The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Monday December 13.

Queensland's hard border comes down just in time for Christmas.

Tens of thousands of people are heading to Queensland by air and road after the state opened its border to vaccinated Australians, almost 230 days after locking out most of the country.

At 1am local time on Monday, the sunshine state dropped entry restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and can show they've had a negative PCR test before beginning their journey.

The border easing comes after Queensland hit its 80 per cent double dose vaccination milestone last week, allowing interstate travellers to head north in time for the festive season in a much-needed boost for local tourism.

Qantas and Jetstar expect to carry 10,000 passengers on flights to and from the state on Monday, with most of the day's flights fully booked.

The two airlines will this week operate around 700 flights to and from Queensland across 28 routes from Victoria and New South Wales, well up on last week's 100 or so flights when the border was still closed. 

As Christmas nears, they expect to put on to 1200 weekly flights to and from the state.

"We know how difficult the border closures have been for many people and today will no doubt be emotional, particularly for family and friends who can reunite after months apart," Jetstar Group CEO Gareth Evans said on Monday.

Queensland Police will be watching the roads into the state with a huge number of vehicles expected to cross the border with NSW.


Border residents with 'XV' travel passes should expect stops from officers, Supt Wildman added, but those without should be prepared for officers looking to make sure they have the required documentation.

WA premier to give reopening date today.

Mark McGowan is expected on Monday to announce a firm date for the reopening, which is likely to come in late-January or early-February.

WA's double-dose vaccination rate for residents 12 and over is expected to have reached 80 per cent over the weekend, triggering the announcement.

The state's borders are currently closed or heavily restricted to every other state or territory except Tasmania.

It's anticipated the vaccination rate will have climbed to 90 per cent by the time the borders finally reopen.

Transitional restrictions will then come into effect, including a requirement to wear face masks in high-risk indoor settings such as public transport, hospitals and aged care facilities.


Proof of vaccination will be required to attend large events with crowds of more than 1000 people as well nightclubs and the casino. Entry to remote Indigenous communities will remain restricted and contact registers will still be used.

Australia fast-tracks COVID booster program.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has assured Australians the country has more than enough doses to cover the need for COVID-19 booster shots, even though the timing of a third short has been brought forward by a month.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has confirmed booster doses can be provided from five months after completion of the primary course rather six months as previously recommended.

ATAGI has also given approval to the Moderna vaccine as a booster shot for Australians aged 18 and over.

Like the other mRNA Pfizer booster vaccine, it can be used irrespective of what a person received for their primary course of vaccination.

Health secretary Brendan Murphy, who is also the chair of ATAGI, said as people get towards six months after their second COVID-19 vaccine, they have a waning immunity.

"So, on that basis, ATAGI, who are looking at this every single week, have decided that at the moment, it's best to bring forward the booster eligibility date to five months to give people that time to get their booster before they reach the six-month mark," Professor Murphy said.

The announcement came as NSW recorded 485 new COVID-19 cases and two virus-related deaths.

Genomic testing into additional Omicron cases continues, with the state tally up to 45 as of Saturday.

There were 1069 new infections reported in Victoria and two deaths.


As of Saturday, Victorian authorities were responding to three existing Omicron infections.

South Australia added 10 infections to its COVID caseload, the NT added three and the ACT and QLD both added one. 

Tax cuts back on the agenda as budget rebounds.

A prominent economist expects Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down a much-improved budget position when he hands down his midyear review on Thursday due to the strength of the economy.

Just over a month ago, Deloitte Access Economics economist Chris Richardson had been expecting a modest improvement of $45 billion over the four years to 2024/25.

Now he predicts smaller budget deficits to the tune of $103 billion than were estimated at the time of the May budget.

"That's remarkable, given everything that's gone wrong in the seven months since the budget was released, including Delta's dawn, iron ore's collapse, and multibillion-dollar rescue packages," Mr Richardson said.

He said since releasing his influential Budget Monitor in early November the economy had proved to be recovering much faster than Treasury had assumed, even with the Delta variant of COVID-19 having locked down half the population.

As we head into an election year, some expect the prime minister to cut taxes in a bid to further boost job creation and put upward pressure on wages.

In an interview with the Saturday Herald Sun, Scott Morrison kept his cards close but said delivering tax cuts was "always our approach."

The date of next year's election is still unknown.

LISTEN: To today's Quicky. Post continues after podcast.


94 dead: US towns 'gone' after tornado destruction. 

Rescuers have combed through fields of wreckage after a tornado outbreak roared across the middle of the US, leaving dozens dead and communities in despair.

A twister carved a track that could rival the longest on record as the storm front smashed apart a candle factory, crushed a nursing home and flattened an Amazon distribution centre.

"I pray that there will be another rescue. I pray that there will be another one or two," Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said, as crews sifted through the wreckage of the candle factory in Mayfield, where 110 people were working when the storm hit. Forty of them were rescued.

"I've got towns that are gone," he told CNN.

Al Jazeera reports the death toll is at 94, but we still don't know the full extend of damage of lives lost.

If early reports are confirmed, the twister "will likely go down perhaps as one of the longest track violent tornadoes in United States history", said Victor Gensini, a researcher on extreme weather at Northern Illinois University.

The storm was all the more remarkable because it came in December, when normally colder weather limits tornadoes, he said.

Around the world.

- The United Kingdom has raised its COVID alert level in response to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Omicron, as medical authorities warn that hospitalisations are likely to rise sharply over coming weeks.

- Julian Assange has had a stroke in prison due to the "constant chess game" over his future, his fiancé has claimed. 

- With AAP

Feature image: Matt Roberts/Getty/Matt Jelonek/Getty/Scott Olson/Getty.

Love the joy of Christmas? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.