Our third wave of COVID-19 infections is threatening to eclipse the daily tally of last year’s second wave and is increasingly reaching younger Australians.
New South Wales smashed its daily infection high with 633 new cases on Wednesday and another three people died. With 24 new cases in Melbourne and 22 in Canberra, there were 679 local infections nationwide.
That number is just 19 short of the worst day during last year’s second wave.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned her state hasn’t seen the worst of the outbreak that has since spread across Australia and New Zealand.
Melbourne’s cases have not peaked either, and sources have told the Herald Sun that at least 40 cases are expected to be announced on Thursday.
Of continuing concern for all impacted states is the number of children testing positive, with a Melbourne kindergarten among the latest exposure sites connected to children.
Despite outbreaks in schools and childcare centres, and a rising number of children and teens becoming ill, health officials are standing by their decision to focus vaccination efforts on adults.
Just under half of eligible Australians have had a first dose of the vaccine and 27.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Here’s a wrap of what we know about the coronavirus situation in each impacted state so far on Thursday morning.
New South Wales
NSW is racing to vaccinate as many people as quickly as it can as the daily COVID-19 case numbers spiral higher despite nearly eight weeks of lockdown.
The state’s 633’s new locally acquired cases was 155 higher than its previous daily record.
It’s now coming closer to the record set by Victoria on August 5 last year, when 725 people were diagnosed in a single day.
“We haven’t seen the worst of it,” Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday.
Each infected person is passing on the virus to 1.3 others, on average, meaning the trend is still upwards.
“I can’t express enough my level of concern at these rising numbers of cases,” Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.
The virus has continued its spread in regional NSW, with the government undecided if the one week snap lockdown for the whole state will be extended.
Seventeen of the 23 new cases recorded in western NSW on Wednesday were in Dubbo, with the remainder in Mudgee, Narromine and Gilgandra.
There are now four others in the state’s far west, with three in Wilcannia and one in Bourke.
The Dharriwaa Elders Group in Walgett has called for more data on rates of vaccination of Aboriginal people.
They also want more nurses on the ground in coming weeks to help distribute vaccines, as well as more supplies of PPE.
New exposure sites include:
- Itty Bitty Day Spa in Dubbo;
- Myall Street Mini Mart in Dubbo;
- Snap Fitness in Dubbo;
- Alfresco’s Cafe in Broken Hill.
There are hundreds of other exposure sites across the state, so remember to check the list regularly and get tested if you visited one of them.
- Click here for the full list
A pop-up vaccine hub and testing site have been set up in a beachside suburb of Melbourne, as concern grows about the number of people unknowingly infected with COVID-19 in the area.
Fifteen coronavirus cases have been linked to St Kilda in recent days, six of them mystery infections.
The St Kilda cluster is made up of accountants, architects, members of the Orthodox Jewish community, a sex worker, and a teen who works in a pizza shop.
Testing and vaccines efforts have been ramped up in the area, including a drive-through and walk-up testing centre at the Palais Theatre car park and a pop up vaccine hub at Peanut Farm Reserve.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the vaccine site was set up late Wednesday afternoon and will officially open from 9am Thursday, until 5pm.
“It is designed to be available to eligible members of the local community, offering AstraZeneca and Pfizer as a walk-up,” she said.
A number of exposure sites have been listed in the suburb, including the Salvation Army Crisis Centre and the Sacred Heart Mission Women’s House and Dining Hall.
Melbourne Airport’s International Departures check in area has also been listed as an exposure site, after a case went there to drop off someone on the night of August 11.
There were more than 530 exposure sites across many parts of Melbourne as of Wednesday night, including two playgrounds in Broadmeadows and York St Kindergarten in Glenroy.
- Click here for the full list of Victorian exposure sites
Sydney’s dire coronavirus case numbers could affect Canberra’s restrictions as the nation’s capital remains vulnerable to leakage from NSW.
The ACT’s outbreak grew to 67 on Wednesday, with 22 new cases and a lockdown running until September 2.
