Greater Sydney lockdown to be extended by four weeks as Covid cases continue to rise

Greater Sydney will remain locked down for a further four weeks after the NSW cabinet agreed to the plan at a crisis meeting to discuss the rising number of Delta cases within the state.

It is understood the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, will announce the extension on Wednesday morning after NSW reported a record 172 local cases of Covid on Tuesday. A third of the new cases were in the community while infectious.

Berejiklian will not be introducing curfews, tuttavia, because the government does not believe they would be effective in preventing the spread of the virus which is mainly occurring among households and via essential workers.

The Coalition government is exploring introducing rapid antigen testing for year 12 students to allow them to return to school ahead of their HSC exams, but other years are expected to remain at home for their schooling over the additional four-week period.

In the wake of several clusters caused by infectious staff at supermarkets, the government is considering whether rapid antigen testing could also be used at some essential workplaces, the Guardian understands.

As Berejiklian had previously indicated, construction will be permitted to resume from Saturday – the current lockdown was scheduled to end on Friday at 11.59pm – provided sites have approved Covid-safe plans.

These are likely to require that different teams of workers are separated on-site to avoid spread between groups of workers from different trades.

Tuesday’s 172 cases was the highest number of this outbreak. Earlier in the day, Berejiklian appeared to be setting the scene for a prolonged lockdown when she announces what would happen after 31 luglio.

“Obviously the number of people infectious in the community is nowhere we needed to be and what the Nuovo Galles del Sud government is now considering based on the health advice is what the best settings are for us moving forward, given we know where the disease in particular is transmitting in terms of locations, geography and other related matters,” the premier told reporters on Tuesday.

“Vaccination is the key to our freedom. Getting jabs in arms is a key part of our strategy. I want August to be the month where everyone comes forward to get the jab.

“That is key to us being able to see what September looks like. I don’t think anyone can deny that the vaccination rate is absolutely key to how we live life in NSW.”

Both Berejiklian and the NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, described the supplies of Pfizer available to NSW as “challenging” but denied the state would run out.

Nel frattempo, an apartment block in Blacktown with 50 units is locked down and being guarded by NSW police after six cases across several households were identified.

Officials said the cases had been linked to a funeral gathering in Pendle Hill a week ago, which was attended by about 50 persone. It has led to at least 28 infections. One of the deaths reported on Monday – a woman in her 80s at home at Pendle Hill – is also linked to the event.

Authorities are “very concerned” about the block but are so far not aware of transmission beyond the three households, the deputy chief health officer, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, disse.

The Western Sydney Local Salute District said it was working to ensure residents were supported through the lockdown and to “address infection control and the health and welfare of residents”.

The Australian Medical Association said last week it was unlikely lockdown measures could contain the Delta outbreak nel NSW.

The AMA president, Dr Omar Khorshid, told reporters on Friday “we are really worried this lockdown is not going to work”. “It’s quite possible that Australia’s lockdown strategy – that’s worked so well with all the previous outbreaks we’ve had – is simply not strong enough, not fast enough, to deal with Delta," Egli ha detto.

Khorshid urged more people to get vaccinated with either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.

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