New South Wales recorded 1035 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 over the 24 hours to 8pm Friday night and two deaths, as the state’s ambulance system struggles to cope.
COVID-19 claimed the lives of a woman in her 80s at Westmead Hospital and a woman in her 70s at Nepean Hospital who had acquired the infection there, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told press on Saturday.
It’s the fourth death linked to an outbreak at the hospital.
The fatalities take the state’s death toll for the current outbreak to 83.
There are currently 778 COVID-19 cases in NSW hospitals, with 125 in intensive care and 52 on ventilators.
In addition to the 1035 new cases in the community, the state recorded one case from overseas in hotel quarantine.
In better news, NSW saw “the biggest number of vaccinations in our state vaccination hubs then we have ever had”, Mr Hazzard said
On Friday, 61,778 people got vaccinated at a state hub, 94,387 people attended either a GP or a pharmacist, bringing the state’s daily total to 156,165.
“As we have said many times, vaccination is a critical path out of our current situation,” Mr Hazzard told reporters on Saturday.
“Thankfully, many people also came forward for tests as well, and there were 129,182 tests undertaken yesterday.”
NSW Ambulance boss Dominic Morgan warned that ambulances were being overwhelmed with coronavirus calls, including some unnecessary requests.
“When we receive calls that do not require an ambulance immediately, it can have dire consequences,” Dr Morgan said.
“I have been advised this week that we had a 25 minute response to an 18-year-old cardiac arrest. This is devastating. Wherever possible we need to be avoiding this.”
Dr Morgan said the state saw its second ever ‘status three alert’, which is issued when Ambulance NSW is unable to keep up with demand, on Friday night.
The ambulance service received 450 COVID-19 calls yesterday alone, he said.
Vaccine ‘misinformation’ warning
Mr Hazzard said there was a “lot of misinformation” on social media about the vaccine, particularly targeting people who want to have children.
It suggested there were some negative aspects of being vaccinated in terms of fertility, he said.
“I just want to confirm that the most senior health advisory service in Australia has confirmed absolutely, that there is no evidence whatsoever that a woman’s fertility or a man’s fertility would be in any way affected by having the vaccine,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Young women and girls who are contemplating having a child should understand that if they don’t have the vaccine, and they do get the virus, they may suffer from long COVID or from symptoms that would actually make it more difficult to be able to have children, and to have as many children as they would like.”
Border checkpoint battle
Meanwhile NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the state government is against moving the Queensland border checkpoint south to the Tweed River.
The Queensland border remains closed to people from NSW and Victoria who do not have exemptions.
Mr Barilaro said in a statement released on Saturday that border communities such as Mungindi need to be able to access healthcare and medical supplies.
“I want this resolved as soon as possible. I’m prepared to roll up my sleeves and get this sorted this weekend,” he said.
Plan for getting kids back to school
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday unveiled a plan to get kids back to school for term four.
HSC exams for NSW Year 12 students in 2021 will be pushed back to November 9, and all people working on school campuses must be vaccinated by November 8.
It comes as the Pfizer jab is officially approved for use by Australian health authorities in children aged 12 to 15.
NSW Health also on Friday announced that workers living in areas of concern need to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by September 6 in order to be authorised to work outside their area of concern.
Care workers who live or work in areas of concern must also have had at least one dose of a vaccine by September 6 in order to attend work.
Workers aged under 16 will be exempt from the vaccine requirement.