New South Wales has recorded 105 cases of Covid overnight, with 27 out in the community for their entire infectious period.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian reiterated that this number needs to be as close to zero as possible before her team can even consider lifting lockdown restrictions, which were tightened on Saturday in an attempt to stem the spread of the Delta variant.
In an attempt to ease the financial burden of lockdown on small businesses, Ms Berejiklian has announced a relief package of $15,000.
Most of the new cases are linked to clusters in southwest Sydney, with the virus spreading rampantly among large family groups and household contacts.
With the most recent cases, Sydney’s current outbreak – which began on June 15 – has surpassed the amount of cases recorded during the first wave between March and May 2020.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian is urging people to stay home unless absolutely necessary
During that outbreak, the entire nation spent six weeks in lockdown and each state was then subjected to further restrictions.
Ms Berejiklian introduced particularly tough restrictions on residents in the LGAs of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury on Saturday.
The 810,000 people living in those regions were told they cannot leave their suburbs even for work unless they’re employed in healthcare, aged care or emergency services until at least July 30.
Any essential employees who are permitted to leave their suburbs for work are subject to the same restrictions previously in place, namely receiving a negative Covid test every three days.
‘I can’t remember a time when our state has been challenged to such an extent,’ Ms Berejiklian said. ‘Not a single one of these decisions was taken lightly.’
‘We’re not managing to get that curve to come down.’
The announcement sparked frenzied calls to authorities and confusion over other industries which have otherwise been deemed essential.
In response, Ms Berejiklian’s team amended the criteria late on Saturday night, extending the parameters to include people working at garden centres, bottle shops and factories.
Expert modelling predicts Sydney could be stuck in lockdown for months longer than expected because only 40 per cent of residents are actually staying home
Delivery drivers, and people who work at supermarkets, newsagents or are required to maintain utilities like gas, electricity, waste management or water are also permitted to leave their locked-down suburbs for work.
There are still concerns about the lack of compliance with lockdown orders Sydney-wide as unprecedented numbers of stir-crazy residents congregate outdoors to exercise.
Expert modelling predicts Sydney could be stuck in lockdown for months longer than expected because only 40 per cent of residents are actually staying home.
Locals have already endured three weeks of lockdown with two more to go, but there are concerns the outbreak won’t be under control by July 30.
The number of new daily cases last week appeared to peak on July 12 at 112, with cases hovering between 65 and 97 in the four days to follow.
But hopes were dashed on Saturday as the state recorded 111 new cases, followed by a second consecutive day of triple-digits with the 105 new cases on Sunday.
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Construction sites in three LGAs in southwest Sydney have closed while the entire city is in lockdown
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly said numbers will continue to ‘bounce around’ as contact tracers work to stay on top of the virus’ spread.
Modelling predicts that if 80 per cent of Sydneysiders were compliant, case numbers of the Delta variant would already be in single figures.
But if compliance fell to 70 per cent, it would take until late September to control the outbreak.
Mikhail Prokopenko, director of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Complex Systems, said Sydney’s social distancing was woefully inadequate.
‘Our estimation shows that with only 40 per cent of people staying at home, that would be inadequate even for a less transmissible variant, and for Delta it doesn’t even scratch the surface,’ he told The Australian.
‘If that trend continues then the incidence numbers will not start reducing, they will keep growing and the lockdown will continue.’
Any essential employees who are permitted to leave their suburbs for work are subject to the same restrictions previously in place, namely receiving a negative Covid test every three days
Professor Prokopenko said it was vital people reduced the frequency of their grocery shopping each week as well as other activities such as exercising beyond an hour or catching up with friends.
These would have to drop to 10 per cent of normal activity of the city was to have a chance at getting out of lockdown soon.
He added he was bewildered by the repeated level of non-compliance with public health orders imposed by under-siege state governments.
‘Some people have a legitimate reason not to stay at home because they’re engaged in essential services,’ Professor Prokopenko said.
‘Maybe 30 per cent are doing essential services and maybe the other 30 per cent are simply not complying.’