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Gladys calls in the troops to enforce Sydney stay-at-home orders

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The military will join NSW police in the areas worst hit by Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak to ensure two million residents are complying with tough NSW government lockdown restrictions.

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But people shouldn’t be intimidated by the presence of 300 Australian Defence Force personnel in the streets of western and southwest Sydney, Defence Minister Peter Dutton says.

“I want it to be a message of reassurance that they are helping NSW Police,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Friday.

“We can get ourselves through COVID even more quickly if we’ve got the defence force personnel there helping.”

His comments came ahead of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed another 170 cases of COVID-19 – at least 42 of whom were infectious in the community.

“Can I stress again, please do not leave your home unless you absolutely have to, please do not have contact with any other household, please,” Berejiklian told the people of Sydney, in a televised news conference.

“We still seeing transmission in (homes) and work places as the two main places.”

While today’s figures are below Thursday’s high-water mark of 239, there will be greater enforcement of restrictions, with police set to knock on doors looking for people in homes other than their own in eight local government areas in the west.

Police will also target businesses across the city breaching public health orders, including those in the construction industry allowed to reopen from Saturday.

Their efforts will be supported in the coming days by the ADF members, who begin deploying on Friday to train over the weekend before commencing working under the direction of NSW Police on Monday.

Up to 55 per cent of the 588 cases reported in the past three days have been infectious while in the community.

“We know home-to-home transmission is a huge issue for us, we know people are bringing it home from worksites that aren’t complying,” NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.

But he stopped short of “random” checks on homes, saying police would monitor close contacts and had the power to stop people in public and ask for their home addresses.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said the ADF would be on the ground in western and southwest Sydney for as long as they are needed.

“If we need them for two weeks, that’s great,” he told Nine Network on Friday.

“If we need them for two months that capability is there.”

The military has supported hotel quarantine policing, logistics in the Police Operations Centre and compliance during a 2020 border operation.

But its involvement in a civil obedience campaign raised concern for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“We understand that public health emergencies require the government to take extraordinary measures but using the military to enforce local laws sets a dangerous precedent,” ALA spokesman Greg Barns SC said.

The two million people in eight western Sydney local government areas, covering places like Fairfield, Cumberland and Canterbury-Bankstown, can’t leave those areas unless they are essential workers.

Masks are also mandatory at all times – including outdoors – and people are banned from going more than five kilometres from their home.

Sydney’s lockdown enters its sixth week on Saturday, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitting cases would rise given the high number of people infectious while in the community.

“We can only assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better,” the premier said on Thursday.

But she’s rejected suggestions her government failed by imposing restrictions too late and too gradually.

NSW is expected to receive extra support from interstate after an emergency meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Sydney Super Dome at Olympic Park will reportedly become a vaccination hub for year 12 students in hotspot areas, ahead of their return to school on August 16.

Victoria has reported two new community-acquired cases, in addition to one announced late yesterday, after health authorities linked the mystery case of a testing site traffic controller.  All were able to be linked to the state’s current outbreaks and were in isolation for their entire infectious period.

Genomic sequencing confirmed a mystery case, in a traffic controller at the Moonee Valley drive-through testing site, was linked to the current outbreaks, but it remains unclear how he was infected. His close contacts have so far tested negative.

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