As 14 million weary Australians go through another lockdown, state governments are steadfast in their ‘Covid-zero’ policies, despite one of Australia’s top virus experts saying it’s no longer feasible.
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian was asked on Wednesday whether the policy should be changed.
Her response was, as it has always been, the number of contagious people in the community “is the number we’d like to see zero or close to zero.”
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian (pictured Wednesday with Health Minister Brad Hazzard) has said lifting the lockdown while vaccine rates are low was not an option
Millions of Australians are currently in renewed lockdowns thanks to the delta Covid variant and a lagging vaccine roll-out (Photo: People are queuing to be vaccinated in Sydney in July)
“We rely on health advice on when it is safe to relax restrictions,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.
The state announced another 110 cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, with 43 of those people living in the community while contagious — a significant jump from the previous day’s 20.
The chair of epidemiology at Deakin University in Melbourne argued that the country’s latest battle with the highly contagious delta strain of the virus requires a reassessment of the zero-case approach.
“This is the beginning of the end of Covid zero,” Professor Bennett told the New York Times earlier this month.
“We may be able to get it under control this time, but it just gets harder and harder.”
A traffic controller at a drive-through test clinic in Melbourne on Wednesday (pictured)
NSW, Victoria and South Australia have all implemented lockdowns in response to the latest outbreak (Photo: A few exercises in Melbourne)
Her comments were made at the start of the Sydney outbreak, which started on June 16 with an infected limousine driver from Bondi.
Since then, the virus has spread significantly, with the south-west of the city being particularly hard hit and responsible for the majority of cases in NSW.
The delta variant has also spread to Victoria, South Australia and the NSW regional area of Orange, leading to severe closures in every region.
A case even surfaced in Queensland this week when a student in his twenties contracted the virus in a Melbourne pub and then traveled to the Sunshine Coast.
With the number of virus cases not falling, reaching Covid zero seems an increasingly difficult target.
About 11 percent of Australia’s population is currently fully vaccinated (Photo: Melbourne residents in lockdown)
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Deakin University Professor of Epidemiology, Catherine Bennett
Meanwhile, millions are locked in their homes and businesses remain closed for 18 months after the virus hits our shores.
“When do we start showing some courage? At the moment, the social and economic impact of these lockdowns is smaller than the damage from the virus,” radio host Ben Fordham said on Tuesday.
In the second half of 2020, Australia optimistically thought we had beaten Covid thanks to border closures, hotel quarantine and contact tracing.
But a battered vaccine rollout, caused by the very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca shot, combined with the new virus variant, has resulted in some of the toughest restrictions Australians have seen.
“The delta tribe presents another major challenge for our country,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.
He hinted that the lockdown could last for months.
“Whether you’re in Sydney, Orange, South Australia or Victoria, the coming weeks and possibly months will continue to be tough,” he said.
Speaking of bailout payments from the government, he said they would be available: “every week the lockdowns continue.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday Australia could have ‘months’ more lockdowns
Experts have said 75 per cent of Australians must be vaccinated before restrictions can be lifted (Photo: A vaccine hub in Melbourne)
He also said the vaccine rollout in the country reached 1 million doses last week and assured more doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are on the way.
About 11 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
The government’s stance appears to keep the virus at bay long enough for widespread immunization to occur.
Some experts have suggested that 75 percent of the vaccinated population would be needed before restrictions are lifted and cases can circulate in the community.
With the current number of vaccinations, this could mean Australians will have to live with some form of disability for another 20 weeks.
South Australia has joined Melbourne (pictured) and Sydney in lockdown as Covid cases spread