PM Scott Morrison denies bungled vaccine rollout is to blame for Victoria, NSW and SA lockdowns
Scott Morrison insists he shares the frustrations of more than half the Australian population in lockdown.
But the prime minister continues to deny the bungled vaccine rollout is responsible for the widespread restrictions.
Just 14 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, with Australia lagging behind most of the world.
But Morrison said countries with much higher vaccination rates were also going back into lockdown as the globe grappled with contagious strains of coronavirus.
He also singled out “gobsmacking” rates of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, where deaths were rising despite widespread vaccinations.
“I understand there is great frustration. Believe me, I feel the same frustration,” he told 5AA radio on Wednesday.
“This latest Delta variant has thrown a completely new curveball on this issue, which every single country in the world is wrestling with.”
The prime minister insisted total urgency was being applied to the vaccine rollout, despite earlier arguing the national program was “not a race”.
‘A big problem’
Morrison again blamed delays on multiple updates to expert advice on the AstraZeneca jab, describing the ATAGI recommendations as “a big problem”.
But he said the rollout was ramping up significantly, with more supplies and vaccination centres being added.
“We’ve had our problems but we’re getting over them,” the prime minister said.
Coronavirus outbreaks have plunged more than half of Australia into lockdown, sparking calls for more federal support.
The Morrison government is resisting pressure to reinstate JobKeeper wage subsidies with at least 13.5 million people under heavy restrictions across NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
Instead, people who lose work in designated hot spots can access weekly payments of between $375 and $600 when lockdowns extend beyond seven days.
‘It really does look like an incredibly stupid decision to end JobKeeper…’
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said national wage subsidies, which initially paid out $1500 a fortnight before being scaled back, were proven to work.
“JobKeeper had its problems but it also had very important features which the government has stupidly junked,” he said.
“As time goes on and we have these lockdowns it really does look like an incredibly stupid decision to end JobKeeper and replace it with something inferior.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said disaster payments were higher than the $1000-a-fortnight rate at which JobKeeper ended.
“The money is actually flowing out the door faster than it would have under JobKeeper,” he said.
In NSW, 388,000 claims worth $186 million have been approved during the outbreak, which has infected 1418 people in the past month.
Victorians will become eligible on Friday when the state’s lockdown enters its second week.
The federal government has also activated income support payments for South Australians hit by restrictions.
Morrison indicated areas in South Australia that were not declared hotspots would still receive support.
The state government is expected to foot the bill for people outside Commonwealth-defined hotspot zones.
South Australia on Tuesday evening joined Victoria – where there were nine new cases – and Sydney and surrounds in lockdown.
NSW recorded 78 new local infections, while SA recorded five.