Thousands jabbed as vaccine program ramps up

The figure, a significant uptick, is more than half of the doses that were rolled out by the state in the first week of the program.Health Minister Martin Foley on Thursday said the state government’s effort to vaccinate front line workers and other key groups was on track.“I’m confident that we will continue to meet all of the goals that the Commonwealth have provided in the release of the vaccines to the states,” he said.It comes after it was revealed the Maritime Union of Australia revealed port workers were only being tested for coronavirus when they disembarked from boats, but not for those on board.Mr Foley said ports were high risk locations, but that the state did not have jurisdiction to force testing on boats.“We know that the virus is still rampaging around the globe,” he said.“This is a system that tests both stevedoring workers and those who get both on and off boats.“If for whatever reason, you don’t get off an aeroplane, which happens, or if you don’t get off a cargo or port boat then you don’t fall under Victorian jurisdiction.“Our ability to compel you is non-existent, that’s an issue for the federal government.”But Mr Foley said there was little danger of the virus spreading this way.“Every piece of public health advice we’ve got is that if you don’t come on to Australian soil then there’s not a risk to us,” he said.“If our stevedoring workers get onto ships, they’re required to test. If the seafarers get off the ships, for whatever reason, they’re required to be tested.“It is that barrier between the two that is the system that protects Victorians, and Australians.”POST-LOCKDOWN SHOP BOOSTS ECONOMYThe end of Melbourne’s lengthy lockdown fuelled a faster-than-expected economic recovery in the final three months of 2020.Australia’s economy grew 3.1 per cent between October and December, after rising 3.4 per cent in the previous quarter, marking the first time in the 60-year history of the national accounts that gross domestic product jumped by more than 3 per cent in consecutive quarters.Josh Frydenberg said it was a “very encouraging performance”, and the economy had now recovered to 85 per cent of its pre-pandemic level six months earlier than predicted in October’s budget.Labor warned the figures were inflated by a surge in spending in Victoria fuelled by the end of lockdown ­restrictions.Victoria’s economy grew 6.8 per cent in the last three months of 2020, compared to 2.9 per cent in NSW and 2 per cent in Queensland.Household spending leapt 10.4 per cent in Victoria, well above a 4.3 per cent increase nationally. But spending in Victoria remained 7.2 per cent below pre-COVID levels.Nationally, the household savings ratio dropped to 12 per cent from a pandemic peak of 22 per cent, bolstering the government’s hopes Australians will start spending again this year as taxpayer-funded ­support programs are wound back.The growth over the final six months of 2020 came after the economy shrank a record 7 per cent between April and June. A 26.8 per cent surge in agriculture, forestry and fishing production and a 7.4 per cent boost in real estate services as the property market heated up also fuelled the national economic bounce-back.The Treasurer said the economy was making “remarkable progress, given the economic abyss that Australia was staring into last year”.“There are still sectors and regions that are doing it tough, but our economic support will continue,” Mr Frydenberg said.The government is finalising a new round of support for businesses in industries affected by ongoing COVID restrictions including tourism and aviation.Opposition spokesman Jim Chalmers said the recovery was “welcome but unsurprising” given the end of Victoria’s lockdown, and that the economy was still 1.1 per cent smaller than prior to the crisis.“(Scott) Morrison and Frydenberg’s smugness and self-congratulation won’t do anything to help the millions of Australians still struggling with unemployment, underemployment and insecure work,” he said.

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