NSW Health has released dozens more exposure sites across Sydney and warned of COVID in sewage samples just hours ahead of millions of Sydney-siders entering lockdown.
The rapidly expanding list was updated on Friday afternoon with a number of additional venues including locations in Double Bay and Barangaroo.
More cafes, shopping centres and train lines have been listed, while concerning virus particles were also detected in sewage in Ireland Park and West Camden.
- For an updated list of NSW exposure sites and dates, click here
Premier Gladys Berejiklian predicted the number of new COVID-19 infections would grow as the hundreds of people currently in isolation return positive tests.”
We expect household contacts to develop the virus,” she said.
“Our aim is to make sure that we get on top of any potential spread and that we also get on top of any chains of transmission that our testing hasn’t picked up.”
One of Australia’s most senior doctors on Friday said NSW’s lockdown rules must be expanded Sydney-wide to avoid a “catastrophic” outcome, as the Delta virus strain spreads across the city.
Ms Berejiklian announced stay-at-home orders for millions of residents of four Sydney local government areas as the state reported 22 new COVID cases – the biggest single-day jump yet in its latest outbreak.
But Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid slammed the decision, saying it didn’t go far enough.
He called for a clearer and more wide-reaching approach to the Bondi cluster, which hit 65 cases on Friday.
“While we are pleased that the NSW government have gone further than before and announced a lockdown in some local government areas, unfortunately in our view that is not quite enough,” Dr Khorshid said.
“What we really need are clear rules for all Sydneysiders that say ‘stay at home’ so we can get ahead of this virus and stop further transmission.”
Ms Berejiklian carefully avoided the word “lockdown” while outlining stay-at-home orders for anyone who lives or works in the Woolhara, Waverley, Randwick and City of Sydney council areas.
The rules apply from midnight Friday and will last for at least a week. Anyone who has worked in the four eastern Sydney areas in the past two weeks is also included.
But the measures have caused confusion about who must actually stay at home.
“I’m captured in that. I don’t live in those areas but I work there and have done so in the past fortnight, so therefore, I’m captured by that stay-at-home order,” Ms Berejiklian said.
NSW should lock down Sydney-wide: AMA
Dr Korshid said the AMA was concerned about NSW’s lack of experience in containing the highly contagious Delta variant, suggesting the stay-at-home plans were not enough.
“Sydney has not faced this before and it means a different approach is required,” he said.
He also called for clarity around the rules, and said they should be universal.
“Our concern with the current announcement is that it is confusing for many people in Sydney. If you work in the CBD but live outside of it, we know if you contract the disease you are going to give it to your family.”
“The economic consequences of lockdown are significant but the economic consequences of getting this wrong are catastrophic not just for Sydney but for all of Australia.
“Our belief is that we need everyone in Sydney to do the right thing and a stay-at-home in order to stop this virus from taking a hold in Australia.”
From midnight Friday, people who live or work in Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney council areas will not be able to leave home for a week except for essential purposes. These are:
- For work and education, if it can’t be done from home;
- Exercise, in groups of up to 10;
- Providing essential care;
- Buying essential goods and services.
NSW had 11 more coronavirus cases by 8pm on Thursday night, six of which it had already announced. There were 17 more infections after 8pm, which will be in Saturday’s tally.
The state government had previously held off declaring a lockdown, instead preferring to restrict the movements of residents, increase mask wearing and limit social and other gatherings.
Ms Berejiklian said the earlier restrictions – still in place for other areas of greater Sydney as well as the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour – would also be extended until midnight on Friday next week.
Those who live or work in the Inner West, Canada Bay or Bayside council areas, meanwhile, are still barred from leaving metropolitan Sydney.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said the shutdown would act as a “circuit breaker” to give contact tracers time to get on top of exposure sites.
Dr Chant said she was more concerned about people who had been infectious in the community before isolating, such as clients of Joh Bailey hairdressers in Double Bay.
“We have at least three staff members who were working whilst infectious and with two confirmed cases amongst clients so far I expect more cases to be detected over the coming days,” she said.
Dr Chant said 17 of the guests at a “super-spreader” birthday party in Hoxton Park earlier this week have now tested COVID-positive.
Not this, again
By Friday afternoon, the all-too familiar pre-lockdown photographs of empty toilet paper shelves in supermarkets had started to appear on social media – despite the Premier’s insistence stocking up was unnecessary.
“Please don’t panic buy. No need for that. You can go out and buy anything you need any time of the day. We don’t have curfew, we don’t have anything like that,” she said.
Calls for financial aid
The localised lockdown has also sparked calls for financial assistance for NSW businesses, with the retail sector claiming it will inflict $750 million of “carnage” at one of the busiest times of the year.
National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lamb said retailers accept the need for a lockdown but it would “come at a cost”.
Some federal government payments will be available for affected workers, with the seven local government areas at the centre of the outbreak declared COVID hotspots by chief medical officer Paul Kelly on Wednesday. But it is Sydney’s first lockdown without JobKeeper, and comes in the final week of end-of-financial-year sales.
“Rather than seeing consumers stampede into town to cash in on bargain sales, Sydney CBD shopping precincts will resemble a ghost town,” Ms Lamb said.
She said the state and federal governments must urgently consider financial support for businesses hit by the lockdown.