NSW and ACT battle record Covid cases as Hazzard admits health system ‘stressed’

New South Wales has recorded 1,533 new locally acquired cases, breaking its own daily case record for the second consecutive day.

The state also recorded four deaths, including a man in his 60s who died at his home in western Sydney, a woman in her 80s who died at Fairfield hospital, a man in his 50s who died at Westmead hospital and a man in his 70s died at Liverpool hospital.

There are now more than 1,000 cases of Covid in hospital in NSW, 173 of whom are in intensive care, and 62 of which require ventilation. A total of 137 of the patients in intensive care are unvaccinated.

A majority of the cases were still based in Sydney’s west and south-west, but regional NSW continues to be of concern to authorities, with 38 cases recorded overnight coming from western NSW, a majority from Dubbo. Another nine cases were recorded in Wilcannia.

NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said authorities had detected virus fragments in sewage in places that do not have any positive cases, including Tamworth, Glen Innes and Port Stephens, Cooma and Kempsey.

“We have had a number of areas of concern identified through both where highest numbers of cases are occurring and also through positive sewage detections based on our ongoing sewage surveillance system of virus fragments,” he said.

“So we have seen fragments of the virus that causes Covid in several communities where we don’t have known cases, so we are really stressing that it is so important for people living in those communities to come forward for testing with even the mildest of symptoms.”

The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, urged people to continue to get vaccinated, with 72% of people over 16 years old already receiving a dose.

“Just shy of 40% are fully vaccinated,” he said. “I want to thank the community more broadly across NSW for getting out and being part of what is a great journey to beat the virus, to get vaccinated – it’s the way forward.”

Hazzard denied that the NSW Health system was under excessive pressure, saying the health system was “doing all it can” but also said Friday was the second busiest day in the state’s history for the NSW Ambulance service.

“It’s a sign of the stressed health system we are currently in, the world is in massive stress, the entire world, the NSW system is still doing far better than almost anywhere else in the world and we have a rising number of cases,” he said.

“But we had the commissioner for ambulance here last week or the week before and he was highlighting cases where people were using ambulances to get Band-Aids and other things.

“I would just say to everybody, if you are sick, of course, and you need emergency assistance, then of course you should dial 000.”

Hazzard also ruled out easing any restrictions, saying it was not “the perfect time” to be considering any changes to the public health orders.

“We are constantly asking [NSW Health] whether or not there are any more opportunities to give people back more steps to a more normal way of life,” he said.

“We will have to wait for her advice on that, but this stage obviously, while we are enthusiastic and keen to see more freedoms back, we do have to rely on the health advice.

“At the moment it is not the perfect time, perhaps, to be expecting too many changes because we are today at another very high level of cases.

“But hopefully in the near future we will be able to get some more positive advice from [NSW Health] and head down that path.”

It comes as the Australian Capital Territory recorded 32 new locally acquired cases, 24 of them linked to other cases.

Only eight of the cases were in isolation for their full infectious period and 19 were infectious while in the community.

Ten people have been hospitalised in the ACT, two of whom are in ICU and one ventilated.

The ACT chief minister, Andrew Barr, said the numbers were “not what we wanted today” but that half of the cases were household contacts.

“These headline numbers are not what we wanted today, however half of the cases are close household contacts,” he said. “And that is the experience of this virus, that if someone catches it, they are highly likely to infect all of their household close contacts who are not fully vaccinated.”

Although the new cases represented a new daily record during this most recent outbreak, Barr said there was some good news in the form or rising vaccination rates.

“We will hit the 70% first dose milestone over this weekend, and we are at 46% of the 16-plus population who are now fully vaccinated, noting the two to three-week lag for the vaccines to become fully effective.

“The trend that we are seeing is that we will get above 80% of our population aged 12 years and over vaccinated.”

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