Australia

Bus drivers strike over test demand

More than one in 10 people with Covid are now in NSW hospitals. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Jeremy Piper

Welcome to our coverage of NSW’s Covid-19 situation.

The state’s virus crisis is continuing to explode, with 1281 new cases and five deaths today.

Those grim new figures come after it emerged that more than one in 10 people with the virus in NSW now require hospitalisation.

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According to the latest NSW Health figures, the current hospitalisation rate for the embattled state is 11 per cent for the past seven days of the reporting period.

But there’s some debate over exactly when we’ll see that “peak in cases”, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian insisting October will be the worst month, while a health expert claims we’ll be suffering for far longer.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Sydney bus drivers have also walked off the job today in protest over a lack of rapid antigen testing, sparking safety fears.

Follow below for today’s top updates. Just make sure you keep refreshing the page for the latest news.

You can find Victoria’s Covid blog here.

NSW records 1281 new cases

NSW has recorded 1281 new Covid cases overnight and five deaths.

It comes after NSW recorded 1485 new cases and three deaths yesterday.

Reports of second Indigenous Covid death

The Guardian is reporting that Australia has sadly recorded its second Indigenous Covid death.

According to the publication, the victim was a 70-year-old woman from the small town of Enngonia who died at Dubbo hospital last night.

Freedoms ‘absolutely’ guaranteed

Gladys Berejiklian insists the double-vaxxed will gain greater freedoms as promised once the state hits the 70 per cent vaccination target – despite the fact the modelling shows the peak of cases will come several weeks after that point.

But the Premier said she “absolutely” stands by her vow to begin reopening at 70 per cent.

“And the reason why it’s really important for us to get this information available to all of our citizens is that the biggest determinant of whether someone ends up in hospital or not… is whether they have been fully vaccinated,” she said.

‘Not at all’: Gladys fires up

This morning’s presser has taken a fiery turn, with Ms Berejiklian hitting back after being asked if her modelling was “misleading”.

The reporter was specifically referring to the fact the modelling placed the hospitalisation rate at 5.5 per cent, while NSW Health’s own information places it at 11 per cent.

“Not at all. We have been so transparent every day – every day! We give you…,” she said, before being interrupted by reporters.

“Excuse me. Hold on. Can I answer this question?” the Premier replied.

“Every day we stand here and tell you the number of people in ICU, the number of people in hospital, the number of people with Covid.

“We are so transparent with our information. And this modelling, I doubt any state has been able to provide this level of detail in their own modelling, and we will be at the forefront of that.”

NSW modelling revealed

Ms Berejiklian has confirmed the state’s modelling was produced in late August and was based on numbers from August 23, which was a fortnight ago.

“The best modelling I received last Friday is an indication of what the numbers the projections are likely to be. So what you have in front of you is the best and most recent advice I received on Thursday and Friday last week,” she said.

Cases rise in regional NSW

NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has given a run down of cases in regional NSW, revealing there were 44 new cases in western NSW.

35 cases were in the Dubbo LGA, six cases in Burke, two in Orange and one in Narromine.

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There were also seven cases overnight in the far west, six in Broken Hill and one in Wilcannia.

Southern NSW has seen an increase in cases as well, with three cases in the Queanbeyan area, and two cases in Goulburn.

“We have been notified of an additional two cases and 8pm last night, one in Cooma and one in Batemans Bay,” Mr Barilaro said.

There were five new cases in the Hunter New England area, one in Port Stephens, one in Maitland and three are from the Lake Macquarie local government area.

“The Illawarra Shoalhaven area is starting to be an area of concern, nine cases, 21 cases all up, nine in the Wollongong area, eight cases in the Shoalhaven local government area and four cases in the Shellharbour local government area,” he continued.

“And again, eight new cases on the Central Coast.”

Details on latest fatalities

NSW Health has announced details of NSW’s latest Covid deaths.

They include a man in his 90s from south east Sydney, who died at St George Hospital. He was a resident of St George Aged Care Facility in Bexley and acquired his infection there.

The latest death toll also includes a woman in her 80s from northern Sydney, who died at Ryde Hospital, a woman in her 50s from western Sydney who died at Westmead Hospital, a woman in her 80s from western Sydney who died at Westmead Hospital and a man in his 60s from the Southern Highlands who died at home.

