New South Wales has recorded 1035 new local cases of Covid-19 – another new record for the state and for Australia since the pandemic began.

Two Covid-related deaths were also reported by NSW Health – a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s. The death toll in the current outbreak now stands at a total of 83.

There are currently 778 Covid-19 cases admitted to hospital in NSW, with 125 people in intensive care, 52 of whom require ventilation.

Since the Sydney outbreak began in mid-June, there have been 17,582 local cases reported.

The rapid rise in new Covid-19 cases overwhelming the contact tracing system has left NSW effectively “treading water”, with high vaccination rates now the only way out for the state, epidemiologist Professor Allan Saul has warned.

“The new interventions, the lockdowns, the travel restrictions, the closure of non-essential retail stores have compensated for the loss of contact tracing efficacy,” he told Weekend Sunrise. “We need something else on top of that stuff. I am hopeful that as vaccination levels, that will be the trigger, but it won’t happen quickly.”

After abandoning all hope of eliminating the virus in her state, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged residents to turn their attention away from the climbing infections and toward vaccination rates.

Accordingly, the government has quietly changed a key part of the daily Covid updates by no longer reporting the number of cases that are not linked to other cases – the mystery cases. NSW is also no longer reporting the number of cases that have been infectious while out in the community.

“With current case volumes, this data is not a meaningful representation of case investigations,” NSW Health said in a statement. “Updates on the outcomes of all case investigations are published in NSW Health’s Covid-19 surveillance reports available online.”

Instead, Berejiklian is emphasising the importance of the state’s growing vaccine coverage, where the eligible population is now 34.6 per cent fully vaccinated while 64.1 per cent have received their first dose.

Once the initial target of getting 70 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated is reached, the NSW government plans to loosen lockdown restrictions, and a plan is reportedly being considered to prohibit unvaccinated people from entering hospitality venues once that happens.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports discussions with industry groups are underway over whether to require hospitality staff and customers to prove they have received two Covid-19 shots when the state begins to reopen. The plan would include combining vaccine proof and QR code check-ins, industry insiders told the publication.

Yesterday, Berejiklian confirmed her government was working on a plan to allow businesses to reopen when the state reaches 70 per cent vaccination rate.

“I will confirm that the government has already started working on industry plans to make sure we start reopening at 70 per cent double dose,” she said. “We’ve made those plans very clear, it will be a very staged and safe way to go back but we are asking industry to work with us and it is no secret.”

Victoria

Victoria has recorded 64 new local cases of Covid-19, with 49 of those cases linked to known outbreaks. Of the new cases, only 36 were in quarantine throughout their infectious period.

With only 32.7 per cent of the eligible Victorian population fully vaccinated, Health Minister Martin Foley has been unable to rule out the possibility of the state remaining in lockdown until the 70 to 80 per cent targets set by national cabinet are reached.

The state’s sixth lockdown is due to end next Thursday, but it now seems certain to be extended again as infections continue to rise despite the tough restrictions.

Victoria recorded 79 new Covid cases on Friday and 80 the day before, the highest spike in daily infections since September 2 last year during the state’s deadly second wave.

At Friday’s press conference, the Health Minister was asked if the state was doomed to be in lockdown until vaccination rates reached 70 or 80 per cent.

“I don’t know about that but I know there will be public health measures as there have been for the last 18 months,” Foley responded. “All the Victorian community [needs] to follow the rules and make sure that we get out of the hard lockdown as quick as we can.”

Foley said lockdown decisions would be made on the most up-to-date advice, and with six days still to go, it was too early to make a call.

Victorians are living under some of the toughest restrictions implemented during the pandemic, and the government has admitted there are not many more rules it can implement to help halt rising infections.

Foley also refused to commit to a plan to reopen schools after the NSW government announced a plan to get kids back starting on October 25 despite significantly higher case numbers.

“We are very keen to reopen our schools as soon as possible … we have to make sure that when we do reopen schools it’s done safely,” he said.

“The government will have more to say about that, the one constraint holding us back at the moment is being able to nail that down is the issue of certainty of vaccination supply.”

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