#AceHealthReport – Aug.24: But the growing outbreak in Sydney has some leaders concerned, and they say even once that target is reached, they may continue to use lockdowns as a tool to suppress the growth of #COVID19 cases.
#CoronavirusNewsDesk says Federal, state and territory governments agreed to a national plan last month to begin reopening the country and end large-scale lockdowns once 80 per cent of the eligible population was vaccinated.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the states must be prepared to allow COVID-19 cases to rise.
“Once you get to 70 per cent of your country that is eligible for the vaccine and 80 per cent, the plan sets out that we have to move forward, we cannot hold back,” he said.
“We must adjust our mindset. Cases will not be the issue … dealing with serious illness, hospitalisation, ICU capabilities, our ability to respond in those circumstances, that will be our goal.”
Mr Morrison said the scientific modelling provided to government suggested lockdowns did more harm than good once vaccination goals were reached.
However, he stopped short of setting a ‘freedom day’ similar to the UK.
“A day is not going to change it — 70 per cent is going to change it, 80 per cent is going to change it. That is the day you get to.”
WA Premier calls for new vaccine target modelling after Sydney outbreak
WA Premier Mark McGowan has been one of the most vocal leaders reserving his right to continue lockdowns even once agreed vaccination targets are reached.Sydney divided in COVID-19 lockdown Sydney’s second lockdown has widened the gap between those who struggle and those who don’t. It’s a tough reality for a city being told “we’re all in it together”.Read more
“We still reserve the right to lock down in specific locations if absolutely necessary,” he said following the national agreement.
He is also one of several leaders who has expressed a desire to continue pursuing zero COVID cases, even with 80 per cent of the country vaccinated.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s comments this morning, Mr McGowan said his approach was in line with the national plan, which allowed for targeted lockdowns.
“We still agree with the plan,” he said.
But he said the modelling that established the 70 and 80 per cent vaccination targets was out of date, and needed to be updated following Sydney’s outbreak.
“There’s thousands if not tens of thousands of cases out there and so therefore the modelling needs to be redone,” he said.
Modelling not out of date, expert says
The director of the Doherty Institute, which did the modelling for the vaccination targets, said even with a larger outbreak, the targets remain unchanged.
But Sharon Lewin acknowledged more people would die from COVID-19 if states and territories began to ease restrictions and open up while they still had high case numbers.
The modelling found that if restrictions were eased when 70 per cent of the population was vaccinated, 16 people would die from the disease within six months if testing and tracing was also maintained.
“If you open up with more cases, you reach that peak quicker,” she said.
“If you open up at tens of cases versus hundreds of cases, we will reach many, many cases of COVID, hundreds of thousands of cases, and some deaths, similar to what we would see with flu … meaning hundreds of deaths over a six month period.
“What we’re trying to avoid are thousands of deaths, or tens of thousands of deaths.”
NSW, meanwhile, is mulling easing restrictions as it approaches 6 million vaccinations across the state.Here’s what will change once the vaccine targets are metThe Prime Minister says 70 per cent of eligible Australians will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the country to begin reopening and returning to normal, and 80 per cent to end lockdowns.Read more
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the focus needed to shift from fluctuating case numbers toward vaccination rates.
Mr Morrison said it was “highly unlikely” Australia could ever return to ‘COVID-zero’.
Professor Lewin also said the original modelling did take into consideration the Delta strain and the impact of vaccinating children aged 12 to 15.
“The modelling looked specifically at the benefits on transmission and on hospitalisations and deaths of targeting adults in the range of 16 to 39-year-olds,” she said.
“[Vaccination rates] had a very significant impact in reducing transmission, hospitalisations and deaths by getting higher rates in that group.
“The additional benefit from vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds was much lower. That doesn’t mean there’s no vaccination of that group, but that can come later and it won’t make a big difference to the modelling based on vaccinating eligible adults.”
Financial support on the line for states that break agreement
The Prime Minister said the country must be prepared to live with COVID-19 as it lives with other infectious diseases.
“We should not fear it, we should embrace it and we should move forward together,” he said.
The government has warned it will not continue to provide the same levels of financial support to states and territories if they continue to lockdown once vaccination targets are reached.
Earlier on Monday, government frontbencher Amanda Stoker said financial support was being made in good faith but that might not continue if states refused to honour the national plan.
“I think it’s fair to say that the Prime Minister and the federal government have played a really cooperative, Team Australia kind of approach to dealing with this problem,” Ms Stoker said.
“That is something that won’t be able to be sustained if the states aren’t acting in the interests of Australians.”
Ms Stoker said anti-lockdown protests at the weekend were evidence Australians were growing tired of heavy restrictions and wanted a pathway out.
Shadow health minister Mark Butler criticised the government’s threat to remove funding from states that break from the national agreement.
“The Australian people want our nation’s leaders to come to a plan which all of us can agree,” he said.
“It’s not going to help to have Scott Morrison sending his ministers out, threatening the Australian people with a withdrawal of support.”
30 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
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