NSW plans to halve international arrivals

·3-min read

NSW will halve its hotel quarantine intake until vaccination coverage reaches 70 per cent to allow health staff to be redirected as COVID-19 infections climb by more than a thousand cases per day.

The state recorded 1164 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, as well as three deaths. They were a woman in her 50s, a man in his 80s and a man in his 90s, all from Sydney.

It takes the death toll for the current NSW outbreak to 96.

More than 870 people are hospitalised with COVID-19 across the state, with 143 in intensive care and almost 60 of those people ventilated, with the toll on the state's health care system not due to peak until October.

It's for that reason Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday announced the 1505 returning travellers allowed to fly in to Sydney Airport each week would be halved to 750.

"At the moment we have thousands of staff looking after our international arrivals, returning Aussies, even though there's only four cases overnight in hotel quarantine," Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

"That obviously needs readjustment ... we'd rather have our staff working in our ICUs or giving people vaccines."

But once the state reaches 70 per cent double-dose vaccination - roughly in mid-October - she hopes to rapidly scale up international arrivals and consider home quarantine options.

It comes as NSW surpasses two-thirds first-dose vaccination coverage for eligible residents. The government will restore freedoms to the fully vaccinated at 70 per cent double-dose coverage.

A Dubbo man on Monday became the first Aboriginal person in Australia to die while infected with COVID-19, prompting an urgent plea for Indigenous communities in western NSW to get vaccinated.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday admitted Pfizer supply remained constrained and messaging around the benefits and risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been unhelpful.

He reiterated that vaccination of Indigenous Australians remained a federal prerogative but NSW wanted to help wherever possible.

While there has been a jump in the number of vaccines administered to Indigenous residents from western NSW - it has almost doubled in the past three weeks - the rate still lags behind the region's broader population.

Just 6.3 per cent of Indigenous people in western NSW are fully vaccinated, compared with 26 per cent of the general population.

Some 65 per cent of active western NSW cases are Indigenous.

Federal Labor MP Linda Burney says the situation in Indigenous communities in western and far western NSW is a "disaster", with at least 70 people infected in Wilcannia's community of 750.

A record number of new cases were recorded in western NSW on Tuesday, 54, and another four detected in Wilcannia.

"I've got to say, it's another shocking day for Western NSW," Western Local Health District chief executive Scott McLachlan told reporters on Tuesday.

A lack of compliance with public health orders and low testing numbers are frustrating authorities in the region.

Meanwhile, almost 80 anti-lockdown protests were broken up by police across the state on Tuesday, with more than 150 people arrested and just under 600 fines handed out.

Five COVID-positive men have also each been fined $5000 after NSW Police found them unmasked and mingling in Leppington, while a western Sydney brothel was found by police to be operating against public health orders, prompting five fines.

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