Scott Morrison urges states to hold true to reopening plan, says we 'should not fear it'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists the country must start to reopen when it hits vaccination targets, declaring lockdowns and heavy restrictions are "not a sustainable way" to live.

But Mr Morrison has emphasised Australia won't have a UK-style "freedom day", when effectively all restrictions are removed at once.

His comments came as ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr again called for the nationally agreed vaccination target to be expanded to include 12- to 15-year-olds.

The national plan to steer Australian out of the pandemic is in jeopardy, with states including Western Australia and Queensland threatening to chart their own paths even once targets are reached.

Under a reopening plan based on modelling from the Doherty Institute, and agreed to by the national cabinet, states and territories would ease some restrictions once they had vaccinated 70 per cent of people aged 16 and over, if the same coverage had also been achieved nationwide.

At 80 per cent, lockdowns would only be used in "highly targeted" situations, and Australia would start to reopen to the world.

Doubts over the safety of reopening the country at those rates have risen in recent weeks, as coronavirus outbreaks have worsened in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

The Doherty Institute's modelling assumed there would be just 30 cases of community transmission at the time states moved to the second stage of the plan - far fewer than the numbers currently being registered across the east coast.

Mr Morrison said in question time that he had received advice over the weekend that the number of cases would not influence the "overall conclusions" of the model.

Labor asked Mr Morrison to table the advice, but was told it was confidential.

The Prime Minister had earlier used a press conference at Parliament House to heap more pressure on the states to hold true to the national roadmap out of the pandemic.

"Once you get to 70 per cent [vaccinated] 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," he said.

Mr Morrison said with high rates of vaccination, Australia should not fear the prospect of reopening the country and the inevitable rise in case numbers. Instead, it should prepare for and "embrace" the path out of the pandemic, he said.

READ MORE:

"[Lockdown] is taking a heavy toll and so they must only continue for as long as they are absolutely necessary and not a day more," he told reporters.

"It is always darkest before the dawn, and I think these lockdowns are demonstration of that, but the dawn is not far away and we are working towards that dawn and we are hastening towards the dawn.

"We should not delay it, we should prepare for it. We should not fear it, we should embrace it and we should move forward together."

Mr Barr said the ACT had agreed to the national plan because it believed there needed to be a "pathway forward".

But the ACT has two points of difference with the plan, which Mr Barr reiterated again on Monday. He wants more children to be vaccinated, with the latest outbreaks - including in the ACT - highlighting the threat of the Delta strain to younger Australians.

He also wants the plan to take into consideration the fact that individuals aren't fully protected until two to three weeks after they receive their second dose.

Mr Barr said he was on a "unity ticket" with Mr Morrison about the importance of vaccination and his assurance Australia would not replicate a UK-style "freedom day" once its targets were met.

The ACT Chief Minister took a swipe at unnamed "senior politicians" and media outlets who he said had "glossed over" the details of the national roadmap, which makes clear restrictions - including lockdowns - would remain a possibility even once the 80 per cent target was hit.

Our coverage of the health and safety aspects of this outbreak of COVID-19 in the ACT and the lockdown is free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. You can also sign up for our newsletters for regular updates.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

This story 'We should not fear it': PM urges states to hold true to reopening plan first appeared on The Canberra Times.