Press Conference - Canberra, ACT

03 Sep 2021
Canberra, ACT
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Well, good afternoon everyone. I'm joined by the Minister for Health and Aged Care and the Chief Medical Officer. Again, some very difficult news in New South Wales today and our sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of those who have lost their lives in the COVID pandemic. And, so, on a difficult day like this, it’s important to bring hope. And, I can assure you, there is hope. There are four million reasons to be hopeful today, because the Government has been able to secure, with the Government of the United Kingdom, a Pfizer swap deal which will see four million doses of Pfizer come to Australia this month. The plane’s on the tarmac now. It will be leaving tomorrow, and those doses will be coming over the course of the next few weeks, which will see us double the Pfizer doses that we have during September. This means, from Downing Street to Down Under, we are doubling down on what the Pfizer doses are, here in Australia, this month. This will enable us to bring forward significantly the opportunity for Australia to open up again under the national plan. The bring forward of these doses, I think, should be a great cause for hope right around the country.

The doses will be distributed across the states and territories on a per capita basis, so they can all get on with it. Whether it’s in the GP clinics with the GPs, or in the state-based hubs, they will be able to move forward and see these doses get into arms and get Australians back to where we want to be, living with this virus, as soon as we possibly can.

I want to thank very, very much Prime Minister Johnson, who, he and I started discussing this sometime ago. I want to thank him for his personal commitment to this, and his great friendship with Australia. I want to thank also Health Minister Sajid Javid, who I have known for some time, and his coming into that portfolio in recent times and the ability to progress this with Greg Hunt, our Minister, and I want to thank Greg and all of his team. There's been some very late nights of discussions, negotiations, legal work that has been taking place, particularly over the course of the past week, to bring this to conclusion, but it has been the real commitment to Australia from Prime Minister Johnson and Minister Javid that has seen this through.

Can I thank Minister Payne as well for her great work on all of this, as indeed with the Singapore arrangement and the Polish arrangement. DFAT have really been earning their keep when it comes to delivering on these arrangements. Our High Commissioner George Brandis, who I’ve been in regular contact with, as has the Health Minister and indeed the Secretary of Health Brendan Murphy. And, that has been an extraordinary cooperative arrangement that has saw this come to bear over the course of these many weeks we’ve been seeking to secure this arrangement.

So, when you add, when you put it together, the extra four million from the UK brought forward, the extra 500,000 we were able to announce earlier this week, the one million and more that has come from Poland, all of this - I said I would leave no stone unturned, and I can tell you I've been turning over some stones in recent times to ensure that we can progress the vaccination program as quickly as we possibly can. And, it will now build on what is a very strong performance. We are now at the point where 80 per cent of over 50s have had their first dose; 80 per cent of over 50s, drawing through to a second dose in the weeks that are ahead. 20.3 million doses now having been delivered. More than 10 million of those have been AstraZeneca, I want to stress. And, I want to continue to encourage everyone to keep going and getting their AstraZeneca jabs, particularly those who are over the age of 60 - that is the recommended vaccine for over 60s, and so I want to encourage you to go and get your second dose as well. And, let's keep this going, Australia, because at these rates we are really going to be able to hit the marks that we all want to hit in the weeks and months that are ahead.

I want to thank the states for their support for the national plan that this vaccination program underpins. The Victorian Government, the New South Wales Government, Tasmanian Government - I was speaking to Premier Gutwein this morning and I can tell you he’s feeling much better and he’s coming back to work now and recovered from his health issues earlier throughout the course of this week, and while Peter won't be with us this afternoon, we’ve had a good discussion through the issues that’ll come up at National Cabinet later today. I also want to thank the South Australian Government as well, where we’re doing the home-based quarantine trial.

