NSW has reported 136 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, a new daily high, almost four weeks after Greater Sydney and its surrounds were locked down in a bid to eliminate the virus from the community.
Of the new cases recorded to 8pm on Thursday, at least 70 were not in isolation for all or part of their infectious period. The isolation status of another 13 persons is under investigation. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state's chief health officer had advised the government's crisis cabinet the outbreak was now a "national emergency".
"There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage," she said on Friday. "It is fairly apparent that we will not be close to zero by next Friday." At a national cabinet meeting on Friday, the premier will push for the national vaccination strategy to refocus on Sydney - particularly hotspots in the city's west and southwest.
"Fortunately, one thing that has become apparent during the last few weeks is that barely anybody with two doses of the vaccine is having acquired a serious illness," Ms Berejiklian said. "Both vaccines, are working. We need to get more of them into arms, even if it is a first jab." Since lockdown was introduced on June 25 for four Sydney local government areas, then expanded to the entire region the next day, infections have spread to Orange and interstate to Victoria. Three local government areas - Orange, Blayney and Cabonne - in the state's central west are in lockdown until at least July 28.
And NSW health authorities are concerned the virus has spread to northern NSW after fragments of the virus had been detected at a sewage treatment plant serving Byron Bay, Wategos, Suffolk Park, Sunrise and Broken Head. There are no confirmed cases in the area, so far.
Tiffanie Turnbull and Hannah Ryan - AAP