New South Wales Covid numbers continue to soar, with a record 1,218 new cases and six deaths as pressure on the state’s hospital system reaches critical levels.
Sunday’s case numbers increased by almost 200 on the previous day, which was itself a new daily case record for any Australian jurisdiction throughout the pandemic.
And hospitalisations are surging too. There are now 813 Covid patients in hospitals across NSW – 35 more than Saturday. Currently 126 people are in intensive care, 54 of whom are on ventilators.
Of those in intensive care, 113 had not received any vaccine doses, while 12 had received one dose. One patient has been double vaccinated.
The six new deaths included four people who were not vaccinated. The other two people had received their first dose.
Two of those who died were men in their 80s, including one who caught Covid at Nepean hospital (the fifth death linked to that cluster), and another man linked to the Wyoming aged care home. Three were men in their 70s from south-west and western Sydney. A woman in her 80s from western Sydney also died.
Of NSW’s 1,218 new Covid cases, 25 were from western NSW, with 18 in Dubbo, three in Narromine and two in Bourke. In addition, there were also two new cases in Wilcannia.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said she was alarmed by the rising case numbers.
“I am alarmed by anyone who needs hospital care or is in intensive care,” she said.
“As we have seen out of everyone in intensive care, only one person is fully vaccinated. That is important to have in mind. The case numbers are always concerning when they are going up. We would love to see them come down but that is not the most relevant number for us.”
Berejiklian announced double dose vaccinations in the state had reached half of the 70% reopening target. She said “the most relevant number is how many people are vaccinated and how many are we keeping out of hospital and intensive care”.
“We have to come to terms with living with this virus,” she said. “The challenge for us remains having a manageable [number of] people in intensive care moving forward and that relies on all of us moving forward. When you get to 70% and 80% double-dose vaccination, that gives the community enormous protection against going to hospital which is why we are looking forward to providing freedoms.”
The premier also vowed there would be no further lockdowns across the state once an 80% vaccination target was reached.
And she again reiterated that residents will enjoy “a much fairer existence” once the 70% “magic” target is reached. As of Sunday, NSW had fully vaccinated 35% of its population.
“The point of getting to those vaccination milestones means you don’t have lockdowns in the future. It means you manage the disease. What it might mean is that from time to time you ask people to do things a bit differently, whether it is density in a venue, whether it is the amount of people you have at a major sporting event.
“So there will be opportunities for us to move levers up and down, but no way will we need a statewide lockdown once we get to 80% double dose. And that is the key number that we need to get to.”
There are Covid outbreaks at two prisons in Sydney, including 31 infections associated with Parklea correctional centre. The prison in Sydney’s north-west is under a strict lockdown.
The deputy chief health officer, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said health investigators believe the virus was introduced into Parklea prison by a member of the community, not a prisoner.
There are 23 prisons across NSW taking extra precautions related to the Parklea prisoner infections, because of potential exposure to the virus in inmates who were recently transferred to those other prisons from Parklea.
A Corrective Services NSW spokeswoman said some of those prisons have now been locked down.
Silverwater prison also recorded Covid cases, however McAnulty said he did not know exactly how many cases were linked to the facility.
Six staff from Bathurst correctional centre have tested positive since Thursday.
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Berejiklian was asked about a reported rise in child self-harm, which has increased by about 30% in the last year.
She said “it is concerning to see the mental anguish people are going through, especially young people”, and defended her approach to Covid as having “always tried to take a balanced approach”.
“Whenever you are in a situation with high levels of lack of vaccination and high case numbers you always worry about the amount of people going into hospital so public health is always your first priority but that has to be balanced against mental health issues and that is why I was keen to provide an incentive for our citizens once we got to that six million jabs.”
Berejiklian said that “from day one we have been criticised no matter what we do” and “we will keep making decisions in the best interest of our citizens”.
“I do not shy away from that and I will take any criticism levelled at the government because what we need to do is ensure a balance. I know what a stressful time this is for people. Those of us who have got means to cope with it find it difficult enough, let alone children and adolescents. Anything we can do to relieve the pressure on families, we will.”
McAnulty confirmed there had been “an increase in presentations, both acute and emergency presentations for people with self-harm”.
Berejiklian said she was disappointed after a Covid testing clinic in St Marys was damaged on Saturday night. It was reportedly vandalised with a message claiming Covid-19 was a hoax.
“Those people who think that Covid-19 is not serious or that we do not need to take the action we are taking are in the minority, fortunately,” she said.