Deadly choices: How many lives are we prepared to lose: Miles

National cabinet must make the “challenging decision” on how many COVID-19 deaths they’re willing to accept in order for Australia to reopen, Queensland’s deputy premier says.

Sep 03, 2021, updated Sep 03, 2021
Deputy Premier Steven Miles (right) says the national cabinet needs to decide how many lives it is prepared to lose in order to open up the economy (Image:

Deputy Premier Steven Miles (right) says the national cabinet needs to decide how many lives it is prepared to lose in order to open up the economy (Image:

Steven Miles said vaccination rates weren’t the only variable the prime minister and state and territory leaders needed to consider before reopening under the national plan.

He said the Doherty Institute had only modelled the number of cases, hospitalisations, ICU cases and deaths which would happen at varying levels of vaccination coverage and testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine measures.

The deputy premier said national cabinet was yet to come to an agreement on the number of deaths leaders were willing to accept in order to ease restrictions and soften state border controls.

“Well, that’s effectively the decision that needs to be made here,” Miles told ABC radio on Friday.

“The modelling calculates how many people die under each scenario, and that’s the challenging decision that our leaders need to make, and I don’t think they can be simplified the way the prime minister has tried to.”

He was speaking before it was revealed Queensland reported no new COVID cases either in the community or in hotel quarantine.

By contrast, NSW recorded its worst day of the current outbreak, with 12 deaths and 1431 new cases.

Victoria recorded one death and 208 new cases.

Miles said until a clear decision had been made by national cabinet, Queensland couldn’t commit to reopening when other state leaders may be willing to accept more cases, hospitalisations, ICU cases and deaths.

It wasn’t a binary choice to reopen or not at 80 per cent, he said, with the modelling showing that some level of restrictions, such as lockdowns, could be needed to deal with outbreaks.

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The deputy premier said lockdowns would be less likely at 80 per cent vaccination coverage, but decisions on borders would depend on circumstances in other states.

He also defended Queensland’s vaccination coverage, which at 51.6 per cent for one dose and 32.9 per cent fully vaccinated, is the second lowest in the country.

Miles said NSW had been given more Pfizer vaccines due to its outbreak and he denied the Queensland government had set back its own rollout with by creating “panic” about blood clots from the AstraZeneca jab.

“That was the health advice, and people can look at, look at that and make their own decisions,” the deputy premier said.

“You know there’s been complications related to that vaccine even as recently as this week, but we continue to roll out the vaccines that were provided as quickly as we can.”

Miles hit back at federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s comments that Queensland’s hard border policy was a “a profound moral failure” for locking out sick people and toddler Memphis Francis.

He said the three-year-old had been granted an exemption as soon as there was an application, and Hunt had failed himself.

“The federal health minister calling this ‘the greatest moral failure’ while on his doorstep thousands of people in NSW have have the virus is pretty incredible.”

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