We’ll continue to work with all the states on the plan that we’ve agreed to ensure that Australians can have hope in the future, and these four million doses of hope today I think will only give us further encouragement. And, this afternoon at National Cabinet we will have the opportunity to discuss through a number of measures. We will talk further through, with Professor McVernon, the continued sensitivity analysis that she conducts, and there will be opportunity for all premiers and chief ministers, as there has been now on several occasions, to continue to work through that analysis and advice that has come from the Doherty Institute and to ensure that they fully understand it, and that they fully understand the various things that need to be managed as we move in to Phase B and Phase C of the plan.

We’ll be talking through, as as always, where we think we will be able to be on public health social measures when we move in Phase B and Phase C - there’s still work to be done there. So, this afternoon’s discussion on that will be important.

The other issue that of course we’ll be talking about is is Professor Murphy's, and by the way, congratulations father of the year Professor Murphy. I think he’s often been seen as the father figure in many ways from this platform - I hope I haven't broken some secret here. But, anyway, if I have, there you go. Congratulations, congratulations Professor Murphy, father of the year. And, Jenny said to say congratulations too, I haven’t been able to pass that on to you yet. But, this afternoon, he’s doing very important work on the hospital systems and public health systems capacities right across the states and territories. This has been being done for months, but now, with the benefit of the Doherty work and looking at the peak demands that have come on our system, the flexibility that we’ll need, how resources can be moved, workforce managed, and so on. That was a key item of discussion between myself and Premiers Andrews and Berejiklian this week, where obviously the pressure is coming most soon, in terms of the outbreak in both of those states, as we’re moving into Phase B and Phase C.

I’ll come back to my discussion with President Biden, after others have spoken, but we did have a very warm and friendly conversation today and it was important, particularly this week in marking the 70th anniversary of ANZUS, but also to talk through the very important issues of next steps in Afghanistan and other issues here in the Indo-Pacific. But, with that, I’ll pass you on to the Health Minister, and congratulations Greg.

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Thanks very much to the PM and Professor Kelly. These are four million doses of hope for Australians, and they build on the 500,000 that we were able to announce earlier in the week from Singapore, and the million from Poland, and very critically, the three million doses that Pfizer was able to bring forward from the final quarter to the third quarter, which has underpinned the massive acceleration that we’ve seen during July and in particular August.

What does it mean for Australia? It really means what we've been saying in the last week, that the burden and balance of vaccination in Australia will have moved forward two months, from October and November to August and September. This month, all up, there’ll be well over 10 million doses available. As the PM says, there’s more than nine million Pfizer that are available. A million Moderna in the last two weeks of the month on the current plan and, of course, the AstraZeneca, which is still seeing very significant numbers and we’re really pleased with that. So, this means that every Australian, every Australian will be able to come forward as early as possible to be vaccinated if they haven’t yet.

And, at this point in time, another 301,000 yesterday and now over 20.33 million - so, basically 20 million and one third - and very significantly, as the PM said, we've passed that mark of over 80 per cent of everybody beyond 50 plus having had at least a first vaccination. And, that tells the country we can do this. And, if you think of this, 80.3 per cent of over 50s, 84.5 per cent of over 60s, 88.5 per cent of over 70s - and that's a really important set of milestones and outcomes that are protecting individuals.

The final thing I want to mention is that we now have approximately 1.8 million doses to be delivered to get to the national 70 per cent mark, and 3.8 million doses to be delivered to get to the national 80 per cent mark for first doses. And, once we've got those people through the door, they’ll come back, and that's what's critical. And, so, at a rate now of over 1.9 million doses a week, about 1.94 million on the seven day average, we are within sight. And, so, if you are eligible, if you haven’t been vaccinated, this is your chance.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Professor Kelly.

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, COMMONWEALTH CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thank you PM, thank you, Minister. So, obviously as Chief Medical Officer I’m absolutely delighted at this news. Vaccination is the key for us to move forward with the national plan and to get people protected, and that's the whole population will be benefiting from those vaccines - whether they’re going directly into people's arms or the vaccine being, working in an indirect protection to those who can’t get vaccinated, for example, children under the age of 12. Every time someone gets vaccinated over the next few weeks, that will increase the protection for the entire community. That's what the Doherty modelling shows very clearly. They have included the whole community in their outcomes and outputs of that modelling, and, so, those under 12s will be protected by their older siblings when they start in a couple of weeks of being eligible for vaccination. They will be protected by their parents getting vaccinated, by their grandparents getting vaccinated, by their teachers getting vaccinated, by all of us getting vaccinated, and that's a key point to make.

