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Coronavirus: Anger in Hobart as community faces Delta spread

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Southern Tasmanians are waking up to a weekend of lockdown as the state faces its greatest risk of COVID-19 transmission this year.

Restrictions, covering 12 government areas including Hobart, came into effect at 6pm on Friday and will be in force for three days.

The lockdown was sparked by a 31-year-old man who absconded from the city’s Travelodge hotel and spent 18 hours in the community, including two houses, a Woolworths supermarket and park.

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The man was arrested in Bidgewater and has since refused to co-operate with contact tracers, making it difficult for authorities to identify exposure sites.

Premier Peter Gutwein described the behaviour of the man, who arrived on Monday night without a border pass, as outrageous.

The Mercury newspaper in Hobart sums up community sentiment.

About 80 people who were at the Bridgewater Woolworths on Tuesday afternoon are considered contacts, while 39 primary contacts have been formally identified.

No positive tests have been returned but results for many of the contacts are pending.

“We are at the highest risk of having COVID transmission established in this state at any time this year,” State Public Health Director Mark Veitch said.

The man has been confirmed as having the Delta variant of the virus.

Tasmania has just one other active case, a 15-year-old boy who flouted home quarantine rules in Launceston earlier this month.

On the back of tough border measures, the state has recorded just three cases this year.

Wednesday’s Jetstar flight JQ715, which arrived about 8.35pm, has been listed as an exposure site as has the Hobart Airport male toilets.

Now lets take a look at the lockdowns and new rules in Victoria and New South Wales.

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Victoria

The Victorian government is under fire over a COVID-19 restriction “anomaly” that will let fully vaccinated people from NSW travel across the state before Melbourne residents.

Doubled-dosed Victorians and non-residents from “red zones” such as Greater Sydney will be able to enter Victoria without quarantining for 14 days from 11.59pm on October 19.

They must still return a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before arrival in Victoria, and then isolate, get tested again within 72 hours and remain in isolation until they receive a negative result.

Fully vaccinated travellers from “orange zones” will also no longer be required to get tested or isolate upon arrival.

The permit changes, which do not apply to unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people, open the door for Victorians to reunite with family and friends from NSW weeks before those in the state’s regions.

Melburnians are currently subject to a 15 kilometre travel limit, which will expand to 25km when 70 per cent of people over 16 are fully vaccinated, and regional travel is banned until it hits 80 per cent coverage under the state’s roadmap.

When pressed on the inconsistency, Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters to “take a chill pill”.

“There will of course be transitional anomalies but as we get to 70 and 80 per cent, as per the roadmap, they will evaporate.”

Shadow Treasurer David Davis said it was “bizarre” and “strange” Sydneysiders would soon be able to go to any part of Victoria and follow local restrictions rules, while he couldn’t visit his father on the Mornington Peninsula.

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“It clearly doesn’t make sense that you can have people flow in from NSW in that way and yet 5.5 million Melburnians are locked down,” he said.

Victoria reported 2179 new cases on Friday and six deaths, taking the toll from the current outbreak to 131.

Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to announce the exact date Melbourne will exit its sixth lockdown on Sunday, with the state to hit its 70 per cent full vaccination target ahead of schedule next week.

Latest data shows 87.62 per cent of Victoria’s over-16 population have had one vaccine dose and 63.81 per cent both.

NSW

Major airlines have immediately responded to the NSW government’s decision to abandon quarantine for Australians returning home, opening bookings for November and putting on more flights.

Premier Dominic Perrottet on Friday announced that from November 1 returning Australians and permanent residents won’t need to do hotel quarantine or even isolate at home if they are fully vaccinated.

Qantas brought forward the restart of its international flights by two weeks in response to the announcement.

Tickets from London and Los Angeles to Sydney are now on sale.

Flights from other destinations, like Singapore, Fiji and Vancouver, may also become available earlier than expected, the airline said on Friday.

Singapore Airlines will open bookings for 17 weekly flights between Singapore and Sydney on Saturday afternoon.

The carrier has been operating just one flight a day on the route due to quarantine caps.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the decision was a “massive step towards life as we knew it”.

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“We have thousands of our pilots and cabin crew wanting to get back to work and they will be thrilled at today’s announcement,” he said.

“It will still be a long time before international travel returns to normal but this is a fantastic start.

Singapore Airlines Regional Vice President South West Pacific, Louis Arul, welcomed the news but said the company wants clarity on how they can facilitate unvaccinated passengers.

Some 210 hotel quarantine spots each week will be reserved for returning Australians who don’t meet the vaccination requirement.

The move has made NSW the first Australian jurisdiction to partially abandon the quarantine requirement.

  • Click here to read more about how the new rules will impact Australian travel

November 1 will also see the resumption of free travel within NSW, a two week delay to give people in the regions time to get their second dose.

The state could reach the 80 per cent vaccination target as early as Saturday, making it likely the next phase of reopening will start from Monday.

By Thursday, 91.7 per cent of people over 16 in NSW had received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 78.8 per cent fully vaccinated.

Crossing the 80 per cent hurdle will mean the return of community sport, the removal of caps on weddings and funerals, and the return of dancing to hospitality venues.

-with AAP

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