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National double dose deadline looms

While more than 17 million Australians or 82.8 per cent of the population aged 16 or over are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the nation’s reopening is still a way off.

More than 90 per cent of NSW residents are double dosed, as are 87 per cent of eligible Victorians.

However South Australia (73.5 per cent), Queensland (69.9 per cent) and Western Australia (69.4 per cent) are significantly behind.

And without everyone on the same page, the prospect of unrestricted interstate travel may be a dubious one.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he expects the three lagging jurisdictions to lift their game by year’s end, paving the way for the country to safely reopen.

Doherty Institute modelling, he insists, makes it very clear that achieving an 80 per cent double dose rate should be the main aim. However it might be easier said than done.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath confirmed on Saturday that at 70 per cent full vaccination, visitors from interstate hotspots would, under certain conditions, be able to home quarantine in the Sunshine State.

At 80 per cent, she said they would be welcomed without having to quarantine at all but must be fully vaccinated and with proof of a recent negative test.

While its nominal reopening date is December 17, some Queensland locations are nowhere near 80 per cent fully immunised. The Ipswich suburb of Redbank only crawled past 50 per cent on Friday.

WA remains closed to NSW, Victoria and the ACT and based on the pace of its inoculation program, is likely to remain so until at least late January. It reported barely more than 20,000 new doses administered in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday.

Mr Morrison says while the eastern states deserve credit for their efforts to reopen, those like WA keeping borders shut for longer periods will do more harm than good to their economies.

“The Australian people have endured some of the toughest times that they’ve known in their lives and no one has gone through more than the Victorian people on that,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW on Friday.

“Australians, and particularly here in Victoria, have been keeping their side of the deal when it comes to the national plan, which is all about opening up.”

Meanwhile, overseas students should be able to return to Australia by the end of the year as international borders reopen, says Finance Minister Simon Birmingham.

The first chartered plane will touch down in Sydney on December 6 with about 250 students from countries including Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Canada.

On the issue of Australia’s contribution to international vaccination efforts, Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced the delivery of 1.2 million doses to Indonesia on Saturday.

The dispatch is part of a pledge to share 10 million shots with Jakarta and up to 60 million doses throughout he Indo-Pacific by the end of 2022.

Victoria reported 1221 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with four deaths. There were 250 infections in NSW and no fatalities for the first time in almost three months.

Queensland registered two cases on Thursday, introducing the possibility of additional restrictions on the Gold Coast should more unlinked community transmission arise in the lead-up to schoolies week. However, there were none on Saturday.

The ACT, where the last round of restrictions eased on Friday, reported 11 cases.

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