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Aged care COVID boosters to be mandatory

Australians will need a COVID-19 booster to be considered “up to date” as the federal government moves to mandate third doses for aged care workers.

But it will otherwise be up to states and territories to mandate boosters amid tensions over vaccine requirements for international tourists.

Under new advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, people aged 16 and older who have received a booster will be considered “up to date” with their vaccines.

Those who got a second dose more than six months ago will be “overdue” under the updated definition to kick in by the end of March.

Boosters are recommended three months after a second vaccine.

Children under the age of 16 not yet eligible for boosters will still be considered up to date with two vaccine doses.

However, children aged five and older and who have severely compromised immune systems will need a booster to remain up to date.

The federal government stressed ATAGI’s advice only covered the management of COVID-19 within Australia and not vaccine requirements for international arrivals.

International tourists must have two doses when the border reopens on February 21.

States will decide if they want to enforce booster mandates for travellers, as has been flagged by Victoria.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, premiers and chief ministers agreed during Thursday’s national cabinet meeting only aged care workers would be subject to a blanket booster mandate.

The sector has recorded more than 500 virus deaths this year.

The federal government has thrown a task force and bonus payments at the problem as workers request a 25 per cent pay rise.

All jurisdictions agreed to guidelines from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s guidelines to improve families’ access to loved ones in aged care.

Mr Morrison requested a federal audit by the second week of March about how prepared the country was for anticipated dual winter waves of COVID-19 and the flu.

NSW, Queensland and Victoria agreed to work on a plan to revitalise the cruise ship industry for when the Commonwealth scraps biosecurity controls.

But the precise timing of the restart will be up to individual jurisdictions.

The country recorded 58 virus deaths on Thursday, 24 of them in NSW which also notched up another 10,130 infections.

Victoria recorded 16 new deaths and 9391 cases. In Queensland, there were eight additional deaths and 5854 more infections.

South Australia recorded 1639 new cases and seven more deaths.

Tasmania recorded 637 new cases and one more death, while two people died in the Northern Territory.

Western Australia reported a daily record of 139 infections as it investigates its first outbreak in aged care.

Nationally, intensive care admissions and the numbers of people on ventilators have roughly halved since the Omicron wave peaked in mid-January. Cases have fallen by 20 per cent.

Overall, more than 9.5 million people aged 16-plus have received a booster while 94 per cent are double-dosed.

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