Australians may still be enduring lockdowns next year as the country continues its elimination strategy until enough people are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state premiers will on Friday discuss what percentage of Australians need to be jabbed before the country can live with the virus like flu.
Mr Morrison has said the level will be around 65 or 70 per cent after the UK scrapped restrictions on July 19 with 65 per cent of adults fully jabbed.
Residents queuing for the Covid-19 vaccine at the New South Health Vaccination Centre at Sydney Olympic Park on Thursday
‘The United Kingdom was at 65 per cent [and now] just over 70 per cent. So these are the sort of levels you’re talking about,’ Mr Morrison told radio 3AW on Thursday.
He expects all eligible Aussies to be offered their first dose of a vaccine by January, but fears lockdowns may still be required next year.
When asked if Australia will be open by Christmas, he said: ‘No one can give those guarantees because the virus is unpredictable.’
On Thursday a record 201,470 Covid jabs were administered across the country, the first time the daily figure has been over 200,000.
So far 17.73 per cent of over 16s have been fully vaccinated and 39.46 per cent have had their first dose.
On July 9, the Prime Minister announced a four stage plan to get Australia back to normal, with each step to be triggered when the vaccination rate hits a certain percentage.
Pictured: Bondi Beach on Thursday
The percentages required have been calculated by modelling experts at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and handed to the government.
When setting the target, Mr Morrison will also take into account economic modelling by Treasury on the impact of lockdowns as well as the country’s hospital capacity.
The Grattan Institute think tank released a report on Thursday saying 80 per cent needed to be fully vaccinated before opening up.
‘Abandoning our Zero Covid strategy before 80 per cent of Australians are vaccinated would risk a rapid surge in cases that overwhelms our hospitals and imposes a high death toll,’ the Race to 80 report says.
Allowing the virus to spread with half the population vaccinated would lead to 31,440 deaths within 300 days, it claims.
The Institute believes the country can hit the 80 per cent target by December 31 to avoid lockdowns next year.
States and territory governments may disagree on the percentage required and set their own targets.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she wants 80 per cent of adults – or 62 per cent of state’s population – to be jabbed before opening up.
Until the target is reached, short, sharp lockdowns will be implemented by states in response to a handful of cases to snuff out the virus.
Sydney’s lockdown has been extended until August 27 due to a growing Covid outbreak.
On Thursday Mr Morrison told the Today show that the highly contagious Delta strain of the virus, which spawned in India in April, requires tougher restrictions than previous strains to control.
‘The Delta strain is incredibly virulent and there is no country in the world that is not struggling,’ he said.
‘All around the world countries are wrestling with this and we have learnt a lot in recent weeks.
‘Where the Delta strain hits you have to act quickly and we need to take that and move forward as quickly as we can.’
During a morning media blitz, Mr Morrison was also grilled about the slow vaccine rollout and admitted he has made mistakes.
The rollout has been hampered by supply delays and changing health advice over the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has left the government scrambling to bring in more Pfizer jabs.
Mr Morrison warned he can’t guarantee lockdowns won’t be needed next year to control the spread of Covid-19. Pictured: Police patrol Bondi Beach during lockdown
In July 2020, the US ordered 200 million doses of Pfizer, the UK ordered 90 million and Canada ordered 20 million.
But Australia didn’t order any until November, when it requested just 10 million doses of the highly effective jab.
In April the government increased the order to 20 million and doubled it to 40 million in June – but critics say this quantity should have been ordered far earlier.
When asked if the government secured a deal fast enough, Mr Morrison told Sunrise host Natalie Barr: ‘We went from 10 million to 20 million to 40 million… now it’s just about getting the job done.
‘Very late though,’ she said before Mr Morrison admitted: ‘No country gets everything right and the vaccination program is hitting the marks we need it to hit now.
‘We just got to focus forward and get this job done, Nat,’ he said.
What are the four phases of opening up?
1. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; lockdowns and state border closures as a last resort; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet
2. Post vaccination phase (when an as-yet unannounced percentage of Aussies are jabbed, expected early next year)
No lockdowns or state borders except for ‘extreme circumstances’; caps for unvaccinated arrivals doubled to 6,070; home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
3. Consolidation phase (date not announced)
Lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; vaccinated people exempted from domestic restrictions; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
4. Final phase (date not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival