Did someone say “pathway to freedom?” Scott Morrison has declared lockdowns of any kind in Australia will be unsustainable once widespread vaccination coverage is achieved, in another warning shot to state premiers.
In what continues to be a major swing away from the federal government’s previous “zero-Covid-19 elimination strategy”, the prime minister is maintaining pressure on state governments hinting at backing away from an agreement to end lockdowns and reopen Australia.
The national cabinet has set vaccine coverage thresholds of 70 and 80 per cent to reduce the chances of lockdowns and move towards ‘more’ normal settings.
Mr Morrison said the focus would shift to hospitalisation numbers rather than daily cases when immunisation targets were hit.
“That is our goal – to live with this virus, not to live in fear of it,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
Consensus has frayed with Western Australia not budging from its zero-case goal and Queensland warning it may not reopen its NSW border even at the higher jab threshold.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce said it would be a “terrible shame” if the agreement was not maintained and challenged premiers to explain how life would return to normal.
“There would be a big backlash if people can maybe even go to London and visit relatives there for Christmas but can’t go to Perth to visit their relatives,” he told the ABC.
Updated Doherty Institute modelling will be presented to a national cabinet meeting of the country’s leaders on Friday.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the initial research was based on reopening with 30 cases in the community.
“There are now what, 9000 cases or more. That’s a lot more than 30,” she said.
“So we actually need to get the modelling. Yes, everyone on national cabinet acknowledges that the extra research needs to happen, the extra modelling now needs to happen.
“We want a safe way out of this pandemic.”
Australia has fully vaccinated 30 per cent of its population aged 16 and above, while 52 per cent have had one jab.
Mr Morrison said heavy restrictions, which are affecting more than half of Australia’s population across Victoria, NSW and the ACT, could not go on forever.
“It is always darkest before the dawn and I think these lockdowns are demonstration of that,” he said.
“But the dawn is not far away. We should not delay it, we should prepare for it. We should not fear it, we should embrace it and we should move forward together.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has abandoned trying to eliminate the virus, backed the prime minister’s view of the future.
“Just as we tend to talk about the number of people that die from flu, when we have 80 per cent double dose vaccination that’s how we’ll treat it,” she said.
Could a speedier return to inter-state travel beckon? Let’s hope so.
Let’s start by getting the country out of lockdowns once and for all.
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