Health Minister talks up progressive unwinding of Covid restrictions

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said things are looking 'bleak' for NSW.

With around 13 million Australians currently in lockdown, Health Minister Greg Hunt has outlined the federal government’s plan to “progressively” unwind Covid restrictions.

While England has gone where no one else dares to tread and lifted restrictions in one go after fully vaccinating 68.5 per cent of adults, Hunt has indicated Australia will be taking a more cautious approach.

“It means we won’t just strip away all of the protections at once,” he said.

“I think it is very much an understood position that borders, testing, tracing, distancing, it is a progressive step down in measures as we have the increase in vaccination rates.”

Hunt also said the emphasis would shift from case numbers to hospitalisations and deaths.

England has seen a massive spike in infections in the tens of thousands since lifting restrictions, but so far only a moderate rise in deaths.

Currently only 14.09 per cent of Australians over 16 have had two jabs while 35.71 per cent have had their first dose, with the vaccine rollout beset by bad luck and poor management.

Since AstraZeneca was sidelined for those under 60 following blood clotting incidents, Australia has fast-tracked an additional three million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which Hunt described as “a very significant outcome”.

“In May, the prime minister and I wrote…to the CEO of Pfizer, we’d pushed for additional doses to be brought forward, that was successful,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while there had been challenges to the vaccine rollout “no country has got their pandemic response 100 per cent”.

“I know Australians would like the vaccination program to be further advanced than it is now, but I can tell you based on the plan that was agreed and adopted by both my Cabinet and endorsed by the National Cabinet last year, we are about two months behind where we otherwise would have been,” he said.

“It may be less than that by time we get to the end of this year.”

“Those delays are regrettable. We all know they are the result of many factors. People have perfect hindsight after these events, but let’s remember we were focusing on vaccines that we knew could be manufactured in Australia. This was very important.”