The federal government will send thousands of extra Pfizer doses Sydney’s way as adults of all ages in Australia’s largest city are also being urged to “strongly consider” AstraZeneca.
The move comes as thousands of angry, unmasked people defied stay-at-home orders to march through the centres of Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday and NSW recorded 163 fresh virus cases, the most since the first wave of 2020.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared she was “utterly disgusted” by the protest action and promised the full force of the law would be brought against those involved.
Dozens had already been arrested and some 90 infringement notices issued by late afternoon with a police strike force formed to find and punish the rest.
Protesters and police also clashed on Melbourne’s streets.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd meanwhile said another 200,000 Pfizer doses would arrive in NSW this week.
“The Commonwealth will be providing a sustained weekly increase of an additional 20,000 doses to general practices and an additional 20,000 doses to NSW government clinics on an ongoing basis,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s Office told AAP the extra vaccines were in addition to 150,000 more Pfizer doses already sent to NSW.
Plea to the young
Also on Saturday, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation issued a statement saying all people aged 18 years and above in greater Sydney “should strongly consider getting vaccinated with any available vaccine including COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca”.
The risk of infection in NSW combined with the scarcity of Pfizer supplies means all adults should consider the benefits of earlier protection, ATAGI said.
Many of Sydney’s latest community cases were not isolating while infectious and authorities have spent the past two days asking other states to sacrifice their own Pfizer doses for the worst-affected suburbs.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other state leaders, however, have made it clear state allocations won’t change.
He hailed a record day of jabs on Saturday, saying Australia was on track to have administered 11 million vaccination doses.
“Yesterday was another record day for vaccinations around the country, almost 200,000 doses delivered in a single day,” he said.
Two days after apologising for the nation’s underwhelming vaccination rollout, the prime minister was optimistic.
“We’ve turned the corner, we’ve got it sorted. We’re hitting the marks that we need to make, a million doses a week are now being delivered,” he added.
“We are well on our way to where we want to be by the end of the year and potentially sooner than that.”
As many in Victoria and NSW face job losses through lockdown, the federal opposition has taken aim at lagging financial support.
‘Harsher lockdown, less support’
Senior Labor MP Chris Bowen said there was anger that JobKeeper, used effectively in 2020 lockdowns, had not been brought back.
“This is a harsher lockdown, with less support from the federal government than we had last year and it’s not good enough,” he said.
“The payments are not as good as JobKeeper, they’re harder to get than JobKeeper.
“It’s a complicated situation, and if Scott Morrison thinks it’s working come out and check the Centrelink lines in Western Sydney.”
The federal government issued a statement on Saturday to say Services Australia staff were working across the weekend to process claims.
The payment is for people whose income or hours of work have been impacted by current lockdowns.
“Since claims opened yesterday, more than 84,000 Victorians have already sought support,” the statement from Emergency Management Minister Bridget McKenzie and Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds said.
Applicants are advised to claim payments via the myGov web portal and to call Services Australia for extra help.
Eligible people will receive $600 per week if they have lost 20 or more hours of work, and $375 per week if they have lost between eight and less than 20 hours of work, or a full day of work.
Victoria recorded 12 new locally acquired cases on Saturday, Queensland reported none and South Australia, also still in lockdown, reported one.