New freedoms for fully vaccinated residents of New South Wales could be announced as early as today despite the state recording its highest day of coronavirus cases.
The possible move to eased restrictions comes as two of Sydney’s largest hospitals, both located in COVID-19 hotspots, prepare to move emergency patients to temporary make-shift units to cope with the surge in patients infected with the virus.
But the head of the NSW AMA has warned against changing the public health orders, saying health experts “don’t think now is a safe time to relax restrictions”.
Businesses struggling with the extended lockdowns are also looking with hope as the Federal Government prepares to announce an additional support package today.
The NSW Government is also expected to reveal new emergency business support to save 10,000 jobs across the state.
The change will reportedly see large tourism, hospitality and recreation employers with an annual turnover of up to a billion dollars now allowed to access the JobSaver subsidy scheme.
Yesterday saw NSW record 919 infections, the highest daily total reported in Australia since the start of the pandemic.
READ MORE: The key COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for – and when to call an ambulance
The increase in numbers is causing additional pressure on the hospital system, with close to 80 per cent of the state’s available intensive care beds now full.
Of those, 17 per cent are coronavirus patients.
From today, Westmead Hospital will open short-stay units in the emergency department to manage rising case numbers.
While at nearby Blacktown Hospital patients will be screened and swabbed in outdoor tents, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
READ MORE: Sydney hospital patients explain what it’s like to be in the ICU with coronavirus
‘We still need to be staying the course’
President of the AMA Dr Danielle McMullen said health professionals across the board believe now is not the time to relax any restrictions.
“As a healthcare organisation, we’ve been racking our brains for weeks to try and think of what is it the Premier could possibly announce that is safe to re-open and actually makes a meaningful change in people’s mental health,” Dr McMullen told Today.
“We know that lockdowns are hard and that it’s difficult for mental health, it’s financially difficult for many people but there is no safe relaxation at this point.
“We do need to open eventually, we can’t stay closed forever and there will, one day, be COVID in the community but we can’t do that yet.
“At the moment, we still need to be staying the course and getting more vaccines in and getting those case numbers down. We don’t think now is a safe time to relax restrictions.”
She said the situation in the state’s hospitals was a reminder of why everyone needs to follow stay-at-home orders.
“We’re obviously seeing the pressure really put on our healthcare system with the rising COVID cases and we have to remember that’s across all areas of the health system,” Dr McMullen said.
“We’ve got GPs being smashed with usual health care and trying to deliver vaccines, emergency departments with that real fear of not knowing who’s got COVID and who doesn’t, managing COVID wards, non-COVID wards and then the ICU beds are filling up.
“It reminds all of us we need to be following the stay-at-home orders and getting vaccinated as quickly as we can so our healthcare system can be there for you in your time of need.”
Dr McMullen said that despite the worrying situation the “health system is definitely still there”.
“We do have surge capacity plans in place and they are being enacted.”
The change will help free up overloaded ambulances after some were told to take patients as far away as the north shore to cope with the demand.
The number of patients in ICU with coronavirus has risen in the past week from 77 to 113, with 40 on ventilators.