New South Wales is halfway to the 80 per cent Covid vaccination mark that will finally allow residents to live a normal life.
But weeks out from reaching that milestone, it was dealt another blow in its fight against Covid-19 with 1,485 new cases and three deaths.
The soaring numbers come as Premier Gladys Berejiklian faces mounting pressure to ease Covid lockdown restrictions before hitting her 70 per cent vaccination target.
None of the patients who died were fully vaccinated, further highlighting the importance of getting double-jabbed.
NSW has reached the halfway mark towards 80 per cent vaccination that will allow it to treat coronavirus like the flu and open state borders and international travel.
The premier offered an insight into what life will look like when that hits 70 per cent, indicating there would be density limits in hospitality venues and QR codes when businesses reopened.
Capacity limits on large events will be maintained to ensure compliance with social distancing requirements.
Any double-jabbed Australians returning home from overseas would also be eligible for at-home quarantine rather than in a government-run facility, Ms Berejiklian said.
A man and woman were spotted on Bronte Beach in Sydney’s east taking pictures while on their morning stroll. Outdoor recreation is permitted under Covid restrictions
‘The planning has already started, to see what life was like for Aussies coming home when they are fully vaccinated,’ she said.
‘We still need some form of quarantine, whether it is in the future for international students, skilled labour
‘But as far as Australians are concerned, if you are fully vaccinated with a credible vaccine, you should be allowed to quarantine at home and that is a transition we will be making.’
And, most importantly, once the 80 per cent double jab target is reached, NSW will ‘never have to do a statewide lockdown ever again’, the premier promised.
Ms Berejiklian reiterated daily Covid cases are likely to peak within ‘the next week or two’, while the peak for hospitalisations and intensive care requirements will occur in October.
Government and health modelling for these statistics will be released this week, as the premier added it would be disastrous if restrictions were eased too early.
Ms Berejiklian did not dispute reports case numbers are expected to soar beyond 2,000 each day.
Police patrolled a busy Bronte Beach on Sunday morning to ensure locals were complying with Covid restrictions
Despite the warning, the premier is also optimistic October will be the month all residents in the state can ‘feel a sense of relief and that we are on the home stretch’.
‘Once we get over the peak number of cases, people will feel more positive about the next few weeks, people enjoying those things in life we have not been able to do for a long time.’
She said her government would consider easing any restrictions that chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant recommended were no longer necessary, particularly in regional NSW in areas with few cases.
‘Firstly, (the government’s aim is) not to burden our citizens any more than we need to and secondly to move together forward,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘We need to check the health advice and in some parts of regional NSW, for example, we will be making a decision this week as to what happens to the regions post 10th September because the lockdown technically goes until Friday.
October is the month where all of us will feel relief and that we are on the home stretch
Premier Gladys Berejiklian
There are 11,000 people receiving Covid treatment at home, while 1,300 people remain in hospital – including 175 in intensive care.
Police, fire, ambulance and emergency services workers across Sydney’s Covid hotspots were invited to turn out for priority vaccine appointments on Sunday in a ‘super vaccination blitz’ to boost coverage in high-risk industries.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard described the blitz as a ‘golden opportunity’ for any staff who were yet to be jabbed.
Meanwhile three children under 12 are fighting for their lives in Sydney hospitals – including a baby on a ventilator.
The infant who requires ventilation is believed to be the youngest person to ever be placed in ICU with Covid in Australia.
A nine-year-old child also requires ventilation while a third, believed to be under 12, is being treated with a hi-flow CPAP machine to help them breathe.
All three children have underlying health conditions which may strongly contribute to the severity of the virus. Covid generally does not cause serious illness in young children.
New South Wales has been dealt another crippling blow in its fight against Covid-19 with 1,485 new cases and three deaths recorded overnight
Another woman set up her towel on the beach and performed yoga moves while watching the waves crash around her
The victims of Covid in the 24 hours to Sunday included a woman in her 50s from western Sydney, a western Sydney woman in her 70s with significant comorbidities and a man in his 70s who died at Liverpool hospital, also with underlying health conditions.
Of the 1,485 locally acquired cases reported to 8pm, 518 are from South Western Sydney Local Health District, 479 are from Western Sydney LHD, 174 are from Sydney LHD, 116 are from South Eastern Sydney LHD and 80 are from Nepean Blue Mountains LHD.
Thirty-two of the new cases were recorded in western NSW, while 12 are from Hunter New England, 11 are from Illawarra Shoalhaven and seven are from the Central Coast.
Despite increased spread of Covid cases in regional communities, the NSW government is still hoping to ease restrictions on September 10 as planned.
Local MPs are among a growing chorus of voices citing lockdown fatigue and deteriorating mental health as reasons to begin easing restrictions early.
They’re hopeful the premier will expand the 5km exercise limit and allow more than five fully vaccinated people to meet outdoors for a picnic come September 13.
The proposal would mean families can more easily gather outdoors – where cases of Covid transmission are virtually non-existent – in time for the school holidays.
Ms Berejiklian was asked about her own mental health on Sunday during lockdown, but dismissed the question, telling reporters she ‘doesn’t think people would care’.
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, who holds a seat in the state’s crisis cabinet and helped to champion the necessity of a singles bubble, said all avenues are being explored.
