NSW is bracing for a surge in COVID-19 cases as a virus outbreak in Sydney infiltrates the city’s health care system, with at least 70 paramedics isolating and cases linked to two major hospitals and an aged care home.
NSW recorded 65 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, but Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned there would likely be a spike in cases on Friday as the number of infected people circulating in the community remains high, despite stay-at-home orders.
Of the new cases, at least 35 people were out in the community for part or all of their infectious period – a number that needs to be close to zero before the lockdown can be lifted.
“It has been a stable number, it hasn’t grown … (but) unless it comes down, we can’t get out of lockdown,” Ms Berejiklian said Thursday.
Sydney and surrounding regions have been in lockdown for nearly three weeks. That was due to end on Friday but will continue for at least another two weeks until July 30.
Infection numbers continue to rise in southwest Sydney, where testing clinics were inundated this week after essential workers from the Fairfield local government area were ordered to get tested every three days if they work outside the area.
From Friday, around 12,000 teachers, school staff and aged care workers will be prioritised by NSW Health for vaccination at a new hub at the Prairiewood Youth and Community Centre. The venue was changed from the Fairfield showground, which is being used as a COVID testing site.
Two of Sydney’s major hospitals are on alert after a nurse and a patient were diagnosed with COVID-19.
A pregnant patient and a doctor at Liverpool Hospital, in Sydney’s southwest, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday after undergoing a procedure, and a vaccinated nurse who worked at Westmead Hospital in a COVID-19 ward also tested positive.
Cleaners at Westmead Hospital are refusing to enter the hospital’s COVID-19 unit because – they claim – they were denied access to personal protective equipment.
Health Services Union NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said the workers were told by NSW Health they would not be given PPE, including booties and hairnets. There are delays getting properly fitted masks.
The workers were also told they can’t shower at the hospital before going home, heightening their risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 to their loved ones and the broader community.
“Our members are asking for basic health and safety provisions. The fact their requests have been denied is incomprehensible,” Mr Hayes said.
A paramedic in southwest Sydney has also tested positive for the virus, a NSW Ambulance spokesman confirmed on Thursday night.
At least another two have been diagnosed, according to reports, forcing at least 70 paramedics identified as close contacts into isolation.
“NSW Ambulance is investigating reports of further positive cases in paramedics who had no contact with the confirmed case. Urgent contact tracing is underway,” a spokesman said in a statement.
On Thursday night, Minchinbury Manor – an aged care home in Rooty Hill – confirmed a contract cleaner at the facility had been diagnosed with the virus, prompting the centre to close.
“We have isolated all residents and staff throughout the facility and our outbreak management plan has been implemented,” a spokesman said.
Residents and staff will be tested daily, and five close contacts of the cleaner have been identified and sent into isolation.
About 90 per cent of staff and residents had been vaccinated, and those who remain unvaccinated are expected to be offered a jab in the coming days.
NSW Health has issued new alerts for more than 50 venues, including a Shell petrol station in the Riverina which was visited by a person infected with the virus on Saturday.