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Calls to reopen slowly amid concerns about hospitals

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The Australian Medical Association, Doherty Institute and Burnet Institute have all called for Australia to reopen from the COVID pandemic slowly, warning again of major strain on hospitals and rising death tolls even after 80 per cent of over-16s have been vaccinated.

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The latest warnings came as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews outlined his state’s roadmap out of lockdown on Sunday, with hopes for outdoor dining and drinking next month and large family gatherings by Christmas.

But modelling underpinning the reopening forecasts that Victoria could see case numbers of nearly 3000 a day within a month.

“The health system needs to be much better prepared to deal with the growing burden of COVID-19, as well as be able to deliver non-COVID-19 related care,” AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid warned.

Andrews’ much-anticipated roadmap laid out plans for a gradual reopening of Victorian public spaces once the state hit 70 per cent adult double-vaccination rates, and more significant changes at 80 per cent.

The state’s lockdown will effectively end at 70 per cent, expected on current trends to be October 26, with stay-at-home orders lifted for fully vaccinated people at that point.

Small groups will be permitted at outdoor hospitality venues, hairdressers and community sport.

The larger changes at 80 per cent, expected around November 5, include allowing home visitors again, larger hospitality and entertainment capacities, opening all retail, and boosting numbers at religious ceremonies or weddings.

Masks will still be required inside.

Victoria’s plan is more conservative than the roadmap outlined in New South Wales by Gladys Berejiklian, who will allow a wider reopening of hospitality and retail at 70 per cent vaccination.

But modelling from the Burnet Institute, which helped inform the Victorian roadmap, laid out a sobering warning that the state could see nearly 3000 cases a day, just as the 70 per cent double-vaccination target is hit.

“Even without any easing of restrictions, there is a moderate risk of exceeding health system capacity,” Burnet’s modelling for Victoria found.

On current projections, Burnet warned of a daily case peak of between 1400 and 2900 in late October.

The plans for significant restriction easing at 80 per cent could create a second peak in mid-December, the Burnet modelling found.

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