NSW faces horror week ahead

While today’s case numbers have dipped slightly, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned of a horror spike to come within days.

“According to the modelling I have received, we are likely to reach a peak in cases in the next week or so, that is what the modelling tells us, therefore are likely peak in intensive care beds required around early-mid October,” she said.

“So that is what the best modelling tells us at this stage but I do want to qualify that by saying that a number of variables are associated with that modelling.”

177 in ICU

NSW Health have released some fresh Covid stats, providing worrying insight into the extent of the crisis.

According to NSW Health, there have been 131 Covid-19 related deaths in NSW since 16 June 2021, and 187 in total since the start of the pandemic.

There have been 29,253 locally acquired cases reported since 16 June 2021, when the first case in this outbreak was reported.

There are currently 1071 Covid cases admitted to hospital, with 177 people in intensive care, 67 of whom require ventilation.

Virus traces found at Byron Bay

Covid traces have been detected in wastewater in Byron Bay, sparking fresh fears for the region.

Locals are urged to come forward for testing.

Suburbs of concern revealed

NSW CHO Dr Kerry Chant has shared a list of the current suburbs of greatest concern.

They include Greenacre, Georges Hall, Auburn, Ringtown, Dubbo, Bass Hill, Guildford, Maryland, Punchbowl, Blacktown and Yagoona.

“I am also calling out the Central Coast, and some areas in Wollongong are also seeing cases,” Dr Chant said.

“It is important that no-one in the community is complacent. Case numbers outside the LGAs of concern are also increasing.”

Bus drivers strike over test demand

Hundreds of bus drivers in Sydney are striking today over the need for rapid antigen testing at work to boost safety.

Drivers at depots across the city, including Penrith, Seven Hills, Bankstown and Smithfield, walked off the job for two hours from 8am today.

TWU NSW State Secretary Richard Olsen said rapid antigen testing and PCR surveillance testing for public transport workers would add an “additional layer of defence and significantly reduce the risk of Covid-positive workers unintentionally spreading the virus to colleagues and passengers.”

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Expert contradicts key Gladys claim

Professor in epidemiology and public health specialist at the University of Melbourne Tony Blakely has told ABC News Breakfast NSW will hit 3000 cases a day – or “possibly more” – before we reach the peak.

“It’s going at about 5 per cent per day increase and that should plateau off. So as the vaccine coverage goes up, that increase will plateau out,” he said.

“And they’re heading to you know, a couple of thousand, maybe 3000 cases before the vaccine dose catches up with them.

“The health services will be under pressure, but … we’re all going to have to deal with it because next year when we open the borders, we will have high hospitalisation numbers for at least a year.”

He said the peak in cases would be linked to a number of “trade offs” – and disputed Ms Berejiklian’s key claim that October will be the worst month for the state.

According to Prof Blakely, that peak won’t arrive until November, which means NSW residents will be facing many more weeks of pain ahead before noticing any relief.

“So for example, if we allow some businesses to open up in October or November or let the kids back to school, that will increase the transmission a bit,” he said.

“And we need to find ways elsewhere in society that we can reduce it (transmission) to try to walk our way through to about the first week of November when the case numbers should peak and the vaccine coverage is catching up with it.”

Victoria records 246 new cases

Victoria has recorded a spike in cases, with 246 new Covid cases confirmed overnight.

Of the 246 new local cases, 121 are linked to known cases and outbreaks.

More than one in 10 with Covid in hospital

As reported above, more than one in 10 people in NSW diagnosed with Covid now require hospitalisation.

But that figure could be just the tip of the iceberg for two concerning reasons.

Firstly, NSW Health itself has revealed that grim number is actually likely to be far higher.

That’s “because there can be a delay between a person becoming ill with Covid-19 and subsequently requiring a hospitalisation, and because cases in the current outbreak have a median of 11 days between onset and death, hospitalisations and deaths are under-reported,” according to the newest surveillance report.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says a “peak in cases” is coming. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says a “peak in cases” is coming. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard

And secondly, that figure is set to rise in the weeks ahead, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealing a “peak in cases” was still coming.

