New South Wales has confirmed 1043 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 overnight, as the state’s death toll continues to rise.
Health authorities have recorded 11 additional fatalities, including 10 people who had not been vaccinated.
Most NSW residents remain in lockdown, with police cracking down on compliance as authorities struggle to contain the virulent Delta strain.
Of the 11 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, one person was in their 40s, two were in their 50s, one was in their 60s, six were in their 80s and one was in their 90s.
It takes the death toll for the current outbreak in NSW to 277.
There are currently 1186 COVID-19 patients in hospital in NSW, with 232 in intensive care beds and 110 on ventilators.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said as restrictions start to ease, more hospitalisations are expected.
“Everything we start doing, we look forward to doing at 70 and 80 per cent, must be done with a degree of caution and responsibility because otherwise too many people will end up in hospital,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We want to protect lives and ensure that those who are vulnerable have every chance to be protected as well.”
Reiterating the Premier’s advice, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said it is not the time for complacency.
She said life “is not going to go back to normal”, even as the state reaches its 70 and 80 per cent vaccine targets.
“We can’t deny we will have to live with COVID,” Dr Chant said on Friday.
However, Dr Chant said high vaccination rates will allow restrictions to be relaxed and will render outbreaks more manageable.
It comes after a trusted public health expert said on Thursday that the wave of coronavirus infections set to hit NSW hospitals could be double previous predictions.
Doherty Institute modelling used to determine reopening targets of 70 and 80 per cent vaccination coverage did not reflect the true severity of Delta strain infections, the institute’s director of epidemiology, Jodie McVernon, told a NSW parliamentary hearing.
New international research shows the health outcomes from the Delta strain are worse than the original Alpha strain, and future Doherty modelling will now reflect this, she said.
If the severity from Delta is about twice what was originally assumed, the numbers of hospitalisations of unvaccinated people will probably be double what has been predicted, Professor McVernon agreed.
But the institute’s modelling presented to national cabinet in July would not be significantly impacted, as the overall strategy focused on minimising case numbers.
But there could be implications for the NSW government’s modelling predicting the stress on the health system as hospitalisations peak next month.
That modelling – conducted by the Burnet Institute – predicted cases would peak at a seven-day average of about 1500 in September, and more than 550 COVID-positive patients will require an intensive care bed by early November.
It showed hospitalisations across the state – with COVID-19 or otherwise – would likely peak in late October, with about 3400 people admitted in one week.
Ms Berejiklian at the time said the state’s intensive care surge capacity of 1550 beds will likely hold up.
The Glen Innes and Orange local government areas exited lockdown on Friday, but the lockdown in Hilltops will remain.