Australia news live: Novak Djokovic visa case in court; children’s vaccine rollout begins; flooding claims life in Queensland

LIVE – Updated at 21:26

Follow all the day’s news live.


Lieutenant general John Frewen has once again refuted claims that there is a vaccine shortage for those aged five to 11, telling ABC radio that Australia “will have more than enough vaccines for every kid to have their first dose before the end of the year.”

If there have been circumstances of people having trouble finding a booking I’m not going to contest that, but for every one of these anecdotal stories there are many thousands of positive stories.


21:20 Paul Karp

Close contacts of people with Covid-19 will be allowed out of isolation to work if their job is critical for food supply or emergency services under new rules in New South Wales and Queensland.

The two state governments announced the relaxed restrictions to ease food shortages on Sunday as federal health officials revealed isolation rules may soon change nationwide.

With case numbers spiking due to Omicron, Australians are adjusting to growing hospitalisations, workforce disruptions and an increasing onus on managing the pandemic themselves by recording rapid antigen test results.

NSW reported its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic on Sunday with 16 deaths in the preceding 24 hours – eclipsing the highest daily totals of the Delta wave. Eight men and eight women in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s died.

You can read the full report below:

Related: NSW and Queensland allow close contacts of Covid cases to work as states face food shortages

School return locked in, says NSW premier

January 28 is the non-negotiable date for NSW children to return to school, the premier says, with rapid antigen testing critical to the plan, reports AAP.

A further 50m at-home rapid test kits have been purchased by the state in addition to the 50m already held in reserve, the premier, Dominic Perrottet, said on Sunday.

The announcement came as NSW reported its deadliest day of the pandemic, recording 16 deaths related to the coronavirus.

There are currently 1,927 virus patients in NSW hospitals, 130 more than the previous day. Of them, 151 are in intensive care with 38 needing ventilation.

There were also 30,062 new infections reported from less than 100,000 conventional PCR lab tests.

NSW is yet to launch a system to report rapid test results, but Perrottet says he’s advised the switch will happen by mid-week, at which point case numbers are expected to surge afresh.

The newly purchased rapid tests would be instrumental in getting kids back to school, he said.

We are finalising our back-to-school plans at the moment. This will be a core part of the plans getting kids back in the classrooms …

There will be challenges as we move through the return-to-school program but ultimately we can’t let perfection be the enemy of good. We need kids back in class.

While just over 78% of children aged 12 to 15 in NSW have been fully vaccinated, primary school-aged children, those between five and 11 are only become eligible for their first dose from today.

With a three-week gap recommended between jabs, very few will be fully vaccinated when classrooms open their doors amid the nation’s biggest outbreak.

That has prompted the Queensland government to delay the return to classrooms by two weeks, to 7 February.

© Provided by The Guardian
NSW schools are set to return on 28 January despite the state’s out-of-control Covid surge, rising hospitalisations and deaths. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP



21:02 Peter Hannam

In many parts of the country hospitals are under stress, as more patients turn up for treatment and many staff are required to be absent because of Covid.

As we reported, these hospitals range from the very large – such as Melbourne’s Alfred hospital or the much smaller, including Byron Central hospital in northern NSW.

The rise in cases means hospitals are nearing capacity. One concern worrying health officials is there will be an unexpected event, such as a train or bus crash, that will suddenly present a lot of people needing urgent care but with no beds spare.

Another issue looming in the near future is the resignation of exhausted medical or other staff, tired of the demand for long overtime or even bullying or abuse from patients unhappy at the attention they are receiving.

At Byron, which is without its two top executives because of resignations, three more senior emergency department staff have quit, according to a nurse from the Nurses and Midwives Association. The trio includes the ED’s nursing unit manager.

According to one Facebook post from the region, “currently four doctors and eight nurses who work in Byron hospital are off sick with Covid. My friend says that none of this is due to poor practices, they are just being swamped with cases. Instead of being offered sick pay or worker’s compensation, they have been told to use their leave entitlements/holidays.”

Similar issues are popping up across the country.

Feel free to contact me on [email protected] to let us know your concerns.

© Provided by The Guardian
An emergency department sign at the Alfred hospital in Melbourne. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP


21:00 Paul Karp

Lawyers for Australia’s Department of Home Affairs have insisted Novak Djokovic was never given any assurances his medical exemption would allow him to enter Australia.

While also confirming that the world No 1 is unvaccinated, the legal team from the Australian government said ahead of Monday’s appeal hearing that there is no valid reason for Djokovic to be granted access to Australia for the tournament which begins on 17 January.

Djokovic had his visa cancelled after arriving in Melbourne last week, and his lawyers have submitted a lengthy document arguing the 34-year-old fulfilled the criteria for a vaccine exemption certificate because of a recent Covid infection.

