Scott Morrison has slapped down WA Premier Mark McGowan who declared he would continue trying to eliminate Covid-19 even once 80 per cent of residents are vaccinated.
The Prime Minster said keeping the highly infectious Delta strain of coronavirus out of Australia while it ravages the rest of the world was completely unrealistic.
‘The idea you can let this thing rip is absurd, as is that you can get to Covid zero. They’re both absurd,’ he told 2GB radio on Monday morning.
NSW Police officers patrol Bondi Beach on Monday as tough new rules kick in for Sydney
Australia has been pursuing a strict suppression strategy which aims to eliminate Covid in the community using lockdowns and border closures – but in July state leaders agreed to a national plan to start living with Covid-19 once vaccination rates hit 70 per cent and to relax more rules at 80 per cent.
However, Mr McGowan – who won last year’s WA election in a landslide on the back of his elimination policy – has vowed to continue lockdowns to wipe out the disease.
‘Our preferred option is zero Covid obviously and that’s what we’ll attempt to do,’ Mr McGowan told Sky News on Sunday.
‘We don’t want to have deaths and we don’t want to have any spread of the virus,’ he added.
In several TV interviews on Monday, Mr Morrison said Mr McGowan’s plan was not following the national re-opening strategy which he described as a ‘commitment’ to Australians.
‘We’ve all made commitments to the people, through this plan of hope that is our pathway back,’ he told the ABC.
Mr Morrison told Nine that Mr McGowan would be acting against the national interest if he kept locking down – and even accused him of undermining the vaccine rollout.
‘Once you get to those levels of vaccination, it is against the country’s interests to actually do that.
‘It costs the economy more and it doesn’t get the health effects because once you get to 80 per cent, you can treat it like the flu,’ he said.
The Prime Minster (pictured on Friday) said forever trying to keep out the highly infectious Delta strain of coronavirus which is ravaging the world was completely unrealistic
Defence force troops guarding a vaccination hub at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena on Monday
‘We don’t go and shut down the whole country because of the flu every year. And so that is what the medical advice says. And that’s been made very transparent and clear to everybody who sits around the table,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘And so really, that national plan that everybody has signed up to, it’s actually a commitment they’ve made to the Australian people and people in their own states about the pathway out.
Mr Morrison said the re-opening plan encouraged people to get vaccinated because they can see a life on the other side of Covid-19.
‘And so to run down the plan is to actually undermine the vaccination programme,’ he said.
It comes as 1million doses of the Pfizer vaccine are distributed around the nation following Mr Morrison’s deal to buy them from Poland.
A total of 530,000 doses will go to the 12 worst-affected areas of Sydney, 175,500 to Victoria, 136,890 to Queensland, 70,200 to Western Australia, 47,970 to South Australia, 17,550 to Tasmania, 14,040 to the ACT and 8,190 to the Northern Territory.
NSW is expected to record more than 400 Covid-19 cases again on Monday as rules tighten across Greater Sydney.
From Monday, all residents will confined to within 5km of their homes and will face increased fines of up to $5,000 for breaching restrictions.
A total of 530,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will go to the 12 worst-affected areas of Sydney. Pictured: Merrylands in western Sydney on Sunday
Despite declaring his preference for zero Covid, Mr McGowan did say ‘there could be some easing of some of the rules’.
‘For instance when you get to 70, perhaps 80 per cent (vaccinated), if there is a lockdown it might be a lesser area rather than the entire metropolitan area. It might be a country town rather than the entire region,’ he told Sky News.
The premier said Western Australia retains the right to put border restrictions in place if cases emerge in the future, saying he will do what’s necessary to protect the state.
‘For the foreseeable future, probably until the end of the year, we’ll have to have a strong border in place with NSW because we can’t run the risk of it infiltrating into WA,’ he said.
‘I’d like to get rid of the border… but I can’t run the risk of the virus coming in.
‘States have the right to put in place the border if necessary to protect themselves from the pandemic.’
Western Australia, as part of their strict border policy, will demand all arrivals from NSW prove have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine in order to enter the state.
Travellers must also provide proof of a negative PCR test in the 72 hours prior to departure, Premier Mark McGowan announced on Friday.
The new measures will come into effect from August 17, when NSW will be moved into a beefed-up ‘high risk’ category under WA’s controlled border regime.
The decision makes WA the first Australian state to make vaccines mandatory for anyone crossing state borders.
What are the four phases of opening up?
A. Vaccinate, prepare and pilot (from July 14)
Arrival caps cut in half to 3,035 a week; early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur; trials of seven-day home quarantine for vaccinated arrivals in South Australia; medicare vaccination certificates available on apps like apple wallet
B. Post vaccination phase (when 70 per cent are jabbed, expected late this year)
Lockdowns less likely but possible’; vaccinated people face reduced restrictions; caps for unvaccinated arrivals increased; a larger cap for vaccinated arrivals with ‘reduced quarantine requirements’; capped entry for students and economic visa holders
C. Consolidation phase (when 80 per cent are jabbed, time not announced)
Lifting all restrictions for outbound travel for vaccinated travellers; no caps for vaccinated arrivals; increased caps for students and visa holders; more travel bubbles being set up with countries such as Singapore; booster shots rolled out
D. Final phase (percentage or time not announced)
Uncapped arrivals for vaccinated people without any quarantine and uncapped arrivals for unvaccinated people with testing before departure and on arrival