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NSW on alert as coronavirus cluster grows and exposure site list expands

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Sydneysiders have been described as “sitting ducks” as Gladys Berejiklian is warned by one health expert to “face up to reality” and put the city in lockdown or risk a greater COVID-19 outbreak.
The NSW Premier admitted this was “perhaps the scariest period” the state has been through since the start of the pandemic but did not enforce a lockdown as the city’s cluster grew to 36 yesterday.

Strategic Health Consultant Professor Bill Bowtell said Sydney had adopted many restrictions associated with a lockdown – like travel restriction and mask wearing – but that health authorities needed to go further while the vaccination uptake was so low.

Bondi Beach drive-through COVID-19 Clinic, Sydney.
Tens of thousands of Sydneysiders have been getting tested as coronavirus cases numbers continue to rise. (Getty)

“We should face up to reality. The longer we avoid going into lockdown, the longer we will take to come out of it,” Professor Bowtell told Today.

“You can call it a lockdown or a lockout. People in Great Sydney can’t leave the area yet this has now spread to Melbourne and is clearly spreading around the Greater metropolitan area.

“The failures in vaccination, the failures in quarantine have unfortunately left Sydneysiders at sitting ducks for what’s coming.

Adjunct Professor at UNSW and Strategic Health Consultant Professor Bill Bowtell told Today he believes a lockdown could be on the way. (9News)

“So let’s get real. Let’s forget about whether it’s a lockdown or a lockout or restriction of movement… the plans of even in Sydney have been greatly disrupted at the beginning of the school holidays by what’s going on.

“I think we have to get a grip on what’s going to have to happen.”

Professor Bowtell said the Delta variant was far more contagious than the strain Sydney had previously battled and urged health authorities to take a new strategy.

“The Delta variant is really transmissible, and we did not upgrade our quarantine arrangements at Sydney airport and that’s a big fail,” he said.

“The virus is now spreading in the community where the overwhelming majority of people are not vaccinated when, really, they ought to be.

If this were Tel Aviv today, 57 per cent of people in Tel Aviv are vaccinated. In Sydney, 3 per cent.

Another 11 new cases were announced yesterday, which took the number linked to the Bondi cluster to 36.

The list of exposure sites is getting longer, with more than 30 alerts announced since 5pm yesterday.

The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted this was “perhaps the scariest period” the state has been through since the start of the pandemic. (Getty)

Fears cluster could spread

Health authorities said it was the first time the virus had been detected at the plant, which serves about 2000 people.

Locals were urged to watch closely for the onset of symptoms as health authorities sought to “urgently” boost testing capacity in the remote area, more than 600 kilometres north-west of Sydney.

Two workers at a dry cleaners in Melbourne have now tested positive.

“I do want to stress that my level of concern is medium to high across New South Wales but at the same time, a couple of things that we are pleased about is that all the new cases but one are linked and that one is under investigation,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We do expect more cases in the coming days but we also please expect everybody to do the right thing.”

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