There will be more discussion, of course, about the Doherty modelling this afternoon at National Cabinet. They have finished, as the PM has said, that sensitivity analysis and asking, and answering specific questions that premiers have asked and chief ministers have asked of that modelling. And, that's really the way forward into those next phases of the plan. We’ll also be talking about the other elements that are part of the plan, which is that testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine, and how that may evolve as we learn to live with COVID, as well as the public health and social measures. So, I’ll leave it there, PM.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what’s your response to Premier Palaszczuk’s claim, two claims, that if there’s an outbreak with 70 per cent vaccination, that could lead to 2,200 deaths a month, and her separate claim that children under twelve will be vulnerable if, under the national plan. What’s your response to that? Is she right? And, do you agree with Minister Hunt that these claims have undermined public confidence?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think that would be a misreading of the Doherty analysis, and I think there’ll be a good opportunity for her to pursue that with the, with Professor McVernon today. But, I'm happy to ask Professor Kelly to add further on that.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] misread the Doherty analysis?

PRIME MINISTER: That is, that is not my reading of the Doherty analysis at all, I mean, because what that indicates is a scenario where there is not ongoing vaccination, there are no, virtually no public health social measures in place, and that's not what the national plan provides for. I mean, there are a range of scenarios that are presented, and as you follow the national plan what you do is you reduce those outcomes - down quite significantly to much lower levels. And, so, you know, the worst-case scenario is not the plan. That’s not the plan. What is the plan is the better case scenario, which sees you take actions, which has always been part of the national plan. It isn't just vaccination, public health social measures - the sort of things like distancing and things like that, washing your hands, all the other - that doesn't stop when we hit 70 per cent. People don't stop getting vaccinated when you hit 70 per cent or at 80 per cent. It keeps going up and you keep having other sensible, common sense precautions in place. Now, if you do none of those things, well, of course you put, you put the community at great risk. But, that's not what the national plan suggests, and to suggest that that’s what the national plan is would be a complete misreading of that. But, Professor Kelly.

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, COMMONWEALTH CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: So, I think, the Doherty Institute, and when we've spoken about that modelling project all along, it has been at a high-level national picture. It has shown the effectiveness of vaccination, testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine, and public health and social measures. And, that has been done. The sensitivity analysis that will be shared today takes the specific example - which wasn’t there at the time of the first lot of modelling - which is what we're seeing in New South Wales with large numbers of cases. And, so, that's what will be discussed today. The second thing I’ll say about children is, and I made this point yesterday, so of the almost 4,000 children under the age of 12 that have developed COVID this year, only 3.5 per cent of those have been in hospital, and most of those have been for social reasons, not because they’re seriously ill. And, very, very small numbers - less than one in 1,000 - have ended up in ICU, which is terribly upsetting and concerning, and I'm a parent and I understand that. I’m not father of the year, that’s someone else, but I, but, you know, we all feel for our children, of course. But, the reality is that most of the children, in fact, most of the cases we’re seeing in New South Wales are minor illness. They are asymptomatic or mild illness. We’ve got a proportion that are in hospital in ICU, but that’s definitely more in the adult population than children. And, just, the other point I made about vaccination - jabs in arms give direct protection to the person that has the jabs in arms, but every jab in the arm also gives indirect protection to the whole population, including and specifically children.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, given we’re getting more than 10 million doses of vaccines this month, given the fairly consistent rate of vaccination that we’re seeing every day, at what point will we reach 70 per cent double dose, and at what point will we also be able to offer people at any age whatever vaccine they want, not just AstraZeneca or not just Pfizer?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that day gets closer every day, and there’ll be a range of people who will give their forecast on all of this and I'm not about to do that. But, what I do know is that the rates of vaccination that we’re seeing means that we're getting closer to that every single day, and that's what's important. See, we haven’t set a day - there’s no magic in a day, there’s no health protection in a day. What there is protection in is having reached a level of vaccination in the community, double dose at 70 per cent, unchanged by the work of Doherty, and at 80 per cent, and then combining that with the appropriate, well-calibrated social measures and the testing and tracing that is done in those environments, to give that broader protection. That's where the protection is. And, so, we're getting closer and closer to that day.

