A COVID-19 outbreak at a Sydney aged-facility has grown to eight after a third staff member tested positive to COVID-19.
SummitCare, which operates nine homes across Greater Sydney, confirmed another infection at its Baulkham Hills home, the ABC reported.
The worker was reportedly already in isolation as they had worked closely wth two other infected staff.
Two thirds of the facility’s workforce of around 200 people were unvaccinated, with jabs for aged care workers not mandatory until September.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told ABC Radio National the state is on “high alert” after the state recorded 35 new infections on Monday.
Mr Hazzard insisted there was no particular benchmark in the number of new COVID-19 infections that has to be reached before Sydney can emerge from lockdown.
“Today [Tuesday] will be very telling but I think hopefully we will be able to make some changes anyway,”
“We are certainly on high alert but we’re also hopeful that we might be able to bring back some normalcy but we’ll see how we go over the next couple of days,” Mr Hazzard said.
The key to ending the lockdown was not just about the raw number of infections but whether cases were linked and whether or not there’s unknown chains of transmission, he said.
“If we think there are cases out there that are still running loose so we don’t know where they’re coming from, that’s very problematic,” he said.
SummitCare chief operating officer Michelle Sloane said on Monday she’d personally urged staff members to seek out COVID-19 vaccination. However the operators are not yet in a position to insist they get jabbed.
With only nine per cent of Australians aged over 16 fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ms Sloane said all frontline services were grappling with the same problem.
“If we said to all of our unvaccinated staff ‘don’t come to work’, there’d be no one to care. That is not just us but every aged care business across Australia and every hospital across Australia,” Ms Sloane said.
“While we take the right precautions with the right masks and the right protective gear, those residents are as safe as our staff are safe.”
Hundreds of nurses in isolation
Brett Holmes, General Secretary of the NSW Nurses & Midwives’ Association, says at least 500 nurses are in isolation after potentially being exposed to COVID-19 while working at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.
Five wards have been identified as areas of exposure. Patients are being diverted to other hospitals, only urgent and emergency surgeries are going ahead at the hospital, and other nurses are being asked to work extra hours, he said.
“They were already working large amounts of overtime and often working short, so no doubt they’re being asked to go further,” Mr Holmes said.
“I’m not sure how they’re going to sustain that.”
At Fairfield Hospital, 120 health staff have been told to isolate, leaving others to work 12-hour shifts over the weekend.
Mr Hazzard said the crisis had put the system and staff under “enormous pressure” but with a total staff of 140,000, RNS was large enough to cope.
“That’s pressure but it’s not compromising patient safety,” he said.
Elsewhere, NSW Health has issued fresh alerts for seven new venues, including a pharmacy at Belfield in Sydney’s southwest and the Adventist Hospital at Wahroonga in Sydney’s north.
And a stay-at-home order for people in NSW who had been in Brisbane and Moreton Bay, or who wish to enter NSW from those Queensland locations, has been lifted.
However, people who have been in Greater Sydney since June 21 must continue to follow the stay-at-home orders for 14 days.
Declarations are still required when people enter NSW after being in Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria.
People living and working in Queensland border areas who frequently enter NSW must now complete a declaration every 72 hours, instead of every 24 hours.
The declaration confirms they have not attended a venue of concern as specified by Queensland Health.
‘Selfish’ NRL players
Meanwhile, 13 NRL St George players have been fined for attending a party at the home of Paul Vaughan on Saturday night.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said he was dismayed by the behaviour of the footballers as well as people who attended a party in Waterloo in inner Sydney where three partygoers became infected.
“These sorts of things are the sort of events that will put everyone backwards so they’re quite selfish and I think there’s quite a bit of anger,” he told ABC TV.