Make Plans for Family Christmas, Australia Premier Says

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has doubled down on his plan to end pandemic lockdowns and state border closures by Christmas, even as rising cases increase the pressure on Sydney’s health-care system. 

“Everyone can make plans for a family Christmas,” Morrison said in an interview with Melbourne’s Herald Sun paper on Sunday. “Nobody wants Covid to be the virus that stole Christmas, and we have a plan and the vaccinations available to ensure that’s not the case.”

Under Morrison’s plan, lockdown restrictions would be eased when 70% of the population is fully vaccinated, and borders re-opened at 80%. But while the plan was agreed to by state premiers last month, there are doubts that the Covid-free states of Western Australia and Queensland will open up to New South Wales and Victoria, which are grappling with the country’s worst outbreaks. 

“The day of reckoning is coming for all states and territories that being locked down is not a way that you can maintain forever,” Michael Sukkar, assistant treasurer, said in an interview on Sky News. While border restrictions had been necessary to combat the spread of the virus, “we don’t have to think back too far to when being an Australian meant you could travel anywhere in this country, and I think Australians are longing to get back to that point.”

The Greater Sydney region has been in lockdown since June, yet case numbers continue to rise. The health-care system is feeling the strain with hospitalizations rising above 1,000 for the first time and the state government isn’t expecting patient numbers to peak until October. 

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