NSW Police have asked the Army for urgent assistance to help enforce the state’s tough COVID measures.
Commissioner Mick Fuller has confirmed he has formally asked the federal government for Australian Defence Force assistance with its ongoing COVID-19 compliance operation.
The request was made just hours after Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed the police had been granted new powers to shut down businesses violating public health orders amid fears Sydneysiders were breaking too many rules as the state’s case numbers rose to a record high.
“The assistance of the ADF has been essential over the past 18 months – particularly during last year’s border operation, the ongoing hotel quarantine operation and the assistance provided with logistics support in the Police Operations Centre,” Commissioner Fuller said.
“With an increase in enforcement activity over the coming week, I have now made a formal request to the Prime Minister for ADF personnel to assist with that operation.”
Victoria also called on the Army to help police its months-long lockdown in 2020.
The request came as NSW confirmed 239 more local infections on Thursday – a record for its current outbreak. There were also two more fatalities, taking the toll from the outbreak to 13.
Also on Thursday, fresh data revealed people in their 20s and 30s were contracting COVID-19 in the community in NSW faster than any other age group.
Of Thursday’s cases, 47 were were aged 20-29 and 50 were aged 30-39.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said this was partly because the virus was most prevalent in Sydney’s south and south-west, where local residents are particularly young.
But the data also appears to coincide with the delay in offering vaccination to people under 40, with two teenagers, eight people in their 20s, and four in their 30s in hospital in NSW due to the virus.
Under-40s were ineligible to receive the preferred vaccine for their age group until official medical advice changed on July 24. AstraZeneca is now available via walk-in or appointment at pharmacists in NSW to people over the age of 18.
None of the 54 people in intensive care in NSW have received two doses of a vaccine, according to Ms Berejiklian.
On Thursday, Ms Berejiklian announced a tightening of restrictions in a bid to contain the outbreak as case numbers keep trending up.
With as many as 88 of the day’s cases in the community for at least part of their infectious period, Ms Berejiklian said all residents in the eight local government areas deemed at high risk would, from 12.01am on Thursday, be required to wear a mask at all times outside their home.
They will also be restricted to a five-kilometre radius of their homes – regardless of their reason for leaving – while the travel limit will also apply to single bubbles.
And the fine for not wearing a mask will increase from $200 to $500.
The eight LGAs are:
- Georges River
‘Call to arms’
Ms Berejiklian also appealed again to NSW residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“The vaccines are working. The vaccines work,” she said.
“Touch wood, I’m yet to be advised of anybody in intensive care who’s had both doses of the vaccine.”
She later described the plea to come forward and get vaccinated as “a call to arms”.
“Please come forward and get vaccinated, especially if you have older vulnerable people in your community,” the Premier said.
“If you want to protect those you love the most, not only do you need to respect the health orders, but also encourage vaccination.”
Of Thursday’s 239 local cases, 113 were linked to knowns case or clusters – including 88 household contacts and 25 close contacts – and the source of infection for 126 cases is under investigation.
Eighty-one cases were in isolation throughout their infectious period.
But 88 cases were in the community for at least part of their infectious period. Ms Berejiklian said this meant case numbers were likely to rise even further, before they fell.
Vaccines hit 200,000 a day
Thursday’s developments came as daily doses of COVID vaccines across Australia hit a record of more than 200,000.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the latest federal government data showed 77 per cent of the population intended to receive a vaccine.
“As time has gone on, the number of people intending to be vaccinated has gone up,” he said in Melbourne on Thursday.
“That is an important message that those people who are spreading the misinformation or anti-vax materials are losing the argument.”
Jab rates are rising but just 17.7 per cent of people aged 16 and over in Australia are fully vaccinated against the disease.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has again urged Australians to bring forward their second AstraZeneca jab as the COVID crisis engulfs his home city.
Mr Morrison said people could receive a second shot within four weeks, a gap approved by medical regulators, rather than the 12 weeks recommended for maximum effectiveness.
“I need to get the whole country vaccinated as well and the sooner we get there and it can be done safely then we should,” he told 3AW radio on Thursday.
Mr Morrison is expecting everyone keen for a coronavirus jab to have been offered one by Christmas.
The federal government has missed several of its own vaccination targets including the initial benchmark of all people being given the opportunity for a first dose by October.