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What happens after we're vaccinated?

From this week residents in NSW, who have been locked down for nearly three months, will finally be able to leave their homes. But the new freedoms are contingent on one important factor: their vaccination status.

From this week residents in NSW, who have been locked down for nearly three months, will finally be able to leave their homes.

But the new freedoms are contingent on one important factor: their vaccination status.

It’s the first time the easing of restrictions has been linked to vaccine status, but it’s likely to become the new normal across Australia.

Today, journalist with the AAP Hannah Ryan on the plan to provide freedoms only to fully vaccinated, and what that means for the next phase of the pandemic.

 

Guest: Journalist with the Australian Associated Press and contributor to The Saturday Paper Hannah Ryan.

 
Show Transcript

[Theme Music Starts]

RUBY:
From Schwartz Media I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am.

 

From this week residents in New South Wales, who have been locked down for nearly three months, are finally able to leave their homes.

 

But the new freedoms are contingent on one important factor: their vaccination status.
 

It’s the first time the easing of restrictions has been linked to vaccine status, but it’s likely to become the new normal across Australia.

 

Today, journalist with the AAP Hannah Ryan on the plan to provide freedoms only to fully vaccinated, and what that means for the next phase of the pandemic.
 

It’s Thursday, September 16.

[Theme Music Ends]

RUBY:
Hey Hannah, it's Ruby. 

 

HANNAH:
Hey.

 

RUBY:
How’s things in Sydney?

 

HANNAH:
Same old, same old I’m not double vaccinated yet, so no picnics for me yet. 

 

RUBY:
Are you far off? 

 

HANNAH:
I’m due this Saturday, so hopefully it'll be a big weekend of you know cheese and wine at the park. 

 

RUBY:
Never been so excited to get a needle.

 

HANNAH:
Yeah, I know. 

 

RUBY:
Hannah,  this week, after 11 weeks in lockdown, people in New South Wales are getting some new freedoms. But those freedoms, they're contingent on people being fully vaccinated. So tell me how we got here. When was this first kind of flagged? 

 

HANNAH:
So from the very beginning of this outbreak, the New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has emphasised that vaccination is the way out. 

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“We’re all going through a rollercoaster ride of emotions as case numbers go up and down. But the number we really need to focus on is the vaccination rate…” 

 

HANNAH:
So where Prime Minister Scott Morrison preferred to emphasise restrictions and getting case numbers back down, Gladys Berejiklian has hammered vaccination over and over again. 

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“And thank you to everybody taking up the vaccine by the end of August. I'd like to see that number go to six million jabs…” 

 

HANNAH:
So in almost every daily presser, she would stand up and tell people to go out and get vaccinated. 

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“Best way we can protect ourselves. The best way we can look forward to freedom is by making sure that we get vaccinated…”

 

HANNAH:
She started giving the vaccination numbers at the start of the press conference rather than the testing numbers.

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“Good morning, everybody. New South Wales, yesterday, we had 120,000 people that came forward to get vaccinated. And we can't stress enough how important it is for that to continue. We're now at five point seven million jabs.”

 

HANNAH:
So that’s when we started to hear rhetoric about being vaccinated and having freedoms. 

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“We know that people value their freedom, their desire to go back to work, their desire to engage in community life. And those are the type of incentives that will be looking at over the next little while.”

 

HANNAH:
And what we are now seeing is what could possibly be the future of Australia, where your ability to participate in society and the economy is going to depend entirely on your vaccination status. And that all started with the first specific policy that linked freedoms to vaccines, which was for workers in Sydney's hotspot suburbs in the South Western and Western suburbs. 

 

RUBY:
Ok, so the New South Wales government has been foreshadowing for a while now that new freedoms would be linked to vaccine status. Can you tell me though about the first time they actually put this policy into practice?

 

HANNAH:
So a couple of weeks after Greater Sydney went into lockdown, the state amped up the lockdown to where it had never been before, which was banning construction. 

 

Archival tape -- Reporter 1:
“Businesses were given just a few hours grace, to clean up, lock up and get out with the Premier warning, we can't have thousands of tradies going to multiple sites.”

 

HANNAH:
That obviously was pretty controversial. It had a huge impact economically, particularly on workers in those hot spot suburbs, many of whom work in the construction industry. And there was a lot of pressure on the government to ease those restrictions. 

 

Archival tape -- CFMEU Secretary:
“We estimate involved in the construction industry around half million workers. Up to half a million workers will be affected by this.” 

 

Archival tape -- Tradie 1:
“It’s going to be very tough. Everyone depends on us, our families and that.” 

 

Archival tape -- Tradie:
“Can’t pay the bills, it’s going to be hard to get food, no money no nothing.” 

 

HANNAH:
But then they announced kind of on a Saturday evening press release so quite quietly that workers in those areas would be able to return to work if they were vaccinated. 

