) provided a detailed briefing on Australia’s vaccination rollout.

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues to expand. To date 51.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including 215,521 doses in the previous 24 hours.

In the previous 7 days, more than 1.3 million vaccines have been administered in Australia. More than 95.8 per cent of the Australian population aged 16 years and over have now had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including over 99 per cent of over 50 year olds.

More than 93.9 per cent of Australians aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated, including more than 98.4 per cent of over 50 year olds and more than 99 per cent of Australians over 70 years of age.

Over 9.5 million booster doses have been administered to 46.3 per cent of Australians. More than 75.7 per cent of Australians aged 70 years of age and over have had a booster in the last 14 weeks since the booster program commenced.

More than 46.4 per cent of 5-11 year olds have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the first month of their vaccination program.

National Cabinet will meet again on Friday 11 March.

Phase D of the National Plan

National Cabinet noted the epidemiological advice that the peak of the Omicron wave has passed, with significant falls in the number of cases, hospitalisations and ICU admissions across most states and territories.

National Cabinet discussed the progress to Phase D under the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response. The Commonwealth, states and territories will progressively transition to Phase D including further reopening of international borders and changes to domestic health settings to reduce restrictions on social and economic activities, while safely living with COVID-19. The Commonwealth, states and territories will make decisions over the near term on options to transition to Phase D, with further consideration by the next meeting of National Cabinet.

Resumption of Cruising

National Cabinet discussed the resumption of cruises in Australia, noting that there are shared responsibilities for the resumption of cruises between the Commonwealth, states and territories. National Cabinet agreed that following a decision by the Commonwealth to lift the bio-security orders that currently prevent cruise ships from coming to Australia that states and the Northern Territory would then determine when recommencement of cruises would occur in each jurisdiction, consistent with the previous agreement of the National Cabinet of 5 November 2021.

The Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland agreed to work with the industry to implement new protocols to enable the resumption of cruising over coming months.

Managing Public Health Restrictions on Residential Aged Care Facilities – Interim Guidance

National Cabinet endorsed new Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice to improve access to aged care facilities for families of residents.

The guidance considers the current context of the pandemic, and recommends revisions to allow greater flexibility in balancing the need to reduce transmission and the impact of social isolation on residents living in residential aged care facilities.

Specifically, the guidance more effectively balances the implementation of appropriate infection prevention and control measures with a resident’s right to live their life with minimal restrictions including through increased contact with family and loved ones.

National Cabinet endorsed the AHPPC statement on mandatory booster vaccinations in aged care facilities. Implementation of booster shot mandates will be made consistent with arrangements already in place through state and territory public health orders and equivalent arrangements. Vaccinations of aged care workers is being prioritised through Commonwealth in-reach clinics, primary care and state clinics.

ATAGI advice on defining ‘up-to-date' status for COVID-19 vaccination

National Cabinet noted that the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has updated their clinical advice to include that all individuals aged 16 years and over are recommended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to maintain an ‘up-to-date’ status.

Consistent with current arrangements this booster dose is recommended from 3 months after the last primary dose and will now be recommended to be administered within 6 months of completing the primary schedule. Boosters are not recommended for children aged 5-15 years of age and ATAGI will continue to review the evidence on the need for a booster dose in this age cohort.

ATAGI has advised that a booster can be given safely and effectively at any time after 6 months to become ‘up-to-date’ in the event that the booster had not been received earlier.

In its advice ATAGI acknowledges that this change in definition of up-to-date status for COVID-19 vaccines may impact the status of an individual’s COVID-19 immunisation certificate, and sufficient time should be provided to support implementation of changes. ATAGI has recommended they be made effective by the end of March 2022.

National Cabinet noted ATAGI’s advice that these ‘up-to-date’ requirements be applicable for domestic situations and policy settings and noted the Commonwealth Government’s decision that the existing arrangements and definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of overseas travel and arrival into Australia will continue to be that individuals must have received a complete two dose primary course of a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved or recognised vaccine to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’. People entering Australia will not be required to have had a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Back to school

All jurisdictions provided an update on the successful return to school, supported by the Commonwealth’s 50:50 cost share with jurisdictions for rapid antigen testing.

National Cabinet further noted in the context of schools returning, that health system capacity continued to be maintained, and cases, hospitalisation and ICU numbers continued to fall across most states and territories.

Winter National COVID Preparedness

National Cabinet endorsed the Prime Minister’s recommendation for a Winter National COVID and Influenza Preparedness report for all jurisdictions to be presented to the next meeting of National Cabinet by the Commonwealth Department of Health.