New South Wales has reported 753 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 after administering more than six million vaccine doses.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would reveal later this week what restrictions could be eased as a result of hitting the crucial vaccine milestone.
Ms Berejiklian once again urged people not to “ride the rollercoaster of emotions” by closely following daily case numbers – most of which are coming from the Western Sydney Local Health District (283) and the South Western Sydney LHD (233).
In a continuation of the state’s recent shift in rhetoric, the Premier said “no state or nation on the planet” has escaped the Delta strain and Australia had to “be real about that”.
She reiterated her commitment to the national exit plan based on the Doherty Institute modelling, and said the state’s health care system had the capacity to cope with the inevitable rise in cases when a 70 per cent vaccination rate triggered an easing of restrictions. (The Doherty Institute’s vaccination targets refer to the proportion of the adult population.)
“When we started the pandemic, nearly two years ago now …. we quadrupled our intensive care capacity,” the Premier said.
“We’re nowhere near needing that but please know that back then we had 2000 ventilators and [chief health officer] Dr Chant read out how many are on ventilators. It’s far less than that number.”
Authorities said 608 COVID-19 cases had been admitted to hospital, with 107 people in intensive care and 34 requiring ventilation.
Of Tuesday’s 753 cases, 134 have been linked to a known case or cluster while the source of infection for 619 cases is under investigation.
Just 73 cases were in isolation throughout their infectious period.
Tuesday’s briefing came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state and territory leaders had to “get on with” the plan to reopen the economy after achieving vaccination rates above 70 per cent.
He said all leaders had agreed to the plan at national cabinet and should honour their commitments, as lockdowns cause more harm than good once the 70 per cent threshold has been reached.
Late on Monday evening, the Doherty Institute backed in the Prime Minister’s claim that the outbreak in New South Wales would have no effect on the scheduled timeline for reopening the economy.
“In an average year of influenza, we would roughly have 600 deaths and 200,000 cases in Australia. Any death is a tragedy, but our health system can cope with this,” the institute said in a statement.
“In the COVID-19 modelling, opening up at 70 per cent vaccine coverage of the adult population with partial public health measures, we predict 385,983 symptomatic cases and 1457 deaths over six months.
“With optimal public health measures (and no lockdowns), this can be significantly reduced to 2737 infections and 13 deaths.”
The institute noted, however, that there would be no “freedom day” once the target was reached and ongoing testing, tracing, isolating and quarantining would be needed to keep caseloads manageable.
“Once we reach 70 per cent vaccine coverage, opening up at tens or hundreds of cases nationally per day is possible, however, we will need vigilant public health interventions with higher case loads,” the statement read.