Prime Minister Scott Morrison has emerged from whatever cave he’s been hiding in all week to, rather out of the blue, announce a vague COVID exit plan that will see Australia move away from suppressing community transmitted cases of the virus to managing its circulation within the community like any other infectious disease.
Fronting media a short time ago, Morrison outwardly – for the first time – spoke on the widely-accepted idea that for Australia to rejoin the global community, the coronavirus must be viewed much in the same way that we currently do the common flu.
After speaking with national cabinet, the Prime Minister revealed a hypothetical four-phase move out of pandemic conditions (including hard city- or state-wide lockdowns); one that provides “a pathway from a pre-vaccination period which is focused on the suppression of the virus on community transmission cases to one that sees us manage COVID-19 as an infectious disease like any other in our community.”
The four-phase strategy, which promises somewhat clear goals even if it was delivered in trademark Scott Morrison 2,000 words of pointless circle-speak fashion, calls for a “vaccinate, prepare, pilot” programme that will see lockdowns used as a “last resort.”
As part of phase one, the current cap on international arrivals into Australia will be reduced by 50% in order to “temporarily reduce commercial inbound passenger arrivals to all major ports by 50% from current caps to reduce the pressure on quarantine facilities, due to the increased risks of the Delta strain of the virus.”
Beyond that, the plan – which all state leaders have reportedly agreed to – will also see pilot programs established to trial home quarantine for fully vaccinated international arrivals. South Australia is said to have volunteered to be first cab off that particular rank.
A third phase would then see COVID-19 treated like any other infectious disease in the community. On that point, Morrison stated “When it is like the flu, we should treat it like the flu and that means no lock downs,” and that would therefore mean “exempting vaccinated residents from all domestic restrictions,” “abolishing caps on returning vaccinated travellers,” and “lifting all restrictions on out-bound travel for vaccinated persons” while “extending the travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new countries such as Singapore.”
The kicker, typically, is that Morrison was characteristically short on detail as to how exactly Australia will achieve any of this, and was not forthcoming with any definitive timeline.
Morrison’s announcement today contained no information on how the Federal Government plans to address vaccine supply issues in the country, nor how they’ll combat the community distrust that fear-based media reports and misinformation has instilled in the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Funnily enough, Scott Morrison stated “I certainly don’t have any issue with what I said about that” with regards to his probably accidental slip on Monday night that casually opened access to the AstraZeneca vaccine up to every Australian under 40.
But fear not, for those of you worried about gaining access to any of the vaccines. The Prime Minster assures everyone that “I have said to you today that we believe we’ll be in a position by the end of the year to have provided every Australian who wants a vaccine to be able to have received one. We believe we can achieve that.”
So, end of the year before Australia can move into phase two of this four-phase plan.
We’ll see how it goes.