Australia edging towards national outbreak

Australia could be on the verge of a national coronavirus outbreak as the highly contagious Delta strain sweeps the country.

There are new cases in four states and territories and lockdowns or tight restrictions have been imposed in three capital cities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called a meeting of the national security committee of federal cabinet to discuss the outbreaks.

He will also bring together state and territory leaders for a national cabinet meeting on Monday evening.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who sits on the national security committee, said it would receive a briefing from Australia’s chief medical officer.

Mr Frydenberg said details about the latest developments would help inform decisions about vaccines and logistics.

But asked repeatedly what the national security committee could actually do, he did not give a firm answer.

Mr Frydenberg said the committee’s deliberations would feed into a national cabinet meeting to ensure consistency around state border closures and restrictions.

“Bringing the leaders together and hearing the most up to date information is important to align the responses,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Morrison is expected to push state and territory leaders to make vaccines mandatory for aged care workers.

National cabinet will also discuss quarantine practices, including a ban on accommodating low-risk domestic travellers next door to high-risk international arrivals, which triggered an outbreak in Queensland.

They will also discuss testing and vaccinating those directly and indirectly working in the system, and introducing post-quarantine testing on day 16 after people emerge from isolation.

Vaccine stocks and the national rollout will be canvassed, along with federal supports available for aged care responses and pandemic disaster leave payments.

NSW has recorded 18 new coronavirus cases, with all but one confirmed as linked to existing cases.

The number was down from 30 on Sunday and came from 59,000 tests.

Queensland is reintroducing restrictions after recording two new local cases of coronavirus.

Masks will be mandatory across large swathes of the state, home visits will be capped at 30 guests and venues will need to adhere to a one person per square metre rule.

In the Northern Territory, an outbreak linked to a central Australian mine has grown to six cases.

And in Western Australia, a woman who returned from Sydney has picked up the virus, prompting increased restrictions including indoor mask use.

The outbreaks have prompted a multitude of border tightening measures, including South Australia’s closure to all jurisdictions except Victoria and Tasmania.

WA also tightened its border for residents of Queensland, the NT and ACT, while Victoria added Darwin to its “red zone” list.

All states have locked out Sydney residents.

Health authorities are continuing to track hundreds of passengers from five Virgin flights, which carried people between Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast over the weekend.

The alert was raised after a Sydney-based flight attendant tested positive for coronavirus.

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