State nears a 90 per cent vaccination rate as COVID spreads to vulnerable regions

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“At the moment our COVID testing people at the gateway site are standing out in the rain. It’s just crazy stuff, and we’re trying to chase down a tent big enough for the drive-through. In Sydney, they’d have them folded up in a corner somewhere waiting for the next event,” she said.

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“We’re over 70 per cent double [vaccinated], which is also disappointing because we were on a really good trajectory there for a while… There is no excuse for anyone in the Moree Plains Shire that hasn’t been vaccinated because every opportunity has been afforded to people.”

Mr Hazzard said he was not aware of any attempt Cr Humphreys had made to contact him or his office.

“However, I am 100 per cent certain having spoken with [Chief Health Officer Kerry] Chant at length that the public health unit is working flat out with local services to address what are very challenging issues,” he said.

A group of staff from John Hunter at Newcastle have been sent to Moree and an empty COVID-19 ward has been established at the local hospital.

Mobile vaccination and testing vans have also been used, after a mobile phone outage resulted in some initial trouble contacting close contacts. Senior NSW Health sources agreed with Cr Humphreys that delays had also been caused by people not using QR codes.

“We are seeing low rates of vaccination in local Aboriginal people and sadly it would appear, far too much reliance on social media information around the issue, which is misleading and just plain wrong,” Mr Hazzard said.

In the 2016 census, 2845 of Moree Plains’ 13,159 residents identified as Indigenous.

While federal government data released on Monday showed 88.6 per cent of people in Moree Plains local government aged 15 and over had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 76.4 per cent were fully vaccinated, a cluster of postcodes near the Queensland border have some of the state’s lowest rates.

In the town of Boggabilla, where more than 60 per cent of the population identify as Indigenous, fewer than half of the residents had received a first shot.

Areas including Twin Rivers, Boomi and Garah have first-dose rates below 80 per cent.

Moree was declared a restricted border zone by the Queensland government on Thursday, barring entry into the state unless in exceptional circumstances.

The first-dose vaccination rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over in the New England and North West statistical area, which stretches from the border south to Tamworth, was 79.15 per cent on Wednesday, compared to 94.2 per cent among the area’s general population.

Just under two-thirds of Indigenous people in the area were fully vaccinated, while more than 84 per cent of the general population had received both doses.

Statewide, the vaccination rate has continued to slowly climb, with projections NSW could hit 90 per cent double-dose coverage by early next week.

Eased restrictions for the fully vaccinated in NSW from Monday include no limit to the number of visitors allowed in a home and no cap on bookings for hospitality.

Patron limits will also be scrapped for major recreation and entertainment facilities, subject to density limits or 100 per cent of fixed seat capacity.

The density limit for indoor and outdoor areas, including non-critical retail and restaurants, will shift to one person per two square metres.

Singing and dancing will be permitted both indoors and outdoors, allowing nightclubs to return to normal operation, while brothels can reopen.

Amusement centres and play centres will also swing open their doors and indoor pools can open for all purposes.

On Friday, 93.8 per cent of the state’s adult population had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 89.4 per cent were fully vaccinated.

The number of people with COVID-19 in hospital has continued to fall, dropping below 300 on Friday. There were 285 cases in hospital, including 61 in intensive care.

NSW recorded three additional deaths from COVID-19 on Friday. They were two aged care residents from Albury, where 28 new cases were reported in an ongoing outbreak across the Victorian border, and a man in his 80s from Sydney’s inner west.

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