Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Australians and, in particular, state and territory leaders, to not let rising COVID-19 cases impact the National Cabinet’s plan to reopen the country.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, ScoMo said that while taking a cautious approach during the pandemic has saved lives and livelihoods, Australia must move forward with its plan to reopen once 70 to 80 per cent of people who are eligible for the vaccine get the jab.
“We cannot hold back. Our task between that day and now is to ensure that we ready ourselves for that next phase,” he said.
“It means that we must continue to vaccinate at the record pace as we are now doing that. We must ensure that our public health systems are ready for the increase in the number of cases that will occur.
“We must be clear about the rules, the common-sense rules that continue to apply post-70 per cent and post-80 per cent, which is factored in to the work that is being done. That has been the basis of our plan. Common-sense rules.
“And we must adjust our mindset. Cases will not be the issue once we get above 70 per cent. Dealing with serious illness, hospitalisation, ICU capabilities, our ability to respond in those circumstances – that will be our goal.”
The PM said the current lockdowns being endured are taking “an extremely heavy toll” not only on the mental and physical health of Aussies, but the country’s economic success.
“It is taking a heavy toll, and so they must only continue for as long as they are absolutely necessary and not a day more,” he said.
“There will be those who will seek to undermine the national plan. There will be those who will seek to undermine confidence in it. I think their motives are clear.
“But there are also those who may fear it and have concerns about what it means when you get to Phase B and what that means in terms of increases in cases.
“Our goal must be to help people overcome those fears and not give in to them, because this cannot go on forever. This is not a sustainable way to live in this country, without those freedoms that we all cherish.
“These lockdowns, once we reach our goal, we know on the scientific, medical and economic advice, do more harm than good. And so, it’s important that we move as quickly as we can to that next phase.”
ScoMo’s sentiment was echoed by the head of the Doherty Institute, Professor Sharon Lewin, who played down fears that reopening the country amid high numbers of COVID cases once the vaccine target is reached would be unsafe.
“Whether you open up at 30 [cases] or you open up at 800, you will still continue to see numbers escalate,” Professor Lewin told The Drum on Monday night.
“At the moment, there really is no difference with how the [Doherty Institute] model predicted outcomes.”