CANBERRA, Australia — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has raised expectations lockdowns will not be needed in 2022 if all Australians are offered coronavirus vaccines. The prime minister believes all people who want a vaccine will have the chance to receive one by the end of 2021, barring unforeseen circumstances.
“I would expect by Christmas we will be seeing a very different Australia to what we see now,” he said.
Around 17 percent of Australians aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated, leaving the nation well behind similar countries five months into the rollout.
But Morrison is increasingly confident as vaccination administrations reach around one million doses a week. The prime minister said immunization offered governments more options despite earlier warnings about countries with high vaccination rates recording major case numbers.
“Lockdowns become a thing of the past when you’re at that level,” said Anthony Albanese, leader of the Australian Labor Party.
He said that some people in the highest priority groups, including aged and disability workers, still hadn’t been vaccinated.
“We are now 18 months into a pandemic,” said Albanese.
“The government had two jobs to do, rolling out the vaccine and national quarantine. They have really fallen behind of both of those fundamental jobs.”
The federal government has announced coronavirus disaster support payments raised from AU$600 ($441) to AU$750 ($551) for people who lose more than 20 hours of work because of lockdowns.
Welfare recipients, who had previously been excluded, can access AU$200 ($147) payments if they lose eight hours’ work.
People who lose between eight and 20 hours will receive AU$450 ($331), up from AU$375 ($275) a week.
“For many workers living in New South Wales who lost their livelihoods more than a month ago, it’s come far too late,” she said.
“It’s also too late for workers in Victoria and South Australia affected by earlier lockdowns.”
While the expansion is designed to help people in New South Wales immediately, all Australians will be eligible for the new rates under future lockdowns.
But Victorian and South Australian residents who recently emerged from lockdowns could only access the lower rate.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the most senior Victorian in the federal government, said the increase resulted from Sydney and its surroundings extending lockdown for a month.
New South Wales recorded 177 new local cases on July 28, the highest during the current outbreak.
Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra
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