THIS looks like the end game now.

The rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Sydney has continued at an expediential rate and, in Melbourne, numbers have been stubbornly increasing despite harsh lockdown restrictions.

Elsewhere, the world is in the grip of a strong third wave, driven by the Delta strain, and while some countries, like India, have surprisingly managed to come off their fearful peaks of a few months ago, everywhere it has become a race to get vaccinated, to safeguard hospital capacity and avoid deaths.

The NSW government has already waved the white flag, effectively acknowledging they’ve lost control of the pandemic by not being able to quote the all-important “infectious in community” figure because they simply can’t keep up with it anymore.

They’ve adopted a vaccinate or perish strategy now, hopeful higher vaccination rates and the arrival of warmer weather will keep the number of fatalities down, although what happens when they reach hospital capacity soon is anyone’s guess.

Melbourne could well be going the same way.

The Australian states which have so far avoided the latest outbreak have a couple of natural advantages on their side.

Tasmania has used its island status to its advantage, Northern Territory and Queensland enjoy the benefit of a warmer climate in keeping control of numbers and both South Australia and Western Australia have combined very tight border restrictions with their dry climates to keep numbers down.

So, what happens now? We learn to live with COVID.

By all means, governments should be trying to control the rise in case numbers to give us time to get vaccinated, but they also need to adopt a much more sophisticated approach to keeping business alive and communities functioning while being mindful of the fallout from widespread COVID-fatigue.

And that should involve the use of “fully vaccinated” passports, allowing people back into cafés, pubs, shops, hairdressers, gyms and even schools – no jab, no entry!

The fact is, there are businesses that could reopen under a new regime of strict, COVID-safe regulations and some community activity that could resume as well. We simply can’t stay locked up forever.

In the meantime, get vaccinated, even if it’s just to stop our hospitals from getting overrun when case numbers really take off.