JOURNALIST: But, you must have an idea when that will be, roughly?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course we do. But, what matters is not losing sight of achieving that mark, and I believe it's getting closer. And, initial estimates which hadn’t seen us doing it till very late in this year obviously were, I think we’re going to get to it a lot closer than that, but we’ll only get there if people keep going and getting vaccinated. And, so, we cannot take off any sense of urgency to keep pressing towards that, and I want to encourage people, if you’re booked for AstraZeneca today, go and get it. The best dose you can get today is the dose you can get today. And, so, I’d encourage people to go and do that today. If your second dose is booked, go and get that dose - whether it’s AstraZeneca or Pfizer or what’s available to you today, that’s the dose that you need to get to protect you, your family and to get Australia to opening up again.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on hospitals, Nat Cab today is discussing hospital capacity. Western Australia, which has no COVID cases, has had to cancel all non-urgent elective surgeries for this month, indicating the public health system there is already struggling. What does that tell you about the preparedness of every state for a COVID outbreak? And, just separately, the phone call with Joe Biden, President Biden has indicated you have committed to a face-to-face meeting with him as part of the Quad. Can you give us more details about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, let me deal with that one first, and Paul or Greg you might want to speak to the hospital system capacity. Again, a very warm conversation and I'm looking forward to travelling to Washington, as they said in Fall, when the Quad meeting will take place. We have some working dates around that, but there’s still some confirmations that need to occur. And, the Quad, as you know, is a very important gathering of the United States, India, ourselves and Japan, and we’re looking forward to that first face-to-face meeting of the Quad to go across the broad range of initiatives we’re working on. Of course, there’s the defence and security issues, but the importance of the programs we announced rolling out COVID vaccine support into the region, the economic development initiatives that we’re seeking to pursue, whether it’s down in the Mekong region or elsewhere that we’re partnering on. Importantly, looking at the critical supply chains and critical technologies that we’re working on together.

The Quad's agenda is incredibly important for the security of the Indo-Pacific and we had the opportunity today to talk of course about what happened in Afghanistan - for me to be able to thank the President and the people of the United States for their partnership in assisting our evacuation of over 4,100 people from Kabul. And, the 13 United States soldiers who lost their lives assisting us in that effort, and to extend our sympathies and condolences to their families. The President after our call was actually going to meet, I understand, with some of those who were injured in those attacks, and I asked him to pass on our thanks to them and their families. The next stage, of course, with Afghanistan is the humanitarian effort and for us to be able to take people through official humanitarian channels, and we discussed that, about how we can be working together to achieve what we want to continue to achieve to provide people with that opportunity, who are in Afghanistan, to take up those humanitarian pathways, and to ensure the cooperation of the Taliban regime to facilitate that, and we expect them to do that. The world is watching the Taliban and we are expecting them to hold to what they have said to our partners and allies in the United States to facilitate that safe movement of their own people who are seeking to take up those humanitarian pathways. So, that was an important part of our discussion.

But, equally, moving forward to the next Quad meeting, I think it demonstrates a very strong focus from the United States on the Indo-Pacific region, and Australia was referred to in our discussion today as a bedrock partner, a bedrock partner in the region. And, the President was very grateful for Australia's 20 years of support and assistance, standing with our American partners and many others in those very difficult efforts over those 20 years in Afghanistan, and he was very appreciative of it and all who served and all the families who served, and in particularly the 41 Australians who fell in that service. So, we thank him for that.