New exposure sites include:
- Iskia Athletic Club in Campbell;
- The Rehabilitation Specialists in Fyshwick;
- The Engineering House in Barton;
- Grand Central Towers pool area in Phillip;
- The Bucket Warehouse in Mitchell;
- Subway in Dickson.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is pleased all but four of Canberra’s infections are linked to existing cases.
But he flagged the situation in Sydney might affect some of Canberra’s restrictions into the future.
“It is not appropriate to be easing restrictions unless we want to find ourselves in the position that NSW is in and still be having these questions and these press conferences in two months’ time,” Mr Barr said.
“Where instead of having 22 new cases, we have 600 new cases. So I am not going down that path.”
- Click here to see the full list of exposure sites
Queenslanders are looking forward to a further easing of restrictions at the end of the week but authorities are well aware that the NSW outbreak continues to be a threat.
About 100 soldiers are heading to border, requested by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, to enforce travel rules.
It comes after a family that travelled from Sydney to Townsville without entering quarantine has sparked a Queensland Police investigation after a boy told his school teacher he had come from a hotspot.
Authorities were alerted when a student at Pimlico State High School was sent home after sharing the news.
The boy did not show any symptoms, but will be tested for COVID-19. Authorities believe the risk of infection is low.
Police said they are investigating the validity of the family’s border declaration form and how they were able to pass through Queensland’s hard border without notice.
“The border restrictions were well in place and the issue has got to be the accuracy and validity of the border pass,” Townsville Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon said on Wednesday.
“It’s really important for us to make sure that all the allegations of the breach of the chief health officer’s directions is investigated.”
Meanwhile, concern about the spread of the Delta variant has led the state to shut its border with New Zealand.
From 1am on Thursday, inbound passengers from NZ will go into 14-day hotel quarantine after four new Delta cases emerged there.
The NSW border will be strengthened after that state recorded 633 new locally acquired cases.
On Wednesday night News Corp reported about 100 troops would be deployed to the border at the request of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Only essential workers such as police, health workers and certain construction workers who have had one dose of a vaccine will be allowed to cross into Queensland from 1am on Saturday.
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the definition of “essential” would be reviewed for Queensland workers living in NSW.
Director-general of the Premier’s Department Rachel Hunter will conduct the review and new restrictions will come into effect next week.
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said police would continue the “very rigid application” of public health orders at border checkpoints.
“We’re hearing lots of sad stories around how this impacts on people, I’m terribly sorry about that; we are going to continue to do that,” he said.
“You must meet the requirements to enter the state or you’re simply not entering.”
Dr Young says border closures and lockdowns remain the best health responses to outbreaks until 70 per cent of the population is vaccinated.
“Then people will be able to go about their lives,” she said.
“Otherwise, I can see in the future that the people who aren’t vaccinated are going to have to minimise their lives to protect their own health and safety.”
Greater Darwin and Katherine are expected to find out if a COVID-19 lockdown triggered by an infected US defence contractor will end at midday on Thursday.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he was “fairly confident but not completely certain” the lockdown would end as planned.
“We are feeling good. It’s looking pretty sweet,” he said on Wednesday.
Restrictions, such as wearing face masks in public, are likely to apply for one week.
The infected man in his 30s arrived at Darwin Airport on a Qantas flight just before midnight on Thursday and travelled to the Hilton Hotel by taxi.
He returned a positive result on Sunday after mandatory testing at Royal Darwin Hospital.
The man then drove 300 kilometres south to Katherine on Sunday for work before a test revealed he was infected.
He previously returned a negative COVID-19 test on August 10 during his 14-day stay in a Sydney quarantine hotel.
Authorities don’t know how or where the man caught COVID-19.
NT Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie says test results show he hadn’t been infected long, and it was “less likely” he caught the virus in NSW.
Meanwhile, Mr Gunner has called for a better national plan to protect children not currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
“We must make sure that as a nation we have a plan for our kids when we hit 70 and 80 per cent,” he said.
“These are people that can’t be vaccinated.”
Mr Gunner said parents need to know how places where their children gather, such as childcare, preschool and primary schools, will be managed to protect children from the virus.