Scott Morrison has declared that Australia can’t go back into lockdowns as Covid cases surged by more than 3,800 on Friday.
Speaking at a factory in western Sydney, the Prime Minister urged state premiers to remain calm and stick to the national re-opening plan.
‘We can’t go back into lockdowns, we all know that,’ he said.
‘Case numbers are no longer the trigger or the indicator. Sure, they’re important, but the real measure is what does it mean for serious illness, ICU, hospitalisation, pressure on the hospital system and the health system.’
Scott Morrison (pictured at a steel factory in western Sydney) has declared that Australia can’t go back into lockdowns as Covid cases surged by more than 3,800 on Friday
On Friday the nationwide double-dose vaccination rate ticked over 90 per cent.
‘That arms us to be able to deal with these new challenges,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘We are in a different phase of the pandemic. Today I can stand here and tell you that right across the country, 90 per cent of our adult population is double-dose vaccinated, that more than a million Australians have had their booster shots and that number is growing every day.’
Australia’s adult double-dose rate is higher than many comparable nations such as the UK (81.5 per cent) and the US (72.3 per cent).
Friday saw Australia’s biggest daily case total of 3,829 with 2,213 in NSW, 1,510 in Victoria, 64 in South Australia, 20 each in Queensland and the ACT and 2 in Tasmania.
The surge has been put down to the highly transmissible but mild Omicron strain of Covid which was identified last month.
There are 698 people in hospital with Covid nationwide, up from 670 on Thursday.
Several studies have shown that two doses of a Covid vaccine are significantly less effective at stopping mild infection against Omicron than other strains – but they are still believed to be good at stopping severe disease.
However, a booster dose revives protection against mild infection to a high level.
Mr Morrison takes off his welding kit after visiting a steel factory in western Sydney
With 78,610 cases a day on Wednesday and rising hospitalisations, the UK has brought forward booster doses to three months after second doses.
Australia brought forward the timeline from six to five months but has not opted for a three month gap because the caseload is not as high as the UK.
Health Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy explained why Australia has opted for a five-month gap between second and third doses.
‘We do believe that as one gets towards six months, their waning immunity of the primary vaccination means that a booster will be very important to continue that protection against this variant,’ he said earlier this week.
‘We’re still learning about Omicron, but that evidence seems to be coming out of the lab.
‘So, on that basis, ATAGI, who are looking at this every single week, have decided that at the moment, it’s best to bring forward the booster eligibility date to five months to give people that time to get their booster before they reach the six-month mark.’
Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association has warned that Australia’s booster program is falling behind, with reports that patients are struggling to make timely bookings.
Some GPs and pharmacies are blaming a surge in demand and lack of vaccine supply for having to turn away patients, with waiting times up to a month.
But a Government source told Daily Mail Australia there are no issues with overall supply and the GPs and pharmacies just need to ‘pick up the phone’ and order more doses from the Commonwealth.
Testing rates in NSW hit an all-time high of 140,000 daily swabs recorded on Thursday. Pictured: Testing in Bondi
Earlier this week Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia has more than enough vaccines to cover the booster program and the jab rollout for children aged five to 11 from January 10, which involves smaller doses kept in separate vials from the booster shots.
‘We have 151 million doses that have been set aside for boosters… we have sufficient in the country now to meet all of the needs,’ Mr Hunt said.
‘To date we’ve received 7.2 million Moderna doses and approximately 40 million Pfizer doses, and in addition to that we have had over 28 million AstraZeneca doses that have been made available. We’re sharing those doses overseas and we’re also making sure that there’s enough for all Australians.’
Chief Medical officer Professor Kelly said Australians who want a booster should not be worried if they are not yet eligible.
‘The advice continues to be that all of our vaccines provide strong, clear protection against serious illness, hospitalisation and loss of life. I think that’s a very important point,’ he said.
There are more than 8,500 GPs and pharmacies that can roll out boosters and another 1,000 state clinics.
Sydneysiders have been enjoying recent sunny weather despite rising cases of Covid-19