Better safe than sorry: PM, Premier at odds over when and how to end lockdowns

The Queensland Government wants to wait for new vaccination modelling, taking into account the thousands of COVID-19 cases across the country, before it commits to opening up and easing restrictions over the long term.

Aug 23, 2021, updated Aug 23, 2021
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.(AAP Image/Darren England)

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.(AAP Image/Darren England)

A nationally-agreed plan aims to open up Australia once 80 per cent of eligible people are fully vaccinated.

However, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says that target was based on Doherty Institute modelling that “was premised on there being 30, around 30 cases in the community, and now we have thousands of cases”.

“Our aim is always to suppress that virus but even at 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination rates, as I’ve said, and what’s in the modelling as well … there will be some limited restrictions and some limited or specified lockdown,” she said.

“So this is a book that has not been written … This is uncharted territory and the best way out of this pandemic is vaccination.”

She said she wants to see new Doherty Institute modelling, due to be presented o national cabinet on Friday, taking into account high case numbers before she commits to reopening when the 80 per cent target is hit.

“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.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared lockdowns will be unsustainable once widespread vaccination coverage is achieved, in another warning shot to state premiers.

He continues to pressure state governments hinting at backing away from an agreement to end lockdowns and reopen Australia.

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.

“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.”

Consensus has frayed with Western Australia also not budging from its zero-case goal.

Queensland recorded one new locally-acquired case, linked to the Indooroopilly cluster and in quarantine for their full infectious period, on Monday.

Palaszczuk says while the virus is under control in Queensland, the risk of the Delta variant spreading from NSW and Victoria remains high.

“It’s like a waiting game,” she said.

“Any day this could change, and we need to be ready.”

Coronavirus continues to surge in NSW with another 818 new local cases and three deaths reported on Monday.

In Victoria, there were 71 new infections, while the ACT recorded 16.

Australia has fully vaccinated 30 per cent of its population aged 16 and above, while 52 per cent have had one jab.

Queensland has administered first vaccines doses to 46.3 per cent of the eligible population and two doses to 27.6 per cent.

The state will also roll out 28 special vaccination hubs for workers at logistics centres and meatworks, to ensure they can keep working and are protected during future outbreaks.

Palaszczuk said eventually children, particularly high school students, will need to get a jab.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said state hubs had vaccinated more than 112,000 people in the past seven days.

She urged people to get vaccinated before there was another outbreak in Queensland.

“Now is the time, you only need to look at NSW and Victoria, to know why it is so important,” she said.

“Those communities are flooding into vaccination centres now, because they’ve got a massive outbreak.

“Don’t wait until we have a massive outbreak, come forward now get vaccinated before this virus is in our community.”

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