COVID-19 pandemic in Australia
|COVID-19 pandemic in Australia|
|First outbreak||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Index case||Melbourne, Victoria|
|Arrival date||25 January 2020|
(1 year, 3 months and 2 weeks)
The COVID-19 pandemic in Australia is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first confirmed case in Australia was identified on 25 January 2020, in Victoria, when a man who had returned from Wuhan, Hubei, China, tested positive for the virus.
Australian borders were closed to all non-residents on 20 March, and returning residents were required to spend two weeks in supervised quarantine hotels from 27 March. Many individual states and territories also closed their borders to varying degrees, with some remaining closed until late 2020, and continuing to periodically close during localised outbreaks. Social distancing rules were imposed on 21 March, and state governments started to close "non-essential" services. "Non-essential services" included social gathering venues such as pubs and clubs but unlike many other countries did not include most business operations such as construction, manufacturing and many retail categories. The number of new cases initially grew sharply, then levelled out at about 350 per day around 22 March, and started falling at the beginning of April to under 20 cases per day by the end of the month.
A second wave of infections emerged in Victoria during May and June, which was attributed to an outbreak at a Melbourne quarantine hotel. The second wave, though largely localised to Melbourne, was much more widespread and deadlier than the first; at its peak, the state had over 7,000 active cases. Victoria underwent a second strict lockdown which eventually lasted almost four months. The wave ended with zero new cases being recorded on 26 October 2020.
As of 9 May 2021[update], Australia has reported 29,923 cases, 25,486+ recoveries, and 910 deaths, with Victoria's second wave accounting for nearly 75 percent of cases and 90 percent of fatalities. No deaths from COVID-19 were recorded in Australia from 28 December 2020 until 13 April 2021, when one death occurred in Queensland. There has been one death linked to an adverse vaccination reaction. On 15 April 2021, a 48-year-old New South Wales woman died in John Hunter Hospital after developing thrombosis (blood clot) with thrombocytopenia (abnormally low levels of platelets) four days after being vaccinated on 8 April with the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine. By 6 May 2021 there had been 11 cases in Australia of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) in people after they received Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccinations. Long-haul flying is still a greater risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) than COVID-19 vaccinations.
The stated goal of the National Cabinet is "suppression", as opposed to "elimination", meaning continually trying to drive community transmission to zero but expecting that new outbreaks may occur. This is in contrast to the mitigation strategies implemented by most other nations. Compared to other Western countries, notably the United States and European countries, Australia's handling has been praised for its effectiveness. Distinctive aspects of that response included early interventions to reduce reflected transmission from countries other than China during late January and February 2020; rapid recruitment of a large contact tracing workforce during March 2020; comparatively high public trust in government responses to the pandemic, at least compared to the US  and later on, the use of short intense lockdowns to facilitate exhaustive contact tracing of new outbreaks. Although Australia's efforts to develop a bluetooth-based contact tracing app were not particularly effective, QR code based contact tracing apps became ubiquitous in Australia's businesses. These apps, which are effectively required by State Governments, give government health departments the ability to reconstruct the presence of anyone visiting bars or restaurants, generally for 28 days after the visit.
A novel coronavirus that caused a respiratory illness was identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019, and was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on 31 December 2019, which confirmed its concern on 12 January 2020. WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January, and a pandemic on 11 March.
The case fatality rate of COVID-19 is much lower than that of SARS, a related disease which emerged in 2002, but its transmission has been significantly greater, leading to a much greater total death toll.
The widespread reporting of the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season in major media and social media around the world caused a significant drop in the number of tourists coming to Australia, including those from China. The absence of tourist arrivals during this time could have played a significant role in sparing Australia from the spread of COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic. This is in contrast to other major cities in Europe and North America, where the early spread of the virus continued undetected until late February 2020 or early March 2020.
|Australian Capital Territory||124||3||121||0||0||202,924|||
|New South Wales||5,532||54||3,281||114||3||5,758,717||[e][f]|||
|As of 9 May 2021|
The following chart represents changes in net number of cases on a daily basis and is based on the number of cases reported in the Federal Government's daily reports.
Daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia
On 1 February 2020, Australia banned the entry of foreign nationals who had been in mainland China, and ordered its own returning citizens who had been in China to self-quarantine for 14 days. The country also began to assess the relative risk of reflected transmission through third countries, and to ask travelers arriving from higher-risk countries to monitor for symptoms. Australia subsequently imposed bans on Iran (1 March), South Korea (5 March), and Italy (11 March). From 16 March, all travellers arriving in or returning to Australia were required to self-isolate for 14 days. Failure to self-isolate could result in a fine of A$11,000 to A$50,000 and a possible prison sentence, depending on the state. Cruise ships were also barred from docking in the country for 30 days.
By late March 2020, 62% of Australia's more than 3,000 coronavirus cases were among people who had returned from overseas. From then, Australians returning from overseas were subject to two weeks compulsory quarantine in hotels. The New South Wales quarantine program was helped by 150 Australian Defence Force personnel, including 30 who were stationed at hotels. In Victoria, three private security operators were contracted to provide the security, while the other states and territories used their police resources. The states and territories carried the costs of hotel quarantine. By 19 June, since the policy came into force 81,000 people had entered Australia. Of those, 63,000 had undergone hotel quarantine, while the rest, including flight crews, international businesspeople and defence members, fell under different rules. Hotel quarantine had cost $118 million as at 19 June.
Interstate border closures began on 19 March, with Tasmania imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine on all "non-essential" travellers to the state, including returning residents. On 24 March, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory closed their borders, with all interstate arrivals being required to self-isolate for 14 days. On 11 April, Queensland banned interstate arrivals, with only Queensland residents and those granted 'exemption' being allowed entry. On 8 July, the Victorian and NSW governments, jointly closed their common border, following a large spike in cases in parts of Melbourne.
With the spike in coronavirus infections in Victoria linked to the hotel quarantine program, a judicial inquiry into the program in Victoria was called on 2 July; and all international arrivals into Melbourne were suspended. On 9 July, other state and territory leaders agreed to reduce flights and arrivals into Australia from 8,000 to 4,000 a week to ease the burden on the hotel quarantine system. States started to charge travellers for hotel quarantine. In mid September, the states agreed to increased the number of arrivals to 6,000 a week, to help in the repatriation of tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas. By 15 December 2020, 39,000 Australians were registered with the government as stranded, with more unregistered (as the government advised registration only for those needing assistance to return). After repeated flight cancellations and without access to government-provided health care or welfare benefits, many families reported being forced to overstay visas, and burn down savings and incur debt to pay for accommodations. Having to pay thousands of dollars for return tickets and mandatory hotel quarantine, some chose to send one family member back in order to resume work and earn enough money to pay the way of the rest. Between 13 March and 15 July 2020, more than 357,000 people returned to Australia. As of 15 January 2021[update] over 37,000 Australians were stranded abroad. On 29 January 2021, the ability of Australians stuck overseas to return was further hampered when the UK banned direct flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the possible spread of the South African COVID-19 variant. Both Etihad and Emirates airlines are UAE based.
An overnight curfew was introduced in Victoria on 2 August 2020, extended on 13 September and suspended on 27 September. A Supreme Court judge has ruled the curfew was legal.
On 25 January 2021, Health Minister Greg Hunt suspended Australia's travel bubble with New Zealand for a period of 72 hours after New Zealand authorities confirmed a community transmission case in the country's Northland Region. On 28 January the suspension of the travel bubble was extended for 3 more days.
On 5 February 2021, National Cabinet decided to increase the number of international passenger arrivals to Australia as from mid-February. New South Wales will return to a weekly cap of 3,010 people and Queensland to 1,000. South Australia has increased by 40 people a week to 530, and Victoria by almost 200 to 1,310. Western Australia will remain at a reduced arrival cap. The total national weekly cap of 4,100 will increase to approximately 6,300.
On 11 February 2021, the airline Cathay Pacific decided that, excepting Sydney, from 20 February it would cease all flights to Australia until the end of the month. This was in response to the Hong Kong government's new COVID rules requiring Hong Kong based aircrew to quarantine for 14 days on return to HK.
On 24 February, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria suspended their travel bubble arrangements with New Zealand in response to a recent community outbreak in South Auckland. As a result, New Zealanders traveling to these states would have to enter quarantine.
On 2 March 2021, the general closure of Australia's international borders to travel was extended another 3 months to 17 June 2021. Australia's borders have now already been closed for 12 months. The border could reopen earlier if the closure was "no longer needed." Despite the border closure, between 25 March and 31 December 2020 over 105,000 exemptions were approved for people to leave Australia.
By April 2021, there were still about 40,000 Australians stranded overseas by the high cost of plane tickets and the cap on the number of people in the quarantine system, which was criticized for special treatment of sportspeople and celebrities. Australia was chastised by the UN Human Rights Committee, which requested a prompt return for the country's citizens; the government has given out A$29 million to about 3,900 stranded people as a last resort, and operated 28 repatriation flights.
On 23 April, Prime Minister Morrison announced that travellers to Australia from "high risk" countries, in particular India, were to be reduced by 30 percent. This decision was based on an increase in positive results for COVID-19 among travellers from India at the Howard Springs, Northern Territory quarantine facility. Travel to such countries was also to be limited.
In general, the border restrictions had had broad public support, though critics suggested safety could be improved by constructing more outdoor quarantine centres rather than relying on urban hotels, which had suffered 16 leaks to the surrounding communities as of April 2021, out of about half a million quarantined. The government does not have a ordered queue of returnees; outside of repatriation flights, the order in which people return is determined by commercial airlines, resulting in Australian citizens making up fewer than half of incoming travellers in February 2021.
On 27 April, due to the "record breaking" outbreak of COVID-19 in India, with 323,000 new infections that day after five days with new cases peaking above 350,000, and another 2,771 COVID deaths there, the Federal Government "paused" all incoming flights from India until at least 15 May. The pause includes repatriation flights into the Howard Springs quarantine facility near Darwin with more than 9,000 Australians in India at this date wanting to come to Australia.
Late on 30 April, the Federal Government announced a ban on Australian citizens and permanent residents in India from entering Australia via any route. These measures came into effect on 3 May and would remain in force until 15 May. Breaches would be subject to punishment under the Biosecurity Act 2015, with penalties for breaches including up to five years’ jail, a fine of A$66,600, or both. Foreign Minister Marise Payne reported that 57% of positive cases in quarantine had come from India in April, compared with 10% in March. The move was branded as racist by some critics, and a potential breach of international human rights law. On 3 May 2021 the government announced that it would review this decision earlier than originally intended, possibly within the same week. There were about 9,000 Australian citizens in India, of whom 650 were considered vulnerable.