 

Archival tape -- Reporter 2:
“From today, tradies who live in those areas will be allowed back on the job. However, there are strict conditions they'll have to either prove that they've been fully vaccinated.”

 

HANNAH:
The way they announced it didn't feel like a big deal, but it was. Because it was the first time where we saw vaccine status explicitly linked to someone's ability to work and participate in society. 

 

RUBY:
Mm hmm. OK, and so how did we get from that position, which is, I suppose, of pretty specific policy aimed at construction workers to the current situation where it seems like everybody's lives, at least in New South Wales, are going to be governed by what their vaccine status is. 

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“Today I’m pleased to announce that given we did get to the six million jabs, that from the 13th of September. So in a couple of weeks, in the local government areas of concern.”

 

HANNAH:
The Premier was resolute that there would be some sort of easing of restrictions when we hit that six million jab target and two months into lockdown at the end of August, she made good on that promise and set September 13 as the date of the rollout of the so-called picnic plan.

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“A household will now be able to go out for an hour of recreation on top of the hour of exercise. So a family will be able to sit in the park so long as the adults are vaccinated. And that is key.” 

 

HANNAH:
And what that is, is basically a tiered system where people who live in these hot spot, local government areas of greater Sydney have different freedoms to the other local government areas. 

 

If you live in a hotspot suburb, you can now if your entire household is double vaccinated, go for a picnic for two hours with other members of your household. And elsewhere in the state you can also enjoy a picnic, but with a maximum of five people doesn't have to be from your household as long as everyone has two doses of the vaccine. And that started on Monday. So it's the situation in New South Wales now.  

 

RUBY:
So Hannah, how exactly is the government going to make sure that it’s only people who are fully vaccinated are getting out and about? Will there be police checking people having picnics? Will there be vaccine passports that you have to show before you’re allowed into a restaurant or a bar? How is it going to work exactly? 

 

HANNAH:
So that's a really good question that no one really knows the answer to at this point. We've had pretty bad weather in Sydney this week, so there hasn't been the picnic extravaganza you might have expected. And plus that only came in on Monday. So we haven't had a weekend with this picnic rule. 

 

What the government has said is that eventually there's going to be a vaccine check or vaccine ID within your service New South Wales app, which is what people in New South Wales used to check into venues, but that isn't ready yet. So the message is that people should be using their Medicare app where you can get proof of your vaccination within that federal government app. 

 

But really, the picnic thing is just the start of it, because further down the track, probably in about a month, New South Wales is going to open up and ease lockdown, but only for people who've had two doses of the vaccination. And that's going to make this question a whole lot more difficult to answer. 

 

So instead of just picnic's, people who've got two doses of the vaccine are going to be able to go into restaurants, go into shops, and it's going to be way more on the businesses to monitor this. And they don't really know how they're going to do that yet. 

 

The bigger question this raises is around equity. So who's able to have been vaccinated so far and who's able to prove it? 

 

RUBY:
We’ll be back after this. 

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RUBY:
Hannah, we are talking about the plan to give more freedoms to Australians currently in lockdown, but only those who are fully vaccinated. But not everyone has had the same access to vaccines though, which therefore impacts their ability to enjoy these new freedoms, right?
 

HANNAH:
Exactly. So a lot of this depends on people having had access to the vaccine. And obviously that's been a huge issue throughout the pandemic. And younger people have ended up being last in line and many young people are still waiting for their second dose, and that includes me. So if you look at the statistics for New South Wales, you've only got one in four people aged between 25 and 29 who are double vaccinated. 

 

And that's even lower for people who are younger than that. Well, under half of people under 40 in New South Wales have had a double dose. So they won't be able to access these freedoms. 

 

And then you've got other groups who've had trouble accessing the vaccine, like pregnant women have had real issues. 

 

A lot of people in regional New South Wales have got in contact with me to say they've struggled to get the vaccine. There's obviously well-known issues with people in Aboriginal communities in regional New South Wales and regional Australia as well, who've had problems accessing the vaccine. And that's going to be a problem not just for people enjoying their freedoms to, you know, go to the pub, but also for people working in those industries. 

 

So a lot of hospitality workers, for example, are young. And if only a quarter of them have double doses of vaccine, they're probably not going to be able to go to work right when the reopening begins. 

 

#RUBY:
And it seems like at this stage in the pandemic, we're really behind the rest of the world in terms of getting vaccinated and perhaps being able to start opening up. So are there any specific international examples that we can be looking at now to to get a handle on how this kind of two tiered vaccinated unvaccinated system is playing out and if it's working well? 

 

HANNAH:
Yeah, so lots of European countries are actually now using this kind of model. So, for example, in Italy, if you aren't vaccinated, you can eat outdoors, but you can't go inside unless you are fully vaccinated. 

