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(Australian Associated Press)
Australia has broken through 80 per cent first-dose coronavirus vaccination coverage on the same day as setting a new infection record.
The immunisation milestone for people aged 16 and over was reached on Tuesday morning with hundreds of thousands of people continuing to roll up their sleeves each day.
But health authorities have warned people who have been hesitant, complacent or not worried about the virus that “now is the time” to get vaccinated.
More than 57 per cent of over-16s have received both doses.
Victoria’s 1763 new cases set a national record for any state or territory during the pandemic.
While infections in NSW are falling as jab rates climb, there were another 608 people who contracted the disease.
The ACT detected another 33 local cases and there were two in Queensland.
Seven deaths in NSW and four in Victoria pushed the national death toll to 1355.
Health department secretary Brendan Murphy launched a fresh appeal to unvaccinated people in COVID-free states.
“If you’re someone who has been complacent, hesitant, not too worried because there’s no COVID – now is the time to make your vaccination appointment,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“If COVID comes to a part of the country for the first time when there’s high vaccination rates the impact is quite minimal.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt rejected criticism the federal government had not adequately funded state hospitals ahead of cases rising further when restrictions are eased.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused the Queensland government of trying to extort money and shake-down politics.
All states and territories last week wrote to Mr Hunt urging immediate funding to ease health system pressure due to coronavirus and pre-existing demand.
Mr Hunt said the Commonwealth was already picking up the bill for 50 per cent of all COVID-related hospital expenses.
“You get the feeling sometimes that people are desperate for a fight,” he said.
“They cannot complain about vaccines so now they’re trying to create a diversion.”
National cabinet has received detailed briefings on how hospitals are likely to cope with increasing infection numbers.
Professor Murphy favours publicly releasing the 100-page document but the decision rests with the prime minister, premiers and chief ministers.
“It’s showing that we can cope with the predicted demand on our health system,” he said.
Mr Morrison continues to pressure states to reopen borders at 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage, when international travel will resume.
He argues people from Melbourne and Sydney will be able to holiday in Bali or Fiji before Queensland or WA.
The tourism sector will have to wait until next year to welcome back international tourists.
Stranded Australians, skilled migrants and foreign students are higher priorities.
Australia has also clinched a deal for 300,000 courses of antiviral pill Molnupiravir, which is being trialled in the US.
It can be taken at home to treat coronavirus, and has shown promising signs of slashing deaths and hospitalisations.
Australia’s medicines regulator will need to give the green light to the treatment.