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Nobel laureate Peter Doherty predicts Australian politicians reluctant to unwind Covid restrictions

Nobel laureate Peter Doherty is predicting politicians will be reluctant to reopen Australia next year even as vaccination rates surge and people stop dying of Covid.

The immunologist, 80, renowned for discovering the role of T cells in the immune system, said Australians living through lockdowns were conditioned to the zero Covid strategy.

'We will get back to a more normal life next year I expect, but it is going to be difficult politically for the politicians to open up because there will be disease circulating and we are so accustomed to the idea that no virus should circulate,' Professor Doherty told the ABC's 7.30 program.

Nobel laureate Peter Doherty is predicting politicians will be reluctant to reopen Australia next year even as vaccination rates surge and people stop dying of Covid or getting sick

The former Australian of the Year suggested never-ending lockdowns, once Australia had high vaccination rates that prevented death and serious illness, would be an overreaction.

'We don't shut down the country because of flu,' he said. 

Professor Doherty made the observations as New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian prepared to announce Sydney's lockdowns, which began on June 26, would be extended for at least another four weeks.

He is backing the existing lockdown strategy, with just 16.7 per cent of Australians over 16 fully vaccinated against Covid, as of July 26.

The outbreak of the more contagious Indian Delta strain has so far killed 11 people in NSW, including 38-year-old Brazilian woman Adriana Midori Takara, who died in Sydney on Sunday.

'We shut down the country with this because people are dying or getting very sick or getting that horrible, horrible long-COVID which is debilitating so many people,' Professor Doherty said.

'So I hope we will be back to something more like normalcy next year.'

The federal government closed Australia to non-residents and non-citizens in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

The immunologist, 80, renowned for discovering the role of T cells in the immune system, said Australians living through lockdowns were conditioned to the zero Covid strategy (pictured is a woman walking at Sydney's Centennial Park during the lockdown)

Australia's Covid death rate of 919 is also low by world standards. 

The May Budget papers predicted Australia would remain closed to foreigners until mid-2022, making life hard for the more than one-third of Australians who have both parents born overseas.

Some 49 per cent of Sydney residents have both parents born overseas and haven't seen them for at least 18 months.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is considering approving more antiviral drugs to treat Covid, a year after giving the green light to Remdesivir to treat those who are hospitalised.

The former Australian of the Year suggested never-ending lockdowns, once Australia had high vaccination rates that prevented death and serious illness, would be an overreaction (pictured is a sign at Lane Cove National Park at Chatswood West on Sydney's Lower North Shore)

In the United States, doctors have used Dexamethasone and other corticosteroids like prednisone to treat patients who have suffered a hyper immune response to the virus.

Once a significant proportion of Australians were vaccinated, Professor Doherty suggested antiviral drugs would a better, longer-term answer to Covid than constant lockdowns.

'Once we have got a high number of people vaccinated, and hopefully we might even be able to find some antiviral drugs,' he said.

'There are some drugs coming along that could be used to treat people who are very sick or are very vulnerable if they get infected so they are coming along, too. 

'So I hope we are thinking about ordering them.'

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