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‘National emergency’: NSW has recorded 136 new local COVID-19 cases

New South Wales has recorded 136 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 as medical authorities advise the current outbreak is now a “national emergency”.

Of the new cases recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, at least 53 were infectious in the community.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the upward trend of daily COVID-19 infections means the lockdown is likely to be extended beyond the current fortnight.

“There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage. It is fairly apparent that we will not be close to zero next Friday,” she said.

A review will be conducted next week for the plan into August and beyond.

One death has also been recorded involving a 89-year-old male, with the details to be released later today.

Call to redirect more vaccine supply to western Sydney
Ms Berejiklian said the current situation is now being regarded as a “national emergency” and announced a further tightening of restrictions in the local government areas of Cumberland and Blacktown.

“Workers are not being allowed to leave those communities (of Cumberland and Blacktown) unless the health and emergency workers were on the authorised list of workers.”

“Dr Chant and her team advised us that the situation that exists now in New South Wales, namely around south-western and now western Sydney suburbs, is regarded as a national emergency. For that purpose and for that reason the NSW government will be taking action in relation to that,” she said.

Ms Berejiklian said she supported Ms Chant’s declaration of a “national emergency” and a shift to encouraging those under 40 to have the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“We need all hands on deck in terms of refocusing the national vaccine strategy. In some parts of Australia, there are zero cases.”

“We have already put some requests in. That means using all vaccines available – including AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca is a very, very effective vaccine.”

The advisory panel on vaccines, ATAGI, recently updated its advice, saying those Australians under 40 in areas with high case numbers should consider taking AstraZeneca, although the official advice is that AstraZeneca should be used for those 50 and older.

Ms Berejiklian says she will make a request at today’s national cabinet meeting for more Pfizer vaccine supply for Sydney.

“What we have done as a government is refocus our efforts in distributing vaccines in southwest Sydney.

“We have a micro plan for how we will get not only more doses of AstraZeneca in arms, but we also have to acknowledge that that is a very young population in those communities, and we need at least more first doses of Pfizer.”

Pharmacies, businesses part of ramped up rollout effort
Ms Berejiklian said pharmacies in southwestern Sydney and western Sydney are being deployed and arrangements are being made to use business premises for on-site vaccinations.

“We have to get those first jabs in arms as quickly as possible.”

She said the focus is on getting the first dose for the younger demographic in southwestern Sydney and western Sydney.

“We also have to acknowledge there is a much younger population in those affected communities and we also need to refocus the national vaccination to getting at least the first jab of Pfizer in some of those demographic cohorts to prevent the spread.”

Ms Chant says AstraZeneca needs to be strongly considered by those under 40.

“We need to correct the mythology about AstraZeneca. And in the context of the Delta threat, I just cannot understand why people would not be taking the opportunity to go out and get AstraZeneca in droves.”

“Anyone under 40, consider it (AstraZeneca).”

She said state clinics would be using Pfizer vaccines for those under 40, and that the use of AstraZeneca for under 40s would be an individual risk-benefit assessment.

“I would also want to reach out to those GPs to understand the hesitancy, and the particular circumstances why they are concerned about giving out AstraZeneca, noting that this is really about a risk-benefit discussion for patients.

“Patient’s autonomy should be respected.”

Virus fragments detected in Byron Bay
NSW Health is urging residents with COVID-19 symptoms in Byron Bay on the far north coast of NSW to get tested, after virus fragments were found in wastewater in the region.

The sewage treatment plant covers an area with 19,000 residents.

“There are no known cases in this area, which is of great concern,” NSW Health said in a statement.

No new cases have been reported in regional NSW where three local government areas are under a seven-day lockdown, scheduled to end on 28 July at 12:01am.

Orange, Blayney and Cabonne are currently on day three of the lockdown, triggered by a visit last week from a trucker driver who tested postive for COVID-19.