Aussie PM backs reopening plan amid record COVID-19 infections

(Xinhua) 13:12, August 22, 2021

CANBERRA, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged state and territory governments to stick with the pathway out of the coronavirus pandemic amid record case numbers.

Australia reported a record 914 new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19 on Sunday morning, a second day in a row with a new record number.

Despite widespread outbreaks of the virus, Morrison on Sunday pushed the states and territories to start easing restrictions when 70 percent of their adult populations are fully vaccinated.

The National Cabinet, which is made up of the prime minister and state and territory leaders, in July signed off on a four-phase pathway out of the pandemic that will see lockdowns used more sparingly when 70 percent of adults are inoculated.

"The point is that we need to suppress the virus as best as we can in phase A of the national plan," Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

"The national plan then transfers our focus from case numbers to issues of hospitalisation, serious illness, ICU and things of that nature."

"At 70 percent vaccination rates and 80 percent vaccination rates, then Australia is able to move out of what is really an unsustainable situation."

As many as 830 of Sunday's new cases were in New South Wales (NSW), Australia's most populous state with Sydney as the capital city.

Victoria, the second-most populous state with Melbourne as the capital city, reported a further 65 new cases, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) recorded another 19, taking the number of active cases in the ACT to 121 linked to an outbreak in Canberra as the nation's capital entered its second week of lockdown.

About half the Australian population in NSW, Victoria and ACT was still in lockdown on Sunday.

The ACT government on Saturday announced that the Floriade and Nightfest, the territory's biggest spring time event and one of its major tourism draw-cards, has been cancelled for the second straight year due to the outbreak.

"Operating large-scale events in any capacity in these circumstances is just not safe," ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in a statement.

"There will be bulbs in bloom in Commonwealth Park through spring but the government is discouraging large scale gatherings at this time."

(Web editor: Meng Bin, Bianji)


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