International travellers entering Sydney, who are double-vaccinated and test negative for Covid, could be allowed to quarantine in their homes for a period of less than 14 days, under a draft plan being considered by the New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian.
Eased settings were likely to come into effect in October, with Berejiklian foreshadowing NSW’s quarantine system would begin a “transition” away from the traditional resource-heavy hotel quarantine model once double dose vaccinations reached 70% – predicted for the middle of October.
Quarantine settings would be further eased once the state reached 80% double dose vaccinations, with Berejiklian insisting “we will definitely be opening up Sydney airport to welcome home Australians” with less pressure on the quarantine system.
However, Berejiklian said health officials had been studying the home quarantine monitoring technology being trialled in South Australia, which relies on facial recognition checks to confirm isolation compliance.
While details for NSW’s home quarantine had not been finalised, Berejiklian said “it might come down to if you’re prepared to give up a little bit of privacy, you can then quarantine at home”.
“From 70% double dose to 80% double dose we definitely will be in transition with our quarantine system.
“The health experts will give us guidance on what the length should be. I know in some countries it’s as low as seven days. It might be when they land they take a quick test, and if it’s negative it might be a shorter time period if they’re double dosed. But in any event, we’re relying on the health advice.”
Berejiklian spoke about easing quarantine on Wednesday, as her state reported 1,480 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 and nine further deaths from the virus.
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A man in his 20s was among the deaths. The Guardian understands the man had significant underlying health conditions, including severe obesity. He contracted the virus inside his home in western Sydney, where he was housebound, and then had to be medically extracted and transferred to Nepean hospital where he died. He was unvaccinated.
An Indigenous man in his 60s from Dubbo also died. He had serious underlying health conditions that meant he had to be flown from Dubbo’s ICU for specialist care at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred hospital on Friday. He was the third Indigenous person to have died in NSW’s outbreak, and he was unvaccinated.
Seven of the nine people who died were unvaccinated, while one had received one dose and one man, a resident of the St George Aged Care facility in Bexley in his 90s, had been fully vaccinated.
There were now 1,136 Covid patients being treated in hospitals across NSW, with 194 in intensive care and 78 of those on ventilators. Of the 194 in ICU, 158 had not been vaccinated, while 28 have had one dose and eight were fully vaccinated. There were three children with Covid in ICU.
The future of the regional lockdown was set to be unveiled later in the week, however the deputy premier, John Barilaro, would not indicate if parts of the state with zero transmission, especially on the mid-north coast, would be likely to be let out of lockdown.
Regionally, there were 27 new cases in the west of the state, including 17 in Dubbo, six in Bourke and three in Bathurst. In the far west of the state, Wilcannia recorded seven new cases.
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Barilaro said he was concerned about transmission on the Central Coast, which had reported 15 new cases. He said transmission in the large, recently amalgamated LGA had involved construction workers from Sydney, and said vaccination rates in the area were not high enough.
Berejiklian said she was making “final touches” to the road map out of lockdown for the state, however she refused to answer questions about whether fully vaccinated people in the 12 LGAs of concern in Sydney would receive the same freedoms as fully vaccinated people elsewhere in the state once the 70% double-dose target is reached.
The premier said she hoped travel between NSW and Victoria would be possible by Christmas, and said she had greater confidence Victoria would be the first state to internally reopen to her state because it was “not too far behind NSW” in the race to achieve 80% double dose vaccination.”
Berejiklian was also asked about vaccine allocation to different states, after suggestions NSW had received a greater share, but did not directly address questions about slowing down NSW’s supply to make up for any potential disparities in supply.
“I remember being highly criticised for suggesting that along with Dr (Kerry) Chant that vaccination was the way out of this outbreak … Other states obviously haven’t had to go through what we have, and they’re obviously in a bit of catch-up mode,” Berejiklian said.
Meanwhile, the inner west and centre of Sydney are emerging as transmission concerns. The deputy chief health officer, Dr Marianne Gale, issued a plea for residents in Glebe, Waterloo, Redfern and Marrickville to come forward for testing.
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Of the 1,480 new cases recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday, there were 27 infections in the inner west and 64 in the City of Sydney LGA. There were 289 cases in Canterbury-Bankstown, 207 in Cumberland, 152 in Blacktown, 92 in Fairfield, 138 in Liverpool, 47 in Penrith, 40 in Parramatta, 34 in Campbelltown, 31 in Bayside, 25 in Georges River, 31 in Strathfield, 20 in Camden, 20 in Randwick, 24 in Wollongong and eight in Burwood.
The majority of new cases continued to be younger residents. Of the 1,480 new cases, 207 were aged nine or under, while 214 were aged between 10 and 19, 317 aged in their 20s, 264 aged in their 30s and 206 aged in their 40s.