NSW has recorded 319 new local COVID-19 cases and five deaths, as the Armidale local government area prepares to go into lockdown.
Twenty-eight lives have now been lost in the current outbreak after five people over the age of 60 died on Friday.
Three of those were linked to an outbreak on a ward in Liverpool Hospital.
“None of these five deaths, people who died, were vaccinated,” NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said on Saturday.
“We extend our sincere sympathies to their loved ones.”
The source of infection for 194 new cases is still under investigation, and at least 83 cases were infectious in the community for either whole or part of their incubation period.
There are 56 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, with 23 ventilated.
Meanwhile, the Armidale local government area in regional NSW will go into a seven-day lockdown from 5pm on Saturday, after two cases were reported.
One of was a woman who had recently travelled to Newcastle and the other is one of her household contacts.
‘Stay home and get vaccinated’
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged people in the Armidale LGA to stay at home, adding that compliance is key.
The stay-at-home order will apply to all people in the council area since 31 July.
“We have the toughest lockdown in the country at the present time. What we have happening right now is some people are not complying,” he said.
“Just stay at home – that is the circuit breaker. Stay at home and get vaccinated.”
It comes after cases spread north to Newcastle earlier in the week, also prompting a seven-day lockdown.
Vouchers for vaccinations considered
Mr Hazzard said he was pleased by what is now a five per cent increase each week in vaccinations.
Nearly 50 per cent of the adult population in the state has received one dose of the vaccine. Twenty-two per cent are fully vaccinated.
“That is our freedom pass. Vaccination is our freedom pass,” he said.
“Where we go with this situation is in the hands of the community.”
He said incentives, such as local council providing vouchers, are being considered.
“The government is discussing and working with industries to look at options that would encourage some sections of the community to have the vaccination,” he said.
But I think the broad evidence from overseas is you tend to have at least the first 40 or 50 per cent pretty keen and it is harder to get the next 40 per cent or 50 per cent.”
Praise for Fairfield
The health minister praised Fairfield residents for their compliance with testing and lockdown restrictions, saying case numbers have decreased in the area.
“Numbers have come down dramatically but don’t give up and don’t stop because we need you to keep staying home and keep staying in your own household,” he said.
Dr McAnulty said health officials were concerned that 23 new cases had been recorded in Penrith.
“We are concerned, we are seeing a new front in the Penrith area, it seems that the epidemic seems to have marched north and a little west over the past few weeks,” he said.
“Often we are seeing large families and households, protect your family, and protect the rest of your community, please come forward for testing.”
‘Young people not invincible’
Of the 56 cases in intensive care, four are in their 20s, four of their 30s, three are in their 40s, 19 in their 50s, eight in their 60s, 14 in the 70s, and four in their 80s.
Dr McAnulty said more younger people were requiring hospitalisation.
“What we do know is that in this situation where we have a number of people in intensive care, a proportion of those who are ventilated, and we have seen that young people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, who are very sick in intensive care and require ventilation,” he said.
Mr Hazzard urged young people to also consider the long-term impact of having COVID-19, what is being described as long-haul COVID.
“I know when you’re young, you think you’re immortal, but you’re not,” he said.
“You could end up with something called long COVID, which the scientists are not even sure about yet as to what it is going to do to you.
“But it may debilitate you for many, many months.”