Prime Minister Scott Morrison has firmly rejected calls for an elimination strategy to deal with the coronavirus, dismissing it has risky and illusory.
As Victorian numbers surge, with a record 317 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours, and the state in a six-week lockdown, increasing numbers of experts have called for Australia to change tack.
Australia has adopted a "suppression" strategy for the virus, which means it expects recurring outbreaks but is ready to jump on them quickly and minimise spread.
Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton has broken rank with the national health advisers to suggest another look at elimination, but on Wednesday the federal deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, pushed back hard on the idea.
Renewed calls for an elimination strategy were surprising, unrealistic and dangerous, Dr Coatsworth said, writing in Nine newspapers.
"The inference is that if Victoria had eliminated community transmission, this second outbreak would not have occurred - something which is patently false," he said.
It was dangerous because it would create a false sense of security.
On Thursday, Mr Morrison said Australia must "live alongside the virus".
Eradication was "illusory", he said, suggesting it would mean blocking people from returning to Australia, blocking exports and shipping.
Countries that had pursued eradication had seen a far greater economic hit than Australia.
"You're talking about hundreds of thousands of more people unemployed for a start and other businesses closing and livelihoods destroyed," he said.
An eradication strategy also carried risks.
"All you need is one break and it rushes through the community quickly because people become even more complacent," he said. "So it's a very risky strategy and one that can be very illusory."
Mr Morrison said Victoria and NSW had been the states most supportive of the suppression strategy.
"You can't mortgage off your economy for what would prove to be an illusory goal by the process. That is the health advice I have and the economic advice."
Australia's pursuit of suppression over eradication complicates hopes of opening a travel "bubble" with New Zealand, especially after the Victorian explosion in case numbers. Mr Morrison continues to push the plan.
New Zealand had a hard lockdown with the aim of eliminating the virus, and the only cases it has recorded for many weeks after been among people in hotel quarantine. The country considers itself without community transmission and life has returned to normal, making New Zealanders very wary about the idea of Australian arrivals.
The ACT's chief medical officer Kerryn Coleman said the original recommendation from the national committee of chief health officers in favour of suppression was based on the situation at the time, but the picture was constantly evolving.
"My understanding is that further discussions will be had at national cabinet," she said.
"Please be assured those conversations are being had and they will continue to be had both at [the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] and national cabinet.
"I do understand the level of interest in this and I don't think there's a clear cut answer."
But this week, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was as firm as Mr Morrison in her opposition to an eradication strategy.
"As much as we'd love to have elimination, as much as we'd love to be able to be in that state, it's not going to happen in NSW, it never will with a population our size," she told ABC television's 7.30 Report.
"We can't keep opening, closing, lockdown, not lockdown. We can't have that repeatedly occur every time there's an outbreak. We have to learn to manage these outbreaks. There is no end date."
Professor Sutton said Australia had to find a better way of keeping the virus at bay, with seesawing patterns of lockdowns and easing "almost intolerable".
"That might be elimination if we've got any feasibility of getting there, or it might be suppression that doesn't involve really significant constraints on behaviour," he said, speaking on ABC radio this week.