NSW confirmed another 1116 local cases of COVID-19 and four virus-related deaths on Wednesday as Premier Gladys Berejiklian again stressed that eliminating the Delta strain was “impossible”.
Four unvaccinated women aged between 50 and 80 died in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.
All had underlying health conditions.
Their deaths take the total number linked to the current outbreak to 100.
NSW Health said there are 917 COVID patients in its hospitals, with 150 in intensive care and 66 requiring ventilation.
Ms Berejiklian started her daily briefing with an update on the state’s vaccination rollout. She said 148,000 people received a shot on Tuesday, and the total number of doses administered in the state had risen to 6,977,454.
The Premier said NSW was on course to vaccinate 70 per cent of its adult population by the middle of October.
Hitting this target will trigger a modest easing of restrictions for vaccinated residents, with a resumption of international travel also on the cards once 80 per cent of the adult population has received two jabs.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants state and territory leaders to move towards home quarantine for returned travellers once 80 per cent of people aged 16 and over have been vaccinated.
“When we hit the 80 per cent double-dose number, which we anticipate will be in November, NSW can look forward to having our citizens enjoy international travel – and NSW looks forward to stepping up and welcoming thousands of Australians home who have been waiting to come home for a long time,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The Premier was again pressed to reveal details of any health advice given to the government that could shine a light on how bad the current outbreak might get.
She said case numbers would continue to rise and hospitalisation rates were unlikely to peak until October.
But she refused to say how high case numbers might go, claiming the worst-case scenario varied on inputs that changed daily.
“The most recent advice I’ve received is that case numbers are likely to continue to rise for the next few weeks and the worst hospitalisation rate is likely to be in October, and I can’t tell you anymore more than that,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian was again at pains to stress her commitment to the reopening plan agreed to by national cabinet. She said she hoped other state and territory leaders would follow, so Australians could enjoy restriction-free interstate travel later this year.
Also on Wednesday, deputy chief health officer Dr Marianne Gale said wastewater testing had picked up the virus in several areas in NSW – including some that had no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“We encourage people [in these areas] to please come forward for testing,” Dr Gale said.
“Those areas are in Murrumbidgee LGA, in Thredbo and Merimbula, in the Mid North Coast, in Port Macquarie, Dunbogan and Bonny Hills. [And in] western New South Wales, the people of Warren and Molong. And in Hunter New England, Tamworth and Gunnedah.”
It comes after the Nine Newspapers revealed one in five clinical staff in the state’s healthcare system had yet to receive a single vaccine dose.
Elsewhere, Victoria confirmed 120 new local COVID cases and the ACT another 24 on Wednesday. In the ACT, 13 were not in quarantine throughout their infectious period while 14 had been linked to existing clusters.
On Tuesday, the ACT’s lockdown was extended to September 17.