“All the modelling indicates to us that the peak is likely to be here in the next week or two, and the peak in hospitalisation and intensive care is likely to be with us in October,” Ms Berejiklian said.

NSW’s Covid plan as ‘peak in cases’ loom

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly warned citizens the state’s Covid situation will get worse before it gets better – and we’ll find out just how bad that will be this week.

Ms Berejiklian is set to release modelling in the days ahead which will reveal just how dire the Covid crisis will be in October, which experts believe will be the toughest period since the pandemic began.

“All the modelling indicates to us that the peak is likely to be here in the next week or two, and the peak in hospitalisation and intensive care is likely to be with us in October,” Ms Berejiklian said.

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“I will present the modelling this week which will include not only what is foreshadowed to be a peak in cases but also the peak in hospitalisation, the peak in intensive care. They are relevant factors.”

Lockdown enters 11 weeks

Covid-weary Greater Sydney residents are waking to their eleventh week in lockdown, as the current restrictions drag on.

The city first entered lockdown back in June.

Since then, it has been extended multiple times, with a string of new rules announced.

On Sunday, NSW recorded 1485 new cases and three deaths.

450k Pfizer doses land in Sydney

An extra 450,000 Pfizer doses have landed in Sydney overnight thanks to a dose swap deal with the UK.

Australia has secured an additional 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in a swap with the United Kingdom, as the country works towards reaching its 70 per cent inoculation rate in order to move into the next phase of the national COVID-19 plan. Picture: James D. Morgan/Getty Images
Australia has secured an additional 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in a swap with the United Kingdom, as the country works towards reaching its 70 per cent inoculation rate in order to move into the next phase of the national COVID-19 plan. Picture: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

The jabs came to Australia from London via two flights, with the first flight carrying 164,970 doses while a second carried 295,500.

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Cops under fire for office ‘party’

Mount Druitt Police Area Command has been cleared of wrongdoing over a staff Wear it Purple Day party on August 27.

Photos taken at the event – which took place in the hotspot LGA of Blacktown in Sydney’s west – show a large group of staff members crowding together for a picture, with one unmasked.

Mount Druitt Police Area Command celebrate Wear it Purple Day.
Mount Druitt Police Area Command celebrate Wear it Purple Day.

The alarming photos were shared by The Daily Telegraph, sparking an internal investigation – however, the publication now reports there will be no fines or penalties issued, as “no breaches of the Public Health Order were detected”.

Bunnings stores reopen

From today, 23 Bunnings stores in Greater Sydney will reopen to retail customers after closing for several weeks due to the Covid crisis.

The reopened stores include Alexandria, Artarmon, Ashfield, Balgowlah, Belrose, Caringbah, Castle Hill, Chatswood, Dural, Gladesville, Gordon, Gregory Hills, Kirrawee, McGraths Hill, Narellan, Narrabeen, North Penrith, Penrith, Randwick, Rose Bay, Rouse Hill, Thornleigh and Warringah Mall.

Stores in LGAs of concern will remain open for trade customers only.

Proof we’re all over lockdown

The public’s patience with ongoing lockdowns is now wearing thing, with a news.com.au poll revealing a staggering 66 per cent of us want lockdowns to end today.

A further 17 per cent believe they should end once we hit an 80 per cent vaccination rate, followed by 11 per cent who will be comfortable relaxing the rules at 70 per cent.

Just six per cent say lockdowns should lift one a vaccine for under 12s is approved.

Vaccine supply crisis over

Lieutenant general John Frewen, Australia’s Covid-19 task force commander, has told ABC News Breakfast the nation’s vaccine supply nightmare is now over thanks to a string of deals with other nations which will see millions of Pfizer doses arrive this month.

He said it should now be relatively quick and easy to book an appointment, and that the big challenge now was getting enough Aussies to come forward.

“This will be twice the mRNA we’re looking to have this month. Around about the level we were hoping for October,” ” he said this morning.

“And we also have a million doses of Moderna turning up in a week or so. So this is going to be great news. It means that there will be plenty of mRNA vaccines. We’re bringing on additional points of presence.

“Supply isn’t the great challenge now. It really is about people coming forward and I really encourage everybody who hasn’t done so to get a booking and get vaccinated.”

He said the new doses would be distributed on a per capita basis.

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