They’re of course going through their own domestic challenges now, particularly in relation to the hurricane and the floods which are impacting there in the United States, and we expressed our sympathies with him on those issues.

So, we have quite a large agenda with the United States. So, there’ll be certainly President, there will be a lot for President Biden and I to talk about when we have that face-to-face meeting in the White House this year.

On the hospitals, I’ll get Greg speak to that.

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Sure. We have confidence in all of the states and territories' preparedness. We started this in February 2020 and Brendan Murphy and Paul Kelly have overseen that national program, and all of the states and territories have stepped up. That included the acquisition of the ventilators to increase the national ventilation capacity from 2,000 to 7,500 beds, the training of staff to do that, the upskilling of nurses to do that, the provision of PPE, the acquisition of stocks in the national medical supply, and then perhaps underpinning it, you know, for the most difficult and challenging of times, there is the private hospitals viability guarantee, which adds 57,000 nurses, 100,000 staff and 30,000 beds and-. So, all of the states and territories are capable of stepping up. There’s always the capacity for additional investment at state level. I note that we have increased by 72 per cent our investment in Western Australian hospitals, they’ve increased by 18, so we would encourage and support them to move towards that investment at our level. And, then, finally I just note, you, we have mentioned Brendan Murphy. I particularly want to thank the team at Health - Brendan Murphy, Lisa Schofield, Kylie Wright and all of the others that have helped literally work through the night to get this arrangement.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the UK deal, you said you've been working on this for quite some time, what got it over the line? Why are they sending us so many doses and when do we have to give them back? And, did you ask President Biden for any vaccine doses in your call with him today?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I won't comment on I mean, I've gone through the issues that I've raised with President Biden today, the call today was very focused on the issues of Afghanistan, the ANZUS alliance, the forthcoming Quad meeting and our forthcoming bilateral meetings. Of course, there are meetings coming up in the United States between the Defence and Foreign Ministers as well. Those AUSMIN meetings have a quite a lead time going into them and the matters we're discussing there.

Look, at the end of the day, this is a good deal for Britain and it's a good deal for Australia and it's a good deal because it makes the most of the doses that they have now, which we need and the doses that we'll have later that they will need. And so this supports their programme when it comes to boosters and other things of that nature. It supports our programme now. So this is just a good deal and it's a good deal between mates. It's a good deal that's been secured because of the very strong relationship that exists obviously at a prime ministerial level, but also at a ministerial level as well. There is very strong support for the relationship with Australia in the United Kingdom. Saw that firsthand, of course, on many occasions. But when I was recently in Downing Street in the United Kingdom and the issues we worked through there with the free trade agreement and on many other topics. So it's a good deal between mates. It works for both of us. And it means we can double down on what our Pfizer capacity is this month, which brings forward the programme, which is great news of hope for people right around the country.

JOURNALIST: When do you have to send them back?


JOURNALIST: Within remote indigenous communities, we're seeing vaccination rates as low as 7 percent. Given this, does a threshold, a target needs to be set for our First Nation Australians? Pat Turner said [inaudible] percent. If we have a national target, shouldn't we be setting a target for our most vulnerable too?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Greg and Paul both might want to comment on this, but I want to stress within the National Plan, there is an acknowledgement of the need to continue to provide targeted initiatives for most vulnerable communities and obviously indigenous communities are the most vulnerable and that is become a key issue, particularly in the Northern Territory, where it's and that is such a dominant population within the Northern Territory. And that is something Chief Minister Gunner has been very consistent in raising not just recently, but over the entire course of the pandemic. So there is an acknowledgement of the need that some parts of the community are going to move more quickly than others when you're having vaccinations. And that means not just for indigenous communities, but as I said in Parliament this week, there are many disadvantaged communities. There's the homeless community. There are those who have other challenges, life challenges. There are those who, drug using communities, things like this. There are many. And we've seen that here in the ACT with the nature of the outbreak here, there needs to be an ongoing plan for dealing with disadvantaged communities post 70 and 80 per cent vaccination because they tend to be the less vaccinated. And we've seen that not just here, but we're seeing overseas as well. And so that isn't just a plan to get to 70 and 80 per cent. That will continue to be a challenge for all of us post 70 and 80 per cent into the future. And so that is another matter which the Department of Health and the Minister and I have been progressing. And Professor Murphy. And it's something we need to progress together with all the states and territories. And it already has been in so many respects. So, yes, I agree with Pat that we need to get those vaccination levels in our indigenous communities as high as possible, as high as possible. But at the same time, that does not disable us from the whole community being able to move forward under the National Plan. And the National Plan appreciates that. But, Greg?

