National Cabinet reveals plan to eventually treat COVID ‘just like the flu’

Jolyon Attwooll

2/07/2021 1:41:19 PM

The Prime Minister has mapped out Australia’s proposed long-term pandemic strategy, but the details of many trigger points are yet to be confirmed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed a broad four-phase plan that will eventually see Australia return to pre-pandemic travel freedoms and life. (Image: AAP)

Speaking in Canberra following a National Cabinet meeting, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced four phases that have been agreed upon by the states and territories that will eventually allow Australia to manage COVID-19 ‘just like the flu’.
The COVID response plan will reportedly transition from its current ‘pre-vaccination’ suppression stage in pandemic management to ‘post-vaccination’ settings, which will focus on the ‘prevention of serious illness, hospitalisation, fatality and the public management of other infectious diseases’.
Prime Minister Morrison said each phase will be triggered by a vaccination threshold ‘expressed as a percentage of the eligible population that is [16 and over], based on the scientific modelling conducted by the COVID-19 risk and response taskforce’.
However, there were no specific details on when the different phases will be triggered.
‘The post-vaccination phase would be entered once we reach a threshold to be determined by the modelling process we are currently engaged in,’ the Prime Minister said.
The threshold will be a ‘scientific number’, he said, which could include specific vaccination targets for vulnerable categories of the population, such as people aged over 70.
‘The key to this is the modelling. It’s a critical number and we need to be absolutely sure about that in framing where we go from here,’ he said.
‘The key to this is Australia gets vaccinated.’
He said he hopes to confirm the modelling numbers, which will be formed by the Doherty Institute, within the month.
Prime Minister Morrison also rejected claims that he had spoken carelessly earlier on Monday when he appeared to encourage those aged under 40 to consider an AstraZeneca vaccination, saying it was consistent with advice provided by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
It prompted a rush of calls to general practice across the country, with GPs reporting widespread confusion.
In the past week, chief health officers in the seven states and territories have consistently referred back to ATAGI advice.
No state vaccination hubs appear to be accepting under-60s for the AstraZeneca vaccination in any formal capacity.
Today Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly urged anyone unsure about getting a vaccination to consult with their doctor.
‘For those of you who are hesitant go and see your GP, and line up and get that vaccine,’ he said.
Professor Kelly also highlighted a shift in focus away from case numbers towards dealing the level of acute cases.
Record levels of vaccination were also referenced at the conference, with a million doses administered in the past week, and almost eight million in total. More than four million of those have been delivered in primary care, and around 1.7 million Australians are now reportedly fully vaccinated, while 70% of people aged 70 or older have had a first dose.
The cap on international arrivals on commercial flights will also be reduced during the current suppression phase due to concerns over the more virulent Delta strain – with more Commonwealth chartered flights destined for the Howard Springs quarantine centre taking their place for stranded Australians.
Prime Minister Morrison announced a small-scale trial in South Australia of home quarantine – set for seven days – for vaccinated travellers, saying this poses less risk than being in hotel quarantine.
The flight caps will be eased once Australia begins to ease into the later phases of the response, he said. A third ‘consolidation’ phase will see the pandemic managed like seasonal flu he told reporters, with there possibly being some overlap with the previous phase.
While measures were not yet finalised, he said this phase will likely mean no lockdowns, with vaccinated travellers not subject to any domestic restrictions and free to enter the country – although it is not clear if they will need to quarantine for a period of time.
Phase four will allow uncapped arrivals of all vaccinated travellers, who would not be subject to quarantine. There would also be uncapped arrivals of non-vaccinated travellers, who would still be subject to quarantine.  
No timeframes have yet been set out for any of the different phases.
However, Mr Morrison said he hopes that every Australian will have the opportunity to have a vaccine this year.
‘We believe we’ll be in a position by the end of the year to have offered everyone a vaccine who seeks to have one,’ he said.
‘If Australians respond to that, then I believe that we would be in a position to meet a particular target.’
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A.Prof Christopher David Hogan   3/07/2021 12:21:31 PM

* Does this mean politicians have now realised how deadly influenza is ?
* Immunising the Covid vulnerable is a nice place to start but only with enough of the whole population immunised will the vulnerable be safe.
* The faster the world population is significantly immunised, the less likely is the emergence of deadlier future strains.
*Current Covid strains do not affect the young the way influenza does. I hope that persists