It’s feared huge numbers may have been exposed to the Delta variant after 30 new Sydney exposure sites were listed on Friday evening, including major supermarkets and an Ikea store where an infected staffer worked an 11-hour shift.
On the morning Sydney should have been waking to freedom, five million residents have entered an extended lockdown as the NSW premier warned the number of cases “is going to go up” in the next few days.
The state recorded its worst day of the outbreak on Friday with 44 new locally acquired cases, 29 of which had been in the community during all or part of their infectious period.
On Friday evening, NSW Health listed 30 new exposure sites including an Ikea in Tempe where an infected worker potentially exposed hordes of customers over an 11-hour shift.
Other venues include two Bunnings stores in Randwick and Hoxton Park, a row of six furniture stores on the same road in Campbelltown, Westfield Burwood, a Miranda Service NSW, medical centres in Liverpool and Wetherill Park, and numerous supermarkets.
⚠️PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT – VENUES OF CONCERN⚠️
NSW Health has been notified of a number of new venues of concern which have been visited by confirmed cases of COVID 19. pic.twitter.com/34j8g322aw
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 9, 2021
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the high number of people who had been in the community and potentially spreading the highly infectious variant was worrying.
“It tells us that in the next few days … both the case numbers and unfortunately the number of people who may be exposed, or have been exposed, in the community is going to go up,” she said.
“This is the opposite of where we need or want the numbers to trend.”
Greater Sydney wakes to tougher restrictions
Saturday should have been the end of a two-week lockdown for Sydney but instead the region is waking to tougher restrictions for at least another week.
The tight new rules limit exercise to groups of two, no further than 10km from their home and ban browsing at shops.
Only one person per household may leave the home for shopping each day.
Funerals are limited to 10 people.
However, as revealed in an exclusive report in The New Daily on Saturday, new modelling by the Burnet Institute shows the restrictions will not be enough to make a major dent in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases occurring in coming weeks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised Sydneysiders to “push through” and comply with restrictions.
“Hopefully (the lockdown is) as brief as it can be, but as long as it has to be, to ensure that we suppress the virus and this most recent outbreak and we’re able to get back to where we were a few weeks ago,” Mr Morrison told Nine’s A Current Affair on Friday evening.
Ms Berejiklian issued a stern warning to residents of Greater Sydney to adhere to the new rules or the lockdown would have to continue.
“We’re still getting questions … about how many people you can have into your home. The answer is zero,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Do not go (out) to an indoor setting because you’re bored and it’s a rainy weekend. That is how the virus spreads.
“The message I’m delivering today is quite shocking for a lot of people but I need everybody to be shocked.”
Ms Berejiklian warned the worst days were yet to come.
“(This is) the greatest threat we have faced in NSW since the pandemic started … (and) at the moment the numbers are not heading in the right direction,” she said.
“The rate of infection therefore is going up exponentially every day.
“Unless there’s a dramatic turnaround in the numbers, I can’t see how we’ll be in a position to ease restrictions by next Friday.”
The premier said a premature reopening of Greater Sydney would result in thousands of coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
The number of close contacts isolating across NSW doubled in 24 hours, from 7000 to 14,000.
Ten COVID-19 patients in NSW are in intensive care, with four ventilated – one person aged in their 20s.
Vaccine booster controversy
Europe’s leading drug agency says there are no grounds yet for COVID-19 booster shots after Pfizer and BioNTech said there was evidence for a ‘third jab’.
Currently Pfizer requires two jabs spaced about three weeks apart but the company said it was likely that “a third dose may be needed within 6 to 12 months after full vaccination”.
However the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said there was still insufficient data on the protection period which had been gathered from studies and vaccination campaigns.
Such data would be quickly evaluated once it was available, the EMA wrote, adding that the agency was in contact with the manufacturers regarding boosters, in order to take regulatory steps as quickly as possible, if necessary.
Hours after the Pfizer and BioNTech announcement on Thursday (local time), the US medicines and health authorities issued a rebuttal.
“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a joint statement.
“We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed,” they added, noting that they were engaged in a “science-based, rigorous process” taking into account a slew of data.
Meanwhile, Pfizer and BioNTech said they are developing an updated version of their COVID-19 vaccine that targets the full spike protein of the Delta variant, AFX reported.
The companies plan to start clinical trials in August of an updated version of their vaccine that would better protect against the Delta variant.