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Yes. Just briefly, we're on the cusp of 40 per cent indigenous vaccination around Australia. One of the things that we were reviewing this week, the progress, was the information provided that that 99 per cent of people living in remote Australia have had access to vaccines. And so the real point which Ken Wyatt has made and many others, such as Pat Turner, is that we need to boost confidence. And that was what we discussed last night with all of the state and territory health ministers. They were great. They're really on board with this notion of community by community support, working with the elders. Now, we've been doing this all along, but obviously with the outbreak in western New South Wales, there's been a change in sentiment. There's been a boost in desire. And so that information, whether it's in remote or in urban areas, is something that we're all focused on. So those specific strategies. So the access has been there. Now it's about ensuring that there's a confidence for the uptake. I might just pass to Paul on this because this is actually his speciality.

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, COMMONWEALTH CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thanks, Minister. Thanks, PM. It's absolutely crucial, I think, for the first point is we've had from the very, very first week, I still remember Dawn Casey and Dr. Lucas de Toca from the department forming a committee, a national committee with input from indigenous leadership as well as the community controlled sector, as well as states and territories and the Commonwealth, all agencies in the Commonwealth to make sure that we were protecting our most vulnerable Australians, particularly those indigenous communities, whether they are in the urban or the rural and remote and very remote settings. So that's been there all along. There's been a plan, there's been great cooperation and so forth. As the Minister has said, this has been very focused in recent weeks because of the situation in western and far western New South Wales. I just want to just reiterate a point the Minister just made there about hesitancy. Access, yes, that's our responsibility. We have to make that, make sure that everyone can get the jab in the arm wherever they are. And that's happening. But there is hesitancy. Not everywhere. Some communities, Maningrida, a place I know well up in the Northern Territory, they broke a record for the number of vaccines they had and the coverage of a community in a single day from a primary care outreach a few weeks ago. Other places, there is incredible mistrust of the vaccine that all of the things where we have we have heard of the miscommunication and the poor communication about vaccines, that they're dangerous and that it's a conspiracy. All of those things are playing out in the most remote communities. And it's the tragedy. These are the people that would absolutely and most benefit from the vaccination programme.

JOURNALIST: What are you doing about the misinformation that's been spread by some [inaudible]?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, COMMONWEALTH CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Yeah, and Pat was talking about this the other night, too, so, yes, we absolutely need to work on that. In Wilcannia, for example, our AUSMAT team has been going door to door and having those conversations directly with people and offering the vaccine. But there is a range of other other materials that we're working through with the input from our indigenous leaders as well.

PRIME MINISTER: It needs to be done direct with indigenous leaders and elders. And that's what Minister Wyatt in particular has been pursuing. But it's difficult. It's challenging. COVID is not easy. It doesn't have simple solutions. Not everything happens the way you'd like it to. And so you've got to adjust. You've got to adapt. You've got to go and get four million more doses. You've got to go and adjust your plans. And in the indigenous communities, it's really tough and with a lot more work to do, but we're very committed to achieving it. Mark.

JOURNALIST: PM, does this deal with the UK, get us over this supply hump or do you need to negotiate further deals to meet the demand? And secondly if I can, there's some Australians who are stuck on the south of New Zealand being told where there's no community transmission, have been told they can't come back into Australia, even to go to hotel quarantine. Why is that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'm not familiar with the case you're referring to, Mark, so I'm not in a position to make any comment on it as to whether it, I'm not suggesting you're putting something forward that's not true, I just don't have, I have no knowledge of that case. But happy to take that on.

