Doctors have called on NSW to “pump the brakes” on easing restrictions too fast amid concern hospitals will be overwhelmed and as it was reported the state’s chief health officer does not endorse the new roadmap.
The state’s new Premier Dominic Perrottet fronted media without Dr Kerry Chant on Thursday to announce some freedoms would be fast-tracked from Monday.
The Australian Medical Association’s NSW branch has reacted to the changes with a warning that they were happening too quickly which would overwhelm the hospital system and burn out healthcare workers.
“We’ve got a new premier in the driver’s seat, but that’s not a good enough reason to deviate from the course previously set,” AMA NSW President Danielle McMullen said.
“Keeping people safe must be the premier’s top priority.
“Relaxing restrictions too soon will not be a ‘popular’ decision if it means the number of people contracting the virus and ending up in hospital skyrockets.”
It comes as 9News political reporter Chris O’Keefe reported he had confirmed with “multiple sources” who were aware of the discussions between the new premier and Dr Chant, that she did not fully endorse the new roadmap.
“The Chief Health Officer warned the new premier all of these changes come with risk, but changing a roadmap that was only nine days old was ultimately a matter for the government,” claimed Mr O’Keefe.
BREAKING: I have confirmed Dr Chant did not endorse this new roadmap. The Chief Health Officer warned the new Premier these changes come with risk, but the decision was ultimately a matter for the government. A shift from Perrottet away from “the health advice.” @9NewsAUS
— Chris O'Keefe (@cokeefe9) October 7, 2021
The ACT’s health minister, Rachel Stephen-Smith, said the NSW changes would cause more cases in regional areas just over the ACT border and lead to more hospital admissions from residents in regional NSW.
However Professor Greg Dore, from the University of NSW, told the ABC the roadmap changes were minor and would not cause a surge in infections.
“I’m not expecting an increase in cases at all in the next few weeks. I think the opening up plan is a very cautious plan,” he said.
“There’s been some changes to that but it still remains quite cautious. It’s focused on the fully vaccinated, — we know they’re at lower risk — so no I’m not expecting to see a surge at all.”
As part of NSW’s new plans, indoor gatherings will be capped at 10 people, not counting children under 12. Outdoor gatherings will be lifted to 30 people.
For weddings and funerals, 100 people can attend.
NSW indoor swimming pools will also be able to open for lessons, training and rehabilitation activities.
Restrictions will ease further when 80 per cent of the adult population is fully jabbed, expected around October 25.
That’s when 3000 people will be allowed at ticketed outdoor events and nightclubs can reopen, but without dancing.
Masks also won’t be required in office buildings in an attempt to encourage workers back to Sydney’s CBD.
These freedoms will apply only for the fully vaccinated until December 1, when freedoms are restored for the unvaccinated.
Victoria will stick to its roadmap out of lockdown while watching NSW leave theirs, as coronavirus infections continue to spread.
There are now more than 15,000 active coronavirus cases in the state after Victoria reported 1638 new cases on Thursday — the second-highest daily figure of any state or territory since the pandemic began.
More Victorians are being hospitalised while battling the virus, with 39 people admitted on Wednesday, bringing the total in hospital to 564.
The death toll is also rising, with two more deaths reported on Thursday, taking the toll from the current outbreak to 70.
Premier Daniel Andrews said daily cases were “higher than we’d like them to be” and urged Melburnians and regional residents in lockdown to follow the rules for a couple more weeks.
Once 70 per cent of the state’s population above 16 is fully vaccinated, expected around October 26, Melbourne’s curfew will ease, the travel limit will be expanded and venues can open outdoors to the fully vaccinated.
But Victorians will have to wait until the 80 per cent double-dose target for significant changes, forecast for November 5, including Melbourne hospitality reopening for seated service and visitors to be allowed in homes.
Mr Andrews said he had no plans to alter Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown, but the state opposition said the premier’s plan “doesn’t cut it”.
The opposition is calling for a return of customer density limits at the 70 per cent target, paving the way for hospitality venues to open indoors.
Health authorities in the ACT are planning for a surge in COVID cases being presented to hospitals in coming weeks as the territory looks to ease restrictions.
Canberra’s lockdown is forecast to end on October 15.
“We’re planning for a growing number of patients, and over the next few weeks we expect to have around 30 COVID patients in hospital and around 10 in ICU,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“Part of the planning work is where we can establish ICU satellite wards and not just for COVID patients.”
The ACT has continued with its high vaccination rates, with the most recent figures showing 96 per cent of over-12s have received their first dose of the vaccine, the highest rate in the country.
Meanwhile, 67.2 per cent of the same age group are fully vaccinated.
Despite the high vaccine number, Ms Stephen-Smith said virus case numbers in Canberra were higher than expected, given the level of immunisation coverage.
The ACT had one of its highest days for new cases, with 41 reported on Thursday, and just 14 of them linked to known cases.