Australia has recorded its highest daily rise in coronavirus cases during the pandemic, with 754 new local infections across NSW, Melbourne and Canberra.
There were 681 cases reported in NSW on Thursday, while another 57 people in the Victorian capital contracted the disease.
A man in his 80s died in a Sydney hospital, taking the national toll to 971.
Canberra recorded 16 new cases taking the ACT cluster to 83.
Melbourne marked its 200th day in lockdown with a spike in cases, however 54 were linked to existing outbreaks.
The daily national figure is higher than the mark of 698 set during the Victorian second wave last year.
While the Delta strain circulating across three states and territories is more contagious than previous variants, Australia now has vaccines in its arsenal.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said every state would need to confront living with the virus when double-dose vaccination coverage reaches 80 per cent.
She expects that benchmark will be reached in about three months.
“By mid-November the conversation has to be around not so much the number of cases we have, but how many people we are keeping out of hospital,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Federal, state and territory governments support vaccine coverage targets of 70 and 80 per cent to reduce the likelihood of lockdowns and reopen Australia.
Australia has vaccinated 27.5 per cent of people aged 16 and above but projections suggest targets of 70 and 80 per cent are achievable this year.
There were more than 273,000 doses administered in the past 24 hours.
A three-day lockdown in Darwin and Katherine ended at midday after no new cases were linked to an infected US defence contractor.
Queensland, which also recorded a zero-case day, will station troops at the NSW border after the federal government agreed to the request.
Burnet Institute director Brendan Crabb said modelling showed daily cases could jump to between 3000 and 4000 within 30 days unless urgent steps were taken in NSW.
“We’re in a steam train that is heading towards a cliff, not heading towards a station which is where we should be going,” he told the Nine Network.
Professor Crabb is urging the NSW government to implement uniform restrictions across all areas of Sydney including a curfew and five-kilometre travel limits.
He believes immediate action coupled with more generous support for workers and business could turn the situation around.
“The worse-case scenario is we have an Italy-style health catastrophe. That is actually the trajectory at the moment,” Professor Crabb said.
He said the best outcome was lockdown until Christmas but that would rely on keeping case increases stable rather than the current rate of doubling every 11 days.
– Australian Associated Press