National cabinet meets again as NSW scrambles for Pfizer jabs

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says more vaccines doses are going to outbreaks. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says more vaccines doses are going to outbreaks. Picture: Keegan Carroll

More than half of all Australians are again in lockdown and Pfizer vaccine doses are being diverted to regional outbreak areas as the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 spirals out of control.

Banks have also revealed the financial pain experienced by those in lockdown, with tens of thousands of people applying to have loan repayments suspended.

Federal and state leaders will go into Friday's national cabinet in a stalemate over who should get priority for the limited Pfizer supply.

The meeting is expected to discuss plans for drive-in vaccination centres and interstate vaccine passport options that were being developed by the Northern Territory, Tasmanian and Victorian governments.

NSW recorded 262 new cases and five deaths, Queensland reported 16 cases, Victoria six and Western Australia one.

Queensland and NSW are getting additional Pfizer doses from the expedited order - 180,000 doses of which will go to NSW, with 20,000 of those going to regional communities, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted.

NSW Premier Glady Berejiklian has pleaded for more supply - a federal responsibility - saying faster vaccine uptake is the pathway out of lockdowns, while the Prime Minister put pressure back on the states' ability to effectively enforce their lockdowns.

"The virus doesn't move by itself," Mr Morrison said on Thursday.

"People staying at home ensures that the virus doesn't move. And I can only reinforce the importance, as was achieved in Melbourne last year over a long period of time."

He said NSW had a largely vaccinated population, which would support those efforts.

Over 80 per cent of those aged over 70 across Australia have had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, he noted, but only 44.8 per cent are fully vaccinated, while new deaths continue to include people who have had only one dose.

Only 20.8 per cent of those over 16 in Australia are fully vaccinated against Covid. Those with the least protection are in the 50-69 and 16-39 age brackets.

But the Prime Minister was cautious about offering support to businesses who mandated that workers be vaccinated, saying the Coalition supported businesses factoring in the risks of outbreaks on their operations.

Food processing company SPC became the first Australian business to make vaccines compulsory for its workforce, while Qantas has effectively become a vaccination-mandatory workforce due to Commonwealth intervention.

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Meanwhile, data released on Friday by the Australian Banking Association revealed more than 23,000 customers have received hardship assistance during recent lockdowns.

More than 600 business loans and 14,500 home loans were deferred amid the latest lockdowns. These were heavily skewed to businesses and residents in the NSW lockdown areas and strongly linked to the state government's halt on construction.

During the peak of the crisis in 2020, almost 500,000 home loans and more than 225,000 business loans were deferred.

Anna Bligh, the association's chief executive, said customers should not tough it out on their own.

"Support is available to all small businesses and home loan customers significantly impacted by current lockdowns or recovering from recent lockdowns, irrespective of geography or industry," she said.

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This story Scramble to control Delta variant as national cabinet meets again first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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