Up to five million residents in Greater Sydney will remain in lockdown for at least another two weeks as the state recorded almost 100 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed residents will stay in lockdown until at least July 30 after the state recorded 97 cases of community transmission up until 8pm on Tuesday out of 65,322 test results.
Worryingly, she said 24 cases were infectious while in the community and that number needed to be as “
NSW Health said 61 of those cases were linked to a known case or cluster. Of those, 45 are household contacts and 16 are close contacts while and the source of infection for 36 cases remains under investigation.
Two new overseas-acquired cases were recorded in the same period. The total number of cases in NSW since the beginning of the pandemic is now 6362.
There have been 864 locally acquired cases reported since June 16 when the first case in the Bondi cluster was reported.
Meanwhile, there were extraordinary scenes as thousands of people in the Fairfield local government area – which is the new epicentre of the outbreak – sat waiting in their cars in queues stretching for kilometres to get tested at a local showground.
Workers who wanted to get tested but who could not afford to wait six hours turned around and went home.
Local MP Guy Zangari told ABC News 24’s morning news program : “It’s been absolute chaos for the residents who are doing the right thing, going out and getting tested but unfortunately the demand is too great and the Government hasn’t met that demand with pop up or either 24 hour testing sites”.
“People last night were re-diverted to sites that unfortunately couldn’t meet the demand.
“Local streets are getting clogged with traffic which has meant that
… local schools can’t even have their teachers or students picking up important resources to do online learning. So this wasn’t thought out well.
“It has caused a lot of confusion and angst in amongst the community,” Mr Zangari said.
The rush came after the state government on Tuesday announced new restrictions for essential workers who must now get tested every three days if they work outside the area.
Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone says the new rules have created bedlam at testing sites in the area due to the sudden influx.
“Well, it’s chaos,” he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.
“These are people that want to get tested, these are doctors and nurses, people that help our community, they work far and wide and these are essential workers.
“The mandated plan, where people need to get tested two times a week, once every three days, was very badly thought out.”
The local community had already responded to the government’s calls to get tested.
“It’s unfortunate that the government has done this. I don’t think they understood the magnitude of it and I don’t think they understood the amount of essential workers we have in Fairfield,” he said.
Anyone from Greater Sydney travelling to the regions for work must be tested weekly, but these workers have until Saturday until the order is policed.
More Sydney venues of concern
Meanwhile, NSW Health has flagged 30 more venues of concern visited by people with COVID-19.
The state government expanded a business grants program and will cut or defer payroll taxes for most companies, while workers who have lost eight or more hours a week as a result of the lockdown will be able to apply for up to $600 per week in federal support.
The increase in workers’ payments kicks in once a lockdown exceeds 21 days.
Ms Berejiklian said the support would give people a “breather” to follow the health advice.
The National Retail Association welcomed the support package as businesses “bleed $1 billion a week in lost sales during lockdown”.
Tourism, transport, restaurant and hotel groups also welcomed the relief.
The union covering retail, fast food and warehouse workers, SDA NSW, said frontline retail workers should be given priority access to vaccines, like teachers have.
UnionsNSW said the relief didn’t “go fair enough” because the payments were too small and there was no paid pandemic or vaccine leave.
The government has also extended support to allow rough sleepers access temporary accommodation and a moratorium on evictions for commercial and residential tenants.
Most of Tuesday’s new cases were in the city’s southwest, while 20 were in the southeast or inner city.
Two people have died – a man in his 70s and a woman in her 90s – talking the NSW tally to 57 and the national death toll to 912 since the pandemic began began last year.