Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it’s “highly unlikely” Australia will ever return to zero cases of COVID-19 as large swathes of the population are currently in lockdown.
Speaking to the ABC’s David Speers on Insiders, Mr Morrison said lockdowns are “not a sustainable way to deal with the virus” and the strategy for the nation was to improve vaccination rates.
“We need to suppress the virus as best as we can,” he said.
“The national plan then transfers our focus from case numbers to issues of hospitalisation, serious illness, ICU and things of that nature.”
When asked if there is a chance of getting back to zero COVID-19, Mr Morrison said: “I think that’s highly unlikely, but that’s really not the point”.
The prime minister also published an opinion piece today in which he warned Australians case numbers will increase even after the nation achieves the goal of 80 per cent of eligible Australians fully vaccinated.
“It’s always darkest before the dawn, and these hard lockdowns are imposing a heavy toll,” Mr Morrison wrote.
“They are sadly necessary for now, and we will keep providing health and income support to get people through, but they won’t be necessary for too much longer.
“Under our national plan when we start hitting the 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination targets, we can start claiming back what COVID has been taking away from us. And when we do so, we must not be intimidated by the case numbers that will inevitably increase.
“We will be able to better handle them then, because of all the improvements we have made to protect people from serious illness and fatality.”
He said case numbers do not “tell the whole story” and a key focus should be on vaccinating children aged over 12.
“This is what living with COVID is all about. The case numbers will likely rise when we soon begin to open up. That is inevitable,” he wrote.
“But our focus needs to be on the rate of people being hospitalised. That’s the measure that should now start to guide our response.
“Rising cases need not impact our plan to reopen, and reopen as soon we can. I know it seems pretty dark now, but it’s always darkest before the dawn, and dawn’s coming. So please hang in there.”