Australia has begun urging Australians to get third or fourth COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to bring down alarming rates of infection and death. Around 30,000 new infections are reported each day in a country where most COVID-19 controls have been removed.
In the face of stubbornly high case numbers, Australia on Thursday launched a campaign to encourage Australians to get a third or fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The government is also focusing on improving vaccination rates in First Nations communities - where only 53% of the population have had two vaccine doses -- and among children aged 5 to 11. At 40%, their rates of inoculation are about half of those of 12- to 15-year-olds.
More than 95% of those 16 and over are fully vaccinated, and most public health measures, including mask mandates at most airports, have been lifted. While officials are confident the country of 25 million people is "through the worst of this pandemic," Australians are urged not to be complacent.
Government data shows that more than 300 Australians die from COVID-19 every week.
Epidemiologists say the health care system could struggle to cope with a severe winter flu season combined with high coronavirus rates. More than 30,000 new infections were reported Saturday.
Health Minister Mark Butler Australians has said Australians had "responded magnificently" during the pandemic, but he has urged the country not to be complacent.
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"We are still seeing enormous loss of life, enormous dislocation and massive pressure on our health and our hospital systems, and on top of that, as we all know, influenza has returned to the country as well. Now, I am determined to increase our efforts to ensure that we get through this winter as safely as we possibly can."
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Since the pandemic began almost 8 million Australians, or about a third of the population, have been infected with COVID-19. Nine thousand five hundred people have died.