New South Wales citizens could be wearing masks indoors for years and proof of vaccination may be required to enter high-risk venues, even when the state reaches 80% vaccination coverage, the chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, has warned.
The warning was delivered as one of Sydney’s largest hospitals, Westmead, set up an “emergency operations centre” on Tuesday as it grappled with staff and capacity issues caused by surging Delta cases in the city’s west.
The hospital called a “yellow emergency” and reduced ambulance arrivals with Covid patients for a 24-hour period. Westmead also sought to transfer several critical patients to other Sydney metropolitan hospitals and conducted urgent critical care reviews.
The Western Sydney Local Salute District said it would also work with private hospitals to open up 100 more beds.
“We acknowledge we are no longer operating in a business as usual environment and careful assessment and response is required to manage future demand for our services,” the local health district told staff in an email.
Health authorities on Tuesday also announced a woman in her 30s with Covid died in her home in Sydney’s west. Her vaccination status, and other potential underlying health conditions, were unclear.
The death – which is the 75th since NSW’s current outbreak began in mid-June – is being investigated and has been referred to the coroner.
The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, earlier in the day revealed the government had developed technology to allow people to check-in at venues and show their vaccination status in one go.
Chant said the modelling by the Doherty Institute, which was serving as a national roadmap for opening up, was about “options and choices” when 80% vaccination was reached.
“It’s not to say you’re not going to have to calibrate and respond with your level of restrictions, what you permit," lei disse.
“It may be that we actually have indoor mask-wearing for years in certain settings. We may have factors that you’re only permitted to go to certain high-risk venues if you’re vaccinated and show proof of vaccination,"Ha detto Chant.
She warned that all bets could be off if another variant emerged.
“The world is grappling with how we coexist with Covid and this virus may throw us curveballs. Sai, we’ve got the Delta variant. God help us if we have another variant. This is not a one size fits all," lei disse.
NSW recorded a fall in locally acquired cases – 753, down from the mid-800s over the past few days – in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday.
Despite the fall in cases, both Berejiklian and Chant stressed that one number did not make a trend and case numbers could go up again.
“I wouldn’t be surprised … if we see an uptick over the coming days,"Ha detto Chant, noting the effect of the state’s vaccination drive (it had now achieved 6m jabs) would not be felt until mid-September.
South-west Sydney remained the epicentre of the outbreak, with the Cumberland local government area recording 138 of the new cases, Blacktown 110 and Canterbury-Bankstown 85.
C'erano 36 new cases in western NSW, Compreso 14 nel Wilcannia, where 69% of the population is Aboriginal. Thirty-eight people in the town of 750 had so far tested positive, and the government had sent in additional health teams to try to deal with the crisis.
The good news was that numbers appeared to be under control in the Newcastle-Hunter area, with just one new case associated with an aged care cluster. There were three new cases in the Illawarra and three in the central coast.
The deputy premier, Giovanni Barilaro, acknowledged there had been a number of cases associated with construction workers in regional settings in Orange, Coffs Harbour and Toronto, but defended allowing construction workers to travel, saying “we’ve got to allow those industries to continue”.
“We’ve got strict requirements on industry in relation to testing and vaccination. Of course everything is up for consideration, if it continues to pose a great risk to the regions. It’s something I’ll take back to crisis cabinet," Egli ha detto.
Crisis cabinet was due to meet later this week to decide on what small relaxations might be allowed for people who were fully vaccinated.
There had been speculation that hairdressers may be allowed to open for fully vaccinated clients.
But the premier refused to say whether the relaxation would be extended to the 12 local government areas of concern.
“We are having those conversations now,” she said tersely when asked whether the areas already under tough curfews and exercise restrictions would be included in the relaxations.
Asked about how many hospitalisations NSW expected once the 70% vaccination threshold was reached, the Doherty roadmap was implemented and restrictions were further relaxed, Berejiklian said “work was being done all the time”.
The Doherty modelling warns of an increase in cases in the first six months after some relaxation of lockdowns, with an expected 385,000 casi e 1,457 deceduti, which is much higher than current rates in NSW. Vaccination is expected to make the disease less severe in most people.
“Every state will have to come out of [lockdowns and border closures] eventually. When they do, they will all be confronted, perhaps not as starkly as NSW, being the largest … so it is only standing to reason we are the first state confronting the reality of the Delta strain,” Berejiklian said.
“The rate of hospitalisation is 5.5% at the moment,” Berejiklian said. “Obviously the case numbers determine the capacity constraints. We have 2,000 ventilators. We’ve quadrupled our intensive care capacity, our surge capacity, if required. We’re hoping it won’t be required.”
She warned that other states would also have to go through a similar wave of cases when they open their borders and open to international travel.
tuttavia, Chant offered a grimmer picture of the future: mask-wearing for years and vaccine passports to enter high-risk venues such as stadiums and theatres.
“The other issue I’d like to say – and this is a really key point – we are only as safe if we protect our vulnerable in our community: our aged care residents, our disability home residents but also the people that live in large households, those that don’t have the option of working from home, that have underlying health conditions, that have complex interactions, maybe live across multiple households," lei disse.
“We have to protect our mental health, our drug and alcohol patients, our people in correctional settings, juvenile justice. So my 80% means I want a strong equity focus across that vaccination coverage and we need to have it very high across the population uniformly.”
The government was also promising a roadmap later this week on the plan for schools for term 4.
The government was offering incentives for people to take up the 200,000 vaccination booking slots that still remained this week for 16- to 39-year-olds from hotspot LGAs.
People in these LGAs are being encouraged to wear their team colours to the vaccination hubs this Sunday and take pictures for a selfie wall, to see which NRL club fans received the most vaccinations.
The competition, named the NSW Vaccination Championship Cup, will be similar to previous “super Sunday” vaccination drives for food industry, construction workers and students, however those who take part in the sport-geared event will go into the draw for prizes.
– additional reporting by Elias Visontay and AAP