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(Australian Associated Press)
High-quality coronavirus testing, tracing and quarantine will be crucial to keeping death rates low even when 70 per cent of Australians are vaccinated.
Doherty Institute modelling underpinning national cabinet’s in-principle agreement for key immunisation targets was released on Tuesday.
At 70 per cent of vaccination coverage the frequency of strict lockdowns is significantly reduced, while 80 per cent is expected to all but end city-wide shutdowns.
The report stresses the importance of maintaining effective tracking and tracing, isolation and quarantine along with low-level social distancing restrictions when 30 per cent of people remain unvaccinated.
It found optimal measures could improve outcomes 100 fold with deaths limited to 16 over 180 days.
Under only baseline restrictions combined with partially effective tracing and quarantine, 1908 people could die in six months.
Hospitalisations could be kept below 100 with best practice but as high as 13,698 without.
Symptomatic infections could exceed 390,000 with partially effective baseline measures but remain as low as 2762 with optimal systems in place.
The Doherty Institute’s Jodie McVernon said people in their 20s were peak spreaders of coronavirus with the modelling showing vaccinating younger people would be key to slowing outbreaks.
“Younger adults are peak transmitters of COVID-19, while older adults experience the most severe health impacts,” the report says.
“As supply allows, extending eligibility to all adults (16+) offers the greatest potential to slow down transmission.”
The second milestone of 80 per cent coverage would allow a shift to only highly targeted lockdowns and allow overseas travel.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would be more feasible to live with the virus when vaccination rates reached the higher threshold.
“When you got it down to 80 per cent, the sort of death, hospitalisation and infection rates is what you expect to see with something like a flu,” he told reporters in Canberra.
The modelling sets out average annual influenza deaths of 642 from more than 178,000 cases based on 2016 to 2019 levels.
Until Australia has high vaccination coverage outbreaks are likely to have rapid and uncontrolled growth with significant deaths, requiring regular and extended lockdowns.
The report says the optimal strategy is to continue with a suppression approach which locks down hard and early.
That will limit the duration and costs of lockdowns.
The latest vaccination data shows 19.7 per cent of people over 16 have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
There were more than 200,000 doses administered in the past 24 hours, the fourth consecutive weekday of exceeding that mark.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told parliament the government’s latest research showed 79 per cent of people were intending to be vaccinated.
People immunised against coronavirus can now add a digital vaccination certificate to their Apple Wallet or Google Pay on smartphones.
Sydney’s coronavirus crisis continues with another 199 cases of local transmission detected on Tuesday.
Queensland recorded 16 new local cases taking its cluster to 47.
In Victoria there were four new local infections all of which were in isolation.