While locked-down NSW residents were given hope this week, there are now fears that Melbourne could be trapped for months.While millions of Australian
While locked-down NSW residents were given hope this week, there are now fears that Melbourne could be trapped for months.
While millions of Australians were given a pathway out of lockdown in NSW this week, there are fears that Melbourne could remain locked down until Christmas.
Those concerns are being stoked by the southern state’s lagging vaccination rate, which may not hit 80 per cent coverage until the end of December, according to some modelling.
At the beginning of this month, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews named September 23 as the date he believes 70 per cent of eligible Victorians will have received their first vaccination dose and when restrictions can begin to lift.
However, even if that target is met, the easing will be minimal.
It will mean that the 5km travel limit in greater Melbourne will be extended to 10km for shopping and exercise, outdoor exercise will increase from two to three hours per day, outdoor communal gym equipment and skate parks will reopen, outdoor personal training will be allowed with up to two people plus a trainer, childminding for school-aged children will be permitted and real estate private inspections of unoccupied premises will be allowed.
It is far cry from what is planned for NSW in mid-October — once 70 per cent of the population had been fully inoculated.
NSW announced that fully-vaccinated people would be allowed to visit friends’ homes, gather in groups of up to 20 outdoors and head to restaurants, pubs, stores, cinemas and theatres from the Monday after it met the threshold.
There are calls from health experts and Victoria’s state opposition for Victoria to match NSW’s road map out of lockdown when key vaccination targets are hit.
However, even if it does match NSW, there are fears about how long it could take before Victoria hits its crucial vaccination targets.
One analyst said that based on current levels of vaccinations, we will see Victoria hit 70 per cent by November 7.
The analyst, who spoke to the Daily Mail Australia, said Victoria was not likely to reach 70 per cent of second-dose jabs until at least December 4 under current vaccination rates.
Without a rapid rise in the uptake and administration of vaccines, Victoria’s population of 6.5 million cannot expect to reach 80 per cent double dose until close to Christmas, he said.
“80 per cent second dose won’t be achieved until December 21. However, if you model in a drop off as vax levels increase, summer and Christmas arrive and the holiday period in between, the 80 per cent fully vaccinated targets won’t be achieved until at least January 2022,” the analyst said.
“Of course, a doubling of vaccination rates would see us at 80 per cent double vaccinated by November 2021. These are the windows, based on the current metrics, that we are playing in.”
Burnet Institute director Brendan Crabb this week spoke about the grim possibility of Victorians having to spend Christmas in lockdown.
“I’ve said you’re in lockdown till Christmas and I think that’s looking pretty likely,” he said.
“It would be wonderful if it was a month before that or so, and it would be wonderful if some freedoms kicked in before that, and I think they might.
“But as a general comment, restrictions are here till December or so in Sydney and, certainly, probably for longer here in Melbourne.”
It’s tough reading for Victorians who have already spent 222 days in lockdown, but the state government is optimistic that the targets will be hit sooner than those dates.
Victorian Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar continued to provide hope on Friday, saying Victorians were ahead of schedule in reaching the target.
Calls for Victoria to follow NSW
But some epidemiologists are calling for Victoria to put forward concrete reopening plans now that NSW has.
Public health physician and epidemiologist at Monash University, Associate Professor James Trauer, told 3AW NSW will provide “a really good template” so Victoria “can see what level of coverage we might need to get to by just watching the NSW experience”.
However, he said there’s clear evidence that it’s not safe for Victoria to open up now.
“I think it’ll be two months before we can really fully reopen,” Associate Professor Trauer told Ross and Russel.
“We had 350 or so yesterday and we had like half of that a week ago.
“That’s really worrying as well and it clearly indicates that we don’t have the coverage we need in those hotspot areas.
“We are still living in a very dangerous situation.”
Former World Health Organisation epidemiologist and University of South Australia professor Adrian Esterman said the decision to lift stay-at-home orders for fully vaccinated adults was a move Victoria should consider.
“We are going to have to open up some time, but it needs to be done in a very careful way.”
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