Leaders told to solve virus border battles

Some Sydney residents still can't travel to Queensland.
Some Sydney residents still can't travel to Queensland.

Australia's leaders are again being urged to develop a uniform approach to domestic border rules, nearly one year into the coronavirus pandemic.

No areas of Australia qualify as a COVID-19 hotspot under the federal government's definition after it was lifted for Sydney's northern beaches last week.

The Commonwealth's hotspot definition is met when there is an average of 10 coronavirus cases a day over three days in metropolitan areas, and three a day in regional parts of Australia.

There have been no cases of local transmission of the virus across the country for three days.

But some Sydney residents still can't travel to Queensland and Victoria, while Western Australia continues to keep up its border with all of NSW.

While Australians seek consistency and clarity on domestic travel, state leaders have this week traded barbs over their differing approaches to the virus.

The issue will be canvassed at Friday's national cabinet meeting of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders.

A group of NSW and Victorian MPs have written to him urging that the meeting adopt a uniform policy on border closures and compensate affected businesses.

The gathering will also hear a proposal from Queensland to use a mining camp for mandatory two-week quarantine as part of a bid to help more Australians return home.

With international borders to remain closed for the rest of this year, there are growing concerns about the more than 38,000 citizens desperate to return from overseas.

The federal government has organised more than 20 chartered flights over the coming months but Labor argues it's too little, too late.

The issue has been inflamed by the arrival of international tennis players for the Australian Open.

Tennis Australia has arranged 17 flights for 1200 foreign players and officials in just the past few weeks and found them additional places in hotel quarantine.

It comes as federal authorities continue to try to alleviate concerns over vaccines, with Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan reminding Australians the medical regulator is independent of government.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is still in the midst of regulatory checks for the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.

Dr McMillan said herd immunity was the long-term goal for Australia.

"Right now we want to protect those most vulnerable from the severest of the disease and that is what we are working towards," she said.

Australian Associated Press