It can’t be beaten: Treasurer planning for a future where virus is with us all the time

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned Australia will not be able to eliminate coronavirus as medical experts crunch the numbers on vaccination targets.

Jul 06, 2021, updated Jul 06, 2021
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg   (Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

States continue to battle lockdown-inducing outbreaks with the emergence of new cases sparking stay-at-home orders and community anxiety.

Frydenberg signalled a shift to focusing on preventing hospitalisation, serious illness and fatalities seen elsewhere in the world.

“Ultimately, we can’t eliminate the virus,” Frydenberg told reporters in Melbourne.

“We have to learn to live with the virus.”

The Doherty Institute has been tasked with modelling to determine a percentage of the population to be vaccinated before the nation reopens.

While just over nine per cent of eligible Australians have received both jabs, the government is keen to talk up higher rates among older and more vulnerable people.

Other pandemic-busting tools will also be in the mix, including keeping contact tracers on the payroll and promoting common sense on hygiene.

Victoria plans to further ease restrictions this week, while NSW continues to list new exposure sites as its outbreak tops 300 cases.

State governments continue to lament the lack of vaccine supplies with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard likening the rollout to The Hunger Games.

His federal counterpart Greg Hunt believes a record week of 880,000 doses being administered is a strong indication the rollout can gather momentum.

“In relation to vaccines, it is the most competitive global environment imaginable,” he said.

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Pfizer distribution is slated to rise this month as demand for that jab surges on the back of expert advice about AstraZeneca being recommended for over-60s.

Aged care workers were meant to be vaccinated as a priority group after the nation’s 685 deaths of residents in nursing homes, mostly in NSW and Victoria.

The federal government wants staff in the sector at the front of the queue for Pfizer, but that also relies on supply.

Council of the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said risks were greater with unvaccinated staff since the disease has been carried into nursing homes by asymptomatic staff.

“Any incursion of COVID-19 into a nursing home is of really dramatic concern,” he said.

Queensland’s latest four cases all involve the less contagious Alpha strain, while NSW reported 35 new infections on Monday.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Pałaszczuk is still pushing for a quarantine hub near Toowoomba despite the federal government rejecting the site.

Agreement is more likely on a purpose-built facility near Brisbane Airport.

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