Australians could be wearing masks indoors for years according to one of the nation's chief medical officers and she has warned it's a case of "God help us" if a new Covid-19 variant emerges.
As the Prime Minister urges the states to reopen the economy after vaccination rates have hit 70 to 80 per cent of the adult population, both the PM and health experts have underlined that the plan includes keeping the basics of testing, tracing, isolating, social distancing and in some cases masks in place.
New South Wales chief health officer Kerry Chant has warned that the modelling that predicts deaths can be kept to a minimum when a majority of adults are vaccinated is based on the assumption that some measures remain in place.
"It may be that we actually have indoor mask-wearing for years in certain settings," Dr Chant said.
"We may have factors that you're only permitted to go to certain high-risk venues if you're vaccinated and show proof of vaccination.
"The world is grappling with how we coexist with Covid and the virus may throw us curve balls. You know, we've got the Delta variant. God help us if we have another variant. This is not a one-size-fits all."
The Delta variant is regarded as more infectious than the original Covid-19 virus circulating in the community and most likely to infect entire households. But already new variants are emerging overseas that could be brought to Australia by international travellers.
Dr Chant said that NSW was working to bring down the reproduction rate of the virus – the number of people it infects – with vaccines alongside the lockdown.
"What we are trying to do is use vaccination as an additional tool to reduce the R effective, so reduce the fact that everyone at the moment is infecting more than one person and when you infect more than one person, you grow the case numbers," she said.
The Prime Minister has been promising a "new dawn" in recent days but he's been probed on radio today over the Doherty Institute's warning that even when vaccination rates hit 80 per cent that thousands of deaths a year are still a possibility.
Morrison said that the prediction was this would fall to below 20 deaths a year with appropriate public health measures in place.
That might include masks indoors, testing and tracing and isolating after exposure to someone with the virus. But it would not involve lockdowns of entire states and capital cities.
"With appropriate public health measures, which doesn't mean lockdowns, we can reduce infection significantly and also fatalities," he said.
"And it means that we can manage this like any other infectious disease. I mean, there are 600 deaths from the flu each year and there are some 200,000 cases each year. And that doesn't shut down cities. And we live with that. And we still see our families and we still go out for coffee. We still go to the MCG. We still do all of these things. And so this is something we can live with."