COVID-19 claims the life of 24-year-old James Kondilios, former world-class power lifter and award-winning scientist

Lena Weib

Family and friends are in shock following the death of 24-year-old James Kondilios after he tested positive for COVID-19. 

The science graduate and sportsman was double-vaccinated with no underlying medical conditions.

He died at St Vincent’s Hospital where he had been receiving treatment.

In a social media post, his friends said his death was a reminder that COVID-19 can hit even the young and healthy.

Mr Kondilios grew up in Sydney, where he attended Waverley College.

In 2015, he represented Australia at the Power Lifting World Championships in Finland, where he won a bronze medal.

He later completed an advanced science degree at the Australian National University in Canberra.

In 2019, James Kondilios (centre) was presented with a Science and Innovation award by then Agriculture Minister David Littleproud. (Supplied. )

In 2019, he was awarded a national science prize for his work on forestry and climate change.

Most recently, he worked as a data scientist at the Department of Health in Canberra.

He was one of six people to die from COVID in the latest reporting period.

The others were in their 60s, 80s and 90s with two from the Lake Macquarie area and three from Western Sydney.

Hospitalisations have risen to 1,609, up from 1,491, with 131 patients in intensive care, 38 whom require ventilation.

Despite the federal government’s relaxed requirements around getting PCR tests, the testing rate in NSW is rising.

Yesterday there were 111,231 COVID swabs taken compared with 108,844 the day before.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has told employers to stop forcing staff to get a COVID test before returning to work after the state recorded 34,994 new cases.

The NSW government today rolled out more mobile alerts and electronic road signs to advise people about the new rules which mean a PCR test is not needed after testing positive on a rapid antigen test (RAT).

NSW Health sent alerts yesterday urging people to avoid PCR testing unless they were symptomatic, a close contact or had been instructed to do so by health authorities.

Yesterday national cabinet slashed testing requirements so people with a positive RAT test are not required to get a PCR test, truck drivers no longer need regular testing and international arrivals will no longer be required to get multiple tests.

Mr Perrottet said there were still too many people getting tested unnecessarily and employers needed to stop requesting their staff get a PCR test before returning to work.

He said given how long it was taking for test results to be returned, there was little “utility” in getting tested as a precaution.

“They should not be required to get a test … people are being forced to either pay for a RAT or get a PCR test when they are asymptomatic,” he said.

“The Prime Minister yesterday tasked the Attorney-Generals across the country to put together a plan on how we tackle that issue going forward because there should be no requirement unless you’re in a high-risk setting.”

Traffic sign about testing
A sign on Willougby Road reminding people about the eased testing rules.(ABC News: Sarah Hawke)

Mr Perrottet also said given the pressure on the health system, he couldn’t rule out another suspension of elective surgery.

“It may happen in NSW, just like it happened last year.”

Last July non-urgent elective surgery was suspended at public hospitals across Greater Sydney at the peak of the Delta outbreak to ensure there was enough capacity for COVID patients.

It created a major backlog of surgeries and meant many people were living with severe pain, Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said at the time.

From today the Victorian government has enforced a major suspension of elective surgery to reduce pressure on their health system.

A man wearing glasses
Dominic Perrottet refused to rule out another suspension of elective surgeries.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

“At the moment, the system is strong. We believe we will certainly be getting through this but we may need to make some changes,” Mr Perrottet said.

The Lilian Wells aged care facility at North Parramatta has recorded one of the largest outbreaks since the pandemic began and its operator, Uniting, has taken aim at the government for failing to keep residents safe.

Fifty-six residents and 19 employees, including agency staff, have contracted COVID after a staff member, who was asymptomatic, tested positive.

Two residents, both in their 80s who were double-vaccinated, died in hospital on December 25 and December 31 2021.

Fifteen residents have now been transferred to hospital in line with family wishes and the advice of GPs.

Lilian Wells aged care
Uniting aged care has fired shots at the government for not adequately resourcing the health system.(Supplied: Uniting)

The spokesperson said the strained PCR testing system and inability to transfer all positive residents to hospital was creating a dangerous environment.

“This failure will mean we will have to rely on less effective rapid antigen testing, isolation within the home, and COVID-19 symptom responses, to manage this new and far larger wave of COVID-19 infections.”

The spokesperson said aged care workers were doing many 12 hour shifts, wearing PPE all day long and missing important events with their families in order to care for society’s most vulnerable.

“…we need government, providers and the community to address the underlying structural problem of a poorly paid “caring” industry that not enough people in Australia want to work in.  “

The Premier said all leaders at national cabinet yesterday were “completely committed” to making sure children are back in classrooms for term one, despite many parents unable to book their children in for vaccinations before school resumes.

The teachers union has repeatedly raised concerns about classroom safety and how the system would cope with staff absenteeism due to COVID exposure.

But Mr Perrottet said a plan that deals with all these issues was forthcoming.

“[The state and territory leaders] will be finalising our plan within 24 hours and …hopefully next week we will have a national position in ensuring every single kid is back in the classroom on day one.”

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