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Another 63 COVID-19 deaths in Australia, Moderna vaccine approved for children

Another 63 people have died with COVID-19 across the nation, while NSW and Victoria will ease restrictions from Friday and another vaccine has been approved for use in children.

Another 63 people have died with COVID-19 in Australia. 

Queensland recorded 39 deaths, NSW recorded 14, there were nine in Victoria and one in the ACT.

NSW reported 9,995 new COVID-19 infections, as the state’s public health restrictions are set to ease on Friday

From 6pm on 18 February, all density limits will be scrapped in hospitality venues.

QR check-in codes will only be required at nightclubs and music festivals with more than 1,000 patrons. 

Singing and dancing can resume at all venues except nightclubs and music festivals – this restriction will ease by 25 February. 

On 25 February the state will also scrap indoor mask mandates, including within offices across most public places.

Masks will only be required on public transport, aeroplanes, airports, hospitals, aged care and disability facilities, correctional facilities and indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people. 

Unvaccinated travellers entering the state will now only have to undergo hotel quarantine for seven days, as opposed to 14 days. 

“These changes today are measured and proportionate to the situation we find ourselves in and are particularly due, can I say, to the effort of everybody across our state,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said. 

There are 1,447 people with the virus in hospital – a drop of 31- and there are 92 people in ICU.

Nearly half the state – 49.7 per cent of people – have received a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, paramedics have joined nurses and midwives in taking industrial action as they lobby for better conditions and pay.

Paramedics are refusing to move from their stations to fill gaps in rosters in other areas on Thursday.

The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) is calling for 1,500 more paramedics on the road, a pandemic payment and a pay rise of more than 2.5 per cent.

The action follows a day of staggered strikes by public hospital nurses on Tuesday in support of better staffing and a pay rise above the prescribed 2.5 per cent on offer from the government.

Restrictions to ease in Victoria

Victoria has recorded nine COVID-19 deaths as the state government announced it will further ease restrictions from Friday.

From 6pm on Friday, there will be no density limits in hospitality and entertainment venues. 

QR check-in codes will no longer be required at retail shopping centres and schools, including early learning childhood centres. 

Where people must have two doses of COVID-19, QR codes will remain mandatory, such as restaurants and pubs. 

Essential worker bubbles can be eased, but this direction is at the discretion of each health service provider. 

Surveillance testing at key industry workplaces will no longer be required, but can be voluntarily continued if they choose to do so. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he hoped the changes would help make this year “as normal a year as possible.”

“This is exactly what we said we would do, we would have rules on for not a longer moment than we needed,” Mr Andrews said. 

“It is rational, it is about safety, it’s about science and it is about us doing exactly what we said we would do.

“Keep people safe, do everything we could to manage the very significant pressure in our health system but also, normalise this push through a very difficult barrier to make this in every way as normal a year as possible.”

Health Minister Martin Foley said the government had sought advice on indoor mask mandates, particularly in office settings, and flagged this restriction could be scrapped as early as next Friday. 

“I am confident you will see us here this time next week confirming our stance on masks,” Mr Foley said. 

There are 401 people with the virus in Victorian hospitals, and increase of four from Wednesday’s figure. Of these, 78 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care and 16 require ventilation.

Of the new 8,501 cases revealed on Thursday, 5,661 were detected through rapid antigen tests and 2,840 via PCR lab testing.

Moderna vaccine approved for children

A second COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light for children, after the medical regulator provisionally approved Moderna for those aged six years and older.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration on Thursday gave the go-ahead for six to 11-year-olds to receive the Moderna vaccine.

Moderna was previously only available to people aged 12 and over.

It now joins Pfizer as a COVID-19 vaccine recommended for children.

A final approval will need to be granted by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

The medical regulator said children should receive two doses of the Moderna vaccine, spaced four weeks apart.

The approval decision was made after careful consideration of clinical trial data from the US and Canada, which included 4000 children.

“Clinical trials also showed that the safety profile is similar to that seen in adults,” the TGA said.

So far, more than one million children aged five to 11 in Australia have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, or more than 48 per cent of the cohort.

The medical regulator has provisionally approved Moderna for those aged six years and oover.
The medical regulator has provisionally approved Moderna for those aged six years and oover. Source: Sipa USA/AAP

What’s happening elsewhere? 

Queensland recorded 39 COVID-19 related deaths, the most fatalities recorded in a single day since the pandemic began.

The 5,665 new virus cases emerged after 15,151 tests across the state in the 24 hours to 6.30am on Thursday.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard says the deaths did not all occur in the previous 24 hours with 27 historical and occurring as far back as mid-January.

He says every pandemic death is tragic, but the spike in deaths does not indicate any upward trend.

In the Northern Territory, health authorities have called a Code Yellow for the Royal Darwin and Palmerston hospitals amid a peak in admissions.

There are currently 137 people with coronavirus in Territory hospitals including one in intensive care as the state records 1,045 COVID-19 cases. 

While Thursday’s hospitalisation rate is down from 143 on Wednesday, health authorities say current infection prevention and control measures to manage and isolate COVID-19 positive patients at Royal Darwin has also exacerbated capacity issues.

“A code yellow enacts a number of practices and will allow the hospital to closely manage the situation and implement measures to ease pressures on the hospital system,” NT Health said in a statement on Thursday.

People with non-emergency health needs have been urged to see their GPs to try to avoid becoming acutely unwell and in need of hospital treatment.

In Tasmania, 680 fresh infections were reported.

The figure, an increase from 625 on Wednesday, is the highest since February 1.

There are 16 people with the virus in hospital, with 11 of those receiving treatment specifically for COVID-19. Two patients are in intensive care.

In the ACT, a man in his 20s with COVID-19 has died.

ACT Health reported the death on Thursday, taking the toll in the national capital to 32 over the pandemic.

There were 47 people in hospital, including three in intensive care and two on ventilators.

Authorities reported 537 new cases, taking the number of active cases to 2,565.