NSW has recorded its worst day of Covid-19 cases amid concerns that restrictions in Greater Sydney are not tight enough and won’t bring down cases.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is persisting with a targeted approach, introducing new restrictions on Thursday in eight local government areas, something that experts point out did not work when Victoria attempted it during its second wave.
Until now, NSW’s nuanced approach to coronavirus outbreaks has helped to keep most of Sydney’s businesses open, but the Delta variant has defied increasingly tighter restrictions and is now highlighting the gaps in compliance among residents.
On Wednesday, authorities revealed 45 of 50 people who attended an illegal funeral service in western Sydney tested positive to Covid-19. Rules currently limit funerals to a maximum of 10 people.
Ms Berejiklian said the state could not afford any more setbacks or exceptions if Greater Sydney was to come out of lockdown in four weeks.
“One setback has a ripple effect which can take weeks to get out of,” she told reporters.
Today she announced fines for not wearing a mask would increase from $200 to $500, and police will be given more powers to shut down businesses, construction sites and public premises if there was a risk to public health.
NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller APM said officers would perform an extra 1000 shifts throughout the next week, with thousands to be deployed on compliance and other checks. Support from 300 Defence troops has also been requested.
“The challenge is that the Delta variant is probably exposing some of the noncompliance, where the previous viruses hadn’t,” Commissioner Fuller told reporters.
Deakin University epidemiologist Professor Catherine Bennett said she thought the restrictions in Greater Sydney were tight enough to bring down cases.
“Particularly with the extra tightening today — but it will take a week or more to see the impact on numbers,” Prof Bennett told news.com.au.
“We must be prepared for that so it doesn’t demoralise people.”
Ms Berejiklian has already flagged that cases will likely go up before they come down, due to the high number of cases that have been infectious while in the community.
On Thursday, at least 88 of the record 239 cases had been infectious while in the community, with another 70 cases under investigation.
Prof Bennett said she hoped to see a drop in these cases infectious in the community first as this would mean the risk was decreasing, and would signal the conditions were right for total cases to start falling.
“If most households are isolated, then this could still turn around within weeks,” she said.