NSW has reported another record day of COVID-19 case numbers as the state forges ahead with plans to ease restrictions on outside gatherings.
The state confirmed 1029 more local cases and three more virus-related deaths on Thursday.
Three men died at their homes in western Sydney between August 17 and August 25 – one in his 30s, one in his 60s and one in his 80s. None was vaccinated and all were being cared for in the community.
Their deaths bring the total number linked to the current outbreak to 79.
Thursday’s numbers mark the first time any Australian state or jurisdiction has reported more than 1000 cases in a single day. It came alongside an extension to the lockdown in regional NSW and plans to ease some restrictions.
From September 13, in the 12 local government areas of concern, families will be allowed to go out for an hour of recreation on top of their permitted hour of exercise – provided the parents are vaccinated.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this meant families could visit a park together. She said the government would share its plans for a return to schools on Friday.
Outside the high-risk Sydney LGAs, groups of five fully vaccinated people will be able to gather outdoors within their local government areas or within five kilometres of their home. This rule will also come into effect on September 13.
“[We] know that people coming together is what people miss the most,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“From the various options we looked at, that was the option that met the mental health needs and wellbeing of our community, but also provided the lowest-risk setting.”
The Premier promised further easing related to “a range of family, industry, community and economic restrictions” once 70 per cent of the state’s adult population was fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, as case numbers in the state’s west continue to rise, Ms Berejiklian said regional NSW’s lockdown would be extended to September 10.
The Western NSW Local Health District reported another 35 cases over the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, prompting Deputy Premier John Barilaro to say the area was teetering on a “knife’s edge”.
“It’s a tinderbox ready to explode,” Mr Barilaro said.
Just 91 in isolation
Of Thursday’s 1029 cases, 185 have been linked to a known case or cluster while the source of infection for 844 cases is under investigation.
Just 91 were in isolation throughout their infectious period.
Amid reports that almost 80 per cent of ICU beds in the state are now full, health authorities revealed on Thursday that 698 COVID-19 cases had been admitted to hospital, with 116 people in intensive care and 43 on ventilators.
Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant urged people to seek medical assistance as soon as they had difficulty breathing or were feeling dizzy or breathless. She said breathlessness was a major symptom of the Delta strain among young people.
“Presenting early is key because we know that … if someone presents early, and gets good oxygen uptake, that may prevent them from deteriorating,” Dr Chant said.
Ms Berejiklian attempted to allay fears that the hospital system was being overwhelmed by surging COVID case numbers.
She said the state had increased its number of ventilators from 500 to 2000 over the past 18 months.
“Please know we’ve quadrupled our capacity so everybody who needs help will get that help,” she said.
“It might be different to the help you got before because of the situation, but please know the system is kicking in. It’s under pressure but it’s able to cope with everybody who needs that attention.”
NSW has now administered 6.28 million vaccinations.
Summary of rule changes
From 12.01am on Monday, September 13:
- For those who live outside the local government areas (LGAs) of concern, outdoor gatherings of up to five people (including children, all adults must be vaccinated) will be allowed in a person’s LGA or within 5km from home
- For those who live in the LGAs of concern, households with all adults vaccinated will be able to gather outdoors for recreation (including picnics) within the existing rules (for one hour only, outside curfew hours and within 5km of home). This is in addition to the one hour allowed for exercise.