NSW braces for a surge in coronavirus cases as outbreak infiltrates Sydney's healthcare system

The premier says she expects higher case numbers on Friday as the Delta outbreak continues to leak into the state's healthcare system, with three paramedics and an aged care worker testing positive.

Members of the public and health workers at a pop up COVID-19 testing clinic at the Fairfield Showground.

NSW is bracing for a surge in COVID-19 cases as a virus outbreak in Sydney infiltrates the city's health care system. Source: AAP

New South Wales is bracing for a surge in COVID-19 cases as the virus infiltrates Sydney's healthcare system, with at least 70 paramedics isolating and cases linked to two major hospitals and an aged care home.

The state reported 65 new local coronavirus cases on the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday, with 28 people out and about in the community while infectious.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was a "welcome drop" from yesterday's numbers and said that while the numbers are still bouncing around, "we are seeing a stabilisation".

"They're not growing exponentially. That tells us that the settings that we have in place are having an impact. My strongest message to everybody is keep doing what you are doing. Keep sticking to the rules," she told reporters on Thursday.

But the premier said she expected higher case numbers on Friday given the number of people still infectious in the community.

There are 73 people with COVID-19 currently in hospital, of which 19 are in intensive care and five are ventilated.

Of those in ICU, one is in their 20s, one is in their 30s, two are in their 40s, five are in their 50s, six are in their 60s, three are in their 70s and one is in their 80s.

The state previously reported 97 local coronavirus cases on Wednesday, 31 of which were circulating in the community while infectious.

Ms Berejiklian has said this number needs to be close to zero before the lockdown can end.

She implored those with symptoms to isolate and get tested and not go to medical centres or pharmacists, which was causing the virus to transmit.

Five million NSW residents are facing at least another fortnight of lockdown after sustained high daily coronavirus numbers forced the government to extend stay-at-home measures on Wednesday until Friday 30 July.

But despite the lockdown, many retail outlets have remained open, with the state government under increasing pressure to mandate the closure of non-essential stores.

On Thursday the premier responded by saying “the vast majority of retail shops are not open” and she urged Sydney residents to take responsibility for their own movements and only leave home for essential reasons. 

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant on Thursday said case numbers continued to rise in the areas of Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury Bankstown in the city's southwest, with cases also emerging in other parts of the city including Emu Plains in Sydney's west.

A full list of exposure sites can be found here.

From Friday, around 12,000 teachers, school staff and aged care workers will be prioritised by NSW Health for vaccination at a new hub at the Prairiewood Youth and Community Centre. The venue was changed from the Fairfield Showground, which is being used as a COVID testing site.

Two of Sydney's major hospitals are also on high alert after a nurse and a patient were diagnosed with COVID-19.

A pregnant patient at Liverpool Hospital, in Sydney's southwest, was diagnosed on Wednesday after undergoing a procedure.

The hospital cancelled elective surgery to deep clean the operating theatre and contact tracing is underway with close contacts - including staff - being tested and isolating for 14 days, NSW Health says.

A nurse who worked at Westmead Hospital in the COVID-19 ward has also tested positive to the virus but there were no cases linked to the health worker so far. The staff member was said to be fully vaccinated and wearing full protective equipment.

Cleaners at Westmead Hospital are refusing to enter the hospital's COVID-19 unit because - they claim - they were denied access to personal protective equipment.

Health Services Union NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said the workers were told by NSW Health they would not be given PPE, including booties and hairnets. There are delays getting properly fitted masks.

The workers were also told they can't shower at the hospital before going home, heightening their risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 to their loved ones and the broader community.

"Our members are asking for basic health and safety provisions. The fact their requests have been denied is incomprehensible," Mr Hayes said.

A paramedic in southwest Sydney has also tested positive for the virus, a NSW Ambulance spokesman confirmed on Thursday night.

At least another two have been diagnosed, according to reports, forcing at least 70 paramedics identified as close contacts into isolation.

"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.

On Thursday evening, an aged care home in Rooty Hill also confirmed a contract cleaner at the facility had been diagnosed with the virus, prompting the centre to lock down 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 per cent 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 also confirmed another suspected case, at the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse for cancer treatment in Sydney, was a false positive.

Meanwhile, three regional towns have been added to the state's list of exposure sites overnight. NSW Health has identified venues of concern in South Gundagai, Jindera and Hay after they were visited by a positive case.

It comes after a case was identified in Goulburn earlier this week when an infected painter travelled from Fairfield in Sydney’s southwest to work on a building site.

The state and federal governments earlier this week also announced an extensive financial support package for workers and businesses.

The package includes more than $17.5 million for key organisations that support the mental health of Australians, including Lifeline, the Kids Helpline, Headspace and beyondblue.

Additional reporting by AAP.

Published 15 July 2021 at 11:14am, updated 16 July 2021 at 7:32am
By Caroline Riches