Stick to national reopening plan: Morrison

Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)


Scott Morrison has warned ongoing lockdowns will cause more harm than benefit when coronavirus vaccination coverages reaches 70 per cent.

The prime minister insists high case numbers will not derail a national plan despite some states warning Doherty Institute modelling needs updating.

Under the agreement, lockdowns will be less likely at 70 per cent and become highly targeted at 80 per cent.

Mr Morrison said negative economic and mental health impacts would outweigh benefits when 70 and 80 per cent immunisation coverage is reached.

“That’s the advice, that’s the basis for the plan. We’ve all signed up to it, we need to get on with it,” he told the Seven Network.

WA Premier Mark McGowan wants new modelling given high levels of virus circulating in NSW which reported 753 new local cases on Tuesday.

Victoria is having a hard time getting on top of an outbreak with another 50 new cases, while the ACT had its worst daily rise since the start of the pandemic with 30 new infections.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk argues the initial research was based on having 30 cases in the community.

The Doherty Institute will provide updated advice to national cabinet on Friday.

In a statement, the Doherty Institute said opening up at hundreds of cases nationally a day would be possible at 70 per cent vaccination coverage.

“However, we will need vigilant public health interventions with higher case loads,” it said.

The institute said hitting that vaccination rate would make it easier to live with the virus, similar to the flu.

“However, it won’t be possible to maintain a situation where there are no cases at all.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the prime minister of pretending the report ruled out lockdowns at 70 per cent coverage.

“Mr Morrison is a barrier to the end of the tunnel, not the light. He’s the gaslight on the hill,” Mr Albanese told Labor MPs and senators in Canberra.

He said Mr Morrison desperately wanted to argue he was pro-freedom while casting everyone else as being against reopening.

The prime minister insists the opposition leader is undermining the plan and hoping the government fails for political gain.

Mr Morrison remains optimistic the Queensland government won’t keep its border shut with NSW if high case numbers continue.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s 30 cases or 800 cases, the conclusions are the same and that’s what the Doherty Institute said last night,” he told the Nine Network.

He dismissed the federal-state bickering as a “bit of noise” with the vaccination targets still months away from being reached.

“We can’t stay in the cave and we can get out of it safely.”

The Doherty modelling recommends a staged reopening at 70 and 80 per cent with high-quality preventative measures remaining in place.

Australia has fully vaccinated 30.27 per cent of its population aged 16 and over and 52.78 have received one jab.


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