New South Wales has recorded 1218 new local cases of Covid-19, breaking yesterday’s record of new daily cases for the state and for Australia.
Six Covid-related deaths were also reported by NSW Health: two men in their 80s, three men in their 70s, and one woman in her 80s. The death toll in the current outbreak is now 89.
There are currently 813 Covid-19 cases admitted to hospital in NSW, with 126 people in intensive care, 54 of whom require ventilation.
Since the Sydney outbreak began in mid-June, there have been 18,792 local cases reported.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged residents to focus on vaccination numbers rather than infections given that the death rate of NSW’s current outbreak is only 10 per cent of Victoria’s protracted outbreaks in 2020 and 2021.
That figure is according to Australia’s Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who said the stats show that vaccinations are critical to saving lives.
“The numbers of infections in the Victorian wave and the NSW wave are almost even at this point of time. Yet, the rate of loss of life in NSW is 10 per cent of that, approximately, in Victoria,” Hunt told Sky News.
“Just over 800 lives lost, agonisingly, last year [in Victoria]. Just over 80 lives lost, at this point, in NSW. And there will be more, but the difference between those two is the vaccination rates – that’s what has saved lives.”
On Friday, Berejiklian confirmed her government was working on a plan to loosen lockdown restrictions and allow businesses to reopen when the state reaches its initial target of fully vaccinating 70 per cent of the eligible population.
“I will confirm that the government has already started working on industry plans to make sure we start reopening at 70 per cent double dose,” she said.
“We’ve made those plans very clear, it will be a very staged and safe way to go back but we are asking industry to work with us and it is no secret.”
In NSW, 35.4 per cent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated while 65.4 per cent have received their first dose.
Victoria has recorded 92 new local cases of Covid-19, the highest spike in daily infections since September 2 last year during the state’s deadly second wave.
Of the new cases, 61 have so far been linked to existing outbreaks.
The state’s sixth lockdown is due to end next Thursday, but it now seems certain to be extended again as infections continue to rise despite the tough restrictions.
At Friday’s press conference, Health Minister Martin Foley was asked if the state was doomed to be in lockdown until vaccination rates reached 70 or 80 per cent.
“I don’t know about that but I know there will be public health measures as there have been for the past 18 months,” Foley responded. “All the Victorian community [needs] to follow the rules and make sure that we get out of the hard lockdown as quick as we can.”
States waver on plan to end lockdowns
While NSW and Victoria back the country’s national plan to loosen restrictions and ultimately end lockdowns once its eligible population (ages 16+) hits the 70 to 80 per cent vaccination targets, other states are wavering.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan, who enforced some of the toughest entry rules in the country, has indicated he was not willing to open the state if it was Covid-free when the vaccination targets were met.
“If there’s thousands of cases out there and those cases are seeded into a jurisdiction without Covid, obviously the risk is much higher,” he said yesterday.
“That’s the problem that jurisdictions that have no Covid face, and I raised that point today. The idea that we just deliberately infect our citizens, if we have no Covid when we get to 70 per cent two-dose vaccination, I just can’t do. People would die and we would have huge dislocation.”
McGowan’s comments came as two truck drivers from NSW tested positive to Covid-19 in Western Australia.
“The idea that somehow we bring down the border, we allow for open travel from NSW or Victoria and infected people come in and we let the infection run at 70 per cent two-dose vaccination would be a catastrophe,” McGowan said. “So I’m not going to do it.”
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said he would only consider the state’s border policies when the vaccination targets were reached.
“I would hope that lockdowns would be a thing of the past once vaccination rates reach 80 per cent,” he said. “Before Tasmania can move through the next levels of the national plan, 70 per cent of the country needs to have been vaccinated.”
ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said he wants children aged 12 to 15 included in the vaccination thresholds.
The Northern Territory’s chief minister, Michael Gunner, has flagged a higher vaccination threshold may be needed to protect the territory’s vulnerable remote communities.
“If remote communities require a higher rate of vaccination, that impacts my policy decisions going forward,” he said this month. “I need really high vaccination rates here.”
Queensland, another state with notoriously strict border controls, will back the national plan, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said she was intent on suppressing the virus.
“We continue to back the nationally agreed plan for lockdowns to be minimised and restrictions to be limited when vaccination rates reach 70 to 80 per cent,” she said this week.
“Our aim is always to suppress that virus but even at 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination rates there will be some limited restrictions and some limited or specified lockdowns.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said it is “absurd” for states and territories to continue pursuing elimination forever in a Delta world.
“Any state and territory that thinks that somehow they can protect themselves from Covid with the Delta strain forever, that’s just absurd,” Morrison told the 9 News Breakfast show on Tuesday.
“Covid is a new different world. We need to get out there and live in it. We can’t stay in the cave, and we can get out of it safely,” he said. “If not at 70 or 80 per cent [vaccination coverage], then when?”
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