On 13 March 2020, the National Cabinet, a form of national crisis cabinet akin to a war cabinet, was created following a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). This is the first time such a cabinet has been proclaimed since World War II, and the only time in Australian history that a crisis cabinet has included state and territory leaders. The cabinet consists of the premiers and chief ministers of the Australian states and territories and meets weekly during the crisis. At its first meeting on 13 March, the National Cabinet announced that gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled from 15 March. Schools, universities, workplaces, public transport and airports were not included in this recommendation. Prime Minister Morrison also announced that he intended to attend a Rugby League match on 14 March; "I do still plan to go to the football on Saturday" but later decided against attending the match.
On 29 March, the Cabinet agreed to stricter limits to apply from midnight on 30 March: a limit on both indoor and outdoor gatherings of two people except weddings (5) funerals (10) and people of the same household or family; strong guidance to all Australians is to stay home unless for necessary shopping, health care, exercise, and work and study that can't be done remotely; public playgrounds, skate parks and outside gyms to be closed. It was left to individual states to enforce these guidelines. They also agreed to a moratorium on evictions for six months for both commercial and residential tenancies suffering financial distress.
On 2 April 2020, the Federal government announced the temporary provision of free childcare so that people could continue working, and to prevent closure of childcare centres. The Government paid half each centre's operating costs. The free childcare ended on 12 July, and the previous Child Care Subsidy was reintroduced.
Human biosecurity emergency declaration
On 18 March 2020, a human biosecurity emergency was declared in Australia owing to the risks to human health posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, after a National Security Committee meeting the previous day. The Biosecurity Act 2015 specifies that the Governor-General may declare such an emergency exists if the Health Minister (currently Greg Hunt) is satisfied that "a listed human disease is posing a severe and immediate threat, or is causing harm, to human health on a nationally significant scale". This gives the minister sweeping powers, including imposing restrictions or preventing the movement of people and goods between specified places, and evacuations. The Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) Declaration 2020 was declared by the Governor-General, David Hurley, under Section 475 of the Act. The Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements) Determination 2020, made by the Health Minister on the same day, forbids international cruise ships from entering Australian ports before 15 April 2020.
A social distancing rule of four square metres (43 sq ft) per person in any enclosed space was agreed by National Cabinet on 20 March, to be implemented through State and Territory laws. On 22 March 2020, the State governments of New South Wales and Victoria imposed a mandatory closure of non-essential services, while the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia imposed border closures.
On 22 March, Morrison announced a closure of places of social gathering, including registered and licensed clubs, licensed premises in hotels and bars, entertainment venues, including but not restricted to cinemas, casinos and nightclubs and places of worship. Cafes and restaurants could remain open, but were limited to only takeaway food. Similarly, enclosed spaces for funerals and things of that nature will have to follow the strict four-square-metre rule. These measures (labelled stage 1 in anticipation of possible future measures) were effective immediately at midday, 23 March. Morrison stated that he would like schools to remain open, but parents could keep children at home if they wished to.
On 25 March 2020, the Health Minister made a second determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015, the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Overseas Travel Ban Emergency Requirements) Determination 2020, which "forbids Australian citizens and permanent residents from leaving Australian territory by air or sea as a passenger". On the same day, the Prime Minister announced a further set of restrictions, labelled stage 2 restrictions, effective midnight that night. These involved mainly smaller businesses, such as nail salons and tattoo parlours, while some, such as personal training sessions, were limited to 10 people. At the same time, other gatherings were restricted, such as weddings (5 people) and funerals (10 people).
At 12:00 am on Tuesday 31 March, restrictions were announced on indoor and outdoor gatherings, which were called stage 3 by the media, although the label "stage 3" was not part of the official announcement. The new rule limited gatherings to two people, although it did not apply to members of the same household.
On 25 April 2020, the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements—Public Health Contact Information) Determination 2020, made under subsection 477(1) of the Act, was signed into law by the Health Minister. The purpose of the new legislation is "to make contact tracing faster and more effective by encouraging public acceptance and uptake of COVIDSafe", COVIDSafe being the new mobile app created for the purpose. The function of the app is to record contact between any two people who both have the app on their phones when they come within 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) of each other. The encrypted data would remain on the phone for 21 days of not encountering a person logged with confirmed COVID-19.
National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board
On 25 March, the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) was established by the Prime Minister as a strategic advisory body for the national response to the pandemic. (On 27 July 2020, the Prime Minister renamed the organisation to the "National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board" (NCC).) The NCC's role includes providing advice on public-private partnerships and coordination to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
On 29 March, Prime Minister Morrison announced in a press conference following a National Cabinet meeting that public gatherings will be limited to two people, while also urging Australians over the age of 70, Australians with chronic illness over the age of 60 and Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 to stay home and self-isolate. Morrison also clarified that there were only four acceptable reasons for Australians to leave their houses: shopping for essentials; for medical or compassionate needs; exercise in compliance with the public gathering restriction of two people; and for work or education purposes.
The Australian government entered into agreements with Pfizer/BioNTech, University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax and the University of Queensland for the supply of vaccines. The University of Queensland vaccine was abandoned in December 2020 after trials revealed that, while it was safe, it triggered false positives on HIV tests. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provisionally approved the Pfizer vaccine in January 2021. The Australian government ordered 10 million doses, with the first 80,000 to be delivered in February 2021, but production problems and the imposition of export controls by the European Union (EU) onto deliveries to countries outside Europe made meeting the delivery schedule problematic.
This would also affect deliveries of the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which was provisionally approved by the TGA in February, and received final approval in March. Orders were reduced from 3.8 million to 1.2 million doses of this vaccine, which is manufactured in Belgium, and arrival was pushed back to March 2021. CSL Limited began manufacturing 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Melbourne in November 2020. Deliveries were expected to commence in March. The AstraZeneca vaccine could be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures of 2 to 8 °C (36 to 46 °F), whereas the Pfizer vaccine required storage at −70 °C (−94 °F). However, concerns were raised about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology called for a pause in its rollout, as the efficacy of the vaccine reported by trials was insufficient to achieve the desired herd immunity effect. CSL management declined an invitation to appear before an Australian Senate inquiry.
Although the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, said that Australia would be "at the front of the queue", and the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, claimed that Australia would be among the first countries to receive COVID-19 vaccines, 61 other countries had already commenced vaccinating their citizens by the end of January 2021, while the Australian vaccination rollout was not scheduled to commence for another month.
On 15 February 2021, 142,000 doses of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Australia. The first doses are due be administered on 22 February. The world-wide distribution of the vaccine has been described as "… the largest logistics effort in the world since World War" by Dr Roberto Perez-Franco of the Deakin University's Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics. This was followed, on 28 February, by 300,000 doses of the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine, which arrived at Sydney airport. It was planned that most Australians will be immunised with this vaccine, the majority of which will be manufactured in Australia by CSL Limited. On 5 March, Italy and the European Union blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of the Oxford−AstraZeneca vaccine from Italy to Australia, citing low COVID-19 case numbers in Australia and the limited availability of vaccines in the EU.
Local manufacturing began in November 2020. On 16 February, the first vials of COVID-19 vaccine produced in Australia came off the production line at the CSL Behring plant in Broadmeadows, Melbourne. This is the active raw vaccine material. The vaccine vials are filled and packaged into doses by Seqirus, a CSL subsidiary in Parkville, Melbourne. Production of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia received its final approval from the TGA on 21 March. Understandably, many front line health care workers preferred the Pfizer vaccine over the AstraZeneca one.
The Australian government had also signed a deal with Novavax for 51 million doses of its vaccine, with supply originally slated for "mid-2021". As of April 2021, it had yet to be approved by the TGA. It is not manufactured in Australia, so like the other imported vaccines, its availability was uncertain. In trials it was reported to be 95.6 per cent effective against COVID-19, and an 86.3 per cent effective against the variant identified in the UK.
In a February 2021 pre-budget submission, the Australian Academy of Science renewed its call for the government to develop the capability to produce MRNA vaccine technology in Australia. The ability to mass-produce such vaccines onshore would insulate Australia against supply shocks, and cater for future pandemics and potential biosecurity situations. The MRNA vaccines had proved to be more effective than those produced with conventional vaccine technology, and easier to reconfigure to cater for new virus variants.
The first public COVID-19 vaccination in Australia, with the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine, took place on 21 February 2021 in Sydney. An 84-year-old aged care resident was the first Australian to receive the vaccine. Prime Minister Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly also received vaccinations.
More than 2 million COVID-19 vaccinations had been administered by 28 April 2021, but this was 3 million short of original plans.
- Adverse reactions
The first death in Australia linked to an adverse vaccination reaction occurred on 15 April 2021. A diabetic 48-year-old New South Wales woman died in John Hunter Hospital after developing thrombosis with thrombocytopenia 4 days after being vaccinated on 8 April with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The TGA said it was "likely" her death was linked to the vaccination. There were 2 previous cases in Australia of blood clotting linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. By 23 April 2021, 3 more cases of blood clotting were reported that are believed to be linked to AstraZeneca vaccination. A 49-year-old Queensland man, an 80-year-old Victorian man and 35-year-old NSW woman all had suspected thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). The TGA said there was a "likely link" as all three had received the AstraZeneca vaccine. All were in a stable condition and recovering.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the TGA met on 8 April 2021 to review concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine. Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Paul Kelly, reassured about the vaccine's safety, but it was being reviewed. ATAGI advised the Federal Government to use the AstraZeneca vaccine only for those over 50-years-of-age as they confirmed the rare side-effect of blood clotting could occur in younger people.
Victoria's Chief Health officer, Professor Brett Sutton, after himself receiving an AstraZeneca vaccination in April, said: "You are more likely to get a clot, whatever age you are, on a long-haul flight to Europe or North America." Daniel Thomas, haematologist and researcher at the University of Adelaide agreed and said deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was "common".
New South Wales
Premier Gladys Berejiklian formed a "war cabinet" to make decisions in relation to the pandemic. Members include herself, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard and Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott.
On 15 March, Secretary of the New South Wales Department of Education, Mark Scott ordered that, effective immediately, New South Wales schools introduce social distancing measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The order required schools to cancel all assemblies, excursions, travel, concerts, large inter-school sporting and arts events, and other events that would require students and staff to congregate in large numbers. Schools were to stay open. Four schools in the state have been shut for periods during the crisis due to confirmed cases within their school communities.
