Australia

NSW records 145 new local COVID-19 cases amid concerns over spread from Sydney lockdown protest

New South Wales has recorded 145 new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19 from more than 98,000 tests.

Of the 145 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, 51 were in the community for the entirety of their infectious period and 25 were in the community for part of their infectious period.

There are currently 44 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, and 18 of these people are ventilated.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday thanked residents of Sydney’s COVID-struck suburb of Fairfield, praising them for staying home as the Delta variant continues to spread.

“We know they’re the least-mobile area, and they’ve been doing the right thing,” she told reporters. “A huge shout-out to the people in the suburbs in the Fairfield local area.”

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant also praised residents of Sydney’s southwest for following the lockdown restrictions.

“Can I just say how proud I am of the communities of southwestern Sydney, who have really been working so hard,” she said. 

Dr Chant said family gatherings remain a key factor contributing to rising case numbers. 

“At this time when we’re responding to such a crisis, it’s really important that people only stay within the household unit, and don’t have any mixing between households,” she said.

She also stressed that getting vaccinated “is part of the answer”, saying it was “quite distressing” how few older people were coming forward to get the AstraZeneca jab.

“Anyone who is over 60 or over 70 should be going to their doctor as a matter of urgency,” she said. 

“I can’t stress it enough. I have been vaccinated, my mother-in-law has been vaccinated and my husband has been vaccinated with AstraZeneca. I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t believe it [is] a good vaccine. I urge everyone to take up the opportunity.”

NSW recorded two COVID-related deaths on Sunday, including a Brazilian national in her 30s with no pre-existing health conditions

More than 100 new fines issued over protest

The new figures come amid concerns an anti-lockdown protest that took place in Sydney’s CBD on Saturday could be a “super-spreader event”.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said 107 more fines had been issued over the illegal rally.

“We have received 10,000 Crime Stoppers reports since Saturday in terms of criminal behaviour and breaches of the health order at the protest,” he told reporters.

“This is an amazing outcry by the community, not just in terms of their disgust at the protest, but the way that the police – the mounted unit in particular – retreated during that.”

He said the Strike Force will continue to investigate “every individual that we can identify” who attended the illegal protest.

“It’s not just about the unauthorised protest. It was the danger they put all of us in with the Delta variant.”

On Sunday, Police Minister David Elliott said he expected all protesters would be identified and fined – and possibly charged – in the coming days.

“Yesterday cannot happen again,” Mr Elliott said. “We saw the [COVID-19] figures, they are not going down at the rate we want to see them go down. And they won’t go down if we see the activity we saw [on Saturday].”

Discussions about lockdown ‘ongoing’

The lockdown for Greater Sydney and four surrounding regions, now in its fifth week, is due to end on 30 July.

Asked whether the plan is to remain in lockdown until the number of cases infectious in the community is zero or close to zero, or until at least 80 per cent of Greater Sydney is vaccinated, Dr Chant said discussions are “ongoing”.

“The premier indicated that those discussions are ongoing … but I think what we have learnt is with that Delta variant, you don’t have much leeway,” she said.

“It is such a highly infectious strain of the virus and because we are tackling an issue that, whenever we get to a case in a family, the family’s already been infected or inevitably over the next couple of days will become positive.

“It has no grace period. With the previous strains, we could get to people early enough and so I think with that challenge, we need to ensure that our approach aligns with that.” 

Ms Berejiklian earlier on Monday deflected reports the lockdown was likely to extend until mid-September, saying nothing had been decided.

“I wouldn’t come to any conclusions like that,” she told Sydney radio station 2GB.

“I don’t know where that story came from. It certainly wasn’t from me or anybody that’s in the know because we’re still working all that out.”

However, she flagged some restrictions would be necessary until the majority of the population was vaccinated.

“If there’s anything that we can ease we absolutely will,” she said.

“It is literally a day-by-day, week-by-week issue.”

With AAP.

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