National cabinet sets 80 per cent vaccination 'in principle; target to COVID-19 freedom

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a national COVID-19 vaccination target of 80 per cent will be required for Australia to reopen the nation and end debilitating pandemic restrictions.

Before that, the target that will trigger the start of the graduation easing of restrictions has been set at 70 per cent of vaccinated eligible Australians.

That's seven in every 10 people eligible for the jab receiving both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

After assessing scientific modelling from Doherty Institute and economic modelling from Treasury, Commonwealth, state and territory leaders have "agreed in principle" to the plan and the targets for a four-stage plan roadmap out of Covid."

"These are targets for all Australians to achieve," the Prime Minister said.

"States, territories, working together, communities working together, individuals, GPs, pharmacists. Australia will get this done by working together.

"The targets are there for us all to achieve and for us all to work towards."

Australia is still under "Phase A" or the suppression stage of the roadmap.

The next stage is the transition "Phase B" which triggers the easing of restrictions and the newly agreed target is 70 per cent of eligible people. The whole country needs to reach that target as well as all the states individually.

The target needed for the next stage, the consolidation "Phase C" - where vaccinated residents will have no domestic restrictions and vaccinated Australians can travel overseas - is 80 per cent. There will be only highly targeted lockdowns when needed.

No vaccination target has been decided for the final phase.

Mr Morrison says Australia will reopen with caution.

"We don't go from shut one day, open the next. That is a very, in our view, dangerous path," he said.

"What we need to do is take steps towards that, sensible, cautious steps, we get to 70 per cent. So let's get there and then we get to 80 per cent and we make that work and then we get to the next level."

There is no timeline or timeframe for achieving the targets in this plan.

The Prime Minister has deferred to the Australian people, although it is expected at current rates of vaccination it is still some time away.

Just 18.2 per cent of people aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 more than five months after the rollout started.

More than 210,000 doses of vaccines were administered in the past 24 hours, the second consecutive record day."

We haven't put timelines on this because the timelines are now in the hands of all Australians together with state and territory governments and the federal government," Mr Morrison said.

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It comes as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals disturbing new information on the danger of the Delta variant which is currently spreading in Sydney.

An internal CDC slide presentation, first obtained by The Washington Post, urges the agency to "acknowledge that the war has changed," showing that Delta could be as contagious as chicken pox and more easily spread than the common cold, the 1918 flu and small pox.

The variant, according to the CDC, also likely increases the risk of severe disease and hospitalisation over the original COVID-19 strain.

The variant is also more likely than original to spread through vaccinated people, but the COVID-19 vaccines have proved highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalisation and death.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is to thank doctors around Australia for their efforts in the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out when he addresses the online National Conference of the main doctor's group, the AMA, on Saturday.

In a copy of the speech seen by The Canberra Times, Mr Morrison will say doctors are "on the front line fighting this dreadful virus" and they have "stepped up" for Australia.

"Our GPs have worked tirelessly to provide well over half, the lion's share, of Australia's COVID-19 vaccines to date, including now getting up to over 120,000 and more vaccines delivered through our GP network each and every day," Mr Morrison is expected to say.

"Why? Well, it's because you're trusted, and we know that many Australians have questions about vaccines."

Although vaccination targets were officially abandoned earlier this year, the Prime Minister appears to be returning to them as the roll-out starts to gather pace.

"We're hitting our marks with our vaccination targets," he is expected to say to the AMA conference attendees.

"We had significant challenges, as you well know, in those first months of the vaccination program. But together we've been turning this around. We have turned the corner. We are catching up the ground, and we are ensuring that these vaccines are getting into more arms each and every week, substantially because of your efforts."

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This story COVID-19 freedom when Australia hits 80 per cent vaccination first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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