Welcome to the 9News.com.au live blog for Wednesday, January 4, 2022. PCR tests will no longer be needed to confirm the result of a positive rapid test, National Cabinet has agreed. Some concession holders will get free tests. Tennis bosses have defended Novak Djokovic's exemption to play at the Australian Open, but the Home Affairs minister said players are not exempt from the rules. NSW has recorded a new high of 35,054 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths, while Victoria had a record 17,636 infections and 11 deaths. Queensland cases rose by almost 1000 to 6781 with cases also climbing in South Australia, as the state announced it would use rapid tests for close contacts. And WA recorded five new cases linked to Perth bars.
– Australia's biggest retailers can't keep up with RAT demand
– No one exempt from 'strict' border rules, minister says, after Tennis Australia says Djokovic wasn't given special treatment,
– NSW COVID-19 cases jump again with 35,054 new infections
– Kids vaccine bookings open as Victoria records 17,636 COVID-19 cases
– South Australia records 3493 COVID-19 cases, testing change for close contacts
Thanks for reading.
That concludes the 9News live blog for Wednesday, January 4, 2022.
Here's what happened.
PCR tests will no longer be needed to confirm the result of a positive rapid test, National Cabinet has agreed.
Some concession holders will get free home tests, but they won't be free for everybody.
Tennis bosses defended Novak Djokovic's exemption to play at the Australian Open, but the Home Affairs minister said players are not exempt from the rules.
NSW recorded a new high of 35,054 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths, while Victoria had a record 17,636 infections and 11 deaths.
Queensland cases rose by almost 1000 to 6781 with cases also climbing in South Australia, as the state announced it would use rapid tests for close contacts.
And WA recorded five new cases linked to Perth bars.
We'll return tomorrow.
Until then keep up to date with breaking news on 9News.com.au and nine.com.au
Mr Morrison said Novak Djokovic would be treated no differently to anyone else.
"There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever. If medical exemptions have been provided by medical professionals and that has been furnished to him as a proviso for him to get on that plane, well, that will have to stack up when he arrives in Australia."
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said the rate of people being hospitalised with COVID-10 had fallen from 2.7 per cent to one per cent since December 20.
"The proportion that are seriously sick is much less than we have seen in previous waves (of COVID-19)," he said.
Professor Kelly said a "risk-based approach" had been developed for the aged care sector to deal with the issue of too many staff having to furlough, compared to the previous "no tolerance to risk" approach.
Mr Morrison said all participants in the National Cabinet meeting were clear in sharing the view that "schools go back and stay back on day one of term one".
He said recommendations for the framework for the return to schools would be established over the coming fortnight.
Mr Morrison said anyone selling rapid antigen tests at more than a 20 per cent mark up would be in breach of a biosecurity regulation declared by the Health Minister.
"And that carries a penalty of $66,000 and up to five years in jail," he said.
"We will include rapid antigen test as those products covered by the export controls that we put in place."
Mr Morrison said a restriction of one box of rapid antigen tests per person would be put in place.
Mr Morrison said rapid antigen tests would start being used at COVID-19 testing sites to speed up results.
"This will take the pressure off the pathology labs which are out there, which will speed up the test results for PCR tests that are needed for those who are essential to get PCRs."
Mr Morrison said the push to provide free access to rapid antigen tests to all was not going to eventuate.
"Universal free access to tests was not agreed by any of the states and territories today, or the Commonwealth. I make that very clear," he said.
Mr Morrison said concessional free tests would be available at pharmacies to those who have a Commonwealth seniors health card, a healthcare card, a low-income card, a pension concession card, DVA Gold card or a DVA white card.
"There are over 6.6 million Australians who fall into those categories. They will be able to get up to 10 tests over a course of three months, no more than five per month, and they should only be getting those tests there if they are not symptomatic and they are not close contacts."
Mr Morrison said truck drivers would no longer be required to have seven-day rolling tests, while anyone going to hospital as a patient for treatment and going to work in the private hospital sector will also not be required to get a COVID-19 test.
The requirement for a second test post-arrival in Australia from overseas will also be removed.
"They will have, as we said last week, a rapid antigen test on arrival. If that is negative, then they will not be required to have a further test," Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison said Western Australia had not participated in the meeting.
He said Queensland and Tasmania would make an announcement on their rapid test requirements in the coming weeks.
Mr Morrison said more than 200 million rapid antigen tests are on the way to Australia in the coming two months, between the Commonwealth and the states and territories' supplies.
"For the next few weeks, we do anticipate there will continue to be a lot of tension in the system when it comes to the supply and demand of those tests," he said.
Mr Morrison said other countries were experiencing the same challenges.
He said tests for close contacts and those who are symptomatic are free.
"They have always been free. They are the essential tests that are required for public health management," he said.
"If you are not a close contact, if you are not symptomatic, you do not need to get a test."
Mr Morrison said National Cabinet agreed today to remove the requirement for a PCR test to confirm a positive rapid antigen test result.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said "very productive discussions" had occurred at today's National Cabinet meeting.
"We are dealing with volume challenges that we haven't seen at other times during the course of the pandemic," he said.
"This is a strain (Omicron) that is less severe but more contagious."
Mr Morrison said the impact on the hospital system related more to the workforce than the number of patients.
"That is the key constraint on our hospital system at present and that relates to a set of rules around testing arrangements and furlough and isolation arrangements. We discussed those at length today."
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