Australia

Sydney wakes to its harshest lockdown yet as authorities race to control unrelenting NSW coronavirus outbreak

Residents are barred from leaving three council areas while all but critical retailers across Sydney are closed as the city doubles down in its most serious battle yet with COVID-19.

NSW reported 111 new community cases of the virus on Saturday along with the death of a man in his 80s.

Stay-at-home orders have been tightened in Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool with locals not allowed to leave until 30 July unless they work in health or emergency services.

Workers from those three LGAs who do need to leave the area for work will have to take a COVID-19 test every three days.

Fairfield-based essential workers who are asymptomatic are permitted to seek COVID-19 testing closer to their place of work, rather than wait in queues.

At least 80 per cent of cases have come from the city’s southwest.

And at least 29 of 111 were also infectious before going into isolation, a number authorities say is too high.

“I can’t remember a time when our state has been challenged to such an extent,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“Not a single one of these decisions was taken lightly.”

Tougher restrictions apply to the entire Greater Sydney region as well.

From Sunday, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and few other retailers will be allowed to open and will have to operate with ‘click and collect’ or takeaway.

Construction sites, large or small, will be shut.

All office workers and others working from home should not be pressured to go in to work, with employers to potentially incur a $10,000 fine if they push staff to attend.

Ms Berejiklian also told Sydneysiders not to carpool with anyone.

With data modelling based on more than 400 exposure sites indicating everyone in Sydney is at risk, the premier said the harder line was needed.

She defended the measures taken to curb the outbreak so far, saying they had prevented “thousands and thousands” of cases and the further restrictions were a “no-regrets policy”.

The harsher measures were prompted by the persistent numbers of people infectious in the community before they were diagnosed.

“We are seeing some cases still diagnosed late but we need to see that number get down, it is far too high and that is the basis for why we have recommended much more extensive actions to reduce those interactions,” NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said.

Workplaces are a key area where new infections are being seeded, she added.

NSW police issued 162 fines in the 24 hours to Saturday to people flouting the lockdown.

Two more people were charged and another eight were fined on Saturday afternoon after an unauthorised protest in Sydney’s south-west.

Commands are ramping up enforcement in the three southwestern local government areas that are going into an extra-strict lockdown.

Residents were assured on Saturday that government agencies would mobilise between now and 30 July to provide them with supplies and services as needed.

A record 82,000 people came forward for COVID-19 testing on Friday.

A full list of NSW exposure sites can be found here.

Additional reporting by SBS News

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