‘Tens of thousands of lives saved', Hunt says as national cabinet to talk mandatory vaccines

Australia is second only to New Zealand for the lowest number of coronavirus deaths per capita in the OECD – a sign the country’s public health measures have worked to protect the population, Health Minister Greg Hunt has declared.

© Scott McNaughton 03.07.21 The Age
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Mount Martha
Photo shows Minister Greg Hunt giving an update on the COVID-19 situation from the Mount Martha Lifesaving Club. Photo: Scott McNaughton / The Age

By Thursday evening, more than 70 per cent of the eligible population aged 16 and over would have had a first dose. Once 70 per cent of that population is fully vaccinated, the country can move into the next phase of the national recovery plan that will see fewer restrictions and increased caps on international arrivals.

More than 95 per cent of aged care workers have also had their first shot as the jab becomes mandatory for staff in the sector from Friday. That program will be discussed at national cabinet on Friday as state and territory leaders look to mandate vaccinations for all healthcare workers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the pace of the vaccine rollout means the double-dose target will be reached soon.

“Today we will hit 70 per cent of the country aged over 16 who have had their first dose. That 70 per cent double dose and 80 per cent double dose mark is within plain sight,” he said on Thursday morning.

Analysis by the federal government shows Australia has the second-lowest cumulative rate of COVID-19 deaths in the OECD, with just 0.75 deaths per 100,000 people.

In contrast, between February 24 and September 14, the US recorded nearly 308,000 coronavirus deaths or 93 per 100,000 people, while the UK has recorded 89.4 deaths per 100,000.

The Health Minister said it shows that, even as NSW records thousands of cases a week, Australians have been protected from the brunt of the pandemic by the international border controls, testing and contact tracing, social distancing and vaccinations.

“The fact that we have the second-lowest per capita levels of lives lost means that tens of thousands of lives were saved not just last year, but this year as well,” Mr Hunt said.

“The focus on aged care, both workers and residents, has meant that there are dramatically different human outcomes from the Sydney outbreak this year as opposed to the Victorian outbreak last year,” Mr Hunt said.

Across the country 95.8 per cent of the 252,625 people working in residential aged care have had at least one dose of a vaccine, and 76.9 per cent are fully vaccinated.

About 11,000 workers are yet to have one dose, but that number has more than halved since the beginning of the week as roving clinics worked to reach facilities where fewer than half the workers had been immunised.

National cabinet will on Friday discuss mandating vaccines in healthcare workers more broadly. States including NSW, WA and Tasmania have already made immunisation a work requirement, and Victoria has plans to soon follow.

State and territory leaders will also receive an update on the outbreak situation in NSW, and an update on the national plan, and a further update on the scientific modelling behind the plan from the Doherty Institute.

So far more than 9.2 million people aged 16 and over, or 44.7 per cent of the eligible population, are fully vaccinated.

The ACT and Tasmania have fully vaccinated more than 50 per cent of the eligible population. In NSW more than 80 per cent have had one dose, and 49.6 per cent of those aged 16 and up have had two shots.

Victoria will have passed the 70 per cent first dose mark on Thursday, while 42.4 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

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