People in Sydney’s worst-hit areas can expect a knock on the door as the army and police ramp up enforcement amid warnings the city’s highest daily cases of the pandemic are tracking to get even worse.
NSW police will begin checking homes for people who shouldn’t be there and will also target businesses across the city that are breaching public health orders.
Defence personnel will also be deployed from Friday to train over the weekend and on Monday start working under the direction of NSW Police, Defence Minister Peter Dutton confirmed.
It comes as Sydney is expected to break Thursday’s high-water mark of 239 new cases and restrictions were tightened further to try and curb the outbreak.
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Up to 55 per cent of the 588 cases reported in the past three days have been infectious while in the community.
Two million people in eight western Sydney local government areas cannot leave the area unless they are essential workers.
Masks are also mandatory at all times — including outdoors — and people are banned from going more than five kilometres from their home.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said there would be more police on the ground as enforcement was boosted.
“There are a lot of people doing the right thing but this will focus on those who continue to do the wrong thing,” he said.
“We know home-to-home transmission is a huge issue for us, we know people are bringing it home from worksites that aren’t complying,” Mr Fuller said.
But he stopped short of “random” checks in home, saying police would monitor close contacts and had the power to stop people in public and seek their address.
On Thursday afternoon the police chief formally requested the assistance of 300 defence force personnel for the compliance operation.
But its involvement in a civil obedience campaign raised concern for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
“We understand that public health emergencies require the government to take extraordinary measures but using the military to enforce local laws sets a dangerous precedent,” said ALA spokesman Greg Barns SC.
Sydney’s lockdown enters its sixth week on Saturday, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitting cases would rise given the high number of people infectious while in the community.
“We can only assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better,” the premier said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Sydney Super Dome at Olympic Park will reportedly become a vaccination hub for year 12 students in hotspot areas, ahead of their return to school on August 16.
Victoria’s mystery link
Victorian health authorities have linked a mystery case of COVID-19 to current outbreaks in the state.
But they are still trying to discover how the man, who was working as a traffic controller at the Moonee Valley drive-through testing site, managed to catch the virus.
He tested positive on Wednesday, two days after developing symptoms, and his close contacts have so far tested negative.
On Thursday, Victoria’s acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie warned authorities “may not find the smoking gun” of how he caught the virus.
It’s believed the man had not been vaccinated despite being eligible as a frontline worker.
The state recorded seven local cases on Thursday, of which six have been in isolation while infectious.
Among them were four students from Bacchus Marsh College, and two household contacts linked to the Lacrosse apartments in Docklands, where 500 people are in isolation for 14 days.
Separately, a positive case who was isolating while infectious has also been reported in the Bass Coast Shire, to be included in Friday’s official tally.
South Australia’s quarantine warning
South Australians have been urged to complete any quarantine periods and follow COVID-19 restrictions to ensure no flare-up in a local cluster of virus cases.
SA reported two new infections on Thursday, 10 days after their first case was discovered.
Both were already in hotel quarantine when they became infectious, posing no threat to the wider community.
But Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier says the new cases show that people can still become ill and emphasised the need for everyone in directed home quarantine to complete the full 14 days.
“Even at this late stage, it is still possible for people to become positive,” she said.
“You can be highly infectious, even if you haven’t had any symptoms yourself.”
The latest cases take the current outbreak to 21 since it first emerged on July 19.