The lockdown in greater Sydney is expected to be extended for a further month after case numbers hit a new peak on Tuesday.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has promised to provide a roadmap for the easing of restrictions after July 30, the lockdown’s nominal end, as soon as Wednesday.
The extension would set a new end date of August 28 – nine weeks after severe restrictions began in the city and its surrounding area.
The expected announcement follows crisis talks on Tuesday night where NSW leaders discussed how to safely let some workers remain on the job and get older children back to school.
Ms Berejiklian is expected to confirm that construction work will resume in non-hotspot areas from Saturday.
Those in local government areas with high levels of COVID-19 transmission will not be permitted to work.
A singles bubble will also be introduced to allow people living alone to have contact with a friend or relative during lockdown.
Cabinet is also considering rapid antigen testing for year 12 students and essential workers.
Also on Tuesday night, NSW Health named more exposure sites. The three of most concern were:
- Madhouse Bakery, South Strathfield, July 21
- Westpac, Bankstown, various times, July 19-23
- Flower Power Garden Centre, Terrey Hills, July 19
⚠️PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT – VENUES OF CONCERN⚠️
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 27, 2021
More people could die
Australians were told earlier on Tuesday to expect more COVID-related deaths in NSW as the state struggles to contain its outbreak of the highly infectious Delta strain.
Another 172 locally acquired cases and two virus-related deaths were reported on Monday as a five-storey apartment block in Blacktown was locked down and the state’s Health Minister warned that more deaths were likely.
The toll from the outbreak has risen to 10, with the deaths of two women in their 80s (initially reported as a woman and a man) confirmed on Tuesday.
One of those women had been at a funeral where dozens of other family members and friends also tested positive for the virus.
There are 169 COVID-19 cases in NSW hospitals. They include 46 people in intensive care, 19 of them on ventilation.
“You have to assume the more people who get the virus the more deaths we will have,” Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said.
The outbreak reached a new daily high with 172 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday – up from 145 the previous day.
At least 79 of those people were active in the community for all or part of their infectious period.
The source of infection for 87 cases is under investigation, with 85 linked to a known case or cluster.
Do you live in the Greater Sydney area and travel more than 50kms outside of Greater Sydney for work?
You must have a COVID-19 test every 7 days.
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 27, 2021
Elsewhere in NSW, there was good news for the 60,000 residents of three regional towns placed into lockdown last week.
The stay-at-home order imposed on Orange City Council, Blayney Shire Council and Cabonne Shire Council areas will be lifted at 12.01am on Wednesday, NSW Health said.
The towns were locked down after a visiting Sydney delivery driver infected a local factory worker, who then attended multiple venues.
‘I’m not vigilante’
Meanwhile, the owner of a Sydney organic food shop shut down for repeated breaches of coronavirus restrictions says he’s not a “vigilante” or trying to push buttons.
Pete Melov’s shop cannot open until August 3 after SafeWork NSW alleged serial breaches of the COVID public health orders.
NSW police have received numerous complaints about the Mascot store’s compliance with public health orders, leading to warnings, fines for not wearing face masks, multiple charges and Mr Melov spending hours in police custody.
But Mr Melov said he wasn’t “some kook” and he had good reason not to wear a face mask.
Injuries, surgeries and scar tissue on and around his ears meant he couldn’t apply any pressure on them, he said.
As for the lack of a QR code check-in system for Pete’s Organic Market, he said he was confused by terms and conditions he was required to sign, as they also stated he wasn’t required by law to provide certain information.
Mr Melov said he was prepared to implement the system – mandatory for all retail businesses – if someone answered his questions.
“I’m not a vigilante, I’m not against the community, I’d like things explained to me if I’m asked to sign it,” he said.
He hoped people would stop dobbing on his business, which he said supports single mothers and others in the community who were struggling to get by under the city’s strict lockdown.
“I give boxes of food away, I’m doing as much as I can to help the community,” Mr Melov said.
“I’m not blaming the police, I have the greatest respect for the law, I follow the law.”
Mr Melov’s shopfront is adorned with a sign stating “the law serves us, the law doesn’t control us, 99.97 per cent recover naturally”.