The Prime Minister says Australia will have to live with the virus once widespread vaccination coverage is achieved.
Scott Morrison says lockdowns will be unsustainable for states and territories once vaccine coverage thresholds of 70 and 80 per cent are hit and the focus would then be shifted to hospitalisation numbers rather than daily cases.
It comes as Western Australia refuses to budge from its zero-case goal and Queensland warned it may not reopen its border with NSW even at a higher vaccine threshold, given the number of cases being reported in the state.
However in NSW authorities are considering easing restrictions sooner rather than later, as the state approaches six million vaccinations.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday the focus should shift from the fluctuating case numbers to the vaccination rates.
Currently 30 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated against COVID 19 and 52 per cent have had one dose.
Mr Morrison said heavy restrictions could not continue forever.
“Otherwise, we stay in the cave forever. That’s not a sustainable solution,” he said.
But Aboriginal health services say the current goals of 70 and 80 per cent are not enough for the Aboriginal population, amid current concerns about low vaccination rates in Indigenous communities around the country.
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) chief executive Pat Turner said last week there should be a target of 100 per cent vaccination rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“We just can’t afford any strain of COVID getting inside,” she said.
The current outbreak in NSW – which has spread to a number of predominantly Indigenous communities in the state’s western regions – is already affecting Aboriginal people, with Aboriginal children making up 40 per cent of western NSW COVID cases.
Shadow minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said on Friday the poor vaccination rates in some communities represented a “complete failure” by the Morrison government.
However, over the border more than 50 per cent of Victoria’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eligible population has received one dose and around 30 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Jill Gallagher, the CEO of the Victorina peak body for Aboriginal community health organisations, says the successful roll-out is due to partnerships between ACCHO’s and the Department of Health.