COVID-19 vaccinations for NSW healthcare workers will be mandated by the end of next month as the state’s premier warns residents must steel themselves for the months ahead.
The state again broke its record for case numbers, with 681 people testing positive in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday.
A man in his 80s became the latest death in the outbreak which started in mid-June, with the toll now at 61.
As a result, the NSW government will move to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all health workers by September 30.
All workers must have at least one jab by this date.
Greens health spokesperson Cate Faehrmann in a statement welcomed the change but said it should’ve been made sooner.
Some 80 healthcare workers at Sydney’s St George Hospital are this week isolating due to COVID exposure in the oncology ward.
Meanwhile, Premier Gladys Berejiklian admits September and October will be “difficult” months for locked-down residents as the goal of “COVID zero” becomes increasingly unattainable.
But she said on Friday there was “light at the end of tunnel” as vaccination numbers continue to increase.
The government is currently looking at ways to give vaccinated people more freedom in September when the state has reached six million jabs, but is yet to outline this plan.
Most of Thursday’s cases were again in western Sydney and southwest Sydney, occurring in households and essential workers.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Marianne Gale said the “vast majority” of positive cases were doing the right thing.
“What we are seeing is that transmission occurs so easily in households and … those people that provide essential services, who worked in aged care, work in disability, who work in healthcare settings, who work in factories, work in shopping centres,” she said.
But the union representing manufacturing workers says health authorities have failed to listen to its concerns.
AMWU NSW & ACT Branch Acting state Secretary Robyn Fortescue said employers were cutting corners when it comes to preventing and responding to infections.
NSW Health is allowing the employer to identify and contact close contacts, workers were telling the union.
“There is no consultation whatsoever happening with the affected workers, who are best-placed to identify the risks and transmission chains on the ground,” Ms Fortescue said.
The AMWU wants the government to involve workers in the response to workplace infections, bring unions on board to a committee to address workplace infection risks, and set up a hotline where workers can call NSW Health.
The state broke another record for daily vaccinations, with 132,439 people in NSW receiving the jab on Wednesday.
Some 55.2 per cent of people over 16 in NSW have now had at least one dose of the vaccine, with 29.32 per cent fully jabbed.
The entire state is in lockdown until at least August 28 after the government extended restrictions in regional NSW by a week.
There were 25 new local COVID-19 cases reported in western NSW to 8pm on Wednesday, taking the total for the region to 167.
The Australian Medical Association warned the NSW government to not “take any chances” by easing restrictions.
“We’ve seen in NSW and overseas that once the Delta virus takes hold, it is very hard to contain,” President Omar Khorshid said.