NSW plans to reopen the construction industry at the end of the month, with premier Gladys Berejiklian saying “green shoots are showing” from the lockdown.
Berejiklian said she had “made a commitment” to the industry to get construction workers back to work by 31 July and that the current rules banning construction work were a “pause” only to allow workplaces to introduce Covid-safe plans.
The state recorded 78 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday, a drop on earlier case numbers.
But only 37 – less than half – were in isolation during the whole of their infectious period. About 21 were infectious in the community, eight were partially isolating and 12 cases were under investigation.
The NSW government introduced a more stringent lockdown on Saturday amid concerns that large numbers of workers were leaving the hotspots in south-west Sydney to attend work.
Construction sites were shut down and other non-essential retail and all office workplaces have been ordered to close.
The shutdown of construction in greater Sydney for two weeks affects 250,000 workers and will deliver a hit to the NSW economy of about $1.4bn.
Berejiklian said the treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, and the deputy premier, John Barilaro, were consulting with the industry but the chief health officer, Kerry Chant, was also being asked for her views. Both are known sceptics of lockdowns.
“There definitely will be construction on 31st,” she said.
What was expected of construction sites would be publicised well in advance of 31 July but she said the government was not keen on rules that limited works to 25% of the normal workforce on site.
But there were no commitments about lifting rules in other workplaces by the end of this current two-week lockdown with both Chant and Berejiklian warning that households and workplaces remained the most likely settings for transmission.
While most transmission was still occurring in the household, Chant said transmission via the workplace “is setting off little fires” and infecting new households.
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She also said there were still unlinked cases which means there are chains of transmission which have not been identified.
She has called on residents of Canterbury-Bankstown, Hurstville, Kogarah, Guildford, Rooty Hill and Greystanes to come forward for testing.
Berejiklian urged employers of workers in essential industries such as supermarkets, aged care and pharmacies to ensure that workers were kept apart as much as possible including in places such break rooms.
“The harder we work now the sooner we will get out of it,” she said. “There are green shoots.”
But even as the government was optimistic about case numbers, health authorities were urgently looking into a case in the Orange region to determine whether there had been spread due to infected truck drivers travelling through the region.
On Monday one woman in her 50s – believed to be the mother of the two infected removalists who travelled through western NSW – died at home in south-west Sydney prompting questions about the circumstances.
“Anyone who needs urgent care can get urgent care,” Chant said.
“If they have symptoms and are worried, they should ring their GP,” she said.
Chant said it was her understanding that “care was offered to the family” but she did not elaborate.
She warned the health of Covid patients “can deteriorate rapidly” and that people could go from being well to needing intensive care treatment within a day.