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Many frontline workers still 'weeks away' from receiving vaccine

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Many frontline health and aged care workers are still waiting for their vaccinations across Australia as Queensland faces another COVID-19 scare, putting lives and livelihoods at risk.

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“We are keeping our fingers crossed that this current outbreak can be contained in the three days, which will allow people to go ahead and enjoy their Easter plans,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Tuesday.

“We needed a sharp, hard lockdown. We need to do this because this is the highly infectious strain.”

Amid criticism of the vaccine’s slow rollout, Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan said Queensland Health was working hard to get the jab to healthcare workers as quickly as possible.

She conceded the task could take several more weeks.

The Morrison government is aiming for everyone who wants to have the vaccine to receive their first dose by October, far short of initial targets.

Vulnerable people in aged care are another concern across Australia but Professor McMillan said supply had now increased and 89,000 had been vaccinated.

“There is a large population of aged care residents,” she said.

“We’ll continue to see more and more done in the coming weeks, particularly now that we’ve got the domestic supply as well of the vaccine rollout both to aged care residents and aged care staff.”

More than 541,000 Australians have received their first COVID-19 vaccines, including 259,000 in the past week.

Greater Brisbane entered lockdown on Monday afternoon after seven community cases were detected, including two health workers.

Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, the ACT and Northern Territory have all moved to restrict or outright ban incoming travel from Brisbane and the state over the growing cluster.

The NSW border remains open, although Premier Gladys Berejiklian has asked residents eyeing a trip north over Easter to change their plans.

It’s also a double blow for many thousands of non-essential hospitality and tourism companies ordered to close just a day after the federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme ended.

“It does make you wonder when the government says that we’re ‘not in a race’ for vaccination,” Labor MP Andrew Leigh said.

“It absolutely ought to be treated as a race. The government ought to be sprinting.”

He says Australia remains about 90th in the world in vaccine rollouts per capita and a third of Queensland businesses are close to hitting the wall.

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