Victoria has recorded 92 new local cases of Covid-19, the highest spike in daily infections since September 2 last year during the state’s deadly second wave.
Of the new cases, 61 have so far been linked to existing outbreaks.
The state’s sixth lockdown is due to end next Thursday, but it now seems certain to be extended again as infections continue to rise despite the tough restrictions.
At Friday’s press conference, Health Minister Martin Foley was asked if the state was doomed to be in lockdown until vaccination rates reached 70 or 80 per cent.
“I don’t know about that but I know there will be public health measures as there have been for the past 18 months,” Foley responded.
“All the Victorian community [needs] to follow the rules and make sure that we get out of the hard lockdown as quick as we can.”
But while Victoria backs the country’s national plan to loosen restrictions and ultimately end lockdowns once its eligible population (ages 16+) hits the 70 to 80 per cent vaccination targets, other states are wavering.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan, who enforced some of the toughest entry rules in the country, has indicated he was not willing to open the state if it was Covid-free when the vaccination targets were met.
“If there’s thousands of cases out there and those cases are seeded into a jurisdiction without Covid, obviously the risk is much higher,” he said yesterday.
“That’s the problem that jurisdictions that have no Covid face, and I raised that point today. The idea that we just deliberately infect our citizens, if we have no Covid when we get to 70 per cent two-dose vaccination, I just can’t do. People would die and we would have huge dislocation.”
McGowan’s comments came as two truck drivers from NSW tested positive to Covid-19 in Western Australia.
“The idea that somehow we bring down the border, we allow for open travel from NSW or Victoria and infected people come in and we let the infection run at 70 per cent two-dose vaccination would be a catastrophe,” McGowan said. “So I’m not going to do it.”
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said he would only consider the state’s border policies when the vaccination targets were reached.
“I would hope that lockdowns would be a thing of the past once vaccination rates reach 80 per cent,” he said. “Before Tasmania can move through the next levels of the national plan, 70 per cent of the country needs to have been vaccinated.”
ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said he wants children aged 12 to 15 included in the vaccination thresholds.
The Northern Territory’s chief minister, Michael Gunner, has flagged a higher vaccination threshold may be needed to protect the territory’s vulnerable remote communities.
“If remote communities require a higher rate of vaccination, that impacts my policy decisions going forward,” he said this month. “I need really high vaccination rates here.”
Queensland, another state with notoriously strict border controls, will back the national plan, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said she was intent on suppressing the virus.
“We continue to back the nationally agreed plan for lockdowns to be minimised and restrictions to be limited when vaccination rates reach 70 to 80 per cent,” she said this week.
“Our aim is always to suppress that virus but even at 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination rates there will be some limited restrictions and some limited or specified lockdowns.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said it is “absurd” for states and territories to continue pursuing elimination forever in a Delta world.
“Any state and territory that thinks that somehow they can protect themselves from Covid with the Delta strain forever, that’s just absurd,” Morrison told the 9 News Breakfast show on Tuesday.
“Covid is a new different world. We need to get out there and live in it. We can’t stay in the cave, and we can get out of it safely,” he said. “If not at 70 or 80 per cent [vaccination coverage], then when?”
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