Sydney’s worsening Covid outbreak has surged by 77 cases and led to Australia’s first locally acquired coronavirus death in 2021, with New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian warning she will be “shocked” if daily cases do not exceed 100 tomorrow.
Chief health officer Kerry Chant is so concerned by the trajectory of Sydney’s outbreak that she is pleading for anyone who has already had one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to talk to their doctor about cutting the interval between their first and second doses from three months to six weeks – acknowledging sacrificing “a bit of long-term protection” was warranted.
A 90-year-old woman from south-west Sydney, who authorities believe was unvaccinated, died at Liverpool hospital on Saturday, hours after she returned a positive result.
The woman caught the virus within her home from a family member – one of 50 of the 77 cases announced on Sunday that were close family members of existing Covid cases.
Authorities are concerned that 33 of the 77 new cases were infectious in the community, with many of the new cases announced on Sunday described as “quite historic going back five, six or seven days” between initial infection and returning a positive test.
There were 48,754 tests conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, a number that, while significant, has led authorities to believe that the extent of Covid across Sydney is not being recorded and its spread intercepted.
“When you get Covid, unfortunately those most impacted are those closest to you, and tragically we’ve seen one older person die and I want to extend my deepest condolences to their families and loved ones,” Berejiklian said.
“I can’t stress enough that every time we risk breaking the rules or even just going about our business and not getting tested when we need to, the people whose lives and health that we’re risking the most are those closest to us,” she said.
Berejiklian said that given the number of cases that had been detected since 8pm overnight, she was anticipating the new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday would exceed 100 tomorrow.
“I’ll be shocked if it’s less than 100 this time tomorrow. And the few days afterwards will be worse, much worse than we’ve seen today,” she said.
South-west Sydney continues to be the focus of authorities’ concern, with 52 of the new cases recorded in the area, while 11 were residents in the Sydney local health district, and 10 in the south-east Sydney local health district.
The lockdown covering greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong has only been extended until Friday, but Berejiklian said the community should be prepared for a further extension.
“I think it’s pretty plain to see that the numbers are not going in the right direction at this point in time … given the lockdown was supposed to be lifted on Friday, everybody can tell it’s highly unlikely at this stage, given where the numbers are.”
Berekilian said she would provide more details about the length of the lockdown as soon as health advice had been finalised, and appeared to suggest she may announce a longer-term path out of lockdown to provide certainty to residents and businesses.
The premier also warned home learning for school students could be extended, not because schools were of concern for students, but because of the risk of “hundreds of thousands of people leaving home at the same time” to drop off and pick up kids.
On Sunday night, the federal government will also begin running a “graphic and confronting” ad campaign in Sydney showing a young woman gasping for breath, designed to show residents the severe illness they risk if they don’t obey lockdown restrictions.
Police issued 106 Covid restriction infringement notices in the reporting period to Saturday night, including a group of 15 men playing cards in a small Marrickville unit, an 18th birthday party with 10 guests near Sydney Olympic Park, and a gathering of people playing PlayStation in Merrylands.
New Covid restrictions were also announced overnight. From Tuesday, masks will be required in all indoor common areas of residential properties in greater Sydney, in settings including lifts and lobbies of apartment blocks.
Masks are also now required in all indoor areas of construction sites throughout NSW, with authorities strongly recommending tradespeople working across multiple sites to be tested frequently following several new cases in these types of workers.
There are also greater restrictions on residents of NSW entering greater Sydney. They can only enter to obtain essential goods or services not available outside greater Sydney, and for a funeral or memorial service if they are one of the 10 attenders.
There have been 566 locally acquired cases recorded in the current outbreak, with 52 currently in hospital, and within that cohort, 15 are in intensive care and five people are on ventilation. Of those hospitalised, 11 are under the age of 35, with two of those in intensive care in their teens and 20s.