NSW authorities call state COVID-19 outbreak a 'national emergency' as 136 new local cases recorded

Of the 136 new cases reported in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, at least 70 were not in isolation for all or part of their infectious period.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant (left) and Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant (left) and Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Source: AAP

New South Wales has recorded 136 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 as health authorities say the current outbreak has become a "national emergency". 

Of the new cases recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, 53 were infectious in the community, while another 17 were in the community for part of their infectious period. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday the upward trend of daily COVID-19 infections means the Greater Sydney lockdown is likely to be extended yet again.

"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 new death has also been recorded involving an 89-year-old male.

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 in Sydney's west. 

Workers in those LGAs are now also not allowed to leave unless they are .

“[Chief Health Officer Kerry] 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," the premier said.

Ms Berejiklian said she supported Dr Chant’s declaration of a “national emergency” and appealed for Australia's vaccine strategy to be refocused into Sydney.

"This is not just a challenge for New South Wales but a challenge for the nation," she said.

"In order for us to have our citizens live freely and openly, as well as other states to ensure that their citizens live openly and freely, we need to have a national refocus."

The premier said she had made requests to the federal government for more Pfizer vaccines to be redirected to regions of Sydney with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

She said it was important to be getting younger people in southwestern Sydney and western Sydney vaccinated with the shot.

“We 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.”

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison later said he wouldn't overhaul the national vaccine rollout to answer NSW's plea for help.

"Where there is potential to put more vaccines into New South Wales, even beyond what we are doing, of course we will seek to do that," he told reporters in Canberra after a national cabinet meeting.

"But we're not going to disrupt the vaccination program around the rest of the country."

However, Mr Morrison did say national cabinet had discussed the state administering more first doses of Pfizer by extending second doses out to six weeks, within the medical advice.

Ms Berejiklian also urged people over 40 to have the AstraZeneca vaccine, adding that she had taken it herself.

"Please know that we have offered AstraZeneca in our (state mass vaccination) hubs to over 40s ... There is lots of AstraZeneca available, so if you're over 40 there is no reason today why you should not be getting the AstraZeneca vaccine."

Dr Chant said the country needed "to correct the mythology about AstraZeneca".

"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."

The Australian Medical Association's president Omar Khorshid on Friday afternoon called for the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to review its advice on the AstraZeneca in light of the growing risks posed by the Delta variant in NSW.

"In this outbreak situation, ATAGI must consider providing the community with much clearer and firmer advice on the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine that is used in many countries around the world and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for anyone 18 years and over," Dr Khorshid said.

"Now, six days into the current lockdown the numbers are going up, not down. The Sydney community needs to be given every encouragement to get vaccinated as soon as possible as part of a new strategy to control the Delta outbreak."

Meanwhile, 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.

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

With Jodie Stephens.

5 min read
Published 23 July 2021 at 11:21am
By Biwa Kwan
Source: SBS