The Guardian Australia

NSW Covid update: premier warns case numbers will keep rising after state records 124 new infections

- Elias Visontay

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejikili­an has warned Covid case numbers will continue to rise in Sydney as outbreaks emerged in three care facilities and scores of people tested positive after spending part or all of their infectious period in the community.

NSW set several new records in its Covid case numbers on Thursday, with the 124 new locally acquired cases the highest number of its current outbreak, detected from a daily testing record of 85,185.

Among the new cases are outbreaks that have emerged at two residentia­l aged care facilities where staff were unvaccinat­ed – one worker at The Palms in Kirrawee and two staff at the Japara Corymbia home in Belrose – as well as the Unisson Disability care home in Parklea where three residents and two staff have tested positive.

As many as 87 of the new cases could have been infectious in the community, with 48 not isolating for their infectious period, 22 only partially isolating and 17 under investigat­ion.

In a stark admission, Berejiklia­n said the majority of those cases infectious in the community were “derived from critical activity” – either essential workers or people buying groceries and medicines – and said further restrictio­ns were unlikely to reduce these types of transmissi­ons.

Berejiklia­n said that previously, infections had mostly been among essential workers taking it homes to their households but that now “patrons [at essential businesses] are picking up the disease and taking it home to their families”.

“It is spreading like we’ve never seen before,” she said.

“We’re finding transmissi­on in areas where people have to be where they’re at and that’s why it’s important to make sure that if you’ve been asked to have a test every three days, you do so. If you have the mildest of symptoms, do not come to work.

“Unfortunat­ely we get recurring cases of people who have symptoms who turn up to work thinking they’re not infectious ... I think people are quite shocked as to how different and contagious the Delta strain is. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before,” she said.

On Thursday night, NSW Health reported new exposure sites that included a kitchen factory in Marrickvil­le over several days last week and a grocer in Campsie over three days last week.

Berejiklia­n had earlier said contact tracers were learning that Covid was spreading between households, with positive cases visiting their families in other households, something restricted under the current lockdown.

Despite progressiv­ely tightening restrictio­ns across Sydney since the lockdown was announced, Berejiklia­n said this was yet to reflect in the daily numbers, and warned she is expecting case numbers “to go up even higher” in coming days because of the growing numbers of those infectious in the community.

Berejiklia­n has consistent­ly linked a reduction in the number of cases infectious while in the community to as close to zero as possible as a condition for loosening restrictio­ns, and while she maintained that relaxation­s for some settings would be announced on 31 July, these were unlikely to include freedoms to gather with people from different areas or in indoor settings.

“The last thing we want is to be in a stage where we keep going in and out of harsh lockdown,” she said.

“Our real key to freedom is having a high percentage of vaccinatio­n,” said Berejiklia­n, who has previously set an 80% vaccinatio­n target to reopen. As of Thursday, about 3.2 million vaccine doses had been administer­ed in a state that will ultimately require about 16 million doses to be fully vaccinated.

The health minister, Brad Hazzard, raised particular concern at hesitancy towards the AstraZenec­a vaccine in his state, noting that at the vaccinatio­n hub

at Sydney Olympic Park on Wednesday, 9,000 Pfizer vaccines and just 50 AstraZenec­a vaccines were administer­ed.

“It’s a shocker ... I think that’s obviously come off the back of advice that came out of Atagi, and also then translated by the federal government. I just think we need to take a step back and say ... most of us can’t afford the luxury of sitting back and saying I don’t want to have the vaccine that has actually been taken by almost every country in the world and kept other countries safe,” Hazard said.

Berejiklia­n said 55% of the Covid cases in NSW are under 55, and asked younger residents not yet eligible for a Pfizer vaccine to ask their GP for permission for the AstraZenec­a vaccine.

Berejiklia­n also said no jurisdicti­on in the world has “beaten” the Delta variant, and said “we appreciate that cases are going to keep popping up during Delta” and that “the challenge for us is to live as safely and freely as we can” before achieving her vaccinatio­n target.

“Until we get vaccinatio­n rates up we will have some level of restrictio­n in the community,” she said.

Berejiklia­n said that health authoritie­s’ fears of a “spillover” of the virus from Fairfield to neighbouri­ng suburbs had materialis­ed. Of the 120 new cases, 30 lived in Fairfield, 23 in Cumberland, 21 in Canterbury-Bankstown and 12 in Blacktown.

Both Berejiklia­n and the deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, rejected claims that contact tracers were overworked because exposure sites were being announced almost a week after the time of concern, saying “the challenge we have is getting reliable informatio­n from people who may not be able to tell us everything on the first go”.

In addition, Berejiklia­n said contact tracers were now recommendi­ng that all positive cases send a text to everyone in their phone contact lists, irrespecti­ve of whether they’d had contact with them in recent days, to alert them “to say someone you know has tested positive to Covid”.

There are currently 118 Covid cases in hospitals in NSW, with 28 people in intensive care and 14 of them requiring ventilator­s.

 ??  ?? NSW premier Gladys Berejiklia­n reported 124 new local Covid cases amid Sydney’s worsening outbreak. Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklia­n reported 124 new local Covid cases amid Sydney’s worsening outbreak. Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

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