NSW has reported 1,035 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours – its highest daily COVID-19 tally yet.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the state’s west and far-west expanded by 46 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday.
A further two deaths have been recorded, bringing the total number of fatalities in the current outbreak to 83.
The deaths included a woman in her 70s, who died at Nepean Hospital, and a woman in her 80s, who died at Westmead Hospital.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the deaths are tragic.
“It’s a terrible situation. To have any loved one pass away at any time is obviously challenging, but in this situation many of us are feeling it even more.”
The pressure on the hospital system is growing with 778 COVID-19 patients, 125 of them in intensive care and 52 needing ventilation.
Dr Jeremy McAnulty said one of those in the ICU is a health worker at Westmead Hospital who had been vaccinated.
“It stresses the importance of the vaccine is very effective against this severe disease but is not 100 per cent.
“(But we need) all of us to be vaccinated as soon as we can (to reduce virus transmission)…please help protect our frontline workers.”
‘Ambulances are not taxis’
NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan urged people to not make unnecessary calls for ambulances.
He said yesterday alone, 450 calls were received and that the volume of calls in the past three days rivalled the busiest period of New Year’s Eve.
“We are seeing impacts on our ability to respond to the community,” he said.
“When we receive calls that do not require an ambulance immediately, it can have dire consequences. I have been advised this week that we had a 25-minute response to an 18-year-old cardiac arrest. This is devastating. Wherever possible we need to be avoiding this.”
He urged people to help paramedics by getting vaccinated.
Mr Hazzard urged people to be mindful of the pressures on ambulance services.
“Ambulances are not taxis,” he said, after Mr Morgan revealed people had called for an ambulance to take food to people’s houses and for transport to vaccination centres.
COVID-19 rules eased for weddings
Mr Hazzard said weddings can take place with five people in attendance – not including those people who are necessary to run the event.
Wedding receptions are not allowed.
“The purpose is to allow people to get married, but sensibly.”
He said at this stage there won’t be a health order requirement for wedding guests to be fully vaccinated.
“Others may want far bigger weddings,” Mr Hazzard acknowledged. “I think the short answer is we cannot allow it at the present time because we have had circumstances where weddings have actually been massive super-spreader events.”
A drop in testing, more exposure venues and a slip in lockdown compliance in western NSW has created perfect conditions for outbreaks hundreds strong to crop up in the region’s cities, a local health official warns.
Only 3,700 people were tested across the western NSW region on Thursday.
Also worrying health authorities is the growing cluster in the small, remote, predominantly Indigenous town of Wilcannia, where one in 15 people have now caught the virus.
Meanwhile, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the state government is against moving the Queensland border checkpoint south to the Tweed River.
The Queensland border remains closed to people from NSW and Victoria who do not have exemptions.
Mr Barilaro said in a statement released on Saturday that border communities such as Mungindi need to be able to access healthcare and medical supplies.
“I want this resolved as soon as possible. I’m prepared to roll up my sleeves and get this sorted this weekend,” he said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday announced a long-awaited plan to begin returning NSW students to school.
Kindergarten and year one children will return on October 25, years two, six and 11 go back from November 1, and remaining year groups a week later.
HSC exams for year 12 students will be pushed back to November 9, and all people working on school campuses must be vaccinated by November 8.
NSW Health late on Friday announced that workers living in areas of concern need to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by September 6 in order to be authorised to work outside their area of concern.
Care workers who live or work in areas of concern must also have had at least one dose of a vaccine by September 6 in order to attend work.
Workers aged under 16 will be exempt from the vaccine requirement.
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