NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced a four-week extension of the lockdown in Greater Sydney, with 177 new Covid-19 community cases.
Today’s announcement came during her daily coronavirus briefing.
In New South Wales, there were 177 new cases of locally acquired Covid-19. At least 46 of the new cases were contagious while they were in the community. Another death occurred yesterday, when a woman in her 90s died at Liverpool Hospital.
It’s the highest number of daily new infections recorded in the current Delta outbreak.
Since June 26, the metropolitan region and its surrounding areas – Greater Sydney, Wollongong, the Blue Mountains, and the Central Coast – have been subjected to stay-at-home orders.
What began as a two-week lockdown at the end of last month for Greater Sydney’s five million residents has now been extended until at least August 28.
Restrictions were set to be lifted on Saturday, July 31, but it became clear last week, as the state’s number of Covid-19 daily case numbers continued to rise, that the Delta outbreak was far from over.
Berejiklian and her crisis cabinet have spent the past two days putting together the blueprint for what life in the country’s most populous state will look like beyond Friday.
Workers will most likely be subjected to rapid antigen testing as part of an expanded surveillance programme, as opposed to the current nose swab or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests used by Covid-19 clinics.
Rapid antigen testing has a much faster turnaround time, producing results in 15 to 30 minutes, and it is now used in some parts of the private sector to screen for asymptomatic workers.
The government is also considering a “singles bubble,” similar to the one used during Melbourne’s lockdown last year, which would allow people living alone to nominate a designated person to visit their home.
The premier also announced new rules which mean people can only shop for essential goods within 10km of their home.
From midnight tonight the rule which prohibits non-essential workers from leaving their local government area (LGA) has also been extended to include Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown.
Construction activity will continue to be banned in these three LGAs as well as the LGAs of Cumberland, Canterbury-Bankstown, Blacktown, Liverpool and Fairfield.
Construction workers who live in any of these eight LGAs will not be allowed to go to work.
Outside these areas, construction will be allowed on premises which are not occupied and tradies, including cleaners, will be able to work if they have zero contact with residents.
Year 12 students will return to face-to-face learning on August 16 under strict Covid-19 protocols.
Pfizer will launch a vaccination programme for year 12 students in the eight LGAs of concern, with doses redirected from regional NSW.
Moving forwards, the roadmap is expected to include a comprehensive vaccination strategy, with the goal of having everyone receive their first vaccination by the end of August.
Berejiklian pleaded with the state for patience on Tuesday, admitting that public health orders were “difficult and frustrating.”
She expressed concern that the virus was still spreading among critical workers and household contacts.
“Time and time again, cases are popping up in workplaces, amongst workers in those critical places of employment,” the premier said.
“We are now seeing the virus becoming more prevalent in Western Sydney than south-west Sydney.”
Berejiklian said she wanted to ensure she did not end the state’s lockdown prematurely.
“We know we’ve put in the hard yards for five weeks and we don’t want to waste all the good work that we’ve done by opening too early and then having the virus spread again,” she said.
She said Covid-19 infection numbers could be much higher, but they were not where the government had hoped they would be when those stay-at-home orders were first introduced.
NSW recorded 172 locally acquired Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours to Monday evening.