Finally – we have a plan. On Friday afternoon the national cabinet agreed to a four-stage “transition” to a post-vaccinated Australia, a welcome dose of hope amid the stubborn Sydney outbreak and Saturday’s shock lockdown in Queensland.
Spelling out immunisation targets and the rewards that will follow from success, including the resumption of overseas travel, the plan offers – at long last – a road map to normal life.
It is also a reality check, recognising that until we reach vaccination goals (of, first, 70 per cent total immunisation, then 80 per cent, derived from modelling by the Doherty Institute and advice from Treasury), “early, stringent and short” lockdowns will remain part of the states’ arsenal to combat COVID outbreaks alongside contact tracing, testing and isolation.
This acknowledgement will, hopefully, ameliorate the tedious and destructive debate about appropriate action – to lock down or not – each time a spike in cases occurs. What the plan does not spell out, though, is how Australia will actually get to the required immunisation thresholds.
While vaccination rates have accelerated promisingly in recent weeks, Australia, at around 14 per cent fully vaccinated (according to Our World in Data), is still a long way short of the 70 per cent Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he hoped to achieve by the end of the year.
We do not need to revisit the failures of the vaccine rollout here. Signs are good that supply is no longer an issue, notwithstanding continuing confusion over the AstraZeneca offering.
It is also encouraging that, as Rachel Clun and David Crowe reported on Saturday, major employers such as Woolworths, Wesfarmers and Coles are actively recommending their staff get the jab, with some offering incentives such as special paid vaccine leave to attend appointments.
It is also positive that organisers of major sporting events such as the Ashes and the Australian Open tennis are looking for models – such as Wimbledon’s “passport” ticket system – that could work here.