| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Australia aims to ‘live with virus’ instead of eliminating it

The COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne was extended for another three weeks on Wednesday, as officials shifted their focus to quick vaccination drives and away from a suppression plan to bring cases to zero.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated that the tight limits will be eased in stages once 70 percent of the state’s adult citizens have had at least one shot, a goal he intends to achieve by Sept. 23, based on current vaccination rates.

“We’ve tried everything,” Andrews said in Melbourne, after a nearly month-long lockdown failed to stop the spread. Thursday was supposed to be the last day of the lockdown.

“We have to purchase time to allow immunizations to be carried out while undertaking this extremely arduous, unpleasant, and challenging effort of keeping a lid on cases as much as possible.”

In Victoria, the number of new local cases increased to 120 from 76 the day before. One hundred of the new cases spent time in the community while infected.

Neighboring New South Wales state, home to Sydney, on Wednesday brought forward its target date to fully vaccinate 70% of people above 16 to the middle of next month from the initial target of the end of October, as outbreaks spurred a surge in inoculation.

“No matter where you live, life will be much, much better, much freer, as long as you’re vaccinated at 70%,” Berejiklian told reporters. So far 37% are fully vaccinated in the state, while 67% have had at least one dose, slightly higher than the national numbers but well below most comparable nations.

A total of 1,116 new cases were detected in New South Wales, down from 1,164 a day earlier. NSW reported four new deaths, taking the total number of deaths in the latest outbreak to 100.

ctold parliament on Wednesday Australians ultimately needed to be released from lockdowns.

“Australia can live with this virus,” he said in Canberra.


Australia is trying to get a handle on the third wave of infections that has locked down more than half of its 25 million population. Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities, and capital Canberra are in weeks-long strict stay-at-home orders.

Despite recent flare-ups, the coronavirus has been kept to a manageable level, with little over 55,000 cases and 1,012 deaths.

Australia was the last of the Group of 20 major nations to record 1,000 COVID-19 deaths, a dismal but small milestone by global standards attained this week.

COVID-19 mortality are lower in some major Asia-Pacific economies, with New Zealand reporting only 26 cases.

While previous outbreaks in Australia were contained by lockdowns, the highly infectious Delta strain has pushed the country’s two largest states to prepare for a reopening even as cases continue to grow.

Australian Medical Association vice president Chris Moy told Reuters that Delta’s high infectivity, short incubation and asymptomatic spread had meant the “old playbook did not work”.

“Your window of opportunity at the start to eliminate it is so much smaller and basically once you’re passed that, Delta decides its destiny,” Moy said.

The federal government is pressing the states and territories to stick to a national reopening plan once vaccination rates reach 70%-80% although some virus-free states said they may delay given the rapidly rising Sydney cases.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg urged the state leaders to follow the national reopening plans.

“Stick to the plan … a plan that allows businesses to reopen and plan for their own future … a plan that takes Australia forward to living safely with the virus,” Frydenberg said.

  • Reuters