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Australia’s Chief Medical Officer addresses reopening with high NSW COVID caseload

ASSA | 2021-08-23 10:10:17

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer has weighed in on whether Sydney’s deepening COVID crisis will delay the country’s reopening.

New South Wales on Sunday reported 830 new local cases of COVID-19, breaking its own record of the highest daily caseload in any Australian state or territory throughout the pandemic.

With the caseload remaining high despite eight weeks of lockdown, CMO Paul Kelly was asked whether National Cabinet’s plan to reopen by the end of the year was in jeopardy.

Modelling supplied to state and territory and federal leaders showed that lockdowns would no longer be needed once 80 per cent of the eligible population was fully vaccinated.

On current projections, that milestone should be met before the end of the year.

Kelly on Sunday was asked whether the Doherty Institute, which supplied the modelling, needed to “go back to the drawing board”.

“The answer is absolutely not,” Kelly said.

He said the focus would turn away from cases and instead to hospitalisations once more Australians had been offered the vaccine.

If restrictions were eased at 70 per cent vaccine uptake, there would be 385,000 cases within six months, according to the Doherty Institute.

The sooner restrictions were lifted, the quicker that benchmark would be hit, it said.

“The model itself remains the same. It’s a tweak to the assumption,” Kelly said of the high caseload.

“So that’s the work that’s being done this week.

“As I said in the previous answer to the same question, I don’t think it will materially change things a lot.”

On Sunday, Australia reached more than 17 million doses of vaccine administered.

Thirty per cent of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated, with a further 4 million having received their first dose.

More than 1.7 million doses were administered in the past seven days.