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Unmasked, COVID-positive men fined in Sydney

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Police say the five men were fined $5000 each and escorted back home to isolate. Photo: AAP
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Five COVID-positive men have each been fined $5000 after NSW Police found them unmasked and mingling outside in Sydney’s south-west.

Officers were patrolling Leppington on Monday morning when they saw the men sitting at a table on the footpath.

“None of the men were wearing face masks,” NSW Police said in a statement.

“Officers stopped and spoke to the men, who revealed they had tested positive to COVID-19 in rural NSW and had been ordered to self-isolate for 14 days after being escorted back to Sydney last Monday.”

The men – aged 23, 25, 26, 31 and 32 – were each fined $5000 for breaching COVID-19 health orders and escorted back to their homes to continue their mandatory isolation.

Meanwhile, a Dubbo man has become the first Aboriginal person in Australia to die while infected with COVID-19, prompting an urgent plea for Indigenous communities in western NSW to get vaccinated.

A record 1290 locally acquired COVID-19 cases were detected in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, and another four deaths were recorded.

The deaths of two men in their 70s, a woman in her 60s and the 50-year-old Indigenous man from Dubbo take the number of fatalities from the current outbreak to 93.

The national toll for the entire pandemic has now topped 1000.

Western NSW Local Health District chief executive Scott McLachlan on Monday said the unvaccinated man’s death was a stark reminder to the community.

“This opportunity to get vaccinated is a lifesaver,” he said.

“It will save you, it will save your family, it will save your friends.

“The last thing we want to see is more deaths in western NSW.”

While there has been a jump in the number of jabs administered to the region’s Indigenous residents – it’s almost doubled in the past three weeks – the rate still lags behind the region’s broader population.

Just 6.3 per cent of Indigenous people in the area are fully vaccinated, compared with 26 per cent of the general population.

The majority of cases – 65 per cent – have been diagnosed among people of Aboriginal descent.

NSW health authorities have warned October is likely to be the worst month for the state’s health system due to an accumulation of infections from the preceding weeks.

The number of COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals is nearing 850, with 137 patients in intensive care and 48 ventilated.

While NSW has a surge capacity of about 2000 intensive care beds and an equivalent number of ventilators, health unions are concerned the quality of patient care in such a scenario would be greatly diluted.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the rate of hospitalisations per infection would continue to fall as more NSW residents were vaccinated, but the overall number of hospitalisations was likely to rise as infections increased.

“Every day we get closer to hitting those vaccination targets, meaning the pressure on our hospital system, on our ICU will decline over time, and that is what we need to manage,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We are going to see more cases, but if the majority of the population is vaccinated, the majority of those cases will not need to be in hospital.

“The health system is prepared, but will it stretch? Absolutely.”