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Elderly to get a break amid vaccine demos

Restrictions on aged care facilities due to COVID-19 are lifting but anti-vaccine sentiment remains rife with a large rally in Canberra.

The federal government says every aged care resident can have access to one essential visitor at all times, including during any COVID-19 outbreaks or exposures.

“We need to shift the balance from restricting visitors during an outbreak to providing access by at least one visitor per resident per day. This will … provide families with more valuable time with their loved ones,” Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said on Saturday.

The expanded visitation instructions will also allow staff to continue working if they have been exposed to the virus but test negative, are asymptomatic and are willing to work.

The government said there were 8972 positive cases of residents and staff in its most recent weekly snapshot of the pandemic’s impact in residential aged care facilities nationally.

But anti-vaccine mandate protests persist, with thousands descending on Parliament House on Saturday, shutting down streets around the capital and putting police on high alert.

The protesters appear to be a mix of anti-vaccine activists, conspiracy theorists and people from the sovereign citizen movement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged the protesters to demonstrate “in a peaceful and respectful way” noting it was not the federal government’s decision to implement vaccine mandates.

“All other mandates that relate to vaccines have been imposed unilaterally by state governments. They have not been put in place by the commonwealth government… so I understand their concerns about these issues,” he said.

Omicron continues to ravage heavily populated states with a spike in deaths recorded in NSW.

The state announced a further 32 COVID-19 fatalities on Saturday, along with 8183 new virus cases, while Victoria reported 19 deaths and 7224 infections.

Queensland has 3660 new cases and 13 deaths, South Australia recorded 1372 infections and one death, while the ACT has 428 cases and no fatalities.

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