Blame continues, NSW records 35 cases

·3-min read

As NSW records its highest daily COVID-19 numbers since the first wave of the pandemic, recriminations continue about the federal government's sluggish vaccine rollout.

The nation's most populous state on Saturday recorded 35 fresh community cases linked to its current outbreak, which now numbers 261 cases.

Despite the figures, Premier Gladys Berejiklian was adamant they indicate "green shoots" of hope that the 14-day Sydney lockdown - now halfway through - is working.

Almost two thirds of the new cases - 23 - were in isolation for their entire infectious period.

While Sydney and surrounding regions remain under stay-at-home orders for another week, Brisbane and Moreton Bay residents have been given the all clear to exit lockdown from 6pm on Saturday.

But Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stressed the state was "not out of the woods yet".

She implored Queenslanders to wear masks and check in to any venue they attend, and also asked unvaccinated over 70s to restrict themselves just to seeing close friends and family.

The latest lockdowns, which were also in force this week in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and other parts of Queensland, have affected about 12 million Australians.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt highlighted on Saturday that the number of vaccines administered had climbed in the past week by about 50,000 jabs compared to previous weeks.

"This is very heartening for the nation," he said.

Just over eight million doses had been administered in total, he said.

Mr Hunt confirmed 2.8 million Pfizer vaccines would be distributed in July and a further 32 million would be available to Australians over the remainder of the year.

He commended NSW for "flattening the curve" of local infection and said its progress was an "important demonstration to the people of Australia that we can do this".

Mr Hunt also commended the Northern Territory government for ring-fencing a small outbreak this week, protecting a highly vulnerable Indigenous community in Darwin and remote areas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's four-stage reopening strategy, announced this week, is linked to vaccination rates and premiers and chief ministers have agreed lockdowns will be used as a last resort.

National cabinet on Friday took a decision to lower the number of people allowed to enter the country each week from 6070 to 3035 from July 14.

About 30,000 Australians are still overseas and trying to get home.

Home quarantine is also expected to be trialled for fully vaccinated overseas arrivals, along with capped entry of students and economic visa holders.

The second phase will start when an undetermined percentage of Australians are fully vaccinated.

Mr Morrison said stage three would involve treating coronavirus like other infectious diseases including the flu, with phase four the "back to normal" mark.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese lambasted the prime minister's plan on Saturday, saying there was nothing new about it, he had simply failed to implement the old plan.

He said the halving of international arrivals was a direct result of the failure to install an appropriate COVID-19 quarantine system and rollout the vaccine.

The looming drop in travellers has raised concerns among industry groups of skills shortages, with the Australian Medical Association saying the caps will exacerbate a lack of doctors and nurses.

Meanwhile, Western Australia recorded no new local cases on Saturday and four cases in hotel quarantine. It's the first day of interim restrictions for three days after a lockdown of Perth and Peel regions this week.

The NT has removed restrictions on West Australian travel from the Perth and Peel regions, as well as those from Queensland, except for Brisbane and Moreton Bay.

Victoria recorded no new local or overseas-acquired cases but the government issued a warning after five people received fines of just under $5000 for breaking quarantine rules.

Testing commander Jeroen Weimar said that after containing the latest outbreaks, his biggest fear was returned travellers flouting restrictions causing more leaks out of hotel quarantine.

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