Backflip as Annastacia Palaszczuk says she WILL follow national plan

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Annastacia Palaszczuk has hosed down reports Queensland’s borders will remain closed until the state hits a 90 per cent double-dose vaccination rate.

The Queensland premier described reports she had rejected the national plan to reopen her state’s borders at 80 per cent as ‘misinformation’. 

‘Let me say categorically, national cabinet is working on a national plan, we are waiting on further information on the Doherty modelling coming to national cabinet in a fortnight’s time,’ she said at a press conference in Bundaberg on Tuesday.

Queensland could hit 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage as early as November 13 after a bumper 325,000 jabs last week.

Residents in NSW and Victoria are banned from travelling to Queensland without an exemption, but could be able to enjoy a Christmas holiday in the Sunshine State if vaccination rates remain steady. 

Asked what Queensland would look like once the 80 per cent double-dose vaccination threshold was reached under Phase C of the national plan, Ms Palaszczuk said the mark meant ‘different things to different states’. 

‘At the moment you can travel to Queensland from Tasmania, South Australia, WA and the Northern Territory, a large part of Australia is already opened up.’ she said. 

‘Have a look at what it means for NSW and Victoria – it is completely different to Queensland because Queensland is already open.

‘You only need to look at the Victorian roadmap as an example, that say when you have 80 per cent fully vaccinated, and that includes 12 to 15 year olds, then you can have 30 people over for Christmas dinner.

‘Now we already have 100 people allowed to their homes, we have Queenslanders going out, their normal business, to cafes, restaurants, shops, and I’m told we already have record bookings for [the current ] school holidays.’

‘Now if we had the virus come in from NSW or Victoria, we would have to go into lockdown…  and then we would be fighting to get our freedoms backs. 

‘I am trying to get Queenslanders vaccinated to protect out lifestyle and protect our freedoms.’

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Analysis by the Courier Mail shows the state government’s Pfizer vaccine blitz last weekend bolstered the vaccination rate to new highs. 

If ‘Super Pfizer Weekends’ become permanent – and other parts of the state without the jab hubs rates rise collectively by 5 per cent a week – 80 per cent of Queenslanders aged 16 and older could be fully-vaccinated by November 13. 

Continuing that trajectory, Queensland would hit the 90 per cent jab rate just 10 days later – and six days faster than the current national forecast – if dose supplies are not hampered.  

Queensland, alongside Western Australia, has the worst vaccination rates in the country, with 41.8 per cent their residents vaccinated and just over 60 per cent having received one dose. 

Video: Communities with low vaccination rates may not be given freedoms (Sky News Australia)

As they trail behind the rest of the country, Ms Palaszczuk has signalled another mass vaccination weekend could be on the cards.

‘We need to drive those vaccination rates even higher,’ she said.

‘We don’t want to see our hospitals overwhelmed and our people sick … we have to be absolutely super prepared.’

Nationwide, November 13 is the day earmarked for Australia to hit the 80 per cent target, initially flagged as the key number for both international and interstate travel to resume.      

Under the federal government’s four-phase plan, Covid lockdowns will end once 70 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, a milestone expected to be hit nationally by November 2.

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By December 5, when the Covid vaccination rate is forecast to reach 80 per cent, state border were meant to open to allow interstate travel for vaccinated Australians.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, who are both battling Delta outbreaks in their states, released roadmaps outlining an end to lockdowns in their capital cities at the 70 per cent target.  

But Ms Palaszczuk and Mr McGowan are yet to release blueprints for how their states will progress out of the pandemic. 

All state and territories agreed to Scott Morrison’s plan three times before it was announced in July but the rebel premiers want the vaccination threshold to be increased for their states.   

Border tensions first arose in August when the Queensland and WA premiers disputed the accuracy of the Doherty Institute’s modelling used to devise the national recovery plan.

They both argued the initial findings were based on small daily case numbers, and did not reflect the implications of borders reopening while other states, calling for further research in light of NSW’s Delta outbreak. 

On Friday, the Doherty Institute, released the results of an additional ‘sensitivity analyses’ of the scenarios presented in its initial report, requested by Ms Palaszczuk and Mr McGowan.

The institute was asked to test the robustness of the recommendation to transition to Phases B and C of the national plan at 70 and 80 per cent vaccination coverage if Covid-19 infection was already established in the community. 

‘These findings confirm our earlier strategic advice that even high levels of vaccination will not be sufficient to stop Covid-19 in its tracks,’ the institute said in a statement.

Mr Andrews on Sunday released his long-awaited road map out of lockdown as the state recorded 507 new cases and another death, bringing its toll from the latest outbreak to 11.

The road map includes scrapping the nightly curfew once 70 per cent of Victorians are fully vaccinated.

But substantial changes will not be made until 80 per cent of people are immunised, which is forecast to occur around November 5.

‘We are opening up, no doubt about that, and there will be no turning back,’ Mr Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

‘If you care about nurses, doctors, ambos, cooks and cleaners, everyone in our health system, if they’re important to you, then get vaccinated.’ 

Ms Berejiklian said recreation rules will be relaxed for 12 hotspots in western Sydney from Monday, a week after the rest of the state.

These include fully vaccinated adults being able to exercise outdoors with no time limits and gather in groups of five for outdoor recreation within 5km of home.

But the premier warned the state is still in a ‘precarious’ situation and case numbers will increase when it reopens at the 70 per cent vaccination target.

‘We are anticipating our worst weeks in ICU and hospitals will be in October,’ she said. 

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