Melbourne drops COVID-zero plans, shifts focus to rapid vaccinations

Melbourne | Wed, September 1, 2021

The COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne was extended for another three weeks on Wednesday, as officials shifted their focus to quick vaccination drives and away from a suppression plan to bring cases to zero. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated that the tight limits will be eased in stages once 70 percent of the state’s adult citizens have had at least one shot, a goal he intends to achieve by Sept. 23, based on current vaccination rates.

“We’ve thrown everything at it,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne, “but it’s clearly plain to us that we’re not going to bring these numbers down; they’re going to go up.” the state capital, after a lockdown for nearly a month failed to quell the outbreak. The lockdown was due to end on Thursday.

“We have to purchase time to allow immunizations to be carried out while undertaking this extremely arduous, unpleasant, and challenging effort of keeping a lid on cases as much as possible.” In Victoria, the number of new local cases increased to 120 from 76 the day before. One hundred of the new cases spent time in the community while infected.

As outbreaks prompted a surge in inoculation, the state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, pushed back its target date for fully vaccinating 70% of persons aged 16 and up to the middle of next month from the original aim of the end of October. “Life will be more, much better, much freer, no matter where you live, as long as you’re vaccinated at 70 percent,” Berejiklian told reporters.

So far, 37 percent of residents in the state have been fully vaccinated, with 67 percent having received at least one shot, slightly more than the national average. In New South Wales, a total of 1,116 new cases were discovered, down from 1,164 the day before. NSW reported four new deaths taking the total number of deaths in the latest outbreak to 100.

Living with COVID

Australia is attempting to contain the third wave of viruses that has engulfed more than half of the country’s 25 million people. Sydney and Melbourne, the country’s two main cities, as well as the capital Canberra, are under stringent stay-at-home restrictions for several weeks. Despite recent flare-ups, the coronavirus has been kept to a manageable level, with little over 55,000 cases and 1,012 deaths.

The federal government is pressuring states and territories to stick to a national reopening schedule once vaccination rates reach 70%-80%, however some virus-free jurisdictions have indicated that they may postpone due to the quickly increasing Sydney cases.

Berejiklian stated that New South Wales will open its borders to international travelers once vaccination rates hit 80%, and that she may allow people from other states to fly into Sydney even if other governments choose not to do so.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg asked state officials to stick to the national reopening schedule. “Stick to the plan… a strategy that allows businesses to reopen and plan for their own future… a plan that moves Australia forward to live with the virus in a safe manner,” Frydenberg said.

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