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We can’t live in lockdown forever, Scott Morrison says

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it is highly unlikely that Australia will achieve zero coronavirus cases, but neither can it live with lockdowns forever.

NSW suffered another record day of new infections, announcing 830 cases and just pipping the previous day. There were also three new deaths – a woman in her 80s and two men in their 60s and 70s.

Regional NSW will remain in lockdown until 28 August and Greater Sydney until at least 30 September.

But Mr Morrison insists people can’t live with lockdowns indefinitely.

“At some point you need to make that gear change and that is done at 70 per cent (vaccinations) because that’s where we are advised from the medical science that you can make that gear change,” he told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

As of Saturday, just under 30 per cent of Australians aged over 16 had received two doses of the vaccine.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said 196,000 vaccinations were conducted on Saturday, which he said was extraordinary for a weekend.

He told reporters there were 1.1 million doses injected in four days.

“We’re getting close to two million a week and it is close to what we are planning to do in the coming weeks,” Professor Kelly said.

In the meantime, lockdowns need to be effective, Mr Morrison said.

“We need to suppress the virus as best we can, and we need for people to isolate, stay at home, get tested and of course, go and get vaccinated,” he said.

Even so, Labor NSW senator Kristina Keneally said the people in her state and across Australia are paying the price for Mr Morrison’s failures to provide sufficient vaccines doses and adequate quarantine facilities.

“Children are missing school, small businesses are closing, people in southwest Sydney in particular are distressed, locked down and highly uncertain about what their future holds,” Senator Keneally told reporters in Canberra.

Meanwhile on Sunday, an epidemiology expert who helped model the national COVID-19 response plan said to would be very challenging to pursue zero cases in the future.

Doherty Institute director of epidemiology Jodie McVernon told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program it was important to understand what we are dealing with.

“We have seen how contagious this virus is, we have seen how difficult it is to keep out and even jurisdictions that have had highly effective public health responses and contained outbreaks, it has been getting away,” Professor McVernon said.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr does not believe zero cases are impossible for Canberra or even regional NSW.

“But I acknowledge that zero is incredibly challenging in Sydney when you have got the case numbers that they have had,” Mr Barr told reporters in Canberra.

“It’s a long journey back, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t strive to get the numbers down and as close to zero as possible.”

The ACT announced another 19 cases on Sunday, over double the previous day which reflected a slight change in its reporting cut-off time.

Victoria’s case numbers continue to grow, posting another 65 new infections, while Queensland enjoyed another day of zero cases.