COVID-19

Morrison: Victoria should scrap vaccine passports

It comes after former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth joined health experts in calling for the Victorian government to ditch the vaccine economy from next year.The Prime Minister on Wednesday told 3AW that he believed the country could look to move forward confidently.“Let’s just see what happens. What I’m seeing happen, as people get more comfortable with the new arrangements, we’re seeing a lot of these things fall away,” he said.“I think what’s happening in New South Wales can be achieved safely.”Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Sunday unvaccinated Victorians would continue to be locked out of restaurants, retail and events all of next year, despite Covid-19 vaccination rates likely to surpass 95 per cent.Professor Coatsworth said excluding people from society was likely to cause more problems than it solved.“To suggest that for an entire year, when your vaccination rates are likely to be above 90 per cent, that there are things you would exclude people from participating in … is likely to rust people on to their opposition to vaccines,” he said. “If you wanted to encourage people to believe that the government was against you if you didn’t get vaccinated, this is exactly how you would behave.”Mr Andrews flagged the edict would expand across a wide array of settings, from the MCG to restaurants and book shops.Should Victoria ditch vaccine passports from next year?But Deakin University epidemiology chair Catherine Bennett said it didn’t make sense to ban unvaccinated people from public settings when they had free range to mingle in private gatherings.“The one place that every case is eventually linked to is the home, yet we don’t have ­restrictions on unvaccinated people being linked in socially with household visits,” Prof Bennett said.“The irony is, they’re not only in the system, but you’re encouraging them to link in with the vaccinated economy in private houses, which are the most dangerous setting. So there is a strong argument that it’s safer to meet at a cafe rather than the home.”It comes as the state government face calls to match New South Wales, which has promised to scrap vaccine passports as of December 1.Victoria’s Opposition has labelled the government’s new pandemic laws “draconian” and an “attack on democracy”. The head of the Doherty Institute, Sharon Lewin, said ­alternatives such as proof of prior infection, which is being used in Germany and some other countries, or a negative test could be implemented once 90 or 95 per cent of Victoria’s adult population is fully vaccinated.“For now I have no problem with the vaccine mandate but making it indefinite is tricky. You never want to exclude people in a society like this unless you have to,” she said.Both Prof Coatsworth and Prof Bennett also supported the vaccine mandate as a useful short-term encouragement to get society through the transition phase. But Prof Bennett said there was no basis from an epidemiological perspective to keep the mandate in place past summer, provided case numbers were controlled and that a more deadly variant did not emerge.Infectious diseases physician Peter Collignon said the extended lockout presented an “ethics issue”.“The reality is some of the restrictions we’ve seen have been too restrictive for little benefit, and this is another example of a restriction that is overly prescriptive for little reward,” he said.

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