NSW has recorded 44 new local COVID-19 cases as at least 100 extra police officers descend on southwest Sydney to ensure lockdown compliance. Restrictions have also been tightened on exercise and funerals for locked-down residents of Greater Sydney and its surrounds.
Of the 44 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, at least 29 were in the community for part or all of their infectious period. It is the highest number of NSW daily infections since the pandemic's first wave in early 2020 and Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday told reporters the number of cases in the community was a significant concern.
"That is the number really concerning us," Ms Berejiklian said. "It tells us that in the next few days, those numbers are going to go up." - "This is the opposite of where we need or want the numbers to trend." As a result, locked-down residents from 5pm will be banned from exercising more than 10km from their home, and only in groups of two people.
Funerals in these areas will also be capped at 10 people. "We are now not only looking at areas where the transmission has occurred but trying to prevent any super-seeding events," Ms Berejiklian said. Ten COVID-19 patients in NSW are in intensive care, with four ventilated. The 44 reported cases came from more than 42,000 tests.
It comes after NSW Police said officers will patrol the streets of southwest Sydney to ensure compliance with COVID-19 health orders, with senior cops insisting the measure is not about discrimination or racism. The crackdown from Friday comes after Ms Berejiklian hinted earlier this week the Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool council areas could soon be subject to stricter COVID-19 restrictions.
But NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon on Friday denied the region - one of Sydney's most diverse - was facing a harsher police response than that witnessed in places such as Bondi or Avalon. The police response will include additional general duties officers as well as mounted police, the dog squad and PolAir surveillance.
Mr Lanyon said previous outbreaks also prompted mounted police presence. Some 21 of Friday's reported cases were in southwest Sydney. "The fact we've doubled up in southwest Sydney is a reflection of the serious nature of the spread of this virus at the moment ... this is the time for the police and the community to come together," he told the Nine Network.
"This is not about discrimination. This is not about racism." Police will be asking people outside their homes what their reasonable excuse is, and will crack down on activities like unnecessary shopping.
Yet some are suggesting the police response is discriminatory, given the area's multicultural and low socio-economic communities. Ms Berejiklian has previously suggested Greater Sydney and surrounding regions will likely remain in lockdown until the current outbreak is significantly curtailed. It's currently due to end on July 16.
Meanwhile, the health department has warned of more exposure sites in Sydney, including retail outlets in Auburn, Parramatta and Burwood.
Angelo Risso - AAP