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Australia COVID LIVE updates: Sydney to go into lockdown for two weeks as NSW records 12 new local cases, Victoria on high alert

In case you missed it, here is a recap of the latest NSW COVID update:

  • Strict stay-at-home orders will apply to all people in the Greater Sydney including Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong from 6pm Saturday.

  • The lockdown will remain in place until Friday July 9.

  • Everyone in Greater Sydney must stay at home unless it is for an essential reason: shopping for essential goods, medical or compassionate needs, exercise outdoors in groups of 10 or less, essential work or education.

  • Community sport will not be permitted during the lockdown.

  • Weddings will not be allowed from 11.59pm, Sunday, while funerals will be limited to one person per four square metres, capped at 100 people. Masks will be compulsory while indoors.

  • Anyone in regional NSW who has been in Greater Sydney since June 21 must self isolate from 14 days since they left Sydney.
  • Police will be using number plate recognition technology to monitor for vehicles from Greater Sydney.
  • Transmissibility of the Delta strain is at least double what previous variants have been.

Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer says the federal health department is taking a positive case at a Northern Territory mine “very seriously” because of the site’s proximity to local Aboriginal communities.

More than 820 people have been immediately placed into isolation after the worker at the Granites gold mine, around 560 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, tested positive on Sunday.

Authorities believe the man contracted the virus during hotel quarantine in Queensland.

Professor Michael Kidd said the Commonwealth was now working with the Northern Territory Government and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services near the mining site to provide whatever support is needed.

“We are taking this very seriously,” he told reporters in Canberra on Saturday.

“Right from the start of the pandemic we’ve had plans in place to work with local Aboriginal communities to respond to outbreaks in remote areas in Australia.”

Professor Kidd said 67 per cent of people aged 70 and above had received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those aged 16 and above, only 28 per cent have received their first vaccine.

The federal government has declared coronavirus hotspots in the Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong regions of NSW, meaning more support will be available to people in those areas from today.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Michael Kidd, said the Commonwealth would extend the hotspot declaration to more of NSW, meaning federal support would kick in from Saturday.

Support can include allocations of personal protective equipment from the national stockpile, contact tracing support and temporary COVID-19 disaster payments if a lockdown goes for more than seven days.

Professor Kidd said the federal government supported the lockdown in NSW, saying the situation was “rapidly evolving” in the state.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) met on Saturday to discuss the NSW outbreak.

“The Commonwealth will do all we can to support affected states and territories in their responses, we are all this together,” Professor Kidd said.

“The AHPPC met with the Chief Health Officer of New South Wales along with colleagues across the country, so we work hand in glove on these responses”.

In the last 24 hours in Australia, there have been 37 new cases of COVID-19 reported, with 31 of those locally acquired, and six returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says a second opinion has confirmed there is insufficient evidence to establish that the limousine driver at the centre of the Bondi cluster breached health orders.

Commissioner Fuller yesterday announced that he had sought urgent external legal advice about whether the eastern suburbs driver had breached an order by failing to wear a mask or undertaking daily saliva testing.

Lawyers for the police had already come to the determination that there was insufficient evidence, before Commissioner Fuller sought a second opinion. He said he was prompted to do so because of “the significance of the outbreak and the heightened community concern.”

“I can now confirm we have received advice that there is insufficient evidence to establish that either the limousine driver or his employer breached any public health orders.”

Since confusion about the driver’s conduct emerged the NSW government has introduced strict new health orders enforcing compulsory face masks and at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for drivers who transport international passengers, including aircrew.

There are less than three hours to go before lockdown restrictions kick in for residents of Greater Sydney, Wollongong, Blue Mountains and the Central Coast at 6pm.

As you start settling down in the confines of your home, let the Herald’s photographers be your eyes.

They have been out and about today capturing familiar scenes across the city: think empty toilet paper shelves in supermarkets, banked up traffic at testing clinics, deserted streets. It almost feels like we’ve been here before…

In case you missed it, here is a recap of the latest NSW COVID update:

  • Strict stay-at-home orders will apply to all people in the Greater Sydney including Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong from 6pm Saturday.

  • The lockdown will remain in place until Friday July 9.

