From 11.59pm tonight millions of Sydney residents will be placed into a seven-day lockdown, but the rules around the announcement have left many confused.
NSW recorded 22 new locally acquired infections on Friday, the biggest rise in daily Covid-19 cases since this latest outbreak began.
There were 11 locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, six of those were announced yesterday.
There were also 17 locally acquired cases confirmed after the official reporting period which will be included in tomorrow’s numbers.
All of the new cases announced today are linked and there is only one case in the outbreak that doesn’t have a known source.
The Sydney outbreak is now at 70 infections, after a case discovered in a Baulkham Hills man was reclassified.
Here are today’s top Covid-19 updates:
• Health authorities have issued a significant list of new Covid-19 exposure sites across Sydney.
• Queensland has recorded two new locally acquired Covid-19 cases.
• The driver at the centre of Sydney’s outbreak has broken his silence to make a bombshell claim about his infection.
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Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a week-long lockdown for residents who live or work in Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney.
“If you live or work in those Local Government Areas, you need to stay at home unless absolutely necessary,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian also announced that the other restrictions currently in place across Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Shellharbour and Wollongong will be extended for another week until Friday July 2.
While many experts have been calling for a Sydney lockdown for days, today’s announcement isn’t exactly what many people were expecting.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Omar Khorshid said the lockdown rules are unnecessarily confusing and has called for a full Sydney lockdown instead.
“While we are pleased that the New South Wales government have gone further than before and announced a lockdown import Local Government Act areas, unfortunately in our view that is not quite enough,” he said in a press conference shortly after the announcement.
“What we really need are clear rules for all Sydneysiders that say stay at home so we can get ahead of this virus and stop further transmission.”
Dr Khorshid said NSW has never dealt with a strain like the Delta variant, which is far more easily transmitted.
He noted the current lockdown rules mean households can have some people required to go into lockdown while others in living in the same home don’t have to.
“Our concern with the current announcement is that it is confusing for many people in Sydney. If you work in the CBD but live outside of it, we know if you contract the
disease you are going to give it to your family. This is happening with the delta virus in Sydney right now.,” Dr Khorshid said.
“But the rules don’t apply as far as we can see to family. There is also confusion as to who is in and who is out.”
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He said the AMA believes the right move would be to lockdown all of Sydney so everyone has the same rules and to “stop the virus from taking hold in Australia”.
“If we do that that would get let the government get ahead of the virus and give the contact traces a chance to catch up. Try to avoid months and months of lockdown in Sydney,” he said.
“The economic consequences of lockdown are significant but the economic consequences of getting this wrong a catastrophic not just for Sydney but for all of Australia.”
This includes rules around household gatherings, the reintroduction of the one person per four square metre rule, mask wearing indoors and no vertical consumption at hospitality venues.
Up until now the NSW government has resisted calls for a lockdown, saying they were confident in the current restrictions.
Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the high number of cases coming in, the growing exposure list and that there has been confirmed transmission in some of those settings led to the change of health advice.
“The quickest way to bring this under control most quickly is by taking this course of action. Otherwise, we risk threads establishing and that we grumble along,” she said.
“And so, the assessment that I’ve made is that providing this advice to the government about this period of seven days, given the information that we’ve got contextually is a proportionate response.”
Dr Chant said she expects the case numbers will continue to increase over the coming days.
Crackdown on compliance for airport drivers
NSW is also tightening covid safety guidelines for workers who interact directly with international arrivals.
It comes after police launched an investigation into a limousine driver who transports international aircrews and was the first known case in this recent cluster.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said there appears to be a “small number of people who don’t comply with the expectations”, before announcing a tightening on guidelines that will kick in from 4pm today.
“We’re stepping up the guidelines on mask wearing for those drivers of people coming in from international flights – whether they’re passenger flights or whether they’re cargo flights, they are crews involved with the transportation of passengers in some cases,” he said.
“And we will have the guidelines that have existed will be now pushed into very clear orders with very clear consequences.
“I think that we also have to recognise that it’s very hard to make a law against stupidity.”
Mr Hazzard said it was imperative for people to apply “common sense”, saying drivers of international visitors have been continually encouraged to get daily saliva tests and the vaccine.
“So there’s been a lot of work done to encourage drivers of international visitors, whether it’s aircrew or others, to be able to do things easily – to get your saliva test easily, get your vaccine easily,” he said.
“But it would appear that perhaps in some cases, they haven’t taken that opportunity.”
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Fears ‘viral bombs’ putting NSW at risk
An investigation into the limousine driver believed to be at the centre of Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak has raised questions of whether there is a loophole in public health orders, allowing “viral bombs” to drive around the city.
A man in his 60s who works for a private company transporting international flight crews to and from Sydney Airport is understood to be the first case in the outbreak after testing positive to Covid-19 on June 16.
It quickly emerged that the man wasn’t vaccinated despite working in a high-risk job and hadn’t been undergoing daily covid testing.
This prompted a police investigation into whether other these and other safety protocols, such as wearing a mask, had been followed.
But now it seems the driver’s actions could point to a much wider issue, as it is revealed he was not explicitly required to wear a mask or be vaccinated, even though it was expected for drivers interacting with international flight crews.
Federal Labor Senator Tony Sheldon told The Daily Telegraph the revelation pointed to a “fundamental breakdown” in the system, which was putting the wider community at risk.
“Because of the lack of oversight and proper process, companies are actually allowing viral bombs to be driven around the streets of Sydney,” he said.
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Mr Sheldon’s comments come after the driver spoke to A Current Affair’s Lauren Golman, preferring to remain anonymous amid fears for his and his family’s safety.
Relaying the conversation to host Tracy Grimshaw, Ms Sheldon revealed the reason why the driver wasn’t vaccinated is because he was worried about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a history of blood clots in his family.
He also claimed he was wearing a mask and gloves while working and gets tested regularly.
One of the most surprising claims the man made is that he believes he isn’t patient zero and instead picked up the virus in the local community.
He told Ms Golman he was not working between June 12 and June 14. He was tested for Covid on Tuesday morning and claims he caught it from another patron at the Belle Cafe in Vaucluse.
“He told me a story about the fact that he was sitting next to a gentleman who looked like he was in his 30s, who was coughing and sneezing, he became worried, sitting next to that person and he thinks he caught it at Belle Cafe at Vaucluse,” Ms Colman said.
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On Thursday, NSW Police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys said the investigation was ongoing and had been expanded to include the company the driver works for.
“That investigation continues, as we think more about the offences that may have been committed,” he said.
“We’re thinking now around how we look at this, these actions of transport drivers and indeed this particular driver around transport offences, work health and safety offences, not just the driver but the organisation that employs the driver.
“It’s not as simple as issuing a ticket to this gentleman, thinking that the whole system is repaired [as a result] or one person is responsible for where we are at today.”
This has raised questions about whether there is a loophole in the system that allows private companies to bypass the covid safety rules required to be followed by Transport for NSW drivers.