As NSW confirmed its deadliest day in the pandemic yet, Premier Dominic Perrottet says the state has to push through and get on with life as lockdown is “the only alternative”.
He conceded the health system was under pressure but defended the current path as a “hard but right” road.
“We have to get on with life,” he told the ABC on Tuesday.
“If we decide to continue the approach where we had a highly unvaccinated (sic) population and go into lockdown, that would have substantial consequences for men and women right across the state in terms of being able to provide food on the table for their family.”
Well over 100 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in NSW in the past five days, including 36 on Tuesday. It is the state’s highest daily toll yet from the pandemic, the first time it has reported more than 30 deaths in a 24-hour period.
Chief health officer Kerry Chant said they were 22 men and 14 women aged from their mid-40s to their 90s.
“Of the 36 people, 33 were vaccinated against COVID – generally, they had had two doses. Three people were not vaccinated,” Dr Chant said.
“Of the three people who died under 65, one was vaccinated against COVID and had two doses, and two people were not vaccinated.”
The state’s death toll now sits at 921, an increase of 165 in a week.
Also on Tuesday, there were another 22 virus deaths in Victoria, and 16 in Queensland.
NSW confirmed another 29,830 virus cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday, a steady result on the previous reporting period.
NSW hospitals are facing unprecedented stress, with a record 2850 patients being treated in more than 25 facilities.
Hospitalisations have risen 30 per cent in a week, while intensive care numbers have nearly doubled in a fortnight. More than half of the 209 COVID patients in ICU are on ventilators.
Some supermarket shelves are also bare due to supply chain issues while businesses are being forced to close due to the vast number of staff isolating.
However, “these are issues we will overcome”, Mr Perrottet said, putting hospital pressure down to “just the course of the pandemic”.
While the spread of Omicron was faster than expected, he said the health system was tracking better than the best-case scenario in modelling published earlier this month.
That scenario predicted hospitalisations in NSW would peak at 3158 people, with 270 in ICU.
On Monday, a senior Sydney doctor warned health care workers were exhausted as thousands of patients were admitted each day.
“Our capacity to manage everything else has … really changed,” said lung specialist Lucy Morgan, who works at Nepean and Concord Hospitals.
“In the short term, that’s OK. But in the long term, and (the pandemic has lasted) two years now, this is bad.”
With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly through the community, health workers are being exposed and left unable to work.
About 6000 health workers were isolating after being exposed to the virus, Dr Morgan said.
She urged NSW residents to get booster shots to protect themselves against Omicron and alleviate the burden on the health system.
Meanwhile, the first 1.2 million rapid, at-home tests ordered by the NSW government have arrived, with another 15 million expected within a week.
The government’s order of 50 million will be distributed to schools, social housing, vulnerable and remote communities.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the state’s 1.2 million students would need to take RATs twice a week under one proposal for the return to school.
Parents might also be asked to supervise children in classrooms to counter staff shortages and prevent a return to homeschooling.
The NSW-Victorian plan will be presented to national cabinet later this week.