Roadmap incites caution and disappointment as states race towards vaccination targets

By Jackson Graham

September 21, 2021

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said cases would significantly rise once the state begins opening next month. 
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said cases would significantly rise once the state begins opening next month. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Medical bodies have met Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown with cautious optimism while business groups are disappointed the pace is slower than in NSW. 

The Victorian Australian Medical Association president Roderick McRae supported the plan but cautioned adjustments might be necessary if COVID-19 cases put the health system under too much strain.  

Burnet Institute modelling, which the roadmap is based on, estimated peak coronavirus outbreaks would occur in late October and mid December. 

About 60% of the institute’s models show if Victoria significantly eases restrictions when it reaches 80% vaccination coverage more than 2500 will require hospitalisation. 

The modelling also predicted deaths could reach between 1455 and 3152 people. 

“High rates of symptomatic testing among people who are vaccinated could reduce the impact on the health system,” the institute said in a report, also flagging if vaccinated and unvaccinated people tested at the same rate far fewer people would likely be hospitalised. 

“This may be difficult to achieve in practice,” the institute conceded. 

Daily case numbers this week have shown Victorian hospital admissions steadying after rising 30% in the past week. 

Dr McRae said cases would need to be consistently monitored and balanced with the roadmap.

“AMA Victoria are very keen that the finger is very close to hovering over the pause button because nobody wants to go back to the hard lockdown,” he told ABC News. 

But Victorian Chamber chief executive Paul Guerra labelled the roadmap as delivering “roadblocks”. 

“Victorians deserve answers as to why Victoria’s health advice and roadmap is so different to NSW,” Guerra said. 

“It is extremely tough to look over the border and see our NSW neighbours get back to relatively normal life while we continue to be locked down in a holding pattern.” 

Restrictions in Melbourne will slightly ease for people to play some outdoor sports next week when 80% of Victorians aged over 16 have received their first vaccination dose. 

But it won’t be until October 26 when 70% of Victorians are fully vaccinated that pubs, clubs and entertainment venues can reopen to 50 fully vaccinated people outdoors. 

NSW is expected to reach its 70% target for people having two doses of vaccine more than two weeks earlier on October 8. 

Hospitality and retail business in NSW will open to fully vaccinated people with density limits of one person per four square metres. Five fully vaccinated visitors will also be allowed in homes. 

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said cases would significantly rise once the state begins opening next month. 

“We have to accept that once we start reopening cases will go through the roof but it won’t matter as much because people will be vaccinated,” she said. 

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said restrictions needed to remain in place and the territory would be moving through the stages of the national plan gradually.  

Barr said updated Doherty Institute advice to the national cabinet, the Burnet Institute advice to the Victorian government, and NSW Health advice from earlier this month showed significant risks of “moving too fast” once reaching 70% double-dose levels. 

“The clear advice is that it is prudent to wait until reaching 80% before making major changes,” he said. 

“Whilst COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community and whilst we are working to increase our vaccination coverage, restrictions need to remain in place.” 

He said the government planned to get as many people safely back to work as it could in the coming six weeks.


READ MORE:

Scientific modelling rules out UK style ‘freedom day’ but there is hope for Australia in navigating the COVID-19 path

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