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Jabs now compulsory for aged care workers

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COVID-19 jabs will be compulsory for aged care and quarantine workers and doctors will be allowed to give the AstraZeneca shot to under-60s as governments seek to revive Australia’s vaccine rollout.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with state and territory leaders for a virtual national cabinet meeting on Monday, as the proportion of fully vaccinated Australians stood at just under five per cent.

Until now the advice from medical experts has been not to force workers to be vaccinated.

But Morrison said that advice had changed and state public health orders and Commonwealth measures would be used to enforce the new rules, with the aim of completing the task by mid-September.

“This has been a difficult group to get vaccinated (but) … I’m pleased we have finally got here tonight,” he said.

Advocates in the sector have been concerned forced vaccinations will lead to a flood of staff leaving, or large gaps in rosters as workers are impacted by vaccine side-effects.

To make this easier, the federal government will provide $11 million to cover paid leave for workers having vaccinations.

Vaccination and testing of all quarantine workers will also be made mandatory, including those involved in transporting people to quarantine.

The states and territories will be in charge of the program and no timeframe has been set for its completion.

National cabinet also agreed to compulsory post-quarantine testing for returned travellers, which must occur two to three days after they leave.

As well, there will be a ban on accommodating low-risk domestic travellers next door to high-risk international arrivals, which triggered an outbreak in Queensland.

Travellers who have gone through 14-day quarantine in one jurisdiction will be able to enter other jurisdictions without having to quarantine for a further 14 days.

And in a bid to encourage broader vaccination, the federal government will provide a no fault indemnity scheme for GPs who administer COVID-19 vaccines.

The scheme would enable, for example, a person under-60 who is happy to get the AstraZeneca vaccine – which is currently only recommended for over-60s – to do so if their doctor considers it is the best option.

Morrison said it was hoped with the changes, as well as a boost to vaccine supplies, Australia could “move through the balance of the program over the course of this year”.

National cabinet will meet again on Friday.

-with AAP

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