More than 1800 new virus cases have been reported from outbreaks in NSW and Victoria as the first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrives in the country.
As well as 1331 cases in NSW and 535 in Victoria, the ACT added 15 locally acquired cases to the national total as well as a solitary community case from Queensland.
The first Moderna shipment touched down as protesters on Saturday vowed to defy public health orders and gather en masse in Melbourne.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley told a news conference that protesters had in mind “premeditated, violent scenes” and warned police had mounted a large-scale response.
The city became a no-go zone before Saturday’s rally, with most public transport to and from the precinct suspended and a “ring of steel” erected around its fringe.
The potential unrest comes as health authorities ramp up vaccination efforts across the country, with walk-ins to Queensland hubs lining up as early as 4am to get the jab.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Moderna doses meant more GP clinics would be able to administer the vaccine.
“These are very important because they simply provide not only more vaccines, but more points of access for Australians everywhere,” he said.
“My hope is that everybody who has not yet taken the vaccine will come forward over the coming days and weeks and there is sufficient vaccine for every Australian before the end of October, if not slightly earlier.”
The shipment follows the latest national cabinet meeting on Friday afternoon, during which the vaccine rollout was the major talking point.
The national plan to transition away from lockdowns once vaccination targets are reached was also discussed, along with updated Doherty Institute modelling and the situation in virus-affected jurisdictions.
The most recent federal figures showed Australia is now at 70.5 per cent of over 16s having received their first vaccine dose, while more than 45 per cent are fully immunised.
However, the figures for young age groups remain significantly lower, with just 22 per cent of 25 to 29-year-olds and 19 per cent of 20 to 24-year-olds being fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, new data shows the inclusion of telehealth consolations as part of Medicare in response to the pandemic has contributed to bulk billing rates being at an “all-time high”.
Almost nine out of 10 visits to the GP in 2020-21 were bulk billed with no out-of-pocket cost to the patients, the federal health department says.
A total of 377.2 million medical services were bulk-billed to Medicare during the period, 34.1 million more than in the previous year.
The inclusion of telehealth consultations was designed to limit disease spread in the community by reducing the number of people leaving the house and mixing in waiting rooms.
GPs provided 38 million consultations via phone and 769,543 via video in the past 12 months.