The New South Wales Premier and Health Minister are walking back comments about living with COVID-19, after a backlash from state leaders including WA Premier Mark McGowan who has pledged to keep the border closed under that policy.
- NSW today recorded 38 new cases, the highest number in 14 months
- Mr McGowan says states face ongoing restrictions if risks to WA remain
- The NSW Premier says Mr McGowan is “consistent” in his comments
Mr McGowan today warned states that “go rogue” would face ongoing border restrictions, in response to comments by Brad Hazzard, who yesterday said NSW may never control its current COVID-19 outbreak and be forced to live with the virus for good.
Mr McGowan said the fact that WA would keep its hard border with NSW until it gets on top of the current situation was a statement of “the bleeding obvious”.
“You can’t just allow the virus to run and then expect every other state to have their border down and import it to other states. That would not be fair,” he said.
Mr McGowan said until an “overwhelming majority” of Australians were vaccinated, other states would have to have restrictions and rules in place for states with outbreaks.
“If they have continuing spread of the virus in New South Wales, before such time as all West Australians are vaccinated and they allow that to continue, then you would have to have ongoing restrictions and rules about the state that allows that to happen,” he said.
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley said the notion of letting the virus run is not national policy.
“It’s been a position of National Cabinet for aggressive community suppression and that’s clearly what NSW is attempting to do,” he said.
“Should any jurisdiction change their policy position I would assume they would take that back to National Cabinet for consideration.
“That was the forum that put in place the active suppression policy and I would expect all of us who’ve signed up to that to go back to National Cabinet if we wanted that to change.”
He said if the public health advice changed, the Victorian government’s response would change as well.
NSW today recorded 38 new cases, the highest number of new infections the state has recorded in a 24-hour reporting period in 14 months.
NSW Premier distances herself from comments
Mr McGowan said he was pleased NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had today distanced herself from Mr Hazzard’s comments.
“What the New South Wales Health Minister said yesterday was that if they cannot get it under control then they would need to perhaps just let it run,” Mr McGowan said.
“If the New South Wales Premier is disowning that then that’s a good thing.
“If a state has spread of the virus and it continues on, like Victoria did last year, then you have border measures in place whilst you have community spread in that other state.
“The alternative is (…) you will import the virus and then we will have to lockdown.
Border in place until virus ‘eliminated’, AMA says
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said he expected WA would continue to use border restrictions to protect its residents.
“Western Australia will do what is necessary to protect Western Australians, we have seen that from the McGowan Government so far,” Dr Khorshid said.
“And I am very confident that a hard border with New South Wales will be a reality until New South Wales has eliminated the virus from the community.”
Dr Khorsid said there would be an ongoing risk to other states if NSW changed its policy.
“We can’t live with this virus,” he said.
“New South Wales certainly can’t live in lockdown until we’re fully vaccinated. So if that means turning up the restrictions that’s exactly what they should do.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian brushed off Mr McGowan’s comments about an ongoing hard border with New South Wales.
“At least he [Mr McGowan] is consistent,” she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged people in Sydney to follow the rules and to stop spreading the virus by casual contact with family and friends.
He said NSW would get an additional 300,000 vaccines next week, equally split between Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and announced financial support for those who need it.
Mr Morrison also took aim at those who said Australia’s vaccination rates had been lagging far behind other OECD countries.
He said Australia would “rocket up those charts” in the months ahead.
“At the rates we’re now achieving, at some million vaccinations almost a week, that will ensure if we can keep that pace up and the supply lines hold … then every Australian who wishes to have a vaccine by the end of the year … that will be possible,” he said.
‘We could end up like India’ if we let the virus run, expert says
Raina MacIntyre, an epidemiologist from the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute, said trying to live with coronavirus would be a “dangerous move.”
“We’ve got virtually no immunity in the community … and very few people have been infected. So we are absolutely susceptible,” she said.
“If we let it spread in Sydney it would impact the whole country and we could end up with a situation like we saw in India in March and April.”
Bill Bowtell, an adjunct professor at the University of New South Wales, demanded to know what the implications of the policy would be in terms of deaths and case numbers.
Professor Peter Doherty, a Nobel laureate and immunologist, said if the policy changed “all of Australia was at risk.”
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