Thousands more Sydney residents will be banned from leaving their local areas, even for work, as NSW tries to contain its deadly COVID outbreak after another grim record on Friday.
NSW will also push to significantly broaden the national vaccine rollout to focus on first doses for residents of virus-hit western and south-western Sydney and younger people.
With 136 new cases on Friday, a new high for 2021, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the situation facing NSW was a national emergency.
“The crisis cabinet meeting of the NSW government met this
morning, when [chief health officer Kerry] Chant and her team advised us that the situation that exists now in NSW – namely around south-western and now western Sydney suburbs – is regarded as a national emergency,” she said.
“For that purpose and for that reason the NSW government will be taking action in relation to that.”
Friday’s cases included at least 70 who were active in the community for at least part of their infectious period, and another 13 whose isolation status is still being investigated. That figure has stayed worryingly high, despite repeated pleas from from health authorities for people to stay home if at all possible.
Friday’s update came after a previous record of 124 local cases on Thursday. There have been more than 100 community infections across the state on six of the past seven days, and the numbers of people who are not isolating while infectious remains stubbornly high.
There have been 1782 local virus infections since the first case in the Bondi cluster was reported in mid-June.
NSW has also confirmed its seventh COVID fatality of 2021. An 89-year-old man died after the 8pm Thursday cut-off for Friday’s data.
Ms Berejiklian said authorities would move to a “much more targeted and localised approach” to try to halt the virus’ spread across Sydney.
Only essential workers – people in aged care, health services or ancillary or support services, including cleaners, cooks, and security providers – will be able to leave the local government areas of Cumberland and Blacktown to go to work. That is an extension of orders already facing workers in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool areas.
All must have virus tests every three days.
NSW will also seek a change in the national coronavirus vaccine strategy to concentrate on getting at least first doses to as many people as possible in Sydney’s hardest-hit areas, including younger people.
“There is no doubt that if we want to contain this virus and stop it seeping out to other parts of greater Sydney, stop it impacting our freedom and our economy, but also stop it spreading to other states, we need to have a discussion about refocusing the national vaccination strategy,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Given the situation NSW is in, we need to administer at least the first days of any vaccine into arms as much as possible, we also need to acknowledge the population of south-western and Western Sydney is younger than the average population.”
She said she would take that pitch to the national cabinet meeting later on Friday.
“We have an obligation on behalf of the nation to contain the virus,” she said.
“No matter how hard you have a state border lockdown, the virus still seeps through.”
Dr Chant said the national COVID vaccine push should be refocused on the five Sydney local government areas where case numbers continue to rise.
“Every day people from those LGAs have to go out to work, to keep our city going. They are doing critical food production, critical work, to keep society functioning, and we are seeing cases introduced the virus into various workplaces,” she said.
“We are also seeing a significant household transmission, and it has been very challenging to interrupt those transmission chains.”