Many didn’t expect Australia to be in the position it is now. After enforced lockdowns at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the nation seemed to be setting the example for others around the world, showcasing not just what can be achieved by enforcing strict restrictions early, but what a cautious return to normality looks like following such lockdowns. But when an outbreak of the delta variant hit NSW months ago, it soon became clear that the pandemic isn’t going anywhere and that, rather than waiting out the spread, the only option is to vaccinate. Not surprisingly, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian now believes a return to normality might not be achieved until late October – meaning we’ll have spent almost six months in lockdown.
Things have grown remarkably worse for NSW, with cases spreading around Australia and forcing other states into lockdown. As daily news reports provide an alarming update on case numbers and community transmissions, many of us are now reading the news with a confused expression as case numbers continue to rise. Despite the extension to lockdown coming with the proposed end date of August 28, the date is looking less and less like a reality. A recent Doherty report was published to advise the National Cabinet on how to transition Australia’s national Covid response. Late October is now being touted as the magic date, with health officials expecting NSW to reach 70 per cent of the eligible population being fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the report.
Speaking to the press, the NSW Premier explained: “As per the Doherty Institute report, two doses of 70 per cent vaccination [is the target] and NSW, if we had the current pace, we will hit that around the end of October.”
She continued, “[We will reach] 80 per cent towards the end of November. According to the Doherty report, that is when life gets back to normal, that is when we have a different approach to Covid, when freedoms that we had will be in place and we can look forward to having a normal existence.”
Currently, just 23.7 per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated, with 45.4 per cent of the population having had their first jab. In NSW, there have been 4.5 million doses administered in total and while it means we’re not that far off from the original bench mark set by Berejiklian for getting six million jabs by the end of August to ease restrictions, the fact the Delta variant is so contagious has many questioning if easing restrictions is too soon.
“The challenge for us is how we live in September and October,” said Berejiklian. “With 6 million jabs by the end of August, if achieved, there will be opportunities for us in parts of the communities where cases are low and vaccination rates are high for them to do more than they do today.”
As we enter our seventh week of lockdown here in Sydney, it’s hard to believe that we could be looking at further months spent in isolation. With the state having recorded 344 new locally acquired cases yesterday, a return to normal by August 28 seems unlikely. As we edge ever closer to having spent half a year in lockdown, the more assistance is needed both financially and emotionally, for struggling business owners, families and workers around Australia.