Covid 19 coronavirus: NSW ‘throwing everything’ at Sydney outbreak with tougher restrictions

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged residents across Greater Sydney to adhere to even harsher new lockdown measures as the state seeks to halt the spread of Covid-19.

On Sunday, NSW recorded 105 community cases of coronavirus and one death.

Of the new cases, 66 were linked to a known case or cluster – 55 were household contacts and 11 were close contacts – while the source of infection for a huge 39 cases remains under investigation.

Berejiklian revealed 27 of the new cases were active in the community while infectious. It was those numbers that continue to worry the government the most, she said.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said on Saturday the daily increase of new cases, which has stayed close to the 100 mark for a week, was still “far too high”.

Sunday’s numbers came as Greater Sydney, including residents in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool local government areas, entered the toughest restrictions in the state of the entire pandemic.

People in those areas are only permitted to leave their homes for four essential reasons: shopping for food or other essential goods and services; medical care or compassionate needs, including getting a Covid-19 vaccine; exercise outdoors in groups of two, who cannot travel further than 10km; essential work, or education, where people cannot work or study from home.

“We know these are difficult times but we also know that when we come together we can achieve what we need to achieve,” Berejiklian said yesterday.

“We are throwing everything at this. We want to come out of this lockdown as soon as possible. We want to make sure that we allow families and businesses in particular to bounce back as soon as we can and that is why we are throwing everything at it in the next two weeks.”

Most retail premises were also required to close and all non-urgent construction was paused. Employers must now allow employees to work from home if they are able, and failure to do so can result in a fine of up to A$10,000.

While Sydney’s outbreak may have started in the eastern suburbs, it’s now taken hold in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool local government areas.

Under the new restrictions, the only people who are able to leave those areas for work are essential health and emergency services workers. Even then, those workers are required to get a Covid-19 test every three days, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Melbourne University clinical epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter has warned that Australia’s recent outbreaks highlight how highly infectious the Delta variant of the virus is and suggested the country may not be able to go back to what life was like before the latest lockdowns.

“It’s just so hard to get on top of Delta,” Baxter said. “By the time they identify the first case, the contacts of their contacts would already be positive.”

Baxter said some people with Delta test positive in as little as a day, compared to up to five days for the original strain of Covid-19, and in that time have already given it to the next ring of contacts before contact tracers can identify them.

“It’s very difficult to get on top of it without the so-called circuit breaker lockdown that allows contact tracers more time to do their job,” she said.

It’s likely the highly infectious nature of the Delta variant will mean Australians will have to live with some restrictions until enough of the population is vaccinated, Baxter said.

“It was great two months ago, we were all going out and the streets were crowded,” Baxter said. “It was good before the forced lockdown but I don’t think we can go back to that. We need to live as if Covid exists until we’re vaccinated, otherwise we’ll be in lockdown after lockdown after lockdown.”

Baxter’s comments echo those made by infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon of Australian National University, who warned last month that residents may have to live with ongoing restrictions during winter while the virus is more active.

“My view is we need restrictions even in areas that don’t have outbreaks in winter,” he told news.com.au. “For the next few months, because it is winter and we are not vaccinated, we need to wear more restrictions for a while.”

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