NSW recorded 580 new Covid-19 cases and 11 deaths with the source of the new Delta strain revealed as the state hit its 90 per cent first dose milestone.
Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the strain had originated from a returned traveller and that health officials were still investigating how it spread into the community.
‘We’ve detected a genome of the Delta strain which is different from that that was previously transmitting in our community,’ Dr Chant said during a press conference on Saturday.
‘We’ve linked that back to a person who returned from overseas but the exact mechanism of how that strain emerged and got into the community in western Sydney is still under investigation.’
The new variant was found in eight of the new cases that were announced on Friday. It was revealed seven of those cases were from the same family in western Sydney.
The state is set to surpass another Covid-19 vaccination milestone, all but guaranteeing the state becomes one of the most vaccinated jurisdictions on the planet
The state on Wednesday achieved 70 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage of those aged over 16, clearing the way for restrictions to ease as planned on Monday
Dr Chant reassured residents that the variant was no more infectious than the original Delta strain.
‘I want to reassure you that there’s nothing about this Delta strain from looking at the genomics that suggested it’s any more transmissible .. going to cause illness or any other issues, additional to the current Delta strain,’ she said.
The state surpassed another Covid-19 vaccination milestone, all but guaranteeing NSW becomes one of the most vaccinated jurisdictions on the planet.
The state on Wednesday achieved 70 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage of those aged over 16, clearing the way for restrictions to ease as planned on Monday.
On Saturday, premier Dominic Perrottet revealed the state was ‘close’ to hitting the next big milestone and reaching 90 per cent first dose. The figure was later confirmed to have passed the target and it is now sitting at 90.14 per cent.
‘We have the highest vaccination rate in the country and importantly we’re coming close on that first-dose mark to 90 per cent,’ Mr Perrottet said.
Of the 11 new deaths, one person was aged in their 50s, one in their 60s, four in their 70s, two in their 80s and three in their 90s.
Four were not vaccinated, another four had their first dose and three were fully vaccinated.
The NSW outbreak has shown promising signs that it is continuing to shrink with daily Covid-19 cases slowly dipping. The 580 new cases announced on Saturday were drastically less than the 646 reported on Friday.
Mr Perrottet warned that case numbers would rise once the state began to reopen.
‘We know that as we open up, case numbers will increase,’ he said.
‘But what has been key to keeping people safe is our high vaccination rate. We have the highest vaccination rate in the country.
‘But I know there’s a sense of excitement … I just ask people over the course of the weekend, follow the rules that are in place.’
From Monday, a swathe of restrictions will lift for fully vaccinated people across the state (pictured Sydneysiders work out outdoors during lockdown
Dr Chant said it would be the ‘responsibility’ of residents to make their own health decisions.
‘Individuals need to make their own decisions as we work through this, it takes two to three weeks after the second dose for immunity to kick in so I would ask that people are a little bit cautious about going out and about when they’re in that period,’ she said.
‘Everyone, as we move to live with COVID, has to also adhere to their personal responsibility around vaccination and physical distancing, not going out and about when you’ve got symptoms of COVID, this is very much a shared responsibility.’
Deputy premier Paul Toole took aim at Victoria after the state announced it would mandate face masks for school children.
‘I don’t really see the point of that – it’s really going to be constricting those children in that state,’ he told Sky News.
‘It’s a crazy decision and I don’t think there’s health advice that could actually support that decision that is being made. It’s ludicrous at the end of the day.’
Years 3 to 6 school children will be required to wear the face coverings as students prepare to head back to the classrooms.
Mr Toole, who has worked as a teacher, said there would be no such incentive in NSW.
Shops and hospitality venues can reopen and the five-kilometre from home travel limit will be scrapped
Dr Chant said it would be the ‘responsibility’ of residents to make their own health decisions
New variant of Delta explained
Professor Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, said it was possible the new Delta strain evolved within NSW or that it was brought in from a returning international traveller.
‘There’s nothing to suggest it’s any better or worse, it might be that there’s variation amongst the Delta variant,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘There may be some differences in the Delta variant to have some not quite as bad strains and some that are more bad.
‘This could have possibly evolved in Sydney but it may not compete with the other Delta strain we’ve seen already.’
Professor Bennett explained that every time the virus passed through a human there were slight changes and ‘chance mutations’ in the particles, meaning the new version of the virus could have originated in Australia.
These mutations can allow the virus to become more infectious and that variant becomes the new dominant strain.
