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Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pushing state leaders to stick by the latest iteration of the national reopening plan, telling them they made a deal with Australians on coronavirus vaccination targets and have to keep up their end of the bargain.
The deal struck three weeks ago looked to be fracturing ahead of Friday’s national cabinet meeting as Queensland and West Australian leaders called for case numbers to be considered as well as vaccination rates.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian still plans to ease some lockdown restrictions for fully vaccinated people once the state delivers 6 million doses.Credit:James Brickwood
Under the national plan, some restrictions will ease once 70 per cent of the eligible population across the country and within each jurisdiction is fully vaccinated. A further easing, including lockdowns becoming rarer, will kick in once 80 per cent of eligible people have both doses.
But sources familiar with the national cabinet discussion said several leaders questioned whether case numbers would be taken into account even once vaccination rates were reached.
Earlier on Friday, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr suggested the timing of reopening should consider that vaccines took a couple of weeks to become effective.
However, no changes were made to the plan, the sources said.
Mr Morrison said ahead of the meeting that he expected the states and territories to live up to the plan.
“It’s a deal with Australians,” he said. “You’re persevering with the lockdowns. You’re taking the instructions. You’re making the sacrifices. You’re getting tested. You’re isolating. You’re getting vaccinated. And the national plan is a deal with Australians which says when we achieve those marks of 70 per cent and 80 per cent, there will be changes.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also doubled down on his position that once the 70 per cent vaccination level was reached, states and territories should have no expectations the Commonwealth would continue to deliver emergency economic support at the current rate, in part because the public needed hope that restrictions would, in fact, ease.
WA and Queensland continue to have the slowest vaccination rollouts in the country. The latest data shows 44.6 per cent and 45.2 per cent respectively of their eligible populations has had at least one dose. The ACT leads the nation on 57.5 per cent.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian extended the lockdown in greater Sydney on Friday and added new restrictions. But she’s still holding out hope to residents that some lockdown restrictions will ease for fully vaccinated people once the state hits 6 million vaccine doses, expected by the end of August.
The state’s Chief Health Officer, Kerry Chant, said at that point, she would offer medical advice on “the most very basic and minimal changes” to restrictions.
“It is important that we do show the community that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I do not think there is a disconnect, I think this is about saying that we have to get vaccinated.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews backed Ms Berejiklian, saying she had been consistently supportive of the national plan.
“Easing at 60 or 70 [per cent] is not the same as opening up at 60 or 70. I don’t want to play word games,” he said.
For him, the 80 per cent threshold was the “game-changer” level, but he expected some restrictions would continue to apply to unvaccinated people.
Mr Morrison said each new stage would offer “exemptions, not additional rights” for those who were fully vaccinated.
Work on what that might entail continues. The Prime Minister flagged it would likely use existing systems, such as the QR check-in codes used to aid contact tracers and that the nation would have to live with “some level of baseline, cautious practices” for quite some time.
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