Health stress warning over reopening plans

·2-min read

Australia's third COVID-19 wave has hit another case high as experts warn hospitals must be prepared to cope with reopening plans.

NSW is taking the most forthright approach to exiting lockdown despite a national record for any jurisdiction, with 1542 cases on Friday.

The state recorded nine deaths and Victoria one, taking the national toll to 1076.

Victoria's 334 new cases and 24 in the ACT combined with the NSW tally to set another record, with Australia hitting 1900 infections in a single day for the first time during the pandemic.

NSW will grant a range of freedoms to fully vaccinated people at 70 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage.

Sharon Lewin, the director of the Doherty Institute which provided modelling for the national reopening plan, urged leaders not to be too aggressive.

"The major risk here is the health system in NSW and that is what's going to be absolutely critical in dialling up or down any measures," she told ABC radio.

"The health system is really struggling there with a lot of people in hospital. That's going to be the determining factor."

Professor Lewin backs the principle of giving greater freedoms to fully vaccinated people.

"Each state is going to work through what is and isn't acceptable," she said.

"My personal view is that it would be fabulous if we had consistency across the states when opening up."

Official estimates put Australia's active cases above 32,000 with hospitalisations rising in each of the three locked-down states and territories battling outbreaks.

There are 1156 people in NSW hospitals, with 207 in intensive care.

Of Victoria's 127 people in hospital, 33 are in intensive care.

With cases rising in both states there are concerns about the capacity of the health system to cope when vaccination coverage targets linked to reopening are reached.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said NSW should set a higher immunisation threshold to reduce pressure on the health system.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is adamant reopening will mean increased pressure on all state and territory health system is inevitable.

Meanwhile, home quarantine is being proposed as the way to isolate Australians returning from overseas, with about 44,600 stranded abroad.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham defended spending hundreds of millions of dollars of quarantine hubs still months away from opening.

Senator Birmingham said the facilities could be used for future health crises, responding to natural disasters or humanitarian issues like Afghanistan evacuations.

"We see it as a no regrets investment regardless of what happens with the current COVID pandemic, that there will be different cases, different circumstances that they can be deployed for in years to come," he told Sky News.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese continues to pressure the government over the timing of the government's vaccine deal with Pfizer.

"When hope came knocking on the door last June, suggesting that vaccines could be available, they locked the door," he said.

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