Western Sydney could see 724 deaths but thousands saved by lockdown, modelling shows

New South Wales can expect to see 724 deaths in western Sydney alone by December as a result of the current Covid-19 outbreak, additional modelling from the Burnet Institute shows.

So far the latest Delta outbreak has caused 139 deaths statewide, most of which have been in patients from western Sydney. Now additional work by the Burnet Institute, released on Tuesday evening, shows that the 12 LGAs of concern where NSW’s Covid outbreak is concentrated are yet to see cases peak and they can expect many more deaths.

The modelling suggests there is a grim scenario ahead, but not as grim as if no steps had been taken.

Without a lockdown or any restrictions to contain Covid, there would have been 589,817 people infected with Covid and 5,808 deaths in the 12 LGAs of concern alone, the modelling states.

However, the Berejiklian government’s Sydney’s lockdown, combined with the original vaccine rollout, has prevented an estimated 488,020 infections and 4,830 deaths within the 12 LGAs, the Burnet Institute predicts, while an additional 530,000 Pfizer doses secured for Sydney are estimated to have averted a further 24,267 infections and 254 deaths.

The modelling predicts there will be a total of 724 deaths in the 12 LGAs of concern – Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Strathfield and some suburbs of Penrith.

Guardian analysis of the additional data suggests modellers predict at least an additional 585 Covid deaths to occur across NSW.

However, this figure is likely higher for several reasons, not only because the death prevention figures provided are limited to predictions about residents of the LGAs of concern, but also because many of the deaths so far recorded in the current outbreak have been people living outside of the LGAs.

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The Burnet Institute modelling released this week was based on data from 27 August, with cases having steadily increased since then. In its additional release on Tuesday evening, the Institute noted “it is recognised that the modelled estimates of daily diagnosis for the rest of greater Sydney (are) an underestimate of actual current daily diagnosis”.

Crucially, the modelling was based on current restrictions remaining in place, and does not factor in the promised relaxing of restrictions when NSW reaches 70% double dose vaccination some time in October.

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Despite the thousands of deaths Sydney’s lockdowns and vaccinations are predicted to have prevented, more than 700 deaths in western Sydney alone will be a sobering figure and does not take account of other outbreaks elsewhere in the state.

The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, was initially reluctant to release the modelling because she said “it changes almost daily” when new inputs such as more vaccine uptake, relaxing restrictions or failures in compliance are put into the model.

The NSW government initially released the Burnet modelling on Monday to show when the NSW hospital system would come under the most stress due to the Delta outbreak.

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It modelled the 12 LGAs of concern and also some outcomes for the state as a whole.

The modelling shows Sydney’s intensive care units are expected to become overwhelmed by November, with the government drawing up plans to place overflow ICU beds in operating theatres and abandon existing nurse to patient ratios by that time.

At the mid-September peak, cases are predicted to rise to between 1,100 and 2,000 a day across a seven-day average in the LGAs of concern in Sydney.

Around 80-85% of daily cases have been in the 12 LGAs, though lately there have been significant numbers of cases in western NSW.

A peak of 947 ICU patients is predicted at the beginning of November, for both Covid and non-Covid patients. This figure assumes 560 Covid patients in ICU, and a baseline figure of 387 non-Covid patients in ICUs across NSW.

But what had not been previously made public was the expected deaths. The latest release has for the first time revealed the likely death scenarios – at least for part of Sydney.

Burnet says lockdown restrictions and the initial rollout of vaccines cut the projected Covid death toll to 978 in the 12 LGAs of concern and the additional rollout of Pfizer provided by the commonwealth prevented another 254 deaths.

The worst of this outbreak is still to come, the Burnet modelling shows.

Across all of greater Sydney, the seven-day average is estimated to peak at 1,219-2,046 between 13-20 September.

Burnet did not provide statewide estimates of the number of infections.

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