When to expect decision on NZ travel
Arrivals from New Zealand have been given hope as "tremendous" work across the Tasman could lift the travel suspension as early as Saturday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed the government will decide on Saturday whether to end a freeze on quarantine-free travel from New Zealand.
Arrivals from New Zealand were forced into 14 days quarantine on Monday after Wellington confirmed the highly contagious South African strain had skipped the country's quarantine system.
The suspension was extended for another 72 hours on Thursday after NZ confirmed four community transmission cases of the strain over the two preceding days.
Anyone arriving from New Zealand before Monday will be required to undergo 14 days in quarantine under current arrangements.
But with zero cases confirmed on Friday, Health Minister Greg Hunt was optimistic travel would soon resume.
"They are doing a tremendous job in terms of widespread testing of staff relating to the hotel quarantine facility, guests, contacts and community," he said on Friday.
"This provides a basis for them to be reconsidering the current travel pause for the green zone on a 24-hour basis.
"If there are continued excellent results out of New Zealand, which is commensurate with their entire performance over the course of the pandemic, then we hope to be in a position to resume that in the coming days.
"I think that should give hope to everybody who is looking at friends or family arriving from New Zealand."
The South African variant, which is 50 per cent more transmissible than previous strains of COVID-19, has caused alarm among Australian authorities.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was critical of the suspension on Tuesday, saying Wellington had the situation "well under control".
A worker in an Auckland quarantine hotel has been sacked after a 20-minute bedroom encounter with a person undergoing their 14 days in isolation.
It comes as Germany recommended against administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 65 amid fears it would not be approved by the European Union regulator.
The UK's regulator has approved the vaccine for over 65s and stood by its decision, while AstraZeneca denied its was ineffective for the elderly.
The AstraZeneca jab, which is yet to receive approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), makes up the bulk of Australia's vaccine response.
Drug manufacturer CSL was set to produce 50 million doses in Melbourne, while 1.2 million additional doses were set to arrive from overseas.
Mr Hunt assured Australians the jab would only be administered in circumstances deemed safe by the TGA.
"The TGA makes full consideration of all data available to them," he said.
"They very clearly have said that they will make the decision based on safety and effectiveness and that safety has and always will be the number one priority."
But Mr Hunt is confident Australia is prepared for any ruling from the TGA, saying the government expects 140 million vaccine doses from various manufacturers.
It comes as Australia confirmed its 12th consecutive day with no community transmission cases and no Australians in intensive care units.
Mr Hunt described the milestone as a "testament" to the hard work done by medical professionals and the public in following health guidelines.
Originally published as When to expect decision on NZ travel