Australia was ready for more COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, officials said on Saturday, even as it progresses Gradual easing of pandemic restrictions Most of its people are being vaccinated against the virus.
Sydney, in lockdown for more than 100 days, is to ease some major restrictions to fully vaccinate from Monday. In the state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, more than 70% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
“We know that as we open up, the case numbers will increase,” said New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrot. “But the key to keeping people safe is our high vaccination rates.”
Australia’s most populous state recorded 580 new infections on Saturday, all delta version, and 11 deaths. Neighboring Victoria, its capital Melbourne, in a lockdown since early August, recorded a record 1,965 cases and five deaths. Home to about a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, the state has vaccinated about 57% of its population.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told The Age newspaper that the federal government was rolling out plans to bring in 2,000 nurses and doctors from overseas over the next six months.
“It would be a one-time boost to provide additional support,” Hunt said.
Hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney have been under strain in recent weeks, with Ambulance Victoria, the state’s provider of pre-hospital emergency care and ambulance services, reporting four of their five busiest days in the past two weeks.
However, Australia’s COVID-19 cases are much lower than many comparable countries, with some 125,000 infections and 1,421 deaths. Neighboring New Zealand, which was largely virus-free for most of the pandemic until Delta’s outbreak in mid-August, reported 34 new local cases on Friday, down from 44.