The federal government will bring forward the delivery of 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to New South Wales to support Sydney’s fight to suppress the COVID-19 outbreak.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also announced changes to the federal government’s COVID-19 temporary disaster payment.
The extra vaccines will be targeted towards those most vulnerable in the community, in particular parts of south western Sydney that have been identified as areas of concern.
Mr Morrison urged Sydneysiders to comply with the lockdown restrictions stressing the need for this to contain the “very serious situation”.
“The virus doesn’t move by itself. It moves from person to person, people carry it from one to another,” he told reporters.
“Compliance with the orders that have been put in place by the New South Wales government could not be more critical.”
National cabinet last month agreed to the COVID-19 disaster payment, which is available to people facing lockdown conditions that last longer than a week.
Recipients could not have more than $10,000 in liquid assets to receive the $325 – $500 weekly payment.
But Mr Morrison on Thursday said the liquid asset test would be waived from the third week of the city’s lockdown.
“It’s a disaster payment, so it’s demand driven. We’ll pay whatever the demand is on those payments,” he said.
The delivery of vaccine supplies to bolster the states vaccination efforts will comprise equally of AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Mr Morrison said about 48 to 51 per cent of people over 70 have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“We would be encouraging the eight to 12-week second dose be done at the earlier part of that period,” Mr Morrison said.
The prime minister also denied suggestions the pace of the vaccine rollout had contributed to the current lockdown conditions in Sydney.
“The suggestion that somehow there was a vaccination rate that would have put us in a different position right now to what was planned last year is simply not true,” he said.
NSW reported 38 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, with 18 new cases in isolation throughout their infectious period.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stressed the need for Sydneysiders to adhere to lockdown restrictions citing the risk posed by household contacts and community activity.
“The two biggest areas where people are spreading the virus is through household contacts of people close to them, and people who are undertaking activity with symptoms,” the premier said.
Mr Morrison said the government would consider further economic support for New South Wales as required.
“We will work very closely with them to ensure that there is appropriate economic support should the conditions in New South Wales require further restrictions,” he said.
“There are shifting sands when it comes to the evolution of this issue.”
He also flagged the Commonwealth has had some “success” sourcing additional doses of vaccines meaning the extra supply of vaccines would not impact the broader rollout.
A waiver on mutual obligations for welfare payments will also continue for Sydney.