Covid cases rise amid confusion over NSW travel rules

·5-min read
  • Deputy premier corrects regional travel advice

  • NSW records 646 new Covid cases, 11 deaths

  • New Delta strain found in eight new cases

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole has attempted to clear up confusion over incorrect advice Sydneysiders can travel to regions for day trips as of Monday.

That privilege will only be forthcoming once NSW reaches 80 per cent of people aged 16 and over being fully vaccinated. The 80 per cent target is expected to be reached a couple of weeks later.

Mr Toole's office initially told ABC on Thursday that Sydneysiders could once again enjoy travelling across the state when Covid restrictions ease next week following 70 per cent double-dose vaccinations.

The deputy premier then had to step in to correct that advice.

"It's a little bit grey at the moment where people think they can do day trips," he told RN Breakfast during a radio interview on Friday morning. 

"It will be cleared up today in black and white, that you can't go from Greater Sydney into the regions," 

People are seen in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Saturday, September 11, 2021. Source: AAP
NSW announced on Friday an increase of 646 new Covid cases and 11 more deaths. Source: AAP

"People in Greater Sydney will be able to travel across the Greater Sydney region but they are not to have day trips, or come into regional NSW.

"The same with regional communities: you can go from regional area to another but not into Greater Sydney."

Regional leaders were concerned by the mixed messaging with fears Covid could run rampant given the lower vaccination rates in their areas.

People living in regional areas outside of Greater Sydney, the BlueMountains, Wollongong, Shellharbour and the Central Coast will be able to return to work from Monday even if they’ve only had one jab, the ABC reports.

Mr Toole said the move reflects the difficulty of vaccine access in rural areas. Workers will have to be fully vaccinated by November 1.

646 new Covid cases, 11 deaths

The clarification comes as NSW announced on Friday an increase of 646 new Covid cases and 11 more deaths.

There have now been 414 Covid-19 deaths since the start of the outbreak in June, including nine men and two women in the last 24 hours.

Some 856 people are in NSW hospitals with Covid-19 with 170 of them in intensive care and 75 on ventilators.

Of the new cases, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said eight have a new strain of Delta that does not match the current genome sequence circulating in Sydney.

She said seven of the new infections are from the same household and an investigation is underway into the source. 

"There's no indication that this new strain presents any differences regarding transmission or vaccine effectiveness or severity," Dr Chant said.

A supplied undated image obtained Friday, August 13, 2021 shows a NSW Police roadblock in Lithgow. Source: AAP
People will not be able to travel outside Greater Sydney until 80 per cent double-dose vaccination is reached. Source: AAP

The Australian Medical Association of NSW has said changes to the state's plan to emerge from lockdown could overwhelm the hospital system and burn out healthcare workers.

The NSW Doctors Reform Society questioned whether newly minted Premier Dominic Perrottet was listening to Dr Chant's advice.

But Katherine Gibney from the Doherty Institute says while Covid case numbers will go up as restrictions loosen, easing out of lockdown is inevitable.

"Hopefully with high vaccination rates we'll be protected against the more severe disease and those requiring hospitalisation and ICU but we are expecting these to increase in the coming weeks and couple of months," Dr Gibney told ABC TV on Friday.

"It has to be done. We can't live in lockdown indefinitely."

Remote doctor fears surge in Covid cases

Dr Alam Yoosuf, a GP from Finley in the state’s southwest, told the ABC on Friday morning he is concerned about the pressure a surge of new cases could place on regional health care systems.

He said 80 per cent of people in his area have had one vaccine and 70 per cent have had two.

"It makes us a bit worried sometimes. Look, I don't think we have an option at the moment in the sense that we have to open up," Dr Yoosuf said.

"In some way we have to find a balance to live with the virus and we can live with the virus without the catastrophic effects and that is to get vaccinated.

"My concern is whether the regional context has been taken into planning as much as we should, or we would like to."

Dr Yoosuf said there is a gap between regional areas and big cities like Sydney, which have a "very good support system" including "proper testing, isolating and quarantine facilities and a strong public health unit."

He said he is expecting to see an increase in Covid cases when people are allowed to travel around the state.

"I think certainly there is going to be more Covid cases," he said.

"Around where I live is closer to Melbourne than Sydney, so once the states are open, if Melbourne is opening up, then we will see more cases around where I live, but if you look at Far Western New South Wales, if Sydney is opening up, it is impossible to expect that there won't be cases."

With AAP

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