Matt Coughlan and Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)
Scott Morrison has talked up reuniting families at Christmas despite surging coronavirus cases in Sydney and uncertainty over Melbourne’s lockdown.
NSW reported a record 356 new local cases of coronavirus and four deaths on Tuesday, while Melburnians are facing an anxious wait after 20 new infections.
The prime minister warned the nation was in a tough fight against the Delta strain of the virus but signalled a more normal end to the year.
“I want Australia to get to Christmas, but I want everybody around that table at Christmas time,” he said.
Infectious disease expert Peter Collingnon believes the Christmas target to reunite families is realistic.
“You may not have 100 people around your table but you could have a fair few for two reasons,” he told the Seven Network.
“We’re getting more and more vaccines out – we’ve got about 14 million out, we’re doing about one million a week – and also then winter and early spring is over so viruses also transmit less.”
While some experts have predicted Australia could get to 70 per cent fully vaccinated in mid-November, Health Minister Greg Hunt is not locking that in as a target.
“I won’t put a day on it,” he said.
“But I will say that what we are seeing is, at this point in time, more vaccinations occurring in July and August than we were anticipating and planning on.”
Australia has fully vaccinated 23 per cent of its population aged 16 and over.
Federal and state governments have agreed to 70 and 80 per cent coverage targets as key benchmarks for reducing the chances of lockdowns and easing restrictions.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the key to getting virus transmission in her state under control remained getting more people vaccinated and compliance with health orders.
“Policy positions that may have worked in the past aren’t going to have an effect with Delta, it’s something we need to accept,” she said.
“Short of not having authorised workers do what’s necessary, it’s really difficult to get to lower cases without that targeted vaccine strategy.”
The national rollout is just shy of 14 million doses so far, with 2.6 million delivered in the past fortnight.
Business leaders have pledged to help with vaccines but say clearer advice is needed on whether employees can be compelled to get a jab.