Sydney’s ticket out of the COVID lockdown? Six million hits
- 50% vaccination rate ‘would add options’ – NSW Premier
- State lockdown affecting 5 million people set to end on August 29
- At 199, state’s new COVID-19 cases still near 16-month high
- PM Morrison rules out paying Australians to get vaccinated
CANBERRA, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – Australian authorities have said they may ease a COVID-19 lockdown that requires Sydney’s five million people to stay at home until the end of August if half of the population is vaccinated, although new infections persist near a high of 16 months.
A lifting of restrictions in the country’s most populous city and surrounding areas in the state of New South Wales would be a boost for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, under intense pressure for his government’s handling of the deployment vaccine, with the threat of a second economic recession in many years looming.
New South Wales, which accounts for a third of all activity in Australia’s $ 2 trillion ($ 1.47 trillion) economy, has struggled to contain a wave of cases of the Delta variant highly infectious in Sydney despite the lockdown, which is currently due to be lifted on August 29.
As the state reported on Tuesday another 199 cases of locally acquired COVID-19 in the past 24 hours – near a 16-month high of 239 infections recorded in one day last week – Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said that restrictions could be relaxed if six million people in New South Wales are vaccinated by the time the lockdown is due to end.
“Six million jabs is about half the population with at least one or two doses,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. “It gives us additional options for what life is like on August 29th.”
Berejiklian did not say how many people in NSW were fully vaccinated on Tuesday, but said the state was on track to meet its vaccination target. She warned the number of people in the community, while infections are also expected to decrease.
Although Australia has largely kept its COVID-19 count relatively low, with just over 34,500 cases and 925 deaths, its nationwide vaccination rollout has encountered several hurdles due to evolving medical advice on doses. AstraZeneca (AZN.L) due to blood clot issues and supply constraints. for Pfizer inoculation (PFE.N).
The target in New South Wales comes just days after National Prime Minister Morrison pledged lockdowns would be “less likely” once the country has inoculated 70% of its population over 16 – far from current level of 19%. Morrison expects to hit the 70% mark by the end of the year. Read more
On Tuesday, Morrison rejected the idea of offering people financial incentives to increase vaccination rates.
“Yes [Australians] I’m hesitant about the vaccine, I’m not going to pay for them, ”Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
The Prime Minister also released the modeling behind the national strategy which showed Australia would need to vaccinate seven out of 10 people to control the spread of the virus without an economically damaging lockdown.
The modeling, carried out by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, also called for young Australians to be the next focus of the vaccination campaign.
Once vulnerable Australians have been vaccinated, “adoption by young adults (aged 16 and over) will strongly influence the impact of vaccination on overall transmission,” according to notes released alongside the modeling.
The Sydney lockdown is expected to see Australia’s economy contract in the current quarter, and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned that the length of stay-at-home orders will determine whether a recession can be avoided.
Despite the lingering threat to the economy, the Reserve Bank of Australia said on Tuesday it would stick to its plan to cut bond purchases from September, violating marketing expectations.
Meanwhile, the state of Queensland said on Tuesday it had reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number of new cases in a year.
($ 1 = 1.3578 Australian dollar)
Reporting by Colin Packham in Canberra and Renju Jose and Byron Kaye in Sydney; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell
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