In terms of additional doses. Well, yeah, I'm up for them where they could be secured. And so say I'll continue to pursue those issues. But today's four million extra doses, when you combine it with the half a million also with Singapore, that doubles what we have for Pfizer this month. And that means we are now in a position and this month was a critical month to secure this because in October it surges to 11, I think, from memory 11 million doses in October and again in November. So we had those strong supplies in those months. And that's why getting it this month was so important and why, frankly, we've been so focused. And so that's why I'm very appreciative of the speed at which Boris and Sajid was able to to move ahead and get it through their systems. I also thank Albert Bourla at Pfizer to who's worked closely with us on both arrangements, both with Singapore and with the UK arrangement. But this really does break the back of it, I think it's fair to say.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there are predictions that cases in New South Wales will peak in late September at over 3,500. I understand these are difficult conversations to have with the Australian public, but you would have been in receipt of modelling that will make some predictions, not just about the peak, but obviously when vaccines will actually flatten that peak and start to bring it down. Those numbers are important because, of course, they also inform ICU admissions to some extent.


JOURNALIST: What is the latest information you have at what the range of cases will be at the peak in New South Wales? When will that occur and how many people do you think are likely to end up in ICU?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, these numbers are changing. That's the first thing. Paul's best placed to answer that question, because he is the professional in this space. In the discussions I had with the Chief Health Officer in New South Wales and the Premier earlier this week about those very topics, issues within the ICU, these are obviously issues being managed directly by the New South Wales Government. They run their own hospital system and very well. And so what we will be doing in the next phase, once we've worked through these further discussions with the states and territories, you'll recall that we had the briefing with Professor McVernon, went through all of those types of numbers. I intend for that to occur again.

JOURNALIST: But what's the number right now?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, when when we're in a position to finalise those numbers and how it appears in the modelling, what I'm telling you is just like last time, we will come and do a full briefing with Professor McVernon and it will be answered by the modelling when it has been.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible].


JOURNALIST: Can't you give us a ball-park right now?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think that would be wise.


PRIME MINISTER: Because I'm not going to go out and talk about numbers which are not yet finalised and are changing on an almost daily basis. Where we're heading is to live with the virus like any other infectious disease. And the purpose of what we're doing, the vaccinations, the testing and the isolation measures that are in place, in phase B and C of the programme, the other ongoing low level restrictions that are needed to support keeping those cases, but more importantly, which is the focus is on phase B and C, those hospitalisation rates down. All of that is what gets us to where we want to be. And so we can expect COVID to have an impact in the community like other infectious diseases. And so all of that work is being done. But as we see each and every day, you've seen the cases, I think, in Victoria today. I mean, this is changing on a daily basis. But what doesn't change is what we have to do. What we have to do is continue to keep up these record rates of vaccination. What we have to do is continue to prepare for in phase B and C, the pressures that will come on the public hospitals and public health systems. What we have to do is get home quarantine operational and at scale. So when we get to phase B and C, people can travel again, they can move around the country. Australia can be connected again and connected with the world. People can attend weddings. People can go and have household gatherings and birthday parties. And sadly, they'll have funerals, but people will be able to attend them. Worshippers can go back to church, picnics can take place in bigger numbers. All of this can happen again if we keep doing all those things. The question, though, about what the numbers are, they change every day. But what doesn't change is what we have to do. And that's exactly what we all need to focus on. But, Paul, did you want to add anything further?

PROFESSOR PAUL KELLY, COMMONWEALTH CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Only to say that we've said before that the numbers are one thing, but it's the preparation of the health system and and how it can cope with numbers as projected as the important component and the very key way that we have, the tool we have to to control those numbers and to decrease those numbers and to flatten the curve is the one we didn't have last year, which is vaccination. So another four million of those this month is going to really help.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned travel before. In your view, why is it necessary to go to Washington for the Quad Summit in person? Will you go to COP26 in Glasgow in person? And can I ask you your response to the Taliban spokesperson saying 41 Australian soldiers died in vain?

