Five million NSW residents will ensure at least another fortnight of lockdown after sustained high daily coronavirus numbers forced the state government to extend stay-at-home measures.
The state is on tenterhooks and waiting for the daily infection rates to drop, to show the lockdown is finally working, after 97 new cases were recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.
The 31 people who were circulating in the community while infectious has disturbed authorities, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying that number needs to be close to zero before the lockdown can end.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says relief is on its way for parents in locked down Greater Sydney who will no longer have to pay for childcare they’re not using.
“If your child doesn’t go to the child care facility for a particular day during this lockdown, then you won’t be charged a gap fee,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.
The measure could benefit around 216,000 families across 3600 centres.
Infection numbers continue to rise in southwest Sydney and a new 24-hour COVID testing clinic has opened at Fairfield after people were forced to wait up to six hours in long queues at another venue.
There are now three testing sites in the area operating around the clock while other clinics will stay open until late at night.
The clinics were inundated on Wednesday after new health orders were introduced requiring essential workers to get tested every three days if they work outside the area.
The stay-at-home provisions for Greater Sydney had been scheduled to end on Friday, after three weeks of lockdown, but will now remain in place until at least July 30.
Meanwhile, two of Sydney’s major hospitals are on high alert after a nurse and a patient were both diagnosed with COVID-19.
A pregnant patient at Liverpool Hospital, in Sydney’s southwest, was diagnosed on Wednesday after undergoing a procedure.
The hospital cancelled elective surgery to deep clean the operating theatre and contact tracing is underway with close contacts – including staff – being tested and isolating for 14 days, NSW Health said.
A nurse who worked at Westmead Hospital in the COVID-19 ward has also tested positive to the virus but there were no cases linked to the health worker so far, the ABC reports.
It comes after the state and federal governments on Tuesday revealed an extensive financial support package for workers and businesses.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has defended the government’s refusal to impose a stricter lockdown and mandate what constitutes essential work, amid criticism that many non-essential retail shops remain open.
Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baker said a harder lockdown was required to crush the spread of the virus, rather than just flatten the curve.
“They need to close non-essential retail. They need to say what should and shouldn’t remain open, both for the sake of getting the pandemic under control but also – workers shouldn’t be making those decisions,” she told ABC radio.
Mr Perrottet said the government’s policy settings were right, with the vast majority of retail shops in metropolitan Sydney are closed.
“Our message is very clear to the public that unless you have essential work to do you stay at home,” he told ABC radio.
Workers now had access to payments under a financial support package if they chose not to go to work.
“We don’t want them to be pressured to be doing anything they don’t want to do … but we will always review the settings we have in place,” he said.