The COVID-19 vaccine rollout will not signal the end of restrictions with it likely to be months before Australia gets to see what a new normal looks like, the nation’s leading medical officer has warned.
Chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on Sunday it would likely to be the second half of the year before federal and state governments started to ease health and border restrictions.
However, persistent messaging about social distancing, coughing into your elbow, washing your hands, and home if you’re unwell will remain in place, he said.
“Every single person that gets their two doses of vaccine and gets that very strong protection against severe illness, will give people more confidence.
“It will give the public health system more confidence, will give our politicians — that need to make these decisions in the end — more confidence, about what a COVID-safe normal might look like in the second half of this year.”
Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout will begin next month.
First in line to be inoculated will be workers who have the highest exposure to COVID-19 including those working in hotel quarantine, transporting international arrivals, and health professionals.
“First priority is those that are at higher risk of exposure to the virus,” Professor Kelly said.
“That is the people that are working at our borders; the people working at our quarantine hotels; the nurses and other health professionals that are working in those settings; the cleaners; the transport workers that are transporting people to our quarantine hotels.
“They are the ones that are at highest risk of exposure so we need to get that vaccination out to them quickly.
“Same with our healthcare workers that are working at our hospitals and other frontline areas.”
He said Australia was fortunate when it came to the impacts of coronavirus — with more than 89 million cases worldwide that caused more than almost two million deaths.
There has not been a death of someone acutely sick with COVID-19 since October and there are just 41 people in hospital, he said.
“In the last 24 hours, we’ve had 13 cases — three of those, all in NSW, are locally acquired,” Professor Kelly said.