NSW authorities are hopeful that tougher stay-at home-orders will produce results by the weekend or early next week, after cases surged again on Wednesday and three local government areas in western NSW were put into a seven-day snap lockdown.
The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, refused to speculate on how long the lockdown would run, brushing aside questions about modelling by the University of Melbourne which said the NSW lockdown, based on current restrictions, could run until September.
By Tuesday 8pm, locally acquired cases in NSW had jumped to 110, up from 78 the day earlier.
Berejiklian said the good news was the case numbers were higher because of a record 84,000 test results.
But worryingly, only 37 cases were in isolation for the whole of their infectious period and half were unlinked to other cases.
About 45 were in the community for the entire time, 17 were in the community part of the time, and 17 were under investigation.
The cases are moving from the Fairfield local government area where they are still concentrated, into the neighbouring Canterbury Bankstown area.
From Friday 23 July, a person who lives in Canterbury Bankstown LGA and who engages in aged care or health care can only work outside the Canterbury Bankstown LGA if the person has been tested for Covid in the previous 72 hours, the deputy chief medical officer Jeremy McAnulty announced.
Half of the 110 cases are unlinked to existing cases, suggesting either that contact tracers are struggling to keep up or there are unidentified chains of transmission in Sydney.
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“We have a process where we go back to cases over and over again to try and get relevant information about the chains of transmission links. Information we provide firstly is based on yesterday’s cases. Some have updated information as the days progress about the links,” McAnulty said.
“Hopefully most of them will be linked eventually but there is concern that there are unlinked cases which means that because it is so transmissible, people are not aware of who they have been in contact with,” he said.
Four authorised visits by a truck driver between 13 and 17 July to the Purina Nestles petfood factory near Orange has prompted a seven-day lockdown covering Orange, Blayney and Cabonne local government regions.
There is one known case of community transmission – a worker at the factory – but he then spent time in shopping centres and other settings in the region. The factory has been closed and the entire area locked down.
“This decision was made to make sure we protect those communities, deputy premier,” deputy premier, John Barilaro said.
“The central west is an intertwined region and Blayney, Molong and Orange and those communities come together often and we’re well-versed on those areas.
“The decision is the right decision to make sure we don’t overwhelm the health system and off the back of that health advice we’ve made that decision today,” he said.
“It’s a reminder to everybody that we in regional and rural New South Wales are somehow not going to be impacted by the current Delta strain.”
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The premier reiterated her prediction on Tuesday that the state was “seeing green shoots” saying the state had curbed exponential growth. She said the impact of tougher lockdown rules introduced on the weekend would be clear by early next week.
She stood by her commitment that the construction industry would reopen on 31 July, saying work was proceeding on new rules to make workplaces safe.
Asked whether it would be possible to lift the lockdown without much higher vaccination rates, both the premier and the health minister, Brad Hazzard again expressed their frustration, particularly with the lack of the Pfizer vaccine, which is recommended for younger age groups.
Berejiklian said the state was capable of delivering 300,000 jabs a week. Hazzard said the 150,000 additional doses of AstraZeneca provided by the commonwealth had been a “bring forward” but the real bottleneck was the lack of Pfizer doses.
A new state vaccination clinic is to open at Macquarie Fields shortly.
The premier again implored people not to leave home for work unless it was in a designated industry, saying that financial support was now available.
“One person going home then infects four or five times and then those household members might go out the next day, not knowing they have the virus, they might go out and pick up groceries or go to a workplace because they have to and that is how the disease keeps spreading.
Victor Dominello, the minister responsible for Service NSW, said the government had processed 15,500 applications from businesses for $196m in support in the past 48 hours and about $26m had already reached bank accounts.