On 16 March, New South Wales Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard announced that he was using his powers, under Section 7 of the 'Public Health Act 2010', to immediately and indefinitely cancel all public events with more than 500 attendees. The order is enforceable by NSW Police and violations of the order can carry a prison term of six months, an $11,000 fine, or both.
Chief Justice Bathurst, Chief Justice of New South Wales, and Chief Judge Price of the District Court of New South Wales ordered that effective 16 March 2020, new jury trials would be suspended to limit the spread of coronavirus. The order did not apply to already empanelled jury trials. Corrective Services New South Wales implemented screening mechanisms, early flu vaccination programs and stricter hygiene requirements for staff, visitors and inmates to slow the spread of the virus.
The University of Sydney cancelled all graduations, conferences, academic and student organised events. The University of New South Wales announced that it was cancelling all student and academic events until Easter, encourage staff to work from home and, where possible, shift all lectures, tutorials, demonstrations and labs to online learning.
New South Wales schools were directed by the State Department of Education Secretary, Mark Scott, to cancel all assemblies, excursions, travel, and some events and conferences, including arts and initiative events, as well as whole school sporting events and inter-school sporting events with three or more involved schools.
Even though there was a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people, huge crowds flocked to the popular Bondi Beach and other beaches across Sydney on Friday 20 March. Health Minister Greg Hunt said that such behaviour was "unacceptable" while the New South Wales Labor's Shadow Treasurer, Walt Secord urged the government to completely close off the beach. New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott later stated in a televised interview that lifeguards were instructed to keep a head count of the people at the beach and if the number exceeded 500, the beach would be closed. On 21 March, crowds built up yet again which led Waverley Council to temporarily close Bondi, and the other beaches of Bronte and Tamarama.
On 22 March, a public health order was issued that declared Lord Howe Island a public risk area and directed restricted access. As of that date there were no known cases of COVID-19 on Lord Howe Island.
On 30 March, NSW Parliament passed the "COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement" law, which limited public gatherings to two people and directed, "that a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person's place of residence." It listed 16 reasonable excuses and took effect from midnight on 31 March.
As of 15 May, some restrictions on public and private gatherings were eased. Private homes were allowed 5 visitors. Free standing cafes and restaurants, and those inside pubs and clubs, were allowed very limited sit-down dining, after being restricted to take-away only since 23 March. Bars and gaming areas remained closed. A maximum of 10 people were permitted in restaurants and cafes, while social distancing rules still had to be followed. Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people were permitted. Up to 10 guests were permitted at weddings, and funerals could have up to 20 mourners indoors, 30 outdoors. Up to 10 people were allowed at indoor religious gatherings such as churches.
From 13 June, private homes were allowed to have up to 20 guests visit, and groups of 20 were allowed to meet outside. Food courts were allowed to open, so long as the 4-square-metres-per-patron rule was kept, and no more than 50 patrons. Indoor gym classes were allowed 10 participants. Up to 100 persons were allowed inside gyms, so long as area requirements were adhered to.
From 1 July, New South Wales eased restrictions further due to the limited community transmission of COVID-19, at that time. No set upper limit on patron numbers at indoor venues, but only one person per 4 square metres. Outdoor venues, with a maximum capacity of 40,000, were allowed up to 25 per cent of normal capacity. Events had to be ticketed, patrons seated and follow guidelines. Restriction on funerals eased, but the four-square-metre rule applied. Other existing restrictions, no more than 20 guests inside homes, 20 outside, remained in force. Restrictions were tightened again on 17 July. (See below)
From 5 July, the Federal Government introduced restrictions on the number of passengers arriving at Sydney Airport. A maximum of 50 passengers were allowed per flight, and international arrivals were set at 450 per day. This was by request of the NSW Government to reduce pressure on hotel quarantine capacity. More than 32,000 travellers had quarantined in Sydney hotels by this date.
On 6 July, the Victorian and NSW State Governments, jointly announced that their interstate border would be re-closed from the start of 8 July, following a large spike in cases in certain areas of Melbourne.
As of 12:01 a.m. on 17 July, after an increase in cases, new rules for pubs were introduced. Measures included, group bookings and persons at a table were limited to 10 (formerly 20), and a maximum of 300 people allowed inside any venue. COVID Safe Hygiene Marshalls to oversee the venues COVID-19 infection prevention were also required, and venue COVID-Safe registration was compulsory. Paper-based sign-ins are allowed, but a digital record of patrons contact details, for contact tracing, must be provided on request. Breaching the rules can result in a A$55,000 fine for the venue, plus another A$27,500 for each day the breach is continued. As of 24 July, the tightened venue restrictions were also applied to bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants.
Until 18 July, international travellers who had to undergo compulsory quarantine on arrival did not have to pay for their accommodation, at a cost of A$65 million to the NSW Government. Under new rules announced on 11 July, as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday 18 July 2020, all new arrivals are being charged for their quarantine. The charge includes meals and room costs, for which one adult will pay A$3,000, additional adults A$1,000, children A$500, and no charge for children under 3 years. Those already quarantined will not have to pay, nor will those who purchased flights, and, had a confirmed international arrival date, before 11:59 p.m. on 12 July 2020 AEST.
On 20 July, the number of daily overseas arrivals allowed at Sydney Airport was reduced to 350 from the 450 limit set on July 5.
On 5 August, it was announced that as from 7 August all Victorians arriving in NSW would be required to quarantine, at their own expense, in hotels for 14 days. Air arrivals from Victoria were only allowed at Sydney Airport.
From 23 November, it became mandatory for many businesses to use electronic record systems to collect details of patrons for possible contact tracing.
Northern Beaches outbreak
This section needs to be updated. The reason given is: End of outbreak in January and end of lockdown on Sunday 10 January 2021.February 2021)(
On 19 December 2020, a public health order was issued, locking down Sydney's Northern Beaches. Residents of the Northern Beaches LGA were required to stay at home from 5 pm on Saturday 19 December, until 11:59 pm on Wednesday 23 December unless they had a lawful reason to travel, including for: essential shopping; essential travel for work and to or from a school or educational institution; exercise; medical care, carer's responsibilities or compassionate needs. Entry to the area was similarly restricted. Public gatherings were limited to two persons.
By 20 December, there were 68 cases. This prompted restrictions on admission of Sydney residents or visitors to Sydney, to other states. These ranged from 14-day quarantines (ACT, NT, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria) to no entry without an exemption (Queensland). South Australia barred entry to anyone from the Northern Beaches, while Western Australia barred everyone coming from NSW. Measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Sydney were again tightened. No more than 10 people were allowed in homes in Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Illawarra-Shoalhaven.
New Year's Eve celebrations were restricted in Sydney city, around the harbour and suburbs. The midnight fireworks on Sydney Harbour, normally 20 minutes, were cut back to 7 minutes, with no fireworks at 9 pm. The harbour foreshores were closed to prevent crowds congregating. Only residents, guests, and those with bookings at bars, hotels and restaurants, were allowed in foreshore areas under a pass system. Vantage points in North Sydney were also closed.
On Saturday, 2 January 2021, it was announced that as of midnight that day, facemasks would become mandatory in many enclosed places in Greater Sydney. All public transport, shops, supermarkets, cinemas, theatres and places of worship were included. Hospitality workers also had to wear masks. Children under 12 years-of-age were exempt. An A$200 on the spot fine will be charged for non-compliance. Fines will be applied from 4 January (Monday).
Maximum gym class sizes were reduced from 50 to 30, worship from 300 down to 100, weddings were limited to 100, or one per 4 square metres. Outdoor performances reduced from 1,000 to 500 patrons. Events which were "seated, ticketed and enclosed" were reduced back to 2,000 maximum. Night clubs were "not permitted".
On 21 February, the first public COVID-19 vaccinations in Australia, with the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine, were administered in Sydney. Up to 6:00 pm on 23 February in NSW, 3,200 people were immunised across three state-run hospitals.
As of 24 February, there was no transmission of COVID-19 in the community in NSW for 38 days. On 17 March restrictions were to be "revisited". Also on 24 February, further restriction easing was announced in NSW. From 12:01 am on 26 February (Friday):
- Dancing and singing was allowed at gatherings
- At weddings, up to 30 people, including guests, could dance at one time. (previously, only the wedding party, a maximum of 20 people. The 300 person limit for wedding guests remained)
- Up to 50 people at their home (up from 30) Visitor number includes adults and children.
- Up to 50 people allowed in gym classes (4-square metre rule applies)
- Up to 30 singers allowed in choirs and religious congregations. Masks required, place of worship must adhere to the 4-square metre rule.
On 5 May in Sydney, a case of COVID-19 in a man in his 50s was detected with no known physical link to travel or border control/quarantine hotels or workers. His wife also tested positive to COVID-19. Genomic testing provided a link to an overseas (US) acquired infection at the Park Royal in Darling Harbour. The new cases are believed to have been infectious while visiting at least 20 locations in Sydney from 30 April to 4 March. Due to these community transmitted infections, COVID related restrictions in Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong were tightened, initially for 3 days, from 5 pm on 6 May (Friday), to 12:01 am on 9 May (Monday).
- Mask-wearing was again made mandatory at indoor places, including:
- Public transport
- Other indoor events
- Hospitality staff at front of house had to be masked
- Patrons drinking had to be seated.
- No singing or dancing at indoor venues, including,
- Places of worship and
- Entertainment venues.
Exemptions included weddings, and dancers or singers performing in shows.
- Only 20 visitors allowed at private homes
- Maximum 2 visitors at aged care facilities
On 9 May, because the "missing link" in the two community transmitted infections that caused the restriction tightening on 5 May had not been located, most of the extra restrictions were extended another seven days until 12:01 am on 17 May. The main change is mask wearing is not required indoors by patrons of shops and hospitality venues, except for gaming areas where masks are still needed. On public transport and other indoor public venues masks remain mandatory.
This section needs to be updated. The reason given is: Aged care, history of restrictions etc.October 2020)(
On 10 March, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned Victorians to expect "extreme measures" in the wake of the federal government updating the travel advice for Italy. These could include cancelling major sporting events, requiring entire economic sectors to work from home, and calling recently retired health professionals to return to work.
A state of emergency was declared on 16 March, which was extended on 12 April, with existing directions remaining in place including staying at home, restrictions on particular activities, detention, restrictions on airports and cruise ships, aged care, hospitals and isolation for people diagnosed with COVID-19. It was extended further on 11 May, and again on 19 July to 16 August.
On 22 March, the school holiday was brought forward from 27 to 24 March.
