Victoria has recorded another locally acquired virus case as the state emerges from its fourth lockdown, and NSW copes with increased virus restrictions to combat the latest outbreak.
The Victorian case is a close contact of an existing case and has been in quarantine while infectious.
Another two new cases have been recorded in Melbourne’s hotel quarantine in the 24 hours to midnight on Friday, bringing the total active cases in the state to 51.
Travel restrictions were scrapped in Victoria from Friday except for people visiting the snowfields, and masks are no longer required outdoors.
Meanwhile, mask use is again compulsory on Sydney’s public transport after a man picked up COVID-19 from “fleeting exposure” with an infected shopper.
The man in his 50s caught the virus while shopping at Myer Bondi Junction on Saturday. He was on the same floor in the same section as a limousine driver believed to be at the centre of this week’s outbreak.
The unvaccinated limo driver from Sydney’s east and his wife were diagnosed with the coronavirus and subsequently infected a woman at a Vaucluse cafe.
The driver, aged in his 60s, transported international air crews.
The infections have prompted some states to tighten border restrictions for those who live in eastern Sydney or have attended the exposure sites.
Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino said the Sydney outbreak was a “sobering reminder that this virus is with us in our country and will be with us for quite some time”.
The increased restrictions come as Labor has repeated its claim the federal government relied too heavily on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for Australia’s rollout, with authorities admitting new medical advice will further set the country back.
Medical experts are now recommending people under 60 receive the Pfizer jab due to the risk of extremely rare blood clots for AstraZeneca recipients.
But the 840,000 people aged 50 to 59 who have already had a single AstraZeneca dose have been told to get their second jab of that vaccine.
Lieutenant General John Frewen, who is overseeing rollout logistics, said the slowdown resulting from the updated vaccine advice would be short term.
But he refused to say whether that meant a delay of weeks or months.
“We will see a likely temporary reduction in daily vaccination rates, as people make informed decisions around what they want to do,” he said.
Two deaths have occurred in Australia from 3.8 million AstraZeneca doses.
National cabinet will meet on Monday to discuss what the increased reliance on Pfizer imports means for the immunisation program.
Labor on Friday seized on the setback to reignite its argument the government relied too heavily on a seamless AstraZeneca rollout.
Labor’s Richard Marles said the latest Victorian lockdown and an emerging Sydney outbreak showed the importance of ramping up jabs quickly.
Australia continues to lag behind much of the world in vaccination rates with only around four per cent of adults receiving both doses.
Yet Health Minister Greg Hunt said he remains confident about Pfizer supplies even with the increased reliance on the imported vaccine.
Mr Hunt said re-booking people in their 50s who were down to get a first AstraZeneca jab would likely lead to a fall in vaccination rates.