The ACT reports 16 new cases
There have been 16 new Covid cases in the ACT. Slightly up on yesterday’s numbers but still relatively stable. There are three people in hospital and none in intensive care.
Morrison finishes by reinforcing it’s up to the public, not the government to be responsible for their health:
There has been a need for all sorts of things over the last two years but we’re going into a new phase and that new phase is one of a culture of responsibility rather than a culture of control and a culture of mandates and letting Australians live with this virus responsibly. Thanks very much, everyone. Ta.
Personally, I will keep wearing my mask not only for my health but also as a stylish fashion accessory.
Morrison circles around the “we don’t mandate sunscreen” argument. As we know, sunburn isn’t contagious, but anyway. Maybe don’t have that “big night out” if you’re seeing grandma at Christmas, but again, it’s up to you:
Here is another tip, Omicron is moving substantially amongst the younger population. They are at parties, night clubs, hospitality venues. I would encourage them, particularly if they’re going to spend time at Christmas with older family members, you want to give that big night out a miss, particularly if you’re going to see one of your elderly relatives over Christmas, or exercise greater precautions around them. Australians don’t have to be told by governments how to live.
Australians are responsible people who care about their own health, whether it’s sun smart behaviour or Covid, or any other element of their health and they really care about those they love and they care about their communities. One of the biggest lessons that were reinforced during the Covid pandemic is you want to put a bet on the best way to deal with a crisis, you bet on Australians and that’s what we have done.
Go and sit in the outdoor areas … that’s a commonsense thing … that’s immediately going to be a more practical way to avoid the variant and the virus. If you’re inside, you know, a bit of distancing. You don’t need to crush into a mosh pit. That’s probably not a good idea if you’re going to see your grandmother on the weekend. But that’s common sense.
Morrison is asked for an update on booster shots. Atagi have currently set a five-month interval between receiving a second and third vaccination. There have been increasing calls for that period to be reduced, particularly in light of the Omicron strain.
The advice from our immunisation experts – and let me be very clear about this – Atagi is not a new institution … they have been around for a long time and they have been responsible over many years for steering Australia’s immunisation programs which have achieved world record levels. Not just more recently on Covid, but on other childhood immunisations and other immunisation programs.
They are the experts when it comes to immunisation. Everyone else has opinions, they have responsibility and the expert responsibility for advising the government about what the vaccination programs are. We continue to listen to them on these issues, as I have said on many occasions. What I will not do is I will not front run their advice on that issue. They will consider these issues carefully and they will advise the government. Just as they will carefully consider, as they have been for some time, the interval period for booster shots.
Morrison continues, encouraging vaccination uptake and “commonsense behaviours” like hand washing. He reinforces that states, not the commonwealth, have authority over health orders. The commonwealth is just in charge of things like vaccination supply:
People should get vaccinated. If you don’t get vaccinated, you’re more likely to get the virus, get very serious illness from the virus and to die from the virus. That is three very good reasons why you should get vaccinated. Equally, it’s important that you practice other commonsense behaviours, like washing your hands, keeping appropriate distances, but you don’t need to get the ruler out and you don’t need to get people to come around hitting you with fines.
We just need to live with this virus sensibly and practically. From mandates to responsibility and as governments around the country, because the states have the total authority when it comes to public health orders. The commonwealth does not have the power to direct those state and territory governments. What I will be saying to them, and I know a number of premiers agree with this, is we have got to move to the next phase of how we live with this virus. The time for that heavy hand is behind us.
Scott Morrison says ‘we’re not going back to lockdowns’
The prime minister Scott Morrison is speaking now. He says he has written to the premiers and set out “the advice that they’re providing” including strong recommendation of mask use inside “and things like that and that is very sensible”.
One of the key messages is, yes, we’re going to need to continue to calibrate how we manage this virus and how we live with this virus in the face of Omicron. Of course that is necessary. But we’re not going back to lockdowns. We’re not going back to shutting down peoples’ lives. We’re going forward to live with this virus with common sense and responsibility. There will be other variants beyond Omicron and we have to ensure, as a country, and as leaders around the country, we are putting in place measures that Australians can live with.
What that means is we have to move from a culture of mandates to a culture of responsibility. That’s how we live with this virus into the future. In my home state in New South Wales, people are already wearing masks. They’re not being fined if they don’t because Australians know what is a commonsense responsible action to look after their own health and to look after the health of those around them. As a country, we have got to get past the heavy hand of government and we have got to treat Australians like adults and we all have our own responsibility in our communities and for our own health.
Wait times have eased somewhat in the ACT.
Back in Victoria again, Merlino confirms there will be no changes to crowd capacity at the Boxing Day Ashes test in Melbourne.
Speaking of which:
RACP calls on state and territory governments to reintroduce restrictions
The Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) has called on state and territory governments to reintroduce or maintain certain Covid-19 restrictions in light of the spread of the Omicron variant.
The RACP wants governments to:
- Reintroduce (or maintain) mandatory mask wearing, particularly indoors and when people are unable to physically distance
- Reintroduce (or maintain) mandatory QR code check-ins across all public venues and events
- Restrict numbers of people at indoor public venues and events for a few weeks until the risks of the Omicron variant are better understood.
RACP president and respiratory physician Prof John Wilson:
While we don’t want to see families separated and communities impacted in the festive season, we are also wary of the increasing Covid-19 case numbers in states like NSW.
If not checked, a surge in cases will further burden our already exhausted health systems due to an overwhelming rise in hospitalisations. The relaxation of restrictions in some jurisdictions, especially those associated with mask-wearing, QR code check-ins and large gatherings, can have dire consequences.
Our advice to governments remains to listen to their respective public health officers and maintain the restrictions necessary to control the spread of the Omicron variant.
The RACP also urged the broader Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand communities not to let their guard down.
“If anyone is eligible for a booster shot after having waited for five months or more after their second shot, there is no better time than now to book,” Wilson said.
This is an interesting point. We know the efficacy of AstraZeneca and Pfizer wanes within six months. There has been little messaging, too, on whether/how our vaccination passports will be updated in light of boosters.
We’ve been in a pandemic for quite some time now and it’s almost as if this was something that could have been predicted.
Back in Victoria, acting premier James Merlino has no further updates on restrictions. He cites the National Cabinet meeting to come. But he does want a shorter interval between boosters, as does NSW.
Tasmania records four new Covid cases
Tasmania’s premier Peter Gutwein is providing a Covid update. There are four new cases in the state, as mask wearing becomes mandatory indoors.