Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out introducing new laws that would allow employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccines.
Morrison said on Friday afternoon that employers may wish to enforce a reasonable directive that staff members must be vaccinated against COVID-19 but that it must be consistent with the law.
It came after a meeting of the National Cabinet during which the government’s top law adviser, the solicitor-general, briefed the prime minister and state and territory leaders on legal issues surrounding mandatory vaccinations.
Morrison said that there were some situations where employers could mandate vaccines but that the government would not introduce laws for wider mandates.
As of Friday about half of the Australian population was in lock down in three states to prevent the spread of Delta variant of COVID-19.
The state of Victoria and some regional areas of the state of New South Wales (NSW) were the latest ones joining the ongoing lock down gripping both the Greater Sydney and its surrounding areas.
Part of the state of Queensland was also on lock down.
“We’ve met at a time when so many Australians are now subject to lock downs because of the Delta variant of this strain, which is causing a third wave all around the world,’’ Morrison said.
Paul Kelly, the nation’s Chief Medical Officer, described the strain of the virus as a pandemic of the not vaccinated.
“What we do know is that whilst there is this other wave, vaccine works.
“Mostly the outbreaks in other countries, and including here and particularly in New South Wales, this is a epidemic or a pandemic of the not vaccinated,’’ he said in the same news conference.
The National Cabinet on Friday agreed with Morrison’s four-phase pathway out of the pandemic that would see an end to lock downs after 80 per cent of the adult population was fully vaccinated.
So far more than 21.3 per cent of Australians aged 16 years and over are now fully vaccinated.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 35,688 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, and the number of locally acquired cases in the last 24 hours was 308, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.