NSW has confirmed another 1164 cases of COVID-19 and three virus-related deaths as intensive care nurses urge people to reduce pressure on the system by following public health advice.
The deaths include a woman in her 50s with underlying health conditions, a man in his 80s and a man in his 90s.
“Again we extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those three people,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Their deaths take the total number linked to the state’s outbreak to 96. There are 871 patients in hospital, including 143 in ICU.
Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant also revealed on Tuesday that another 43 cases had been linked to an outbreak at the privately run Parklea Correctional Centre in western Sydney, taking the prison’s total caseload to 75.
The update came as NSW surpassed two-thirds of residents having had a first dose of a COVID vaccine. The government will restore freedoms to the fully-vaccinated at 70 per cent double-dose coverage.
“Being the last day of winter, I can safely say that we’re looking forward to a better spring,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We want to get to the magic 70 and 80 per cent as quickly as possible.”
Dr Chant and Ms Berejiklian were joined at Tuesday’s press conference by Michelle Dowd, the manager of intensive care at Liverpool Hospital.
She shared her experience of what it has been like for nurses on the front line, and urged people to book in for a vaccine if they hadn’t already.
“These patients are some of the sickest we’ve ever seen. They require so much support and monitoring and physical care,” Ms Dowd said of the people in her hospital’s ICU.
“We’re in layers of PPE, sometimes for hours at a time. This is really physically hard work.”
Ms Dowd said the hospital’s ICU team could call on support from other parts of the health system. But the wider community needed to help by following public health advice and getting vaccinated.
“The Delta variant is so contagious that we have entire family groups in our hospital in some really tragic circumstances,” she said.
“We’ve had parents, both parents of young children, so sick that they need to be ventilated in our intensive care unit and separated from their children.”
Amid reports that the ICU system in NSW is already at 60 per cent of capacity, Health Minister Brad Hazzard was repeatedly asked on Tuesday whether the health system had enough staff to treat the rising number of cases.
He was asked about claims by Australian Medical Association NSW president Danielle McMullen, who has said the health system has enough equipment and beds, but not enough people to staff them.
“[Danielle] is a general practitioner and the information the Premier and I are getting from the health system is we have appropriate staffing levels.” Mr Hazzard said.
“But it’s under pressure and it will be. We’re in a pandemic.”
Of Thursday’s 1164 local cases, 417 are from the Western Sydney Local Health District (LHD), 379 are from the South Western Sydney LHD, 116 are from the Sydney LHD, and 73 are from the South Eastern Sydney LHD, 54 are from the Western NSW LHD, and 45 are from the Nepean Blue Mountains LHD.
The state has administered 6,859,279 vaccine doses.
The daily news conference came hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Adelaide radio station 5AA that lower coronavirus death rates were demonstrating the power of vaccination.
“Vaccination has a major impact,” Mr Morrison said.
“You double that second-dose rate from where it is now and that’s a level of protection that is really giving us an ability to safely transition to the next phase.”
The Prime Minister said the fatality rate during the NSW outbreak is 0.5 per cent, compared to 4.3 per cent from Victoria’s second wave last year.
‘Slow process’: ACT lockdown extended
Canberra’s lockdown will be extended until midnight on September 17 as its coronavirus outbreak continues to grow.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the lockdown had proven effective but it was essential to keep it going to reduce the outbreak.
“It is a slow process and it will take more time,” Mr Barr said on Tuesday.
“We still have unlinked cases in the community.”
There will be some changes to lockdown settings in the national capital from this Thursday.
Another 13 cases were reported on Tuesday, with seven linked to exposure sites. Six are under investigation.
It takes the total number of active cases in the ACT to 242.
Four of the cases were in quarantine for their entire infectious period.
At least eight people were infectious in the community, with the remaining case still under investigation.
“Any ongoing chains of transmission or cases with an unconfirmed source contributes to increased risk to our community,” Mr Barr said.
“Considering this, and in addition to the continuing situation in NSW, which surrounds us, and several clusters that we’ve talked about in our vulnerable and high-risk settings, the best decision is to extend the lockdown.”
Thirteen people are in hospital with three in intensive care.