NSW set to make a HUGE change to its contact tracing system

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New South Wales is preparing to dump most of its contact tracing system in favour of an app that will automatically alert residents when they’ve been exposed to Covid.

The drastic change is part of Gladys Berejiklian’s new plan to ‘live with Delta’ as cases climb to more than 1,000 a day and the state edges toward its vaccination target of 70 per cent coverage.

Although Scott Morrison once dubbed NSW’s Covid detectives the ‘gold standard’, the spiralling number of infections has seen the state’s contact tracers run off their feet and becoming increasingly ineffective.

Undetected transmissions south of the Murray River are also raising major concerns for Victorian health officials, with hospital staff fearing case numbers could actually be much higher than what’s being reported.

Health workers in the state are regularly seeing patients in the deep stages of a Covid infection presenting to the emergency room when they’ve been ill for days and not been tested.

The alarming trend in Melbourne hospitals has left doctors fearing the state’s outbreak, which officially grew by 176 new cases on Thursday, could be far bigger than health chiefs realise.

© Provided by Daily Mail (
© Provided by Daily Mail (

Why is NSW dumping its ‘gold standard’ contact tracers? 

NSW is preparing to wind down its contact tracing system in favour of an app that will automatically alert someone via a message to their smartphone if they’ve attended a venue which has been exposed to the virus.

Although the state’s Covid detectives have been widely praised for their work, with cases now out of control and sparling well past 1000 infections a day they have become less effective.   

The drastic change is part of Gladys Berejiklian’s new plan to ‘live with Delta’ as cases climb to over 1000 a day and the state edges toward its vaccination target of 70 per cent coverage.   

An update to the Service NSW app is set to go live towards the end of September and work by accesses the normal QR code check-in network.

People will then be notified via the app if they have been to a venue alongside a Covid-positive case.

A similar system is already in place in the UK and created what was dubbed a ‘pingdemic’ – when case numbers were so high that tens of thousands of people were being ‘pinged’ by the app daily, forcing them into mandatory isolation. 

As Victoria’s outbreak worsens and its sixth lockdown drags on, Ms Berejiklian has flagged the only way out of NSW’s gruelling restrictions, now entering an eleventh straight week in Sydney, is by hitting the national cabinet’s vaccinations target set out by Doherty Institute modelling.

Although the state is not expected to reach 70 per cent vaccination coverage for the adult population until mid-October, Thursday marked a significant milestone with 70 per cent of those aged above 16 given their first dose.

Beleaguered Sydneysiders will now finally see some relief from their punishing lockdown despite the state recording a further 1,288 new cases on Thursday and seven more deaths – the most in a single day during the recent Delta outbreak.

Twelve local government areas of concern in western Sydney, where residents are living under harsher restrictions than the rest of the city, will start to get back some of their freedoms.

The LGAs of concern include Bayside, Burwood, Strathfield, Georges River, Parramatta, Campbelltown, Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Liverpool and some areas of Penrith.

Locals starting from 5am on Friday will be allowed unlimited exercise, up from just one hour a day.

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The 9pm to 5am curfew brought in to help police target rulebreakers will remain, but the controversial measure is now set to undergo a review after having a dire impact on shift workers.

The premier stressed Australians needed to accept a life with the virus, taking a subtle swipe at other state leaders who were aiming for a zero-Covid environment.

‘We have to accept living with Covid is a reality, not an option and any state premier who thinks it’s an option, unfortunately, is not considering what the real world experience is,’ Ms Berejiklian said.

‘No matter where we live, maybe not today or next week, but all Australians have to accept that living with Covid is the future, not an option.’

As part of that plan, NSW will rely less on its army of human contact tracers that are tasked with tracking Covid-positive patients and alerting those who may have visited exposed venues, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

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NSW Health will start gradually scaling down the system once an update to the Service NSW app is set live towards the end of September.

Currently, contact tracers spend thousands of gruelling hours visiting venues and calling contacts to mop up every last remnants of the virus.

But a new system, due to be rolled out towards the end of September, will use the QR check-ins to automatically alert someone via a message to their smartphone if they’ve attended a venue which has been exposed to the virus. 

A similar system is already in place in the UK and created what was dubbed a ‘pingdemic’ – when case numbers were so high that tens of thousands of people were being ‘pinged’ by the app daily, forcing them into mandatory isolation. 

Despite having listed every daily exposure sites since the pandemic began in March 2020, NSW Health has already move to revealing only ‘high-risk’ venues and those outside metropolitan Sydney. 

© Provided by Daily Mail (
© Provided by Daily Mail (

South of the border fears are rising that the current outbreak which has plunged Victoria into its sixth lockdown could be worse than first thought – even after the highest number of cases in over a year were reported on Thursday with 176.

A growing number of Covid patients are only showing up to hospital when their symptoms have become extremely severe and they need urgent care.

The Herald Sun reported that some hospitalised ­patients had been in regular contact with known Covid-positive family or friends, but the relationship was kept from ­contact tracers until their ­condition deteriorated.

There are now major concerns the Delta strain is circulating undetected in the community because the state has a disproportionate number of Covid patients ending up in intensive care.

In NSW just 0.7 per cent of cases end up needing to be treated in the ICU but in Victoria that figure has reached 2.1 per cent.

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Hospitalisation rates for Covid patients are also skewed with 5.6 per cent in Victoria needing a bed and only 4.7 per cent in NSW.

‘We’re still having people waiting a week, getting seriously unwell and turning up to hospital without having been diagnosed until they get to hospital,’ Deputy chief health officer Professor Ben Cowie said Wednesday

‘That’s terrible for that individual, it’s devastating for their family, but it’s contributing to ongoing transmission as well.’

He said if a patient gets tested early and presents to hospital as soon as their condition deteriorates, simple drugs can be administered to keep most sufferers out of the ICU.

‘But once someone comes into an emergency department who requires a tube put down their throat immediately to breathe, that’s it, they are in intensive care, usually for weeks.’

HOW COVID RESTRICTIONS WILL BE EASED IN NSW FOR THE FULLY VACCINATED 

From 12.01am, Monday, September 13:

For those who live outside the LGAs of concern, outdoor gatherings of up to five people (including children, all adults must be vaccinated) will be allowed in a person’s LGA or within 5km of home.

For those who live in the LGAs of concern households with all adults vaccinated will be able to gather outdoors for recreation (including picnics) within the existing rules (for one hour only, outside curfew hours and within 5km of home). This is in addition to the one hour allowed for exercise. 

How to prove you are fully vaccinated:

Download your Covid-19 digital certificate via the Express Plus Medicare mobile app or your Medicare online account through myGov.

If you can’t get proof online, your vaccination provider can print your immunisation history statement for you. 

If you’re not eligible for Medicare you can call the Australian Immunisation Register and request your certificate be mailed to you.

When the following targets are hit in NSW, freedoms will be as follows:

· 70 per cent full vaccination: a range of family, industry, community and economic restrictions to be lifted for those who are vaccinated.

· 80 per cent full vaccination: further easing of restrictions on industry, community and the economy.

 

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