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New South Wales has reported 935 new cases of Covid-19, the lowest daily caseload recorded in more than three weeks, with premier Gladys Berejiklian warning that, despite the falling infection numbers, hospitalisations and deaths are yet to peak.
Four more people have died of Covid in the state, including two unvaccinated men, one in their 80s and one in their 60s. The other two deaths, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 60s, had received one dose of Covid vaccine.
Before Monday, the last day where fewer than 1,000 daily cases were reported in NSW was in the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm on 26 August, when 882 cases were recorded.
Berejiklian, when asked if the peak of cases was behind us, said “we’re feeling more positive than we have in a couple of weeks but we’re not ready to call it”. She said if super-spreading events occurred, “we can easily go back to those 1,500 numbers”.
She sought to stress that “we can’t read too much into” the fact that case numbers appeared to have stabilised in recent weeks, because a predicted surge in hospital pressure was still likely to eventuate in October.
“I don’t want anyone to sit back and think the worst is behind us,” she said.
“I should note that even if case numbers go down, we should expect unfortunately that the number of people in intensive care and the number of people who lose their lives to go up because, as we’ve said consistently, because we have had a number of cases in the last few weeks, people ordinarily get very sick in the second week of the illness and sometimes stay very sick for a long time.
“That is why we need to continue to brace ourselves for October being the worst month for the number of people who pass away and the number of people who need intensive care. We should never lose sight of that … that is the likely scenario in October.’’
Berejiklian warned that, “once we start reopening, cases will go through the roof but it won’t matter as much because people will be vaccinated”, stressing vaccination rates were key to minimising the extent to which hospitals would be overwhelmed. Regardless, she said she still expected hospitals to be “technically overwhelmed” in October, with the health system working “triple as hard” at that time.
On Monday, there were 1,207 people being treated for Covid in hospitals in NSW, with 236 in intensive care and 123 of those on ventilators. Thousands more Covid patients were receiving hospital-grade care in their homes, to avoid exposure.
Last Monday, there were 1,189 Covid patients in hospitals, with 222 people in intensive care and 94 on ventilators. Hospitalisations have only slightly increased over the past week, however, the turnover of patients is not made clear by NSW Health.
Single-dose vaccinations in NSW reached 82.2% on Monday, while 52.7% of the state is now fully vaccinated.
About 20% of 12- to 15-year-olds, who only became widely eligible for vaccines less than two weeks ago, have now had their first dose. This age cohort does not count towards the 70% double-dose vaccination roadmap tied to freedoms for fully vaccinated residents.
The chief health officer, Kerry Chant, announced that the regional area of Cowra will re-enter lockdown from 5pm on Monday, after a positive case – a nine-year-old boy – attended a school and other venues that are now exposure sites. The source of his infection was still under investigation.
Speaking about the fall in daily cases across the state, Chant cautioned residents against becoming complacent – specifically mentioning Greenacre, Guildford, Bankstown, Merrylands, Casula, Fairfield, Wollongong, the Central Coast, and Waterloo and Redfern in inner Sydney, to be vigilant for Covid symptoms.
“Whilst we are seeing some pleasing declines in some of the suburbs and clearly the numbers today reflect that, it is too soon for complacency,” she said.
Berejiklian was also asked about Victoria’s reopening plan, which is more restrictive in some settings at the same 70% double-dose milestone than the NSW plan. She stressed “there’s enormous flexibility” in national cabinet’s reopening agreement, which, she said, “is the beauty of the national plan”.
Monday was also the first day that restrictions for LGAs of concern were relaxed and brought into line with the rest of greater Sydney. Outdoor time limits in the areas have been scrapped and gathering freedoms for fully vaccinated residents expanded in line with the so-called “picnic rule”.
The Covid update was held alongside an announcement that Transurban had paid more than $11bn for the NSW government’s 49% stake in the Westconnex toll road.