Australians are coming forward in droves to get vaccinated as NSW recorded its darkest day — with the virus spreading to the state’s north — and Victoria looked likely to face an extended lockdown.
There were 319 infections and five deaths in NSW announced on Saturday — the third consecutive day of record numbers — and Armidale in the state’s north was plunged into a seven-day lockdown by an infected traveller.
COVID-19 has also been detected at Dubbo in central western NSW.
Victoria’s hopes of a short lockdown appear to be dashed with the discovery of 29 cases all of which had been active in the community while infectious, with reports that the lockdown was likely to be extended beyond Thursday.
Meanwhile South-East Queenslanders are hoping to be released from lockdown when authorities reveal their decision on Sunday morning after eight days under stay-at-home orders.
With NSW expecting its case numbers to get worse, and Victoria on knife edge, Australians have heeded pleas to get vaccinated as a personal frontline defence against Delta.
Recent vaccination numbers were well above the average daily rate being reported even a week ago, with some 226,059 people baring their arms on Friday, after 240,039 people were jabbed on Thursday.
By Friday, 43.60 per cent of Australians aged over 16 had received at least one dose of the vaccine and 21.95 per cent were fully vaccinated.
Vaccinations are surging in NSW, where nearly 90,000 people received the jab on Friday. Some 93,626 came forward to receive the jab the day before.
As the state has reached 45.46 per cent first-dose coverage, hundreds of young adults in Sydney waited hours to receive an AstraZeneca jab.
Hundreds flocked to a walk-in vaccine clinic requiring no GP referral in inner city Glebe.
NSW Health brought on eight extra vaccinators throughout the day to help shorten a queue running more than 100 metres outside the suburb’s Peter Forsyth Auditorium.
The centre vaccinated almost 1000 people over the three days it was open, with numbers growing rapidly each day as word spread.
More than 100 people were still waiting in line when it was scheduled to close at 4pm. They all received their jab, according to the Sydney Local Health District.
The centre was one of five walk-in locations open on Saturday across Sydney’s inner west, west and southwest.
NSW deaths, Armidale lockdown
Three of the deaths in NSW have been linked to an outbreak in Liverpool Hospital sparked when a staff member unknowingly worked while infectious.
In all, four staff and 29 patients of the geriatric and neurology wards have been infected, leading to five deaths in recent weeks including a woman in her 60s receiving kidney treatment.
A southwest Sydney man, aged in his 60s, and an inner west man aged in his 80s also died in hospital on Friday after acquiring infections in the community.
Four new cases were reported in the Newcastle area, with half yet to be linked to a known case.
Two cases found overnight were in the Armidale Regional local government area, which entered a one-week lockdown at 5pm on Saturday.
A long-distance train from Broadmeadow in Newcastle to Armidale via Werris Creek near Tamworth is listed as a close contact exposure site for July 29 between 11.40am and 5.30pm.
The stay-at-home order applies to all 30,000 people who live in the council area and those there at any time since July 31.
Victoria’s race to trace
Victoria’s lockdown looks likely to be extended beyond seven days after recording 29 fresh COVID-19 cases, all linked to current outbreaks but not in quarantine while infectious.
The state’s Delta variant outbreak has also spread to a public housing tower in the Melbourne suburb of Flemington previously placed under strict lockdown in early July.
Media outlets are reporting on Sunday that government sources have flagged the high likelihood the state’s lockdown will extended because it could take weeks to contain the clusters.
Victoria will soon receive an “additional” 150,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine from the federal government, with Daniel Andrews to confirm details of the deal as soon as Sunday.
The premier said he was “very pleased” by the news, confirmed to him by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday evening.
It’s understood the extra supplies will begin arriving on Thursday after being reallocated from a delivery originally scheduled for dispatch next month.
Saturday’s case count, from 43,618 test results, means Victoria is now managing 95 active cases.
Mr Andrews said on Saturday it was “a certainty that there are more cases out there”.
“We have mystery cases, at least two,” he told reporters.
“We don’t know where they are, who they’ve given it to, and everyone is at risk.”
More than 10,000 close contacts of positive cases in the state are currently isolating with 82 venues listed as exposure sites.
Among them is the residential tower at 130 Racecourse Road, Flemington, which has been identified as a tier two location between August 3-6.
COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said eight cases were in a single family within the building, who were now in quarantine.
Other tier one sites listed by authorities included a medical centre and a pathology collection centre, both in Caroline Springs.
Several schools were also added on Friday evening as tier two sites, including Heathdale Christian College in Werribee and Warringa Park School in Hoppers Crossing, after positive cases were found in students.
Al-Taqwa College, the centre of an outbreak during Victoria’s second wave, has also reported several cases.
The growth of the current outbreak aside, Mr Andrews said it was still too soon to tell whether the state’s week-long lockdown could be lifted on Thursday.