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As Brisbane becomes a ghost town, rest of the nation set for long weekend lift-off

Business

The federal government is intent on getting the message out Australia is open for business as half-price airfares go on sale and the vaccine rollout progresses.

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But the message comes as Queensland is battling two clusters of COVID-19 that link back to health workers and NSW is on alert just days out from the Easter weekend.

The Greater Brisbane area was declared a national COVID-19 hotspot on Tuesday, allowing federal support to flow.

Half-price airfares are set to go on sale at midnight on Wednesday backed by an $8 million advertising campaign promoting 15 tourism regions.

“Australia’s response to COVID-19 has been world-leading, both on the health and economic fronts and now it’s time for Australians to enjoy a well-earned holiday,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said.

The half-price flights are on sale from April 1 to July 31 and tickets can be purchased for travel to September 30.

Most states and territories have responded with targeted and temporary restrictions on Greater Brisbane, but Western Australia has closed its border to all of Queensland.

Queensland has recorded 10 new COVID-19 cases, including eight in the community, while NSW remains at zero new cases despite local exposure to the coronavirus at a party in Byron Bay.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it was important to understand the virus was circulating in the Greater Brisbane area “at least”.

While 597,523 vaccinations had now been delivered, including almost 56,000 on Monday, there was still a high risk of outbreaks and serious illness.

“At the moment we are at as high a risk as we’ve been since the beginning of the pandemic,” Prof Kelly told reporters in Canberra.

“We know as we mostly open and there are very few restrictions on our movement … outbreaks can spread quickly, and so that’s why that very strong public health response is absolutely crucial at the moment.

“The more vaccine that gets out there, the more people that are protected, that will decrease the outbreaks in the spread over the coming months.”

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has raised the prospect the Greater Brisbane lockdown could be extended past 5pm on Thursday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned she expected cases to cross the border as infected people had been to a number of venues in her state, including Byron Bay.

“We need to brace ourselves,” Berejiklian told reporters.

With the JobKeeper wage subsidy coming to an end last weekend, the unemployed face a hit when the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement ends on Wednesday.

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