Fully vaccinated New South Wales residents have been promised “at least one” freedom by the end of the week.
Victoria is grappling with another outbreak in a hospital and Australian Capital Territory leaders are pushing for kids to be vaccinated.
Inoculating children is one of the key points out of new modelling, released on Tuesday morning, that suggests Australia must vaccinate 90 per cent of the whole population before removing COVID restrictions.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been insisting state premiers must honour their commitment to “live with the virus” and gradually lift restrictions once more than 70 per cent of the population is vaccinated.
That roadmap was based on Doherty Institute predictions and analysis which was done prior to Sydney’s Delta outbreak spreading across the eastern states.
The new modelling – conducted by experts at three leading Australian universities – considers the more dangerous Delta strain and argues that 6.9 million Australians would get the coronavirus, and 29,000 would die, if we opened up after only 70 per cent of adults were vaccinated.
- Reporter Josh Butler has all the details on the new modelling and what it means. Read his report here
- Want to know more about coronavirus and kids? Science Editor John Elder has this report on toddlers spreading the virus
Read on for a wrap of what else we know so far about the latest advice for the millions of Australians in lockdown.
New South Wales
The state announced 818 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Monday, as well as three deaths.
There are currently 586 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, with 100 people in intensive care and 32 on a ventilator.
Some of the new exposure sites named on Monday night are listed below. You can read the full list here.
- Costco in Boolaroo;
- Barratt and Smith Pathology in Bathurst;
- DHM Pathology in Bathurst;
- Specsavers in Bathurst;
- Bunnings in Bellambi.
In good news for NSW, so many people have been getting a dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca in the past week that the state’s vaccination rate has surged to rank among the fastest in the world.
The ABC data team analysed the numbers and found that NSW health minister Brad Hazzard’s claim the vaccination rate “may well be” the fastest in the world was not just political spin. Hooray!
The state is “comfortably ahead” of the best weeks recorded in the United States (1.0 on April 14) and United Kingdom (0.88 on May 26). the ABC reports.
It’s no wonder Premier Gladys Berejiklian felt confident to promise that some residents can look forward to slightly eased restrictions this week.
Ms Berejiklian said on Monday night that fully vaccinated residents will have “at least one” freedom restored to them by week’s end.
A record 738,000 people were vaccinated in NSW last week, with 5.9 million jabs in arms to date.
The premier previously flagged increased freedoms for fully vaccinated residents once NSW records six million vaccinations.
With that total likely to be reached on Tuesday, Ms Berejiklian said that the government would slightly ease restrictions on residents who are fully vaccinated.
She did not outline what that would be, saying it was still being worked out by health authorities, but it would come by week’s end.
NSW chief psychiatrist Murray Wright has been consulted.
“We won’t have real freedom unless we hit the 70 per cent double dose vaccination,” Ms Berejiklian told the Nine Network.
“In NSW, we are likely to have that (rate) at the end of October and hit 80 per cent – which gives us life before the outbreak, pretty much life as we knew it – in the middle of November.
“I have never suggested that life will be free once we get to six million jabs, but what I have said and will honour is that if you are fully vaccinated there will be at least one thing you can do that you cannot do now, just to give people a bit of relief.”
Lockdown will remain in place until at least August 28 in regional NSW and at least September 30 in Sydney and surrounds.
Ms Berejiklian acknowledged her government had underestimated the virulence of the Delta strain, electing to avoid an immediate lockdown when it first appeared in Bondi in mid-June.
But she reiterated all governments would eventually need to tolerate COVID-19 in the community as “we can’t live like hermits forever”.
“I am very up front about being held accountable, I lead the government, but we base all the decisions on the best advice at the time … we will not be perfect,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Dozens of staff from another major Melbourne hospital are isolating after being exposed to COVID-19. Two more schools, one in Shepparton and one in Melbourne’s west, have also been listed as ‘Tier 1’ exposure sites.
Victoria recorded 71 local COVID-19 cases on Monday, 55 of which were not isolating at home. The source of infection in 22 cases remains a mystery.
COVID-19 Testing Commander Jeroen Weimar said the state’s health teams are working around the clock “to run after all these cases”.
He said if Victorians continued to work together then “we can absolutely” put a ring around the outbreak and come out of lockdown on September 2.
“Those numbers will continue to rise but the onus is now on the wider community because this Delta moves wildly quickly,” he told reporters.
It comes as St Vincent’s Hospital confirmed 24 emergency department staff are now in quarantine after being “potentially exposed to COVID-19”, a spokesman said on Monday night.
The hospital’s emergency department has been listed as a tier two exposure site with anyone who visited on August 14 between 7:20am and 5:40pm urged to get tested and isolate until a negative result.
St Vincent’s continues to operate as normal with no impact on the hospital’s wider services, and its infection control team is providing support “as a matter of urgency”.
Royal Melbourne Hospital is dealing with its own outbreak after five staff and patients tested positive following a surgery of an infected Shepparton man August 12.
Notre Dame College in Shepparton was named as a ‘Tier 1’ exposure site on Monday night as was Sirius College in Broadmeadows.
Other new sites include ALDI and Woolworths supermarkets, a hairdressing salon, a 7-11, and public toilets.
- Click here to see the full list of Victorian exposure sites
Meanwhile, new rules around childcare and authorised workers came into effect overnight.
From 11:59pm Monday only authorised workers can access childcare, kindergarten and early childhood services, with workforce permits required to leave home for work.
Workforce caps will apply across several industries including construction, abattoirs, meat, poultry and seafood processing.
The ACT government wants to see a greater focus on vaccinating children against coronavirus as it opens Pfizer registrations for under-30s.
Australia’s expert immunisation panel is expected to reach a decision this week on the rollout of Pfizer to all children as young as 12.
The ACT’s outbreak has grown to 137 cases as the virus spreads mainly in children and adults under the age of 45.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr believes there should be a greater national effort to vaccinate children.
“All Australian governments should make more effort to vaccinate more 12 to 15 year-olds with the TGA-approved vaccines, once the supply of those is available,” he told reporters.
“And I would like to see a much higher rate of vaccination amongst that cohort.”
Nationally, Indigenous children in the age group as well as those with underlying medical conditions and compromised immune systems are eligible for Pfizer.
Children with a disability will also be added to the rollout from Wednesday.
The ACT has opened Pfizer registrations for about 64,000 Canberrans aged between 16 and 29.
Mr Barr hopes bookings can open next month with more doses due to arrive from the federal government.
About 21,000 under-30s have already been vaccinated either with AstraZeneca or, because of priority eligibility, Pfizer.
The ACT previously extended Pfizer for people in their 30s.
The government has stressed supplies of AstraZeneca are more plentiful and available for those wanting a jab now.
It is also frustrated about the federal vaccine rollout for the disability sector.
Four people living with a disability have the virus in Canberra, alongside 10 support workers and a tradie connected to that cluster.
There are more than 360 exposure locations across the city including schools, child care centres, a public housing complex, university accommodation and TAFE campuses.
Just over 36 per cent of ACT residents aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated.