Victoria’s healthcare system will be at greater risk of surging COVID-19 patient numbers than NSW as lockdowns ease, a leading health expert has warned.
University of Melbourne clinical epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter said Melbourne would have a greater strain on its hospitals from COVID cases once restrictions eased.
“Any loosening is going to have bigger implications for Melbourne than it does for Sydney,” Professor Baxter told Nine Network on Tuesday.
“Right now in NSW, the decrease in cases has led to some improvement in terms of what’s happening at the hospital and ICU level. They have a bit of wiggle room, but there’s no wiggle room now in Victoria.”
The comments come after NSW ended a more than 100-day lockdown on Monday, after the state surpassed its target for 70 per cent of the eligible population to be fully vaccinated.
Melbourne’s lockdown is still ongoing, but restrictions are expected to be eased in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the Royal Melbourne Hospital extended the capacity of its intensive care unit for COVID cases.
Victoria’s COVID cases have remained stubbornly high, with more than 1600 reported on Monday, while numbers were below 500 in NSW.
Prof Baxter said vaccination rates in Victoria were also behind that of NSW, which would lead to further risks.
“When you start mixing, the cases are going to go up, a lot of the cases are going to be in unvaccinated people who will be sick and will potentially need an ICU or hospitalisation,” she said.
“When you open up there is going to be a peak of cases, how high the peak is will depend on how many people we have vaccinated.
“We need to go well beyond 80 per cent.”
National vaccination coverage has ticked beyond 62.4 per cent for people aged 16 and above, while 82.4 have had at least one dose.
NSW and the ACT are leading the nation, ahead of Tasmania, Victoria, the NT and South Australia.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath hinted state borders with NSW, Victoria and the ACT within five to six weeks if 80 per cent double-dose coverage is achieved.
But Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk insists a date will not be set until everyone had a chance to be vaccinated.
Queensland is only slightly ahead of the nation’s least vaccinated state, Western Australia, which is considering mandatory jabs in more sectors.
That could include the broader public sector workforce including school teachers.