COVID-19 tensions reach fever pitch in NSW

Tensions are high in NSW as COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise and police hunt down thousands of people who ignored public health orders to protest against lockdowns. 

Despite a lockdown of Greater Sydney entering its fifth week, case numbers of the deadly Delta strain of the virus hit a new high on Saturday as NSW reported 163 new local infections.

Visitors to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital in Sydney’s inner west have potentially been exposed to the virus.

NSW Health indicated that visitors to the centre around lunchtime on Tuesday were considered to be close contacts, after a patient who attended for an appointment tested positive.

Other exposure sites include a Campsie butcher which is listed as a close contact venue all day for an eight-day stretch until this Wednesday.

Disquiet in some quarters of Sydney over the lockdown erupted dramatically on Saturday afternoon, as thousands of people marched through Sydney’s central business district.

At least 57 people have been arrested so far over the protest action, which Premier Gladys Berejiklian said left her “utterly disgusted”. Ninety people have been fined. 

A team of more than 20 detectives is now working urgently to identify more of the protesters and either charge or fine them. 

Police Minister David Elliott says he wants to see thousands punished for the rally. 

The NSW opposition called for police to “hunt them down”. 

Mr Elliott said he would be surprised if the rally does not see more transmission of the virus, describing it as the best case study of a super-spreading event he’s seen since the pandemic began. 

The NSW government is frustrated with rising case numbers, which have persisted despite gradually more severe restrictions being imposed.

The latest escalation has prevented all but the most essential workers in Cumberland and Blacktown local government areas leaving those areas.

Ms Berejiklian has described vaccination as the way out of the outbreak, but her plea for other states and territories to hand over their Pfizer stocks has so far been rebuffed.

Instead, NSW will have to settle for 50,000 more Pfizer doses from the federal government’s national stockpile.

Ms Berejiklian has said she will soon provide the state with a roadmap for the next few months until the state reaches a good proportion of its citizens vaccinated. 

Greater Sydney and surrounding regions are locked down until at least July 30.

Three regional NSW local government areas in the state’s central west are under stay-at-home orders until at least July 28.

On Saturday night NSW Health issued an alert about a confirmed COVID case on Virgin flight VA 1139 from Sydney to Ballina on July 14, with anyone aboard deemed a close contact who must get tested and isolate for 14 days.


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