On 14 April, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced that Victoria would have the widest coronavirus testing in Australia, with anyone having COVID-19 symptoms able to get tested. The statement was issued that those who presented with fever or chills, in the absence of any other alternative diagnosis that explained the issue, or acute respiratory infection characterised by coughing, sore throat or shortness of breath should be tested for coronavirus.
On 20 June, the Victorian Government re-tightened restrictions on household gatherings following a spike in community transmitted cases over the previous week, reported to be mainly caused by family-to-family transmission in large household gatherings. From 22 June, households could once again only have five visitors; and most easing of restrictions that were to take place were postponed.
On 30 June, the Victorian Government re-enforced local lockdowns across 10 different Melbourne postcodes. Residents there would need to comply with the four acceptable reasons to leave their houses: shopping for essentials; for medical or compassionate needs; exercise in compliance with the public gathering restriction of two people; and for work or education purposes.
On 2 July, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the "Judicial Inquiry into Hotel Quarantine Program". This followed some cases of coronavirus in Victoria being linked by DNA sequencing to a breach in hotel quarantine infection control. The Inquiry was to "… examine the operation of Victoria's hotel quarantine program for returning travellers." It was headed by retired judge Jennifer Coate, and was scheduled to deliver its report to the Governor by 25 September. The inquiry was delayed by lockdown restrictions. Andrews noted that "it is abundantly clear that what has gone on here is completely unacceptable and we need to know exactly what has happened." An interim report was published on 6 November, and the inquirys final report was published on 21 December. The Government response to the interim report was published in November.
On 4 July, the Victorian Government announced two more postcodes affected by the lockdown until 29 July 2020. Nine public housing towers housing 3,000 residents were also added, with the additional condition that residents could not leave the tower under any circumstances for five days, with the possibility of an extension to 14 days. The Victorian ombudsman later found the lockdown of the public housing towers breached human rights laws.
On 6 July, the Victorian and NSW state Governments announced that their interstate border would be re-closed from the start of 8 July.
On 19 July, following a "concerning increase in coronavirus cases", Premier Andrews announced that "face coverings" were to be made mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne, and Mitchell Shire. This was not enforced until after 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday 22 July to allow the populace time to acquire a face covering. In addition, the state of emergency was extended until 16 August 2020.
From 22 July, as the chance of coronavirus infection remained high in aged care and health care settings, visits were restricted to carers only, and with a limit of one hour per day.
From 23 July, "face coverings" in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire became mandatory whenever residents leave their homes. A fine of A$200 was imposed to those not complying, though medical and other exemptions were allowed, such as not being required for children under 12 years of age.
On 2 August, a state of disaster was declared and metropolitan Melbourne was moved to Stage 4 restrictions. A curfew across Melbourne from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. was imposed, a 5 km (3.1 mi) radius restriction as added, and other restrictions that had previously been applied only to selected postcodes were applied to the whole of metropolitan Melbourne. A permit system was introduced for any residents that still needed to travel to work outside of their 5 km radius.
On 6 September (Father's Day), the "Roadmap for Reopening" was announced; a series of four steps towards "COVID Normal" which would begin on 13 September. In the "First Step", which applied to metropolitan Victoria, several restrictions were eased including a reduction of the curfew, some loosening of rules around outdoor exercise and social interactions, the introduction of a "bubble" that allowed single people living alone to nominate one person to be allowed to visit them during the first two steps, and increased limits for weddings, funerals and religious gatherings. At the same time, it was announced that regional Victoria would move to the "Second Step", which included a staged return of students to onsite learning as well as the reopening of outdoor public pools and further increases to limits for weddings, funerals and religious gatherings.  
On 18 October, regional Victoria was moved to "Step Three", which included the reopening of most businesses to the public, increased seating for hospitality, the allowance of visitors for all residents and the resumption of some indoor sports. At the same time, the 5 km limit in metropolitan Victoria was increased to 25 km (16 mi) and the two-hour time limit was removed, however the border between metropolitan and regional Victoria (often referred to as the "ring of steel") was strengthened with extra checkpoints added.  
On 26 October, metropolitan restrictions were eased, with residents allowed to leave home for any reason, all retail businesses allowed to reopen, hospitality venues allowed to seat patrons, further relaxations on outdoor gatherings, and allowance of visitors to all residents, with some caveats. The 25 km restriction and "Ring of steel" remained in place, however.  With a length of 112 days, Victoria's second lockdown was the longest continuous lockdown world-wide, as of October 2020.
On 8 November, metropolitan restrictions were brought into line with regional restrictions with travel now being allowed to and from anywhere in the state. Indoor recreation, community and entertainment venues were also reopened. Restrictions on accommodation were also loosened in an effort to encourage intrastate tourism. It was also announced that, subject to public health advice, Victoria would move to the "Last Step" on 22 November. 
Resumption of Hotel Quarantine
On 30 November, the Victorian government announced that a new dedicated agency, "COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria" (CQV), had been created. The interim Commissioner of CQV is the Commissioner of Corrections, Emma Cassar. CQV is part of the government's response to the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Enquirys' interim report. It will oversee all parts of the Victorian quarantine program: mandatory quarantine for people entering Australia, Health Hotels for positive and suspected cases, or close contacts, and Frontline Worker Accommodation. The CQV Commissioner will be supported by three Deputy State Controllers. Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Ben Cowie will lead the CQVs' health management. Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther will provide expertise in enforcement. As of 15 January 2021[update] the third Controller was still to be appointed. On 5 May 2021, the CQV general manager of infection control, Matius Bush, was stood down by the Minister for Government Services Danny Pearson pending a conduct review. Bush breached infection controls twice by: refusing a COVID test at a quarantine hotel when requested by Defence personnel; and failing to sanitise or change his mask when returning to a quarantine hotel from a coffee shop. Reports about the breaches were leaked and published in The Australian newspaper.
On 17 December, the Victorian ombudsman tabled a report in the Victorian Parliament in which she found the 4 July lockdown of public housing towers In Melbourne breached human rights laws.
On 30 December, Victoria's 61-day streak of zero community cases came to an end as three community cases were identified, linked to the New South Wales outbreak. As a precautionary measure for New Year's Eve the Victorian Government reduced household gatherings from 30 people to 15 and mandated masks within an indoor setting. The border to New South Wales closed at 11:59 pm on 31 December, with returning Victorian residents from "green zones" that returned before the deadline made to isolate until they received a negative test result. Those that returned afterwards would have to get tested and isolate for 14 days, aligning the restrictions with visitors from the Northern Beaches and Greater Sydney that had been enforced 11 days prior.
On 3 February 2021, a quarantine hotel worker at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, a "resident support officer" involved in the Australian Open tennis quarantine program, was found to have COVID-19. From 11:59 pm Victoria immediately reintroduced some rules, tightened some, and put off imminent easing of some restrictions. The plan to, from 8 February (Monday), allow up to 75 per cent of office workers back into their workplaces was put on hold. Masks are mandatory inside, and only 15 persons are allowed at private events. The man visited at least 14 businesses from 29 January to 1 February, but was able to give contact tracers a detailed list of places and times. Anyone who was at those places at those times, must be tested, and isolate for 14 days. Testing site hours were extended from 4 February, opening at 8 am. More drive-through lanes were added, and additional testing sites opened. By 5 February, genomic sequencing confirmed that the Hyatt worker was infected with the more contagious "UK strain" of COVID-19.
On 12 February, it was announced that a five-day lockdown under Stage 4 restrictions would take effect beginning at 11:59 pm. AEDT, due to a cluster of 13 cases tied to a Holiday Inn quarantine hotel near Melbourne Airport, which have been assumed to be the UK variant. It was alleged by health officials to have been spread on a hotel floor due to a patient's use of an aerosol-generating nebuliser, which is normally banned under hotel quarantine. By 14 February the cluster had grown to 16, and by 16 February, the number of confirmed infections had increased to 19. By 19 February, the Melbourne Holiday Inn outbreak had increased to 22, one person was admitted to intensive care, and about 3,515 contacts were quarantined.
Residents may not leave their homes except for essential shopping, exercise, caregiving, essential work, or participating in a professional sporting event. Residents may only shop or exercise within five kilometres of their homes. Face masks are mandatory at all times out-of-home, all public gatherings are banned, and all schools are closed. As they account for the majority of UK variant cases, international arrivals into Victoria have also been suspended. All Australian states and territories have placed travel restrictions upon Victoria. Premier Andrews stated that these infections were "moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months." Special dispensation was given to the 2021 Australian Open, which became crowdless effective 11:30 pm. AEDT on 12 February in the midst of the night's final match (play was temporarily suspended at that time to remove all spectators from the court).
Remaining restrictions included:
- Masks mandatory inside,
- Masks outdoors when unable to keep social distance,
- 5 person limit on home visits,
- 20 person limit for outdoor gatherings.
As of 9 May 2021 Victoria had no cases of community transmission for 72 days.
On 29 January 2020, Queensland was the first to declare a public health emergency. The legislation was strengthened on 6 February by the Public Health (Declared Public Health Emergencies) Amendment Bill 2020.
Key directions made under the Public Health Act 2005 include:
- 2 April – A person must not leave their principal place of residence except for essential needs including work, food, medical and exercise, outdoor gatherings only up to 2 persons or with members of household, receiving only to 2 visitors at a residence, and no gatherings in non-residences.
- 9 April – "Non-essential" business, activity or undertaking must not be operated. "Non-essential" businesses include cinemas, casinos, concerts, indoor sports, gyms, playgrounds, campgrounds, libraries. Restrictions also apply to restaurants (take away or delivery only), churches, hairdressers etc. However, most construction, mining, manufacturing and retail businesses continued to operate.
Restricted entry into Queensland was introduced, with only Queensland residents and those considered an 'exempt person' being allowed to enter Queensland by air, sea, rail or road from another state or territory. This was introduced in stages: Stage 1 started on 26 March 2020, with stages 2 and 3 involving tightening the restrictions. Stage 4, introduced on 11 April, was the most restrictive, every person crossing the border including Queensland residents required a permit. In addition, a person who had been in a declared COVID-19 hotspot in the previous 14 days had to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Closures of areas within Queensland included:
- All camping areas within Queensland national parks, state forests and recreation areas were closed on 26 March.
- Closure of high visitation National Parks including Fraser Island as well as all day use areas and visitor centres on 9 April.
- Closure of Queensland waters to cruise ships on 6 April.
- Closure of Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta and The Spit beaches on 8 April.
On 1 February 2021, Queensland opened its border to all Australian states and territories except Western Australia. Since the border closures were implemented, 6,855,750 border passes were issued.
