The government's pandemic modelling adviser said Australia can proceed with its reopening plans until vaccination levels reach 70 percent to 80 percent, even as several states signalled they might not ease border restrictions if Sydney fails to manage its Delta outbreak.
According to the Melbourne-based Doherty Institute, the country's aim should move from zero cases to lowering the number of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations until at least 70% of the country's population over the age of 16 is fully vaccinated.
"This level of vaccination will make it easier to live with the virus, as we do with other viruses such as the flu," it stated in a statement late on Monday. "Once we reach 70% vaccine coverage, opening up at tens or hundreds of cases nationally per day is possible."
Currently, 30% of Australia's adult population is completely vaccinated, with 53% having had at least one shot.
In July, Australia announced a four-stage plan to return to broader freedoms and higher immunisation rates. However, Queensland and Western Australia have indicated that they may not adhere to the agreement because it was drafted when the number of cases in Sydney was significantly smaller.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison recognised that the Sydney epidemic has caused alarm in some states, but he believes that "permanent lockdowns" will do more harm than good to the country.
"The findings are the same whether there are 30 cases or 800 cases, and that's what the Doherty Institute stated... we can do this safely and we do need to do it," Morrison told Nine News on Tuesday.
With 44,600 cases and 984 deaths, Australia has fared better than many other developed countries during the coronavirus epidemic. However, a third wave of infections from the Delta type has put Sydney and Melbourne, the country's two major cities, as well as the capital Canberra, on lockdown for weeks.
After more than two months of stay-at-home orders failed to stem the spread of Delta, Sydney has reported a sharp increase in new case numbers as state officials turn to a speedier vaccination deployment approach.
Berejiklian, who promised additional freedoms for fully vaccinated people once total vaccination doses surpassed 6 million, said the state had reached that milestone and that adjustments will be unveiled later this week. In NSW, 59 percent of people have received at least one dosage, and 31 percent are completely vaccinated, which is slightly higher than the national average.
Although daily infections remain at record levels, there were 753 cases registered in NSW, down from 818 on Monday. The newest outbreak has resulted in seventy-four deaths, albeit the rate of deaths has reduced compared to last year.
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