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'Thousands may die' warning as NSW struggles to contain COVID infections

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NSW residents have been warned there may be “thousands and thousands” of deaths if the state eases pandemic restrictions too early as the highly contagious delta strain of the coronavirus threatens to run rampant in the community.

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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian issued the warning after revealing the state had recorded 44 new cases of COVID-19 overnight – the worst in the current COVID-19 outbreak _ and announcing a further tightening of lockdown restrictions.

She said of the 44 newly infected people, 29 had been active in the community and likely spreading the virus even further.

Friday was originally slated to mark the end of a two-week lockdown for Greater Sydney and surrounds, but instead saw the number of daily cases spike to the highest point since the pandemic’s first wave.

The number of close contacts isolating across NSW also doubled in 24 hours, from 7000 to 14,000, due to numerous large venue exposure sites.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned worse days are yet to come and the lockdown, now due to end next Friday, will likely be extended again.

Berejiklian pushed back against pressure on the government to ease restrictions and move towards living with the virus in the community.

She said the state could not live with the Delta variant of the coronavirus while vaccination rates were so low .

The premier warned that if the virus was allowed to circulate “we will see thousands and thousands of hospitalisations and death.”

NSW is tightening social distancing restrictions, allowing only two people to exercise outdoors within 10k of home and insisting that shopping is only allowed for essential items.

From Sunday, funeral attendance will be limited to 10 people.

“The message is do not leave your home unless you absolutely have to. That is what a lockdown is,” Berejiklian said.

“Nobody outside your household is allowed into your house.”

She said NSW was facing the biggest threat the state had faced since the pandemic started.

Unless there was a dramatic change in numbers of cases, she said she could not see an easing of restriction as scheduled next Friday.

“The message is do not leave your home unless you absolutely have to. That is what a lockdown is,” Berejiklian said.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said she was “incredibly concerned”, adding that only a nine per cent vaccination rate was not enough to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Regulations have been tightened for locked-down residents of Greater Sydney and its surrounds, with the premier urging communities to stop using exemptions as loopholes to leave the house.

“We’re still getting questions … about how many people you can have into your home. The answer is zero,” Berejiklian said.

“Do not go (out) to an indoor setting because you’re bored and it’s a rainy weekend. That is how the virus spreads.

“The message I’m delivering today is quite shocking for a lot of people but I need everybody to be shocked.”

From 5pm, residents will be banned from exercising more than 10km from their home, and only in groups of two people or with their immediate household. Funerals in the affected areas will be capped at 10 people.

Browsing at shops is prohibited, and only one person per household may leave the home for shopping each day.

“We are now not only looking at areas where the transmission has occurred but trying to prevent any super-seeding events,” Berejiklian said.

Ten COVID-19 patients in NSW are in intensive care, with four ventilated – one person aged in their 20s.

It comes as NSW Police step up patrols on the streets of southwest Sydney to ensure compliance with COVID-19 health orders, with senior cops insisting the measure is not about discrimination or racism.

Meanwhile, Australia will soon have access to up to one million doses of Pfizer vaccines per week, with supplies of the jab set to triple.

The country currently has between 300,000 and 350,000 Pfizer vaccines doses a week to administer.

That will jump to one million a week in the second half of July.

In August, Australia will receive 4.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines, which is significantly more than first anticipated.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is confident the extra Pfizer supplies will give the troubled vaccine rollout a shot in the arm.

And with another 1300 GPs joining the rollout to deliver the Pfizer doses, he believes the rollout can be completed by Christmas.

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