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Australia ‘Open request': NSW pleads for contact tracing help as Sydney locks down hard

00:05  18 july  2021
00:05  18 july  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is expecting COVID-19 case numbers to rise further. What does this mean for the lockdown?

  NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is expecting COVID-19 case numbers to rise further. What does this mean for the lockdown? NSW health authorities expect to announce more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. So what does that mean for the Greater Sydney lockdown, which is meant to end on Friday? Here's what we know so far. What's the latest on the outbreak?New South Wales recorded 77 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00pm on Saturday and its first death since December.Thirty-three of these cases have been out in the community while infectious. Greater Sydney — including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour — have been in lockdown since the end of June.


Mark McGowan wearing a suit and tie: WA Premier Mark McGowan, Health Minister Roger Cook, Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson, press conference Perth lockdown July 2, 2021. Picture: Hamish Hastie © Hamish Hastie WA Premier Mark McGowan, Health Minister Roger Cook, Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson, press conference Perth lockdown July 2, 2021. Picture: Hamish Hastie

NSW has been forced to seek urgent help from other states to boost its contact tracing capability, in a sign its COVID-19 tracking system is struggling to keep pace with the growing outbreak.

The state made an "open request" for assistance during a meeting of Australia's federal and state chief medical officers on Friday, with the Commonwealth, South Australian and Western Australian governments all agreeing to help. Victoria knocked back the request, as it works to trace its own outbreak.

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Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday announced a major tightening of Sydney's lockdown restrictions as the state recorded 111 new cases. The construction industry will be shut down for two weeks from Monday, all non-critical retail stores closed and tough new restrictions have been imposed on residents in south-west Sydney to halt movement.

The government is now considering whether public transport services will be reduced as the new restrictions force a greater number of workers to stay home.

The NSW and federal governments have long touted the state's contact tracing system as the "gold standard" in Australia, especially during the height of Victoria's second wave COVID outbreak last year. NSW's plea for help from other states underscores just how serious the crisis has become.

Restrictions tightened in NSW as 111 new local COVID-19 cases recorded

  Restrictions tightened in NSW as 111 new local COVID-19 cases recorded Almost 30 people active in the community for their entire infectious period and more than 82,000 tests conducted.NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian described test numbers as "an outstanding result", however she said that the number of infections in the community is of great concern."We've prevented thousands and thousands of people being exposed to the virus and been infected, but what we haven't managed to do is really budge that stubborn number every day for the last few days where we need to quash this virus," Ms Berejiklian said."It is not good enough for us to tread water which is what we're doing now.

The request for assistance was made as health authorities advised the state government that a fresh surge in exposure sites had left it no option but to toughen lockdown rules.

Ms Berejiklian said, from Sunday, residents of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown cannot leave their local government area for work unless they are employed in health or emergency services.

More than 80 per cent of the 111 new cases recorded on Saturday are located in the three local government areas, but the Premier said data revealed every person in Greater Sydney was at risk.

"I can't remember a time when our state has been challenged to such an extent. I can't remember a time when government had to make these difficult decisions," Ms Berejiklian said.

A NSW Health spokesman confirmed Western Australia, South Australia and Commonwealth health staff were "supporting contact tracers by conducting in-depth case interviews".

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"NSW Health is committed to using all available resources to allow us to focus ourefforts on stopping the spread of COVID-19."

A Western Australian government spokesperson confirmed to The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age that "support with NSW's contact tracing is expected to commence as early as today [Saturday]."

A Victorian Health Department spokesperson said the state had previously offered NSW assistance during the outbreak.

"At AHPPC [the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee], NSW made an open request to all jurisdictions for assistance. Victoria indicated that they would focus on the outbreak in Victoria if others were better placed to assist NSW."

Ms Berejiklian on Saturday conceded that Greater Sydney's lockdown conditions had so far failed to quash the curve of the virus in the community.

"It's not good enough for us to tread water, which is what we're doing now, to some extent, to stabilise it," she said.

"I know that many people will be very angry and upset with me. But please know that we're making these decisions for no other reason than because they're the right decisions."

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A source with knowledge of the AHPPC meeting said the South Australian government also offered assistance and that there was a lengthy discussion about contact tracing in New South Wales, which continues to report infections in the community, and unlinked cases of the virus weeks after lockdown began.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said that "we'll continue to offer support to other jurisdictions, just as Queensland has been provided with support in its fight against COVID", while an ACT government spokeswoman said the territory "had not yet received a formal request from NSW for contract tracing assistance" but was willing to help.

Dr Chant said the state's health system was facing a "mammoth" task.

"I think the pandemic is one of the things that has tested us all, every member of the community and it has tested me as well. It has tested me and my team who are really committed to achieving low community transmission as quickly as we can."

From Sunday until July 30, only "critical retail" is allowed to remain open in Greater Sydney, including supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, car hire and banks. "Click and collect", takeaway and home delivery can still operate.

All non-urgent construction, including on projects within the state's infrastructure portfolio, will be paused from Monday, costing the NSW economy an estimated $700 million a week. From Wednesday employers will also face fines of $10,000 if they refuse to allow employees to work from home, if able to do so.

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The new restrictions follow a week of mounting pressure on the Premier to tighten the lockdown and define essential workers to give greater clarity on who should be staying at home.

Ms Berejiklian said Friday was the first time her crisis cabinet had received advice that prompted greater restrictions on workplaces, movement and retail stores.

"Certainly [that] was the first time we received additional information about exposure sites, the spread of the virus and the stubborn nature of those numbers not coming down," she said.

A lag in the data means the impact of the new health orders will not be apparent for a few days.

Among Saturday's new cases 29 people were in the community while infectious, however a record 81,790 people presented for testing. A man in his late-80s from south-eastern Sydney became the third person to die from COVID-19 in the current outbreak.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the persistently high case numbers were linked to the virus seeding in workplaces, which draw people from a vast geographical area.

"Once you get a workplace transmission, it's like a melting pot... because of the mobility of workers," she said.

"We've been flagging the fact that we needed to look at a range of whole-of-government strategies to decrease mobility... I think we needed to take much stronger action and I've recommended that to the government today".

Melbourne is in a five-day snap lockdown, the city's fifth since the pandemic hit, which has left as many as 10 million people across NSW and Victoria in lockdown.

Eighteen out of 19 positive cases announced on Saturday in Victoria were infectious in the community for an average of 1.5 days.

Victoria's Health Minister Martin Foley said the results were a "vindication for the going hard and going early strategy".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to Commonwealth Bank boss Matt Comyn on Saturday about support for people affected by the current lockdowns, and made a formal request to all major banks through the Bankers' Association.

The number of Pfizer vaccines arriving in Australia will rise to 1 million per week from this week, which will significantly speed up the vaccine roll out, while Australia is expected to pass 10 million doses delivered on Sunday.

- with Tom Rabe

SA in 'very good position' to end COVID lockdown on Tuesday but warning restrictions will remain .
Premier Steven Marshall says there has been "no serious escalation overnight whatsoever" in coronavirus cases, as South Australia enters its sixth day of lockdown.On Sunday, SA Premier Steven Marshall said today would be "D-Day" as leaders decided whether the state was in a position to safely come out of its seven-day lockdown on Tuesday night.

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This is interesting!