  • Everyone in Greater Sydney must stay at home unless it is for an essential reason: shopping for essential goods, medical or compassionate needs, exercise outdoors in groups of 10 or less, essential work or education.

  • Community sport will not be permitted during the lockdown.

  • Weddings will not be allowed from 11.59pm, Sunday, while funerals will be limited to one person per four square metres, capped at 100 people. Masks will be compulsory while indoors.

  • Anyone in regional NSW who has been in Greater Sydney since June 21 must self isolate from 14 days since they left Sydney.
  • Police will be using number plate recognition technology to monitor for vehicles from Greater Sydney.
  • Transmissibility of the Delta strain is at least double what previous variants have been.

Closing off the 2pm press conference, the Premier was asked if she believed the worst days of the pandemic were still to come.

“Unfortunately, what this pandemic has demonstrated is that we don’t know what’s around the corner. But what I do know is that NSW has some of the best contact tracers in the world,” she said.

Rushcutters Bay under lockdown today.

Rushcutters Bay under lockdown today. Credit:Rhett Wyman

“All we can do is make sure that we take forward the learnings and make sure that we work hard to keep our citizens safe, but also to keep our economy as open as possible.

“I can’t predict what the future holds. But I do know that I’d rather be in NSW than anywhere else in the world,” she said.

Earlier today we learned a Marrickville food wholesaler was a new venue of concern.

Dr Chant says she is so concerned about the wholesaler because the infectious period of the person at the venue dated back to June 21.

Great Ocean Foods in Marrickville.

Great Ocean Foods in Marrickville.Credit:Rhett Wyman

“With this Delta strain, we know that we are getting positive cases within 24-48 hours after the exposure,” she said.

“If the person was a chatty delivery driver or had interactions or went into the cold room and put the product into the cold room and was there for some period of time… all of those elevate the risk.”

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said every member of the crisis Cabinet was rock solid on the decision to lock down.

He said seeing the number of cases being written up on a board in the health conference room on Saturday morning gave a real sense of “the imminency and urgency that we’re facing.”

Mr Hazzard also foreshadowed a health order which will set out to employers a requirement that employees should work from home if possible.

“Employees, if possible, should be working from home. That’s a clear requirement to stop the movement around our communities,” he said.

“So again, I apologise to the business sector, but I think we’ve found that we can be extremely productive with our workers working at home and certainly to allow them to do that will minimise at least one group of people from moving around unnecessarily.”

Dr Kerry Chant said the strict measures need to be applied absolutely, if NSW is to get the outbreak under control.

Dr Chant said despite contact tracing and testing numbers being quite high, by the time health tracers are locating them a number of people have already been infectious in the community.

“The restrictions need to be applied absolutely and it’s critical that we all comply with them if we are going to achieve that no community transmission,” she said.

Scenes in Manly today.

Scenes in Manly today. Credit:Jacky Ghossein

Anyone in regional NSW who has been in Greater Sydney since June 21 is also required to isolate at home for 14 days, with authorities desperate to avoid seeding in regional communities.

“We’re asking you to stay at home for 14 days since you’ve left that area. And the reason for that is we want to make sure that you minimise your transmission risk to anyone else,” Dr Chant said.

“Please don’t try and short cut or in any way side step the rules. As the Premier has said, if we all work together, we will have the greatest confidence in bringing this outbreak to its conclusion as rapidly as we possibly can.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced a strict lockdown for all of Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast and Wollongong from 6pm Saturday until midnight Friday July 9.

The strict stay at home orders allow only four reasons for leaving the home:

  • work or education
  • medical attention, including getting a COVID test or vaccine
  • care and compassionate grounds
  • purchasing essential goods and services

Weddings can proceed this weekend, but all weddings are to be cancelled from Monday until the end of the lockdown. Funerals with a maximum of 100 people can proceed.

Scenes from Newtown under lockdown.

Scenes from Newtown under lockdown.Credit:Jacky Ghossein

“The best health advice we have is that a two-week period or until midnight on Friday, July 9, is necessary, in order to make sure that we get to our target of zero community transmission,” Mr Berejiklian said.

“There was no point doing it for three days or five days because it wouldn’t have done the job.”

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