Qld backtracks on key Covid rule

The vaccine mandate announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk earlier this month set out a range of freedoms to be enjoyed by double-dosed residents from December 17 or whenever the state hit 80 per cent full vaccination rate.Conversely, the rules also mean unvaccinated residents will find themselves unable to enter a range of venues.However, the state government seems to have changed its mind on when these bans will come into play. Ms Palaszczuk had previously indicated the rules would come in sooner if an 80 per cent full vaccination rate was reached earlier than expected – in line with any earlier reopening of borders.But on Tuesday the government confirmed a December 17 start date for the vaccine mandate was now set in stone, irrespective of vaccination rates. “This provides important certainty so businesses and staff can plan accordingly,” Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe told The Courier Mail. The government still maintains it will welcome vaccinated interstate visitors before December 17 if the 80 per cent mark is reached ahead of time, with acting chief health officer Peter Aitken estimating this could be as soon as December 6. Effectively pushing the vaccine mandate back by 11 days will give Queensland businesses more time to source vaccinated staff ahead of a rush of summer visitors, but it also appears to create a gap between the wider border reopening and when unvaccinated people will have their freedoms reduced. Queensland’s double-dose vaccination rate has surged since the bans were announced on November 9 and on Tuesday was approaching 74 per cent. The mandate was a key source of anger for protesters who gathered in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens on Saturday but has provided businesses with clarity and avenues of support ahead of any flash points with those flouting the law. Elsewhere, a war of words has erupted between Ms Palaszczuk and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt over controversial and confusing rules on Covid tests and requirements to enter the state. The wash-up of that tussle is that people entering Queensland will not be slugged with a $150 bill for completing a mandatory PCR test.

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