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'Almost impossible': No end in sight to Sydney lockdown

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The NSW premier says Sydney’s lockdown ending on Friday as scheduled is “almost impossible”, with the state recording its highest number of daily COVID-19 infections of the current outbreak.

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NSW recorded 112 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, at least 46 of which were out in the community for part or all of their infectious period.

“Where the numbers are, it is not likely – in fact, almost impossible – for us to get out of lockdown on Friday,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday.

“Family or close friends, unfortunately, bear the brunt of those 112 (cases) we have seen overnight.

“If you put yourself at risk, you’re putting your entire family – and that means extended family, as well as your closest friends and associates – at risk.”

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said she was “in two minds” about whether Monday’s case numbers marked a peak in the outbreak.

“If I can find all the cases out there today through really, really high testing, that is actually a win,” Chant said.

“If we are getting to people really early when they are just turning infectious then they have probably had that chance of not infecting it further and if we can contain the family unit we can stop the spread.”

NSW has recorded almost 680 COVID-19 cases in the community since June 16, when the Bondi cluster first emerged. There are 18 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, with four ventilated.

Rough estimates suggest the lockdown is costing NSW $1 billion a week.

JP Morgan economist Ben Jarman argues the Sydney lockdown will have a greater impact on the national economy than Melbourne’s long shutdown last year.

“The difference with Sydney’s lockdown is that the rest of the country, that is relatively unrestricted, is no longer in its initial rebound phase from the nationwide shuttering,” Jarman said.

“That explosive surge, as most of the economy reopened, could easily carry a localised shutdown, even in a large city.”

Australia on Sunday reported its first COVID-19 death of 2021 – a 90-year-old southwest Sydney woman believed to be unvaccinated. The woman was a close contact of another locally acquired case.

Berejiklian on Monday said the government would further ramp up its vaccination drive, with the AstraZeneca jab to be made available to all people aged over 40 at NSW mass vaccination clinics.

All NSW pharmacies will also be able to dole out the AstraZeneca jab to over-40s.

A new mass vaccination hub will also be established at Fairfield in southwest Sydney, where local COVID-19 transmission remains a significant concern.

Berejiklian said teachers and aged care workers in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool local government areas would be prioritised for vaccinations.

The federal government is giving NSW millions of masks and medical equipment to bolster its response to Sydney’s worsening outbreak.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says additional business payments and mental health supports will also be unveiled soon.

NSW Health late on Sunday advised of multiple new exposure sites in Fairfield and Fairfield Heights, including a number of medical centres and pharmacies.

The state and federal governments, meanwhile, continue to nut out additional financial aid for businesses as the Greater Sydney lockdown drags on, although an announcement will not be made on Monday.

The state government has already committed $1.4 billion for businesses and is reportedly keen to establish a NSW-funded JobKeeper-style program. An announcement on the program is imminent, Berejiklian said.

Meanwhile, a 72-year-old South Australian woman has died after developing blood clots following administration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The woman had her first vaccine dose on June 24 and became unwell and was admitted to hospital on July 5.

She passed away overnight on Sunday, Premier Steven Marshall confirmed on Monday.

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