National cabinet endorses vaccine strategy and no international students to return

The Australian government and state and territory leaders have endorsed a national vaccination policy after positive news of vaccines to be rolled out next year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced following Friday's national cabinet.

The Prime Minister also announced that the caps for international arrivals would be increased to get more Australians home. But he noted this would not extend to international students.

The Australian chief scientist, Alan Finkel, also submitted to the national cabinet a review of the national contact tracing program which Mr Morrison said would be shared with the incoming Biden administration in the US.

Mr Morrison said the whole of the national cabinet had been keen to endorse the Commonwealth vaccination policy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

"It's another sign together as a country we are working to prepare ourselves to be able to disseminate and administer these vaccines all around the country when they are ready, when they have passed the necessary TGA approvals and to ensure they are safe," Mr Morrison said.

The chief medical officer Paul Kelly confirmed Australia had advanced purchase orders for four different vaccines, or 134 million doses. He said Australia had also signed up to the COVAX agreement and this would guarantee that 50 per cent of the population could be vaccinated.

Professor Kelly noted though that questions still remained regarding effectiveness of some of the vaccines. He also confirmed the vaccine would be free for Australians.

The Prime Minister said the government would not make the vaccine mandatory but encouraged people to get vaccinated when it was possible.

Responding to a question about anti-vaxxer misinformation spreading online, Mr Morrison said Australians should follow advice from medial experts instead of following information available online.

He said the government would not take any shortcuts in assuring the safety of the vaccines and would communicate that to the public.

Mr Morrison said Victoria was preparing to take international arrivals, although this was not ready to occur yet. He said the estimated 25,000 Australians the government was trying to return from overseas did not include Victoria accepting arrivals, so the amount could increase.

However, he was adamant returning Australians would be the priority and this meant international students would not be accepted at this time.

"The challenges we have in getting Australians home means the ability to move and take international students back at this time through quarantine arrangements does not present itself," he said.

"It's Australians coming home first. That is the Commonwealth policy, that is our policy, and that is the policy that is also being followed by the National Cabinet.

"We need to use every available space that we have in quarantine, and it is not simply a matter of other rooms and hotels to do it, there is also the police, the support that is needed to properly run quarantine.

"So it is a function of all of these, and the quarantine system has been working effectively and we want it to keep working effectively."

This story National cabinet endorses vaccine strategy and no international students to return first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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