National concern mounts as virus persists

Australians in lockdown are being urged to stay the course as COVID-19 cases rise across the nation.
Australians in lockdown are being urged to stay the course as COVID-19 cases rise across the nation.

Australia's coronavirus situation continues to worsen with the NSW crisis deepening and more restrictions being imposed in other parts of the nation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is adamant there has never been a national goal to achieve zero cases amid multiple Delta strain outbreaks.

NSW reported a record 478 new local cases and seven deaths on Monday, while a 15-year-old boy with coronavirus died from meningitis.

The entire state is in lockdown.

Melbourne recorded 22 new locally acquired infections, with speculation even harsher restrictions could accompany a lockdown extension.

Canberra's lockdown will be extended until at least September 2 after 19 new local cases were detected in the ACT.

Darwin and Katherine will be locked down for three days after a man who spent four days in the community while infectious tested positive.

The prime minister says the nation remains in a suppression phase of the fight against the disease while vaccination rates increase.

"The idea that you can have zero COVID in any country has never been Australia's plan," Mr Morrison told the ABC on Monday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has conceded her state will not eradicate the virus, while her Victorian counterpart Daniel Andrews agrees.

Western Australia's leader Mark McGowan is signalling he will continue to pursue a zero-case goal even after reaching 80 per cent vaccination coverage.

Federal, state and territory governments have backed targets of 70 and 80 per cent to reduce the possibility of lockdowns and reopen the country.

Mr Morrison said Doherty Institute and Treasury modelling underpinning the national cabinet agreement was clear about the targets' importance.

"Once you hit those levels, it is neither in our health or economic interests to go down that path," he said.

The institute's epidemiology director Jodie McVernon cast doubt on whether the WA goal was achievable.

"My personal view is, that's a very difficult promise to keep," she told ABC radio.

The prime minister said all governments agreed to the reopening strategy three times.

"That's the deal that all premiers and chief ministers have signed up to and made that commitment to their own citizens," Mr Morrison said.

"We've got to hold to that."

Mr McGowan said the national cabinet agreement left the door open to targeted lockdowns when 80 per cent vaccination coverage was reached.

"We will keep that as one of our weapons in the situation we're in," he told reporters.

More than half of the one million Pfizer doses Australia will receive from Poland arrived overnight, with the balance to touch down on Tuesday.

About 530,000 will be rushed to 12 Sydney hot spots for people aged 20 to 39, while the rest will be shared across the country based on population.

Australia has vaccinated 26 per cent of its population aged 16 and above, while 47.7 per cent have had a single jab.

Australian Associated Press