Australia’s cases soar as jab deal struck

By Matt Coughlan – AAP

Australia will receive four million Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses from Britain as the nation grapples with record infection numbers.

Australia has smashed its coronavirus case record and will soon receive an injection of four million vaccine doses from the UK.

There were more than 1650 new local infections reported on Friday across NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

Twelve people in NSW died, along with one in Victoria, taking the national toll to 1032.

Australia’s Pfizer supplies – a major handbrake on the vaccine rollout – received a major boost after the UK agreed to a swap deal.

Four million doses will arrive in Australia this month and be paid back later.

Scott Morrison said he owed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson a beer in return for the deal, which the government believes will significantly accelerate jab rates.

“This really does break the back of it,” Australia’s prime minister told reporters in Canberra.

Another 300,000 people received a jab in the past 24 hours as double-dose coverage for people aged 16 and over exceeded 37 per cent.

More than 61 per cent have received a single dose.

Vaccine coverage targets of 70 and 80 per cent linked to easing restrictions were again discussed at a national cabinet meeting.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese welcomed the vaccine deal but said it highlighted the government’s failure to acquire enough doses initially.

“If Australia was genuinely first in the queue, we wouldn’t be in a position or wouldn’t need to be doing swaps to bring forward vaccine supply,” he said.

A record infection rise was fuelled by the spiralling NSW outbreak which led to another 1431 people contracting the disease in 24 hours.

Victoria broke 200 cases for the first time in a year with both states pinning lockdown exit plans on a rapid increase in vaccinations.

There were another 18 cases in Canberra where year 12 students will receive priority access to the ACT’s jab allocation from a separate swap deal with Singapore.

National cabinet was also briefed on how hospitals would cope when cases and deaths rise under less restrictions and higher vaccine coverage.

Health Department boss Brendan Murphy denied claims that elective surgeries and other care will be delayed to deal with the virus.

“It is not a plan that is dependent on stopping elective surgeries and paralysing the private hospital system. That is not true,” he told a Senate committee.

“They are there as a valuable backstop if we need them but all the modelling is done to move into living with COVID in a vaccinated population with low-level activity.”

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said leaders should go back to the drawing board if the plan involved sacrificing other care.

“Stopping surgery and other care was necessary in 2020 in a crisis,” he said on Friday.

“But there is no excuse for lazy planning now. If we can’t open up without decimating ordinary health care maybe we need more than 80 per cent of our population vaccinated?”

Dr Khorshid said the system needed to provide normal care to everyone or lives would be lost for years to come.   -AAP 

IMAGE: A shipment of 500,000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines arrives into Sydney International Airport from Singapore, in Sydney, Thursday, September 2, 2021 PICTURE: AAP Image/Pool, Gaye Gerard

This article was first published on 4 September 2021.

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