On 28 February 2021, the "Check in Qld" QR code sign-in/contact tracing app was launched by the Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Yvette D'Ath. It is based on the ACT "Check in CBR" app. Use of the app is not mandatory.
On 12 March, Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane went into lockdown after a doctor tested positive for COVID-19. This was the beginning of one cluster in Brisbane connected to that hospital. Queensland had gone 59 days without any locally acquired COVID-19 infections.
On 8 January 2021, a three-day lockdown was announced by Annastacia Palaszczuk to prevent spread of the more contagious UK strain of coronavirus that escaped from a Brisbane hotel quarantine. The lockdown applied to all of greater Brisbane including council areas of Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan City, Moreton Bay and Redland City from 6 pm that day. More than 2 million residents were affected.
On 29 March at 5 pm, Greater Brisbane went into yet another three-day lockdown. The step was taken when a second cluster of the UK strain of COVID-19 grew to seven people. Two of them were an un-vaccinated nurse from Princess Alexandra Hospital, and her sister. By 30 March another 8 locally acquired cases were reported, for a total of 10 new cases in the preceding 24 hours, and 2 separate clusters, both UK strain were identified. As of this date Queensland has 78 active cases in hospitals. On 31 March in Queensland 34,711 coronavirus tests and 7,596 vaccinations were conducted.
On 1 April, the "three-day" lockdown was lifted five hours early at midday. Though 10 new cases had been recorded in the previous 24 hours, there was only one case of community transmission, which was linked to the second cluster surrounding the infected nurse from the Princess Alexandra Hospital. This cluster now numbered 12, up from 7 on 29 March.
Some restrictions introduced for the lockdown will be maintained temporarily:
- all Queenslanders will have to carry a face-mask outside their home until 15 April,
- patrons at food or beverage venues must stay seated, no dancing allowed,
- 30 person limit at private gatherings at homes statewide,
- Businesses and churches can open, but must have only one-person-per 2-square-metres of floor area,
- Visitors are not permitted for 2 weeks at: aged or disabled care facilities, hospitals and prisons.
On 15 March 2020, Premier Mark McGowan declared a state of emergency in Western Australia, along with a formal public health emergency. Schools were prevented from organising gatherings of over 500, including "...swimming and sports carnivals, interschool carnivals, performances, concerts, exhibitions, fetes and fairs."
On 24 March, the state borders were closed and all interstate arrivals were required to self-isolate for 14 days.
On 1 April, regional border restrictions were implemented across Western Australia restricting travel between regions to essential services only. People were given 48-hour warning to return to their home region. At the time the Perth Stadium became the COVID-19 incident response centre for WA. Within the Kimberley region, movement was further restricted to prevent travel between each of the four local government areas.
On 5 April, all state borders were closed, a strengthening of the previous border rules, all arrivals were quarantined in city hotels for 14 days.
The MV Artania departed Fremantle on 18 April following a standoff with State and Federal governments over responsibility for the care of passengers and crew. The vessel was sailing for Indonesia and the Philippines before heading back to Europe.
On 7 August, easing of internal WA restrictions set for 15 August were deferred to at least 29 August due to the Victorian outbreak. They were again further delayed to at least 24 October.
- January 2021
On 31 January 2021, a quarantine hotel security guard at the Four Points by Sheraton in Perth tested positive. A lockdown from 6 pm on 31 January to 6 pm on 5 February was declared for the Perth, Peel and South West regions. Schools within the lockdown area (which were anticipated to open the following day) remained closed and reopened the following week. Approximately 2 million people in WA were affected by the lockdown.
In response to the lockdown, health authorities in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Victoria declared the affected areas to be COVID-19 hotspots. The states quickly enacted a variety of restrictions against travellers from WA who arrived since 25 January, ranging from, requiring COVID testing, 5 to 14 days of self or supervised quarantine, to Victoria forbidding entry without a permit. On 2 February New South Wales ordered more than 1,100 people who had visited affected areas in WA since 25 January into five days of lockdown, adhering to the same restrictions as in WA. New arrivals from WA had to have a COVID-19 test within 48 hours, or undergo 14 days of quarantine.
The lockdown was lifted on 5 February, but some rules such as mandatory mask wearing, and travel restrictions, were maintained in the Peel and Perth regions. The last lockdown specific restrictions were lifted at 12:01 am on 14 February. Premier McGowan said that since January 31 more than 102,000 COVID-19 tests had been done in WA. There were no new COVID-19 cases detected in WA overnight before the change, and only 5 active cases in WA, all in hotel quarantine.
Also on 5 February, Premier McGowan announced a A$43 million package to assist small businesses and charities in WA who suffered financially during the lockdown in the form of a A$500 offset on their electricity bill. Chief executive of The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) WA, Bradley Woods said: "We estimate over $100 million revenue and sales has been lost as a result of this shutdown …". Plans to increase WA's weekly international flight arrival cap were postponed to the end of February.
- April 2021
On 23 April 2021, due to an asymptomatic returned traveller who tested positive after completing 14 days of hotel quarantine and subsequently went into the community, a lockdown from 12:01 am on 24 April to 12:01 am on 27 April was declared for the Perth and Peel regions. The traveller was quarantined after he travelled to India to get married. ANZAC Day commemorations inside the lockdown area (which were anticipated to go ahead with caps on ANZAC Day) were cancelled and people were encouraged to participate in driveway dawn services, as was the case in 2020. In response to the lockdown, Air New Zealand canceled a flight between Auckland and Perth. The lockdown ended on 26 April, as originally scheduled, with no new case of community transmission. For the following four days some restrictions such as: mandatory face masks in public; some venue closures; and number restrictions for public and private gatherings, remained in force, but travel beyond the Perth and Peel areas was allowed.
On 1 May 2021, a guard at the Pan Pacific quarantine hotel in Perth, tested positive to COVID-19. While likely to have been infectious the guard visited several locations in the community, raising the possibility of another lockdown in Western Australia. He had already received his first dose of COVID vaccine. 2 of his 7 housemates, both food delivery drivers, then tested positive. It is not known how the guard became infected, but they worked at the hotel on 24, 25 and 26 April, including on the same floor as two returned travellers who were COVID-19 positive. One result was that spectators were not allowed at the Western AFL Derby on 2 May at Optus Stadium. Prior to the guards infection, up to 45,000 people were to be allowed to attend. On Sunday 2 May, WA Premier McGowan also announced a number of new restrictions, including that nightclubs were to be closed immediately. Those and the casino gaming floor will remain shut until at least 12.01AM on 8 May (Saturday). Under the restrictions, masks remained mandatory indoors and outdoors in the Perth and Peel regions, unless people had a medical exemption, or were doing vigorous exercise outside. This included those who had been in Perth or Peel since April 17. As of 3 May another lockdown was still a possibility.
On 15 March, a public health emergency was declared in South Australia.
On 22 March, a "major emergency" was declared, giving the police power to enforce self-isolation rules.
On 24 March, state borders were closed. People arriving in the state were required to sign a declaration that they would self-isolate for 14 days and provide an address to the police, with penalties for failure to comply.
On 16 November, "a number of significant restrictions" were reintroduced after an outbreak of coronavirus in the northern suburbs of Adelaide.
On 17 November, a six-day lockdown from midnight that day was announced. Afterwards there will be another eight days of "significant restrictions" according to Police Commissioner Grant Stevens. On 21 November, Premier Steven Marshall announced that the state's "circuit breaker" restrictions would be ending three days earlier on 21 November after authorities discovered that one of the positive cases at the Woodville Pizza Bar coronavirus hotspot had misled contact tracers by concealing the fact that he worked at the shop. As part of the easing of "circuit breaker restrictions", groups of 50 people will be allowed to attend private functions and funerals, ten people can attend private functions, and 100 people will be allowed to attend restaurants and pubs.
On 17 March, Tasmania declared a public health emergency.
On 19 March, all "non-essential" travellers to the state, including returning residents, were subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
On 12 April 2020, in response to an outbreak in Burnie, business restrictions were put in place for 14 days. It included the closure of most retail businesses except for those providing essential services, or those who can provide online services and home delivery. The North West Regional Hospital (NWRH) and North West Private Hospital (NWPH) were temporarily closed from Monday 13 April 2020, and staff, patients, and visitors since 27 March, were required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The self-quarantine affected up to 5,000 people. Additional testing was announced, and emergency medical teams from the Australian Defence Force were sent to Burnie to cover for hospital staff.
Australian Capital Territory
On 16 March 2020, the ACT government declared a public health emergency. All visits to the Alexander Maconochie prison were cancelled from 23 March, but there was "increased access to telephones" for prisoners to keep in touch with their families.
On 18 July 2020, it was announced a sitting of Federal Parliament, scheduled for the first 2 weeks of August, had been cancelled. Medical advice was that, due to increased transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria, and the upward trend in NSW as well, there was a "significant risk" if members were to return to Canberra from all over Australia. Prime Minister Morrison requested that the sitting be cancelled. Parliament returned in August with some Members and Senators participating via video links from remote locations.
On 31 January 2021, Federal politicians flying in from Western Australia had to quarantine for five days when a sudden lockdown was declared in Perth and two adjoining regions. Parliament is scheduled to resume on 2 February.
On 17 February 2021, the Australian Capital Territorys' public health emergency declaration was extended 90 days to 18 May 2021. Every three months during the pandemic, the ACT government has lengthened the public health emergency.
On 24 March 2020, the Northern Territory (NT) government introduced strict border control, with anyone arriving from abroad or interstate being required to self-isolate for 14 days. The only exemption would be due to health and emergency services, defence and policing, flight crews and freight, and based on "compassionate grounds". NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said that the local police and government are likely to impose these measures until September. Anyone now arriving in NT will have to declare that they would isolate for 14 days and let the authorities know of their location during this period at the point of entry. Failure to comply with the new regulations could result in denying entry or a fine of A$62,800. Furthermore, all non-essential travel to the NT's 76 remote communities was banned.
From midday on 1 May, some internal restrictions in NT were eased.
On 3 February 2021, after a quarantine hotel worker at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, involved in the Australian Open tennis quarantine program, was found to have COVID-19, Victoria reintroduced some rules, and delayed the imminent easing of some restrictions. On 4 February 2021 the Northern Territory responded to the Melbourne situation by declaring ten suburbs in Melbourne to be hotspots. From 3:30 pm (Australian Central Standard Time–ACST), arrivals into NT from Melbourne, West Melbourne, Noble Park, Keysborough, Springvale, Brighton, Wheelers Hill, Clayton South, Heatherton or Moorabbin will be required to go into mandatory quarantine for 14 days. Those already in NT who have been in a any of the hotspots since 29 January will also have to self-isolate until their COVID-19 testing is negative.
