NSW calls for defence force to set up vaccination clinics as Covid cases emerge in western communities where jab rates are low

New South Wales has extended the strict lockdown to Bayside, Strathfield and Burwood local government areas and has requested more Australian defence force personnel to help set up vaccination centres as the Delta outbreak continues to spread across Sydney and in the regions.
Authorities are particularly concerned about the possible spread of the virus to Indigenous communities in western NSW after cases were recorded in Dubbo and Walgett.
According to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, less than 20% of Indigenous people in NSW have had one dose and only 8% are fully vaccinated. This is half the vaccination rate in the state.
NSW recorded 345 new cases on Thursday, which is only a slight decline on the peak reached two days ago. Fifty-seven cases were infectious in the community, 34 were in isolation for part of their infectious period and the isolation status of 138 remains under investigation.
NSW Health has also asked for extra assistance from the defence force to establish more vaccination clinics.
The NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, was on Thursday in urgent talks with NSW Health about tightening up compliance and possible rule changes to make enforcement more straightforward.
[Fuller] is working with a team of government officials and has been consulting with the executive and regional commanders across the state to determine what that may look like. He will present back to crisis cabinet tomorrow afternoon, the deputy commissioner, Mick Willing, said.
The decision to extend the stricter lockdown measures to Bayside, Strathfield and Burwood council areas, which adjoin the hotspots of Canterbury-Bankstown, is a sign the government is worried that despite strict rules limiting movement to 5km, the virus is still spreading.
Mask-wearing outdoors and a 5km limit now applies to 12 Sydney local government areas.
In relation to Bayside, the suburbs of particular concern are Bexley, Banksia and Rockdale where additional cases were identified overnight.
Strathfield and Burwood are geographically smaller areas but the premier Gladys Berejiklian said there were an increasing number of cases.
As a precaution, those additional council areas have been brought into those areas of concern, she said.
Other areas which adjoin hotspot LGAs notably the Inner West and Camden have been told to be on alert.
The only good news is that so far there are no additional cases in Tamworth, Armidale and the Northern Rivers.
However there were more cases in the Hunter, which has had its lockdown extended into a second week.
There are also deep concerns about the spread into the far west.
Federal statistics released on 9 August show that in the far west and Orana a region that stretches from the South Australian border to as far east as Mudgee only 36.9% had had one dose of the vaccine. Just 16.3% were fully vaccinated, the lowest vaccination rate in the state.
The figures from the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation show the rates among Indigenous communities were even lower, with just 8% fully vaccinated.
The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, acknowledged vaccination rates were not high in some Indigenous communities despite Aboriginal people 12 and over being prioritised as 1b in the rollout.
But he sheeted the blame home to the federal government, which was responsible for the rollout to Indigenous communities.
We have had limited supplies coming into NSW and that has created all sorts of work issues for us in terms of delivering vaccine. You cant deliver what we havent got and in Walgett there have been similar issues, he said.
Hazzard said health officials were urgently trying to get access and reallocate vaccine doses, particularly Pfizer, which is preferred for the Aboriginal population.
I also wrote to [federal health] minister [Greg] Hunt and pointed out that obviously the Aboriginal population was identified by the federal government as its area of responsibility earlier on in the rollout. Theres still a very substantial percentage, in fact by far the majority of Aboriginal people in that section of our state have not received the vaccine, he said.
Hazzard said NSW had asked for help in the form of defence force medical teams to set up pop-up clinics.