All of greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong regions will enter a two-week coronavirus lockdown until 9 July and new restrictions will be in place for the remainder of New South Wales.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced the expanded lockdown – the first lockdown of greater Sydney since last year – would commence at 6pm Saturday, following crisis talks due to the growing number of exposure sites associated with the Sydney outbreak of the Delta Covid-19 variant.
The state recorded 29 cases up to 8pm on Friday, including 17 that had been announced Friday morning. Only 12 of those had been in isolation while infectious.
“We’re never afraid to take a decision we need to keep our citizens safe,” Berejikilan said on Saturday afternoon. “Unfortunately this is a situation where we absolutely have to.”
Until 11.59pm on 9 July, anyone in greater Sydney, the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong will only be permitted to leave their homes for essential reasons: shopping for food and essential goods and services, medical care or compassionate needs, exercise outdoors in groups of up to 10, and essential work or education where that cannot occur at home. There will be no curfew.
Weddings will be able to proceed on Saturday 26 June up to 11.59pm on Sunday 27 June but then cannot go ahead for the remainder of the two-week period.
Funerals can take place with up to a maximum of 100 people, with one person per four square metres and mask-wearing if indoors.
Berejiklian also asked people to use QR codes to check-in at all venues, including supermarkets and takeaway stores, no matter how brief the visit.
She said the length of the lockdown was necessary and flagged that support for businesses would be announced in coming days. She said the government would be pushing for commonwealth support payments for hotspots.
“If we’re going to do this, we need to do it properly,” she said. “There’s no point doing a three-day and then having the virus continue to bubble away in the community.”
She said if there was a dramatic change after seven days authorities would evaluate the situation but the best current advice was that two weeks was necessary “in order to make sure that we get to our target of zero community transmission, which has always been our target from the beginning of the pandemic”.
The remainder of NSW will move to restrictions including mandatory masks in all indoor non-residential settings and at organised outdoor events, no drinking while standing at indoor venues, no singing by audiences or choirs at indoor events or places of worship and no dancing at indoor hospitality venues or nightclubs.
Dancing will be permitted for the wedding party at weddings only, to a maximum of 20 people.
Anyone from the greater Sydney region who has arrived in a regional area on or after June 21 must observe a 14-day stay at home order from the date they left greater Sydney.
The lockdown was announced after crisis talks held on Saturday morning determined it should be expanded beyond the four council areas that had been subject to lockdown orders since Friday night.
More than 55,000 people were tested on Friday but the NSW premier said on Saturday morning “that’s where the good news ends” – with only 12 of the 29 new cases in isolation during their infectious period.
Berejiklian foreshadowed the lockdown due to the growing number of exposure sites beyond the Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney local government areas.
They included a workplace outbreak associated with the retail/wholesale business Great Ocean Foods in Marrickville, with staff and their household contacts asked to immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days and customers who had not used the QR code to check in asked to come forward.
The state’s chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said authorities were concerned that delivery drivers to that site had also become infectious, meaning anyone who received a delivery from Monday 21 June to Friday 25 June and their household contacts was also being asked to immediately get tested and isolate until further advice was provided by NSW Health.
Two other venues of concern were the Cheers Bar and Grill on George Street in Sydney, which was attended by a case in the early hours of Sunday 20 June, and the Rebel Sport store in Bankstown, which a case attended between 3.45pm and 4.30pm on Thursday 24 June.
“The situation overnight has highlighted that an increasing number of people have been undetected and infectious in the community,” Chant said. “Largely they were contained in the four LGAs, but now we are seeing the spread to exposure venues outside of those four LGAs, and that is the basis for my growing concern.”
The government reiterated its advice that people who live in the LGAs of City of Sydney, Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick, Canada Bay, Inner West and Bayside were not permitted to leave metropolitan Sydney.
The health minister, Brad Hazzard, said there was a “growing and more intense concern” from health authorities and the government about the Delta variant of Covid-19.
“The Delta variant is proving to be a very formidable foe,” he said. “No matter what defensive steps we are taking at the moment, the virus seems to understand how to counter-attack in different locations. That’s causing us a high level of concern.
“We had yesterday hoped to be able to continue community sport, but it’s become evident with the new cases that we’ve seen coming in today that that can’t continue.”
Hazzard also made a new public health order on Friday night enforcing compulsory face masks and at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine for drivers transporting international arrivals, including air crew.
Workers will have three days to get vaccinated before the vaccination order applies from 28 June. The mask order took effect on Friday night.
World Opinions News – theguardian.com