Covid19 : Instead of elimination Australia aims to ‘live with virus’
Australian authorities on Wednesday extended the COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne for another three weeks, as they shift their focus to rapid vaccination drives and move away from a suppression strategy to bring cases down to zero.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews flagged a staggered easing of the tough restrictions once 70% of the state’s adult residents receive at least one dose, a milestone he hopes to reach at least by September 23, based on current vaccination rates.
Australia is trying to get a handle on the third wave of infections that has locked down more than half of its 25 million population. Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities, and capital Canberra are in weeks-long strict stay-at-home orders.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a four-stage plan to greater freedom from coronavirus restrictions, saying Australia will have to vaccinate 80% of its adults against COVID-19 before it can consider reopening its borders.
Australia has handled the coronavirus pandemic much better than many other developed countries with just over 34,000 cases and 924 deaths, through sealing its borders, snap lockdowns and high community compliance with public health measures. Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament on Wednesday Australians ultimately needed to be released from lockdowns.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg urged the state leaders to follow the national reopening plans. “Stick to the plan, a plan that allows businesses to reopen and plan for their own future – a plan that takes Australia forward to living safely with the virus,” Frydenberg said.
In a bid to boost supply one of the major constraints on the vaccine rollout Australia entered into a vaccine swap agreement with Singapore on Tuesday for 500,000 Pfizer doses, which will arrive soon. The government has also bought about 1 million emergency shots from Poland.
But speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the higher numbers was “not unexpected,” saying the reproductive rate of the virus in the community was still “promising.”