A ring of steel has come down around three council areas responsible for at least 80 per cent of Sydney’s cases as the NSW premier warned the city was failing to quash the virus.
Restrictions were tightened for the third time in as many weeks including all but essential shops now forced to close and bosses facing penalties for making people attend work.
Residents of the worst-affected areas of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool are not allowed to stray past their council boundaries until July 30 unless they work in health or emergency services.
“I can’t remember a time when our state has been challenged to such an extent,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
“Not a single one of these decisions was taken lightly.”
Sydney’s lockdown crackdown comes as Victorian authorities said their decision to go hard and early with a five-day lockdown was vindicated in the latest case numbers.
Although 18 of the 19 new cases reported in Victoria on Saturday were not in insolation for the entirety of their infectious period, on average each only spent 1.7 days in the community before they were picked up.
“All I can say is the response couldn’t have been better. The judgements that have been made around a hard and fast lockdown have been the right ones. And that’s got us on a good track,” said Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
However Victorians have been told to prepare for a possible extension to the lockdown which was due to end midnight Tuesday, with authorities noting: it’s a day-by-day proposition.
“Every Victorian needs to ready themself for what might emerge over the next 24/48 hours,” said Mr Sutton.
“We’ve got settings in place until Tuesday midnight and we will make another assessment every day over the next three days.”
On Saturday authorities estimated there were 10,000 “primary close contacts” in Victoria as the number of exposure sites stretched towards 200, with 19 new locally acquired cases.
The latest case count took the number of diagnoses in the current Victorian outbreak to 43, all linked to a known source.
Some 12 million Australian residents are under COVID-19 lockdown, with the rest are living with some form of travel restriction, as Australians remain in the dark over the rate of vaccinations needed for the country to reopen.
NSW reported 111 new community cases of the virus on Saturday along with the death of a man in his 80s.
At least 29 of 111 were also infectious before going into isolation, a number authorities say is too high.
Tougher restrictions apply to the entire Greater Sydney region.
From Sunday, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and few other retailers will be allowed to open and will have to operate with ‘click and collect’ or takeaway.
Construction sites, large or small, will be shut.
All office workers and others working from home should not be pressured to go in to work, with employers to potentially incur a $10,000 fine if they push staff to attend.
Ms Berejiklian defended the measures taken to curb the outbreak so far, saying they had prevented “thousands and thousands” of cases and the further restrictions were a “no-regrets policy”.
‘Unfathomable’ COVID breaches
A coronavirus case who left isolation to buy dumbbells and three virus-infected removalists who travelled to regional NSW are among more than 150 people fined for breaching COVID rules in the past 24 hours.
NSW Police attended more than 1000 COVID-related jobs on Friday, with more than half coming from tip-offs to Crime Stoppers.
In total, 162 fines were issued and 18 people charged for breaches of the Public Health Act.
Among them was a 25-year-old aged care worker from Mt Druitt who was fined $1000 after police discovered he drove to Blacktown to buy dumbbell weights.
Three infected removalists from West Hoxton in southwest Sydney were also nabbed after travelling through regional NSW.
The trio — and another man who hadn’t tested positive — drove to Molong in central western NSW, stopping in Figtree, South Bowenfels and Orange along the way.
Police escorted the men and their vehicles back to Greater Sydney, issuing the trio with court attendance notices for failing to comply with COVID directions.
Police Minister David Elliott blasted the men for the “thoughtless act” that had “placed our regional communities in NSW at the greatest risk so far with this pandemic.”
“We know that the Delta variant is highly transmissible, and it is unfathomable to think that, with all the public information and health warnings, people could so blatantly ignore the health orders.”
Anger over right-wing commentator’s arrival
A furore has erupted after British right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins was apparently let into Australia as thousands of nationals remain stranded overseas.
Ms Hopkins posted a video of herself purporting to be in Sydney hotel quarantine in which she railed against the “hoax” of lockdowns and joked about herself breaking the rules.
Her apparent presence in the country has been slammed, including by federal Labor MP Andrew Giles who said it was another of the Morrison government’s “appalling decisions”.
Mr Giles described Ms Hopkins as a “right-wing troll” and said her boastful behaviour about breaking hotel quarantine rules was a danger to Australians.
“Ms Hopkins should have never been allowed into the country,” he wrote in Twitter.
“And now that Ms Hopkins is openly breaching quarantine restrictions, Mr Morrison must take responsibility for his failure.”
— Josh Burns (@joshburnsmp) July 17, 2021
Another federal Labor MP Josh Burns called for Ms Hopkins’ visa to be cancelled and for the British identity to be sent home.
Ms Hopkins was permanently suspended from Twitter in 2020 for violating the platform’s “hateful conduct” policy and has made a number of inflammatory public remarks.