Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Hospitals in Australia’s most populous state risk being overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases by the end of 2021 if the government’s reopening plan is executed, according to modelling from public health body OzSAGE, released on Monday.

A second peak of infections will hit New South Wales state if restrictions are eased in October, when 70% of the adult population is inoculated, said Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales who conducted the modeling. A further easing when 80% of adults are fully vaccinated will cause a so-called “code black” situation where hospitals are overwhelmed over December and into January, she said.

“Once you can’t provide ICU care to people who need it, then the death rate starts to go up,” MacIntyre told reporters on a webcast. “That’s exactly what we saw in Europe last year.”  

After a slow start, Australia is rushing to vaccinate its population in a bid to end the months-long lockdowns of its two biggest cities as health authorities battle to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant. While NSW will begin easing some restrictions once the 70% threshold is met, premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday indicated authorities were working out a plan to further ease restrictions when 80% of the adult population was fully vaccinated. 

MacIntyre said restrictions shouldn’t be eased beyond what’s already planned for October, to push a lower peak of infections into the new year. That would avoid a worst-case scenario where almost 1,200 patients would be admitted into intensive care, 892 of whom would be for Covid-related disease. 

Mask-wearing mandates must also be kept in place, contact tracing sped up using new technology and health workers protected with a third booster shot, MacIntyre said. Vaccines alone are “not enough”. 

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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