Australian Prime Minister helps reopening targets and says COVID-19 lockdowns are unsustainable | World information

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday the country must start easing tough COVID-19 restrictions as soon as vaccination rates rise.

Some states have said they may not adhere to a national plan to ease border controls and are concerned about an increase in cases in the southeast of the country, with Sydney breaking new one-day infection records.

“(Lockdowns) can’t last forever. This is not a sustainable way of living in this country,” Morrison said during a televised media conference in Canberra.

“Because if not at 70% and 80%, then when? Then when? We have to take this step and we have to prepare to take this step and we have to prepare the country to take this step.”

Last month the federal government issued a four-step plan for relaxation presented as soon as 70% of the 25 million people over 16 are vaccinated, with strict “unlikely” bans being required.

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When vaccination coverage reaches 80%, only “very targeted lockdowns” would be required and vaccinated Australians would be able to travel freely between states.

However, the states of Western Australia and Queensland have raised concerns that the plan was agreed ahead of a major outbreak in New South Wales (NSW), where the number of daily cases has exceeded 800 in the past three days.

On Monday, NSW reported 818 cases, most of them in Sydney, slightly less than the record of 830 the day before.

Australia weathered the pandemic better than many other developed countries, but a slow introduction of vaccines has put Sydney and Melbourne, their largest cities and capital, Canberra, in lockdown to tackle Delta variant outbreaks.

At the national level, 30% of people over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated, while 52% have received at least one dose. Vaccinations are running at a record pace, but the goal of 80% fully vaccinated at the current rate will not be reached until December.

NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said Monday the state’s residents need to learn to live with the virus and urged people to get vaccinated soon.

“Once you’ve hit double the 80% dose, every state will have to live with COVID. You can’t keep Delta out forever, ”she said.

Australia has reported just over 44,600 cases in total. There have been 984 deaths, although the death rate has declined since last year.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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