Australia

Gladys Berejiklian says NSW COVID-19 outbreak a ‘national emergency’ as 136 new local cases recorded

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she has already made requests to the federal government for more Pfizer vaccine supplies to be redirected to regions of Sydney with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, southwestern and western Sydney. 

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant declared a “national emergency” after a surge in new cases – 136 infections in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, with 53 infectious in the community. 

Ms Berejiklian and Dr Chant said the national vaccine strategy would need to be refocused to encourage under 40s to have the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Our request has gone to officials and it involves clear messaging about AstraZeneca to make sure we utilise all of the supplies that we haven’t,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Clearly, the goalposts have changed and we are in the middle of a serious outbreak and the risk of dying from COVID is much higher than having an adverse effect (from the AstraZeneca vaccine).”

Restrictions extended to Cumberland and Blacktown

Ms Berejiklian said the rise in case numbers particularly in southwestern and western Sydney, means restrictions will be extended to cover the local government areas of Cumberland and Blacktown.

“Workers are not being allowed to leave those communities unless the health and emergency workers were on the authorised list of workers.”

“Dr Chant and her team advised us that the situation that exists now in New South Wales, namely around south-western and now western Sydney suburbs, is regarded as a national emergency. For that purpose and for that reason the NSW government will be taking action in relation to that,” she said. 

Ms Berejiklian said she supported Ms Chant’s declaration of a “national emergency” and a shift to encouraging those under 40 to have the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“When Dr Chant advised the New South Wales government this morning that in her view it was a national emergency, that means we have to discuss the national strategy for the vaccination rollout, including the advice provided (on use of AstraZeneca for under 40s).”

“We need all hands on deck in terms of refocusing the national vaccine strategy. In some parts of Australia, there are zero cases.”

She urged those over 40 to have the AstraZeneca vaccine, adding that she had taken it herself.

“Please know that we have offered AstraZeneca in our (state mass vaccination) hubs to over 40s… There is lots of AstraZeneca available, so if you’re over 40 there is no reason today why you should not be getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

The advisory panel on vaccines, ATAGI, recently updated its advice, saying those Australians under 40 in areas with high case numbers should consider taking AstraZeneca, although the official advice is that AstraZeneca should be used for those aged 60 and over.  

Ms Berejiklian says she will make a request at today’s national cabinet meeting for more Pfizer vaccine supply for Sydney.

“What we have done, as a government, is refocus our efforts in distributing vaccines in southwest Sydney.

“We have a micro plan for how we will get not only more doses of AstraZeneca in arms, but we also have to acknowledge that that is a very young population in those communities, and we need at least more first doses of Pfizer.”

Pharmacies, businesses part of ramped up rollout effort

Ms Berejiklian said pharmacies in southwestern Sydney and western Sydney are being deployed and arrangements are being made to use business premises for on-site vaccinations.

“We have to get those first jabs in arms as quickly as possible.”

She said the focus is on getting the first dose for the younger demographic – many of them essential workers – in southwestern Sydney and western Sydney.

“We also have to acknowledge there is a much younger population in those affected communities and we also need to refocus the national vaccination to getting at least the first jab of Pfizer in some of those demographic cohorts to prevent the spread.”

Ms Chant says AstraZeneca needs to be strongly considered by those under 40.

“We need to correct the mythology about AstraZeneca. And in the context of the Delta threat, I just cannot understand why people would not be taking the opportunity to go out and get AstraZeneca in droves.”

“Anyone under 40, consider it (AstraZeneca).”

She said state clinics would still be using Pfizer vaccines for those under 40, and that the use of AstraZeneca for under 40s would be an individual risk-benefit assessment for patients to consider with advice from their GP. 

“I would also want to reach out to those GPs to understand the hesitancy, and the particular circumstances why they are concerned about giving out AstraZeneca, noting that this is really about a risk-benefit discussion for patients.

“A patient’s autonomy should be respected.”

She added with the refocus on getting more first shots of Pfizer for those in southwestern and western Sydney, there could be cancelled vaccination bookings for second doses for some people. 

“We may have to make decisions to delay the Pfizer interval to six weeks, you can have it out to six weeks to actually bring forward doses (for others).

“Those changes will impact on individuals, it may be that we need to cancel your bookings. But we have to make these hard choices, if we are going to see these numbers stabilise first and then decline.”

Virus fragments detected in Byron Bay

NSW Health is urging residents with COVID-19 symptoms in Byron Bay on the far north coast of NSW to get tested, after virus fragments were found in wastewater in the region. 

The sewage treatment plant covers an area with 19,000 residents. 

“There are no known cases in this area, which is of great concern,” NSW Health said in a statement. 

No new cases have been reported in regional NSW where three local government areas are under a seven-day lockdown, scheduled to end on 28 July at 12:01am. 

Orange, Blayney and Cabonne are currently on day three of the lockdown, triggered by a visit last week from a trucker driver who tested postive for COVID-19. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the upward trend of daily COVID-19 infections means the lockdown is likely to be extended beyond the current fortnight.

“There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage. It is fairly apparent that we will not be close to zero next Friday,” she said. 

A review will be conducted next week for the plan into August and beyond. 

One death has also been recorded involving a 89-year-old male, with the details to be released later today. 

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