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Premier feels heat with record 239 cases, lockdown questioned

Politics

NSW has reported a record 239 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and at least 88 of those people were circulating in the community for all or part of their infectious period.

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Two people – a southwest Sydney woman in her 90s and man in his 80s – have died, taking the toll for the current outbreak to 13.

Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are in lockdown until at least August 28 as health authorities battle an outbreak of the virulent Delta strain.

Of the record 239 cases – which surpasses the 212 cases recorded on March 27, 2020 – at least 22 were in the community for part of their illnesses and 66 were infectious in the community.

After reporting a new daily high of 177 local cases on Wednesday, an “upset and frustrated” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian extended the citywide lockdown to August 28.

Two million people in eight local government areas spanning 50 kilometres of the city’s west cannot leave their local areas, unless deemed an authorised worker.

“I am as upset and frustrated as all of you that we were not able to get the case numbers we would have liked at this point in time but that is the reality,” Ms Berejiklian said.

She lauded the efforts of people in Fairfield, where case numbers have eased since exceeding 60 on June 17.

Attention is now on neighbouring Canterbury-Bankstown, which has recorded more than 27 cases each day for a week.

The NSW Opposition supports the lockdown extension and new measures, but has warned rolling four-week lockdowns would sap the community of hope and damage the economy.

Labor leader Chris Minns called for NSW Health modelling showing the latest restrictions would bring daily cases to nearly zero within four weeks.

“Given the sacrifice – both personal and economics – that the people of NSW are being forced to make, it’s only right that the premier trusts us all and brings us into her confidence, to share the health advice and modelling,” he said.

The premier faced criticism from one of her government’s MPs, after keeping Shellharbour in lockdown despite no cases since October.

That decision was “bereft of common sense”, Kiama MP Gareth Ward said.

“If COVID was rife in the Illawarra and if there were zero cases in Sydney, Sydney wouldn’t be in lockdown,” the Liberal MP tweeted.

The Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong are also included in Sydney’s lockdown, having recorded 19 of the state’s 2437 cases since July 1.

“Based on the health advice, it’s too risky to release any of them,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Other lockdown measures announced on Wednesday included more financial support for businesses and workers, a partial reopening of the construction sector and a ban on shopping far from home.

Year 12 students will also be able to return to school on August 16, with rapid antigen testing used to halt the virus at the school gate.

Meanwhile, up to 40,000 Pfizer doses will be redirected from the regions to vaccinate year 12 students in Sydney’s eight worst-hit council areas.

People with first-dose bookings will be contacted if their vaccination will be delayed, NSW Health said.

Murray MP Helen Dalton said the Pfizer change sent a message that “rural lives are not as important as those of their Sydney counterparts.”

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