When COVID case numbers were comparatively low in Australia, National Cabinet agreed on a plan to start lifting some restrictions when 70% of adults were vaccinated and more at 80%. These figures were based on modelling from the Doherty Institute.

Covid reopen

But case numbers have been rising rapidly in NSW, with some premiers saying the plan wasn’t what they signed up for. The Doherty Institute modelling suggests deaths could reach up to 1,500 in six months, so agreeing to such a scenario is politically untenable for states with zero covid.

Stephen Duckett and Anika Stobart from the Grattan Institute argue Australia needs a revised national plan that all states can sign up to and isn’t full of caveats and conditions. This needs to include provisions to scale up contact tracing capacity, they say, and a plan to protect younger children who can’t yet be vaccinated.

One consequence of the escalating COVID outbreak in New South Wales has been increased political tension around the “national plan” for COVID reopening. The prime minister has argued that states signed up to the plan – albeit “in principle”, whatever that means – and they should do whatever the plan says, whenever the plan says to do it.

Some premiers are now pushing back, arguing the Doherty Institute modelling was based on certain assumptions which no longer hold true so the previous agreement no longer stands. There are three distinct questions at issue here. Is the Doherty Institute modelling still applicable? How does the national plan stack up? And what should happen next?

  1. Is the Doherty Institute modelling still applicable?
  2. How does the national plan stack-up?
  3. What should happen next?

These questions are addressed in this article on The Conversation website.