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Balance between risk and reward needed in easing NSW restrictions

Published: in Australian News by .

It is also possible to re-open the rest of Australia but only when vaccination rates increase in states not riddled with the Delta strain.

A leading health expert is urging the New South Wales government to think carefully about what restrictions to ease as a so-called thank you for the state's high vaccination turnout.

Professor Jane Halton says the "sweet spot" must be found to balance the risk with reward.

The warning comes as NSW recorded 919 infections yesterday, the highest daily total reported in Australia since the start of the pandemic.

READ MORE: 'There is no safe relaxation': Doctors warn against NSW easing restrictions

Greater Sydney is now into week nine of a lockdown with no signs of that ending anytime soon.

"I am just very hopeful using the advice from the chief psychiatrist in NSW they will find a little thing that will give people a little bit of reward but no risk," Professor Jane Halton, chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, told Today.

"That is the sweet spot. We have just have to be so careful at the moment."

Hospitals across Sydney are seeing a rise in ICU patients infected with COVID-19, with Westmead Hospital to open short-stay units in the emergency department today to manage rising case numbers.

While at nearby Blacktown Hospital patients will be screened and swabbed in outdoor tents.

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Lockdowns are likely to be extended past September in Greater Sydney and stay at home orders are also expected to be prolonged in regional areas.

But when asked whether the rest of the country could afford to re-open when case numbers were climbing in NSW, and contact tracers delayed in informing infected people and updating exposure sites, Professor Halton believes it is possible – with increased vaccination rates.

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"I actually think that we can… but (in NSW) you haven't got to 80 per cent (vaccinations) yet," Professor Halton said.

"That is the point. I am really worried about those people in WA and South Australia, get out there and get vaccinated and in Queensland, please go out and get vaccinated.

"Because that's the number where you get this balance between the freedoms that we need and making sure not too many people get sick.

"It can work."

READ MORE: Sydney hospital patients explain what it's like to be in the ICU with coronavirus

High vaccination rates in NSW were helping reduce the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, she said.

"It is delivering that suppression that we are looking for. This virus, if you just let it run, if you have one person who has got it, basically what happens is you will give it to probably over seven people. 

"At the moment that is not the number. It is just going to over one person for every person infected.

"That is still not good enough but much better if it was just running around unrestricted in the community."

Professor Halton says the country was now experiencing "a race now between the vaccine and the virus".

"That (Doherty Institute) modelling shows us that at 80 per cent fully vaccinated amongst the target population - that is over 16-year-olds - we should be able to have more freedom than we currently do.

"But you have to suppress this virus. That's what the vaccine does that for us."

Source: 9News

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