Some of Sydney’s worst-hit areas exceed 80% first vaccine doses as NSW records 1,220 cases

By Anne Davies

Parts of Sydney’s worst-affected areas have exceeded 80% first dose vaccination rates, but it is yet to be decided whether hotspot local government areas will enjoy the same freedoms when the state reaches 70% double vaccination targets next month.

The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the intention was to give all vaccinated people the same freedoms when the state reached the 70% milestone and warned unvaccinated people “not to get left behind”.

“Our indication is that everyone who has 70% double vaccination enjoys the benefits of being fully vaccinated. We’ll make that obviously clearer once we make the roadmap public,” she said on Tuesday.

“But we also need to take the health advice as well. But our intention is that everyone who has 70% double vaccination moves forward and has much more freedom than what we do today.”

NSW recorded 1,220 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, down from the peak of over 1,500 reached last week. Eight people died, including one man in his 60s who died at home and who has been referred to the coroner.

The total number of cases in NSW since the beginning of the pandemic was now 36,078.

The government has undertaken to release more modelling from the Burnet Institute on the capacity of the hospital system and likely future case projections.

Modelling released on Monday showed cases in the 12 hotspot LGAs were expected to peak at 2,000 a day and hospitals would face being “overwhelmed” with intensive care Covid cases from late October to mid-November.

The chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said it would take another two weeks to see the impact of NSW’s vaccine strategy on case numbers. She said she was hopeful that NSW could achieve 85% of the NSW population vaccinated.

As the state concentrated on getting first doses into people, some had been told to wait as much as eight weeks for their second Pfizer jab, because of supply constraints. More vaccine doses were expected to arrive in the second half of October but if they became available earlier, Chant said people could get the second shot earlier.

NSW also planned to trial its new QR code check-in software in early October ahead of the easing of some restrictions at 70%.

The software will signal full vaccination status at the same time a person checks in. It is likely the trials will take place in a highly vaccinated part of the city with low case numbers and in a regional area.

In the meantime, people will need to carry their downloaded vaccination status certificate from Medicare on their phones, particularly when the state allows fully vaccinated people to picnic in public spaces in groups of five from 13 September.

“Pleasingly, the NSW average for first doses is now over 74% and we encourage people to keep pushing for that,” Berejiklian said.

“In some of our hotspot local government areas the first dose average is just amazing. Blacktown is over 85% first dose, Camden is over 82%, Parramatta is over 81%, Canterbury-Bankstown is over 76% and Dubbo is over 77%,” she said.

NSW police announced on Tuesday that vaccination would be mandatory for all employees.

The corporate services deputy commissioner, Karen Webb, said: “We know that the Delta strain of this virus poses a significant risk to police officers and staff. Each day, we ask our officers to front up and perform their vital policing functions in this extremely challenging environment.

“The only way to face that risk is by ensuring that Covid-19 vaccines are administered to all staff,” she said.

However, the premier refused to endorse mandatory vaccination for her own workplace, the NSW parliament, which will sit in October.

“I wouldn’t want to be in the room with lots of people who aren’t vaccinated. And I certainly hope that all of our colleagues are vaccinated,” she said. “That’s the message we’ve been sending the community.”

She said the roadmap currently being devised would consider whether offices could reopen as well as pubs and clubs and other venues for vaccinated people.

“If people want to enjoy the things we missed, such as a meal or any other issue, or any other venue, they’re going to have been vaccinated,” she said.

The deputy premier, John Barilaro, also appeared to backtrack on his dismissive comments about curfews, which he suggested were only introduced because of media pressure.

“In western Sydney and south-western Sydney, we were at a point of crisis … On the advice of police, and on the advice of health, the government made a decision about curfews. If you take everything I said in context, you would agree with that. Curfews play a role in compliance,” he said.

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