A day after reporting the 100th death linked to the state’s spiralling COVID-19 outbreak, NSW is expected to reach a happier milestone – 70 per cent first dose COVID-19 vaccination coverage.
That good news won’t take the heat off Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who is under fire from mayors in virus hotspot areas on Thursday morning after refusing to meet with them to discuss lockdown issues including vaccination hubs and mental health.
Victoria, meanwhile, is tightening its border with NSW and the ACT is worried about anti-lockdown protesters travelling to the capital from interstate.
Here’s a wrap of the latest coronavirus news.
Latest figures show more than 6.9 million vaccine doses have been administered in NSW, with 69.3 per cent of the population aged 16 and over receiving at least one dose.
Almost 38 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The number of people in NSW who’ve received at least one jab on average has grown by more than 1 per cent each day in the past week, meaning the dose that tips the state over 70 per cent coverage was likely administered on Wednesday.
The milestone all but ensures NSW will reach 70 per cent full vaccination within weeks, triggering the state’s gradual release from lockdown.
At 70 per cent double-dose coverage, vaccinated people in NSW can expect to go out for a meal and attend public events, Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday.
Home visits and indoor events are likely to be off the table as they are higher risk.
At 80 per cent – expected in November – Australians overseas will be able to return to NSW without doing hotel quarantine, Ms Berejiklian said. NSW residents will also be allowed to travel internationally.
While October will likely trigger freedoms for the vaccinated, it will also be when hospitals are under the most pressure.
Ms Berejiklian has again refused to expand on her government’s modelling, including what a worst-case scenario looks like for hospitals.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the number of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 has jumped 42 per cent in a week and there are now more than 1400 healthcare workers in isolation.
Doctors are bracing for case numbers to rise further in coming weeks.
Some 150 people in hospital are in intensive care. Of those, 127 are not vaccinated.
Four more deaths were reported in NSW on Wednesday, along with 1116 cases, including 32 in the state’s west and far west.
SMH also reports Ms Berejiklian is facing criticism after it was revealed she video-called into a business forum luncheon that had moved online on the same day leaders of coronavirus hotspot areas asked her to make time for them.
The refusal to meet the 12 mayors from has been seen as a “snub” deepening the divide felt between Sydney’s west and south-west and the rest of the city, the paper reports.
NSW Police said $1000 infringement notices were issued on Wednesday to nine men aged 18-24 who attended a party at Malabar Head on July 23.
Police said the party had been linked to cases of COVID-19. Investigations continue into parties at Maroubra in August involving dozens of people who had since returned positive COVID tests.
- Click here for NSW exposure sites
Victoria is further tightening its border with NSW, with Premier Daniel Andrews indicating it could remain closed until the end of the year.
As COVID cases rise on both sides of the Murray River, six Victorian and two NSW local government areas will be tossed out of Victoria’s border bubble from 11.59pm on Thursday.
It means residents from Greater Bendigo, Greater Shepparton, City of Benalla, Buloke, Loddon, Yarriambiack, Broken Hill and Edward River will be unable to cross the state lines on a permit.
“With over 1000 cases per day, and a trajectory of exponential growth, the risk that NSW poses to Victoria is bigger than ever,” chief health officer Brett Sutton said in a statement on Wednesday night.
Earlier, Mr Andrews was asked if the border could remain shut to NSW “well into next year”.
“Yes,” he said.
“No one is happy about that but again we will have many more options once we get to 80 per cent and once they (NSW) are at 80 per cent.”
It comes as the Victorian government conceded efforts to bring coronavirus cases down to zero had failed, with tough restrictions to remain last until October.
Authorities have shifted their focus to suppressing the outbreak, keeping the health system from being overwhelmed, while racing to reach higher vaccination coverage.
The state’s restrictions, which include a 9pm-5am curfew and a five-kilometre travel limit, will remain until about September 23, when 70 per cent of the eligible population is expected to have received a first vaccine dose.
After hitting that mark, there will be slightly more freedom, including the travel limit expanding to 10 kilometres and the time limit on exercise increasing to three hours.
Playgrounds, however, will reopen on Friday for children aged 12 and under. They will be able to be supervised by just one parent or guardian, who must wear a mask at all times and check in.
Mr Andrews said regional Victoria, with the exception of Shepparton, where a virus outbreak is still growing, could emerge from lockdown as early as next week.
Regional venues were added to the list of exposure sites late on Wednesday. They include two cafes and a Coles supermarket, all in Geelong West.
Base Backpackers in bayside Melbourne suburb St Kilda is among new tier-one sites.
- Click here for the full list of exposure sites
Canberra workers have been busted breaching face mask rules at work amid concerns about anti-vaxxers descending on the nation’s capital.
The ACT’s coronavirus outbreak has grown to 256 active cases, with 23 cases on Wednesday.
At least 11 were in the community while infectious and 14 were linked to existing cases or known clusters.
Of about 100 businesses subject to compliance checks on Tuesday, a third were found not to be complying with lockdown restrictions.
This was mostly due to workers not wearing face masks properly or at all.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr was concerned about people going to work without realising they had the virus.
Meanwhile, three people were arrested and two vehicles ordered to leave the ACT after small protests at Parliament House and the governor-general’s residence on Tuesday.
Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan expressed his anger at the anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown protesters, “particularly when they don’t come from Canberra”.
“In the coming months we anticipate we’ll probably see more of this, not just here in the territory but across Australia,” he said.
“Don’t come to Canberra – that’s my message.”
Mr Barr cautioned residents to expect restrictions to remain for the bulk of the rest of the year, including the upcoming school holidays.
“You can be much more confident about planning summer holidays for December and January, but I don’t think anyone will be open to us in two weeks’ time.”
- Click here to see ACT exposure sites