New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet is poised to flip on the state’s Covid restrictions as Omicron spreads. Discussions on Thursday have already resulted in significant changes to Health Orders, with more predicted to follow next week.
Perrottet has announced that nightclubs will be shut, while singing and dancing are to be banned in pubs. Friday will also see elective surgery suspended – which is terrible news for those waiting in a lengthy backlog caused by earlier shutdowns.
“There’s obviously significant pressure on the system,” said the Premier to 2GB. “We believe we will be certainly getting through this [the Omicron outbreak] but we need to make some changes. I would expect, on elective surgery and I would also expect in terms of our work with the private health system in managing as we go through these increases in cases.”
28,625 new infections were recorded on Friday, with 11 people dying overnight. Their vaccination status (unusually for NSW Health) was not released.
Health authorities are still reporting that 1,738 people were hospitalised with Covid, but Health Minister Brad Hazzard admitted that more than half of those people were admitted for unrelated conditions and merely tested positive as part of routine hospital tests.
The hospitalisation figure has not been corrected by NSW Health to reflect Hazzard’s comments.
“Even in a worst case scenario we have the capacity within our health system right now. We have invested significantly. We have the best health system in the country, if not around the world,” said Perrottet, echoing Hazzard’s words on New Year’s Eve.
95.1% of the state who are 16 and over have received one vaccine dose, while 93.6% have had two. The promise given by Perrottet on his ascension to office was that all restrictions would be dropped after December 1 due to the high vaccination rate of the state.
That promise has been overturned repeatedly, first with the re-introduction of face masks in most areas, and then with the revival of QR-check-ins, despite the definition of ‘close contact’ being changed to exclude most people in a retail setting.
Perrottet has also been encouraging all eligible people to book in for booster shots, which are available as little as three months after a second Covid vaccine shot.
Booster shots are now mandated in order to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ by the New South Wales government and are compulsory for workers in high-risk settings – an announcement that has been supported by Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant.
Teachers, aged care workers, nurses, and doctors are required to get their booster or face being sacked, as happened to their unvaccinated colleagues late last year. It has not been clarified when this mandate will begin, only that it is coming.
Earlier this week there were reports of some Covid-positive nurses called into work due to staff shortages as hospitals battled to cover shifts just months after forcing hundreds of unvaccinated nurses out work over mandates.
Despite all the earlier messaging and promises by both the state and federal government that vaccination would return life to normal, National Cabinet continues to enforce Covid health orders.
The one thing that Perrottet ruled out was a lockdown – although he said the same thing about masks and QR-check-ins so there is no guarantee.
“Certain people want us to go into lockdown, but we won’t do that.”