The National Cabinet has agreed on a national “pathway” to move from suppressing the COVID-19 vaccine in the community to managing the virus as the country does with other infectious diseases.
Speaking this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined the four phases of this pathway, which will each be triggered by hitting yet-to-be determined vaccination thresholds in the community.
As part of the national plan, the Commonwealth and state leaders have agreed to only use lockdowns as a “last resort” while still in the current pre-vaccination “suppression” phase.
Once the country moves into the second phase, it is possible lockdowns will then only be used in “extreme” circumstances to avoid large scale hospitalisations and fatalities.
At each stage of the pathway, the country will gradually increase the number of people who can arrive into Australia, with a goal to greatly enhancing both inbound and outbound travel by the four phase of the pathway.
“Australia gets vaccinated, Australia gets to live differently,” said the Prime Minister during a press conference.
As it stands, about 7.9% of eligible Australian adults over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated with two doses, with more than 7.8 million doses having been administered across the country. That number will hit 8 million doses today, said the Prime Minister.
While the Prime Minister did not outline a timeline for when the country will move into each of the different stages of the plan, he said the movement between phases will be based on meeting thresholds determined by scientific modelling.
Managing the COVID-19 pandemic is a case of being in “unchartered waters”, said the Prime Minister, adding that Australia “still has quite a journey ahead of us”.
While the later stages of the plan will include increased travel, particularly for people who have been vaccinated, the Prime Minister said the National Cabinet has decided to temporarily reduce the number of inbound arrivals into the country by 50% to lessen pressure on quarantine facilities arising from the current Delta strain of COVID-19.
This means the weekly intake figure will drop from 6,370 to 3,185 people; however, the Commonwealth government will make up for this shortfall with increased repatriation flights.
The governments have also agreed to trial alternative quarantine options for vaccinated travellers returning home to Australia, including home quarantine and for shorter periods.
The number of international arrivals to Australia was one of the key topics discussed at this morning’s meeting, with Labor premiers in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia reportedly all heading into the meeting seeking for the number to be dropped until more Australians are vaccinated and dedicated quarantine facilities established.