Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has accused the government of trying to spin its way out of a crisis, over its efforts to deflect blame for Victoria’s fourth lockdown.
There were five new COVID-19 cases recorded in the state on Friday, taking the outbreak – sparked by a hotel quarantine breach in South Australia – to 35 cases.
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino is among many pointing the finger at the federal government, saying a successful vaccine rollout and fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities may have changed Victoria’s fate.
But Health Minister Greg Hunt spent Friday rejecting the criticisms.
The vaccine scheme so far is an “extraordinary achievement”, he said, and 20 per cent of the country’s adult population would soon have received at least one dose.
However Mr Albanese said that’s a milestone the government hoped to reach in March.
“They’ve used those figures to try and spin their way out of this mess,” he told reporters on Saturday.
“(But) the truth is that in areas of the rollout people … who were supposed to be at the front of the queue … haven’t received the vaccine yet.
“They haven’t even rolled out category 1a.”
Only 500,000 people – about two per cent of the population – have been fully vaccinated with two doses.
But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly on Friday said even one gives a very good level of protection.
Mr Albanese said the government’s defence of hotel quarantine is also bogus.
“Scott Morrison speaks about the success rate.
“What he doesn’t say is that with every failure, there are very serious consequences – for health, for our economy and for people being able to go about their lives.”
Given they “failed dismally” to protect Victoria, he said, the government must introduce financial support for people during the lockdown – the first without the JobKeeper scheme.
Mr Hunt on Friday also pushed back against claims some people were waiting to get vaccinated because the federal government had given them the impression there was no rush.
Mr Hunt denied he ever said that and again appealed to Australians to roll up their sleeves.
Asked if the government would consider proposals such as lotteries to incentivise vaccination, as done overseas, Mr Hunt said they shouldn’t be necessary.
“The strongest reason is to avoid … the lottery of COVID and avoid the lottery of death,” he told reporters.
“The number one reason to be vaccinated is it can save your life and the life of your family and friends.”