COVID-19

Richard Branson shames Australia

Speaking to the Today show hosts, the Virgin founder was asked about opening up to the rest of the world in mid-2022.“That’s up to our prime minister,” he said.“Countries that have got everyone vaccinated, liked Britain and America … (and) especially when you have all the vulnerable people vaccinated, they can open up right away.”Sir Richard said he was in New Mexico with “lots of people” who are all hugging and shaking hands because “we’re all vaccinated”. “It’s a lovely, (a) lovely feeling to be free again,” he said.“If your government can speed up the vaccination program so everyone is vaccinated, there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t be able to open up.”When asked whether Australia risks being left behind, Sir Richard said he anticipated most Australians should have been vaccinated by now.“It’s a small country, I suspect most people should have been vaccinated. If not, (they) should have been,” he said.“It should be the number one priority of the government. Nothing else matters because every single business in Australia will be held back. “Every single person in Australia will be held back. The economy will suffer.”Australia has administered more than 3.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, well behind other nations like the US and UK which continue to forge ahead.But a significant increase in supplies of the Pfizer vaccine could allow every Australian to be fully immunised against COVID-19 by the end of the year, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) boss said on Sunday.The federal government has promised two million Pfizer doses would be available each week from the start of October, meaning every Australian who wants to get the jab could have both doses by Christmas.Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said about 4.5 million Pfizer doses were expected in Australia by the end of June, increasing to seven million doses of Pfizer in both the third and fourth quarters of 2021.Another 20 million doses will arrive in the last quarter.The government’s sluggish rollout forced international travel to be pushed back to mid-2022, a grim revelation outlined in the federal budget.But AMA president Omar Khorshid said the increased supplies were a timely boost, especially while Australians had a degree of vaccine hesitancy.“Yeah, it’s great news for the overall vaccine program and Australia’s chances of seeing out this pandemic,” Dr Khorshid said.“We should now have every opportunity to vaccinate every Australian by the end of the year.”The European drug regulator last week also revised its advice regarding storing the Pfizer vaccine.It was previously thought the Pfizer vaccine, after it had thawed from freezer transportation, could only be stored in a fridge for five days, but the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said Pfizer vials could now be stored in a fridge for up to a month.– additional reporting by Evin Priest

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