As NSW races to vaccinate as many young people as possible in Sydney’s hotspots a leading epidemiologist is warning daily COVID-19 case numbers could spiral to more than 2200.
After eight weeks of lockdown NSW reported 633 new locally acquired cases on Wednesday, smashing the previous daily record by 155.
Professor James McCaw – who specialises in infectious disease dynamics – says daily infection numbers could skyrocket in the next month.
“Our models show the possibility of increases and decreases, but I think it’s more likely to be well over 1000 and up to 2000 within a month or so,” he told Nine newspapers on Thursday.
The thousands of unlinked cases mean the situation was likely to deteriorate, he said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday batted away questions about the need for a harsher lockdown, saying lack of compliance was the problem.
She warned “we haven’t seen the worst of it” because every infected person was passing on the virus to 1.3 others.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant also issued a sombre warning as she urged people to stay home.
“I can’t express enough my level of concern at these rising numbers of cases,” she said.
NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns said no-one wanted a stricter lockdown “but the alternative is too grim to bear at this point”.
“We can’t face a prospect of 2000 daily cases. It would be too much of a stretch on our health system,” he told the ABC on Thursday.
Meanwhile, elective surgeries at nearly 30 private hospitals have been suspended so staff can be re-deployed to plug gaps in the public system and administer vaccines.
The state also recorded a record number of vaccinations in a single day.
Some 109,550 NSW residents received a jab on Tuesday, taking the vaccine coverage for people over 16 to 54 per cent (with at least one dose).
Vaccine hubs are popping up across western and southwest Sydney, as authorities try to get 530,000 Pfizer doses into the arms of under-40s in those areas in under three weeks.
Meanwhile, the virus has continued its spread in regional NSW, with the government undecided if the one week snap lockdown for the whole state will be extended.
Seventeen of the 23 new cases recorded in western NSW on Wednesday were in Dubbo, with the remainder in Mudgee, Narromine and Gilgandra.
There are now four others in the state’s far west, with three in Wilcannia and one in Bourke.
The Dharriwaa Elders Group in Walgett – which Ms Berejiklian has said is “of enormous concern” – is calling for more data on rates of vaccination of Indigenous people.