Premier Gladys Berejiklian of New South Wales (NSW) believes that the Sydney outbreak is stabilising after the number of new local COVID-19 infections has started to level off, but warns the cases are likely to keep bouncing around.
NSW recorded 65 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, but Berejiklian warned the number of infected people in the community was yet to decline, 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 authorities want to drive down to zero.
“It has been a stable number, it hasn’t grown … (but) unless it comes down, we can’t get out of lockdown,” the premier told reporters.
Five million NSW residents will endure at least another fortnight of lockdown after high daily coronavirus numbers forced the state government to extend stay-at-home measures at least until July 30.
There are 19 patients in intensive care in NSW, with five ventilated.
Berejiklian again defended current work-from-home settings, saying many residents were already doing so.
“There never will be (perfection) no matter where you draw the line … but what I do know is that the green shoots are starting to show,” the premier said.
There have been 929 cases of local COVID reported in NSW since the outbreak began on June 16 and Berejiklian said there would have been “thousands and thousands of cases” if NSW had not gone into lockdown nearly three weeks ago.
She also urged people not to visit doctors or pharmacists with COVID symptoms, saying some had become infected in those settings.
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.
There are now three testing sites in the area operating around the clock.
Two of Sydney’s major hospitals are also on alert after a nurse and a patient were diagnosed with COVID-19.
A pregnant patient at Liverpool Hospital, in Sydney’s southwest, was diagnosed as COVID-positive on Wednesday after undergoing a procedure.
The hospital cancelled elective surgery to deep clean the operating theatre while close contacts are being tested and isolating for 14 days.
A nurse who worked at Westmead Hospital in the COVID-19 ward has also tested positive for the virus but there are no cases yet linked to the health worker.
The nurse was vaccinated and is currently asymptomatic.
At least one paramedic in southwest Sydney, believed to have been infected in the community and not at work, has also tested positive for the virus.
More paramedics have also been diagnosed, according to media reports.
“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.
At least another 70 paramedics have reportedly been forced into isolation as close contacts.
On Thursday evening, an aged care home in Rooty Hill also confirmed a contact cleaner at the facility had been diagnosed with the virus, prompting the centre to lockdown as a precaution.
“We have isolated all residents and staff throughout the facility and our outbreak management plan has been implemented,” a spokesman for Minchinbury Manor said in a statement.
“Daily testing will be undertaken of both residents and staff, while the cleaner and five close contacts of her in the facility have been immediately isolated.”
About 90 percent of staff and residents have been vaccinated, and those who remain unvaccinated are expected to be offered a jab in the coming days, he said.
NSW Health on Thursday afternoon confirmed that another suspected case—at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for cancer treatment in Sydney—was a false positive.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says relief is on its way for parents, who will no longer have to pay for child care they’re not using during the lockdown.
The measure could benefit around 216,000 families across 3,600 centres.