‘The premier has rightly recognised the need to get mental health right,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, who holds a seat in the state’s crisis cabinet and helped to champion the necessity of a singles bubble, said all avenues are being explored to ease Covid restrictions. Pictured: A woman patting a puppy while on a walk through Bronte Beach in Sydney’s east
Two surfers head into the water on Bronte Beach on Sunday morning on a sunny 18C day
‘Mental health is a critical component and the government is constantly looking at the changing circumstances, and we’ll adjust our settings accordingly.’
This may include easing some of the restrictions before that 70 per cent milestone vaccine target is reached.
More than 20.6 million doses of vaccine have been administered across Australia since the pandemic began.
In NSW, 40.3 per cent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated, while 72.7 per cent have received their first jab.
One possibility repeatedly addressed by Liberal MPs who hold seats across Sydney was to ease the five-person limit on picnics and outdoor recreation come September 13.
From that date, outdoor gatherings for up to five fully-vaccinated people are permitted, but there is mounting pressure for children to be excluded from this limit.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian is being urged to consider easing some restrictions by September school holidays
Contact tracers ‘no longer calling positive Covid cases in NSW’
Ms Berejiklian confirmed any newly diagnosed Covid patients should not expect a phone call from a contact tracer.
Instead, to assist the overwhelmed system, new cases will be notified via text message.
‘We are still contact tracing – it is an important part of Covid-19 control along with vaccination and the social measures that we have been talking about,’ she said.
‘But as numbers increase, it obviously stresses the system and work has been streamlining the processes that track we have been streamlining the processes we have.
‘Over the last several days, we have been using text messages for cases to give them clear information about what they need to do in terms of staying at home, isolating, caring for themselves, seeking additional care where necessary.’
Ms Berejiklian described the contact tracing system as ‘robust’ but said it was necessary to find a way to alleviate pressures on the system.
As it stands, it would be difficult for any family comprising more than one child to include grandparents or other loved ones.
‘That’s something that needs to be put on the table,’ MP for Oatley in south Sydney Mark Coure said.
‘If we had that increased or at least looked at, I think that would be very beneficial.’
Given children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, some MPs suggested it should not make a difference how many children are at gatherings with their relatives – so long as all adults involved are double-jabbed.
Some 2,000 people under the age of 18 are now infected with the respiratory virus statewide, and are seeking assistance from the Sydney Children’s Hospital network.
As it stands, it would be difficult for any family comprising more than one child to include grandparents or other loved ones when picnics of five fully vaccinated people are permitted from September 13
In addition to the standard inpatient services, medical professionals are offering a 24-hour virtual health service providing care to children who are well enough to be cared for at home.
There is also a ‘home in hospital’ facility for kids whose parents or carers are being treated for Covid in a hospital.
Children under 12 are not yet approved for a vaccine anywhere in the world, and this is not likely to change until at least mid-September.
‘Globally, children under 12 are not yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccines, so the best way to safeguard them as much as possible is for the community to have high vaccination coverage,’ Sydney Children’s Hospital Network said.
Teenagers between 16 and 18 are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, while the Moderna jab, which will be rolled out in Australia, has also been provisionally approved for 12 and up.
Scott Morrison says state borders will be open for Christmas so Australian families can finally reunite despite resistance from some hardline premiers
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised Australians will be able to fly interstate for long-overdue Christmas family reunions this year, despite the fears of some state premiers.
Once adult double-dose vaccination rates hit 80 per cent, the PM said the country will be able to live with Covid and open up for domestic travel in time for Christmas.
‘Grandparents in the east can hold their new grandchild in the west for the first time,’ he said.
This is despite West Australian Premier Mark McGowan insisting his borders will stay closed for ‘months’ even after the landmark vaccination milestone.
He warned travellers from NSW, Victoria and the ACT will continue to be banned from entering WA until 2022 as the state aims to maintain its Covid zero target.
Tasmania has also indicated they will wait until a 90 per cent vaccine rate is hit before considering dropping borders entirely.
But the PM vowed to smash down state barriers and enforce the National Plan blueprint to reopen so the country ‘can be together again, safely and soon,’ he said.
‘We don’t have to fear the virus, but we do have to live with it,’ Mr Morrison told the Herald Sun. ‘Holding onto Covid zero will only hold Australians back as the world moves forward.’
He held out hope families would be able to enjoy trips to theme parks in Queensland while singles celebrate summer parties and New Year’s Eve fireworks.
‘Nobody wants Covid to be the virus that stole Christmas, and we have a plan and the vaccinations available to ensure that’s not the case,’ he promised.
‘Everyone can make plans for a family Christmas, with all our loved ones at the dinner table, cracking bon-bons and bad jokes together.’
During her Sunday press conference, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian dismissed concerns from other state and territory leaders, reminding them that they all agreed in national cabinet to reopen borders at 80 per cent.
‘I think all of us want to see Australians reunite with families and have Christmas as we have enjoyed in previous years… I hope other states have the same approach which is obviously what we agreed upon.’
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has finally accepted the state will open at 80 per cent double dose vaccinations and urged locals to get jabbed now.
The stubborn premier had previously hinted she was not going to re-open her state’s borders until children under 12 had been vaccinated.
But on Sunday she appeared to backtrack and accept the inevitability of borders coming down – and told locals to make the most of this time and get vaccinated.
‘It is absolutely imperative that you get vaccinated because this virus is going to pop up sometime in the near future,’ she said on Sunday.
‘This is basically our window to get this done. We have been hearing extensively about the modelling of 70 and 80 per cent.
‘We need to aim for 80 per cent and above. We have this window of opportunity, Queensland, to get vaccinated. Now is a window of opportunity to get vaccinated.’