Bickering between feds and states puts national plan in doubt

The Prime Minister says the nation is all but guaranteed to exit the restrictive COVID-19 lockdowns that have wreaked havoc on our lives for the past 18 months once we hit “70-80 per cent” of the population being vaccinated.

That figure refers to Phases B and C of the national cabinet’s reopening plan, based on modelling by Melbourne’s Doherty Institute.

At Phase B, 70 per cent of the population will be vaccinated and ‘low-level’ restrictions would feature, with lockdowns being rare and localised to outbreak areas if they need to happen. At 80 per cent vaccine coverage, we move to Phase C, with what the plan calls ‘baseline’ restrictions to contain any cases without lockdowns.

Controversially though, the plan doesn’t mandate at what point state borders will completely open and that is becoming a sticking point between the federal and state counterparts.

Read: Lockdown extended, Feds threaten to challenge border ban

The federal government is keen for the plan to go ahead and for Australians to be mostly free of lockdown restrictions before Christmas, given there is talk of a federal election. Securing the nation’s freedom could be the antidote to poor polling related to quarantine and the vaccine rollout issues.

The plan has faced strong opposition from state leaders, in particular Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and WA Premier Mark McGowan. WA has very low levels of COVID and Mr McGowan isn’t looking to let it in any time soon.

He told Channel Nine’s Today Show he wouldn’t consider setting a date for opening the borders until the state had reached a vaccination rate somewhere between 80 and 90 per cent, even if that isn’t until next year.

Read: Are you developing addictions during lockdown? Watch for these signs

“That may be two months from [reaching 80 per cent]. That would allow everyone who wanted to get vaccinated to get vaccinated.”

Even federal government ministers have admitted the end of lockdowns and border closures can’t be guaranteed, but that it would be difficult for premiers to justify continuing restrictions after the vaccine targets were met.

“Nothing’s set in stone,” federal minister for education, skills and employment Stuart Robert told the ABC’s Insiders program.

“A plan is always a basis for change. It has to be, because so many things have changed.

“The 80 per cent mark, you’d have to question why borders would be closed if lockdowns aren’t going to happen or would only be very rare and very targeted,” Mr Robert said.

The comments were pounced on by the opposition as evidence that the national plan is based on politics and not medical advice.

Read: Concerns some aged care staff won’t meet vaccination deadline

“Scott Morrison wants to pretend that we can open up at all costs,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told TND. “He wants to pretend that the national plan is rigid … Stuart Robert has said today that that is all rubbish.

“Stuart Robert has absolutely torpedoed Scott Morrison’s divisive, destructive and dishonest campaign on the national plan and the states’ role in the national plan.”

Only time will tell if the national plan will come to pass and the nation opens up by Christmas. One thing that’s certain is that it will take high rates of vaccination before we have any hope of getting back the life we once had.

Have you had your COVID-19 vaccination? How confident are you in the national plan to end lockdowns and border closures? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer



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