Greater Sydney and surrounds are expected to remain in lockdown for another week as the Berejiklian government buys more time to contain an outbreak that still has a high risk of community transmission.
It is being widely reported that the NSW government’s crisis cabinet committee, which met on Tuesday, has decided to extend the lockdown until 11.59pm on July 16.
The two-week shutdown had originally been due to end midnight this Friday.
The decision comes as the number of new cases who had spent time in the community while infectious continues to alarm health experts. They included seven of Tuesday’s 18 infections.
Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant has previously flagged that the lockdown’s success would be judged on this metric.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is expected to announce the prolonged lockdown on Wednesday morning.
It will include students in lockdown zones learning from home when school resumes next week. Regional NSW students will return to classrooms as normal.
Ms Berejiklian spent most of Tuesday locked in meetings with health experts so she could tell the lockdown-fatigued community “what next week looks like”.
“While we have the best contact tracers in the world, and I believe the right settings at the right time for our population, we have to be mindful that what we are experiencing with this strain is something new during the pandemic,” she said.
“It is not something we have seen before, and that is why it requires a different type of response.”
In coming days, Ms Berejiklian is also expected to unveil a longer-term strategy to ensure this lockdown is NSW’s “last”, with plans for how to remain open as vaccination rates increase.
The total number of people infected in the outbreak that began in Bondi in mid-June grew to 330 on Tuesday.
Ms Berejiklian said the length of the lockdown would be informed by the fact the NSW government wanted this to be the state’s last.
The stay-at-home orders affect people in greater Sydney, Wollongong, Shellharbour, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains regions.
Sacked Dragons player’s remorse
Sacked St George Illawarra player Paul Vaughan has posted an apology after hosting an illegal party at his home with 12 other players at the weekend.
In an emergency meeting on Tuesday, the Dragons board decided to tear up the remaining 15 months of Vaughan’s NRL deal. It was worth about $750,000 a season.
Vaughan had already been fined $50,000 by the NRL and slapped with an eight-game ban for breaching COVID-19 protocols by hosting a party at his Shellharbour home.
Vaughan took to Instagram to apologise to his team mates, the NRL, the Club, its members, sponsors and fans along with all stakeholders in the game and community.
“Firstly I am sorry,” he wrote.
“My actions were stupid, unexplainable and irresponsible.
“The events that took place on the weekend were thoughtless and disrespectful to not only the game that I love, but to all of the sponsors, members and fans as well as the broader community.
“The reality is, I should have known better and I am truly sorry.
“I have let a lot of people down through my actions, and I hope that this sincere apology shows how deeply sorry I am and that I realise the enormity and stupidity of what I have done.
“To say that I have learnt a lesson from this is an understatement. I hope one day in the future, I can get the opportunity to showcase my remorse through better actions on and off the field.”
Prestigious school’s Pfizer jabs
Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that 160 students from Sydney’s exclusive St Joseph’s College received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in May, despite it not being available for younger people or the general public.
The school issued a statement saying it approached Sydney Local Health District because the boys are boarders, and some come from rural communities, including remote Indigenous communities.
Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people over 16 are eligible for a COVID vaccine.
Sydney Local Health District chief executive Teresa Anderson on Tuesday said only Indigenous students were supposed to be vaccinated.
“Through an error, the wider group of boarders in year 12, a total of 163 students, were also vaccinated,” she said.
“Sydney Local Health District apologises for this error.”
Decision to ease Victoria restrictions
Victoria is aiming for its first full week of no COVID-19 community transmission since its fourth lockdown, as a decision on eased restrictions looms.
An announcement on the state’s next step toward “COVID-normal” rules is expected on Wednesday.
Victorians have been living under the same set of restrictions for the past fortnight, including mandatory indoor masks and a 75 per cent office workplace cap.
Business groups have lobbied for both measures to be scrapped to encourage more workers to return to the Melbourne CBD.
Meanwhile, authorities are threatening to shut the border to red zone returnees if they continue to go walkabout. From 231 home compliance checks conducted on Monday, three Victorians who had returned from interstate hotspots were found not isolating as required.
The state’s COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said it was “hugely frustrating” and warned the state might have to suspend its red zone permit system.
Also on Tuesday, the state government said the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island would not go ahead in 2021 as planned.
The 2021 Formula One event had already been pushed back from its regular early season timeslot to November in the hope restrictions on international arrivals would ease by then.
Sports Minister Martin Pakula said he was confident the 2022 Australian Open will not be hit by the same issue as it attempts return to its traditional January timeslot.
Big business to administer jabs
The federal government and senior corporate figures will meet on Wednesday to discuss how businesses can be part of the vaccine rollout.
Employees could start receiving coronavirus vaccinations at work within months under the proposal as major companies put their hands up to administer jabs.
Businesses would use existing workplace flu vaccination schemes.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Lieutenant-General John Frewen, who leads the vaccine taskforce, will discuss industry rollout options with business leaders.
Vaccine incentives are also on the agenda after companies such as Qantas raised the prospect of rewarding vaccinated customers through loyalty schemes.