NSW has reported 124 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, the highest daily number since the outbreak began in Sydney in mid-June.
At least 70 of those people were circulating in the community for all or part of their infectious period.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned cases numbers would rise again.
“There’s no doubt, again, that we anticipate case numbers will continue to go up before they start coming down and we need to brace ourselves for that,” she said on Thursday.
The spike in cases was recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday and was up from 110 the previous day.
The previous high was 112 cases last week.
Of the 124 cases, 37 were in isolation throughout their infectious period, 22 were in isolation for part of their infectious period and 48 cases were infectious in the community.
The isolation status of 17 cases remains under investigation.
Greater Sydney and surrounding regions will have to wait until at least the weekend to see what impact harsher lockdown rules have had and to see if the lockdown will end on time.
The virus must be quashed before restrictions, now in a fourth week, can be lifted.
The lockdown is currently due to end on July 30.
Meanwhile, a nursing home in Sydney’s south is in lockdown after a nurse tested positive for COVID.
NSW Health says visitors or non-essential staff should not enter The Palms, in Kirrawee, and affected staff – some of whom are not vaccinated – have been isolated and will be tested within the next 24 hours.
People in the central-western local government areas of Orange, Blayney and Cabonne on Thursday entered day two of a week-long lockdown, after a COVID-19 positive delivery driver from Sydney infected a factory worker.
It’s the first time stay-at-home orders have been imposed in regional NSW and thousands of people in those towns spent Wednesday in long queues waiting to be tested.