Sydney lockdown extended by four weeks, NSW Govt launches 18-plus vaccination push

The interior of an empty V-Set InterCity train in the Blue Mountains during last year's Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Stilgherrian/Flickr/file photo, published under Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

By DAMIEN NOVAK

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will announce a four-week extension of Greater Sydney’s lockdown at 11am this morning, numerous media outlets are reporting.

The announcement is expected to be made at the premier’s daily Covid-19 briefing, during which the latest case numbers and testing figures will also be announced.

Greater Sydney – including the Sydney metropolitan area, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour – have been subject to stay-at-home orders since Saturday, 26 June.

The four-week extension will see people living in the aforementioned areas subject to lockdown until at least Saturday, 28 August.

Restrictions were due to be lifted this Friday, 31 July but spiralling case numbers have led the NSW Government to pursue the extension, with the outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 far from contained.

Late last night, ABC News reported that Ms Berejiklian and her crisis cabinet spent the last two days formulating a blueprint for what life in NSW will look like beyond Friday.

One significant reported change is that for essential workers, the plan is likely to include regular rapid antigen testing – as opposed to the current nose swab, or polymerase chain reaction (PCR), tests – as part of an enhanced surveillance testing.

A ‘bubble’ for single Sydneysiders, similar to the arrangement during Melbourne’s prolonged lockdown last year, is also on the cards, which will allow people living on their own to nominate a designated person to visit their home.

In recent days, a number of NSW politicians have pushed for a ‘singles bubble’, including independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich and Greens Member for Newtown Jenny Leong. 

The changes come after NSW recorded 172 locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday, 26 July – the highest one-day figure since the Delta outbreak began in Bondi in mid-June.

Announcing the figures, Ms Berejiklian expressed concern that the virus was still spreading among essential workers and household contacts.

“Time and time again, cases are popping up in workplaces, amongst workers in those critical places of employment but also in households,” she said.

The total number of infections from the outbreak is now 2,397, with 2,175 still registered as active.

At time of writing, there were 169 people hospitalised in NSW with Covid-19, 46 of whom are in intensive care. 

In a bid to increase vaccination rates, the government announced that from today, people aged 18 and over would be able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine from chemists – and from Friday, NSW vaccination hubs would be able to take bookings for AstraZeneca from anyone aged 18 and above. 

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said while the state was expected to be “awash” with Pfizer vaccines by the end of October, there were not enough doses to meet demand before then.

He said people hesitant to get the AstraZeneca vaccine needed to weigh up the very small risk of blood clots with the risk of catching Covid-19. 

“It’s a risk balance issue and at the moment there’s quite substantial risk in Greater Sydney, particularly in the inner west and south-west of Sydney,” he said.