Agreement Needed On Virus Deaths: QLD Deputy Premier

September 2, 2021 Updated: September 2, 2021

National Cabinet must make the “challenging decision” on how many COVID-19 deaths they’re willing to accept in order for Australia to reopen, Queensland’s deputy premier says.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles says vaccination rates aren’t the only variable the prime minister and state and territory leaders need to consider before reopening under the national plan.

He says the Doherty Institute has only modelled the number of cases, hospitalisations, ICU cases, and deaths that will happen at varying levels of vaccination coverage and testing, tracing, isolation, and quarantine measures.

The deputy premier says the national cabinet is yet to come to an agreement on the number of deaths leaders are willing to accept in order to ease restrictions and soften state border controls.

“Well, that’s effectively the decision that needs to be made here,” Miles told ABC radio on Friday.

“The modelling calculates how many people die under each scenario, and that’s the challenging decision that our leaders need to make, and I don’t think they can be simplified the way the prime minister has tried to.”

Miles said until a clear decision had been made by the national cabinet, Queensland couldn’t commit to reopening when other state leaders may be willing to accept more cases, hospitalisations, ICU cases, and deaths.

It wasn’t a binary choice to reopen or not at 80 percent, he said, with the modelling showing that some level of restrictions, such as lockdowns, could be needed to deal with outbreaks.

The deputy premier said lockdowns would be less likely at 80 percent vaccination coverage, but decisions on borders would depend on circumstances in other states.

He also defended Queensland’s vaccination coverage, which at 51.6 percent for one dose and 32.9 percent fully vaccinated, is the second-lowest in the country.

Miles said New South Wales (NSW) had been given more Pfizer vaccines due to its outbreak and he denied the Queensland government had set back its own rollout by creating “panic” about blood clots from the AstraZeneca jab.

“That was the health advice, and people can look at, look at that and make their own decisions,” the deputy premier said.

“You know there’s been complications related to that vaccine even as recently as this week, but we continue to roll out the vaccines that were provided as quickly as we can.”

Miles hit back at federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s comments that Queensland’s hard border policy was “a profound moral failure” for locking out sick people and toddler Memphis Francis.

He said the three-year-old had been granted an exemption as soon as there was an application, and Hunt had failed himself.

“The federal health minister calling this ‘the greatest moral failure’ while on his doorstep thousands of people in NSW have the virus is pretty incredible.”