‘Unpredictable’ new variants of Covid-19 could evade vaccines, warns Scott Morrison

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New variants of Covid-19 emerging in poor countries are ‘unpredictable’ and could evade vaccines, Scott Morrison has warned.

The Prime Minister backed his policy to keep international borders closed as other countries relax restrictions, saying he won’t ‘recklessly’ trade places with nations that still have high numbers of cases and deaths.

‘Once you let it in you can’t get it out,’ he said of the virus in an interview with Sunrise. 

Commuters wear protective face masks as they enter Central Station following the implementation of new public health regulations from the state of New South Wales

It comes as Sydney stares down the barrel of another lockdown after an outbreak of the Indian Delta variant rose to 36 on Wednesday with more cases expected on Thursday.

Western Australia and South Australia have shut their borders to all New South Wales residents while other jurisdictions have blocked travel from either Greater Sydney or the seven worst-affected local government areas, just before school holidays.

Sunrise host Natalie Barr asked the Prime Minister why Australians are facing restrictions while nations like the US and the UK, who have largely vaccinated their populations, are opening up.  

Mr Morrison said: ‘In Australia we don’t have the virus at rates seen in other countries.

‘If we would take the steps that others seem to be suggesting, we would have to be comfortable with 5,000 cases a day. Now I don’t think Australians would be happy with that.

‘What we’re doing is we’re keeping our economy growing and keeping our people safe and we’re doing that behind international borders.

‘And I agree with you, we should keep Australia as open as possible behind those borders.’

Those who live and work in seven hotspot suburbs will not be allowed to leave metropolitan Sydney unless they have an essential reason

Those who live and work in seven hotspot suburbs will not be allowed to leave metropolitan Sydney unless they have an essential reason

Those who live and work in seven hotspot suburbs will not be allowed to leave metropolitan Sydney unless they have an essential reason

The comments are a heavy blow to Aussies hoping to visit family overseas after 15 months of being trapped in the country due to travel bans. The government estimates the borders will not be open until July 2022.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Australia has pursued an aggressive suppression strategy to snuff out the virus with some of the toughest border controls in the world alongside contract tracing and mass testing.

Earlier this week India recorded yet another variant of the virus which has been labelled Delta plus. 

Mr Morrison said the new strains were ‘unpredictable’ and made outlining a roadmap to freedom very difficult.

‘The strains are unpredictable. The variants and their impact on future vaccines and all the rest of it is unpredictable,’ he said.

‘And once you let it in, you can’t get it out and I’m not going to recklessly exchange places with countries in the rest of the world who are suffering from that problem where that got people dying every day. That’s not happening in Australia.’ 

On Wednesday evening, NSW Health added 12 stores, a busy bus route and three train lines to the burgeoning list of exposure sites in the city. Pictured: Passengers at Sydney Domestic Airport

On Wednesday evening, NSW Health added 12 stores, a busy bus route and three train lines to the burgeoning list of exposure sites in the city. Pictured: Passengers at Sydney Domestic Airport

On Wednesday evening, NSW Health added 12 stores, a busy bus route and three train lines to the burgeoning list of exposure sites in the city. Pictured: Passengers at Sydney Domestic Airport

The Prime Minister said the factor that would determine whether Australia could relax international borders would be whether the vaccines prevent hospitalisations.

In the UK, where half the population has been fully vaccinated compared to Australia’s measly three per cent, hospitalisation rates jumped 20 per cent over the past week due to the Delta variant – but the hospitalisation rate is now slowing.

‘The key figure going forward is how many people are suffering serious illness, and that’s what we are watching closely in the United Kingdom,’ Mr Morrison said. 

Fears are mounting that millions of Sydneysiders could soon be forced to lock down as the highly infectious Indian strain of Covid continues to spread across the city.

Sixteen new infections were announced on Wednesday, bringing the total to 36 new community infections in the Harbour City after a super spreader event saw 10 people infected at a birthday party, which was attended by 30 people.

Sources close to the Berejiklian government have hinted that Thursday will see ‘big numbers’ of new infections, with Sydneysiders ordered not to leave the city. 

Ms Berejiklian, who has always taken a measured approach to outbreaks, has so far stood firm by refusing to lock down Sydney, instead bringing in restrictions including limits of five visitors to a household and mandatory masks.

But in the face of a growing number of cases, senior health source admitted to Daily Mail Australia that the trend of infections is ‘not good’.

When asked about a potential lockdown, the source said: ‘It certainly looks like that’s where we are heading.’  

Ms Berejiklian conceded that harsher measures will be needed if cases begin to spiral out of control, particularly those not linked to known outbreaks.

‘We have always said we will not burden our citizens unless we absolutely have to,’ she said on Wednesday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Wednesday) has so far managed to fend off a lockdown, instead bringing in restrictions including limited visitors to the home and mandatory masks - even in offices

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Wednesday) has so far managed to fend off a lockdown, instead bringing in restrictions including limited visitors to the home and mandatory masks - even in offices

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Wednesday) has so far managed to fend off a lockdown, instead bringing in restrictions including limited visitors to the home and mandatory masks – even in offices

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