NSW teachers and senior students in Greater Sydney and surrounds will be required to wear masks when they return to school next term.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the new COVID-safe rules would apply to schools inside areas impacted by the stay-at-home orders – Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour.
Masks will be mandatory for all staff in all school settings, as well as students from Year 7 upwards when on-site learning resumes on July 19.
Ms Mitchell says she understands it’s a challenging time for students, staff and parents but schools are prepared.
In regional areas, masks will be recommended for all staff in all school settings as well as high school students.
On Wednesday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced pupils in the lockdown areas would start term three learning from home, while regional schools would have strict COVID restrictions.
Meanwhile, harsher localised restrictions could be introduced for communities in Sydney’s southwest if COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly in the area.
Lockdown orders governing five million people in Sydney and its surrounds have been extended for a third week – until at least July 16 – after being initially due to end on Friday.
But with the number of new cases in the community while infectious remaining high, it may not be enough to stop the spread in some suburbs.
Ms Berejiklian warned case numbers would spike in the coming days due to the highly infectious Delta strain of the virus spreading rapidly in the local government areas of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown.
If the situation further deteriorates in those communities, harsher localised restrictions could be imposed, she warned.
The premier invoked her Armenian background when appealing to people in multicultural communities to stay home.
“Can I please say to the communities in those areas – many of them have a similar background to me – please don’t mingle with family,” she said.
“Don’t think it’s OK to go visit your cousins, don’t think it’s OK to have sleepovers.”
Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone said on Thursday he was concerned southwest Sydney was being unfairly targeted, saying “this isn’t a Fairfield problem, I won’t take anyone pointing finger at Fairfield”.
“We have very large families out here. It doesn’t take away the responsibility (or) take away the need for (all of) us to be vigilant,” he told Nine Network.
NSW recorded 27 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday. Just 13 of the new cases were in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period.
There have been 357 local cases reported since 16 June when the first case was detected in an unvaccinated Sydney airport limousine driver.
NSW Health issued nearly 20 alerts for venues of concern on Wednesday night including supermarkets at Casula, Bonnyrigg, Maroubra, Revesby, petrol stations at Condell Park and Pagewood and a pizzeria at Waverley.
Business NSW estimates the lockdown is costing the state $1 billion a week and the state government is expected to announce it will spend at least $1.4 billion on a small business package to help them survive the crisis.
The federal government has rejected a NSW request for the reinstatement of the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme for the duration of the lockdown.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet was reportedly against the extension of the lockdown but on Thursday refused to confirm that.
“My job is to advocate for businesses and keeping people in jobs and that’s what I do,” Mr Perrottet told 2GB radio.