NSW has posted another near record breaking spike in COVID cases and deaths, as virus restrictions ease further.
The state reported 1288 fresh local infections on Thursday, close to Monday’s record of 1290 in a single day – the highest for any Australian jurisdiction since the pandemic began.
Seven virus deaths have also been confirmed in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, bringing the death toll from the current NSW outbreak to 107.
The recent fatalities included a man in his 50s, two people in their 70s and four people in their 80s.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a further easing of lockdown restrictions for Sydneysiders living in hotspot areas, who will now be allowed unlimited exercise between 5am and 9pm daily.
Residents of those 12 local government areas of concern were previously limited to one hour exercise outside per day.
It comes as state health authorities clocked up seven million vaccine doses administered, with 70 per cent of residents now given at least a first shot against the virus.
“It’s been a difficult couple of months and the fact people have heard the messages we’ve been giving and come forward to get vaccinated and hit that 70 per cent first dose is outstanding,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Double-dose coverage is expected in roughly mid-October, bringing the promise of even more freedoms, but Ms Berejiklian has urged everyone to get immunised if they want to enjoy them.
“It will allow us to interact with one another safely. But again I want to stress this: The privileges that will extend at 70 per cent double-dose are only for those who are double vaccinated. So get vaccinated now,” she said.
Chief health officer Kerry Chant reinforced the Premier’s message.
“Whilst I’m very pleased we are at 70 per cent first dose, as you know, I’ve previously said I want to see the sky as the limit,” she said.
“I think Australia can be the most vaccinated country in the world, because we believe in science and we believe in vaccines. But what I also need to do is get that second dose into people, because two doses protects.”
The government also unveiled almost $4 billion in extra financial support for those in lockdown, with the entire state currently under stay-at-home orders.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Thursday announced an additional $3.9 billion in relief funding, including $1.5 billion from the federal government.
This will extend the JobSaver program of employment subsidies for lockdown-affected businesses, as well as rent relief incentives, payroll tax reductions, deferrals and small business grants.
Eligible businesses will be permitted to defer their payroll tax payments until January and pay off their tax obligations interest-free over 12 months.
A new “hardship panel” will also be created to assess business relief applications that don’t qualify for COVID-19 grants.
“We will continue to stand by businesses and individuals and provide the support needed. We will also be there on the other side as we emerge from lockdown and head towards recovery,” Mr Perrottet said.
The number of people in NSW who have received at least one COVID-19 jab has grown on average by more than one per cent a day over the past week.
The government has flagged that at 70 per cent double-dose coverage, vaccinated people can expect to go out for a meal and attend public events.
Yet, while October will likely trigger freedoms for the vaccinated, it will also be a time when NSW hospitals will be under the most pressure.
There are 957 COVID-19 patients in NSW in hospital, with 160 people in intensive care and 64 ventilated.