 

It hasn't always been welcomed like in France, they've got a vaccine passport scheme now, but it has come after weeks and weeks of protests on the streets. You need that vaccine passport in France now, even if you want to eat outdoors and go to other kinds of public spaces.

 

Then in the UK, for example, Boris Johnson was talking a lot about vaccine passports, but the idea proved too controversial. And so he's ditched that plan. And then you have some countries who’ve introduced vaccine passports and then decided they don't need them anymore. 

 

For example, Israel, where they've just now reintroduced them after they've seen another outbreak. 

 

RUBY:
OK, and so this system where people who are vaccinated have more freedom than people who are not vaccinated. Is this likely to be something that we see happen across Australia? 

 

HANNAH:
So in Victoria, which is the other state that, like New South Wales, has walked away from the covid zero plan, we're starting to see similar rhetoric. 

 

Archival tape -- Daniel Andrews:
“Let's get to those thresholds as fast as we possibly can. But, yes, there's going to be a vaccinated economy.” 

 

HANNAH:
So you had Victorian Premier Dan Andrews last week being pretty explicit. He said that there's going to be a vaccinated economy.

 

Archival tape -- Daniel Andrews:
“And you get to participate in that if you are vaccinated.” 

 

HANNAH:
And they've announced they're going to trial a pilot programme in regional Victoria to test the viability of a vaccine economy where they're going to allow more events and facilities and services to be used by people who've had two doses of the vaccine. 

 

Archival tape -- Daniel Andrews:
“For fully vaccinated people, there'll be more and more things that we can do that'll move inside that whole of the economy as best it can. We'll operate as close to normal as possible for people that have had two doses. So everything from restaurants, cafes…”

 

HANNAH:
So it's looking more and more like this is a situation where if people are fully vaccinated, they can work and live more openly and those who aren't, can't. And that's going to be the new normal. 

 

RUBY:
So how long do you think that this is going to be the approach that we take to the pandemic? Should it be seen as an interim measure until we have high enough vaccination rates? Or is this kind of how we're going to be living from now on? 

 

HANNAH:
I think that's the big question. And it's not one that the New South Wales government at least has an answer to yet. So they've definitely been saying over and over again that you won't be released from lockdown once we hit 70 per cent double dose if you haven't been vaccinated. 

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“To make sure that when we start reopening at 70 per cent double dose, that it's done in a safe way and it's only for people who are vaccinated.” 

 

HANNAH:
So Gladys Berejiklian has said you won't be able to take advantage of those freedoms. 

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“So you have been warned if you're not vaccinated, come forward and get the vaccine. Otherwise, you won't be able to participate in the many freedoms that people have at 70 per cent vaccination.” 

 

HANNAH:
So that's what happens when we get to 70 per cent. 

 

But what about when we get to 80 percent? 

 

Archival tape -- Ben Fordham:
“The deputy premier, John Barilaro, is on the line. Deputy Premier, good morning to you.” 

 

Archival tape -- John Barilaro:
“Good morning, Ben. How are you?” 

 

HANNAH:
There's been some suggestion from the deputy premier that the unvaccinated will be able to enjoy those freedoms when we get to that threshold. 

 

Archival tape -- John Barilaro:
“We've said that according to the national road map and to the Doherty Institute report we’ll go and then lift further restrictions, including for the unvaccinated.” 

 

HANNAH:
But that's pretty controversial. And the premier shut that down earlier this week. 

 

Archival tape -- Gladys Berejiklian:
“So I just want to send the very strong message that don't assume you'll get everything that vaccinated people get at 80 per cent.” 

 

HANNAH:
So she said on Monday that she doesn't want people to think they can sit back and let everyone else do the hard work and then turn up when it's 80 per cent and get everything else that vaccinated people are. 

 

But she's also flagged that that might not be something that the government imposes. It might be something that businesses decide to do one by one. So she leaves it up to business to decide who can enter and who has to stay home.

 

It's clear that there's a lot that they're yet to work out and a lot of questions they haven't answered yet. 

 

RUBY:
Hannah, thank you so much for your time. 

 

HANNAH:
Thank you. 

 

RUBY:
Good luck getting the final vaccine and going for a picnic. 

 

HANNAH:
Thank you. 

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[Theme Music Starts]

RUBY:
Also in the news today,

 

The curfew in 12 local government areas of concern across Sydney has been lifted. It comes after it was announced 80 percent of people aged 16 and over in the state have now received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

 

And the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has publicly criticised Christian Porter’s decision to accept anonymous donations to pay for his legal fees, calling it an “extraordinary abrogation of responsibility”.

 

The former attorney general declared that part of his legal fees for the discontinued defamation case against the ABC were covered by unknown donors. The fees for the case have been estimated to cost up to 1 million dollars.


I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am. See you tomorrow.

[Theme Music Ends]

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