Australia news LIVE: NSW hits 7 million first dose vaccination target as state’s COVID-19 cases continue to soar; Victoria infections grow

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NSW to scale down contact tracing, with smartphone alert for exposure sites

The NSW government will significantly scale down its contact tracing as COVID-19 vaccination rates rise, instead relying on people being alerted via their smartphones when they have been at a venue of concern.

As the government continues to prepare for when it reaches its 70 per cent vaccination target, it also moved to reward south-western and western Sydney residents by ending the time restrictions on outdoor exercise.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has offered a relaxation of exercise restrictions on LGAs of concern.Credit:Kate Geraghty

The easing of the restriction for the 12 hotspot areas, which was seen as particularly punitive for communities who often live in high density, comes amid increasing concerns that Sydney was becoming a divided city.

The 9pm curfew is also under review. It was implemented to help police ensure mainly young men were not leaving their homes in the evenings, but it has adversely impacted shift workers.

Read more about the situation in NSW here.

Call for sweeteners to speed sprint to 70 per cent jab target

Financial incentives, travel inducements and shock ads are among the measures that could be used to drive up vaccination rates and help Australia out of its cycle of coronavirus lockdowns, doctors and other health authorities say.

Experts and GPs have suggested a number of initiatives could be used to encourage more people to get jabbed and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

Victoria has started opening drive-through clinics in areas with lower vaccination rates, such as Melton in Melbourne’s west.Credit:Paul Jeffers

The urgency to boost vaccination rates received fresh impetus this week after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced his state would be under harsh lockdown restrictions until at least until 70 per cent of eligible people had their first dose.

NSW, meanwhile, passed the 7 million COVID-19 vaccines mark on Wednesday, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealing on Thursday that 70 per cent of residents aged 16 and over had now received one dose of the vaccine.

Read the full story here.

Biden directs White House lawyers to fight strict Texas abortion law

US President Joe Biden says he is launching a “whole-of-government effort” to combat a strict new Texas abortion law after an overnight Supreme Court decision let it stand.

Biden, a Democrat and a Catholic, called the law that bans any abortion after six weeks an “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights”.

Abortion rights supporters gather to protest the Texas law in front of Edinburg City Hall in Edinburg, Texas. Credit:AP

The President says the White House will look at what measures can be taken through federal agencies to ensure women in the southern state have “access to safe and legal abortions”.

More on this story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Friday, September 3. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started.

  • Playgrounds are reopening in Victoria today as part of the state’s shift away from a near-COVID zero approach. The time between AstraZeneca doses has now been slashed from 12 to six weeks amid a renewed push for people to be vaccinated. There were 176 new cases of coronavirus in Victoria yesterday.
  • NSW plans to scale down its contract tracing efforts as vaccination rates rise, with people alerted via their smartphones – instead of a phone call – when they’ve been to an exposure site. Meanwhile, residents in Sydney’s local government areas of concern may now exercise outside for an unlimited amount of time (but the nightly curfew remains in place). There were 1288 cases of coronavirus reported in NSW yesterday and the state’s death toll from the current outbreak stands at 107.
  • Queensland is on high alert after a COVID-positive truckie was in the community for five days. In good news, a family of five who recently snuck into the Sunshine State from Melbourne have tested negative to coronavirus. And Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk continues to cop criticism for raising concerns about COVID-19 and children (despite no coronavirus vaccines having been approved for under-12s anywhere in the world).
  • Half a million doses of Pfizer arrived at Sydney airport last night from Singapore as part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s latest vaccine deal. Nationally, just over 60 per cent of Australians adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Around 36.4 per cent of us are fully vaccinated.
  • In overseas news, New Zealand recorded 49 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and Auckland remains in lockdown. And the east coast of the United States has been ravaged by winds and flash flooding, with the New York City Fire Department having to rescue people trapped in the city’s famous subway.
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