The NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned October will be the “worst time” for the state’s health system and intensive care units.
Her warning came as NSW reported another record number of new Covid cases on Monday with 1,290 new local infections and four deaths.
As the state hit a new high for cases, western Sydney remained the main area of transmission. Hospitalisation numbers are also climbing, with an additional 35 cases admitted overnight. Of the 848 cases in hospital, 147 were in ICU and 48 required ventilation.
Berejiklian said the pressure on the state’s health system would still increase.
“We anticipate that the worst month, the worst time for our intensive care units will be in October,” she said.
“The number of cases we have in intensive care will depend on our vaccination rate and also on the number of cases, and we all have a hand in determining what that looks like.”
Berejiklian reiterated that “vaccination is the key in terms of our freedom and reducing the spread of the virus”.
Nearly two-thirds of the adult population in NSW has had one jab and 36% are fully vaccinated.
“We’re getting close to 900,000 jabs a week in NSW out of a population of 8 million. That is outstanding. Every day we get closer to hitting those vaccination targets means the pressure on our hospital system, on our ICU, will decline over time and that is what we need to manage.”
The four overnight deaths were all adults over the age of 50.
A 50-year-old Indigenous man with significant underlying health conditions died at Dubbo hospital. He is the first Indigenous Australian to die with Covid and the first death in regional NSW during this outbreak.
At Westmead hospital in Sydney’s west, a man in his 70s also with underlying health conditions died. Another man in his 70s died after contracting Covid at the Meredith House aged care facility in Strathfield.
A woman in her 60s from western Sydney also died at Westmead hospital. She acquired her infection at Cumberland hospital in Westmead.
Suburbs of concern in greater Sydney have been identified as Guildford, Merrylands, Auburn, Greenacre, Yagoona, Punchbowl and Blacktown.
The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, warned of spillover from local government areas of concern into adjacent areas, particularly noting the movement of workers carrying the virus between LGAs. Inner west suburbs including Ryde, Meadowbank and Marrickville were said to be adjacent LGAs at risk.
“I can’t urge you enough to come forward for testing. Be careful in the way you move about in your community.”
There are also concerns about the spread of Covid in regional NSW, with seven new cases in Wilcannia, two in Broken Hill, 33 in Dubbo, four in Burke, five in Bathurst and further cases in Narromine, Blayney, Brewarrina, Forbes, Orange and Parkes.
In response to a question inquiring about the death of the Indigenous man in Dubbo, Chant raised concerns of Covid disproportionately impacting Indigenous populations.
“We are particularly concerned about the case numbers in far west and western NSW because of the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people and the likelihood that Covid will be – and is – touching Aboriginal people disproportionately,” she said.
“For that, we need to use everything we can. I would like to say there are very strong vaccination efforts in those local communities and I call upon all community leaders to encourage high uptake, and I have been pleased that some of the towns have had incredible uptake.”
The virus has been detected in sewage in Trangie and Byron Bay, but there have so far been no positive cases in those areas of NSW.
It was noted that certain LGAs will potentially be removed from “concern” status, because of high vaccination rates and a decline in community transmission in those areas. These LGAs are yet to be announced.
Berejiklian again urged the state to get vaccinated, warning that greater freedoms may not be offered to those who had not received two doses.
“Come 70% double dose, which will happen at some stage in October … freedoms will extend to people who are fully vaccinated,” she said.
“At 70% double dose, life will be better than it is today. Having said that, we will make sure we never have any settings that will overwhelm our system and that is the absolute challenge.”
She said as vaccination rates rise, people will become accustomed to “what life with Covid looks like and feels like”.
“And it should feel much less scary and much more hopeful.”
When questioned about the prospect of children being back in schools in October, Berejiklian again reverted to urging people to get vaccinated.
“The vaccination is the best armour we have in protecting people against Covid but also in living a normal life,” she said.
“All of us have to accept, as confronting as it is, that we do not know how long Covid will be with us but we will find a safe spot where we can live freely and have as few of us … in intensive care as possible.”
The NSW health minister Brad Hazzard made it clear that “AstraZeneca is in abundant supplies, but Pfizer is not”.
“For those who have a preference for a number of reasons for Pfizer, they will have to wait. Our advice is don’t wait.
“Go and get whatever vaccine is available.”
Joe Ibrahim, a paramedic, on Monday gave his perspective as a frontline worker and also urged the public to get vaccinated. Ibrahim said one of the most demanding things paramedics are dealing with is performing CPR in full protective gear.
“We are wrapped up in a plastic gown that is not breathable. We are fitted with a mask that digs into our skin,” he said. “We wear this for the majority of our 12-hour shift. This takes its toll.
“We wear this to not only protect us, but to protect our family, to protect the broader community and your families.”
Ibrahim said that when he joined this profession, he knew it came with a level of risk to serve the community. “For the very first time though, I am bringing this risk, due to this contagious virus, home to my wife and my beautiful boys.”
He shared a story of a case he responded to involving a single mother “deteriorating” from Covid.
“Her son made a comment to me and that comment was: ‘I think this is my fault. I think I have given mum Covid.’
“That stopped me in my tracks and stopped my team in our tracks and absolutely broke our hearts.”