Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stepped away from the sidelines and come out swinging against those states that are threatening to keep their borders closed indefinitely irrespective of vaccination numbers.
Morrison was forced to defend the much vaunted 4-phase national plan out restrictions after Western Australia and Queensland threatened to maintain their Covid zero zealotry even if 80 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.
The bone of contention lies in an interpretation of the national plan, which is whether the pathway to freedoms should begin from a position of zero Covid cases.
All the premiers have agreed to relax restrictions once 70 per cent are vaccinated and stop minimising cases once 80 per cent are jabbed. But WA Premier Mark McGowan and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk have both threaten to keep their borders closed with any state that has not kept cases down to zero.
“It does puzzle me – it puzzles me – why anyone would want to go against a plan that has been so carefully prepared,” Morrison said.
Morrison described lockdowns as unsustainable in the long run.
“This is not a sustainable way to live in this country, without those freedoms that we all cherish,” he said.
“Because if not at 70 per cent and 80 per cent, then when? Then when?
“We have to deal with it. Otherwise we stay in the cave forever. That’s not a sustainable solution.”
Morrison said that once 70 per cent of Australians are vaccinated then lockdowns will carry as much risk as rising case numbers.
“There will be risk attached to [opening up], but there is also risk being stuck where we are,” he said.
“’We have to break this cycle. The national plan is the way to cut through and for us to emerge from that.
“This Groundhog Day has to end… and we must will live with this virus as we live with other infectious diseases.”
Doherty Institute Director Professor Sharon Lewin said the modelling that the government used to formulate its national plan does not depend on the number of infections circulating in the community.
“Zero-Covid is no longer the goal once you have 70 to 80 per cent of people vaccinated,” she told ABC’s The Drum.
“Whether you start at 30 cases or 800 cases you can still open up safely.
“With 70 per cent vaccination you will get hundreds of thousands of cases, even starting from 30 cases. However, in the presence of vaccination, your deaths and hospitalisations will be greatly reduced.”