Australia seeks end to lockdowns with vaccination targets

Australia's inoculation drive is accelerating and now administering at least one million doses a week.
Australia's inoculation drive is accelerating and now administering at least one million doses a week.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australia's government plans to set new vaccination targets that would allow the country to respond to future coronavirus outbreaks without restrictive lockdown measures.

The plan would mean strict stay-at-home orders would occur only in extreme circumstances once Australia moves to a second stage of its inoculation program, and the measures would not be implemented at all under a third setting, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

"We'll be setting those targets in the weeks ahead based on the best possible medical, scientific and economic evidence," Mr Morrison said Saturday (July 24).

Data on serious illness, hospitalisation and fatalities will guide decision-making rather than case numbers, and unvaccinated residents may be subject to different measures than those who've received inoculations, he said.

Millions of Australians, including in the nation's largest cities Sydney and Melbourne, are currently under lockdown measures as the country grapples with the highly-contagious delta variant and a sluggish program to deliver vaccinations.

Australia has administered enough doses for just 21 per cent of its population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, compared with 53 per cent in the US and 62 per cent in the UK.

New South Wales recorded 163 new cases in the community Saturday, and confirmed the death of a man aged in his 80s in southwest Sydney on Friday.

Infections have reached 1,940 cases since the outbreak began in mid-June. The neighbouring state of Victoria recorded 12 new cases to midnight Friday, while South Australia reported one.

Australia's inoculation drive, which has been impacted by supply-chain hold-ups from contracted drugmakers, is accelerating and now administering at least one million doses a week, Mr Morrison said in a video-link speech to members of his governing Liberal Party in Tasmania.