‘We’re getting the right balance here in NSW,’ he said. ‘You know, we’ve got kids that are going back to school on the 18th, we have brought them forward by a week so they will all be back on the 25th of October.
‘Having homeschooling and online teaching, it’s very difficult. And I think that (school) is the best place for our kids to be.’
Mr Perrottet on Friday said NSW was proudly leading the country when it comes to vaccination, and a return to COVID-normal.
‘We can really be, in our state, in a situation where we have the highest vaccination rate in the world,’ he told 2GB.
From Monday, a swathe of restrictions will lift for fully vaccinated people across the state.
Ten adult visitors will be allowed in homes, 30 people will be permitted to gather outdoors, and 100 guests can congregate at weddings and funerals.
Shops and hospitality venues can reopen and the five-kilometre from home travel limit will be scrapped.
But with NSW the first Australian state to reach 70 per cent vaccination, NSW is also going to be the first to meet some challenges, the premier said.
The NSW outbreak has shown promising signs that it is continuing to shrink with daily Covid-19 cases slowly dipping
The United Workers’ Union, which represents many frontline and public-facing workers, is concerned members checking vaccination status could be put in unsafe situations.
Adding to their worry is that the integrated Service NSW vaccine certificate or passport app is not yet ready.
Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association of NSW said changes to the state’s plan to emerge from lockdown could overwhelm the hospital system and burn out healthcare workers.
The new premier said he knew easing restrictions was ‘going to be difficult’, but asked for patience as ‘we learn as we go ahead’.
‘This is not going to be complete smooth sailing because no one else has gone down this path,’ he told 2GB.
‘We can’t let perfection be the enemy of the good here.
‘Everyone just needs to treat everyone with kindness and respect.’
There were 646 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths, reported in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday.
More to come
Revised roadmap to freedom: All the changes for fully vaccinated NSW residents after hitting 70% jab target
Former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s freedom plan will kick off after the state hits 70 per cent of adults double dosed
Gatherings in the home and public spaces
· Up to ten visitors will be allowed in a home where all adults are vaccinated (not including children 12 and under).
· Up to 30 people can gather in outdoor settings.
Venues including hospitality, retail stores and gyms
· Hospitality venues can reopen subject to one person per 4sqm inside and one person per 2sqm outside, with standing while drinking permitted outside.
· Retail stores can reopen under the one person per 4sqm rule (unvaccinated people will continue to only be able to access critical retail).
· Personal services such as hairdressers and nail salons can open with one person per 4sqm, capped at five clients per premises.
· Gyms and indoor recreation facilities can open under the one person per 4sqm rule and can offer classes for up to 20 people.
· Sporting facilities including swimming pools can reopen.
Stadiums, theatres and major outdoor recreation facilities
· Major recreation outdoor facilities including stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos can reopen with one person per 4sqm, capped at 5,000 people.
· Up to 500 people can attend ticketed and seated outdoor events.
· Indoor entertainment and information facilities including cinemas, theatres, music halls, museums and galleries can reopen with one person per 4sqm or 75 per cent fixed seated capacity.
· Indoor swimming pools open for lessons, squad training, lap swimming and rehab activities only
Weddings, funerals and places of worship
· Up to 100 guests can attend weddings, with dancing permitted and eating and drinking only while seated.
· Up to 100 guests can attend funerals, with eating and drinking while seated.
· For those not fully vaccinated lower caps of 5 and ten apply for weddings and funerals.
· Churches and places of worship to open subject to one person per 4sqm rule, with performers exempt from ban on singing.
· Ten person cap on choirs in places of worship and at religious services, with all performers to be fully vaccinated
· The 5km radius will be dropped but Sydneysiders can only travel within greater Sydney – including the Central Coast, Wollongong and Blue Mountains.
· Caravan parks and camping grounds can open.
· Carpooling will be permitted.
Non-vaccinated young people aged under 16 will be able to access all outdoor settings but will only be able to visit indoor venues with members of their household.
Employers must continue to allow employees to work from home if the employee is able to do so.
There will be revised guidance on isolation for close and casual contacts who are fully vaccinated, with details to be provided closer to the reopening date.
· Masks will remain mandatory for all indoor public venues, including public transport, front-of-house hospitality, retail and business premises, on planes and at airports.
· Only hospitality staff will be required to wear a mask when outdoors.
· Children aged under 12 will not need to wear a mask indoors.
Covid-19 Australia: NSW records 580 new cases as state hits 90 per cent first jab milestone