Scott Morrison has flagged smaller-scale lockdowns when coronavirus vaccination coverage hits a major milestone he is confident of achieving this year.
Federal and state governments are gunning for 70 per cent of people being fully vaccinated to shift phases in the fight against the pandemic.
Under that stage, lockdowns will be less likely while 80 per cent coverage is expected to all but end city-wide shutdowns.
The prime minister said he wished targets were not as high but detailed scientific modelling guided the thresholds, which states and territories agreed on last week.
Mr Morrison said lockdowns in place across Sydney and southeast Queensland would not be as prevalent with high vaccine coverage.
“It gets a lot more surgical at that point,” he told 4BC radio on Monday.
“We start saying goodbye to them at 70 per cent and they become pretty much a thing of the past when we hit 80 per cent.”
Australia’s rollout is gathering momentum but still lags behind most of the developed world with 19 per cent of people aged over 16 fully vaccinated.
Mr Morrison said it was common sense that immunised residents would be able to be exempted from restrictions.
“It’s exemptions that would apply to people that are vaccinated because they’re taken the step to reduce their risk to other people and to themselves,” he said.
He warned businesses would need to carefully ensure no anti-discrimination laws were breached.
Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are working on options for restriction exemptions.
The latest federal government data shows 77 per cent of Australians are willing to receive a vaccine, with the number rising in recent months.
Mr Morrison, who has come under fire for previously suggesting the rollout was not a race, is now championing a “gold medal” run to the end of the year.
“There will be enough supplies. There will be enough GPs, pharmacists and nurses to deliver the jabs. All we now need is you,” he wrote in The Australian.
NSW recorded 239 cases on Sunday while an outbreak in southeast Queensland has prompted the state government to consider extending a three-day lockdown.
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said Australia would continue to be the land of lockdowns until the federal government boosted vaccination rates.
“In the midst of Scott Morrison’s self-congratulation, all that he has exhibited is complacency and incompetence,” he told reporters.
“That is why he and his government have been getting the pandemic wrong at every turn.”