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All states except WA back border reopening

All states and territories except Western Australia have committed to reopening borders before Christmas as the nation continues to squash coronavirus infection rates.

Premiers and chief ministers reaffirmed support for a reopening plan which aims to lift travel restrictions before the end of the year at Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the exact timing would be up to individual jurisdictions.

“It also is a plan that importantly embeds public health metrics in ensuring that when Australia opens safely that it remains open safely and that’s incredibly important,” he told reporters in Canberra.

NSW and Queensland are locked in an increasingly bitter standoff over borders.

In contrast, South Australia is planning to open its Victorian border on December 1 as more states look to restart travel.

Victoria has not recorded a case of coronavirus for two weeks, while NSW chalked up a sixth consecutive day without community transmission.

Australia will focus on bringing home a growing list of people stranded overseas before considering allowing international students into the country again.

More than 35,600 citizens and permanent residents want to return, with the number continuing to rise as coronavirus rips through through large parts of the world.

Hotel quarantine is set to continue for the foreseeable future with health authorities unable to find safe alternatives on a major scale.

National cabinet also endorsed the federal government’s vaccine policy amid growing global optimism in the hunt for a powerful weapon against the deadly disease.

Priority will be given to health, aged care and disability support workers along with elderly and Indigenous people.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said all safety precautions would be taken alongside streamlined vaccine approvals.

“There are no shortcuts to this. It is going fast. That’s true. But all of the processes for regulation will be there,” he said.

Australia is on track to begin vaccinations in March, with the government hoping deals with four candidates will pay dividends.

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