Jervis Bay Territory
Jervis Bay Territory has not had any confirmed cases. The territory's border with New South Wales was closed and residents were not allowed outside except for essential purposes. Various less stringent restrictions on internal activity and travel from other parts of Australia remained in place in November.
Norfolk Island has not had any confirmed cases. As a precautionary measure, the government imposed a 32-day travel ban and declared a state of emergency. Administrator Eric Hutchinson stated that the measures were necessary due to the remote island's extremely limited health capacity.
Indian Ocean Territories
On 18 March 2020, Administrator Natasha Griggs declared a state of emergency in the Australian Indian Ocean Territories, comprising Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. She limited passenger arrivals to local residents and essential staff, and imposed a self-isolation period of 14 days on any arrivals.
On 12 March, the Liberal Party announced a planned A$17.6 billion stimulus package. The package consists of multiple parts: a one-off payment to pensioners, social security recipients, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders, payments of A$2,000–A$25,000 to affected small businesses, an increase to the threshold for the Instant Asset Write-off Program, tax concessions for investments, a small business 50% wage subsidy for 120,000 trainees and apprentices, and A$1 billion in subsidies for heavily affected industries.
On 17 March, the New South Wales government announced a A$2.3 billion stimulus package, including A$700 million for health services. A$450 million was allocated to waive payroll tax for 3 months. $250 million so state-owned buildings and public schools could employ more cleaners. A$750 million was allocated for capital works and public asset maintenance.
On 18 March, the Northern Territory government announced an economic stimulus package of A$60 million.
On 19 March, the Reserve Bank again cut interest rates by a further 0.25%, from 0.5% to 0.25%, the lowest in Australian history.
In March 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) began releasing a number of additional statistical products to assess the economic impacts on the outbreak on the Australian economy. Data on retail trade turnover indicated a 0.4% rise in turnover in February 2020. Negative effects on some areas of the retail sector (particularly tourism-dependent businesses) were offset by a rise in food retail turnover, with supermarkets showing a large rise in sales, mainly arising from panic buying.
On 22 March, the Federal government announced a second stimulus package of A$66 billion, increasing the amount of total financial package offered to A$89 billion. This included several new measures like an extra A$550 'Coronavirus Supplement' payment to those on income support, paid from 27 April to 24 September 2020, and relaxed eligibility criteria for individuals on JobSeeker Payment, granting A$100,000 to small and medium-sized businesses and A$715 million to Australian airports and airlines. It also allowed individuals affected by the outbreak to access up to A$10,000 of their superannuation during 2019–2020 and also being able to take an additional same amount for the next year.
On 30 March, the Australian Government announced a six-month, A$130 billion JobKeeper payment. The JobKeeper payment provides businesses with up to A$1,500 a fortnight per full-time or part-time employee, or casual employee that has worked for that business for over a year. To be eligible, a business with an annual revenue of under A$1 billion must have lost 30% turnover since 1 March, or 50% for businesses over A$1 billion. The entire payment made to businesses for an employee must then, by law, be paid to that employee in lieu of normal pay. This response came after the enormous job losses seen just a week prior when an estimated 1 million Australians lost their jobs. The program was backdated to 1 March with the aim of re-employing many people who had lost their jobs in the weeks before. In the first hour of the scheme, over 8,000 businesses registered to receive the payments. The program is one of the largest economic packages ever implemented in modern Australian history. JobKeeper ended on 28 March 2021.
On 11 April the South Australian state government announced its own A$350 million economic stimulus measures.
In late April the Federal government announced A$94.6 million of support was available for zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums forced to close by coronavirus restrictions. This was part of previously announced economic stimulus measures.
On 22 May 2020, the Treasury and Australian Taxation Office announced there had been a miscalculation of A$60 billion in the planned cost of the JobKeeper program. Blaming 1,000 businesses for making "significant errors" on the application form, the Australian Government revealed it had overbudgeted the program, and that it was forecast to cost A$70 billion, not A$130 billion. The Treasury also announced that its original forecast of 6.5 million recipients was inaccurate, and closer to 3.5 million. Prime Minister Scott Morrison celebrated the saving, while the Opposition announced a parliamentary inquiry in an attempt to compel Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to explain the overestimation.
In July 2020, Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, in an interview with the US CNBC news channel, vowed that the government's budget deficit was expected to increase to A$85.8 billion Australian dollars in the financial year ended on 30 June and further widen to A$184.5 billion in the new fiscal year.
On 2 September the Australian economy went into recession for the first time in nearly thirty years. The country's gross domestic product (GDP) fell 7 per cent in the June quarter. In December, it was announced Australia had pulled out of recession after experiencing a 3.3% growth in GDP in the September quarter. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stated the effects of the recession had lasting impacts and the recovery was far from over. Australia is set to avoid an economic depression as forecast earlier in 2020, though GDP is likely to have experienced a contraction from 2019 figures.
The 2020 Australian federal budget, delayed from May, is finally delivered on 6 October.
On 22 February 2021, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the JobSeeker Payment base rate would be increased by A$50 a fortnight from April 2021. The payment will rise to A$614 a fortnight, with an estimated cost over forward estimates of A$9 billion. It is also intended to increase the threshold amount recipients can earn before their payment starts to be reduced.
On 26 February 2021 the Chief Executive of the Australian Airports Association, James Goodwin, said that Australian airports had been losing A$320 million every month during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said over the past 12 months, job losses amounted to 25 per cent of the airports workforce.
On 10 March 2021 the Federal Government announced steps worth A$1.2 billion to encourage Australians to holiday within Australia to assist ailing tourist destinations. Between April and July, up to 800,000 airfares to 13 regions normally favoured by international tourists will be halved for domestic travellers.
"Dine and Discover NSW"
On 17 November 2020 the NSW Government announced in the state budget that all NSW residents over 18 years-of-age would be eligible to receive four A$25 vouchers through Service NSW to help stimulate the economy. Two vouchers are for dining, Monday to Thursday only, excluding public holidays. The other two are to be spent on entertainment, excluding on public holidays. Businesses need to be COVID-safe registered, and sign-up for the scheme. The vouchers cannot be used for gambling, alcohol, cigarettes, retail purchases or accommodation. The program was originally called "Out and About".
Residents will need to have a Service NSW account to receive their vouchers. After trials in Sydney and regional areas, full rollout was scheduled for March. The trials began in Broken Hill, and The Rocks in Sydney on 11 February 2021.
The pandemic had dramatic effects on the Australian rate of unemployment. In July 2019 it was 5.1%, by July 2020 it peaked at 7.5%, during the pandemic, by the end of 2020 it had fallen to 6.6%. Figures for February to March 2021, released in April, showed unemployment had reduced to 5.8 per cent, 0.4 points higher than at the start to the pandemic.
Agricultural worker shortage
In September 2020, a report from Ernst & Young stated that pandemic related border restrictions could result in a shortfall of 26,000 pickers over Australia's summer harvest season. Such work is typically reliant on seasonal staff from overseas. As a trial in early September 2020, 160 workers from Vanuatu were allowed into the Northern Territory (NT) to pick mangoes. They arrived on a specially chartered aircraft, and had to undergo the usual 14-day quarantine. It was estimated that the Vanuatuan workers saved A$100 million of fruit from the NT mango harvest being left to rot. The mango industry in the NT was valued at more than A$128 million in 2019, and produces more than half of Australia's mangoes.
On 30 September 2020, PM Scott Morrison announced that: " … backpackers, Pacific Islanders and seasonal workers will be able to extend their visas to stay in Australia …" and "… welfare recipients will be offered incentives to pick fruit."
In late October 2020, some farmers found that they had to plough their produce back into the ground because it could not be harvested, at a loss of A$150,000.
The "Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job" (RATTUAJ) program, scheduled to run from 1 November 2020 to 31 December 2021, offers A$6,000 for transport, moving expenses, accommodation and work clothing for welfare recipients willing to relocate to a regional area for a minimum of 6 weeks for short term agricultural jobs. Up to early December 2020, the relocation incentives for unemployed Australians appeared to be failing. After operating for a month, Federal Department of Employment figures showed only 148 people had taken up the offer.
Shortage of workers for harvesting can not only mean unpicked produce being left to rot or be ploughed back into fields, and farmers possibly not planting the next year, it creates an economic loss to those farmers, and can also noticeably increase prices for consumers.
Before the crisis, 600,000 Australians were employed in the arts, an industry which added around A$3.2 billion to export revenues. The rate of employment in the sector grew at a faster rate than the rest of the economy. According to government figures, "cultural and creative activity contributed to A$112 billion (6.4% of GDP) to Australia's economy in 2016–17".
Beginning in the second week of March 2020, Australian institutions began announcing reduced services, and then complete closures. One of the first casualties was the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, with organisers announcing on 13 March 2020 that the 2020 festival had been cancelled entirely. Opera Australia announced it would close on 15 March. The national closure of all cultural institutions was mandated on 24 March, with subsequent restrictions on public gatherings. Consequently, many cultural events were also cancelled, including the Sydney Writers' Festival. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, by the beginning of April, "Arts and Recreation services" was the sector of the national economy with the smallest proportion of its business still in operation – at 47%. A graph in Guardian Australia showing businesses by sector that had ceased trading between June 2019 and 30 March 2020 shows over 50% of arts and recreation services, the hardest hit of any sector (information media and telecommunications is next, at about 34%). Adrian Collette, CEO of the Australia Council for the Arts, the government's arts funding and advisory body, described the impact on the cultural and creative sectors as "catastrophic".
The Australian film industry has been severely impacted, with at least 60 shoots being halted and about 20,000 people out of work. On Monday 23 March, all productions funded by Screen Australia were postponed. As of 15 April 2020[update], after some improvement in COVID-19 statistics in Australia, Screen Australia continues to fund work and process applications, intending to use all of its 2019/20 budget. Film industry organisations such as Screen Producers Australia (SPA) and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) have been lobbying the government for a support package specific to the screen industry, and to expand the JobKeeper requirements so that those in the screen industry are better covered. Many in the film industry are employed by Special Purpose Vehicles – temporary companies that cease trading once production has finished – which cannot easily prove that their turnover has fallen by 30% or more. SPA said that the industry shutdown had cost more than A$500 million, with about A$20 million of lost export revenue.
One hundred and nineteen films and TV shows have been halted, with only a few shows (such as MasterChef Australia and Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell) continuing production through the pandemic. The TV soap Neighbours was the first English-language TV drama series in the world to announce that resumption of production would begin soon after 20 April 2020.
