The NSW health minister has denied that the state’s health system is close to capacity as the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care nears 100 and the state racked up another record 830 infections.
Brad Hazzard told reporters ICU capacity had quadrupled since last year to cope with the growing number of serious Covid cases, but he was not concerned about capacity.
NSW once again had a record-breaking day, with the source of 693 of the 830 cases still under investigation and only 67 so far confirmed to have been in isolation for their entire infectious period.
In Victoria, 65 new local cases were recorded, including at least 21 in Shepparton, as the state announced a vaccination blitz, while the ACT reported 19 new local cases.
The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, announced two measures designed to ramp up vaccination levels. The first will see the state government offer all state public service workers a half-day of paid leave to get each dose.
Foley confirmed this would be available to all full-time or part-time staff as well as regular or long term casuals.
The second measure is a vaccination blitz for residential aged care and disability workers at state-run facilities, giving them priority access to whichever vaccine they prefer.
This will last one week starting from Monday, with Foley concerned vaccination rates for aged care workers were still hovering around the 50% mark.
NSW also recorded three Covid deaths; a man in his 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s, none of them fully vaccinated. This brings the toll for the current outbreak to 71.
There are currently 94 Covid-19 patients in intensive care beds in NSW, with 31 on ventilators, but NSW Health said in a statement on Sunday that it currently manages about 500 intensive care unit beds, with a surge capacity of about 2,000 when required.
There were also enough ventilators for each intensive care bed – about 2,000.
Victorian health officials are investigating a link between a Covid-19 cluster in the regional city of Shepparton and a growing outbreak at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
The state’s Covid response deputy secretary, Kate Matson, believes a visitor to the hospital was infected by a Shepparton man who underwent surgery earlier this month.
At the time the Shepparton cluster had not surfaced, and the man wasn’t tested for Covid prior to surgery. The patient was also moving around in the general hospital population before testing positive, spending time in the intensive care and cardiac wards.
So far seven cases have been linked to the hospital: one reported on Saturday, three in Sunday’s numbers and another three that will be officially included in Monday’s count. As a result, the health minister confirmed pre-operative testing would be ratcheted up in the wake of the hospital cluster.
People walk in Yarraville in Melbourne’s inner west on Sunday amid Victoria’s statewide lockdown. Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP
Foley expected both the Shepparton cluster and the hospital outbreak to grow.
A case detected in a man from Mansfield has also been linked to the Shepparton cluster. Given this town is around 125kms away from the regional city, it has raised fears that the virus has spread throughout northern Victoria.
Fifty-five of Victoria’s cases were linked to current outbreaks and 10 remain under investigation.
The ACT is still in the midst of its own outbreak with 19 new Covid-19 cases reported in the nation’s capital.
Only two of these have yet to be linked to a known outbreak and the ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said only six of the new cases were infectious in the community.
Included in the figure is an outbreak totalling 14 cases in the disability care sector, with a significant number of support workers among them.
More broadly, Barr said the ACT remains vulnerable because of its geographic position surrounded by NSW.
“We are not the only Australian state or territory that faces risk from New South Wales but it would be defensible to say our risk is somewhat greater than most other Australian states and territories.”