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Defiant Premier warns of deaths in the thousands if lockdowns end too early

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has doubled down on her hardline approach to COVID infections, warning thousands will die every month and insisting children will be put in danger if borders open too early.

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The Premier took to social media to highlight Doherty Institute modelling that predicted the death tool but did not mention that such figures were dependent on their being no precautions against the virus spread being put in place.

“If NSW is the model of what lies in store for all of us, then serious discussions are needed,” she tweeted.

“Doherty Institute modelling predicts, even with 70 per cent of the population vaccinated, 80 people will die each day six months after the outbreak.

“That’s 2,240 who will die each month.”

It came as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has put himself at odds with the Premier over the vulnerability of children to COVID, saying the Delta strain of coronavirus is more transmissible than other variants but not more severe.

Just three of the almost 4000 children aged under 12 infected with coronavirus in Australia this year have needed intensive care treatment.

Palaszczuk has sparked fierce national debate and a broadside of political attacks after questioning what would happen if Queensland opened its borders and young children were unvaccinated.

Children aged 12 to 15 have joined the vaccine rollout but no regulator in Australia or abroad has approved coronavirus jabs for people younger than that.

Kelly said immunising parents was the key to protecting young people who are less severely affected than adults.

“The disease in children is very different from what we’re seeing in adults,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Since January 1, 3815 children under 12 have contracted coronavirus across Australia.

While 134 have been hospitalised, most of those have been for social reasons including their parents being too unwell to care for them.

Three have been admitted to intensive care.

Palaszczuk says she’s waiting for the prime minister to provide modelling on what will happen to infants and children up to 12 years of age if restrictions are eased when vaccination rates reach 70 per cent. She has pointed to rising infection rates among children overseas.

“At the last national cabinet meeting I actually raised the issue of children, and the prime minister undertook to get some further work done, is my understanding,” Ms Palaszczuk told parliament on Thursday.

However, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the national plan was always aimed at protecting all Australians from the virus, including children.

He said the suggestion that kids hadn’t been considered in the plan was “false”, and added that no vaccinations had been approved for children under the age of 12 anywhere in the world and no countries were vaccinating children.

“In fact, I think the best response in a way is what has been written by Queensland Health in their COVID-19 and Kids: What you need to Know document dated 5 August 2021: serious illness remains extremely rare in children,” Hunt told reporters.

“I also quote: ‘Even children with serious underlying conditions will mostly only experience a mild illness with COVID-19’.”

Kelly said the Delta strain – which is spreading across locked-down NSW, Victoria and the ACT – was more transmissible than other variants.

“It is not more severe. There is very little evidence anywhere in the world that severity has increased,” he said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said her claim that children would be vulnerable if the virus circulated in Queensland didn’t stack up.

“It’s a desperate denial of the reality and is not based on the medical advice,” he told the Seven Network on Thursday.

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese distanced himself from the Premier, saying he backed the national plan while acknowledging states not locked down were worried about the disease’s potential impact.

“Parents are very worried about their children,” he said. “But we need to follow the health advice.”

There were 1288 new cases and seven deaths in NSW, taking the national toll to 1019.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said leaders needed to “get real” on accepting Australia would never eliminate coronavirus.

“We can’t pretend that we’re separate nations within one nation. We all need to work together,” she said.

She called on state leaders to “put things into perspective”, noting COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths would decline in a world of high vaccination coverage.

“The sad reality is outside of a pandemic, we lose between 600 and 800 people every year to the flu. We have to put things into perspective.

“Nobody likes to talk about this because it is confronting but we have to get back to living life as normally as possible, knowing that COVID is among us.

“At the moment there are eight million (NSW) citizens who do not have a choice in how they spend their free time, who do not have a choice about what they can do when they leave their homes.

“That is no way to live.”

Victoria, which recorded 176 new cases on Thursday, has dumped its goal of returning to zero cases but Melbourne’s lockdown will continue while vaccination rates rise.

Queensland has recorded two new local cases in truck drivers in as many days.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, premiers and chief ministers will receive an update on how hospitals are placed at Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

Outbound travel restrictions made under emergency biosecurity laws have been extended for three months until December 17.

Australia has fully vaccinated 35.7 per cent of the population aged 16 and over, while 59.6 per cent have received one dose.

-AAP

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