Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reassured Australians that the country will reopen once vaccination targets are met, however, he’s warned case numbers will continue to increase.
“A focus on case numbers was very important when we knew nothing about this virus and whether our hospital system would be able to cope,” he wrote in an opinion piece published on Sunday.
“A lot has changed since then. Increasingly we need to look beyond just the case numbers to know what our future holds. How we can keep safe and how we get our lives back in a Covid world.
“Case numbers are important, but they are not the whole story.”
The prime minister went on to say our hospitals and public health systems are prepared this time around, and data shows that once you’re vaccinated, you’re less likely to end up in hospital or an ICU. In fact, after an AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccination, you’re 86 to 87 per cent less likely to end up in hospital or an ICU.
“So while right now our national strategy is necessarily about suppressing the virus and vaccinating as many people as possible, a one-eyed focus on just case numbers overlooks the fact that less people are getting seriously ill, let alone dying,” Morrison said.
“Shifting our focus from just case numbers, to actually looking at how many people are becoming seriously ill and requiring hospitalisation will be increasingly what matters. After all, this is how we manage all other infectious diseases.
“Under our national plan when we start hitting the 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination targets, we can start claiming back what Covid has been taking away from us. And when we do so, we must not be intimidated by the case numbers that will inevitably increase. We will be able to better handle them then, because of all the improvements we have made to protect people from serious illness and fatality.”
Under the Federal Government’s phase-four pathway out of the pandemic, once we’ve reached a vaccination target, lockdowns should be a last resort. You can read more about Australia’s four-phase plan out of Covid here.
Morrison continued: “This doesn’t mean people won’t get sick, but with achieving our vaccination targets, a strong public health system, retaining common sense public hygiene measures and more effective treatments for Covid-19 we can get on with our new normal, and treat Covid like other infectious diseases.
“That is what our national plan is all about. That’s what all the premiers and chief ministers signed up to.
“It’s our path back. It’s our deal with Australians, that by everyone doing what we need to do – push through the lockdowns, stay home, get tested, get vaccinated – we can break out of the current cycle we are in and move forward.”
“This is what living with Covid is all about. The case numbers will likely rise when we soon begin to open up. That is inevitable.
“But our focus needs to be on the rate of people being hospitalised. That’s the measure that should now start to guide our response.
“Rising cases need not impact our plan to reopen, and reopen as soon we can. I know it seems pretty dark now, but it’s always darkest before the dawn, and dawn’s coming. So please hang in there.”
The prime minister’s comments come after some state leaders pushed back against the phase-four plan. Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said earlier this month he’s keen to pursue a zero Covid policy in the WA even after everyone’s vaccinated.
“Our preferred option is zero Covid obviously and that’s what we’ll attempt to do,” he said at the time.
“And we don’t want to have deaths and we don’t want to have spread of the virus, but there can be some easing of some of the rules. When you get to 70, perhaps 80, if there is a lockdown it might be a lesser area rather than the entire metropolitan area. It might be a country town rather than the entire region.
“We retain the right to put in place border [restrictions], that’s understood, but some of the measures we put in place might ease, once we reach that level of vaccination.
“I’m looking forward to getting over 80 per cent, apparently no country in the world has got there yet.”