Planning Ahead: A Four-Phase Path to Freedom
These past several weeks have not been easy. Many have lost work. Businesses have been forced to close. Many are struggling with social isolation, mental health challenges or managing learning from home. Parents have had to juggle their own work while schooling their children from home. Regular activities and special occasions have been cancelled. And many have not seen family and friends overseas for many months, causing considerable anguish.
High vaccination rates hold the key to a return to normal and an end to lockdowns. Our COVID-19 vaccination program is ramping up, with an average of 200,000 vaccinations being delivered on a daily basis during the week. At the time of going to print, over 40 per cent of eligible Australians have received their first dose, and over 20 per cent of eligible Australians are fully vaccinated.
As supplies of vaccine increase, and as more GPs and pharmacists join the distribution network, this rate of vaccination will accelerate further.
Following economic and health modelling of the delta variant, the federal government and state governments have agreed to a set of benchmarks to guide our progress from here, in a four-phase plan.
The first target is for 70 per cent of eligible Australians to be fully vaccinated. Once this target is met, we will have a high degree of health protections, lockdowns will become rare, and we can move from the current phase of suppression (Phase A) to one of containment (Phase B).
The next target is for 80 per cent of eligible Australians to be fully vaccinated. When this happens, we can move to Phase C, in which there are no lockdowns, no domestic travel restrictions for vaccinated Australians, and restrictions on international travel begins to be lifted. In the final phase, Phase D, Australia is back to normal and our borders are entirely re-opened.
Our future vaccine supplies are secure. We continue to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine locally. We are receiving 1 million Pfizer doses per week and this number will continue to grow, and we have secured 85 million Pfizer booster doses for 2022 and 2023. We will begin to receive 10 million Moderna vaccines from September and have ordered 50 million Novavax vaccines.
I have been working closely with parliamentary colleagues at the state and federal levels to ensure that individuals, families and businesses have support measures in place during these difficult times.
If you are a worker who has had their hours reduced in the wake of the lockdown in Sydney, you can access the COVID-19 Disaster Payment of up to $750 per week. Those already receiving income support can access an additional $200 per week if they have lost work. There are also several support packages which have been put into place for sole traders and small and medium sized businesses. More information is available on the MyGov Portal and the Services New South Wales website, or get in touch with my office if you would like to discuss your own situation.
Too often sidelined in the discussion about COVID-19 is the mental health impact, which can arise from prolonged isolation, anxiety or financial stress. It is entirely understandable if you are struggling to cope, so please seek help. The government has allocated additional money to mental health services for support during this time. You can see some of the resources available on the page opposite.
The most valuable thing you can do during these times is to ensure you and your loved ones get vaccinated, look out for the more vulnerable and isolated within your communities and look after your own health. Together, we will get through this.