Like other governments around the world, the Australian government has acknowledged the economic, cultural and social value of the arts industry. The Australia Council has redirected about A$5 million to "new programs designed to provide immediate relief to Australian artists, arts workers and arts organisations to support their livelihoods, practice and operations during the COVID-19 pandemic" (the "Resilience Fund"), and is also hosting weekly meetings to address the concerns of specific sections of the industry, such as Indigenous creatives and organisations, live performance and public gatherings, and various peak bodies. Several state governments have also provided relief packages.
In early April, the federal government announced a package of A$27 million in specific arts funding: A$7 million for the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program, A$10 million for Regional Arts Australia's regional arts fund, and A$10 million for Support Act, a charity founded in 1997 that provides financial support and counselling to people in the music industry in Australia. However, the "JobKeeper" scheme specifically excluded "freelancers and casuals on short-term contracts, or who have worked for a series of employers in the last year", thus excluding a large proportion of arts and cultural sector professionals, who rely on short-term contracts.
However, most of the arts sector's more than 193,000 workers were still unable to access the JobKeeper payments, despite being defined as sole traders, and an estimated A$330 million worth of paid performances cancelled. The Australia Institute recommended a A$750 million rescue package for the industry, while Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said that arts workers should utilise existing support measures.
On 4 May 2020, the company operating the Carriageworks multi-arts venue in Sydney declared it would be entering voluntary administration and closing, citing an "irreparable loss of income" due to government bans on events during the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent negative impact on the arts sector. Carriageworks was the first major arts venue in the country to collapse suddenly after the hit to income caused by the strict social distancing rules enforced by state and federal governments, but others feared the same fate, after being forced to shut their doors in late March.
On 24 June 2020, the federal government announced a $250 million rescue package for the arts, comprising grants and loans. The package includes $75m for a grants program for new festivals, concerts, tours and events; $90m in loans to help fund new productions; $50m to help film and television producers unable to access insurance due to the pandemic, to enable them to restart production; and $35 million in direct financial assistance for struggling Commonwealth-funded organisations, including theatre, dance, music and circus. The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) welcomed the boost, but critics said that it was not nearly enough, especially with so many workers in the industry still ineligible for JobKeeper payments.
Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders have poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy than the non-Indigenous Australian population, particularly those living in remote areas, and along with overcrowded housing and many living in very remote communities, makes them one of the communities most vulnerable to the virus. The remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY lands) in South Australia, whose population has many comorbidities, high rates of tobacco use, overcrowded housing and overall poor hygiene, introduced restricted access to the lands in early March to protect their people, especially elders, from the virus. The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, said it was a sensible move, and that the federal government would work with them. (A later call to evacuate elders to Adelaide by the APY Art Centre Collective was not put into operation.)
The federal government set up a national Indigenous advisory group in early March, to create an emergency response plan for Aboriginal communities. The 43-page plan was published in March, and in late March, the Prime Minister that advised that Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 (along with everyone over 70 and those with a chronic illness over 60), should stay at home as much as possible. The Department of Health created a web page dedicated to advice for Indigenous people and remote communities, and the National Indigenous Australians Agency has one dedicated to the government's response to COVID-19. On 18 April the NIAA announced a government package of A$123 million of "targeted measures to support Indigenous businesses and communities to increase their responses to COVID-19", for the coming two financial years.
The Northern Territory developed a remote health pandemic plan, with NT Health setting up a number of remote clinics across the Territory. All non-essential travel to the 76 remote communities was banned, and a 14-day isolation period imposed for those residents wanting to return home from regional centres, and in May, health officials suggested that these controls should stay in place for the foreseeable future. In mid-March, a group of senior NT clinicians called for 16 measures to be implemented as soon as possible to help protect vulnerable communities. Other states and territories have provided advice on their health agency websites.
A group of Barkindji families set up a tent town on the banks of the Darling River near Wilcannia in New South Wales, to escape the threat of the disease from overcrowded accommodation in the town.
The major sporting leagues (A-League, AFL, AFL Women's, and the National Rugby League) initially stated that their seasons would not be suspended but would continue behind closed doors, with some games being played under those conditions. However all the leagues were later suspended.
- Australian rules football
The AFL season was initially curtailed to a maximum of 17 games, with clubs expected to take at least a 10% revenue hit from coronavirus related issues. However, on 22 March, just before the end of round 1 of the 2020 season, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announced that the AFL season would be suspended until at least 31 May, citing the shutting of state borders as the primary cause for this decision. The AFL season restarted on 11 June, with the Grand Final being played on 24 October at the The Gabba in Brisbane, Queensland, the first Grand Final to be held outside Victoria. The 2020 AFL Women's season was cancelled midway through the finals series, with no premiership awarded to any team.
The 2020 NBL Finals began with game two, although it was stated that the competition would be immediately suspended if any participants were to be diagnosed. The best of five series was subsequently cancelled after the third game was played with the title awarded to Perth Wildcats.
All second-tier state basketball leagues were either postponed or cancelled.
The remaining two One Day Internationals between Australia and New Zealand were cancelled after the first match was played behind closed doors. Cricket Australia also cancelled the Australian women's cricket team's tour of South Africa due to the virus.
The first sporting event in Australia to be affected was the 2020 Australian Grand Prix, which was cancelled on 13 March after McLaren withdrew when a team member tested positive for COVID-19. This was also enforced on the support races which included the 2020 Melbourne 400, which was the second round of the 2020 Supercars Championship to be cancelled. The 2021 Australian Grand Prix was postponed from its original March date to November to allow for the easing of travel restrictions.
- Rugby league
Following the implementation of travel restrictions by New Zealand, the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) announced that the New Zealand Warriors would be based in Australia for the foreseeable future. The 2020 season was suspended indefinitely on 23 March. Chairman of the ARLC Peter V'landys requested a government bailout for the National Rugby League, a request that was struck down, and caused a considerable negative reaction.
On 22 April, the NRL announced that they planned for the season to restart on 28 May, with training beginning on 4 May, and has planned for 18 rounds (giving a 20-round season) and a State of Origin series, with the Grand Final rescheduled for 25 October.
The NRL season recommenced on 28 May with a round 3 game played in Brisbane between the Brisbane Broncos and Parramatta Eels. The match was played behind closed doors without any crowd, although the broadcasters (Channel 9 and Fox Sports) used fake crowd noise during the broadcast. The return match rated highly on TV as it was the first TV match of a team sport in Australia for 8 weeks. The Grand Final was played in front of a limited crowd on 25 October at ANZ Stadium.
- Rugby union
The 2020 Super Rugby season was suspended following the conclusion of play on 15 March, due to the outbreak and the imposition of mandatory quarantine for international travellers to New Zealand.
The A-League initially announced a continuation of the league with the Wellington Phoenix being based in Australia; however, on 24 March, suspended the remaining matches indefinitely. On 17 July, the season resumed in a NSW-based hub, where the season finished with the Grand Final occurring at Bankwest Stadium on 30 August in front of a limited crowd.
- Yacht racing
On 3 January 2021, an anti-mask protest was held inside Westfield Bondi Junction in New South Wales. This was the first day that new mask wearing requirements, including venues like shopping centres, came into effect. On 23 January 2021 an anti-mask protest was stopped by NSW Police from entering the Westfield Parramatta shopping centre. Warning was given to the group to obey public health orders, and follow social distancing guidelines. One man was arrested when he did not comply with the police directive when the group dispersed after they were given a move-on direction. A protest group was also turned away from the Parramatta Westfield a week earlier.
On 12 February, there was an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne. Two were arrested.
On 20 February, anti-COVID-19 vaccine rallies were held in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. There were a few hundred people at each. The Federal Government COVID-19 vaccination program was scheduled to start on 22 February, but the first doses were administered on 21 February.
During the 2021 Australian Open, an official referred to the COVID-19 vaccine as a sign of optimism, which was followed by booing by the fans present at the event. The Australian government criticized the reaction of the fans and called it "disgusting".
The pandemic has created shortages of some medications since it began, initially related to panic buying. The most commonly used antidepressant in Australia, sertraline, is one of many such as the brand Zoloft, that have been affected by a global shortage. Olmesartan and irbesartan, both blood pressure medications were short in Australia as were hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches and carbimazole, a thyroid medication. As of February 2021 the contraceptive pill "Norimin" (norethisterone) was hard for pharmacists to acquire, supply had been intermittent for 6–12 months. Shortages of Norimin and Brevinor, both Pfizer products, were reported in August 2020 and first predicted to last until December 2020, the shortage was then expected by the TGA "... to be resolved in March or April 2021". In the case of sertraline a Serious Shortage Substitution Notice (SSSN) was issued by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). SSSNs were also issued in Australia for Prazosin (blood pressure), Metformin (diabetes), and Estradot (HRT), which in theory allows substitutions like issuing twice the number of 25 mg tablets in place of the prescribed 50 mg tablets, without a new prescription, but with the patients' consent. Chris Moy, Vice President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said medicine shortages in Australia were a "pre-existing problem" before COVID-19.
I think somewhere in the order of 89 percent of all day-to-day prescription medications are supplied from overseas; they often say 'patented in Australia' but they are actually made overseas.— Chris Moy, Vice President of the AMA
Moy also said "A lot of our medications are made in China and India. Sovereign capability and protecting supply of our medications is something that should be seriously considered."
The TGA gave short-term approval for the import of some medicines that are "not on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) that are approved for import and supply in Australia because: there is a shortage of a medicine registered in Australia; and the medicine is needed in the interest of public health."
Relaxation of restrictions
On 2 October 2020, Prime Minister Morrison announced that the Australian Government had formalised a deal allowing New Zealanders "one-way quarantine-free travel" into New South Wales and the Northern Territory from 16 October as part of initial steps to establish a "travel bubble" between the two countries. However, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ruled out extending reciprocal "quarantine-free travel" for Australians in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 into New Zealand.
On 17 October 2020, Stuff reported that 17 New Zealanders who had entered New South Wales traveled to Melbourne despite Victoria not being a party to the travel bubble arrangement with New Zealand. The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the arrival of the group but stated that it did not have the authority to detain them. In response, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews threatened to close his state's borders unless the Australian Federal Government blocked travellers using the Trans-Tasman bubble from traveling to Victoria. The Federal Government has disagreed with the Victorian Government's stance. In addition, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that her government would not prevent New Zealand passengers from travelling to Victoria.
On 11 December 2020, the Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that her state would open its borders to travelers from New Zealand from 1:00 am the following day (12 December), exempting them from quarantine restrictions.
