“Most concerning day of the pandemic”: Berejiklian

Illustration of the ultrastructure of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Stock image.

By PETER HACKNEY

2.30pm UPDATE: All of NSW will be locked down for a week from 5pm today, NSW Coalition MP Dave Layzell announced via his official Facebook account a short time ago. ABC News has since reported that NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has confirmed the news. Mr Barilaro said the measures were designed to “minimise movement and protect our communities from the evolving COVID situation in Sydney”.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared that NSW has experienced its “most concerning day of the pandemic” so far, after NSW posted a record 466 new cases of Covid-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Speaking at the daily Covid-19 media briefing at 11am, the premier said the state had not seen an increase of this magnitude before, with NSW recording a jump of 76 cases from yesterday’s announcement of 390 cases.

Four more deaths were recorded, all in Sydney, including a female in her 40s (unvaccinated), a male in his 70s (vaccinated but with significant underlying health conditions), a female in her 70s (unvaccinated) and a male in his 80s (unvaccinated). 

NSW Health’s Director of Health Protection, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said the state had experienced “a very concerning upswing in numbers” and that younger people were increasingly affected.

Operation Stay at Home

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told the media conference the police force would launch Operation Stay at Home in a fresh bid to control the spiralling outbreak.

From midnight on Sunday, all residents of Greater Sydney will have to apply for a permit in order to leave the city – while travel to second residences, such as holiday homes and ‘weekenders’, will be banned. 

Checkpoints at key roads in and out of Sydney, with electronic warning signs, will also be established, while the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will be called upon to help enact the new rules. 

The 300 ADF members currently assisting NSW Police will be bolstered by an additional 500, Commissioner Fuller said. 

Fines for breaching quarantine, lying on a permit or misleading contact tracers have been quintupled, from $1000 to $5000, while fines for breaching the two-person exercise limit have been tripled from $1000 to $3000.

Residents of Greater Sydney will be required to stay within their LGA for shopping, exercise and outdoor recreation or, if outside their LGA, within five kilometres of their home. In the 12 LGAs of concern, people must exercise and shop within five kilometres of their home only.

Emergency cabinet meeting

Today’s developments follow an emergency meeting of the NSW cabinet last night, at which a raft of other measures was also agreed to. The ABC reported that, from Monday, there would be a requirement for singles bubble arrangements in the twelve LGAs of concern to be formally registered online. 

The applicable LGAs are Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith and Strathfield. 

Furthermore, the state government agreed to introduce a Covid-19 test payment of $320 – similar to the $450 offered in Victoria during their lengthy second-wave lockdown – for people isolating at home while awaiting test results. 

Concern for regions

Today’s moves follow continued leakage of Covid-19 from Sydney to regional NSW. The latest area of concern is the outback city of Broken Hill, where fragments of the virus have been found in the local sewage treatment plant – despite no local cases being officially recorded. 

A statement from NSW Health urged Broken Hill residents “to monitor for the onset of symptoms, and if they appear, to immediately be tested and isolate until a negative result is received”. 

Testing success

While Ms Berejiklian described the current Covid-19 situation as “the worst day for Sydney” so far, she said there was some good news, with testing rates now averaging 130,000 per day and “on some days, up to 150,000”. 

The premier thanked the community for the high testing rates, saying they “needed to continue” to help the state get on top of the outbreak, in tandem with high levels of vaccination.

‘We will get through this,” she said. “But September and October will be very difficult.”

Peter Hackney is the editor-in-chief of the Sydney Sentinel.

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