NSW residents face another lockdown extension after the state reported another 145 locally acquired cases on Monday.
Of particular concern are the 76 cases who spent at least part of their infectious period in the community, amid calls from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian for people “not to leave home unless they absolutely have to”.
The grim figures came as NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told “anarchists” planning a repeat of last Saturday’s anti-lockdown protests this weekend that they would be arrested if they went ahead.
“We will take the ground very early,” Mr Fuller said.
“The Premier has spoken about that behaviour and it won’t be tolerated again.”
At her Monday morning press conference, Ms Berejiklian urged NSW residents to avoid mingling with other households even if they were going through a family bereavement.
Ms Berejiklian said no exceptions could be made at this point of the outbreak and residents must appreciate “how important it is not to mingle between households and to stay within your household”.
“Do not mingle. Do not have any exposure outside of your household with other household,” she said.
Research from the University of Sydney found compliance with social distancing in NSW was as low as 40 per cent earlier in July.
But Mr Fuller noted there had been some improvement and thanked the community.
Two key drivers
The main sources of transmission in NSW continue to be households and essential workplaces.
Chief health officer Kerry Chant said it explained why so many of Sydney’s cases were in the south-west.
The state’s lockdown is due to end on July 30 but Dr Chant said officials would not be able to stick to that timeframe.
Dr Chant said that meant greater engagement with the communities affected by the lockdown, and faster rates of vaccination.
But when asked what target the NSW government had set for ending the lockdown – whether it be driving down daily cases to zero or achieving an 80 per cent vaccination rate – she said “those discussions are ongoing”.
AZ ‘very effective’
During the press conference, Dr Chant was at pains to point out that the AstraZeneca shot was safe and effective and should be taken up by all NSW residents.
Dr Chant said she found it distressing that many over-60s and over-70s were still unvaccinated and recommended they visit their doctor or pharmacist “as a matter of urgency”.
With 156 COVID-19 cases in NSW in hospital, 44 in intensive care and 18 requiring ventilation, Dr Chant stressed the effectiveness of AstraZeneca in preventing serious illness and noted authorities were exploring ways to distribute Pfizer to younger essential workers in Sydney’s COVID hotspots.
Other regions of concern where authorities want more people to be tested include Coffs Harbour, Byron and Ballina in the state’s north; Moss Vale, south of Sydney; and the Cumberland local government area, Guildford, Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, Mount Druitt, and Blacktown.
Of the 145 new local virus cases in NSW on Monday, 66 were linked to known clusters, 57 were household contacts and nine were close contacts.
The source of infection for 79 cases is still under investigation – marking the largest new addition of unlinked cases in one day – and 76 were in the community for at least part of their infectious period.
More protests on the way
The latest figures coincided with a warning from NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller.
Mr Fuller acknowledged reports of another anti-lockdown protest planned for Sydney this weekend and said it would be heavily policed.
Mr Fuller said unlike with the Black Lives Matter protests last June, no organisers had formally registered the anti-lockdown demonstrations.
“There are no organisers that we can take to the Supreme Court to stop the protests happening, which means they’re a bunch of anarchists,” he said.
It is feared last Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest in Sydney might have been a “super-spreader” event that seeded more cases of coronavirus in the community.
Two men accused of hitting police horses are among 57 people charged over the demonstration and nearly 200 have been fined amid 10,000 reports to Crime Stoppers.
The protest was reportedly attended by anti-vaxxer groups, COVID sceptics, conspiracy theorists, QAnon supporters, wellness and fitness groups, libertarian groups, people from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, and far-right extremists.
Official estimates put the number of attendees at Sydney’s event at about 3000.