Scott Morrison has told Australians nervous about rising COVID-19 infections they can choose to stay home and leave others to go about their lives.
The prime minister also encouraged people get out and enjoy the summer, during a media event on the NSW Central Coast.
“If you feel uncomfortable about going out in other public spaces, well, you can choose to stay home,” Mr Morrison told reporters at Terrigal on Thursday.
“You can choose to wear a mask, you can choose many things to protect your own health. But they’re your choices and we have to be careful about imposing our choices on others.”
He returned a negative rapid antigen test ahead of the press conference after being told for the second time in as many days he was a casual contact.
Mr Morrison wasn’t overly concerned about this or Australia’s overall rise in infections because hospital and intensive care numbers hadn’t taken off.
“My simple message to Australians is to go about your lives, enjoy the summer, exercise the common sense precautions that you would,” he said.
“If you’re feeling uncertain, then it’s not compulsory to go out. It’s not compulsory not to wear a mask either.”
NSW recorded 1742 new daily infections on Thursday, while there were 1622 in Victoria alongside more nine deaths.
Queensland recorded 22 new cases and South Australia 24.
The ACT racked up 11 more infections while there was one recorded in Tasmania.
Mr Morrison said the interval between second and third jabs was being reviewed weekly by Australia’s vaccine advisory body.
Should the gap be shortened again to four months, the prime minister maintained there were adequate booster supplies.
Epidemiologist Tony Blakely stressed masks remained vital despite relaxed requirements to wear them in NSW.
“Omicron may work out for us, but it’s not going to work if we let it go crazy. It’s like a bushfire, if you just let it rip, it’ll cause heaps of damage,” he told the Seven Network.
Professor Blakely flagged regional lockdowns may also be required despite premiers promising not to go back to them.
“It’s going to be a bumpy few months as we work our way through this,” he said.
Another epidemiologist, Nancy Baxter, questioned why restrictions were being relaxed as other countries tightened rules to deal with Omicron.
“There is nowhere else in the world that has decided to say, well, we have this new variant coming that seems to spread much faster so let’s relax restrictions,” she told ABC TV.
“It doesn’t make a tonne of sense and it has the potential to drive cases higher here than elsewhere.”
Almost 90 per cent of Australians aged 16 and older are double-dosed while the number of boosters rolled out nears one million.
Vaccine rollout co-ordinator Lieutenant General John Frewen said booster supply wasn’t a problem.
“It’s a huge logistical challenge, but the supply is there. We’ve just got to make sure it gets to the right places,” he told Sky News.
“Where some pharmacies have run out, others have still got stuff on the shelf.”