Australia’s Covid Epicenter Sees Another Day of Record Cases
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported a record 1,533 new daily coronavirus cases, with the state’s creaking health system braced for a peak in hospitalizations in October.
The number of people in the state being treated for the virus in hospital rose above 1,000 for the first time and is expected to climb in the coming weeks. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Friday she would outline a plan next week on how the health system would handle the surge.
The state’s ambulance service is making contingency plans to draft in police and firefighters to drive ambulances to help deal with increasing patient numbers, Brad Hazzard, the state’s health minister, said at a news conference Saturday. “I don’t think that’s been finalized yet, but that’s certainly a plan, and I support that plan.” Friday had been the second busiest day for the ambulance service in the state’s history, he said.
The record cases come even as the Greater Sydney area has been in lockdown since late June. Restrictions are also in place in Victoria state, which recorded 190 new cases, easing from 209 the previous day. Victoria on Saturday announced a A$2.3 billion ($1.7 billion) support package for small and medium sized businesses affected by the lockdown, jointly funded with the national government.
Queensland, which remains lockdown-free and has closed its border to states to the south with higher infection rates, reported one locally-acquired case -- a close contact of a truck driver who acquired the virus in New South Wales. New restrictions were not necessary at this stage although the next 24 to 48 hours would be critical to monitor for signs of further spread, state health minister Yvette D’Ath said at a news conference.
Australia has accelerated its vaccine roll-out as it grapples with the delta outbreak in southeast states, with over 60% of the population now having received their first dose. The government on Friday said it had secured 4 million Pfizer Inc. shots in a swap arrangement with the U.K. government. Meanwhile, the country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration on Saturday approved the use of the Moderna Inc. vaccine in children aged 12 and above.
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