PRIME MINISTER: That's sickening and it's untrue. But I'm not surprised about a dishonourable statement from the Taliban. That's what I'd say about that. And that they should know that the world is watching them and they expect them to live up to the statements that they've made. And as we continue to seek to have people brought to this country to start a new home for themselves and their families and so many others in the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom and many other partners, we would expect them to honour those things. And I think those sorts of comments dishonour that trust. And trust matters. And we'll be seeking to ensure in everything that we can do to ensure that they seek to establish that trust, because at this stage the account is in deficit when it comes to any trust you could put in the Taliban.

On the other matters. I mean, people will see very clearly why it is important for me to be in Washington for those meetings. That will become very apparent when we meet in Washington, when that opportunity is confirmed about when that is precisely happening. But we will definitely be going to Washington. On other matters for travel, for the balance of the year, well we haven't made any decisions on those matters yet. I mean, it has to do with many things, including quarantine, Parliament when it's sitting, all of those issues. And so at this stage, as it was only a few weeks ago, I think Michelle was asking me whether it was possible that we could be in Washington. At that time, that wasn't looking very possible. Well, look, what's happened now.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said last year that not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station. Does that apply to the international border? Can you envision opening up to a state like New South Wales that get above 80 per cent and not waiting for the states who don't want to open?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. I can. The National Plan sets out that very clearly.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, will you be seeking assurances from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today that she will stick to the National Plan and are you in conversation with any of the pharmaceutical companies about securing vaccine supplies for under 12s when one is available?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll let Greg speak to the latter matter. But let me be very clear, because I understand someone today said we should be vaccinating under 12 and preparing for vaccinating under 12. There's not a country in the world that has approved a vaccine for under 12s and to sort of hint that that was something that's about to happen or should be happening now, I don't think is very responsible. It's not responsible. As you've heard already from Professor Kelly, the vaccination programme that goes across the population from 12 and above, and as I said, I think I said to you last week, not specifically, but at last week's press conference, we will be making public the numbers of 12 to 15 year olds who are vaccinated in the same way we do for the rest of the population. So there's a transparency around that. I think parents want to know that. I think ...

JOURNALIST: [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: I'm still answering the last question. So just hold on, Greg. Settle. On the issue of dealing, on issues with the Premier attending, as she has done now on 54 occasions, I think today, I would just expect us to have a good discussion to be better understanding the implications of the Doherty modelling. There's a further you know, there was a very long discussion we had last week about an hour and a half. There was the opportunity to understand that modelling well and its implications. And so there'll be another opportunity for that. I take the view that the more people know, the more they're informed, the more they're able to understand these issues and the better the policy outcomes are. And so this afternoon is another good opportunity for that. The National Plan was agreed. National Plan was agreed by all states and territories. It's a plan that is actually going to see Australia open up again and Australia move forward again. It doesn't come without its risks and it's important that it's done safely. And the plan is a safe plan. It sees a soft opening as you ease into a more, more broad opening when you hit 80 per cent. That's the nature of the plan. And that's why I believe states and territories supported it. It wasn't an all or nothing plan. It was a plan that was very careful based on the best science, the best economic advice. Dr Kennedy will be joining us also this afternoon at National Cabinet because remember, the National Plan was based on the health advice and the economic advice and making sure that we get those in good balance. But Greg, did you do want to deal with the other issue?

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: So just on vaccine supply for children under 12, we've already secured vaccine supply. We have a whole of population supply. Next year, we have 60 million Pfizer that are available, that we have 15 million Moderna for next year over and above the 10 million for this year. We have 51 million Novavax that are available. So at this stage, as Paul has said on many occasions, as Michael Kidd and others, there are no vaccines anywhere in the world which have been approved for use in children under 12 for COVID-19. But if they are, we're already prepared. We've already got the supply.

PRIME MINISTER: Ok, I have to leave it there. Thanks Boris, I owe you a beer. Cheers.