The Covid tactic Australia will eventually need to abandon

·3-min read

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has told a private seminar Australia will eventually need to abandon its fortress approach to coronavirus and “make a call on letting it run”.

In recordings obtained by The Age, Professor Brett Sutton told a seminar of healthcare workers in April, the decision to keep international borders shut would need to end and Australia would need to accept cases of Covid-19.

“We need to somehow communicate to the public that we’ve gotten to a place of complacency because we’ve driven transmission to zero but we will face newly emerging transmission, and a critical juncture where we need to make a call on letting it run,” he said.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton speaks during a press conference.
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has told a seminar Australia will need to eventually abandon the fortress mentality once vaccinations increase. Source: Getty Images, file

“I think that’ll be when we’ve got as high vaccination coverage for the adult population as we can possibly get to, so everyone being offered it, and building that confidence in vaccines as much as we can... then we need to really say ‘look, we can’t sit on our hands here’."

It was reported on Saturday former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth believes Australians need to come to terms with the fact the nation cannot ride out the pandemic "in an eliminationist bunker".

Dr Coatsworth told the Australasian College of Surgeons that once a significant majority of the community is vaccinated, there would be pressure to open borders without resistance, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told The Daily Telegraph last Sunday he didn't believe Australians wanted to see international borders reopening and he wanted to maintain a cautious approach.

“We sit here as an island that’s living like few countries in the world are at the moment,” he told the paper.

“We have to be careful not to exchange that way of life for what everyone else has.”

The PM added he was concerned should Covid-19 spread throughout the community, it would prove difficult to remove.

Passengers wearing face masks arrive at Sydney International Airport off a Qatar Airways flight.
Passengers arrive at Sydney International Airport off a Qatar Airways flight before heading into quarantine. Source: Getty Images

After his comments were widely reported, Mr Morrison later clarified via a statement on Facebook, saying the country's Covid suppression strategy had "not changed to an 'elimination' strategy".

"There will always be cases as we return Australians home from overseas," he wrote.

"International borders will only open when it is safe to do so. We still have a long way to go, and there are still many uncertainties ahead.

"Australians are living like in few countries around the world today. We will continue to do everything we can to work together [to] prevent a third wave and roll out our vaccination programme. 

"And, as always, we will continue to listen to the medical advice and make decisions in the best health and economic interests of all Australians."

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