Australian PM vows to keep lockdowns until 70% of population is vaccinated as more protesters hit streets despite police crackdown

Australian PM vows to keep lockdowns until 70% of population is vaccinated as more protesters hit streets despite police crackdown

A day after hundreds of protesters were arrested for breaching Covid restrictions, PM Scott Morrison has reiterated that Australia will keep battling the virus with lockdowns, until the majority of citizens are fully vaccinated.

“You can't live with lockdowns forever and at some point, you need to make that gear change and that is done at 70 percent,” Morrison stated in an interview with ABC on Sunday.

Less than 30% of Australians over the age of 16 are currently fully vaccinated, and just over 51% have received their first dose, with figures fluctuating from state to state. Asked whether authorities are concerned if Australia's most populous state will be able to hit the mark any time soon, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Sunday that he hopes “we may achieve a reasonable vaccination rate there.”

Australia previously set a target vaccination rate of at least 70% before it will shift away from a strategy of snap total lockdowns, towards mitigation through social-distancing, masks and more targeted closures in ‘extreme situations.’ Restrictions on international travel will be reviewed only when the nation reaches an 80% rate. The rules change will affect only for vaccinated Australians, however.

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“I’m committed to that plan and premiers and chief ministers have signed up to that plan and, they haven’t signed up with me, they’ve signed up with the Australian people,” Morrison previously said.

However, not all Australians seem to agree with this plan. On Saturday thousands of people hit the streets of the nation's largest cities, defying coronavirus lockdowns. The protests got particularly chaotic in Melbourne, devolving into clashes between anti-lockdown marchers and police. More than 200 people were arrested, and over 900 fined for breaching the restrictions.

On Sunday, protesters took to the streets once again, with large crowds seen at the Queensland-New South Wales border.

Around a quarter of Australia’s population currently remains under tight restrictions requiring residents to stay at home with rare exceptions. NSW authorities recently extended its Covid lockdown, with nearly a half of Sydney's five million residents set to remain under a nightly curfew until mid-September. In Melbourne, a similar order is also in place.

The protests continue as Australia, which tried to keep an extremely tight grip on Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, reported three deaths and 914 new infections, yet another worst single-day increase in cases of the virus.  Overall, Australia's Covid-19 numbers remain relatively low, with just under 44,000 cases and 981 deaths.

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