It may not shock you to know that Australia is not doing well when it comes to COVID-19. We’ve gone from the “envy of the world” with “gold standard” contract tracing to being completely overwhelmed by a virus we thought we’d seen the back of.
Delta is a game changer. With almost the whole county under some kind of COVID measures and NSW warning that things are going to get worse before they get better, it looks like our only way out of the current predicament is through the needle.
While Australia was late to the party with its vaccine rollout, languishing far behind the rest of the OECD in terms of vaccination numbers (and couldn’t even order the vaccines that people wanted), Delta has been the much-needed kick up the backside the country has needed to get it’s sh*t together and start vaccinating – fast.
That being said, there are actually a lot of reasons to be hopefully about the current state of affairs. Our vaccine rates have been accelerating rapidly and, by the looks of things, it’s not going to take that long to have enough of us vaccinated to start lifting restrictions in a meaningful way. Aussies are stepping up to the plate in inspiring ways to get this mess done and dusted and we should be thankful to everyone putting their lives on the line to keep us safe.
If you’re sick of hearing about the ‘rona and how badly things are going (us too, friend), here are five reasons why the situation is not as bad as you think.
Yes, there is a lot of COVID around. Yes, there are lots of people in key frontline positions who aren’t vaccinated. Yes, many people have tragically died during the current outbreak. While it’s easy to despair at these thoughts, the reality is that Australia could be doing much worse.
Much of what you read and hear makes its way to you because it’s bad and therefore newsworthy – but that doesn’t really capture the full picture.
While NSW should have gone hard earlier — something even Mr Anti-Lockdown Scott Morrison agrees with — the case numbers in NSW that have spread to neighbouring states could have been far higher.
Cases are heading in the wrong direction, but, without the lockdown, we would be seeing them in the tens of thousands by now, not touching 1000.
Australia hit 1123 cases nationally on Thursday and there are currently 13,129 active cases in the country. That sounds like a lot, but in a country of 25 million people, it’s a drop in the ocean.
Many European countries hit case numbers as high as 70,000 per day during the height of the outbreak over there. The US is nearing 650,000 deaths from COVID. Granted, we don’t want to end up like them, however, the chances of catching the virus, let alone dying from it, are still incredibly slim in this country.
Australia’s Vaccine Rates
While we got off to a shaky start, we’re actually doing extremely well.
More than half of eligible Aussies have had at least one dose of the vaccine, with 31.5 per cent now fully vaccinated.
In the past 24 hours, there were 307,000 vaccines administered, and the country is averaging 119,000 vaccines a day or 833,000 per week.
In NSW, one of the worst-hit states of the current outbreak, almost one per cent of the population is being vaccinated per day. The state is vaccinating faster than almost any jurisdiction in the whole world right now.
Across Australia, only Queensland and Western Australia are yet to fully vaccinate more than 30 per cent of their population, with ACT and TAS edging close to 40 per cent.
Young people especially have been key drivers of the vaccination rate, with young people in Victoria crashing the vaccine portal twice as Pfizer jabs were made available to those aged 16-39.
While Delta has obviously been a totally f’ing nightmare for all concerned, it does appear to have shaken some of the vaccine-hesitant amongst us into getting the jab.
The Sydney Morning Herald has released research showing that vaccine hesitancy has plunged to 12 per cent from 29 per cent in May.
That’s going to be crucial in getting us closer to those vaccination targets, as having almost 30 percent of the population refuse to get the jab would stall our rates at 70 per cent.
More Vaccines Are About to Drop
It’s clear that the confusing messaging around the AstraZeneca vaccine has stopped a lot of people from getting the jab, preferring to wait for Pfizer instead. While we’ve had limited supplies of Pfizer available, that’s been a real issue impacting vaccine numbers.
From September, millions of doses of not only Pfizer but our third vaccine, Moderna, will start to land in the country. This will bring a total of 40 million Pfizer shots and 15 million Moderna shots to Australia in total by the end of the year.
That’s not including the extra 1 million Pfizer doses that were given to Australia by Poland last week.
The deluge of vaccines that we’re about to receive is going to massively increase access for those who need the vaccine most and should see our vaccination rates surpass their recent highs.
While some are understandably cautious about the privacy and security implications of vaccine passports, they will be implemented in Australia sooner than you think.
Australians who are fully vaccinated can already access their Medicare certificate proving vaccination status however this has yet to bring any benefits.
Over the next few months, however, as the vaccination rate increases and it becomes safer to cautiously open the country up, vaccine passports are going to become integral to accessing the freedoms we once had.
When they become implemented, with some reports suggesting they could be in play by October, they are going to allow those who have the vaccine to visit bars and restaurants, clubs, cinemas, and big outdoor events. They’re even going to let us finally take to the skies once more and see our friends and loved ones overseas.
Freedom is Not That Far Off
The pandemic has dragged on for longer than any of us could possibly have imagined back in March of 2020. We’ve suffered 15 months of agonising stop-start freedoms under the fear of viral resurgence. 15 months is a long time but if we’ve done it this far, we can certainly wait a few more.
That’s because it’s only going to be a few short months before this nightmare will probably come to an end.
The Australian federal government has laid out a four-stage plan charting the various freedoms and loosening of restrictions that will be granted as vaccination rates increase.
By 70 per cent, lockdowns will become sporadic and temporary, used only as a last resort. By 80 per cent, we’ll do away with them altogether.
Australia as a whole is on track to fully vaccinate 70 per cent of those over the age of 16 by mid-October. By mid-November, we’re set to hit 80 per cent.
While it’s not guaranteed that the pandemic is going to follow such a smooth path, with other countries opening up, hosting big events and outdoor parties, Australia is getting increasingly antsy about getting out from under the COVID boot.
Once we hit 80 per cent, we could very well join the rest of the world in seeing the return of international flights and a general sense of normality. It’s halfway through August now meaning we have just three short months to wait.
As it still feels like March 2020, that’s basically no time at all.