Australia

Australia-New Zealand travel bubble reopens

The travel arrangements were paused after a Kiwi woman infected with the highly contagious South African variant of Covid-19 travelled to about 30 locations in New Zealand before testing positive.

The initial 72-hour suspension was extended on Thursday, but flights will now recommence this afternoon.

There were no new community cases reported in New Zealand today.

Australia suspends travel bubble with NZ for 72 hours

All New Zealanders who arrive in Australia will have to quarantine for up to 14 days.

Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt says this has been done "out of an abundance of caution" after a person tested positive in New Zealand with the South African variant.

The infected person visited at least 30 locations.

The changes come into effect immediately.

All passengers from New Zealand with a safe zone flight scheduled in the next 72 hours should reconsider their need to travel.

Google threatens to withdraw search engine from Australia

Australia is introducing a world-first law to make Google, Facebook and potentially other tech companies pay media outlets for their news content.

But the US firms have fought back, warning the law would make them withdraw some of their services.

Australian PM Scott Morrison said lawmakers would not yield to "threats".

Australia is far from Google's largest market, but the proposed news code is seen as a possible global test case for how governments could seek to regulate big tech firms.

Captain Kohli, PM Modi lead tributes to Indian cricketers

Kohli had returned home to attend the birth of his daughter after the opening test loss, leaving behind a deflated side who were skittled out for 36 in Adelaide - their lowest innings score in 88 years of test cricket.

Under stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, India levelled the series in Melbourne and drew in Sydney before triumphing in Brisbane to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

"WHAT A WIN!!! Yessssss. To everyone who doubted us after Adelaide, stand up and take notice," Kohli tweeted after India's three-wicket victory at the Gabba.

Australia rebukes Google for blocking local content

After media reports said Australian news websites were not showing up in searches, Google confirmed it was blocking the sites for a small number of users.

The search engine said it was conducting experiments to determine the value of its service to Australian news outlets.

Google, Facebook and other tech companies are fighting the Australian government over plans to make them pay for news content.

Google said the tests affect about 1% of Australian users, and will be finished by February.

Brisbane lockdown to be lifted at 6:00pm but some restrictions to remain

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it had been a "great effort" by Queenslanders over the past three days.

"This is the best news we could have hoped for, absolutely the best news," Ms Palaszczuk.

ABC News reports no cases were reported since 6:00pm on Friday, when Queensland authorities imposed a snap lockdown to slow the potential spread of a UK coronavirus variant.

The highly contagious strain was detected in a cleaner who spent five days in the community in early January after contracting the virus at Brisbane quarantine hotel.

Australia to begin mass vaccinations in February

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said regulators were now expected to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of January.

He announced the plans on Thursday as the cities of Sydney and Melbourne battled to control new clusters.

By March, four million Australians could be vaccinated, he said.

"We are now in a position where believe we will be able to commence vaccinations in mid-to-late February," Mr Morrison said.

Following regulatory approval, the first of the country's order of 10 million Pfizer vaccine doses should be issued in a matter of weeks.

Australia changes national anthem to reflect indigenous past

The anthem will no longer refer to Australia as "young and free" - in an attempt to reflect the country's long indigenous history.

The announcement was a surprise but welcomed across the government.

Mr Morrison said he hopes the change will create a "spirit of unity".

People inhabited Australia for tens of thousands of years before it was colonised by mostly white English settlers in the 18th Century.

Victorians race to get home ahead of Covid border closure

Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan told Victorians the state would close its border to all of NSW from 2 January because of an increase in case numbers in NSW, where 10 new cases were confirmed on Thursday.

"Obviously this is going to cause some disruption for Victorians who may be holidaying, we do apologise for this disruption, however as I said, these difficult decisions are about protecting our community," she said.

"It is a decision based on the public health advice.

Sydney residents urged to stay home amid new outbreak

Officials are scrambling to trace the source of the infection, which so far has been found in 28 cases across the city's Northern Beaches region.

The New South Wales (NSW) government has urged all locals to wear a mask in public areas and to be on "high alert".

Local residents now face curbs on travel to Australia's other states.

The new cluster has sparked national concern and cast uncertainty over many Australians' plans for a relatively normal Christmas.

Prior to Wednesday, the country had recorded just one locally acquired case in the past fortnight.