Australia

‘We have to move forward’: Scott Morrison challenges state leaders over ending COVID-19 lockdowns

Scott Morrison has challenged premiers to stick to vaccine coverage targets tied to ending lockdowns regardless of coronavirus cases.

The prime minister fired another warning shot at state and territory governments on Monday as tensions rise over national cabinet’s reopening agreement.

All governments have agreed to reduce lockdowns and open borders when immunisation rates reach 70 and 80 per cent.

Mr Morrison said the focus would shift to hospitalisation numbers rather than daily cases when the targets were hit.

“That is our goal – to live with this virus, not to live in fear of it,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

“Once you get to 70 per cent of your country that is eligible for the vaccine, and 80 per cent, the plan sets out that we have to move forward. We cannot hold back.” 

But WA is not budging from its zero-case goal, while Queensland warns it may not reopen its NSW border even at the higher jab threshold.

Updated Doherty Institute modelling will be presented to a national cabinet meeting of the country’s leaders on Friday.

Mr Morrison cited confidential updated advice to back his claim reopening targets could happen regardless of case numbers.

“The starting point does not influence the overall conclusions of the model,” he told parliament.

He later said the advice was oral after rejecting Mr Albanese’s request for him to table it in parliament.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the initial research was based on reopening with 30 cases in the community.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said new modelling was needed to look at higher cases when vaccine targets were reached.

He said he was not arguing for major lockdowns but reserving the right to use targeted measures to combat outbreaks.

“Just because the NSW government has made a mess of it doesn’t mean the rest of us should suffer,” Mr McGowan said.

Coronavirus continues to surge in NSW with another 818 new local cases and three deaths reported on Monday.

In Victoria, there were 71 new infections, while the ACT recorded 16.

Australia has fully vaccinated 30 per cent of its population aged 16 and above, while 52.8 per cent have had one jab.

Mr Morrison said heavy restrictions, which are affecting more than half of Australia’s population across Victoria, NSW and the ACT, could not continue indefinitely.

“Otherwise, we stay in the cave forever. That’s not a sustainable solution,” he said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has abandoned trying to eliminate the virus, backed the prime minister’s view of the future.

“Just as we tend to talk about the number of people that die from flu, when we have 80 per cent double dose vaccination that’s how we’ll treat it,” he said.

Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said Mr Morrison previously stated lower case numbers when reopening was better economically.

“Scott Morrison has got to stop changing the rules and the goalposts if he wants to have a mature discussion with state premiers and agree on a national plan,” he told reporters.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr described the federal-state dispute as “alpha male muscling up”.

With SBS News. 

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