Major warning that 'key problem' with NSW plan will see 'return to lockdowns'

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Top doctors have taken aim at the NSW freedom plan, pointing out a “key problem” that could overwhelm the health system and see restrictions return.

The Australian Medical Association said Sydney’s roadmap out of lockdown, announced by the NSW government yesterday, lacked sufficient detail and ignored dire medical warnings.

“NSW is right to ease restrictions slowly and to limit changes to people who are fully vaccinated. However, the key problem facing NSW is that it is looking to ease restrictions when case numbers are likely to be too high,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (right) and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant arrive to address media during a press conference in Sydney, Thursday, September 2, 2021. Source: AAP
Gladys Berejiklian reportedly overruled health officials, including chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant, who advised her to aim for 80-85 percent of full vaccination coverage before opening venues. Source: AAP

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday announced a further 1,405 locally acquired Covid-19 cases as well as five deaths.

Dr Khorshid fears easing restrictions when contact tracing systems are already under extreme pressure would lead to a massive surge in cases and risk letting Covid overrun hospitals, which are already stretched to the limit.

“NSW should look to achieving a higher vaccination rate in order to reduce pressure on the NSW health system and ensure that NSW could open up in a sustainable way.

“Unfortunately, today’s plan appears to leave NSW at considerable risk of having to return to lockdowns.”

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Ms Berejiklian said there will be no specific date for a reopening, insisting it will only come on the Monday after the 70 per cent double dose threshold is met – a target forecasted to happen in time for Monday October 18.

The Premier reportedly overruled advice from her Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant, who didn’t agree with the plan to ease restrictions when 70 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

More glaring issues revealed

Another leading doctor has slammed Sydney’s roadmap as “risky”, raising grave concerns about the target of 70 percent double dose vaccinations.

Dr Stephen Duckett, director of the health program at the Grattan Institute, was interviewed on The Project on Thursday night, declaring he's glad he “lives in Victoria and not New South Wales”.

Dr Stephen Duckett, director of the health program at the Grattan Institute, was interviewed on The Project, where he raised a concerning issue with the 70 per cent vaccination target. Source: The Project
Dr Stephen Duckett, director of the health program at the Grattan Institute, was interviewed on The Project, where he raised a glaring issue with the 70 per cent vaccination target. Source: The Project

“I think the risk with this road map is the numbers we’re talking about. Seventy per cent of the adult population, is actually quite a low proportion of the total population,” Dr Duckett said.

“So, it’s only 56 per cent of the total population (factoring in children).

“And on top of that, New South Wales is a big state. And so you may have 70, 80 per cent in Sydney, but you may have very, very low rates in far western New South Wales. So it’s a pretty risky picture overall.”

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He accused the government of developing the plan in the interest of businesses, not public health.

“I think there’s been this tension within the New South Wales government for quite a long time, and I think that’s what we’re seeing now, that businesses have said, ‘We’ve had enough, we don’t care what the impact on the hospitals are, we want to get open and here is the strategy to do it’.”

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