New South Wales has reported another record number of new Covid cases as the state’s ambulance service warned it was being overwhelmed with calls.
The state’s 1,035 new cases was the worst daily total for any Australian state or territory since the coronavirus pandemic began. There were two deaths, a woman in her 70s from the Nepean Blue Mountains district and a woman in her 80s who died at Westmead hospital.
Of the new cases, four were in far western NSW, all in Wilcannia, taking the total cases in the town’s outbreak to 58.
There were 42 new cases in the western NSW health district, 34 of those in Dubbo, four in Bourke and one each in Mudgee and Bathurst.
Gladys Berejiklian’s government announced it would allow a small easing of restrictions from Friday 3 September to permit couples to get married in the presence of five guests.
The health minister, Brad Hazzard, said it was a balanced decision to allow couples who wished to marry to do so with minimal people in attendance.
“There will be five guests allowed in addition to those who obviously will be necessary for the actual service, so those officiating and perhaps a photographer to record the event,” he said.
“We will work through that during the course of the week but I want people to know that if you do wish to get married, you certainly can as of Friday of this week.”
Services such as hair and make-up will not be permitted and should be done by someone within the household, he said.
The head of the NSW Ambulance service, Dominic Morgan, said ambulance services had been overwhelmed with calls related to Covid-19, including some which were unnecessary, such as requests for transport to vaccination appointments.
He said triple-0 call operators had also received calls to take food to people’s houses.
Morgan said the service had its second ever status-three alert on Friday night, which means it cannot keep up with demand.
“When we receive calls that do not require an ambulance immediately, it can have dire consequences,” he said. “I have been advised this week that we had a 25-minute response to an 18-year-old cardiac arrest. This is devastating. Wherever possible we need to be avoiding this.”
The NSW Health deputy secretary, Susan Pearce, who is in charge of the state’s vaccine rollout, apologised during the Covid update after parents who made appointments for their 12 to 15-year-old children to receive the Pfizer vaccination had their appointments cancelled on Friday night.
Hazzard said a glitch in the computer booking system had led to some 12-15 year olds being able to book earlier than intended for vaccination. Berejiklian previously said these appointments would be honoured.
“Can I apologise for the inconvenience this has caused to people?” Pearce said. “We absolutely understand that people want to get their kids vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Obviously any eligible bookings will be honoured and, for others who have children in the 12-15 year old age range that are generally eligible, we will be coming out in the weeks ahead to announce when we can open those bookings.”
Hazzard said health authorities were closely watching rising numbers in Camden LGA and the parts of the Penrith LGA that are not currently subject to the stricter lockdown orders.
NSW conducted 156,135 vaccinations in the 24-hour period, a record day for the state’s vaccination hubs.
In the ACT, there were 26 new cases, 15 of which had been in quarantine for their entire infectious period and seven of which were known to have been in the community.
Twenty of the new cases have been linked and six are under investigation.
The ACT chief minister, Andrew Barr, said his government had not made a decision about whether the territory’s lockdown would end as scheduled on Thursday.
“This is a question everyone wants an answer to,” he said. “I don’t have an answer today. We need to find more out about the six cases today. We need to see what tomorrow’s figures look like and what Monday’s figures look like.
“We are most focused not on the headline case number but on infectious in the community.
“What we are seeing … is household infection and close workplace infection being the major sources of new numbers and new cases … which is why we need caution and good Covid-safe plans around restarting industries and around ensuring workplaces can remain safe.”
Barr said the ACT did not want to be in the same position as Sydney, where workplace transmission had been a driver of continued growth in cases.
“I know that’s a difficult message for some businesses to hear at the moment,” he says. “But we’re not putting in place these measures because we feel like it.”