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‘Do not leave your home’: Sydney bracing for weeks of lockdown

Sydney is bracing for a lockdown that could stretch for weeks, with surging case numbers prompting tighter restrictions as the number of people in strict isolation doubled to 14,000 in a single day.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian delivered a stark warning to people in Greater Sydney on Friday, insisting the dramatic escalation of her language would come as a shock but that was exactly her intention.

“NSW is facing the biggest challenge we have faced since the pandemic started,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Ms Berejiklian said there was no other option than to toughen restrictions on top of the existing lockdown, despite senior ministers having cautiously canvassed abandoning a zero local transmission strategy and accepting the Delta strain of COVID-19 will circulate in the community.

From 5pm on Friday, exercising in groups is limited to two people (excluding household members) and people must stay within their local government area, or within 10 kilometres of home, for exercise.

Carpooling is not allowed, and only one person per household each day may leave the home for shopping.

Browsing in shops is not allowed and, from Sunday, funerals will be limited to 10 people.

The state recorded 44 new local COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest daily number in the outbreak, with 29 of those in the community for part or all of their infectious period.

The number of close contacts forced to isolate swelled to 14,000 on Friday, with 2000 linked to Ikea Tempe. Anyone who visited the store on July 6 is required to quarantine for 14 days.

Ms Berekilian said Friday’s case numbers were “the opposite of where we need or want the numbers to trend.”

“We are extremely concerned that we need to turn the tide,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Ms Berejiklian conceded that, without a dramatic turnaround in the number of cases in the community, she could not see NSW being in a position to ease restrictions next Friday.

“I appreciate the message I’m delivering today is quite shocking for a lot of people but I need everybody to be shocked,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“The message is, do not leave your home. Do not leave your home unless you absolutely have to. That is what a lockdown is.”

She warned that the number of people who had been infectious in the community could surge in the coming days.

“Obviously we’re going to see higher case numbers moving forward. So until we get that to zero or close to zero we cannot ease restrictions,” Ms Berejiklian said.

There have been 439 local cases reported since the outbreak began, with one in 10 of those now in hospital. Ten are in intensive care, with one of the four people ventilated in their 20s.

Despite cases being concentrated in the south-west – with 21 recorded in that area on Friday – 15 new cases were distributed throughout the south-east and western Sydney.

On Friday night, a swathe of new alerts was issued for venues mainly located in Sydney’s west and inner west.

Anyone who attended Lab Bakery Cafe in Strathfield on July 1 between 11.30am and 12.45 am, Direct Trade in Merrylands on July 3 between 2.20pm and 2.50pm or Beacon Lighting in Bankstown on Thursday between 8am and 9.30am is now considered a close contact of a confirmed case and must get tested and isolate for 14 days.

Passengers who travelled on the Redfern to Beaconsfield 309 bus from Redfern Station to Botany Road at Epsom Road on Sunday from 6.46pm to 6.51pm must also get tested and isolate for 14 days.

Ms Berejiklian said NSW cannot “live with this, when our range of vaccination in NSW is at nine per cent”.

The Premier stressed that the Delta variant is “far more contagious” than previous strains of the virus seen in early phases of the pandemic and only an increase in the vaccination rate could combat the strain.

The state is planning three new mass vaccination clinics in the coming weeks, including one at Macquarie Fields in the south-west on July 26.

But a city clinic in Pitt Street, slated to open later in July, is already at capacity with all current Pfizer vaccine appointments filled.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was “alert and alarmed” by the severity of the situation and the number of people out and about in the community.

“We have the responsibility to stop the virus in its tracks. The only way we can do that is to not leave our homes, unless we absolutely have to,” Mr Hazzard said.

Businesses across greater Sydney have been left reeling by the extended lockdown, with the Premier insisting that the government would announce extra measures to support businesses and households in the coming days.

Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said the community needed to respond to the lockdown in the same way it did last year to give businesses the best chance of bouncing back.

The impact of the three-week lockdown on the economy is estimated to be more than $2.5 billion.

“NSW is absolutely critical to the national economy, the national interest, and the Commonwealth should be looking at ways it can partner with the state to support businesses and individuals,” he said.

Mr Ayres said it was critical that support for casuals and part-time workers was great enough to sustain a long period of lockdown.