NSW to widen rollout as outbreak persists

·3-min read

The NSW government will boost its vaccination rollout by doubling the interval between Pfizer doses, with the state's health chief describing Sydney's virus outbreak as a national emergency.

The state's plan to increase the number of people getting access to their first dose of the vaccine by pushing back second doses was discussed at national cabinet on Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed.

"We will be confirming over the next 24 hours the ability for (NSW) to do greater amounts of first doses by staying within the medical advice ... which says that second doses of Pfizer can be extended out to six weeks," he said.

The development comes as NSW reported 136 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Friday, almost four weeks after Greater Sydney and its surrounds were locked down in a bid to suppress the virus.

"This is a national emergency," the state's Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said on Friday.

National cabinet hosed down suggestions other states should divert Pfizer doses to Sydney's hotspots.

"Where there is potential to put more vaccines into NSW, even beyond what we are doing, of course we will seek to do that," Mr Morrison said. "But we're not going to disrupt the vaccination program around the rest of the country,."

Premier Gladys Berejiklian had planned to push national cabinet for the vaccination strategy to refocus on Sydney - particularly the epicentre of the outbreak in the city's west and southwest.

Barely anybody with two doses of the vaccine is becoming seriously ill, she said, and even one dose reduces transmission and offers up to 30 per cent protection.

"We have been doing the heavy lifting for 18 months in keeping the virus at bay," she said on Friday morning.

"But in order for us to have our citizens live freely and openly, as well as other states to ensure that their citizens live openly and freely, we need to have a national refocus."

Of the new cases recorded to 8pm on Thursday, at least 70 were not in isolation for all or part of their infectious period.

The isolation status of another 13 people is under investigation.

The death of an 89-year-old man took the NSW tally to 62 and the national death toll to 916.

Ms Berejiklian concedes that her state will not be close to zero cases in the community by next Friday, when the lockdown is supposed to lift.

She flagged harsh restrictions would likely extend until October, when the national vaccination rollout ramps up.

Meanwhile, NSW has defended its decision not to accept an offer of more army assistance amid the outbreak.

NSW Police rejected the offer on July 7, with Commissioner Mick Fuller deciding the operation in southwest Sydney that launched on July 9 did not need the help.

Transmission was largely between household contacts and not on the streets, Mr Fuller said.

Mr Morrison on Friday insisted that the Australian Defence Force could help with work other than compliance, like aiding in logistics and at control points.

The increased vaccination efforts will now be aided by stricter local lockdown orders. No one can leave the Cumberland and Blacktown local government areas unless they are a critical worker, which includes health and aged care workers.

This is in line with orders already imposed on residents in the Liverpool and Fairfield districts.

Since lockdown was introduced on June 25 for four Sydney local government areas, and then expanded to the entire region the next day, infections have spread to Orange in the central west and interstate to Victoria.

NSW health authorities are also concerned the virus has spread to northern NSW after fragments were detected at a sewage treatment plant serving Byron Bay, Wategos, Suffolk Park, Sunrise and Broken Head.

There are no confirmed cases in the area so far.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting