The Morrison government is continuing to declare getting vaccinated is “not a race” even as Victorian health authorities confirmed five new locally acquired infections on day three of the state’s fourth Covid lockdown.
The update from Victoria on Sunday morning takes the total number of cases in the latest outbreak based in Melbourne to 40.
But as Victorians queued in large numbers for the jab, both the deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, and the federal trade minister, Dan Tehan, resisted using the term “race” to characterise the vaccine rollout.
The Morrison government is under increasing pressure regarding the slow pace of the vaccination rollout and for failing to emphasise the urgency of getting inoculated.
McCormack on Sunday told Sky News: “Well it’s not a race, it has to be systematic, it has to be rolled out in a way that Australians obviously need to know that they have to get the jab.”
“But we can’t have everybody going and getting it at the same time and that’s why there has been a phase-in system,” he said.
On the ABC, Tehan declared “you don’t describe a vaccine rollout as a race”.
“The Melbourne Cup is a race, the Stawell Gift is a race – we are trying to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can,” he said.
Tehan also stumbled on Sunday morning when asked what support would be given to Victorian workers impacted by the week-long shutdown now the commonwealth had withdrawn the jobkeeper wage subsidy.
Asked what help would be provided to casual employees who can’t work, the minister pointed to emergency payments for people who have contracted the coronavirus or their close contacts.
Challenged on the eligibility requirements, Tehan then said people could “go to Centrelink” because people “might” be eligible for the emergency payments.
The Morrison government has thus far resisted providing additional support for Victorian workers but Tehan on Sunday suggested that could change. “Obviously we will continue to have discussions with the Victorian state government and we will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
McCormack said he hoped the Victorian lockdown would end after seven days but that was ultimately a matter for the state government and health authorities.
The deputy prime minister continued to insist that Australians were lucky to live in a country with low infection rates. When it was pointed out to him that Australia was lagging comparable countries, like the United States and the United Kingdom, on the pace of the vaccination rollout, McCormack noted the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, had made a similar observation in parliament last week.
McCormack declared if Bandt “thinks America is so great he should go and live there and we would all be better off”.
The deputy prime minister also warned Australians the pandemic was a long haul. Using a football analogy, McCormack said he doubted whether the country was at the half time mark in the crisis.
Victoria recorded five local cases on Saturday, with four linked to a food distribution delivery driver.
The number of vaccinations and test results reported on Sunday was lower than the records reported on Saturday when 21,626 vaccine doses were administered and 56,624 test results received.
The Victorian health department confirmed late on Saturday it was testing an online booking system for vaccinations which it expected to launch soon.
The state’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said last week that Victoria had the capacity to administer as many as 30,000 doses a day.