The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday December 16.

Thousands of Australians in COVID-isolation for Christmas.

The Queensland government is under pressure to slash 14-days isolation for close contacts who are fully vaccinated.

A COVID-positive case on two flights from NSW to QLD originally sent two planeloads of people into isolation for two-weeks, meaning dozens would be forced to miss Christmas. 

While the QLD government has back flipped on the decision after intense criticism and listed most on the flight as casual contacts instead, those in the immediate surrounding rows will still be forced to miss out on Christmas festivities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urging the state to ease its strict requirements for close Covid contacts now, moving with the medical advice in southern states which have halved the period for fully vaccinated people.

"It's so important that when we deal with the Omicron variant that we keep our head... and that we apply common sense and we think these things through. And what we do must be sustainable," Scott Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.

Queensland is not planning on reducing its isolation period for close contacts to seven days, with a test on day five, until January 1.

Saturday marks seven days until Christmas, so close contact 'pings' in most other states and territories from this weekend will also force those affected into forced quarantine for December 25th.

In a change announced on Wednesday, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the definition of close contacts in his state will mainly be focused on households - so if you're deemed a close contact, it would generally be a member from your household.


The Sydney Morning Herald reports tens of thousands are likely to be in isolation for the festive period.

18 calls and 66 texts: Michael Slater in court for breaching AVO.

Former Australian Test cricketer Michael Slater rang his ex-partner 18 times and sent 66 texts, in a breach of a restraining order, a court has heard.

Slater, 51, was arrested and charged on Wednesday morning after allegedly repeatedly contacting his former partner over a two-and-a-half-hour period on Tuesday evening.

The messages were "harassing and highly offensive" and followed Slater's October arrest for alleged harassment, a bail hearing was told on Wednesday.

A police prosecutor suggested the only way to stop the messaging was to ban Slater from using any electronic devices.

"In today's world, I would submit that's almost impossible," he told Manly Local Court.

However, Slater's lawyer James McLoughlin explained the episode as a consequence of alcohol abuse on Tuesday night.

His client, whose latest charges include using a carriage service to harass and breach of bail, had "slipped up once".

After hearing Slater would arrange to be admitted to the mental health ward of Northern Beaches Hospital, magistrate Michelle Goodwin granted release on "very, very strict" conditions.


She imposed effective house arrest, confining the former opener to his sister's northwest Sydney home until such time a bed becomes available at the hospital.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit for further information.

NSW cases predicted to hit 25,000 amid spread of Omicron.

The number of COVID-19 cases in NSW is expected to increase again after the highest count in more than three months, with predictions they could hit 25,000 infections a day in January.

The state reported 1360 cases from 104,501 tests on Wednesday, prompting NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to repeat his call for the focus to shift to people in hospitals and ICU, of which there were 166 and 24 respectively.

While hospitalisations generally lag infection spikes, Mr Perrottet has "complete confidence" the hospital system will cope thanks to the state's 93.2 per cent full vaccination coverage.

The Omicron variant is believed to be behind an increasing number of cases, with Newcastle and Sydney seeing a surge.


More than a quarter of the new cases were in the Hunter region, following super spreader events in Newcastle.

Booster shots are available for people who received their second shot five or more months ago.

Wednesday's was the highest daily tally since September 11, when much of the state was still under lockdown.

It came on the day restrictions on unvaccinated people, mask wearing mandates and QR code check-ins were dropped in most settings.

Jab mandate scrapped in some Vic settings.

Vaccine mandates have been scrapped in several settings in Victoria but masks will remain in retail, thanks to stubborn COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant.  

From Thursday, shoppers will no longer need to prove they are vaccinated to visit non-essential retail outlets, places of worship, weddings and funerals and real estate inspections and auctions.

Victorians aged under 18 will also no longer need to show proof of vaccination. 

However, hair and beauty customers must still be fully vaccinated, as do all patrons of restaurants, bars and cafes. 

Mask mandates will also continue in all retail settings and for hospitality workers, but will not be required at weddings and funerals.

The changes, part of new pandemic orders signed by Health Minister Martin Foley on Wednesday, will remain in place until January 12.


Victoria recorded 1405 new cases and a further three deaths on Wednesday, with another four Omicron cases taking the state's total to 10.

'Happiest man' Eddie Jaku farewelled.

Eddie Jaku, a Holocaust survivor who declared he was the "happiest man on earth", has been farewelled at a state memorial service in Sydney.

Dignitaries including NSW Governor Margaret Beazley, Premier Dominic Perrottet and a raft of state and federal politicians, including Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, turned out at the Town Hall to honour the man many considered a national treasure.

Born in Germany in 1920 to a Jewish family, Mr Jaku witnessed the rise of the Nazis and survived the horrors of Buchenwald concentration camp before being sent to Auschwitz where his parents were murdered.

After defying the odds by surviving the war and despite the horrors he had witnessed, the teenager decided the best revenge would be to enjoy life and vowed to smile every day.

He moved to Australia and helped establish the Sydney Jewish Museum, where he volunteered, determined to teach about the dangers of intolerance.

He marked his 100th birthday by releasing his best selling autobiography The Happiest Man On Earth.

"As long as I live, I'll teach not to hate," he wrote.


His son Michael told mourners on Wednesday his father was a charismatic optimist who loved the limelight.

"After attaining his unrestricted driver's licence at age 100, he was proud to announce that having been offered a one year or a three year licence. He opted for the three years."

He died on October 12, aged 101 and is survived by his wife of 75 years Flore, two sons, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. 

Around the world.

- The Crown Princess of Denmark, Mary, has tested positive for coronavirus, the royal court says in a statement.

The Australian-born royal is isolating in a wing of the Amalienborg Palace in the heart of Copenhagen and the virus was not detected among other members of the family, it said.

- Court filings indicate Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers will focus on portraying the socialite's accusers as untrustworthy and motivated by money. 

- Denmark’s former immigration minister Inger Støjberg has been sentenced to two months in prison after illegally separating migrant families,.

- The UK has recorded its largest daily increase in case numbers since the pandemic began, with 78,000 people testing positive in the past 24 hours. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Ole Jensen/Getty/AAP/Mick Tsikas.