Australian state warns COVID-19 hospitalisations to peak in October

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Australia’s most populous state New South Wales, the epicentre of its current COVID-19 outbreak, will hit a peak in intensive care hospitalisations in October as cases accumulate, amid reporting of a record daily rise in new infections on Monday.

New South Wales declared a record 1,290 new cases as the nation struggles to contain the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state was preparing for additional hospitalisations as infections pile up, before increased vaccination coverage start to ease the pressure.

“We anticipate that the worst month, the worst time for our intensive care unit will be in October,” Berejiklian said in the state capital Sydney.

“We will need to manage things differently because we are in the middle of a pandemic, but we will cope.”

There are 840 people in hospital for COVID-19 in New South Wales, with 137 in intensive care and 48 requiring ventilation.

The state reported four additional fatalities on Monday, taking the COVID-19 death toll to 1,003 in Australia, the last of the Group of 20 big economies to exceed that milestone.

Nationwide, there was a record 1,375 new COVID-19 cases reported.

Australia has used a system of strict lockdowns and quarantine to keep coronavirus infection and death rates lower than in most comparable nations, however the Delta variant is now pressuring health services.

Just over 33% of those aged 16 and older have received two vaccine doses, well below most comparable nations, according to government data.

The delays were partly because of changed health advice over the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was to be the backbone of the country’s immunisation programme, after rare cases of blood clots among some recipients.

The pace of vaccination in Australia has since risen to a seven-day average of more than 250,000 doses a day, the fastest rate ever, according to a Reuters analysis.

Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, reported 73 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, a day after Premier Dan Andrews said he would extend lockdown measures as daily infections reached the highest in a year. 

Photo: A man walks past the Sydney Opera House at sunrise in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. EPA-EFE/MICK TSIKAS