The daily number of new COVID-19 cases remains stubbornly high in the Illawarra, particularly Wollongong, despite NSW recording its lowest increase in almost five weeks.
Another Wollongong man in his 70s with COVID died and 63 new cases were recorded across the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District in the 24 hours to 8pm Sunday, including 42 in Wollongong, 11 in Shellharbour, and nine in the Shoalhaven.
They were among 787 new cases of community transmission in NSW, the lowest figure reported since August 24.
There are 582 active cases of COVID in the Illawarra, with 430 in Wollongong, 137 in Shellharbour, and 15 in Kiama.
While not an officially designated area of concern, chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant again highlighted the concern about rising cases in the Illawarra, especially Wollongong.
Australian Paramedics Association NSW president Chris Kastelan said the increasing COVID cases were adding to the significant pressure paramedics in the Illawarra were already under.
"Paramedics are experiencing unprecedented growth in the cases they're doing, not only in COVID cases, but medical and trauma cases," Mr Kastelan said.
He said COVID had exacerbated slower ambulance response times in NSW because COVID patients had significantly longer turnaround times due to the precautions and disinfection that needed to occur with each transport.
"The Illawarra, like the Central Coast and Blue Mountains, has unfortunately been the victim of poaching ambulances because of the heavy workload in south and southwestern Sydney," Mr Kastelan said, adding this had a flow-on effect on paramedics working here.
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Workload pressures and the prevalence of COVID, he said, also led to "unprecedented workplace anxiety" among paramedics.
Nurses have already voiced concern about Wollongong Hospital's ability to manage larger numbers of COVID patients, due to staffing issues.
As of Sunday night, Wollongong Hospital was treating 41 COVID patients, while there were two patients at Shoalhaven Hospital.
When asked about the government's response to the growing numbers in the Illawarra, Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the state was expecting more doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the end of the month, while AstraZeneca and Moderna were widely available.
"Last week there was a targeted program put forward at crisis committee by NSW Health, in dealing with areas that either are low in vaccination rates, or areas we are concerned about, and there are additional resources," Mr Barilaro said.
"You'll find more Pfizer and more Moderna and more AZ [AstraZeneca] in areas where we're concerned.
"Now the Illawarra, the numbers are high, there's no question about that. Have we peaked? I'm not sure, but vaccination rates are now starting to climb, which is actually good to see.
"But again, over the next two weeks you may see an even more stronger targeted approach."
Two premises that house vulnerable community members, a Keira Street apartment block and the Piccadilly Motor Inn, remain under lockdown.
Mr Barilaro said Dr Chant raised with him the issue of affected vulnerable communities yesterday morning, and the crisis committee was to discuss this in its afternoon meeting.
Across NSW there are 1155 COVID patients in hospital, with 214 in intensive care, 115 of whom are on ventilators.
In addition to the Wollongong man, 11 other people have died, aged from their 60s to their 90s.
Almost 54,000 locally acquired cases of COVID have been reported in NSW since June 16, including 1209 in the Illawarra Shoalhaven.