Two more NSW regions will be sent back into lockdown within hours after 1351 more COVID cases were reported in the state on Thursday.
There were also another 12 deaths, taking NSW’s toll from its deadly Delta outbreak to 210.
They included a man in his 40s and another in his 50s. The others were men and women aged from their 60s to their 90s.
“The range of the ages reflects the fact that this is a severe disease and can impact you at all ages,” Health Minister Brad Hazzard said on Thursday.
“For those who are still reluctant to go and get vaccines, can I say that is the way forward? You need to go and get vaccinated.”
Across NSW, 80.1 per cent of over-16s have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 48.5 per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
Mr Hazzard also announced the LGAs of Lismore, in the northern rivers, and Albury, on the Murray River, would begin lockdowns from 6pm Thursday. The shutdowns will initially be for seven days – but residents have been warned they might last for longer.
“It is for your safety, and the community’s safety more broadly,” he said.
Deputy chief health officer Dr Marianne Gale said there were two confirmed infections in Albury with no known source. Links to Sydney were being investigated.
“In terms of Lismore, we report one case in Lismore, again with a possible link to Sydney and again with exposures in the community around Lismore,” she said.
There has also been speculation another northern NSW shire – Glenn Innes Severn – would be locked down after confirmation of a positive case in the area. Deputy Premier John Barilaro said that infection was reported after Wednesday’s 8pm cut-off.
“We’ll work with the local health team when we have further information,” he said.
“We’ll do that in a measured way, before [taking] a knee-jerk reaction about locking down an area.
“It’s no different to the cases in Albury that were identified yesterday and Lismore last night.”
In more positive news, lockdowns will end in 12 regional LGAs – Bega Valley, Blayney, Bogan, Cabonne, Dungog, Forbes, Muswellbrook, Narrabri, Parkes, Singleton, Snowy-Monaro and the Upper Hunter – at 1pm on Thursday.
“You join other communities that have had their stay-at-home orders lifted, but I remind everybody that it is still a restricted environment,” Mr Barilaro said.
“If you can avoid going to a local government area where they continue to be in lockdown, please do. And if you do visit a local government area in lockdown, the reality is those stay at home orders come back with you.”
Dr Gale said wastewater testing had picked up signs of the virus in other rural areas, including Gunnedah and the Hunter areas, Coffs Harbour, Cowra, Young and Narooma.
Victorian cases spike above 500
Victoria has reported another 514 local COVID-19 cases, as the regional city of Ballarat joins Melbourne in lockdown.
The health department said 148 of Thursday’s cases were linked to known outbreaks.
The source of the remaining 366 is under investigation.
It is the state’s highly daily tally since the peak of its second wave in August 2020, with the new infections bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 4370.
But it also came from a bumper 61,961 tests processed in the previous 24 hours, while a record 41,758 Victorians received a vaccine dose at state-run hubs.
It came as Ballarat residents woke to the same restrictions as Melburnians on Thursday – with the exception of a curfew – after four COVID infections detected in the central Victorian city earlier this week. Victorian COVID commander Jeroen Weimar confirmed two more cases on local radio on Thursday morning.
Testing is being ramped up in Ballarat to combat the cluster, while thousands of additional vaccine doses will also be sent to the Victorian gold rush town.
With 68.3 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and older vaccinated, Premier Daniel Andrews said the state was on track to hit 70 per cent on Thursday – a week ahead of schedule.
He has foreshadowed some rules might be relaxed as early as Thursday night but also raised the prospect they could be “rolled into” Sunday’s roadmap announcement.