On a day millions of Australians face more lockdown pain ahead of an expected COVID spike, the World Health Organisation has given a scathing assessment of countries that have failed to properly vaccinate frontline workers.
While not singling out any nation, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “at this stage in the pandemic, the fact that millions of health and care workers have still not been vaccinated is abhorrent”.
WHO’s emergencies head, Mike Ryan, urged countries to use extreme caution when lifting restrictions so as “not to lose the gains you’ve made” as the global death toll from the pandemic passed four million.
“The idea that everyone is protected, and it’s ‘Kumbaya’ and everything goes back to normal, I think right now is a very dangerous assumption anywhere in the world,” he said.
Australians know all too well the consequences of failing to vaccinate vulnerable workers.
There are 37 COVID-19 patients in Sydney’s hospitals, including seven in intensive care, as a result of the NSW outbreak. One of the ICU patients is aged in their 30s.
The state’s second wave started after a worker who drove international flight crew contracted the Delta variant of COVID-19. He was not vaccinated.
It was revealed earlier this week that a third of the staff working at the virus-hit SummitCare nursing home in Baulkham Hills had not been vaccinated.
Across Australia, only one in three aged-care staff have been vaccinated against the virus, despite becoming eligible in the first phase of the program, which started in late February.
The entire workforce – included in the ‘highest priority’ group – was meant to be vaccinated by April.
“They shouldn’t be left to navigate the vaccine Hunger Games like everyone else,” Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Patricia Sparrow said.
“Our workers are already struggling in a very challenging work environment in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”
Aged care royal commissioner Lynelle Briggs said she was “shocked and dismayed” to learn SummitCare staff weren’t vaccinated.
“Has this been a mistake among officials, was it a response to insufficient vaccines, or was it deliberate? In which case, it is a scandal,” Ms Briggs told ABC.
Sites of concern expand as NSW braces for surge
NSW authorities say the virus has been “seeding” at essential workplaces.
NSW Health added more sites to its virus exposure list on Wednesday night.
They include MyHealth medical centre in Burwood, an Aldi in Canterbury, a Commonwealth ATM in Burwood, Billy’s Cars in Revesby, and MeatFish in Burwood.
Shoppers are considered casual contacts if they were at Coles in Maroubra, Costco in Casula, Freshworld Fruit Market in Maroubra or Charing Cross Pizza in Waverley at the same time as a case.
- Read the full list of exposure sites, and times, here
Announcing an extension to the current lockdown, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “the next nine or 10 days will determine how we live” until the end of 2021.
NSW confirmed 27 fresh local cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
Ms Berejiklian warned people to brace for higher case numbers on Thursday.
“[It’s] more than we would like to have seen,” she said.
⚠️PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT – VENUES OF CONCERN⚠️
NSW Health has been notified of a number of venues of concern visited by confirmed cases of COVID 19 and transmission occurred. pic.twitter.com/mAVwXSMRp6
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 7, 2021
Sydney’s south-west is the area of most concern, with authorities warning cases had shifted from the eastern suburbs.
“We are pretty confident the virus isn’t spreading in [the east] now but we have seen some concerning statistics on what is happening in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool council areas,” Ms Berejiklian said.
She warned that leaders were “considering if there are any further actions we need to take in those three local government areas”.