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With infection numbers in Sydney refusing to budge, the head of Australia's top medical body has warned that the NSW capital could be facing an "indefinite" lockdown - with only one clear pathway out.
President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Omar Khorshid, said the city was looking at living with restrictions for the "foreseeable future until everyone is vaccinated", urging Sydneysiders to obey health orders.
"Of course, we don't have enough vaccines to vaccinate the whole of Sydney communities so the only option is to get on top of this virus right now," Dr Khorshid said.
Australian PM Scott Morrison with Dr Omar Khorshid. Photo / Getty Images
"Vaccines are doing their job, we know they are doing their job and we are seeing a number of young people in hospital in ICU, rather than the huge numbers of older people we saw in Victoria.
"That is a sign that the vaccines are working. Vaccines are our way out of this in the longer term but for right now, for today in Sydney, the only way to stop this virus spreading is to stop people talking to each other, people coming close to each other, people breathing on each other, coughing on each other.
"We know this from the lessons we have learned throughout the lockdown, throughout the pandemic and our only option is to do what needs to be done right now here in Sydney."
Adviser to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Covid-19 response and UNSW epidemiologist, Mary-Louise McLaws, had a similarly grim warning about the length of Sydney's lockdown - currently pegged to end next Friday, July 30.
"We still need another three to four weeks because we need to get that proportion [of cases in people who haven't been in full lockdown] to zero," Professor McLaws told The Project last night.
"Once we've got that zero, then we need that to continue for 14 days to ensure we've mitigated everything.
"Now, you could lift some small restrictions off, but you wouldn't be able to lift all of them off until 28 days after that first zero of anybody out in the community that hadn't been in full lockdown.
"It's a long duration: "Expect another two months before we've absolutely eradicated it … but we don't have to stay in lockdown for that long."
As NSW reported another 98 cases this morning, chief health officer Kerry Chant once again revealed exactly why every Australian should be desperate to get a Covid-19 vaccination.
Of the 82 Sydneysiders – across a range of ages – currently in hospital with the virus, 24 are in intensive care — and of those, only one has had a single dose of the AstraZeneca jab.
"Vaccination is critical," Dr Chant told reporters.
"Can I just urge everyone in the community who is eligible for the vaccine to go forth and make an appointment. Go on to the eligibility checker and access the vaccine. I would urge anyone, particularly over 60, to go and get an AstraZeneca vaccine from their general practice and remember I have also said that GPs are working very hard and they will prioritise older individuals over younger in terms of bookings, because of the need to protect our elderly.
"Even one dose of AstraZeneca can have some effect, as well as one dose of the Pfizer, but two doses gives the optimal protection. And having two doses of the vaccine can really reduce your risk of hospitalisation and death associated with Covid."
In a similar message to her state on Friday, the CHO said "it is essential for us to live somewhat normally with this Delta virus and any other variant we might get thrown out that we are going to have to be highly vaccinated as a population and also we are going to have to live with booster shots".
While Dr Chant said she'd like for 80 per cent of the adult population in NSW to ultimately be vaccinated, former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said lockdowns nationwide could no longer be needed in about four months — once 50 per cent of Australians are vaccinated.
Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, Dr Coatsworth said "we need to consider what are the consequences of locking down on younger Australians' jobs in the gig economy and mental health".
"2021 has to be a transition year where we get the Australian community used to the idea of Covid in our community through a successful vaccination program, and 2022 needs to be the year we have Covid in Australia," he said.
Text by Natalie Brown, news.com.au