Aus-NZ flight in vaccine passport trial as Pfizer doses arrive

A second shipment of at least 166,00 doses touched down in Sydney on Monday night after more than 142,000 vials arrived last week.A further 122,000 doses will arrive next week, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.Meantime, Air New Zealand has announced trial a digital travel pass to give airlines and border authorities access to passenger health information, including their COVID-19 vaccination status.The trial, starting in April, is set to run for three weeks on flights Auckland to Sydney.The scheme, dubbed a “vaccination passport” by industry observers, is intended to streamline travel once borders reopen by allowing passengers to store their health credentials in one place.“It’s essentially like having a digital health certificate that can be easily and securely shared with airlines,” said Air New Zealand chief digital officer Jennifer Sepull.It relies on an app developed by the International Air Transport Association (AITA) and other airlines including Etihad and Emirates have already signed up for their own trials.The industry body’s senior vice-president Nick Careen said it was an important milestone in restarting international travel as global vaccine rollouts get underway.“Governments can be confident that passengers who are ‘OK to travel’ are in full compliance of COVID-19 travel requirements,” he said.Mr Careen said the app ensured privacy by giving users control of the health data they provided.AUSSIES WARNED OVER VACCINE PAYMENT SCAMQueenslanders have been urged to be vigilant about scam operators who may ask for money to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said requests for payment were a major red flag.“If you get asked for money it’s a scam, every single person will get this vaccine for free,” Dr Young said in an online COVID-19 “Q and A” with Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday night.“In that first critical group 37,000 will be contacted. You will get a text message and a phone call… after that we’ll get messaging out to come forward.”She said most people would go to their regular GP to receive the jab.COVID SCARE IN HOTEL QUARANTINE WORKERSTwo Melbourne hotel quarantine workers who delivered “indeterminate test results” for COVID-19 have since tested negative, health authorities say.Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the workers had been cleared by a follow-up nasal-swab test.One of the workers was employed at the Novotel and the other at the Pullman.“Both staff members are now deemed negative and all public health actions have been stood down,” Professor Sutton said.SUPPORT FOR PM SURGESPopular support for Scott Morrison surged ahead of Monday’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine as he took on tech giant Facebook over its news ban on Australia but continued to face criticism over his handling of an ­alleged rape in Parliament House.In the latest Newspoll conducted for The Australian, Mr Morrison has increased his lead as preferred prime minister, even boosting his approval ­ratings amid the fallout over the alleged rape of former ministerial staffer Brittany Higgins, which has threatened to derail the government’s agenda.But the alleged assault – which has dominated political discussion over the past week – did not affect the poll, with the Coalition’s primary vote remaining unchanged at 42 per cent.Labor leader Anthony Albanese, however, suffered a significant drop in support, falling three points in satisfaction levels to 38 per cent.It was his among his worst ­approval ratings since becoming Opposition Leader in 2019. And it was more bad news for the Labor leader with dissatisfaction with his performance rising to 45 per cent.Mr Albanese’s drop came despite a one-point lift for the party to 37 per cent, which is Labor’s equal-best result in more than a year. The margin between who would make the better prime minister also increased with Mr Morrison – at 61 per cent – claiming his highest approval rating since winning the top job. Mr Albanese, however, plummeted to 26 per cent, which is the lowest ranking for the Opposition Leader since August last year.Popular support for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation remained steady at 3 per cent, in line with the 2019 election result, while support for other minor parties fell a point to 8 per cent.This compares to an election result that saw almost 12 per cent of the vote go to minor parties, other than the Greens and PHON, or independents. The Greens remained unchanged at 10 per cent.Newspoll ResultsVACCINE ROLLOUT KICKS OFFIt comes as Mr Morrison said tens of thousands of Australians will be vaccinated over the coming week as the biggest vaccination program in the nation’s history kicks off. Mr Morrison received the COVID-19 jab yesterday alongside a group of frontline workers and aged care residents ahead of today’s official rollout. Describing his jab as a “curtain raiser”, the PM said he hoped it would demonstrate confidence in the vaccine.“I wanted them to know as they went to bed tonight that we have been able to demonstrate our confidence in the health and safety of this vaccination,” he said.“Over the course of this week we hope to see 60,000 vaccinations at 240 different aged-care centres in 190 towns and suburbs around the country, from Alice Springs to Albany to Altona.”The first Australian to get vaccinated was Jane Malysiak, a Polish World War II survivor who received the Pfizer jab in front of the cameras at Castle Hill Medical Centre in Sydney’s northwest. The 84-year-old aged care resident received a round of applause after getting the jab and held hands with Mr Morrison, who was sitting beside her when she received the Pfizer vaccine. Other Australians vaccinated on Sunday included aged care residents, a Border Force worker, a health care worker, a GP and a soldier. Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC’s Insiders it was an important step in building public confidence in the vaccine before the nationwide rollout begins in earnest on Monday.“Today the first group of people will be vaccinated, commencing with two of our aged-care residents, our critical aged-care staff, frontline workers,” Mr Hunt said.“We also know that the chief medical officer and the chief nurse and the Prime Minister – in order to provide confidence, the Prime Minister will be the last of that group.”Insiders host David Speers asked whether there was a danger Mr Morrison would be seen as “jumping the queue”.“There was a very strong focus on the need for key leaders, not the parliament, not the cabinet, not even the leadership group, but a cross-party group, to provide that confidence,” Mr Hunt said.“This is a cross-parliamentary view where parliamentarians don’t have any special status … that it is about the confidence and indeed the research shows that people want to see that if we believe it’s safe, then that will give them greater confidence.”He added that Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese would be vaccinated later this week.AUSTRALIANS WARNED OVER CONSPIRACY THEORIES Australians have been urged to ignore the conspiracy theories and misinformation touted by anti-vaxxers who protested across the country over the weekend.Victoria’s chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton told the Australian that Australians who had queries about COVID vaccines should get information from trusted health officials.“Fervent anti-vaxxers are in a really small minority … I am going to ignore them, frankly, and I would encourage you to do the same,” Professor Sutton said.“It is legitimate to ask questions and I would encourage all those individuals who have seen information that they are unsure about the legitimacy of that information to go to trusted individuals, go to your GP … go to trusted information sources.”Professor Sutton said the shot was “genuinely our way out of this” referring to the pandemic.He said with 150 million vaccine doses distributed worldwide, there was evidence they were safe.“The reality is, it’s gone through a really rigorous quality and safety review process,” Professor Sutton said.Anti-vaccination protests broke out nationwide on Saturday. In Melbourne, 20 people were arrested during a protest at Fawkner Park in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra.Protesters disrupted traffic on Toorak Road where a heavy police presence was deployed.Two Sunday Herald Sun journalists were also handcuffed and issued with a notice of a potential $1652 fine as they attempted to cover the Melbourne rally.In Sydney, disgraced celebrity chef and noted conspiracy theorist Pete Evans joined hundreds of anti-vaxxers as they marched from Hyde Park through the city, yelling “f*** Bill Gates” and holding signs that said “just say no”, “coronavirus is a scam” and “vaccines kill”.“I don’t have the answers. No one is coming to save you except you,” Mr Evans told the crowd.“Each and every one of you has to stand up in whatever capacity you can.”The protest comes as Australia is expected to roll out the first vaccinations on Monday.The federal government has said the vaccine program will not be mandatory but it’s likely some workplaces considered “high risk” may insist on employees getting the shot.- with AFP

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