“Hang in there” is Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s rallying cry as the nation struggles to control an escalation of Covid cases that is threatening to explode nationwide.
The trouble is Australians have been “hanging in there” for 18 months already and there is a growing sense of frustration that no one knows where “there” is.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has unsurprisingly announced a snap four-day lockdown across Perth and the Peel region following a third positive case in WA, following hot on the heels of lockdowns in Sydney and the Northern Territory.
A National Cabinet meeting has delivered something resembling a plan though, with Morrison announcing that any Australian can now access the AstraZeneca vaccine from their GP if they want it.
After the drubbing the vaccine got in the media following blood clotting scares that resulted in the government raising the recommended age from over 50 to over 60, it is unclear how many will actually take up the offer.
Pfizer remains the preferred option for people aged under 60 but with Australia slow to order it, the waiting time for enough doses is stretching beyond this year.
Morrison said National Cabinet also agreed to plans to make it mandatory for residential aged care workers to be vaccinated.
Other announcements included mandatory vaccinations for quarantine workers, an extra Covid test for returned travellers who leave quarantine after 14 days and the separation of low risk quarantine residents from higher risk returned international travellers in hotel quarantine.
“We can grow tired, we can grow frustrated, we can grow anxious — but how should we go forward?” Morrison said.
Unfortunately, that is a question he should be answering, not posing, as currently the way forward consists of rolling lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Spiro Anemogiannis, president of the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia, said “we need a different narrative”.
“Now is the time to work together and lobby the government to fast track the vaccinations as a way out of this ‘stop start’,” he said in a statement.
“Singapore has just announced that they are targeting 70 per cent of their population to be vaccinated by August and as a result they will lift all restrictions, including borders and stop reporting daily COVID numbers. They will revert to reporting the hospital admissions as per usual etc. In fact, their objective is to run fully vaccinated events in the last quarter this year.
“At least they have a plan – we need our government to start the promotional campaign – we should have vaccination ads and promotions during all our sporting events, example the State of Origin etc.
“When Premiers and CMOs announce lockdowns and restrictions they should also add: ‘if we all want to not have these lockdowns every time there is an outbreak please get vaccinated’. It is almost criminal that only a third of aged care workers are vaccinated. We only need 70 per cent of the eligible population to be vaccinated according to the experts.
“Our way out as an industry is vaccinations, not continually debating event restrictions etc. with governments who inevitably defer to Health Officials. We have seen that the lifting of restrictions can be brought back instantly if needed.”