More than 26,000 Australians are currently sick with the coronavirus – and we’ve been told to brace for many more, as the nation is yet to reach the peak of the third wave.
Infections in New South Wales continue to surge, with health authorities predicting daily cases will hit a high next week after another 1281 on Monday.
Victoria reached another outbreak-high daily increase of 246 new local cases. Most cases are in metro areas, giving regional people hope their lockdown could ease.
That state will see a a run on vaccines this week as a blitz begins on Tuesday to get Year 12 students vaccinated.
In Canberra, half the population should be fully vaccinated by the end of the week.
Almost 36.43 per cent of the total Australian population aged 16 and above has been fully vaccinated.
Vaccine rollout co-ordinator John Frewen is confident supply issues that dogged the program have been conquered after the first shipment of Pfizer doses from a UK swap deal arrived.
“We’ve got the supply. We’ve got the distribution networks now,” Lieutenant Frewan said.
There are about 9400 places to get vaccinated across Australia.
Ring up and book. Roll up your sleeves and get vaccinated, if you can.
Here’s the latest.
Woolworths supermarket in the Melbourne suburb of Chelsea is among the new Tier 1 exposure sites.
Others named late on Monday night include the Kong Chinese Bistro in Roxburgh Park, Simultech in Lilydale, Yarra Youth Centre in Fitzroy, and office buildings at 574 Plummer St in Port Melbourne.
- Click here for all Victorian exposure sites
Meanwhile, a COVID-19 vaccination blitz of Victorian year 12 students will get underway after a dedicated hotline was flooded with calls.
Victoria is aiming to get all year 12 students vaccinated with at least one dose before their final exams, as part of a 10-day priority access scheme beginning on Tuesday.
Pfizer bookings opened for year 12 students, teachers, exam supervisors and assessors on Monday, with a dedicated hotline fielding 30,000 calls before lunch.
By Monday afternoon, the health department said more than 7000 priority bookings had been made.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the system had been “hammered” because of the “wild enthusiasm” of the cohort of about 50,000 students.
COVID commander Jeroen Weimar urged the group to remain patient, reminding year 11 students studying 3/4 VCE subjects they had to wait until Wednesday to book.
“Can I just assure every VCE student … there’s a dose set aside for you. There’s no frantic rush,” he said.
Charlotte Sherlock, a year 12 student at Brunswick Secondary College, rolled up her sleeve on Monday at the newly relocated Melbourne Museum vaccination site to promote the blitz.
“I’ve finally got it now and I don’t have to worry about having to make phone calls and wait in lines,” said the 17-year-old, who has missed more than 100 days of face-to-face learning.
Premier Daniel Andrews will this week outline a plan for Melbourne schools to reopen in term four, and he has also foreshadowed releasing parts of regional Victoria from lockdown.
Of the state’s 246 new cases on Monday, two were truck drivers who live in Mooroopna and Wodonga and contracted COVID-19 in NSW.
Melbourne will remain under tough lockdown restrictions until at least 70 per cent of eligible Victorians receive their first vaccine dose.
The state has hit 60 per cent first dose coverage and is expected to reach the 70 per cent target by about September 19, sooner than the government anticipated.
NSW is a month and a half away from the most significant pressure ever placed on its intensive care systems, expert modelling released by the state government reveals.
But even at the pandemic’s worst phase for the hospital system, in late October and the first half of November, authorities do not expect ICU occupancy to reach anywhere close to the surge capacity of 1550 patients.
“You may be moved to a different hospital than the one closest to your home. You may have slightly different surroundings to what you would normally,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
“But the bottom line is anyone who needs that care will receive it.”
Intensive care doctor Nhi Nguyen, who helped devise the state’s pandemic ICU strategy, said her colleagues were worried.
The coming months will be “difficult and exhausting” for health care workers, as the project numbers look “challenging and frightening”, she said.
“We know that without vaccinations, and without the public health orders, the numbers would be much worse,” she said.
The six-slide document released by the NSW government on Monday includes three pages of modelling and a plan for surging ICU capacity. It is based on data from August 23.
The modelling suggests that case numbers will continue to increase until mid-September in council hotspots, reaching up to 2000 cases per day.
But immunity from vaccines will begin to bite in the next two weeks, finally bringing the curve down.
The flow-on effect of those case numbers on hospitals and ICUs will follow, with up to 3900 patients expected to need hospital admission.
By the time of the greatest stress in late October, three in five ICU patients could have COVID-19.
The estimated peak ICU population is 947, of whom 560 would be COVID-19 patients and 387 have other ailments.
At that point, some ICU patients will be treated in other spaces like operating theatres. Doctors and healthcare workers will be caring for a larger number of patients than usual.
Even before that, some critically ill patients, who would be in intensive care were it not for the pandemic, will be treated outside the ICU.
By November, hospitalisation numbers will start to fall, a side effect of increased vaccination coverage.
The modelling document shows that ICUs in South Western Sydney, Western Sydney, Nepean Blue Mountains and Northern Sydney Local Health Districts are already approaching their capacity.
Some 177 COVID-19 patients are currently in intensive care, with 67 on ventilators. There are 1071 COVID-19 patients in NSW in hospital.
The state recorded five more deaths on Monday, including an Aboriginal woman in her 70s from the remote community of Enngonia.
- Click here for NSW exposure sites
The ACT aims to have half its eligible population fully vaccinated against coronavirus within the week.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr also hopes 75 per cent of over-16s will have received one dose within that time.
It follows 11 new COVID-19 infections in the territory on Monday, bringing its active case count to 222.
A Pfizer shot for year 12s over the next two weeks aims to ensure they can sit their exams in person.
Meanwhile, people getting an AstraZeneca jab are encouraged to get their second dose after four or eight weeks, instead of waiting three months.
The updated advice is in line with that already provided to NSW and Victoria as those states grapple with growing outbreaks.
Research shows a 12-week gap between AstraZeneca doses provides the strongest protection.
But reducing the wait time still leaves someone with strong protection against severe disease and hospitalisation.
Given Canberra’s continued virus spread, ACT Deputy Chief Health Officer Vanessa Johnston wants people to be fully immunised as quickly as possible.
“Get that protection against severe disease onboard early and do it now because you don’t know when you may be in contact with someone with COVID-19,” she said,
“Booster shots are coming down the line for all of us regardless of the spacing between those doses or regardless of the vaccine that we received in 2021.”
- Click here for ACT exposure sites