The New South Wales health minister, Brad Hazzard, has rounded on interstate leaders for a lack of support, after recording a new daily record of 163 coronavirus cases.
The state’s health authorities say the increase in case numbers – from a record 93,000 tests – is largely due to transmission among families. In one instance, 18 cases are linked to a single family gathering and authorities have now noticeably strengthened language to further discourage mixing between households. Hazzard said case numbers were particularly worrying in south-west and western Sydney.
Hazzard – speaking at a press conference held without NSW premier Gladys Berekjiklian – appeared to take a veiled swipe at the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, who on Friday called for a “ring of steel” to be placed around Sydney to limit broader transmission.
It is understood that at Friday’s national cabinet meeting, Berejiklian unsuccessfully asked other state leaders to donate additional Pfizer vaccine doses.
Hazzard said: “[The New South Wales chief health officer, Dr Kerry] Chant gave the crisis cabinet very strong advice that she considered what we were going through here in New South Wales is a national emergency. By that, what she was really saying was we need the help that other states and territories could possibly give us.
“I want to remind those other states and territories that, last time I looked, we were a Commonwealth – we worked together, and it disturbs me [that] all we’ve ever done to work together has just seemingly been cast aside.”
Hazzard compared the Covid outbreak to the 2019-20 bushfire emergency and said NSW had sent emergency and health workers to Victoria to assist.
“They really did feel that they had risked their lives in going down there, but that was what they were prepared to do to support our friends in Victoria, our fellow Australians in Victoria.
“I just want to emphasise that, from my point of view, it is with disappointment that I heard some of the responses from leaders from other states. I can’t quite see the difference between beating back fires and beating back and addressing the problems of floods, and beating back this Covid virus that could actually, if it gets worse here in NSW, could actually create massive problems for the whole country.”
Hazzard said NSW needed additional Pfizer vaccine doses and called on other state leaders to reflect on that “they don’t have such a great need at the present time”.
He said he was unaware of reports on Saturday that the federal government would divert emergency stockpile vaccines to Greater Sydney.
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“I’ve seen nothing in writing, if that has happened,” Hazzard said. “If we can do the same and get vaccine from some other source, we would, but unfortunately the world is not that simple.
“I have no idea how much, if any, are in our national stockpile. I simply don’t know that. I would like to know.
“We have a very young population in south-west and western Sydney and, based on the advice that the federal government have given, after they took advice from their medical experts, there are many people in those areas at this stage that are really in need of Pfizer. We need them to have the Pfizer. I would ask again for that to be considered.”
There are 139 people with Covid admitted to hospital in NSW, with 37 in intensive care and 17 who require ventilation. Of those in hospital, 55 are aged under 55 and 38 under 35.
Hazzard said the large number of tests was pleasing, but that the record case numbers was “not so good news”.
“What we see is transmission particularly as a result of family members getting together when they just should not be getting together.”
The state government has placed further restrictions on the movement of workers outside the Cumberland and Blacktown local government areas.
The NSW deputy chief health officer, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said 18 cases appeared linked to a a family event in Pendle Hill.
“It is an example of how families coming together, even in tragic times, can actually, when you are naturally grieving, can be a risk where Covid can easily take hold and spread among family members and then out to other households and further afield,” he said. “We are working very closely with the community and community leaders to try to make sure that all of those family members are tested and isolated.”
Hazzard said that “in the absence of the vaccine” restricting mixing between households was the only thing that would halt the spread of the virus.
“We are a very multicultural society in south-west and western Sydney and it is one of the joys of this nation that we are a proud multicultural nation, but sometimes people who have come from overseas perhaps have suffered at the hands of other governments and perhaps getting the messages through is challenging.
“So, we need to find ways to keep working at that and get the messages through. That is certainly what our government has been talking to a lot of the community leaders about. So my focus is not on increased penalties, it is about just making sure that people understand that the most dangerous thing you can do in a pandemic is to be near another human being.
“Now, we all need to do that. That is an essential human need. But we also have to recognise that this virus can only get from one person to another when we’re relatively close to each other.”