The optimal care

Delivered on By Justin Pyvis

Good morning! Australia’s borders will reopen to skilled migrants, students and tourists from Japan and Korea tomorrow, two weeks later than originally planned after the Omicron ‘pause’.

Elsewhere, Tassie’s government ditched the requirement for those travelling from ‘high risk’ areas to isolate until receiving a negative test, provided they’re non-symptomatic.

But the big news of the day was the WA government’s reopening plan. From 12:01am 05 February, the hermit state will take down its wall and allow fully vaccinated travel both internationally and domestically.

For international arrivals, requirements include:

  • No caps, quarantine or self-isolation for the fully vaccinated.
  • A negative PCR test must be produced 72 hours prior to departure, again within 48 hours of arrival into WA and then a final test on day 6.
  • 14 days in supervised quarantine for the unvaccinated but the number of spots will be capped significantly below the current quota, “down at 100 or perhaps less per week”.

For domestic travel:

  • All arrivals must be fully vaccinated and produce a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to departure.
  • For trips over 5 days, an additional test will be required 48 hours after arriving.

Once reopen, vaccination will be required for nightclubs, casinos, stadiums and events with more than 1,000 attendees but all other businesses will be free to enforce it at their discretion.

Masks will be required for everyone on public transport, planes, hospitals, aged care, rideshare and prisons. Lockdowns will only be targeted (e.g. an aged care home or school).

In terms of movement within the state, regions with a vaccination rate below 80% on 5 February – currently only the Pilbara, Kimberley and Goldfields – will be “subject to enhanced public health measures”, such as more mask wearing, restrictions on entry to additional venues and prohibitions on travel.

Premier McGowan said the date is locked in “barring some unforeseen emergency or catastrophe which we can’t predict”, although he somewhat ominously warned that the rules and restrictions are “interim arrangements based on current health advice and will be reviewed”.

Please note that unless the sky falls in we’ll be taking a few weeks off after Friday’s issue, returning on 10 January 2022.

Fully vaccinated (aged 16+)


Reading the tea leaves

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Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract. Bond yields are 10-year Treasuries. The S&P500 is a snapshot 30 minutes before close.

At the time of writing the US S&P500 was down around 0.5% as investors brace for a trilogy of central bank meetings this week with the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England all due to make policy announcements.

Locally, the ASX200 added 0.35% on a solid day for real estate (+1.97%), energy (+1.68%) and materials (+1.55%), largely due to a strong finish for oil prices last week and rising iron ore futures during the day on Chinese stimulus hopes.

Food for thought

We're probably going to need boosters for years to come.
We're probably going to need boosters for years to come. Source

You might recall that a month ago Health Minister Greg Hunt said there’s “no plan” for vaccine boosters to become a requirement for travel and other fully vaccinated-only activities. But it was a carefully worded statement, with Hunt cautioning that “everything is always under review” and the government will “continue to follow the medical advice”.

That advice appears to be changing. The first sign was ATAGI’s decision on Sunday to pull forward the booster date from 6 months after a person’s second dose to 5 months because “the protection provided by COVID-19 vaccination against infections with the Omicron variant is impaired compared to those with the Delta variant”.

Then yesterday Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said “If greater efficacy meant getting double jabbed and a booster that I guess that’s what the medical authorities will say.”

Joyce is correct (and we don’t say that too often!) – the early evidence is showing that Omicron is pretty good at bypassing two-dose protection from 5-6 months ago. Thankfully, a booster of an original mRNA vaccine (Pfizer/Moderna) restores it to the levels offered against Delta.

That means it’s only a matter of time until medical authorities conclude that three doses should become the new minimum to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’. Three doses is already the minimum in Israel, which is several months ahead of Australia in terms of its vaccination rollout, although at ~62% double dosed it never achieved a particularly high vaccination rate (Australia is now at ~75%).

Three doses also looks set to become the standard in the UK very soon, after PM Boris Johnson warned that “there is a tidal wave of omicron coming”, and if it ripped “through a population that was not boosted [we] would risk a level of hospitalisation that could overwhelm our NHS, and lead, sadly, to very many deaths”.

In the US, infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said three doses is now “the optimal care” but the government won’t change its definition of fully vaccinated “for the time being”.

There you have it – nothing official yet but the writing certainty appears to be on the wall, so get ready to roll up your sleeve for a third dose sometime soon (and possibly a fourth when Pi, Rho or Sigma inevitably appear…).

Bits and bytes

🦠 A Dutch website owner was arrested “for selling material which allowed people to avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine by infecting themselves with the virus”.

🏭 South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is in Australia for 4 days to finalise a $A1 billion deal between South Korea’s defence giant Hanwha and the Australian Defence Force to manufacture military vehicles in Geelong.

🔌 The governments of Australia, the US and Japan will jointly fund the construction of a new undersea cable “to boost internet access in three tiny Pacific countries [and] seek to counter rising Chinese influence in the region”.

🗳️ China’s Communist Party claimed that China “hosted the world’s largest electoral democratic process”, failing to mention that its township and county-level elections are for “largely rubber-stamp bodies”.

🔥 Only in Florida: A 57-year old man of Gainesville faces three charges of felony aggravated assault with deadly weapon after he “sprayed fire from a commercial flamethrower toward a car with three teenagers inside”.

🏡 The average Australian homeowner in 2021 has a loan of more than 5.5 times their income, compared to just 2.5 times thirty years ago. All good unless real interest rates rise…

📈 Wholesale prices in Germany increased at a pace of 16.6% from a year ago, the highest in the 59 years of records, as prices for raw materials and intermediate products continued to soar.

🏎️ “This has been manipulated, man.” So said Lewis Hamilton on radio as he lost to Max Verstappen in a race where controversy continues to rage, with the Atlantic’s Jordan Bianchi writing that Verstappen’s win was only possible due to “a sequence of events showcasing the incompetency of how Formula One presides over races”.

🦗 Paceman Josh Hazlewood was ruled out of the second Ashes test with a side strain and is likely to be replaced by either Jhye Richardson (12th man) or Michael Neser (recently player of the match for Australia A).

💉 Scientists in Japan “developed a vaccine to remove so-called zombie cells that accumulate with age… [and could be] applied to the treatment of arterial stiffening, diabetes and other aging-related diseases”.

🎙️ Whoops. A singer hired by QAnon to sign the American national anthem forgot the words and made up her own… very wrong version.