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PM's promise: Million jabs a week will make lockdowns a thing of the past by 2022

Politics

Scott Morrison has raised expectations lockdowns will not be needed next year if all Australians are offered coronavirus vaccines.

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The federal government previously walked back on several vaccination targets, including ensuring everyone would have a first dose by October.

Now, the prime minister expects everyone who wants a jab will be able to receive two doses by the year’s end.

“By the end of the year, people who have wanted to have the vaccine will have had that opportunity,” Morrison told 3AW on Thursday.

He is increasingly confident as vaccination administrations reach around one million doses a week.

The prime minister said immunisation offered governments more options despite his earlier warnings about countries with high vaccination rates recording major case numbers.

“Lockdowns become a thing of the past when you’re at that level.”

But he also said no one could provide a guarantee Australia would be fully open by Christmas because of unpredictability of the Delta strain.

The prime minister encouraged people who had received a shot of AstraZeneca to expedite their second dose.

His advice extends beyond locked-down Sydney to people in other parts of the country.

“If they are in a position to do that, then that is consistent with the license for AstraZeneca,” Mr Morrison said.

“I need to get the whole country vaccinated as well and the sooner we get there and it can be done safely then we should.”

Morrison will on Friday thrash out modelling with the states to determine what level of vaccination coverage Australia needs to stop rolling lockdowns and border closures.

“Will we get there in one meeting? No, I dont think we will,” he said.

Sydney and surrounds will remain locked down until at least the end of August as the city struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

Victoria and South Australia have emerged from lockdown after bringing their respective Delta outbreaks under control.

About 17 per cent of Australians aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated, leaving the country well behind similar nations five months into the rollout.

Disaster support payments have been increased from $600 to $750 for people who have lost more than 20 hours of work a week in lockdown areas.

People who lose between eight and 20 hours will receive $450, up from $375 a week.

Welfare recipients, previously been excluded from the payments, can get $200 if they lose eight hours of work a week.

Business support has also been boosted for NSW and Victoria.

In NSW, businesses and non-profits with revenue declines of more than 30 per cent will receive weekly payments of between $1500 and $100,000.

The expanded program’s turnover cap has been raised from $50 million to $250 million.

 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said some people in the highest priority groups including aged and disability workers still hadn’t been vaccinated.

“We’re now 18 months into a pandemic. The government had two jobs to do – rolling out the vaccine and national quarantine,” he told Sky News.

“They’ve really fallen behind of both of those fundamental jobs.”

The federal government has announced coronavirus disaster support payments will be raised from $600 to $750 for people who lose more than 20 hour work because of lockdowns.

Welfare recipients, who had previously been excluded, can access $200 payments if they lose eight hours’ work.

People who lose between eight and 20 hours will receive $450, up from $375 a week.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said the government had been dragged kicking and screaming into increasing disaster payments.

“For many workers living in New South Wales who lost their livelihoods more than a month ago, it’s come far too late,” she said.

“It’s also too late for workers in Victoria and South Australia affected by earlier lockdowns.”

While the expansion is designed to immediately help people in NSW, all Australians will be eligible for the new rates under future lockdowns.

But Victorian and South Australian residents who recently emerged from lockdowns were only able to access the lower rate.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the most senior Victorian in the federal government, said the increase was a result of Sydney and surrounds extending lockdown for a month.

NSW recorded 177 new local cases on Wednesday, the highest during the current outbreak.

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