On 14 December 2020, the New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern announced that the New Zealand Government had approved plans to establish a quarantine free travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of 2021. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the move, describing it as the "first step" in normalising international travel and reiterated the Australian Government's support for measures to establish the travel bubble.
On 25 January 2021, the Federal government immediately suspended the ability of New Zealanders to travel to Australia that they had since 16 October 2020, without quarantining, for at least 72 hours. This followed the discovery of a NZ resident with the South African COVID-19 variant. The woman was not known to be infectious, having twice tested negative to COVID-19 before leaving quarantine, then visited many places in northern NZ, but she was then found to have the new strain.
On 19 April 2021, Australians were allowed quarantine-free travel to New Zealand for the first time in more than a year. To fly under the bubble's rules, passengers must have spent 14 days before departure in either Australia or New Zealand, however they are not required to spend the full 14 day period or more in the other country, i.e. a person has spent at least 14 days in Australia, flies to New Zealand and returns to Australia after 7 days. They must not be awaiting the results of a Covid test, nor have any Covid symptoms, amongst other criteria.
On 26 October, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews announced the relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Melbourne, ending the 112-day lockdown period. From 28 October, all repair stores, restaurants, cafes, and bars were allowed to reopen with a 10-person limit; home visits were allowed; outdoor gatherings including weddings were limited to ten people; and funerals were limited to 20 people. From 11:59 p.m. on 8 November, the 25 km travel limit in Greater Melbourne, and the border between Melbourne and regional Victoria was lifted; gyms and fitness studios were allowed to reopen; and the patron limit at restaurants, cafes and bars was raised.
Demand for investigation
On 19 April 2020, Australia questioned China's handling of the pandemic, questioned the transparency of its disclosures, and demanded an international investigation into the origins of the virus and its spread. The Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye, in a rare breach of diplomatic protocol, leaked details of his telephone conversation with Frances Adamson, Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on the embassy website. He warned that the demand for an inquiry could result in a consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting Australia, and could affect sales of major exports. A trade dispute involving improperly labelled beef and barley dumping ensued, which seriously affected Australian exports. On 26 August 2020, China's deputy ambassador to Australia, Wang Xining, expressed that Australia's co-proposal for an independent investigation into the causes of the pandemic "hurts the feelings of the Chinese people" during his address to the National Press Club of Australia.
Numerous events in 2020 were cancelled, rescheduled, postponed, reduced in size, or changed location. Some went to an online or streaming format. Even into early 2021 some events, such as Skyfire, regional agricultural shows, and music festivals (Byron Bay Bluesfest and Groovin the Moo) were cancelled for the second year. As of 16 January 2021[update] twenty regional town shows scheduled for January or February 2021 had been postponed or cancelled in New South Wales alone.
- The World Surf League cancelled all events in March 2020.
- All Anzac Day marches in 2020 were cancelled. In 2021, as of 15 April 2021[update], most major state marches went ahead, some states as per pre-pandemic, but most with ticketing and/or restrictions on numbers marching and watching. Overseas services will not be held. On 24 April 2021 Perth city and the Peel region entered a sudden 3 day COVID-19 lockdown and Anzac Day services in the affected areas were cancelled.
- The 15 May 2020 school strike for climate rally and march was cancelled.
- The Australian Border Force suspended all deportations to New Zealand between 16 and 30 March 2020.
- National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests for 2020 were cancelled on 20 March.
- The national regional touring music festival Groovin' the Moo announced on 17 March that the 2020 festival was cancelled whilst confirming dates for 2021. On 4 February 2021 that year's festival was also "postponed".
- The 26th Australian Scout Jamboree, scheduled for January 2022 in Elmore, Victoria, was cancelled.
New South Wales
- In 2020, the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the largest ticketed event in Australia, was cancelled only for the third time in its 197-year history. The 2021 Easter show went ahead with restrictions such as limits on patron numbers.
- Vivid Sydney was cancelled in 2020 for the first time in its history.
- The 2020 Sydney Writers' Festival suspended ticket sales and are expected to cancel their seasons.
- The Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2020 was cancelled on 16 March.
- The 2020 Byron Bay Bluesfest was cancelled due to the introduction of 14-day self-isolation for anyone entering Australia. The 2021 Bluesfest scheduled for 1–5 April, was also cancelled, one day before it was to commence, by a public health order signed by the Minister for Health Brad Hazzard. A case of community transmission was found in Byron Bay after people linked to the Brisbane 'nurse cluster' visited venues in Byron Bay while unknowingly infectious.
- In 2020, Hunter Valley Steamfest was cancelled.
- Splendour in the Grass 2020 was first postponed from July until 23–25 October 2020, then postponed again to 2021.
- The 2020 Sydney Film Festival was cancelled on 18 March 2020. The 2021 "67th Sydney Film Festival: Virtual Edition and Awards" will be run "virtually" on 10–21 June 2021 via the festival website.
- On 17 March 2020, the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge, due to be held in April, was cancelled due to concerns about "the spread of coronavirus".
- On 8 September 2020, Tamworth Regional Council voted to cancel the 49th Tamworth Country Music Festival. The Country Music Awards of Australia (Golden Guitar Awards), an annual awards night held during the Festival, is planned to proceed via online streaming.
- On 19 December, the 2020 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was cancelled due to an outbreak in the Greater Sydney region. Crews, officials and supporters would have had to quarantine on arrival in Hobart.
- The 2020 City2Surf 50th-anniversary run was pushed back from 9 August until 18 October, and the live event was cancelled. The event was run as a virtual event where participants ran the length of the course on their local streets using an app.
- Under the Southern Stars music festival was cancelled in 2020, and in April 2021 that years' was postponed to 2022.
- On 11 March 2020, the head of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), David Walsh, cancelled the 2020 Dark Mofo winter arts festival. He announced on 16 March that the museum itself would be closed indefinitely.
- On 18 March Agfest, set for 7 May, was cancelled. It was replaced by an online event that ran from 7–28 May, Agfest 2021 is planned to include both physical events over 4 days (5–8 May), and an online component (8–15 May).
- The Legislative Council elections that were due to take place on 30 May were deferred to 1 August 2020.
- The 2021 Australian Wooden Boat Festival was cancelled.
- The 2020–21 Taste of Tasmania food and wine festival, usually held from 28 December to 3 January, was cancelled.
- South Australian National Football League men's and women's games will not be held in front of a crowd from 14 March 2020.
- Basketball South Australia decided jointly with the National Basketball League to postpone NBL1 Central games till at least 18 April 2020.
- Rowing South Australia cancelled the South Australian portion of Head of the River in March 2020.
- Adelaide's New Year's Eve fireworks at the end of 2020 were cancelled.
- The World Solar Challenge (WSC) was cancelled on 12 February 2021 by the SA Government. The next WSC should take place in October 2023.
- The 2020 Australian Grand Prix (scheduled for 15 March) was cancelled.
- The 2020 Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show (scheduled for 25–29 March 2020) was cancelled.
- The 2020 Melbourne International Comedy Festival (scheduled for 25 March – 19 April 2020) was cancelled due to banned public gatherings of more than 500 people.
- The 2020 Melbourne International Jazz Festival (scheduled for 29 May – 12 June) was cancelled; however, it was replaced by a virtual online event by These Digital Times.
- The 2020 annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (due to start in March 2020) was postponed to Spring.
- The 2020 annual Royal Melbourne Show (due to start in mid-September) was cancelled.
- The 2020 annual Royal Geelong Show (scheduled for October) was cancelled.
- Melbourne's New Year's Eve fireworks at the end of 2020 were cancelled.
- The 2021 Rainbow Serpent Festival, normally held on the Australia Day long weekend in Lexton, had its physical events cancelled. The Festival is instead to be replaced by a streaming event.
- Melbourne's 2021 Moomba Festival was cancelled for the first time. However within a week "Moomba 2.0" had been created. In place of the normal Moomba attractions, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said Moomba 2.0 will be: "... a series of fun, family friendly events and attractions across the city that will help bring the buzz back to Melbourne."
- The Big Pineapple Music Festival was first postponed from May to November 2020 due to restriction of non-essential events to 500 patrons maximum. It was then cancelled in August. The next festival event is scheduled for Saturday, 22 May 2021.
- "Land Forces 2020" international military exhibition scheduled for 1–3 September 2020, deferred until 1–3 June 2021.
- Brisbane, and the Gold Coasts' New Year's Eve fireworks at the end of 2020 were cancelled.
- On 16 February 2021, the World Surf League event the Gold Coast Corona Open was moved from Snapper Rocks to Narrabeen in Sydney. It is scheduled for 16–26 April 2021.
- All events of the Brisbane Open House planned in 2020 and 2021 had been cancelled.
Australian Capital Territory
- The 2020 Australian Defence Force Academy open day was replaced by an on-line event. The 2021 open day is scheduled for 21 August.
- The Floriade 2020 event, scheduled for 12 September to 11 October, at Commonwealth Park was cancelled in April. The one million bulbs and annuals that would have been on display there were distributed over 130 different sites to create a Tulip Trail through Canberra as Floriade: Reimagined.
- The 2020 National Folk Festival was cancelled. In 2021 a scaled-down 2-day version titled "Good Folk", was held over the border in Queanbeyan, NSW on the weekend of 3–4 April.
- Skyfire, a fireworks show normally held in March, was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In November 2020, the 2021 show was also cancelled due to the pandemic in Australia.
- Summernats 2021 was cancelled in October 2020. The reason for cancellation was that the venue, Exhibition Park in Canberra, was being used as a COVID-19 testing station. The smaller "Summernats Rev Rock ‘n’ Roll" event was then scheduled to be held on 5-7 March 2021, but on 13 January 2021 that too was cancelled.
- The Royal Canberra Show 2021 was cancelled in November 2020.
- In November 2020, the 2021 National Multicultural Festival, was postponed from its usual February dates to "... by late 2021". In early 2021 the Festival for that year was cancelled entirely. It is planned to be held next on 18–20 February 2022, it's 25th anniversary.
- Canberra's New Year's Eve fireworks at the end of 2020 were cancelled.
- COVID-19 pandemic in Australia (timeline)
- COVID-19 vaccination in Australia
- COVID-19 clusters in Australia
- Chart of COVID-19 cases in Australia (template)
- COVID-19 pandemic by country
- COVID-19 pandemic in Oceania
- Biosecurity in Australia
- National Cabinet of Australia
- National COVID-19 Coordination Commission
- National Security Committee (Australia)
- Coronavirus Australia
- Xenophobia and racism related to the COVID-19 pandemic#Australia
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I yesterday wrote to the Prime Minister and indicated to him that I am unable to nominate a date for when international lights can resume, ... – Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
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