You can read the full report below:

Related: Australian government lawyers say Novak Djokovic was never assured of entry to Australia


NSW opposition leader Chris Minns has told Sydney radio station 2GB that children in the state should still return to school come February despite their northern neighbour issuing a two-week delay.


By the way, we will be hearing from NSW Health officials at 10am today.

‘Absolutely more than enough’ vaccines for kids, Frewen says

Jumping back to the Covid vaccine and Lieutenant General John Frewen is out and about this morning defending the rollout of vaccines for five-to-11-year-olds, stating there is “absolutely more than enough” jabs for children.

There is more than 10,000 places where vaccines are being administered across the country. The majority of those will also be doing kids. So what I would say to people is there is absolutely more than enough of the paediatric dosage to get everybody their first dose before they get back to school.

The real challenge here is just lining people up with where the capacity is at any given time. What I say to parents is if they can’t get an appointment with their primary health provider or their GP, then they should try around the pharmacies.

They should try some of the state and territory clinics but there is enough vaccine and there are enough points of distribution, it is just about a little bit of patience.


Speaking of the Maryborough situation, the Queensland fire and emergency services assistant commissioner, Stephen Smith, told ABC that the peak of the flood waters has now passed.

So the peak has occurred overnight and is expected to stay for a little period of time and then slowly drop away.

There has been significant inundation and impacts through the area but that has been lessened overnight working very closely with Fraser Coast regional council in reducing the impacts in the CBD and the temporary levy in place there.

So a lot of work was done by crews with council overnight to minimise the impact and as a result, the businesses impacted will be greatly reduced.

© Provided by The Guardian
A women takes a photo of the flood waters from the Mary River in Gympie, 147km north of Brisbane, on Sunday. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


Back up to Queensland and the city of Maryborough is still under water this morning.


According to Nine News, another man has been detained by police outside the Park Hotel in Melbourne where unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic is being held alongside a number of refugees.

NSW deputy premier tests positive for Covid-19

NSW deputy premier Paul Toole has tested positive for Covid-19 but says he is only experiencing very minor symptoms.

In a social media post last night the politician said he was already in isolation after a number of family members tested positive.

It’s been a long week in our house, with my oldest daughter getting Covid-19 at the start of the week, followed by my wife and youngest daughter, and then my son …

Today my results have come back and I have tested positive too.

Fortunately I have very minor symptoms including a sore throat and a little bit of a temperature from time to time.

Let’s remember to respect our health workers out there who are working around the clock to keep us all safe …

At least the dog’s still happy to see me whilst we’re working together in the backyard.

© Provided by The Guardian
NSW deputy premier Paul Toole. Photograph: Richard Milnes/Rex/Shutterstock


Good morning everyone!

It’s Matilda Boseley back on deck for the first time in 2022, and I come to you today from Queensland (not by choice – I’m in close-contact isolation), which is why I reckon we should start today by talking about the deadly floods that are affecting the state.

According to a spokesperson for the Bureau of Meteorology, tropical Cyclone Tiffany has strengthened to a category 2 storm and is just hours from making landfall in far-north Queensland.

People between Cape Tribulation and Coen, including Cooktown, should complete preparations quickly and be prepared to shelter in a safe place.

The cyclone (which formed in the Coral Sea) is expected to cross into Queensland between Cooktown and the Lockhart River sometime on Monday night, and communities have been told to expect wind gusts of up to 130km/h as the centre of the cyclone makes landfall.

After moving through far-north Queensland it’s expected to move into the Gulf of Carpentaria on Tuesday and intensify as it moves towards the Northern Territory coast.

Of course, we also need to chat about Novak Djokovic, whose visa case will be heard in federal court this morning, his lawyers challenging the rejection of his visa by Australian border force officials.

In their appeal document sent to the court, they say the 34-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 in December, and it was on those grounds that they sought a medical exemption that would allow him to defend his Australian Open crown.

But lawyers for the federal government will argue in a hearing that it had not given Djokovic any assurance that his medical exemption would be accepted.

The Serbian has to await the outcome of this hearing which will determine if he’s allowed to play for a 10th Australian title or whether he will be deported.

And of course, finally, today is the day that children aged between five and 11 will finally be eligible for the Pfizer jab, with federal health minister Greg Hunt insisting there will be sufficient supply.

He insists there will be 3m vaccine doses available over January for the 2.3 million children who will be eligible for a jab, but opposition leader Anthony Albanese said parents are anxious because they can’t get appointments for their children.

Hunt conceded that as there are 8,000 vaccination points around the country, each will have a limited number of doses a day, and therefore not every child will be able to get the jab right out of the gate. This is to make sure people in rural and regional areas, non-English-speaking areas and lower socioeconomic areas have the same access.

OK! What a morning, so why don’t we jump right into the day.

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