Australian PM calls special meeting to discuss new Covid-19 strain

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced accelerated plans for mass vaccination

Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted the lockdown "will buy much needed time", as the case sharpens the focus on Australia's procedures on returning citizens and residents from overseas.

Hotel quarantine workers, frontline health care workers, aged and disability care staff and residents will be the first priority group to get the Pfizer vaccine from mid-to-late February, pending approvals and logistics, while the majority of Australians are likely to get the AstraZeneca jab.

"Vaccination is not a silver bullet once vaccination starts COVID safe practices do not end they continue, they will be a 2021 lived experience, they continue", he said.

Morrison said regulatory approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected in February.

'That is an important public health discussion that needs to be had with states and territories'.

Travellers to Australia will have to show a negative COVID-19 test before they can get on their plane, the prime minister said on Friday, as the city of Brisbane went into lockdown after the discovery of a case of a virulent new coronavirus variant.

Each person will receive two jabs of the same vaccine about a month apart.

"I don't think we need to line the whole cabinet up".

Department of Health Secretary and former chief health officer Brendan Murphy said the vaccination numbers would expand significantly once the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved.

"Once the vaccination process starts, COVID-safe practices do not end".

After rapidly bringing forward the timetable in recent weeks from late March to early March just 24 hours ago, the Prime Minister announced the first public rollout of the vaccine will now commence in mid-February. Australia also caps the number of people allowed to enter the country each week, and returnees must enter mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Mr Morrison said the Theraputic Goods Administration was working overtime to approve the vaccines but was not cutting any corners.

Australia earlier this week said it expected to begin Covid-19 vaccinations in March.

They will secure the COVID-19 vaccine at hospitals where the Pfizer vaccine, that must be stored in freezing temperatures, can be carefully secured.

The PM said on Thursday that the government was now aiming to have four million people vaccinated by the end of March.

Australian media reported the government has plans to introduce mandatory Covid-19 testing for all global travellers before they board their flights to the country.

Prof Murphy said children would be the last group health authorities would consider vaccinating.

On Tuesday, Mr Morrison told 3AW radio station that Australia "is not in an emergency situation like the United Kingdom". "We will expand that to a significantly broader range of the at-risk population", he said.