News Expect a longer lockdown but some more freedom
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Expect a longer lockdown but some more freedom

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Victorians will be locked down for even longer, but the strict rules may slightly ease.

In New South Wales, where cases hit a new record number, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has tried to keep the focus on future freedoms as she promised to “stick to our word” the fully vaccinated would not have to endure full lockdowns from later this year.

NSW reported 1218 new locally acquired cases and six people died, bringing the death toll from the state’s Delta outbreak to 89.

The worrying caseload has prompted the government to expand priority access for Pfizer to prevent more hotspots.

Meanwhile, the Victorian premier said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had promised him in a conversation on Saturday that NSW would no longer get “preferential treatment” in vaccine distribution.

Here’s the latest.

Victoria

Victoria won’t lift its lockdown this week as previously planned, after a day of COVID-19 case numbers unseen since the state’s second wave last year.

The government is under increasing pressure to give locked-down residents and businesses some hope, the Herald Sun says, while The Age reporters say senior government ministers are considering whether the state can lift some rules.

The reopening of playgrounds and a return to classrooms for year 12 students are reportedly some of the ideas being considered.

The announcement of a prolonged lockdown came as the state recorded 92 new locally acquired infections, including more than 30 not yet linked to existing outbreaks. As we know, having low or no mystery cases has been key to Victorians getting out of lockdown.

The virus has now spread as far east as Traralgon in Gippsland after a resident went to a funeral in Melbourne.

Another 12 cases were found in Broadmeadows, 12 in Newport, nine linked to earlier outbreaks in Glenroy, and four from a supermarket in Altona North.

The outbreak in Shepparton in the Goulburn Valley region has also grown, with nine new cases.

New exposure sites, named on Sunday night, include an apartment block on Flinders Street in Melbourne, shops in the city’s west and cafes in the Richmond area. New regional venues of concern include a supermarket in Shepparton and a food court in Traralgon.

  • Click here to see all the Victorian exposure sites

Premier Daniel Andrews said he did not yet have advice on how long the lockdown imposed on August 5 should be extended, but promised to examine options as soon as the advice was available.

“We see far too many cases today for us to seriously consider opening up later on this week,” Mr Andrews said.

Despite the figures, he promised there was “still a chance” of the state’s case numbers returning to zero.

“It’s only fair that we be as up front as possible,” Mr Andrews said.

Sunday’s tally is a jump from the previous day’s local case figure of 64, and the highest number of new cases recorded since early September 2020, when the state battled the second wave of the virus.

Two-thirds of the state’s active cases are in Melbourne’s north and west.

“That’s not to single out the north or the west, but … that is where the cases are and that’s where the extra effort has to be,” Mr Andrews said.

Western suburbs doctor Amrooha Hussain told reporters at Sunday’s news conference that she continued to see people arriving for COVID tests up to two weeks after they showed symptoms.

She said entire families with young children had been infected.

“It’s hard enough to look after one sick child, but when there’s multiple sick children, and then the carers are unwell themselves, it’s a really challenging time for those families,” Dr Hussain said.

Meanwhile, Mr Andrews said the prime minister had promised him in a conversation on Saturday that NSW would no longer get “preferential treatment” in vaccine distribution.

“We didn’t begrudge them getting additional doses, but we’re locked down, they’re locked down, and the need is just as great here,” Mr Andrews said.

New South Wales

Residents in Sydney’s Randwick local government area will be given priority access to the Pfizer vaccine amid concern more hotspots will emerge following an illegal party in Maroubra.

The NSW government also says it will restore freedoms to all fully vaccinated residents once the state hits 70 per cent double-dose coverage –regardless of COVID-19 case numbers.

Ms Berejiklian said the state could reach 70 per cent single-dose vaccination coverage within days and at double-dose coverage – roughly in mid-October –a number of freedoms will be restored to the fully vaccinated.

“We will stick to our word,” she said on Sunday.

“No matter what the case numbers are doing – of course we want to see them come down – double-dose 70 per cent in NSW means freedom for those who are [fully] vaccinated.

“It doesn’t matter where you live or what your circumstances are.”

NSW reported 1218 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, another daily infection record.

It also recorded six deaths in three people in their 80s and three in their 70s, none of whom were fully vaccinated, taking the death toll for the current outbreak to 89.

As of Saturday, 66.04 per cent of eligible NSW residents have had at least one vaccine dose and 35.85 per cent are fully vaccinated.

The government, having issued its six million jab target, earlier this week provided a small “treat” to fully vaccinated NSW residents, enabling them to have small picnics outdoors.

There are now more than 810 COVID-19 patients in NSW in hospital, with 126 in intensive care and 54 ventilated.

Of those 126 in intensive care, only one was fully vaccinated.

Fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been detected in the sewage treatment plants in Trangie, Byron Bay, Temora, Cooma and Tamworth, which NSW Health’s Jeremy McAnulty said was concerning as there were no known cases in these areas.

There were 25 new cases in the Western NSW health district, bringing the total number of cases in the region during this current outbreak to 510.

There were also two more cases recorded in the Far West health district in Wilcannia, a small town where more than 10 per cent of the predominantly Indigenous population has now tested positive.

Elsewhere, authorities confirmed that a COVID-19 outbreak at Parklea prison in Sydney’s northwest has reached 31 cases. This includes at least 12 new COVID-19 infections.

Cases have also been uncovered at Silverwater prison.

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns SC said the number of prisoners needs to be urgently reduced amid the outbreak, and inmate vaccination should be prioritised.

“COVID-19 in prisons could still spread rapidly and will be hard to stop once it takes hold,” Mr Barns said in a statement.

The government has also injected an additional $8 million into suicide prevention measures among high-risk groups such as the elderly, regional NSW residents and the LGBTIQ community.

ACT

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr believes COVID-19 shots will be needed for the rest of people’s lives going on the history of previous pandemics.

Around 64 per cent of Canberrans have had one coronavirus jab and just over 40 per cent have had two, one the best take-ups of the vaccination program in the country.

The national COVID-19 recovery plan targets 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates for restrictions to start to ease.

But Mr Barr believes it will require a continuous program of vaccination beyond hitting 70, 80 or even 95 per cent targets to be fully protected against the virus.

“All the evidence from the northern hemisphere suggests that the vaccines provide very effective protection but they do need to be boosted,” he said on Sunday.

“I think we can anticipate, if COVID follows the path of other infectious diseases, that it’s with us for the rest of our lives and we will need to have a booster shot every year.”

Mr Barr’s grim warning came despite the territory posting better news on the infection front on Sunday with just 13 new cases recorded, all of them linked to previous cases.

The territory has now recorded 250 cases in the current outbreak, 20 of which have recovered. One person remains seriously ill in intensive care.

The territory’s lockdown is due to end on Thursday.

But Mr Barr warned the ACT is still exposed to another wave of the virus.

“So whatever we do between now and when we get to the very, very high levels of vaccination that we need, we are going to have to be very careful and measured in our response,’ he said.

NSW, which surrounds the ACT, announced a record 1218 virus cases on Sunday and Mr Barr warned that that number may keep on growing, possibly reaching 2000 cases a day.

“Our hope is that the NSW government’s more immediate and clear regional lockdowns have a much greater dampening effect on viral spread on the basis that they got into it earlier,” he said.